Shaman healing so far in Cataclysm

I’ve been spending as much time as I can in the Cataclysm beta, and trying to maximize as much of my time as possible healing. I mean, after all that’s what I get paid for right?

You may be asking yourself what this song has to do with this post? Honestly a lot of folks think that shaman healing has gone down hill and have thrown their hands up and walked away. Some of these folks just think healing in general come Cataclysm will be so broken it wont even be worth it. I’m here to assuage at least the shaman portion of that fear.

Mana and triage

For as long as shaman have been healing we’ve been a bit of a mana battery. Between our passive regen and our spells and abilities that are geared towards doing nothing but giving us mana back. The problem is that with Wrath most healers were mana batteries. Rarely running out of mana means you can heal almost perpetually through the vast majority of non hard-mode encounters.

This makes for very boring healing, and that is something that the developers have been trying to tackle for a long time now. With the reduction of mana, and the increase in the cost of several of our healing spells, it forces us to triage our heals and essentially move away from mothering a group. Most people have seen this as a fault of the new healing model. I, however, find it incredibly liberating. Granted shaman have fared better than most other classes in this regard because  we are technically the healing model for cataclysm (or so the blues tell us). We’ve been given the tools to heal effectively, and balanced to a point where we don’t over power every encounter and actively have to pay attention and manage healing spell choices. I don’t run OOM unless people are doing very, very stupid things and I’m forced to compensate (a la a mage hugging a dragon cause he though it was cute and needed a hug).

Right now if you yell at someone to not “stand in the bad” a lot of the time they will simply ignore you since healers can just dump heals on them and get through the vast majority of effects out there. If you’ve done any PUGing before you’ll have found it at least once. That hunter that doesn’t want to get out of the fire so he can squeeze off a couple more shots to up their DPS while you dump heals on them. They expect it, and if they don’t get it you are instantly a “bad healer”.

I’ve talked about this on several of my wow.com articles lately, but there is an emphasis on personal accountability. Even if you have the mana to heal someone, they may still die. Pardon my french for a minute here, but bad shit really is bad and players should avoid it at all costs. This includes Tanks and Healers. Doing the dungeon finder in the beta has gotten to a point where players know now they have to manage their own health a little bit, and the curve has gone from nightmare healing to perfectly manageable. If the changes stand and force healers to triage the heals, it will force a shift in the perception of healers. Not saying there wont be players who yell at the healer when they die (those jerks will always exist, sadly) but I think most people will come to stop expecting you to be the only one responsible for their health.

The impression that I get

Overall, healing on the shaman in the beta has been some of the most fun I’ve had to date. I absolutely love having to pick which heal is best for the situation and love the fact that not EVERYTHING is about Chain Heal or stacking pure haste. Honestly I think shaman have the perfect number of healing tools to work with in any given fight. Every new ability compliments each other, old abilities have been given just enough of a tweak to make them interesting. Overall it feels fresh, new and exciting.

I don’t feel over powered, but I do feel capable. I don’t feel like there is anything I can’t do without a little hard work. I still get a twinge at certain bosses in the 5 mans, knowing what they can do and looking at a group composition planning my heals for which ability. It’s exciting and I feel like a tactician rather than a small child playing whack-a-mole at the local carnival being swindled out of my $2. I mean I’ll always be a healer, but it feels like I’m falling in love with it all over again. There’s excitement and consequence and every death isn’t all just on me. I know that priests and shaman have fared better than paladin and druid healers so far, but I think in the end it will balance out and everyone will have as much fun as I do right now.

In conclusion, at least for shaman, the world is not ending. The sky is not falling, and ultimately we’ll be better off in the end it seems. GO TEAM SPIRIT FINGERS!

So I’m going to spend my weekend healing 5-mans and recording videos, anything specific you guys want to see from the beta? I’ll do what I can to provide!

Until next time, Happy Healing!

He’s only mostly dead

He’s only mostly dead

Some of you may have been wondering where I’ve been and have been pretty curious as to what Lodur has been up to. Ok, well probably none of have been overly concerned at my absence and probably didn’t even notice I was gone =P

Honestly though I’ve been a busy busy shaman. You see I’ve learned a few things from Matt. Chief among them is a love of projects. To that end I’ve been pretty hard at work launching a new site that just went live on September 1st, 2010. I’ve been killing myself trying to fit in filling in content there among my other obligations, and it hasn’t been easy.

The site is called Bow Down To Us, and it is a geek site. You want comics? We have you covered! Want to know more about what games are coming up? We have you covered there! Want to kick back on a gamer forum and just shoot the breeze? We have you covered there too! From general news all the way up to a section devoted to WoW, we are hoping to grow the site into something awesome. So if you get a chance, check out the site.

Aside from that I’ve been doing my normal gig at WoW.com with recent articles detailing Healing Rain, and some Cataclysm updates and Blue posts. When I haven’t been working hard on articles for the new site, I’ve been spending time in the Cataclysm beta. I’ll be honest, I’m hooked. It feels so fresh and so new. Not just the 80+ content, but even leveling from 1 up. I’ve been leveling my Dwarf Shaman (because they are ridiculously awesome and the best shaman ever), and my Worgen Druid. If you have beta access and are looking for any groups or anything feel free to hit me up. Lodurzj is the 83 shaman, Lodurious is the Dwarf Shaman, and Lodurwolf is the Worgen Druid.

I’ve also been spending some time over at Totemspot. If you haven’t heard about it, shame on you! It is the community created for Shaman, by Shaman. All walks of life are present there and there are some awesome people there. I’ve been trying to answer as many restoration questions about the beta on the forum, and in my articles, as possible. That does take up a lot of time.

