Symbiosis and Monks

Symbiosis and Monks

I’m so flippin’ mad.

Times like this I wish I was a fan of golf instead.

But enough about that. Let’s get on to the highlights for this week. The beta cap in Mists has been raised. The big spotlight’s on Druids since they get Symbiosis to play with which impacts the rest of us.

WoWScrnShot_041412_200317

The great wall of Pandaria.

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Overview of the Mistweaver Monk

In the weekly WoW Insider Raid Rx column, you can get an introductory look at the Mistweaver Monk (The healing one) and gain insight on how the class is supposed to heal. They’re going with a hybrid DPS/healing mentality with high mobility.

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State of the Brewmaster

Sunnier has gone self hosting and has gotten a new look, new domain, and new everything. Wear sunglasses. It’s really bright. Other than that, you can check out her recent post on the recent state of Brewmaster tanks. A part of me thinks this might be a good expansion to give tanking a shot.

Then there’s the other part of me who isn’t going to trust the healer to keep my sorry ass alive.

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Symbiosis: Practical Assignments

This is Lissanna’s part 2 of Symbiosis analysis. Found this way more interesting since she has a raid composition with 5 (five) druids. You think deciding things like Focus Magic was hard? Raid leaders will have another level of headaches with Symbiosis to deal with now and here’s a theoretical case study on how it would go.

Druid Symbiosis Abilities and Spells Other Classes Get

Druid Symbiosis Abilities and Spells Other Classes Get

Note: Last updated April 15, 2012.

Shadow Priests get Tranquility.

Healing Priests get… Entangling Roots?!

Since the level cap has been raised to level 87 on the beta, Druids now have access to their level 87 spell, Symbiosis. This is one of the more popular abilities in the game because it’s one of those things where every class has a vested interest in it.

What Druids get from Symbiosis

Guardian Feral Restoration Balance
Death Knight Bone Shield Death Coil Icebound Fortitude Anti-Magic Shell
Hunter Ice Trap Play Dead Deterrence Misdirection
Mage Mage Ward Frost Nova Ice Block Mirror Image
Paladin Consecration Divine Shield Cleanse Hammer of Justice
Priest Fear Ward Dispersion Leap of Faith Mass Dispel
Rogue Feint Redirect Evasion Cloak of Shadows
Shaman Lightning Shield Feral Spirit Spirit Walker’s Grace Purge
Warlock Life Tap Soul Swap Demonic Circle: Teleport Unending Resolve
Warrior Spell Reflection Shattering Blow Intimidating Roar Intervene
Monk TBD TBD TBD TBD

Sources and notes

1: WoWHead Mists of Pandaria Symbiosis Comments
2: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4427534745
3: Owlkin | Symbiosis Results
4: http://www.mmo-champion.com/threads/1103278-MoP-Symbiosis
5: http://www.wowheadnews.com/blog=202586/symbiosis-breakdown-what-abilities-it-brings-to-each-class 

I did my best to cross reference spells and abilities in the WoWHead Mists database. Certain spells that had key words like “Energy” instead of a different form of energy used naturally by the class and spec, “Druid” or included certain Druid abilities like Rip are almost guaranteed to be the Druid form. Another dead giveaway is the level when the ability is gained (it should say 87). However, Not every ability lists that. In the event of inconsistencies, I deferred to the MMO Champion list as it’s the most recently updated.

What you get from Symbiosis

Death Knight Blood Frost Unholy
Might of Ursoc Wild Mushroom: Plague Wild Mushroom: Plague
Hunter Marksman Beast Mastery Survival
Dash Dash Dash
Mage Frost Arcane Fire
Healing Touch Healing Touch Healing Touch
Paladin Protection Retribution Holy
Barkskin TBD Rebirth
Priest Shadow Holy Discipline
Tranquility Entangling Roots Entangling Roots
Rogue Assassination Subtlety Combat
Growl Growl Growl
Shaman Elemental Enhancement Restoration
Solar Beam Solar Beam Prowl
Warlock Demonology Destruction Affliction
Rejuvenation Rejuvenation Rejuvenation
Warrior Arms Fury Protection
Stampeding Shout Stampeding Shout Frenzied Regeneration
Monk Brewmaster Windwalker Mistweaver
Growl Savage Defense* TBD*

* Speculation based on tooltips. Savage Defense costs 3 Chi. Chi is Monk only energy.
Wrath is listed as a Symbiosis spell but is not attached to a class.

