Monday, February 28, 2011

Patch 4.1 - Maybe there really is something here

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I wasn't going to say anything about the 4.1 changes. I thought they're too far off to be of much value since everything will have changed once they go live anyway (especially with the current rates of fixes). But then I changed my mind. There is something to be said about patch notes, even if they don't go live. They still show something about the way Blizzard thinks and helps us navigate and understand the course Blizzard has set for our class. Eventhough a particular change might never go live, or goes live looking very differently, we still get an idea about what Blizzard thinks is a viable solution for us. Following the changes to these solutions will also tell us more about what Blizzard thinks works and what doesn't.
This won't just be about priests, since there was loads of interesting news in the 4.1 patch notes. And as I usually do it, I'll only pick out the interesting notes. Source.

But let's start with the most interesting changes first anyway - the priest ones;

Divine Aegis duration has been increased to 15 seconds, up from 12.
Power Word: Shield duration has been reduced to 15 seconds, down from 30.

We know Blizzard aren't happy with how Shields turned out to be used. They want them to be good, but not too good. They don't want us to start spamming it again. Renew doesn't have this issue because the hps of one Renew is pretty low in comparison to the Shield. The "problem" with Shields are that they have so many pros, and few cons. The only thing holding shields back at the moment is the Weakened Soul debuff, which we can lower on target with Heal/GH/BH. Blizzard tried to slow us down further by increasing the mana cost on the spell, but like I mentioned before this is only delaying the inevitable spamming that will come when we get better gear (and mana becomes less and less of an issue). Loads of solutions were posted on forums around the internet, and two of my favorites were lowering the cooldown of the Shield and making the shield something of a cooldown in itself (like a small Lay on Hands). The second solution is so-so, because it would in essence mean to give discipline priests another damage mitigation cooldown, and I know not everyone would like that. The first idea, the one Blizzard are proposing to use in the Patch Notes, is actually a great one. It doesn't actually nerf the Shield in any way, it only forces us to plan our usage more carefully. Personally I think this is the way all spells should be balanced. Make them as good as you want, but make the choice as to when to properly use them a tough one. With a lowered uptime we can't just throw out Shields, because a Shield not soaked is completely wasted.

The buff to DA is probably in some part to counter the "nerf" to the Shields, but also because DA quite honestly deserves a little more love. It will make crit a slightly better stat for disc priests, since one of the problems right now was that DA wasn't up very long and that made it an unreliable source to use for healing (here I am, writing in past tense). Only time can tell how much difference those 15 vs 3 seconds will do in the end, but honestly I feel like these are good changes.

Dispel Magic can only be used on the casting priest as a baseline effect.
Absolution (new passive) enables priests (Discipline and Holy, my note) to use Dispel Magic on up to 2 harmful effects on friendly targets.

The first line had loads of priests worried. Very worried. But Blizzard knows that removing dispel magic from all priests would just be utterly silly. They made it so that all healers had a proper dispel in Cataclysm for a reason. What they want to do here is make sure that spriests can't use dispel magic. The only reason I can see for this, rather huge, change is of course - pvp. Meeting shadow priests in pvp was probably too much of a problem, seeing as they have relatively good defensive capabilities while also being an offensive class. This is an issue we saw with all paladin specs back in Wrath and something Blizzard constantly have to combat. In pve this won't make a big difference, since the only time spriests (at least those I raid with) use dispel is to dispel something on themselves.

Holy Word: Sanctuary has a new spell effect.

Loads of ground aoe-effects are being overhauled, and I'm very happy about this. We already had loads of trouble distinguishing bad stuff on the floor from the good stuff, and sometimes you couldn't even see the bad stuff at all. That's just poor game design and I am glad Blizzard are doing something about it.

Paladin

Word of Glory now has a 20-second cooldown.
Walk in the Light (passive) removes the cooldown of Word of Glory.

Similar to removing dispellability from spriests, Blizzard are removing some of the self-healability from paladins, except holydins who are the ones that rightfully should be able to double-spam WoG. Unlike the change to spriests, this will be more noticed by especially protadins in raids and heroics. I did feel like protadins had very high survivability by being able to selfheal loads. It made me smile when playing my protadin, and it made me angry when I played my warrior/druid who basically lack this kind of skill. Dks have Death Strike, which is a nice heal, but you have to line up your runes pretty neatly to be able to pull off two Death Strikes after one another like you could do with WoG. Does this make Eternal Glory less worth the points for Retri/prot? For retri perhaps, if they even take it today (I have no idea about retri tbh) but for prot I still think it is a good talent. It's not like they removed WoG all together for Prot, they just made it so we can't use Eternal Glory to pop two WoG after another.

Divine Guardian cooldown is now 3 minutes, up from 2.

One thing I've really noted when playing my protadin is the amount of cooldowns. I'm not sure if they're really that many more than other classes, but it sure feels like I have a cooldown for every fight, usually even two. There is Divine Protection and Guardian of Kings and also Divine Guardian. I'm not entirely sure of all you other tanks are aware of what Divine Guardian does, because if you did you'd complain more about not having anything even remotely like it yourself. Divine Guardian, which reduces damage taken on the entire raid (any size party group) by 20% for 6 seconds is a re-he-heally good cooldown. The amount of damage you can mitigate when using this cooldown the right way makes you drool. Divine Guardian laughs in the face of Power Word: Barrier. (And believe it or not, our protadin had not specced this until I pointed out to him that it was awesome). Ok, I am exaggerating. But considering that the other tanks don't have anything like it, DG is quite the choice-breaker. It makes a whole lot of difference, bringing a protadin to a tough raid. So although it nerfs us all, I am glad that they are increasing the cooldown on this skill. I would also like it if they gave all tanks a raid wide cooldown, it doesn't have to be about mitigating damage, it could be something like mana regen, health regen, haste, crit...

Shaman

Fire Nova has been redesigned and decoupled from shaman Fire totems. Instead, it now pulses that same area-of-effect from each target that is afflicted by the shaman's own Flame Shock debuff. It now damages all enemies except the target hit by Flame Shock. The ability's cooldown has been reduced from 4 seconds, down from 10.

Fire Nova is nothing like it used to be. The only spell that has changed as much, or more, is Judgement. Fire Nova used to be a crap as totem that you dropped and that did one (one!) pulse after a couple of seconds. I even think it had a cooldown. That was basically all the aoe shamans had. It was a sad, sad time. Then Blizzard revamped it to the way it works today, and it seems they're still not happy about it. I think it works ok the way it is (which could be because I am still thinking about how horrible it used to be), but I am intruiged by the changes. It will make shaman aoe work alot like Mind Sear (priests) where damage radiates out from the target which means you have to plan where you put those Flame Shocks a little. It will make shaman aoe a little less vulnerable to moving targets, because it really annoys me when I have to move my little totem forest along with me because the boss decides to run all over the place.

Magma Totem now lasts for 60 seconds, up from 21.