Things are going back to normal, so you’ll see more posts from me back here again. I’ll be continuing my posts on WoW.com, and you can also find me at BDTU and Totemspot. With things returning back to normal I’m also going to hit some SC2 multiplayer. To that end I still need a 2v2 partner. So if you’re interested let me know!

So how about you guys? What have you been up to? Anything fun?

 

Without a safety net

Without a safety net

For as long as we play this game, no matter how much changes there are things that will always stay the same. Standing in fire is generally bad (there have been very few exceptions to this and the exception does not make the rule). Cleave and Whirlwind are not things you should stand next to. Don’t break the sheep, and my favorite, always blame the hunters. These are simple truths that we have come to accept as we’ve played the game.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately in the Cataclysm beta recently. I’ve leveled Lodur to the current level cap 3 times now (once as resto, once as elemental and finishing out the one as enhancement) and some of these simple truths are being expanded and brought back to the forefront. In Cataclysm, the developers have a goal to make healing harder and more involved. Our healing spells hit for slightly less than one would expect and mana is at a premium.

You see, previously healers have had an excess of mana either through large base mana pools, stacking MP/5 or getting high returns from intellect and talents. With mana flowing like water, healers have been able to compensate to a certain extent for players who “stand in the bad”. Now, it does not mean that no one died. There are still plenty of things that will kill a person flat out if they aren’t paying attention, but some feel that the game has become far more forgiving than it was in the days of Vanilla WoW.

By making healing harder in Cataclysm, they are doing something they moved away from inadvertently over the course of two expansion. They are placing the burden of living squarely on the entire group, and not just leaving it to the healer to be the sole life-line. I’m not saying healers shouldn’t be trying to heal, but rather just stating that the game is changing. Let’s break it down to the core components in play here as provided to us by the developers;

  • Mana is a concern for healers
  • Healers will be focusing more on triage
  • Fights will be longer
  • Situational awareness will be a factor again with a lot of avoidable damage
  • It will be less about brute force and more about survival and finesse

That is just the short list, since things are constantly changing in the beta.

Mana being a concern and the focus being more on triage is a big thing. Right now healing sort of devolves into whack-a-mole frantically trying to keep everyone up. Come cata however, healers will have to make judgment calls as to how to prioritize heals in order to conserve mana and maximize healing benefit to the group.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. In the Throne of Tides (one of the new 5 players dungeons in the next expansion) the very first boss has a spout / geyser like ability that she forms underneath her. The tank and melee need to move out of this before the ability triggers, or they take a lot of damage. Healing this, I had the tank and a rogue stay in the “void zone”. The tank and rogue both took a massive amount of damage. The rogue was JUST far enough away from the tank to be out of Chain Heal range so I had to decide to drop the nuke heal on the tank or the rogue. Needless to say I picked the tank. The rogue died immediately after my heal landed on the tank (1.7 second cast time for those interested). Had either the rogue or the tank moved out of the ability, neither would have died as I wouldn’t have had to decide who got healed and who did not. A little situational awareness would have gone a long way here.  The boss also spawns adds that need to be tanked and dealt with. One of the ranged wasn’t paying attention and wound up proximity aggro-ing two of the mobs and he was dead before I could even cast a single heal on him. We wiped it after that and tried again, but you can see how paying attention counts for a lot there.

This same fight, at about the 2 minute mark I noticed my mana reserves getting low. The damage throughout the fight was pretty steady, but people not paying attention caused me to burn a lot more heals than I would have liked. The fight in total lasted about 4 minutes or so, but in that 4 minutes I had burned a mana potion, my Mana Tide Totem and ended the fight with around 5% mana. It was a bit of an eye opener. I was forced to figure out which heal was appropriate for what damage in order to conserve as much mana as possible, and had to make decisions on when it was safe to let the tank take a couple extra hits before casting a heal. Spam healing to keep everyone at max just doesn’t work anymore.  Keep in mind this is a normal 5 man dungeon not heroic, and I entered this with ilvl264/277 ICC25 gear. It was refreshing and scary, but not at all impossible. Now this will likely change in the raiding end game, but I wonder how much. The encounters in normal dungeons are already shaping up to be more involved than being simple tank-and-spanks, and one can only hope that the learning curve for endgame will continue along that path rather than decline. After my first run though it got easier, and I ended with more mana, but that is in part because the groups did everything they could to avoid damage and make my job easier. That in turn made it easier to heal through the “oh shit” moments.

Now, what does this have to do with non healers? Well to get to the point of my post, my guild constantly reminds players to “help your healers out”. This means avoiding the bad (looking at you here defile!). We expect the healers to heal and do their jobs well, but we expect all the other players to help themselves stay alive. Use potions or health stones, move out of fire, run to your linked partners on Blood Queen, stay vigilant and react quickly. This is not an uncommon sentiment, but some people seem to think they can stand in the fire and squeeze out one more attack while the healer keeps them up. In Cataclysm if you aren’t paying attention and don’t react to the bad things happening around you, it is very likely you are going to die regardless of how skilled your healer is. With all this going on, it becomes more about surviving for as long as possible in a fight. After all you can’t DPS if you’re dead right? So this means when you see a Healing Rain or Lightwell going down, it will be your responsibility to get to it as much as it is the responsibility of the healer to make sure it is placed optimally. It means managing your threat to make sure you don’t gank and doing things to keep the damage you take at a minimal level even if it means stopping what you’re doing for a few moments to stay alive. You will need to do it. It really seems to be shaping up to have more individual accountability by virtue of taking away what I like to call the “Healer Safety-Net”.

If the trend continues into raids, healers simply will not be able to compensate for bad decisions or poor situational awareness. They wont be able to heal through all the damage being done. Instead it will take coordination of the entire group, people paying attention to their environment and an understanding that the game has become dangerous again. We’ve gone from killing boars to resurrecting gods. The stakes have been raised and we will all have to adapt.