Reactions

I don’t even want to think about how they plan to balance this ability for arena usage. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just disable it entirely, but I’m sure they’ll give it a spirited attempt anyway. The main purpose of Symbiosis is to give classes and specs certain abilities that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Mages get a Heal, for example.

Shadow Priests with Tranquility is pretty darn nice. Part of me wishes Holy Priests had it, but the other (sane) part of me knows that if that were to happen, Priests would instantly jump to the top. Divine Hymn/Power Word: Barrier and a Tranquility would be blatantly overpowered.

Wasn’t expecting DPS Shaman to receive Solar Beam, but since they’re all with the elements and stuff, I can see why.

Restoration Druids receiving Leap of Faith? I guess it’s payback time Sad smile.

Curious with the Balance Druids receiving Mass Dispel. Though it could be used as a more offensive ability since you don’t really see Balance Druids whipping out debuff removals as much.

Feral Druids receiving Divine Shield from Paladins. Ho boy.

If you notice a spell that’s in the wrong spot or if an ability’s missed, let me know but make sure you toss in a source (Screenshow, WoWhead link, or something).

Let’s assume you’re a Druid in a raid group with every conceivable class and spec compositions (Let’s say science is thrown out the window and the raid limits are higher than 25). Who do you give Symbiosis to and why?

 

Mists: Further Priest Changes on the Horizon

Mists: Further Priest Changes on the Horizon

Ghostcrawler commented on a Discipline feedback post earlier today.

To summarize the key points:

  • Confirmation that Spirit Shell is a spammable absorb that won’t be as powerful as Power Word: Shield. On beta, it fills the Heal role which is not very satisfactory. They are exploring the option of having it fill the Greater Heal position instead.
  • They’re exploring ways to bring Rapture back in.  However, they want it to scale with Spirit so that Discipline Priests don’t neglect Spirit on their gear.
  • Power Word: Barrier mana costs are comparable to Divine Hymn.
  • They’re exploring ways to reduce the mana cost of Mass Dispel but the spells is quite powerful and they’re considering the inclusion of a cooldown aspect.
  • Players running through dungeons and raids are saying they have problems casting big heals and they are looking into this problem.
  • The priest talents are still not finalized and will be undergoing further refinement.
  • Glyph of Penance sucks. Glyphs as a whole are incomplete and continue to be developed.

Personally, I find it refreshing to see GC back in action again offering glimpses into the world of game balance and the various developer thought processes. Rapture’s a way cool mechanic and all, but with the other changes and such, I’m not sure if finding a way to restore it back in Mists is a real priority.  Do you agree with the problems and solutions that are in the process of being implemented?

Mists: Spirit Shell, Chakra, and Party Healing

Mists: Spirit Shell, Chakra, and Party Healing

Blizzard issued another 100,000 invites today and I was lucky enough to get in. Derevka from Tales of the Priest also has the Mists beta enabled. I’m sure between the two of us we can help answer any Priest questions you might have (Save all the math and theorycrafting for him).

Biggest grin inducing experience though?

I SMITE FOR OVER 40,000 DAMAGE

On Spirit Shell

On the tanks

Spirit Shell is the new Discipline Priest “heal” (the 2.5 second cast that’s supposed to be mana neutral).

Something feels really off about it. it feels ineffective. I get that it’s used to maintain health of players. It’s the filler spell. But it’s a delayed heal. In a sense, I should feel the same using Heal and using Spirit Shell. But I find that the mobs and bosses just punch through Spirit Shell fairly quick. Since the shield gets broken, the heal aspect never applies (Since 80% of a broken shield is still going to be 0). Tanks aren’t gaining any real health with Spirit Shell.

When using Heal, I can see the physical health bar bounce up and down between heal received and damage taken. Spirit Shell causes the tank health bar to stay around the same or to gradually decrease. I rely heavily on visual bar movement to gauge how much time left before the tank or my party gets smashed. It’s really hard to gauge the buffer I have when using Spirit Shell.

Video of me wiping once on the first boss before taking him out on attempt 2.

 

I’m not sure if that’s a UI thing or just a priest thing (or a Matt thing). 8 seconds seems like an eternity before a heal gets applied. In a way, I feel as if though I get penalized in a heavy damage environment. Holy sees immediate dividends in when those healing spells are used because you can actually seeplayer health bars move. Discipline doesn’t (with the shields) and we’re left wondering if our shields are still active or if they’ve been punched through or not.