Like I mentioned, Blizzard seem to finally have realized that something that is stationary isn't that op, so to make Magma Totem a little less bad they made it last a long time. Not sure if that really makes much of a difference, but a buff is a buff.

Earthquake is no longer a channeled spell. It now has a 2-second cast time, lasts for 10 seconds, and has a 10-second cooldown. Its damage has been reduced by 40% from its channeled version.

Does this mean you can have multiple Earthquakes up at the same time? If so, I will see this as a rather big buff to this spell. It's a buff either way though, because not having to challenge it means you can deal other damage while Earthquake is up, and that will definitely compensate for the 40% damage reduce.

Improved Fire Nova has been redesigned and replaced by a talent called Seasoned Winds. When an enemy spell cast is successfully prevented with Wind Shear or Grounding Totem, the shaman gains magical resistance (in an amount equal to what a protection totem/aura would grant, stacking with such buffs) to the spell school(s) of the interrupted spell (except for Holy spells), lasting 10 seconds.

Smells pvp.

Warrior

Charge and Intercept no longer have diminishing returns on their stun effects.

Yes, yes, yes. It was really annoying that my 2 sec charge stun made my Concussion Blow and Shockwave last shorter duration (believe it or not). Overall however I don't think this will make a big difference for pve warriors, but it is a small buff to pvp warriors.

Dungeons

Zul'Aman has returned as a level-85 5-player Heroic dungeon featuring a revamp of the original dungeon and improved loot!
Zul'Gurub has returned as a level-85 5-player Heroic dungeon featuring all-new encounters, achievements, and improved loot!

Zul'Gurub was, together with MC, part of my first raiding experience. My brother was part of a guild that actually managed to down Hakkar, I only ever got to do Venoxxis and some tries on Arlokk (suddenly panthers, thousands of them). Being able to experience it again, albeit in a rather changed form, is something I'm really looking forward too.
Zul'Aman was the first really challenging raid I did. I had one Karazhan of course, but none of the bosses there were especially tough. Looking back at it, Karazhan really was a great beginners raid with a little bit of everything. Zul'Aman on the other hand had challenging, fun and really difficult fights. The only part of ZA I didn't like, were those blasted sentries. We just never became very good at handling them, and they casued many, many wipes for us. I think one reason I really like ZA is that it was the first raid where I really felt like a good healer, where I really tried to do my best and learn something new about my way of healing in each fight. Malacrass is still the toughest boss I have ever fought. I am really glad they're re-implementing ZA to the game, but I would seriously have loved it if they just would have tuned it for 85. I wouldn't mind doing all those fights all over again, exactly the way they were because most of them (of not all) were really fun. But, I am happy with a 5 man dungeon as well, if it's just half the fun the raid was I will love it.

Design

All non-damaging interrupts off the global cooldown will now always hit the target. This includes Pummel, Shield Bash, Kick, Mind Freeze, Rebuke, Skull Bash, Counterspell, Wind Shear, Solar Beam, Silencing Shot, and related player pet abilities.

No more having to carry around a certain hit-gear for those bosses where you knew you had to do some heavy interrupting (mostly Nefarian). I wasn't affected by it of course, as a priest I am pretty much without any interrupts, but I know this was something of an issue for our dpsers, where some even regemmed/specced/geared completely just to have enough hit when we did some tougher encounters. But maybe that doesn't have to a bad thing? I remember when we had to carry around certain resistance gears, back in Wrath it only frost resistance for Sindragosa but back in Vanilla and even BC you had to have almost full gear sets of some sort of resistance type to manage some bosses. Was this a bad thing? I'm not so sure, but maybe that is a subject for another post ^^.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Top 10 Favorite Games

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So this isn't a Top 5, like I usually do them. I just couldn't limit my top game list to just 5 games, that's impossible. Actually limiting it to only 10 games was near to impossible. But here it is.

These are 10 games that might not be the best in terms of game design, and I might not enjoy them as much today as I once did, but they are good in the sense that they have meant much to me for various reasons. They have their definite place in my gaming heart for the joy and memories they've brought me. Note that they're not in any particular order. I tried to rank them, but it was just too difficult! There might of course also be the occasional spoiler here and there since it is difficult to talk about the awesomeness of a game without specifically mentioning the awesome parts. I won't rant on much longer but let the games talk for themselves.

Lemmings (Amiga)
Lemmings was the first real computer game that got me hooked. I can't have been more than 6-7 years old then and my own family wouldn't own any kind of computer until many years later so I had to play this on the amiga of a friend of my parents. Lemmings is timeless. Eventhough it has been some years now since I last played it, I am sure I would enjoy it just as much as I did when I was little. Just as Tetris it is a perfect example that a game doesn't have to have good graphics or story-telling to get people to spend countless hours with it. What you really need simply is just the right amount of challenge and the continouous feeling of overcoming those challenges. A constant flow of wins, if you like.

Final Fantasy VII (PS)
My very first impression with FFVII wasn't a good one. I had seen posters of Cloud, the main character, and thought he looked completely ridiculous with that oversized sword and smug face. At that time I was fairly new to the world of video-gaming (and I hadn't played much computer-games either). I was 13 and just the year before had I bought my first very own gaming console, the Nintendo 64. I didn't know anything about roleplaying games, and I didn't like what I saw. Things changed when a freind of mine told me this was a great game and that I should try it out. So we decided to have regular eat-candy-and-play-video-games-together evenings. I played this entire game through at his place, and it was a blast. He had already played the game through and new exactly what would happen around each corner, but told me nothing. I know he totally loved the look on my face when that turd-faced Yuffie ran off with all my Materias. I hated her so much that I still today, when playing reruns, refuse to have anything to do with her. Fortunately she isn't part of the main storyline (unless you want her to be). And the first time I went up against one of the Weapons. Or when I found Vincent... Only like the coolest character ever created. I could go on and mention 500 more cool moments of FFVII, but overall it is an awesome game as I am sure most of you already know. I would have loved it on its own, but now I can remember playing during all those evenings, munching cheese sandwhiches at my friends place, and that makes the memory of the game so much fonder.

World of Warcraft (PC)
It would be silly to make a top 10 list without mentioning the game I've spent the last 6 years playing. How many days? I don't even know. Hundreds for sure. And I'm still around and probably will be for a long time! There are many, many reasons WoW has kept me around for so long. Initially I played it mostly to meet new people. I loved the mix of social and roleplaying it offered. And it was huge. So much to explore! I don't really have to tell you why WoW is so great, if you're reading this chances are high you already know. But to me personally it brought me some of my best gaming memories. Not to mention I wouldn't have met Love without it (which is kinda freaky to think about). It is also the perfect way for me to keep in touch with alot of my friends, and after all this time it still hasn't become boring. Blizzard have made a tremendous job finding out exactly what would interest people and keep them hooked. This is nothing new, they did a great job with Diablo 1 & 2 and Starcraft 1 & 2 as well. When the game finally comes to an end (because seriously it has to) I will have to admit that a part of my life is gone too. Unlike other games, WoW isn't revisitable, so once its gone its gone. Might as well enjoy it as much as possible now!