So remember to help your healers out, because it looks like that safety net is going away.

Why Resto Shaman Need a Defensive Cooldown, or Another Spirit Link Post

Why Resto Shaman Need a Defensive Cooldown, or Another Spirit Link Post

In case you’ve missed it, I’ve grown quite partial to the idea behind Spirit Link. I’ve talked about it recently wondering where it is. Before that I lamented its absence as the one that got away. Today I’d like to take a different approach to this enigma.

Tuesday I reported about the Cataclysm beta and how things looked so far. In that post I quoted the devs with their answers to many questions, including the state of Spirit Link. Their answer was not one I was all to keen on. Back on the 13th of July I appeared on the podcast Raid Warning with their Shaman Roundtable. I had the opportunity to talk with some amazing members of the shaman community and share ideas. While we were talking a fantastic point was made. Shaman are in need of an external cooldown.

Sure it seems like we have it all. Fame, power, sweet shoveltusk-ghost-shoulders, but the truth is we still have some holes in our healing arsenal that need to be addressed. Let me specify that a defensive cooldown is not an “OH SHIT!” ability like Nature’s Swiftness. I’m talking about cooldowns that are used in anticipation of something bad happening instead of reactionary (with a couple exceptions).

Let us compare to other healers.

Priests

Pain Suppression – Lets face it, this spell has come in handy on more boss fights than you would normally consider. Every 3 minutes Discipline priests can reduce the incoming damage on a target by 40% for 8 seconds. That is a large number, and while 8 seconds might not seem like a lot of time, 8 seconds can wind up being just enough to mitigate a boss mob’s large nasty spell or ability. If you Glyph it, you can even cast it while your stunned!  This is a great raid leading ( or heal leading) shot gun, and honestly has saved our rears quite a few times.

Guardian Spirit – Holy priests are not left without a big cooldown. Like pain suppression, this spell is on a 3 minute cooldown and increases healing received on the target by 40%. If the person dies while guardian spirit is active, the spirit will instead be consumed and the person will be healed immediately for 50% of their maximum health. It lasts for 10 seconds on the target and with the Glyph, if it lasts the entire 10 seconds without being consumed your cooldown gets reset to 1 minute. As a healing lead I love abusing this talent. It is a net, a nice cushion-esque net. You can set it on a tank and if you got OOM or have to move and cant push healing, it buys you time. Minimizing risk and compensation for “oops” is part of every raid leaders job, and cooldowns like this can help a ton.

Druids

Tranquility – 8 minute cooldown for a massive area of effect heal. There have been plenty of fights where this has come in handy, and rotations have been set up between multiple druids. Tranquility is another “buys you time” spell. It heals everyone around the druid for a sizeable chunk of health every 2 seconds for 8 seconds, but those 4 pulses of healing can spell defeat or victory as it allows you to help mitigate massive AoE damage and buys healers time to shift gears and compensate. It is often used when you expect massive amounts of raid wide damage.

Rebirth – This spell carries a 10 minute cooldown and a material component in order to cast it, but in this case the effect is greater than the cost by leaps and bounds. Rebirth brings a player who has died back to life with about 6k health and almost 5k mana. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot right? Well if you didn’t know, it is the only resurrection spell that can be cast while in combat. This is huge! Sometimes, things go bad and there is nothing you can do to stop it. A DPS ganks aggro and splats before you can heal them, but you need them alive in order to make the enrage timer. If you have a druid handy this is not an issue, they can bring that person back up and help complete the task at hand. If the druid is using the Glyph, it returns the target of the res with FULL health. This is an amazing cooldown to be able to call on in those particularly awful fights. While this one is a reactionary ability, I think it still fits in with the “defensive” cooldown abilities so I’ve made an exception and included it in the list.

Paladins

Hand of Sacrifice – 2 minute cooldown and it transfers 30% of the damage taken on the target to the paladin for 12 seconds or until the paladin takes damage equal to their total health. The paladin can still use their bubble while using hand of sac in order to mitigate the damage they are receiving and it can be very strategically used to bleed off normally lethal damage on the tank. Divine Sacrifice is an area affect version of this spell that redirects 30% of all damage within 30 yards to the paladin for a maximum of 40% of the paladin’s health times the number of party members.

Hand of Protection – 5 minute cooldown but it makes the target completely from physical attacks for 10 seconds. This can be a great way to drop physical debuffs or just to protect someone from getting 1-shot. This was very useful in Trial of the Crusader.

Shaman

I’m having a hard time thinking of anything I can consider a preemptive defensive cooldown. Hero-Lust is an offensive ability as is both of our elementals. Everything else we have that has a cooldown is reactionary (Nature’s Swiftness). I can’t count Reincarnation in this either as while it is nice to be able to resurrect yourself, finding the timing to do so with all the environmental effects and boss abilities are going off, as well as not being able to rez yourself at, you still only rez with a maximum of 40% of your health. With no buffs it is very easy just to splat again. In a large raid where there is a group of healers to pull abilities from this isn’t such a big thing. But when you start talking about smaller raids it is at that point it starts to become an issue.

Now with Cataclysm on the horizon a few things are happening that make this an issue that needs to be addressed. First of all, raid sizes will be smaller. Now I don’t mean blizzard is taking away 25 man raiding, but they are evening out gear distribution and content to be consistent from 10 man to 25 man. The only difference will be how much of the loot drops from 10 man compared to 25 man. My prediction is that this will cause a lot more 10 man raiding groups to pop up. While the game has come a long way from 40 man raids, organizing 25 man raids can be just as stressful.  The ability to gain the same gear from 10 mans that you do from 25 mans removes some of the incentive to actually run 25 man raids. The facts is, organizing 10 people is easier than 25.