Yeah, there’s a spell graphic thats applied on players. But aren’t your eyes glued to your frames?

On the party

I could throw a Renew on players and they’d get enough healing on them or I could also throw a Spirit Shell and wait the 8 seconds for that to expire for the heal component to apply. Renew, I can use on the run. Spirit Shell leaves me vulnerable. I understand that they’re meant for different purposes, but in this sense, Spirit Shell can be used as a fire-and-forget kind of ability on that Mage who took damage but isn’t expected to take damage again for the next 30 seconds or something.

I’m not sure what it is. The spell’s a great idea and all. But in practice, something doesn’t feel right when healing in instances. I think there should be a minimum floor that the heal of Spirit Shell does (Heals for 80% after absorb expires, otherwise it heals for 20% of the initial absorb amount).

Chakra

chakra

Have to free up some more binds somewhere. Chakra: Serenity and Chakra: Sanctuary are separate abilities and need to be key bound separately. No more having to activate Chakra and cast Prayer of Mending to auto switch to Sanctuary.

Party healing

Admirable job with the balancing of regen and throughput. Temple of the Jade Serpent was fairly brisk the first way through after queuing with a group of random players. I’m queuing in with a mix of normal and heroic Dragon Soul gear (395 Item level, give or take). Raid geared players won’t have much of a problem with it all. Just don’t stand in the water and watch out for fires.

For reference, quest rewards in the opening zone are 372 greens.

Explaining Intellect, Mana Pools, and Spell Costs in Mists

Explaining Intellect, Mana Pools, and Spell Costs in Mists

Edit: Fixed comments to allow guests to comment without registering again. Let me know if you run into other bugs.

There’s been some discussion and confusion about mana pools, spell costs, and intellect. I was thrown off when I checked out some of the spell costs. Turns out, I had forgotten about the changes coming up for healers. Here’s a summary of the direction we’re going (all of us healers, not just Priests, mind you).

Even wrote about it in a Raid Rx column a while ago.

  • Every healer gets a static mana pool amount (100k mana).
  • Intellect affects the strength of your spells only. No longer increases mana pool.
  • Spirit still remains a mana regeneration stat. More Spirit, faster regeneration.
  • Many spell costs are being adjusted to account for the change to mana pools.
  • Mana regeneration based on mana pool size is gone.

Here’s a truncated version of the blue post.

With the change we are proposing, Intellect provides bigger heals and Spirit improves longevity. For healers, there should not always be a clear cut answer. Intellect may still be the superior stat, but not by as much as it is today. […] Mana pools can still be large (we are thinking 100,000 mana at level 85) so that it doesn’t feel too bizarre to existing casters and doesn’t feel too much like rage or energy.

What happened to our mana pools?

This is an idea of what the base mana pool of healers will look like. Assume none of these classes have chosen a spec yet.

  • Druid: 20,000 mana
  • Paladin: 20,000 mana
  • Priest: 100,000 mana
  • Monk: 100 Chi (Just a figure I’m using)
  • Shaman: 20,000 mana

Remember, pretend that these are base mana figures.

But there’s more

With the exception of Priests and Monks, each class gains an ability which modifies their mana pool when they select a spec.

Druids, Paladins, and Shaman have their mana pools dramatically increased by 400%. That should then bring everyone’s mana pool up to 100,000. When a Monk switches to Mistweaver, their energy bar will be replaced with mana. As they’re the only monk spec that uses mana, it’s assumed that 100,000 is the base value.

In addition, we think fixed mana pools will help healers scale better with content. Some players seem to be interpreting the 5.0 design as healing 5-player dungeons should be easy but healing raids should be very hard. That is certainly a better situation than dungeons being very hard and raids being easy, but neither is really the goal.

What about the costs?

Let’s use a few of the different healing spells as examples.

Greater Heal ends up costing about 6,000 mana (6% of 100,000). Greater Healing Wave and Divine Light end up being around 8,500 mana (35% of 25,000 mana). Remember that the percentages are centered around base mana which hasn’t been modified by mana boosting talents just yet. This means that their absolute values should be about the same range. Shouldn’t be off by more than a few hundred or a couple thousand. The variance is most likely due to the difference in class mechanics and spells.