Settlers 2 (Mac)
I've written a post on this game already, but here is the shortened version of it; When my parents finally decided to buy a computer, it had to be a mac of course... All my friends had pc's, but I was stuck with macs. The problem with macs is that back then (and still to some extent) there were no cool games at all to the mac. All my friends played Ultima, emulated Game Boy games, Fallout, Black & White and you name it and I had to play Shufflepuck Café. Mom played Myst, Safecracker and games like that but I thought they were dreadfully boring. Then my grandma gave my brother Settlers 2 as a christmas gift. My brother never really understood it, seeing as he was around 8 and loved games where you got to shoot people (read: Wolfenstein 3d). But I decided to try it out, not like I had anything else to play anyway. And I loved it! Since I hate loosing I played without enemies the first time, but eventually I dared trying that and immediately found that that was way more fun, of course. Unfortunately the game wasn't very stable, and crashed every 15 minutes unless I saved every 5 minutes. It was worth every hassle I had with it though, and I spent many, many hours with it. It's funny because I don't really like strategy games. Never have, never will. But as any real strategy gamer will tell you, Settlers has its unique take on strategy gaming. It all goes in a steady pace and the tricky thing in settlers is constantly relocating the centre of your kingdom. You want the produces to be as close to the action as possible. So will you have the smithy close to the mines or close to the border? And since the border constantly moves, will you move the smithy with it? There are many things to take into consideration when playing Settlers, just as with any strategy game, but it is focused on producton rather than fighting. And that is what I like about it. It is rather meditative a game. I can still get a Settlers 2 urge and play it through (I have Gold Edition now though). It is possible I loved this game just because it was the first mac game I played that didn't suck (according to me). But it has stuck with me since, and I love it still today.

Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (PC)

I'm not really sure where I first got introduced to this game. I think a friend of mine had it and we used to meet up at his place (he, my brother and I) to play some HoMM3. We had loads of fun. Years later me and Love can still have our HoMM3 sessions where we play nothing but Homm3 together for days. I had these with my brother as well when I was younger. I nearly always played Necropolis (collecting huge packs of vampires, ftw) and the music of that town is still among my favorite game musics of all time. Homm3 is a great game, and the only one that comes close in the rest of the series is Homm2. It is one of those games I could play still today if only it was longer. Playing together with other people does increase its longetivity somewhat, but otherwise it grows a little dull once you've completed all the maps. The concept of HoMM is completely awesome however, and I always make sure to check each new part in the series out, just in case it might be as fun as the third installation (unfortunately that hasn't been so). And it's definitely a game you can replay many, many times.

Mario Kart 64 (N64)
One of the first games I bought to my first video game console, the Nintendo 64. We could have packs of 5-8 children at my place playing this, where the loosers always had to switch places with someone who was waiting. I was queen of this game, no one could beat me. Maybe that is why I loved it so, it was the first game in which I was truly awesome. The whole idea of racing with weapons stuck with me too, and I loved Diddy Kong Racing and the Wipeout games nearly as much as I loved Mario Kart. I played Mario Kart for years. From the day I bought it till I started playing WoW, I think. It is without a doubt one of the best multi-player games I've ever played. Mario Kart gave us some truly crazy times when I was young(er), and still today I can pick it out and give it a run through for old times sakes.


Pokémon (Game Boy)
I love all the Pokémon games in the original series, but the first one I played was Pokémon Blue. I managed to get it from a guy (who I knew fancied me) to my newly purchased Game Boy Advanced. The whole concept of Pokémon got me interested in everything around it as well, and I collected the cards and stickers and watched the series and you name it. I was around 11 when the first game was released and I didn't stop playing it until I was 16-17 (mostly probably because my brother lost interest). The video games I play still today everytime there is a new realease. And I've kept my Pokémon Card Decks of course! It is possible I love Pokémon so much for all the fun I had with the TCG, but there is no denying that the games themselves are extremely enjoyable too. Eventhough each new game is exactly the same as the one before, I gladly go through it all again just to be able to collect those damn cute Pokémons!


Yoshi's Story (N64)
I wrote a post on this game already (ages ago) and it wraps up why I love this game so much. In short - it was the first game that really got me interested in gaming and that made me save all those allowances so I could afford a N64 console. I still love it, and I honestly don't know why people bash it so much. It's a lovely game, and not all that easy as people say. Sure you can play it the easy way if you like, but if you try to collect everything, you're up for a real challenge.

GoldenEye (N64)
I'm no fan of fps-games and I don't think I've ever played the single player mode of Golden Eye either. But I doubt I've had more fun with any other multi-player game, than I've had when gathering three friends and matching off against eachother in Golden Eye. I don't know how many hours we spent together, a varying amount of people, playing this game. We even invented our own "modes" of playing, where one of our favorites was something we had called "Terminator mode". One player would have +10 endurance and the rest would have -10 endurance. The -10 people would die from basically anything. A knife throw would kill them, while the +10 guy needed to have several mags unloaded on them before they died. Pitting all the -10 against the +10 made for some interesting playing anyway. Or the "modes" where we'd only play with mines. Good fun. I also remember how we always said that no one could play Oddjob, because oddly enough Rare had confused him with Nicknack and made him really small. To be able to shoot him you most of the time had to aim downwards, which gave whoever played that small guy the upper hand. I think Jaws couldn't even shoot him in close combat, because of the height difference. If I recall correctly, I mostly played as Xenia Onatopp, but I could be mistaken. In any case, GoldenEye is the perfect example of how to create awesome multiplayer fun by designing great levels, great music and great weapons.

Resident Evil (PS/GC)
Putting this on my list might seem like an odd choice, and if you'd only count games I've played, this would have to go. Because I've never actually played Resident Evil, any of the series, myself. I still love it, deeply. I don't play horror games. Honestly I just get too caught up in them and I'd mentally ruined if I ever tried (more so than I already am :P). I cry to Star Trek for christ sake! I am really easily affected. But just as with horror movies, which I mainly watch from behind my fingers, I still love experiencing them. Just not at first hand. Fortunately I have known a couple of people who have enjoyed playing these games, and I have always loved sitting in behind them and watch them play. I could name a number of horror games I've enjoyed this way - most of the Resident Evil games, Project Zero where you have to take pictures of ghosts, most Silent Hill games and so on. A friend of mine knows most of the story of Resident Evil and filled me in at one point. And I love it! The first game is the best one in my opinion. Capcom have done a marvellous job with the story telling and setting in this one. The diaries and notes you find that slowly tell the story of what has happened in the mansion and surroundings areas bring so much to the game, and my skin still crawls when I think about some of the best moments in the game. There's the classic dogs coming through the window of course, but I love the diary where you can see a man slowly succumbing to the virus (and you later find him in the cupboard, zombified). Or the story about Lisa and her family, and finding her various family members throughout the mansion (and having to fight them off). The only bad thing about Resident Evil is that it sorta looses its pace towards the end, but until then it is some hours of great fun. My brother bought the Gamecube version of the first one, and I just never grew tired of seeing that game being played through (by someone else). A perfect evening for me would be someone coming over to play through Resident Evil while I was watching, it's like seeing a really good horror movie.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stat Choices for Discipline Priests