Healing is being tuned to be quite a bit harder both on the healer themselves in terms of mana management but also for groups in terms of damage output. Having had first hand experience in the new 5 mans in cataclysm I can tell you healing has become much more difficult. There were several times where I wish I had something I could toss up on a group member so I could keep healing the tank without having to choose which of the two would die (and there were several instances in which someone WILL die), or a few occasions where a tank was getting pummeled hard and could have used something to either help mitigate the damage or use as a life line.

It is in these smaller groups (5 and 10 man content) that our distinct lack of an external cool down to help those around us mitigate damage or act as prevention really is highlighted. This means in smaller group compositions another healer type may wind up being preferable. Keep in mind that in current content external cooldowns have been used to help tanks and raids quite a bit. Examples include but are not limited to; Vezaxx with pain Suppression and Guradrian Spirit were big deals and on hard mode you almost had to have them available. Ormokk the Impailer was cake with a paladin with Hand of Prot and bubbles, and Tranquility owns the air phase on Blood Queen. These are just a few examples

The Fix

The first thing that comes to mind is that we honestly need an external cooldown. The concept of Spirit Link could very easily fill that gap. Now there is a concern that players would use it to kill other players and exactly how the mechanic would work, but there are a couple ways this could be balanced.

You can certainly make it analogous to Divine Sacrifice. Traditionally and lore wise, shaman have always been the protectors of their people both in health and physical defense. Calling upon the powerful spirits and ancestors to guide them, making offerings to produce better hunts or harvests. The idea of a AoE Spirit Link on a long cooldown could be quite nice.

Spirit Link: Instant cast 3 minute cooldown

The shaman calls upon the spirits of their ancestors to watch over their companions and help ease their burdens and suffering

30% of all damage taken by party members within 40 yards is redirected to the Shaman (up to a maximum of 50% of the Shaman’s health times the number of party members).  Damage which reduces the Shaman below 20% health will break the effect.  Lasts 15 sec.

I could see something like that couldn’t you? Could also be handy if say it could also be affected by Ancestral Resolve, we could get that much more out of it. It also stays true to the original thought and feeling behind the spell.

Maybe make it like a healing Misdiretion, where it will still be on a long cool down but maybe transfers a portion of the damage off of x number of swings or impose a time limit. maybe something like:

Spirit Link: Instant cast 3-5 minute cooldown

The current party or raid member targeted will receive 30% of the damage dealt to a secondary target for the next 10 seconds. Any effect that reduces the targets health below 50% will cancel the effect.

These aren’t perfect but it is an idea at least. It really is the only tool we are missing. A long defensive cooldown. The other classes all have their cookies and flavors for this, and with groups potentially thinning down, and with healing being changed as it is, it is personally something I think the class needs. Just… call it Spirit Link to humor me is all I ask! Once we have that I think our healing tool-set will be complete, and then we will truly be princes of the universe! (bet you were wondering why I linked a Queen song up at the top ;])

So what do you think? Do you think shaman need that defensive cooldown? What would you make it? would you change any of our spells to fill the gap?

That is it for this week folks. Happy Healing!

Less is More?

Less is More?

As some of you may or may not know, I am actually trained in the skills of an architect. It’s a fun fact about me on the off chance you care about that sort of thing. The reason I bring this up is because all throughout my college career, my teachers attempted to drive home the point that “Less is More”. This is not a new design concept by any means, in fact it is a rather old idea, a 19th century proverbial phrase. It is first found in print in Andrea del Sarto, 1855, a poem by Robert Browning:

Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia.

Architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe is often associated with this phrase as a founder  of modern architecture and proponent of simplicity of style.

So I’m sure you’re asking why I’m dragging architecture into your dragon game right now yes? Well, quite simply the idea of less is more is a design concept that many game companies have embraced. To do more with less decreases production time, allows for a better shake down of bugs and glitches, and can free up a developer to create some very innovative game play.  One need not look much further than Braid or The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom to see what I mean here.

Blizzard it would seem has just begun to adapt to this way of thinking, at least it appears that way. You can see this in the latest build of the Cataclysm Beta. The new 31-point talent system has streamlined the talent trees by removing  bloat and overused space. What we are left with is a cleaner, albeit smaller, talent tree. A lot of the talents cut away were instead folded into the players choice in specialization, for example Earth Shield was removed as a talent and given as a core spell when a player chooses to specialize in Restoration. This design model is an attempt to do more with less. Less wasted talent space will lead to more interesting talents in the tree, as well more interesting game play for players… in theory anyways. I wrote up a more detailed breakdown of these changes on WoW.com so feel free to check it out. This is my more personal thoughts on these changes, and well… I just felt the need to keep talking about them some.

While it is still in an early beta phase, I can’t help but feel… disrupted a little bit. While I agree that some of the talents should have been moved, I’m not entirely feeling good about what was pulled out and what was put in. I agree that for restoration, Earth Shield should have been removed as a talent and made into a base spell. You will never hear me complain about that. Every resto shaman I know takes that talent, and in truth it is a very core, very iconic spell that is part of the identity of a resto shaman. If you are a restoration shaman without Earth Shield… well I just don’t even know. I am curious though as to why Mana Tide Totem was left in place though. Like ES it is a very core shaman talent and again something most if not all resto shaman take. Why not remove it as a talent and give it as a bonus for choosing the restoration specialization? That could further open up the tree and allow more space for more fun talents. From a design perspective it would make more sense to make it a base ability or a specialization bonus and open the slot for something else… maybe something like Spirit Link!