So we’re going back to entry-level Cataclysm healing

In a word, yes.

As we were working our way throughout Tier 11, we had to really work on using our mana neutral healing spells (Heal, Healing Wave, etc) as much as possible. As our gear progressively improved, we found ourselves dropping Heal altogether from Firelands and above. Now we’re hitting the big heals and AoE heals more often. You can expect this long term model to stay the same for Mists.

A fight like Phase 2 Beth’tilac on heroic is about as mana-intensive as things get, and that phase doesn’t last very long, so your mana-regen mechanics and cooldowns should be sufficient to keep you going. That won’t change in 5.0.

I still don’t understand

TLDR: Think of mana as energy. It doesn’t scale or increase with gear. Mana regeneration will go up with gear allowing you to cast more spells before running out of mana.

Is Team Melee the New Hotness?

Lodur did a great job last week when he recruited 4 additional players. The catch? They were all melee players. We snagged a Rogue, a Paladin, Warrior and an Enhancement Shaman. Our melee roster now looks something like this:

4 Warriors
4 Rogues
2 Paladins
2 Enhancement Shamans

Gunship 2.0 turned into a challenge with just 6 ranged DPS players.

The guild historically has been melee heavy but not to this extent. As much as I would prefer having more ranged players as options, the raiding reality is to take the players we can get and find a way to make it work. Between the end of this expansion and a new MMO that’s holding player interest, it’s a little tougher to pick up players of the right class.

I’ve found some perks with a melee heavy raid, however.

Stuff dies really fast

That change to the melee buff (where it’s now 20%) makes a bigger difference. With trash and adds dying faster, it means overall less healing needed.

Closer proximity

Melee players typically stand in one location – Right behind the butt of the boss. I don’t have to worry about being out of range. Spells like Holy Word: Sanctuary are that much better since the melee players are in one tight location.

It’s nice to have a comfortable number of raiding players again. Holiday season is always tough. The next areas we need to shore up are ranged DPS and healers.

Now that we’ve gotten Deathwing down, we’re starting work on Heroic Morchuk (Norris). For those of you that have knocked it out already on 25 man, what would you suggest?

Did Cataclysm fail?

So, you’ve probably seen a number of these posts around lately, and to be honest you shouldn’t be too terribly surprised. We’re at the end of a cycle, with the last raid tier coming out soon and people already looking forward to the next expansion and the promise of bouncing pandas. The topic lately is whether or not that Cataclysm has failed as an expansion.

I figured the time is right for me to chime in on the topic, and I promise you it will be relevant to the site.

Healing Design

At the onset of the expansion, there were some very bold statements made about healing as a whole. They basically amounted to the following;

  • Shaman are the healing model that all healers will follow
  • Triage healing is vastly more important and mana is a concern
  • healing will be a lot harder and require smart decision making

So, in this regard did Cataclysm succeed or fail? Well to me the answer here is two fold. They both succeeded and failed at the same time. At the start of the expansion healing was definitely harder, mana consumption was much more of a concern and shaman healing really was the model when it came to triage healing. Note how I said at the start of the expansion. There was a bit of a problem though, once you started getting a pretty good head of steam going and gathered your gear the “model” started to fall apart. Spirit levels and regen abilities after heroic dungeon gearing were enough that some healing classes could just completely ignore the healing model. I’m casually whistling in innocence as I look at Mana Tide Totem from a year ago, I assure you. The problem exacerbated itself when some healing classes’ masteries got tweaked, and raid gear started circulating.

At this point, triage healing isn’t really used unless you’re just starting out, and some healing classes are just blowing others out of the water causing a lot of internal debate among raiding groups as to what the best healing setup really is now. Things are shaping up to be better in tier 13, but the healing model through tier 12 I would venture to say hangs at the edge of failure. We’ve been assured that the healing model will remain in tact for the next expansion, but only time will tell if that is true especially when adding a new healing class into the mix next expansion.

Guild advancement and recruiting

The new expansion brought with it the guild advancement system. Guilds earned experience points based on questing and the activity of the guild members involved. The guild was able to level up from level 1 to level 25 carrying various rewards such as XP boosts, mount speed increases and even alchemy patterns for flasks for the entire raid. It also came with some other perks like Heirloom gear helmet and cape slot items, mounts and pets as well as a Mass Teleport and Mass Resurrection. Honestly guild advancement was a huge success as far as adding perks to guilds that get rolling and stick to it and work together. Guild achievements also added nicely to this and added a further sense of accomplishment to a guild in certain respects.