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Stat choices for discipline priests in Cataclysm have not been easy. Especially since the changes brought on us with 4.0.6 have we seen the priest community divide with loads of priests screaming "mastery!", "crit!" or "haste!". But one has to be best, right? Not necessarily. The reason for this schism among priests right now is that no stat is beneficial to all our spells, all stats scale and synergize with eachother and in the end it will come down to which way you prefer to heal. Seriously. Even EJ will tell you to "Keep a balance to your other secondary stats. None of them are great, but they synergistically increase each other's values." The first choice is easy -  as long as you have mana issues, spirit is your best secondary stat. Once mana becomes less of a problem however, we can start looking at our other secondary stats - Mastery, haste and Crit. This post will aim at taking you through these three secondary stats, and discuss how they work and hopefully help you decide which one you prefer. I can't and won't tell you that one is better than the other because this will come down to personal preferences. I will try to explain why I have chosen the way I have, and why you should go my way, and why you shouldn't.

Not just what, but how.
Choosing a secondary stat won't just be a matter of choosing the stat based on what it does, but also how well it does it, both in term of function and in term of value. All three stats can be evaluated based on function and values. Remember how Armor Piercing worked in Wrath? It removed a percentage of the targets armor (ie made you hit as if the targets armor was of lower value). Armor Piercing was one of the most valuable secondary stats for most melee dpsers back in Wrath, but only once you reached a certain amount. In cataclysm, many argue the same way about haste. Although each point of haste is theoretically worth as much, in practice there are certain values that will benefit you more than others because of what they practically do to your spells. We can probably agree that what we want to achieve is being able to "heal as much as possible". This definition does include mana management since a healer without mana won't be healing very much. Because of this we have to look at what our secondary stat do, how well they do it, and what spells will be affected. Cataclysm introduced Mastery, somewhat as the black sheep. Unlike the mastery for holy, the discipline mastery won't affect all of our spells. In fact all of our secondary stats affect our skills very differently, and this is where our choice has to be made. What skills do I want to buff?

Mastery

I've played mainly with mastery up until now, for a simple reason. When I started out healing in Cata I played mainly as holy, because discipline was still dragging on alot of issues and just weren't performing as well. Mastery proved to be a great way to boost healing throughput without penalizing mana management, which is something haste will do. This is true for both holy and discipline, but to various degrees. To holy, most spells, and especially the most used spells, are affected by mastery. For discipline this is not so. Discipline mastery will only affect our absorbs, which means our Shields and our Divine Aegis procs. Before 4.0.6 when Shields were still relatively weak and PoH (one of our most used spells) couldn't proc critted DA, mastery was a fairly weak stat for discipline. The buff to shields has buffed our mastery as well, so it has definitely become alot better.
You need 179.28 mastery rating for 1 Mastery.

Pros
  • Buffs some our most important spells (Shields and Divine Aegis)
  • The only stat that provides pure healing throughput without drawback
Cons
  • Doesn't affect half of our healing (Penance, Heal, PoM, PoH to mention a few) except in a secondary way, ie critted heal = DA which is affected by mastery.
Synergies
  • Haste: More haste will make for faster casting which will provide more Shield and DA uptime.
  • Crit: More crits equal more DA procs
Haste
Although priests are far from any agreement in this matter, it seems like most are leaning towards haste being the best throughput stat for discipline at the moment. This does rely on one factor being completely covered however - that of mana management. Haste is more healing, simply put, but the more spells you cast the more mana you will make rid of. Unlike Mastery, Haste won't improve the spells you cast, it will only allow you to cast more of them. Simplified you are choosing between throwing a few, bigger spells vs alot of smaller spells. In early Cataclysm, the choice seemed clear. Triage healing was the way to go, simply because we had to. Our mana didn't allow for us to Gatling Gun our spells like in Wrath, and haste became a secondary stat most priests didn't dare to look at (holy priests thought about getting that extra tick on their renew, and that was about it). But the better our gear gets, the better haste gets. Our spells become bigger thanks to more spellpowers which means we don't have to "patch" them up with stats like Mastery if we don't want to. With more regen comes the possibility to throw more spells, and this is what discipline (and holy) priests have been starting to return to. But what if our spells already are instant? It is true that alot of Discipline healing is based on instant cast spells - Shields and PoM. For these spells, haste will only affect the gcd which is 1,5 seconds for most spells. More haste will lower the gcd to a maximum of 1 second, allowing for more Shields to be cast within the same time frame. Also, by lowering the cast time of your Heal/GH/BH you will be able to faster recast Shields on the same target with the SoS talent.
 Haste is a rather good rating if you are one of those Atonement priests. If you like to smite your way through stuff, which I personally think works ok for heroics but not so well for raids, you won't have any gain from Mastery (except for the occasional DA you proc) but plenty of gain from Haste and Crit. More Haste will allow you to stack Evangelism faster, which for many priests is the main goal of smiting overall.
You need 128.125 haste rating for 1% Haste.

Pros
  • Increased healing throughput
  • Effects all spells
  • Is the "cheapest" rating.
Cons
  • Only efficient if you have the mana and regen for it
Synergies
  • Mastery: Haste has no gain of Mastery
  • Crit: Haste has no gain of Crit
Crit
Crit is tricky. It does affect some important spells, like Inspiration and Divine Aegis, and critting a heal isn't a bad thing to do. On the other hand, crit is the most rng of the three secondary stats. Having a certain amount of crit won't benefit all of your skills and most importantly it won't affect them all the time. It will only benefit your overall healing to a certain degree (approximately the amount of crit you have). Does this mean that 15% crit will increase your healing effectiviness by 15%? Not at all. You can't count on your crit throughput unless you have a very high amount of crit (which we won't get without sacrificing too much of our other stats). Theoretically, all the crits you get during a certain time frame could be overheals or otherwise non-beneficial for the situation. Unless we have a really high amount of crit, we won't heal as if our spells will crit. This means you will keep on casting your spells with their non-crit value in mind, easily making alot of the crits overheals. It is only when your spells are insufficient that crits are welcome. Healers tend to avoid getting into situations where we have to rely on luck to get the job done.
Like mentioned, Crit is a fairly good stat if you use Atonement. Smite healing is effective in that it has a high hps without being very mana expensive (unlike other fast spells like Flash Heal), and with alot of crit you can proc loads of DA from all that smiting.
You need 179.34 crit rating for 1% Crit.