Another thing that confused me was some of the additions, Spark of Life to be exact. One of the things that Blizzard stated was that they wanted to move away from/remove talents that added passive % bonuses. Don’t get me wrong, I like the talent. Buffing the healing done to yourself has been near godly in the beta (*ahem* restoiz4tanking!) and it makes the passive heal from Healing Stream Totem nice for longevity, but I am still surprised to see it included. It does go well with Ancestral Resolve as far as that whole staying alive thing goes as well. I fully plan on using these for tanking as a healer!

Telluric Currents would be nice for leveling… if it was lower in the tree. I can’t see taking it as a dedicated healer in end game, as it is rare that I have to DPS at all and even then it is usually a flame shock followed by more healing and then a lava burst. It could be useful for soloing… maybe.

We lost a lot however. A lot of our supercharged healing is gone, and we are dreadfully low on passive crit. Some additions to the tree give us back some of the bonus healing, but no where near where it was. I understand that they want to make healing harder and more thoughtful and I am pro difficulty on that, but a shaman’s best procs all come from crit. Passively we can push 40% in a raid without trying, this helps with heals from Ancestral Awakening and helps trigger Blessing of the Eternals sure. It also is necessary for shaman mana regeneration. Improved Water Shield procs off of critical heals. The more crits you have the more likely you are to regen mana and be able to keep casting. I don’t know if you remember but there was a time not so long ago that shaman were having longevity issues. IWS was implemented to compensate for that, but by removing the passive crit, it hurts our regeneration rates. Meditation is supposed to allow for further regeneration, but the question remains if it will wind up being enough.

Along those same lines, Tidal Force is out. I really really miss this spell. It has become second nature in to pop this spell and its absence is keenly felt. When I’m healing on live I usually have a rhythm going. Like say for Valithria;

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Tidal Force > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc. Refreshing Riptide when off cooldown.

Now it has become

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Look for Tidal Force *DAMNIT* Unleashed Weapon > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc.

Throws me off quite a bit. Still getting used to it. I can see what they are doing by trimming the trees and I approve. While I may not be a staunch minimalist, I know when things have gotten bloated. The restoration tree on live definitely is bloated, and the one on the current beta could use some more pruning .

So Blizzard, keep in mind that less is more. Players have been doing creative things with very little for a while now. Just make what we have better defined and maybe move a few more things around. We don’t necessarily need a rolls-royce (although it would not be turned down!) we just need things that function well. We’ve been trotting along pretty much unchanged for a good bit, just make sure you don’t break us ok?

So what do you guys think of the changes so far? Anything you noticed you love? Hate? Anything you think they should add in?


Real ID on Blizzard forums, the good and the bad *Updated AGAIN!*

Real ID on Blizzard forums, the good and the bad *Updated AGAIN!*

*update* Real ID is canceled on official forums Blizzard most definitely listened, and it’s a good thing!

So, Vaneras over on the EU forums just informed us that Real ID will be making an appearance on the forums. Needless to say there is a slew of comments slinging around about this. Some people love it, some people hate it. Some say it will be the new life of the forums while others think that this marks their imminent death. So I thought it would be good to talk about it a little bit here.

First off, lets talk about the current state of the forums. There are some good threads there. There are some helpful guides and bits of information. But for each helpful bit there is a counterpart. People that just show up to cause issues, scream drama and pick Internet fights. I know a lot of people personally who avoid the forums just to avoid those specific people. This is a sad thing though, as the forums are set up to help build the community and not to be a source of drama or argument. On a personal level I hate having to weed through 15,000 posts of people complaining to get to the 1 that has a valid point in a discussion. This is obviously an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

Let’s face it, the Internet is a place where people can hide behind a fake name and say and do whatever they want with little to no recourse. This can be simple complaining out outright just being an ass-hat.  This Internet anonymity is what Blizzard is trying to take away I think. How many times have they posted a proposed class change only to have intelligent well thought out responses from posters get drowned out by the wailing masses? How many times has a person asked for advices on gear or spec or spell priority only to be called a noob for pages on end? It happens, trust me I know.  So I can see what Blizzard is trying to do here, by eliminating the ability to hide behind a character name, that person is held accountable for what they said or do.

Quick story here. I know a guy who in real life is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Intelligent, well spoken and would give you the shirt off his back. When he logs into game or on the forums however, he does a complete 180. He yells at people, argues incessantly, turns into a complete womanizing bigot and has a completely abrasive personality. This sounds extreme but it is a lot more common than you think. When you don’t have to be held accountable in real life for your actions, the rules change. The Blizzard forums have been plagued by this from day 1.

By adding this level of accountability Blizzard I’m sure is hoping to cut down on the forum slop by discouraging the trolls from posting, and making people think twice about just posting empty whining.

There is however another side to this coin. There are a ton of people who try very hard to separate their real life from their game life. They post helpful guides to trade-skills, or how to level efficiently on the forums for general reading. They offer insight to class changes and constructive criticism when people ask for help. This group of people also has something to lose by this change going live, as does the community in general if they stop posting. Some people like the anonymity of their toons as a way to just separate their lives into distinct parts. If they stop posting because of this change, that will be very sad indeed.

Some are concerned for their safety. They fear stalkers and real life harassment and fallout from the forums following them into real life. As a person who has worked in internet security for a long time, I can tell you the chances of this are pretty slim. A persons name alone does not provide a ton of information. It does not for example provide your address and township. Your internet providers work very hard to keep that information private as do most websites, banks etc. It is in Blizzards best intrest as well to keep this information private, and so far they have done a pretty good job of it. Unless you have a one of a kind name and are publicly listed in an international phone book or public websites with your pertinent information, the chances aren’t too great that your name will give up enough information about you to harass you outside of your online personae.  I understand the concern there,  it is a valid reason for being against the change. But it can be rather difficult to find someone .