The problem is that the success of the guild advancement system, however, in my eyes became a contributing factor in a problem that this expansion has had that I haven’t seen in either of the previous ones. Stagnant recruiting. Recruiting flat-out sucks right now to be honest. Any losses from people leaving the guild or leaving the game become increasingly difficult to replace. Let us face a simple truth, the game has been around for over 6 years at this point. People are taking a break. Maybe not out-right quitting, but they’re definitely going to start taking some vacation from Azeroth around this time. Before Cataclysm, replacing losses wasn’t nearly as difficult. I attribute this partly to the guild perk system. When a player leaves a guild, they lose all reputation they’ve gained with that guild. They then start from scratch just like with any other reputation when they join a new guild.

So the problem is that a lot of the guild perks don’t kick in unless you’re Honored with your guild. This can be a very unattractive prospect, especially when you consider there is a weekly cap to the reputation you can gain. Not only can swapping guilds be a daunting task on its own, but when you combine in extra things like rep to earn it adds to the heap. So, people are staying put in whatever guild they are in for the most part. Guild mergers seems much more frequent now, where whole groups of people make the commitment one way or another, but recruitment is certainly at an all time low.

Raid design, gear options, and accomplishing goals

This is another measuring stick by which to judge the success or failure of the current expansion. Raid design was a bit different this go around. In Wrath, all of the raid tiers were contained to one single zone. You didn’t have to go from place to place in order to see all of a raid tier.  In Cataclysm, the starting raid tier was divided between not one, not two but three different locations to contain all of the bosses and events. Honestly though, I think that served to make things a little better. Having different locations broke up the monotony of raiding in one single zone for however many hours a week. Some of the mechanics were fun, and the boss fights had the potential to give you at least some challenge. Overall I’d say it was a good tier. It reminded me of Burning Crusade where tier 4 and tier 5 were divided between different zones in different locations, breaking the long dredges through BWL that we were used to at this point.

The use of valor points to purchase tier gear, as well as off set items, was a smart move at first. It allowed a certain gear gating of the content as players had to earn their valor points to purchase the raid gear. Keeping a few pieces as raid drops only also made perfect sense. It eliminated the fighting over tokens at least a little bit, and while it could be annoying have to wait to restock your valor, it served it’s purpose well enough I think. Listening to the developers at BlizzCon it would appear that they too really liked how tier 11 worked out and will be continuing that style of breaking up the raids going into Mists.

One of the goals for Cataclysm was to reignite the fire the propelled the game to 12 million subscribers and get people excited about the game. New graphics throughout the world, Azeroth split and changed. Entire zones looking completely different and completely different starting zones and quests for the races of Azeroth. Well, this was both successful and a failure at the same time. The new starting zones did reignite the flame somewhat, but mostly in people with alt creation.  Some old players did come back to check out the new zones and explore some of the new content, but it didn’t quite have the kick that it originally intended. Subscriber rates pretty much stayed the same, and the number of active toons remained about the same as well. It just didn’t quite have the shakeup that was expected.

So what is it? Success or Failure?

Well, that’s the whole point of this post right? The big question. Is Cataclysm a success or a failure? The answer is honestly both. There are things that Cata did exceptionally well, and things that it fell behind on. To be honest a lot of the goals were pretty damn lofty from the get go. It was ambitious and new things were tried, combined with old things that we knew worked. Not everything was ever going to be achieved just based on the pure scope of the original intent. There were things it did well, and things it didn’t do quite so well. That said it was hardly the failure that some folks seem to think. The content is still there, there is still plenty of value in the game, and for a game that is going to be rapidly approaching the age  of 7 they can boast a lot of good things. The game hasn’t really lost too many subscribers and is going strong. Oh and they still get my money every month, and I signed up for my hear subscription with free Diablo 3 “phone”.

So what do you think?

Battle.net Authenticator Changes, Don’t Panic!

So in-case you missed it, there was a recent change to how our accounts are authenticated, here it is again for you again if you didn’t see it.

If you use an authenticator – and we hope you do – you may soon notice that an authenticator prompt may not appear with every login. We’ve recently updated our authentication system to intelligently track your login locations, and if you’re logging in consistently from the same place, you may not be asked for an authenticator code. This change is being made to make the authenticator process less intrusive when we’re sure the person logging in to your account is you.