Pros
  • Is our only source of DA (except Prayer of Healing)
  • Is our only source of Inspiration (if you have that talent)
Cons
  • Doesn't affect our Shields at all
  • Is the most unreliable of all secondary stats
Synergies
  • Mastery: Crit has no gain of Mastery
  • Haste: More haste equals more spells equals more crits (during a time frame).
So what secondary stat is the best?
Because of the unreliability of crit, and the fact that it doesn't actually affect a spell that makes out some third of my total healing done (note that I write "my" here) I have chosen to mainly focus on haste vs mastery. That doesn't mean that there aren't priests out there who have focused on crit and do a great job anyway (link in german), which just emphasizes the difficulty in saying that one secondary stat is better than another. Ideally we'd put all our eggs in the hps basket, meaning we'd convert spirit (which is useless as long as you have enough mana and regen) to Mastery and Haste (and crit if you like that). To most of us it is still a tough choice to remove spirit meaning we have to choose between the throughput stats and not between regen vs throughput stats. However it is worth noting that if you feel like mana isn't much of a problem for you, converting spirit into the other secondary stats is the best idea, and this is also something currently being discussed around the bloggosphere. Like I started out saying, what secondary stat you should choose for yourself comes down to your way of healing. A thumbrule is that haste is good for raid healing, because of faster PoH, Mastery and Crit is better for tank healing. I'm in a position where I switch between the roles, so I will have to balance the stats. This is a situation I think most discipline priests are in actually.

To try to find out if there was a big difference between lots of haste or lots of mastery (I did not check crit) I decided to reforge my gear completely. From being all Mastery to all Haste, I also switched some gear from Mastery gear to Haste gear.
I lost 2 points of Mastery, from ~18,5 points Mastery to ~16,5 (or 5% absorbtion).
I gained about 5,5% haste, from 5% to 10,5% (unbuffed).

Here are some comparison logs between two raids. I've picked out the fights that were the most alike between the two raids in terms of my spec and role in the fights. The raid compositons were about the same, I used the same flasks and food, but note that there are still differences between the fights of course.

The fight healed with Haste is to the left and the fight healed with Mastery is to the right.

Magmaw - 1000 more hps with Mastery than Haste.
Omnotron - 2000 more hps with Mastery than Haste
Cho'Gall - 400 more hps with Haste than Mastery
Let's take a look at healing values.

Magmaw
Omnotron
Cho'gall
Interestingly enough, my average absorb with shields actually rises on two fights with more Haste, rather than with more Mastery. Divine Aegis on the other hand drops in absorbs. These logs are from two raids only one week apart, so I couldn't ascribe that difference to gear, neither was there a big difference in raid setup as mentioned. Statistically there isn't much to get from these numbers of course, because it's just one raid of each, but it does highlight the point that whether you choose Haste or Mastery (and maybe even Crit) as your primary stat, things won't change dramatically. When people tell you to keep a good balance, they are right. I don't post these logs to give you proof of one way or the other, but to give you a general idea about what these differences could do, or rather don't do (and encourage you to experiment a little with stats yourself).

How did the change feel? I did feel like mana was slightly more of an issue, but I will ascribe that to the fact that we had one less Mana Tide for the Haste-raid than for the Mastery-raid. Regarding comfiness I really liked having faster spells. With the haste I had the cast time on Heal/GH went down to near 2 seconds and with PI/BL I got down to 1,5 sec cast. My overall performance didn't change much though, it seemed like my hps went down a little with more haste which could be because the strength of Discipline really lies in Shields at the moment and it is difficult to compensate that with more PoH (which is mainly why you'd want alot of haste). In my case we already have a bunch of good aoe healers, and boosting my own aoe-healing will get me higher on the meters, but will it benefit the raid? Being able to keep up strong single-target healing is just as important although it doesn't look as cool on the meters. We have to evaluate our own role in our raids and gear suited to that role.

Where will I go from here? What do I recommend? Depending on your current gear I do recommend getting a fair amount of haste, maybe some 15-20% raid buffed (which isn't too hard to get) and then go for Mastery. I wouldn't recommend going for Crit, because I feel like the other two stats are outperforming it, but I won't tell you crit is bad either. Crit on gear isn't something to avoid, but I wouldn't gem/enchant/reforge for it if there are options to go for Haste or Mastery instead, simply because they are safe throughput stats and Crit isn't. For single-target healing (and multi single-target healing) I don't have any problems with keeping Inspiration up on my targets even when not gearing for crit.
As boring as it sounds, a balance does seem to be the best idea, and testing with different values for yourself will probably be the best way to find out what suits your healing style. Because the stats affect different parts of your healing, it does depend on your healing role and the fight you are fighting to find the best stat for you.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What has 4.0.6 done for Blizzards credibility?

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4.0.6 came and it is still far from over. Each day we get some new hotfixes which either make us go "ahh" with a smile or "ohh" with a frown. We have a saying in sweden - "the one hand knows not what the other hand does" which means that an organisation take decisions without agreeing upon them within the organisation first. In the end the people in the organisation seem just as confused about a change as the people outside of it. This says alot about swedish buraeucracy but I've also used the expression to explain some changes Blizzard have done in the past. Jokingly mind you. Balancing this monster of a game would probably have been part of Hercules 12 labors if it'd been around back then. And I am usually the last to whine about imbalance in the game. I happen to live together with whino-o-master nr 1, and whenever Love starts ranting about what a bad place druids are in I just tell him to play another class. It's not that easy, of course. But we can't go crazy as soon as our class of choice isn't flavor of the month. We've seen some really bad design choices over the years (most notably when dk tanks were totally op at the beginning of wrath and some bosses were near unkillable unless you had a dk tank), but every little tweak and twist to your character isn't the end of the world. Blizzard doesn't have it in for you.

After 4.0.6 however
, I've gotten more and more worried about how the designer team over at Blizzard really are working with their fixes anyway. Reading around the bloggosphere you always get to read alot of tears and hair pulling over patch changes, but this time around people actually seem to have a good reason to be cranky. Let me give you a couple of examples;

The problem that was already solved
  • Boomkins were dealing too much damage. To fix this Blizzard nerfed Boomkin specialization with 9% damage. They also fixed a bug to Starfall which made it cast more than 20 stars, one of the reasons Boomkins were dealing too much damage in the first place, not realizing that these two fixes would stack to overnerf boomkins. Players had to point this out, and Blizzard readily agreed that they clearly hadn't thought about it, changing the damage nerf to 5% instead of 9%.
I don't expect Blizzard to know exactly how a change will affect a class on a live realm, it is in the end impossible to know. But not taking a rather huge bug fix into account when doing an overall adjustment to a class damage output, seems to me like you've had two different dev teams working on the issue and coming up with different solutions. That is ok, if only they had discussed it with eachother before applying both fixes.