Another argument is that this goes against the originally stated purpose of Real ID. It was toted as an optional, convenient way to keep track of your friends across servers and even games. Some people feel that being forced to use it to interact on the forums violates this and removes the “optional” portion of the feature. This is a valid argument as there is no way to circumvent this at current.

There are also those of us that this has absolutely zero effect on. Those of us that already live in the public eye and have our names out there will see no change in how we do business essentially. Me personally, doesn’t phase me one bit. My name is out there from the For the Lore podcast and WoW.com. Having my real name show up on the forums isn’t a big deal at this point. I also have the good fortune to have a name that is not exactly unique. Joseph Perez is the Steve Smith of Hispanic names. Try looking it up in the phone book sometimes, it is rather hilarious.

Here are some facts to remember about this

This will only affect the new forums created when SC2 and Cataclysm launch. Old forums and old posts will remain untouched (for now, hopefully this won’t become retroactive)

Blue Posters are not immune to this, and will also be showing their real first and last names

Having your name does not compromise your account security. Email, password (and hopefully you’re using an authenticator) are what let people in. Even if you call Blizzard customer support and say you are “so and so” you have to provide a LOT of proof of identity.

So what do you think? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Will it be a new beginning for the Blizzard forums or will it mark its death?

UPDATE

Let me clarify something real fast. While the change doesn’t affect me personally I still do NOT like it. I understand what they are trying to do with it, but I don’t think it was thought out enough. On facebook I can go silent, I can turn off chat and no one has to know I’m on. I can hide details like my email, phone number and location, and if I so choose I can change my name on the account. Here we don’t have the option. I do NOT like the idea that choice is being taken away from the gamers. We choose to play this game and who to interact with. Why do we not have a choice in this? I think that the overwhelming response people are having to this is a good thing and hopefully Blizzard will see it and make some changes. But again, I am NOT for this change, but I don’t think it needs to be attacked with nukes instead of calm rational discussion. It is a lot easier for people (i.e. Blizzard) to dismiss an over the top emotional response to this (which don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly valid response from us as users to be passionate about this change) as opposed to when people calmly lay down why they don’t agree with it. That’s all.

Where in the World is Spirit Link?

Where in the World is Spirit Link?


So, it has certainly been a busy week around the office so to speak. The announcement of the Cataclysm beta has everyone chomping at the bit, eagerly awaiting their invitation to what is sure to be one hell of a party.

Since the announcement of the beta there has been a flood of information. Among that information was many tidbits about Restoration shaman. I did an analysis of those updates over on wow.com feel free to check it out. The one thing that has been missing from all of this information has been Spirit Link.

Spirit Link was the original 51 talent in the restoration tree in the first Wrath of the Lich King beta build. I fell in love with this spell very early on, and was looking forward to using it in a raid. It was, however, not to be. Shortly after the second beta build of Wrath the talent was taken away like a jealous father stealing his daughter away in a tower prison, replaced by our now glorious Riptide. I still pine for Spirit Link however. I often wonder if, when I look up at the lonely stars at night, if  Spirit Link is somewhere looking up at the same stars missing me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Riptide, but my heart still belongs to Spirit Link.

When we got the very first set of class previews, Blizzard developers stated that they were going to try and bring Spirit Link back. The restoration shaman community was incredibly receptive to this, and there was much rejoicing. I know I danced a little bit at the news. So we eagerly awaited the announcement of its presence. When the beta information was released, I am sad to say that Spirit Link is MIA. There have been no official statements as of this post as to why it was not included this round, but I have a few suspicions.

The reason the spell was removed from the Wrath beta is that it was hard to balance. here was the original wording of the spell.

Spirit Link (Rank 1): You link the friendly target with two nearby targets, causing 50% of the damage taken to be distributed to the linked targets. After 2200 damage, the link will sever.

That is pretty interesting right? The problem was two fold here. First, the spell had no duration limit aside from the damage cap. So you could set it on two targets and just let it be. Second, the damage cap was either too low (2200 damage would be one swing from most bosses) or too high. Finding a sweet spot was always a problem as it was either way too weak, or way too powerful.

My guess is that either it is NYI (not yet included) or they are still having problems balancing it.  In the Wrath beta  it could be stacked and made damage mitigation moot. “Non def capped tank? We have three shaman NO PROBLEM!” type deal. I will be highly interested to see if it makes it to live, because I love it so much. If it doesn’t make it to live, it will surely still be the one that got away.  It was interesting and a brand new mechanic to play with. I love it like a fat kid loves cake, and I’m a fat kid that LOVES his cake. As a bonus here’s a video of the spell in use in the Wrath beta.

So what do you guys think? Want to see this spell make it live to Cataclysm? How would you balance it? How would you change it?

Also this week, my buddy shane has written a new Google Chrome extension called Armory Links. It allows you to look anyone up quickly and easily in any of the various armory and gear checking sites. You should check it out, I know I love it and use it frequently.

And if you’re heading to BlizzCon and are interested in custom badge art, be sure to swing by Ginny’s site and check out her stuff. She does great work, and I know she’s working on a custom Lodur piece for me as we speak.

Lodur on “Totem Recall”

Lodur on “Totem Recall”

In case you haven’t heard yet, there is a Shaman Round Table on the horizon. On July 13th the folks over at Raid Warning will be hosting the latest in their series of round table discussions. You may also remember that back in February Thespius and Matticus were featured on Power Word: Fail the priest round table. I am very happy to inform you all that I have been asked to join in on this installment of their series Totem Recall.

The previous class discussions have been great successes and if you want to listen follow the link above.