We hope to continue improving the authenticator system to ensure the same or greater security, while improving and adding features to make having one a more user friendly experience. If you don’t already have a Battle.net Authenticator attached to your account, don’t wait until it’s too late - http://us.battle.net/en/security/checklist

Well, this statement has raised quite a few questions. Many of us in the gaming community work in Information Technology / Information Security, and we are quite honestly interested in having more information on this.

Now before I get started I want to have a note here that the information after this point will represent a more general view of internet protocol. This is not intended to be a tech manual, just the musings of an internet worker who is also a gamer.

There are a couple ways that you might authenticate a computer at a physical location. One is by authenticating the public IP address that is reaching out to the login server. If you see multiple requests from the same IP in a short period of time, you can assume this is the same person to a certain degree. This works in part because IPs are purchased by ISP’s and assigned to a specific region. After that, you as the user rent the IP with a lease sort of like renting an apartment. If you have a static IP, you have a “permanent” lease on that particular IP. If you use a DHCP service, like cable internet, it may change based on what’s available. Every time you get a new IP, it’s from your local region and the local pool. It could also authenticate by not only your public IP address, but also your computers MAC address. A MAC address is a unique identifier that all networking devices have. Think of it like a social security number for your computer. Each one is unique per device. There is however a couple potential problems; IP’s / MAC addresses can be spoofed. Not that it’s something you should be worried about all the time, but it is a fact that it can happen. Also if you have a Dynamic IP and it solely authenticates by the address, every time your IP changes it could cause issues.

Another manner is the creation of software tokens that are placed on client end at the point of logging in. Essentially you log in to your account and a software token, or marker of a successful login, is created on your machine to further authenticate you. By doing this it can validate the token on your machine instead of requiring you to to punch in your authenticator code every time.  The potential problem with software tokens is that if your system is compromised due to trojans or other methods, it could result in a compromising of the security token. Again, while this isn’t something to worry about all the time, but it does happen.

There are several other methods you could use, but those are probably the easiest.

So what method is Blizzard using? Well I decided to perform a little experiment last night to see what I could gleam as far as information goes. Since I work for an ISP in my daily Clark Kent style life I have access to a few things that I can do easily (and legally) to perform a simple test.

Step one was to pick a new IP. I changed my IP to one available from a local pool in the lovely state of Wisconsin. I logged into my Bnet account, it asked for my authenticator normally. I logged out for a period of time, roughly 15 minutes, logged back in and it did not ask me for my Authenticator.

Step two was to change back to a local IP address from back in good old NY state. I logged into my bnet account, and it asks me for my authenticator code. I logged out for another 15 minutes and then logged back in and it did not ask me for my authenticator.

Step three was to repeat step one, but this time after it did not ask me for my authenticator I logged out and completely shut down and restarted the computer. Logging back in required me to use my authenticator. I repeated the steps with a local IP with the same results. Continuing this process multiple times confirmed the same results, each time with different IPs.

From this incredibly simple experiment it would seem that the new authentication process is using a combination of validating your IP either for location, consistency, or potentially both as well as potentially a software token on your machine validating it after a successful login. Every time you cold boot your computer it will remove temporary data, including any software tokens created. Whether or not this is actually how Blizzard is doing it, we won’t know unless they say something.

There are a couple things that confuse me slightly. First is that there was no prior announcement to the change going live rather than it just appearing. I’m wondering if this is a knee-jerk reaction to the recent string of hacker invasions going on across the blog-o-sphere. Second the lack of explanation of the process is concerning, not the exact process per say, but knowledge that this was carefully thought out and not hastily implemented would be comforting, as well as hearing the reasons for the change. Lastly is that there is no option to opt out of it, it just happens. If nothing else I am a creature of habit, and I like typing in my authenticator code every single time. It’s a preference, but it’s something that I would like to have the option to continue doing.

So in the end, while my first reaction to the change was not a positive one, I feel much better about it after my simple experiment. At the very least we know that they are checking for multiple factors before just allowing you to log in. While on a professional level I would love to know more about the process they are using, I don’t think it’s anything we should be too overly worried about. Now if only we could get that pesky opt in/out toggle…

Valor cap the new softlock? Lodur’s opinion

Yesterday we got news that the valor cap is being lowered from1,250 valor points to 980. This may seem like an insignificant change by itself, but it comes among a series of others as well.