The fix that wasn't a fix
  • Paladins were healing too much. To fix this Blizzard changed Light of Dawn so that it it wouldn't affect the Beacon of Light target anymore. Paladins were furious. Then a couple of days later they revert this change completely. Turns out Blizzard were really trying to deal with a bug that made Light of Dawn heal the Beaconed target for way too much under certain circumstances (as I understood the issue anyway). Then a couple of days later they manage to fix the issue by making Light of Dawn only heal targets in your own raid or party.

Why make it a patch note if it's really a bug fix that went wrong? Does that mean that someone at Blizzard thought that this was an intended fix and just threw it in there with all the other fixes? Or was it in fact an intended fix and they just realized that it was a really bad idea and had to revert it immediately? I am speculating I know, but it still points toward some kind of miscommunication and could probably been handled alot better.


The extreme overbuffs that had to be nerfed (at once)
  • Hunters were dealing too low damage (in MM and BM specs) and so Blizzard changed alot of things, one thing being bumping Aimed Shot damage up from 150% weapon damage to 200%. A couple of days later they lower it down to 160%, basically back on scratch again.
  • Discipline weren't healing enough so Blizzard bumped the efficiency of Shields by approximately 200% (and also increasing its mana cost by approximately 30%). Apparently that made the shield way to good so they bumped mana cost up another approx 30% but said they wouldn't make it more expensive for holy priests. A couple of days later they change their mind and tell us it will cost equally much for both specs.
It used to be quite rare (or so I think anyway) that Blizzard made these huge buffs to a class, realize they probably went a little too far and nerfed them back again. We've seen tweaks and changes made to the game since it started, and there will always be a need for these tweaks. Like I said it is impossible to predict how a change will work in practice. But now it seems like Blizzard are bringing in the big guns alot more than they used to. The Daily Blink made a great comic about it, parodying a Blizzard blue post saying "we like to overbuff you just to see your sad faces when we nerf you again" (speaking about hunters this time, and yeah I've paraphrased it). Why do these mega-buffs, that almost certainly will have to lead to a nerf of some sort in the end anyway? Don't blizzard know that it is better to give small rewards contiously than one big reward that has to be retracted? Don't take my pony!

The change (and problem) that disappeared
  • Priests needed some kind of self-buff, Blizzard seemed to be thinking. They can't deal with damage on themselves very good. Desperate Prayer was given a nice change, making it heal percent of max health instead of a set value. Blizzard also made a change to shields so that they would absorb more damage when cast on the priest, 30% more to be exact. Then a couple of days later they announced that this change to shields was removed. Completely. 
I understand the change to Desperate Prayer. DP was a talent that had been around for quite a while, and it had really divided the priests between those who loved it (like me) and those who didn't like it because it didn't heal much enough and/or they always forgot to use it anyway. In Cata the heal from DP became close to pointless, healing some 10-15k (2 min cd) when we had some 100k+ healthpools. That they wanted to change it made sense. But I was puzzled as to why Blizzard would design a change to shields, decide it was good enough to be implemented, and then just remove it completely. Is the issue that this was going to solve gone suddenly? Or was there no issue to solve to begin with? Maybe they decided that if we really wanted more survivability we'd go for DP instead (in case this shield change was going to be a talent)? I don't know! Maybe this was transformed into the Silence immunity of Strength of Soul, but that seems far fetched. I have yet to understand what Blizzard wanted to fix with this talent and how the problem was solved.

All of these things are minor problems. And like I said, I'm the last one to whine about stuff when things don't go my way. This might be due to the fact that I main a priest and we really have been in a fairly good place since I started playing them, all the way back in Vanilla. We've never had any real lows, and have occasionally even got to be in a really good place (like with disc now). But I can't recall seeing as many things completely reverted, removed or changed as I have seen since the release of Cataclysm. I don't know if Blizzard have changed something in their organisation, if I am imagining things or what is going on really. What kind of an image does this send the gaming community? Is there reason to be alarmed? Has Blizzard been taken over by aliens (aka Activision)?!

I realize that the Blizzard organisation probably is getting really big, even if we're only talking about the dev team and branches directly connected to it (this is also something The Daily Blink makes fun off in the above mentioned comic). But this kind of unfocused, constant change will make people nervous. You might not believe it, but there are more people out there than you think who actually unsubscribe to the game because they just don't know, understand or agree with what Blizzard is doing to the game. Do I care about them? Not really, but Blizzard probably should. Right now Blizzard are sending out signals of uncertainty. And nothing could be worse than when the players think they have a better understanding of how the game works than the devs themselves. The issue with the boomkin damage really makes you think "Woah Blizzard, you really missed something this obvious? Really?". Even I, patience personified (ahem) get a little nervous about the changes to priests when I read about these kind of incidents. I've always thought about patch notes as something to take lightly, because things will change. But when they change this dramatically and you don't know if Blizzard really are clear on what they are doing, you start to wonder. Blizzard would do well to spend a little more time communicating and worry less about making us happy with all these fixes. No one benefits from work that isn't properly thought through.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The 5 Stages of Raiding

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Looking back on my raiding career I'd like to think I've changed my playstyle quite alot from my first steps into Molten Core and Zul'Gurub. Maybe my way of progressing from a player who didn't have a clue to someone who does (hopefully) is somewhat analogous to how most players do it? I tried to identify my different stages of raiding and personally I think they correspond pretty well to how people around me play raids too.

Stage 1. I don't have a clue, but hope it works
When I started raiding I didn't know anything about my class or what raiding really was about. I knew it was like instancing, only with 8 times more people. I had done stuff like Stratholme and Scholomance, which were hellishly difficult back then, so I had definitely tried "harder content" and knew what it could demand of me. But still, I wasn't part of a raiding guild and I played shadow. When I got to join a raid it was only because the raiders were desperate for a healer, and a shadow healer worked well enough back then (and you say raids used to be more difficult!). My memories of my few raids through ZG and MC are vague when it comes to my healing. I remember details like cool loot I got (epics, wow...) and that there were people everywhere. I didn't have a clue about tactics, but ran with the group and hoped that would be good enough. Apparently it was, since I don't remember any drama about my noobness. I didn't try to change my way of healing however, I didn't ever think that me dealing with a situation better might actually make much of a difference, and even if it would I had no idea where to start.

I'd like to think of this as the first stage of the raider. Someone who doesn't actually intend to fill his playtime with raids, someone who might not be entirely sure what a raid really demands and means. Someone who is asked to join by friends who know they'll do well enough even with someone around who doesn't have a clue, and who mainly runs around just enjoying everything new. I've been that friend plenty of times. Especially toward the end of Wrath I used to ask people whom I knew didn't usually raid if they wanted to tag along just for fun. The content was easy back then even with one or two people who didn't know all the tactics or everything about their class so instead it was a great way to get to show them something else in WoW, something most of them had only briefly tried in VoA (if anything).