I’m really looking forward to this. There is a great lineup and there is sure to be a fantastic series of topics for discussion. I can’t wait!

Want to be involved? Submit your questions for Totem Recall on Raid Warning’s Epic Advice thread and vote for your favorites to be answered on the show!

Here’s the line up for this round table

Joe “Lodur” Perez of  WoW.com and World of Matticus
Rich “Stoneybaby” Maloy of WoW.com and Big Crits
Borsk of Borsked
Jhaman of Castaclysm
Pewter of MentalShaman
Binkenstein of Elitist Jerks
Masanbol of Elitist Jerks

Make sure to swing on by and give it a listen. Should be a great time!

Image courtesy of Raid Warning

Real I.D., Lodur’s thoughts

Real I.D., Lodur’s thoughts

Since it was first announced there has been a wave of people very outspoken about this feature from both sides. People have been arguing the pros and cons of it and some of them are less than rational arguments. So I figured I’d share my own thoughts on it.

First though, here are some facts that you may not know about Real ID

  • Real ID is another name for Dingo, if you aren’t careful it will steal your babies!
  • Real ID promised to buy me dinner, but when the check came its wallet was in its other pants
  • Real ID will walk into a room, let one rip audibly and blame it on your dog
  • BP isn’t actually to blame for the oil spill, in truth it was Real ID. It just blamed BP and ran like hell.
  • Real ID is so fast it can outrun the Flash, which oddly enough is why Flash doesn’t work on your iPhone
  • Real ID assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand
  • I survived Real ID, and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt

I figured a little levity was in order for this one, hope you got a giggle out of.

Honestly though there has been a bevy of ridiculous comments about Real ID to the point I don’t think I hear this much QQ when hunters are nerfed. It seems most of the arguments against it are based off of misinformation. Posts have been popping up every where about it from small blogs to big blogs accross the globe.

Stoppable had a great post about Real ID yesterday explaining some of the misconceptions about the new features. It’s a good read you should take a gander at it. Even Matt offered his two cents on the topic.

Spinks offered a good argument for sometimes wanting to be alone in game and not be bothered by anyone and how Real ID eliminates that. It was one of the better arguments I’ve read against the inclusion of Real ID and it is definitely worth your time as well. Anna from  too many annas has also chimed in on the topic and talked about the opening up of your personal information. It is a well thought out discussion on the negatives of Real ID.

That said I like the idea of Real ID chat ingame. There are actually many reason. First of all is it allows me and the officers in my guild to be more accessible to our guildies. There are times when someone will need an officer but none may be on at that time. As it stands a number of guildies have my cell phone, email, home address, AIM, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ and so forth in order to get a hold of me when needed. I tend to be a night owl, I’m up all hours of the night, but I’m not always in WoW. I do intend to play a lot of SC2 and you bet your arse I’ll be playing Diablo 3. Having a way to keep in touch with guildies and be pegged if I’m needed in game is very nice. Secondly it allows me to stay in touch with friends on different servers and factions. I have friends all over the place, many of my readers here fall into that category. I like being able to send them a whisper and ask what’s up. My girlfriend raids as horde on another server and it is nice to be able to send her a message in game just to say hi. I enjoyed using it in the SC2 beta and it worked really well there.

It is not without short-comings though. First of all, right out of the box it is spam heavy. Pop ups, growl notifications, status spam assail you as soon as you enable the feature. This can be turned off in the game settings, but still it is not a friendly first impression. There are memory issues still. Friends running top of the line PC’s with gobs of ram and terabytes of storage were getting errors about drive space for processing. This needs to be fixed and fixed fast. There are two key binds to reply to someone now in the default UI. A seperate key for chat reply, and one for whisper reply. Heres the thing though, they don’t both work! Chat reply (for chat groups) doesn’t work at all.  Why not just leave it as one key replies to whispers from Real ID or regular friends and leave the chat like a normal chat channel? Privacy mode please. Even on facebook I can turn chat off and have no one know I logged in. Why can’t I do the same here? I can set myself to busy but it’s not the same. Blizzard please add a function where I can turn it off when I don’t want to be bothered. I mean I accidentally did this last night when I crashed but I would rather prefer a button!

Overall I like it.  It is not very different from the battle.net communication we used to track friends back in Diablo 2 (you could add battle.net or user names to see all of their characters) and many of us utilize services like Steam where we can communicate across ANY game in the steam library to our friends, and it was about time that we saw something like this from Blizzard.

I’ll end today with a couple notes about security and etiquette

Friend of a Friend: People right now are saying that the ability to see friends of a friend are broken and wrong and invade someone’s privacy. The truth is though, besides a name you do not get anything else about the person. You do not see their email or anything like that. In fact, you get more information about friends of a friend from Facebook.

I have to give my email out!?: While the system is designed to search for people by email addresses, you can add other people and they cannot see your email. You can have people add you through friend of a friend and they will never see your email, or simply you can choose not to participate. Either way your information is really only accessible if you volunteer it.

Now I’m going to get spam mail!!!: Well, you may but you wont get it because of this. There are entire companies that do nothing but plug random combination of letters and numbers at domain names offering blanket statements to try and sell you products or click really bad links. Others buy the information from other websites for marketing. Either way I can pretty much guarantee you the Viagra spam email you got had nothing to do with Real ID.

Say who you are!!: A new pet peeve of mine is people adding someone without saying who they are. I’ve gotten a dozen requests that I have no clue who those people are. I accept that this will happen as my information is highly public thanks to wow.com, World of Matticus and For The Lore.  All I ask is that if you’re going to send the request tell me who you are. I’ve accepted many friend requests on FaceBook that just said “hey I’m a reader from xyz you should add me”. So my rule is no message telling me who you are, I wont accept the invitation. I will be using this rule for Real ID as well. I mean it’s just common courtesy to announce who you are!