  • The maximum number of Valor Points awarded for completing Rise of the Zandalari dungeons remains at 980.
  • The maximum number of Valor Points awarded for completing Heroic dungeons remains at 490.
  • The number of Valor Points awarded for killing a boss in the Firelands is 70 in 10-player mode, and 90 in 25-player mode.
  • The number of Valor Points awarded for killing Occu’thar in Baradin Hold is 35 in 10-player mode, and 45 in 25-player mode.
  • The number of Valor Points awarded for killing a boss on Heroic difficulty in The Bastion of Twilight, Blackwing Descent, and Throne of the Four winds is 35 in 10-player mode, and 45 in 25-player mode.

Raiders completing a full tier 12 raid clear will obtain 630 valor points from raiding 25′s and 490 points for 10′s. If they go back and raid heroic levels in the previous tier, they can gain another 585 (25′s) or 455 (10′s) points. Players running their heroic ZA/ZG will be able to cap out on valor points without having to set foot in a raid. So this raised a few questions, and quite a few opinions. I know I had a good run at it on my twitter account yesterday. So what can we take away from this?

The change really levels the playing field for obtaining raid quality gear and Tier 12 items. Whether you’re in a raid or just able to run heroics, everyone will be doing so at roughly the same pace. This can be good for those players attempting to play catch-up in terms of gear so that they too can raid. I understand that point, but I see a couple potential problems with this.

By lowering the amount of valor points in the previous tier, they are attempting to stem the flow of free valor points. I get that, but it partially removes the incentive for doing the tier after the new one comes out. Now I’m not saying this because I want to farm valor points, but it presents a problem. The raid lockout was recently changed with Cataclysm so that 10 and 25 man raids share the same lockout. As a result, for raiding guilds looking to trial out members it means they either have to take them on content that isn’t progression. This takes away from progression raiding time and can actually hinder a guild’s progression. Previously you could take the person into a 10 man raid and see how they did without disrupting your larger raid group’s progression. I personally was looking forward to having a testing ground in the previous tier of content to run recruits through and see how they do, but with the reduction in points I think it’s going to be quite hard to entice people to go back to the previous content. Also, I don’t know about you, but my guild doesn’t have many plans on keeping the previous content in the rotation when there’s new content to progress through, unless we’re going back for a Sinestra kill.

The idea of not being able to cap out from the current raiding tier bothers me. It means I’ll be forced to do heroics to reach the cap, or try to do so from some other method. I don’t like the idea of being forced to do something else, especially when I spend so much time a week already raiding. Sure it’s great for the non raiders who only run heroic dungeons, but I can’t help but feel it’s a slap in the face for raiders. essentially it’s forcing us to spend more time in game doing content we’ve been running since shortly after the game was released. With only 7 bosses in this tier (+1 for Baradin Hold) we’re falling short of our valor cap by 350 points if we full clear. We can assume we won’t be killing Ragnaros on day one of Firelands, so ultimately it means we’re going to spend even more time grinding in game on top of raiding.

It just smacks of an attempt to keep us in the game longer for the ever elusive gear chase. Right now, the new cap puts you at roughly about three weeks to obtain a piece of tier / vendor gear. That’s if you hit the cap every week. So if you’re raiding 15 hours a week, and you’re still learning the fights and aren’t clearing the whole new tier, you’re still forced to do several hours of either other tier raiding AND heroics, or just heroics. This is a significant time investment, and considering it’s content that a lot of us have already done to death, it has the potential to significantly increase burnout. I know a lot of people personally that have seen this and have already decided to stop raiding as a result. It also comes at a time where summertime burnout is creeping in, and this change doesn’t help matters any. Part of it is the fault of only having 7 new bosses in the game, part of it is just the gear grind in general.

It also, in part, seems like a soft gate. Keeping players under-geared longer means it will take longer to get through the content. With only 7 bosses in the tier, I can understand that to a point, but then it puts us in a position similar to what we were in when ICC was out, stagnant. It’s going to be doubly annoying if you hit a DPS wall that only new gear can fix, but you’re weeks away from that relief coming. How about a boss that is a hard healing check, that healers just simply are behind stat-wise through no fault of their own, to heal through. It will take longer to gather the gear to push through the bosses to down the content. While that is partially true of every tier, the limited number of bosses in this tier combined with the new cap in points makes this take that much longer.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out as this eventually rolls to live, and how players will react to it. Me personally, it just means I’ll be spending more time grinding points on my shaman so I can keep up with the raiding content, and a whole lot less time enjoying myself on my alts, if only because there are only so many hours in a day and I can only spend so much of them at my computer desk.
What do you think about this change? do you love it or hate it? How will it affect your time in game?