Some players get the taste for raiding from these kind of experiences, but many people who are in this stage of raiding usually are there not because they're bad players who don't get invited to raids, but because they don't have the the time to dedicate to raiding. Since most people either want a regular raiding group or achievements to invite you, getting into a raid only occasionally is tricky unless you happen to know someone in the group already and the content isn't too difficult. Some players stay in this stage out of necessity, but some players move on to the next one. I was one of those players.

Stage 2. Learn to handle the fight

In BC I got invited to more raiding. Love had just joined a guild which mainly consisted of a bunch of irl friends who threw together some raid every week, and they were a healer short. So I got in and decided that I liked 10 man raiding alot more than I had 40 man raiding. Instead of feeling like the 40th wheel, and not have any connection to my fellow raiders at all, I now got into a tight-knit group of friends who were having a blast clearing through Karazhan. This is the first time I really decided to get good at what I was doing, that that in itself would be part of the fun of the game. It wasn't a conscious decision, like me sitting down saying to myself "ok, time to stop being noob!" with the Rocky-montage theme song in the background. But being part of a core raiding group demanded that I actually shape up and started caring about my performance, because other people depended on me.

My first step, back then, was not to start reading blogs and forums about priest healing. Instead I started to learn how to handle each fight separately. Trial and error. This fight needed more aoe healing, this fight needed alot of dispelling, that fight needed me to focus on moving from fire and so on. Karazhan actually proved to be the perfect training ground for an up and coming priest like me, because the difficulty level and the design of the huge amount of boss fights gave alot of practice for handling various situations. Looking back at it, I can't think of a better way for me to get started. Remember that I was still a noob in most aspects, and by "noob" I really mean "newbie". I wasn't a veteran computer game player who knew everything about communities and sharing knowledge. I didn't know that I could use the knowledge of others to improve my own ways, I didn't even know there were people out there who spent loads of time analysing stats into small decimals just to get the most out of their class. I thought that the only way to go about learning was to do it myself. Also I had no priest in my vicinity to ask, I was at the time the only priest in the guild.

Trial and error and learning fights by heart is a great way to get started, but it has a big flaw. If I don't bring something from each encounter, some knowledge about how my class works in general, I will have to start basically from scratch with each new encounter. This was also the case in my case. I remember all the times I thought, after a wipe -  "oooh, I should've used that spell there. Well now I know". Instead of thinking about it during the fight. This type of raiding works, and therefore I see alot of people getting "stuck" on this stage. They learn how to deal with specific fights, but they don't carry much of their knowledge on to new fights (kinda like me and maths). You can spot these players immediately. I've played with plenty of people who've been more than decent at doing their job in ICC. But when taking them into a new environment, like when Ruby Sanctum was released or when we decided we wanted to do Ulduar Hardmodes you immediately notice that these people are actually lacking alot when it comes to skill. They take ages to learn a fight and they constantly fail on simple things, until they've tried it often enough. Even if that fight mechanic is just as some other fight mechanic they have done a trillion times! They do choreography great, but they get completely confused when you ask them to improvise or react to something they haven't trained into their backbone yet.

Stage 3. How can I improve?
I was that player for quite some time. It might've stuck with me throughout Karazhan, but somewhere around when we started doing Zul'Aman did I feel like experimenting a little and learn more about my class and healing in general, instead of just in specific fights. I started checking which heals were the most effective overall, which talents that worked the best for various situations and most importantly - why. Why is this heal better than that heal? Why is this stat better for me than that stat? By learning this could I handle with new and unexpected situations better and better and I started to see it as a challenge to deal with a situation not only ok, but as good as I possibly could. Just making sure that we downed the boss wasn't enough, I wanted to make sure I improved something in my own performance with each try. Could I become more mana efficient? Was there something I could've done to prevent that death? I found skills in my skill book I rarely used and tried to fit them into my healing bars. I found a new joy in being able to quickly assess the situation and without really having to think about it, choose the right course of action. In all honesty this is not something I do perfectly even today, and is a big part of what I enjoy about playing WoW still. In each fight is there something which could've been done better, and even if it wasn't necessary in the sense that the fight was a success in any case, it is where I find my challenge today.

As I said I feel like this is where raiders start to differ in play styles. I know plenty of people who, instead of going "what could I have done better?" think "aw, shit happens, nothing I could've done about it". Eventhough that often is the case, some people seem to think that is always the case. It's not just about avoiding failure, it is about the desire to improve. To see improvement as a goal in itself. The goal isn't to succeed with the encounter (exclusively, that is always the goal of course) or to get epics, but to become better at what you do. Unfortunately I feel that is actually rather uncommon among most raiders.

Stage 4. How can you improve me?
Somewhere around the beginning of Wrath did I find out about the vast knowledgebase that is internet. I had only used it to thottbot about items and quests before, but now I realized players used it for debating and discussing too. I started asking other people about advice, I started looking at other peoples thoughts in various matters to add to my own. Discussing a problem with someone else is ultimately the best way to really understand something. Not only do you get the input of another person, but by trying to explain your own thoughts and take on a matter do you better understand what you really mean and think about it. It was during discussions with other priests I got to really think through what priest healing meant and how to go about doing it. Not even Einstein was saved from mental blocks. Just knowing alot about what you do won't save you from simple pitfalls like assuming that you're already doing the right thing without questioning it. Until someone, who might not know as much, curiously asks why I do it the way I do it, and while explaining I realize there might be an even better way to do it.

Nowadays everyone, even new players it seems, know about EJ and various theorycrafters around the internet. If people ask questions about their class in trade or general the general answer is "google it". Reading forums and theorycrafter blogs about your class is something everyone does, but there is still a difference in the way they do it. Like mentioned there will still be the ones that just accept the guides as they are and the ones that will look at them and think "ok, this might be true. But why is it true?". Why is agi better than strength? Why is haste a bad stat? It's not until you feel a desire to learn about these things that you can really learn about how to play your class.

Of course, as we have noticed, most players will do just fine sticking around at stage 2. You can get really far in WoW just by learning a fight by heart. But let me compare PvE to PvP for a moment here. Eventhough you can be a decent pvper just by learning how players generally react and the general best way to deal with various situations, you won't become a good pvper only through this knowledge. It is when you start to learn why people behave in certain ways, or why certain spells are better to use in certain situations than others, that you can start dealing with new and unknown situations. I feel like this is true in PvE as well. A PvE fight is alot more static than a PvP fight, but there will still be things to adapt to all the time. Just as in PvP are you playing with other people who will behave in unplanned and unknown ways, and you being able to act on that in a good way is crucial for your success (the big difference being that in PvP the enemy too is a player). It will make the difference between wipe and kill.