We live in a world where our information is readily available for just about anyone if they look hard enough. Take a look at FaceBook, Twitter, and even personal Blogs and Livejournals. We post information about ourselves that just about anyone can see if they want unless we are ultra super secretly careful. Is this really worse than they are? Is this worse than FaceBook ? In the end this is still optional, you can choose not to participate. Simply don’t accept any requests and don’t send any, and everything goes along as normal. This is not the end of the world. Blizzard is not going to sell your information to gold farmers and spammers (they would have long since done that already if that was the case) and the truth of the matter is your account is in no greater danger than it was two days ago. You should still have an authenticator and you shouldn’t respond to those emails from Gnomeregan royalty who just need a little help to get their money out of escrow.

So now that you’ve had a day with it, what do you think of the new Real ID system?

Special thanks to Thespius and my buddy Doug for the comedic help this morning.

Kingslayers? That’s Unpossible!

Kingslayers? That’s Unpossible!

I was originally going to regal you with the wild tales of my misadventures through the LFD tool, but instead I am consumed by a  need to share my overwhelming pride.

Tuesday June 8th at near 10:20pm est, Unpossible downed The Lich King in 25 player mode. Normally I wouldn’t bother posting something like this as I don’t want to be seen as a braggart, but I am proud of my guild for sticking to it and getting this done. Over the last few months we’ve been combating burnout, illness, freak weather and buggy encounters. It seems to always be the way, we make incredible progress and then Murphy rears his ugly head and we get stymied by random occurrences.

I will say this was one of the more exhilarating kills we’ve had. Wed the week prior we broke early to attempt to buy Blizzcon tickets as a guild, we decided it would be nice to let everyone enjoy the weekend and focus on getting to the convention. On Monday we dove back into ICC and went hell for broke for The Lich King. As we were handling defiles and valks something just clicked. Vent got quiet and everyone was moving in unison. These are what I like to call moments of raiding clarity. This is where everyone is doing everything perfect and the boss abilities are right on time. It is almost like participating in a choreographed dance. It was just as if suddenly everyone got the fight. We made great progress and were consistently pushing into phase 3. Midnight bells tolled and we called it a night, but before we did officers agreed with spirits so high and considering the progress we made that we needed to extend the lockout, get the same raid group in ICC and take the bastard down. Who needed more shards? Badges? Pfft! A dead Lich King is all we wanted. And when the announcement went out over ventrillo you could hear people becoming excited.

So when Tuesday came, we headed in and on our first pull that same magic was there. pushed into phase 3, and we wiped because we weren’t expecting to get there on the first pull. So we head back in our confidences high, and pull again. This time his health gets even lower, we wipe to something stupid, but spirits are still high. We go again and again, each time chipping away at that total health. After a 10 minute break around 10 we come back in, buff up and pull. We get to phase 3, everyone alive and we’re going strong. We’re kiting the spirits, and moving from defiles with expert reflexes, I get picked as the second person to go into Frostmourne and I heal the shit out of Terenas Menethil, I get dumped back to reality and we keep going. His health is dropping lower and lower. The other resto shaman gets picked for Harvest Soul, something unknown happens and he dies. LK enrages and everyone gets tense. Our main tank Woe pops his cooldowns as healers bridged the gap to him and the big heals started raining in. Suddenly he gets smacked hard and goes down. LK is at 14% with a few key people down (healers and high dps) everyone sighs, a wipe is almost called but instead Woe calls out for our OT Theonius to grab the LK fast. He charges over, grabs him, healers switch targets immediately and everyone unloads. Remaining healers go all out balls-to-the-wall with every cooldown and bit of mana they have to throw behind healing. LK at 12%, vent gets quiet again except for the calls from the raid leaders giving terse directions “heal x, move right” LK at 10.5%. Everyone is holding their breath and then you hear the call “Take this bitch down!” LK 10%, he wipes the raid and everyone cheers on vent, a reminder is sent out not to release and we all are whooping and hollering at the top of our lungs. Our mass res comes and we pop yet another heroism for good measure and unload, our achievements pop up and at that moment I could actually hear all remaining tension and burnout leave. A burden lifted from everyone’s shoulders and fresh energy flowing into the raiders.

An early end to a raiding night, and week, but one well deserved. So as of Tuesday we finally start our hard modes. There is palpable excitement as everyone is getting ready and anticipation is high. After all the random things that have gone wrong along the way, I can honestly say this was one well deserved kill for Unpossible. I’d like to thank each and everyone of my guild-mates, officers and everyone in between for continuing to work so hard and to persevere though so much. We’ve been around for a long time, and we have no intention on stopping! We have our eye on you Deathwing, and we must break you!

We all have our obstacles in game. Raid attendance, pushing the DPS envelope, getting that computer to stop dropping you from raid, getting the last shot in to topple that boss at 1% or even overcoming personal and health related issues to play a game you enjoy with people you call friends. Everyone’s journey is different, but when you get to your goal there is no sweeter victory.

With that in mind I’d also like to make a shout-out to Spellbrood. We heard that you have a lot on your plate and we here at World of Matticus want to wish you well in your journeys. Remember, no obstacle is too great when you have good friends to help share the burdens and the good times!

So that’s it for this today, hope you guys enjoyed my little story there, I know my heart started pounding again as I began to recall the events.

Also, Unpossible is hiring! We’re looking for geared and intelligent DPS looking for a fun but dedicated raiding home. Sorry folks we are full up on Death Knights and Priests, but everyone else is welcome to apply. If you’re interested stop by here and take a look at our application process!