WoW Premium services: Yes/no/murloc?

Over the course of a game’s lifetime, things change. Features are added, pricing models change, content evolves. Blizzard’s fantasy epic World of Warcraft is no different. The game has been around for over six years at this point, and in that time we’ve seen many things change.

Remember when the game was first released? There were PvE server and PvP servers. On PvE servers you could have toons of both factions no problem, but on PvP servers it simply wasn’t allowed. Over time that changed, and Blizzard allowed you to make toons of both factions on a PvP server. There was also a time when Blizzard said you wouldn’t be able to pay to transfer your toon to another server, that it was only for server stability / population control. Not too long after the service became available for a small fee, the birth of the WoW premium service. From there we’ve gotten to recustomize our characters look, the ability to race change or change factions and all for a small one time fee. Every time this has happened, people have drawn a line in the sand. Either they love it, or they love to hate it.

Recently we’ve seen more in the way of Micro-transactions and premium services being added into the game. In game mounts like the Sparkle-Pony or the Winged Lion coupled with numerous in-game mini pets are available for purchase with real money. Pets will run you $10, mounts will run you $25. When they are purchased they are made available for all of your characters that currently exist, and any that you will create from this point on. Permanently attaching the items to your Battle.net account. There are also other premium features, such as the remote auction house. For an additional $3 a month, you can set up and purchase auctions from your enabled mobile device, and as an added bonus you can talk to your guild mates using the application as well.

The most recent announcement was that the developers at Blizzard are working on a Cross-Realm Dungeon Feature. In case you missed it, or are reading this post from somewhere not Blizzard-site friendly here’s the blue post

With the continued popularity of the Dungeon Finder, many players have been asking for a way to group up with real-life friends who play on other realms to take on instances together. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about a new feature currently in development that will allow players to invite Real ID friends ( http://us.battle.net/en/realid/ ) of the same faction to a party regardless of the realm they play on, and then queue up for a 5-player regular or Heroic dungeon.

As this is a fairly complex service to develop, we don’t have a release date to share quite yet. It’s important to note that as with some of the other convenience- and connectivity-oriented features we offer, certain elements of the cross-realm Real ID party system will be premium-based, though only the player sending the invitations will need to have access to the premium service. We’ll have more details to share with you as development progresses — in the meantime, you may begin to see elements of the feature appear on the World of Warcraft PTR.

So there it is, for a small fee, you will be able to invite your friends across servers into a group for 5-man dungeon running. This actually caused almost as much a stir as Real ID did when it was first announced. People either love, or hate the idea of having to pay to play with friends across different servers. Ignoring everything else, premium services or these additional cookies are luxuries. They don’t break the game, or give someone an unfair advantage. They are options, and love them or hate them they are very much real.

My personal opinion on this particular premium service is that I like it. I like the idea of being able to play my alts with friends from other servers for dungeon running. I recently moved servers and left a lot of my friends behind. I’m exactly the demographic that this premium service is aimed at. Is it for everyone? No, not even close. For some people though, they’ll gladly pay the extra cash for it.

Do premium services ruin the game? Are they a betrayal of the customer / supplier relationship we have with Blizzard Entertainment? I don’t think it does. These are all optional and don’t really have an impact on the overall game-play, they are just nice cookies for us to enjoy if we feel the price is right. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay for it. If it suits your needs, you can indulge in it. Our $15 a month has brought us many improvements over the years. New servers, higher population caps, improved development in characters, raids and the UI. The ability to talk with friends across servers anytime I want. I don’t think our free upgrades are done by a long shot, and if Blizzard wants to charge for additional services, that is their choice. While I can understand both sides of the coin, at the end of the day I see it as you’re paying your monthly fee to play the game, all the other stuff are just extra. The things they develop as premium services aren’t for every audience, so developing them for smaller groups, sure there may be a cost attached. I mean hey, just because you aren’t paying for mobile armory every month doesn’t mean you’re going to miss the chance to punch Deathwing in the face.

What do you think?