Stage 5. This was never necessary before
The final stage is when you've really become good enough to react to new situations. Even when you do a fight for the 20th time and you've never had to use spell X before, you should be able to notice when it is needed and use it. I won't say that I am in this stage yet, because I don't feel like I am. One of the things I really have to practice is not to become too "comfortable" in the way I handle a situation. Just as described above there can be times when I fail at handling a situation because I just did it the way I always did it and it didn't work. A great example is when we did Nefarian and we had 2 healers assigned to heal the Onyxia tank, of which one was me. We had already done a couple of wipes so I had already assessed how much healing was needed on my target. Suddenly my target takes alot more damage than he is supposed to, my choice of heals aren't enough. I keep thinking that I shouldn't change because this has always worked before. Not until the tank is really low do I realize that something has to be done. Tank dies, and we wipe. Turns out the other healer had forgot his assignment so I was solo healing my target, but I should've reacted sooner to the change. I shouldn't have thought that it would work because it always had, when clearly it wasn't this time around. Even if I didn't know why then, the conditions had changed and I should've changed with them. It might be true that I might not been able to save the tank anyway, but I should've tried!

Like I said, reaching this stage of raiding is what still keeps me at it. In a way I am glad that I don't do everything perfectly, because that would surely make the game boring. If I did everything right and we still fail, I will only blame my fellow raiders. If we fail and I feel like there was something I could've done better, no matter how small, it's ok because I'm glad I learned something.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Play Games, Save World

6 comments:
I did some bad planning with my food intake the other day and started out by eating loads of chocolate for breakfast. It got me into a crazy sugar high and me and Love started debating memes. Why they exist and how they come to exist and what they say about humankind. /startramble

Love started out by asking me how long cultural references will stay around. Will our children understand stuff like "over 9000", "rick rolling" and "mankriks wife" or will these things cease to exist at some point, only vaguely remembered by old farts like us (as we will be then)? I argued that stuff never go away once they're on the internet, so eventhough new things always will be added to the pool, there will always be a possibility that these old things resurface to make a come back, kind of like movie themes and fashion always seem to make cycles (we're currently back in the 80s it seems).

I then went on to ask what makes a meme a meme anyway? What exactly is it that makes a person pick out something, seemingly at random, turn it into a "sketch" and why do people catch on and build on that? Isaac Asimov wrote some fictional novels around a theory that human actions en masse actually aren't random at all, but quite predictable. In this huge group, humankind if you like, we actually act along mathematical certainties, and as long as we know enough about different factors we can predict how a situation will turn out in the end. Inspired by this theory I speculated that memes aren't random at all, but they do all in fact have some common factor. Something that explains why it turns into a meme and why people catch on to it (because I bet there are millions of memes our there that never turned into real memes). We started working through different memes and we found something that seemed to be common for many of the biggest memes.

Most people know of "Sparta", the abovementioned "over 9000" and "rick rolling" (mankrik's wife is WoW specific and therefore a little special). There's also "pingas", "F*cking magnets", "Pedobear", "What is this I don't even", "Horatio" and the list goes on and on. A great place to check out memes is knowyourmeme.com which I have written about earlier. You really can get stuck there forever.

What do these memes have in common? There seems to be a certain "lameness-factor" involved that correlates to how big a meme gets. If the original concept is very lame or perhaps "uncool" would be a better word for it, the meme of that concept will become huge. Someone screaming "THIS IS SPARTA!" would for example not be considered as an especially cool line. It's actually rather lame. Someone screaming "What is his power level?" "It's over 9000!" is also something we probably think of as uncool. Rick Astleys "Never gonna give you up" is also very uncool. Horatio is extremely uncool. And so on. The thing is, they're all so uncool they in fact become cool. It's like you see this thing and think "hah that is just so uncool, I have to show it to someone". So it's not just boring and uninteresting, it's jokingly uncool.

When people create a meme out of something extremely uncool, they try to catch the very essence of the uncoolness, which in a sense will make it cool. Screaming "THIS IS SPARTA!" has, by being highlighted through a meme, gone from an uncool thing to a cool thing say. In this sense, memes are making the world a better place by turning all these lame stuff into really hip and culturally correct cool stuff!

And everyone wants a part of it. Once a meme is big enough, anyone can and wants to create. Even if you don't actually create a picture or write a text to the meme, you're part of the creative process just by spreading it along. I think all of you reading this text has at some point been part of the meme creative process just by going "hah, check this out" to some friend. Because if no one was interested in looking at it, no one would create it.

I saw a talk over at TEDtalks made by Jane McGonigal where she talked about the creative force that exists in the gaming community. She thought that if we could make "boring" stuff like recycling into a game that's fun enough, everyone would do it. Like if succeeding with something in Farmville would somehow recycle a soda can or if getting an epic in WoW would somehow give someone who needed it food for a day, recycling and starvation would be way less of a problem (these are not actually her examples, I made them up myself). But this creative force isn't limited to gaming of course, in a way I feel like memes are the real example of what could be done if people just feel like doing it. Memes are seemingly meaningless, yet the combined labor hours put into them are... insane. And like I said, anyone can and wants to take part of them to some extent, memes are just one thing but just think about all the blogs, reviews, forum posts etc that are written each second.

It reminded me of the novel 1984 (SPOILER HERE!) where George Orwells "country" is at constant fake war just to encourage the citizenship to always give their all to the state. Only by having this fictional enemy, argued Orwell, could you get people to put all their creative efforts into action. Only then can you press all those labor hours out of people without having them waste it on not doing anything. Memes have shown that you definitely don't need some threatening at all to have people spend hours of their "spare" time doing things. All you need is to find a way to convince people it is fun, and almost even more importantly, make it easy enough to do.

I make it sound easy of course, but building a correlation between saving the real world by saving Azeroth isn't something easily done. In fact I don't think anyone has come up with a really good idea for how to do this. I know of one good example of how this could be done - there is something called Flattr, in which you provide a set sum of money each month to be distributed among things you like on the internet. This can be just about anything, a blog, a video, a text, a picture. As long as there is a Flattr button next to it which you can press, you'll be able to distribute some of your set money to that which you like. Your money is then distributed evenly, so that if you provide 10 euro each month and just press one button, that button owner will get 10 euro. But if you press 10 buttons, they each get 1 euro. What I like about it is the simplicity. I don't mind paying for things, I pay for loads of things (just the other day I loaned a book at the library that I liked so much I immediately went and bought it). As long as the prices are somewhat reasonable, people will buy stuff if only they are simple enough. Problem right now is that no one has Flattr because there are no buttons, and there are no buttons because no one has Flattr. People just have to catch on for it to work.

And I think this can be converted to creation and action as well. People will create and act upon anything as long as it is simple and motivating enough. And by simple and motivating I really mean "fun". When we spend all those hours playing WoW it is because of a combination of its simplicity and various motivations that contribute to making it fun to play, to do. And this shouldn't be limited to gaming or memes. Of course I want to make the poor people less poor, and save endangered animals, but it is not something I think about doing very often (unfortunately). Imagine if doing good stuff was part of your everyday life in a simple way? I don't mean that every button we click and action we take also make us donate money to something good (although that would be an interesting way to spread money across the world), but if you could find a good way to have this creative force, and if all these labor hours people spend on creating memes and writing stuff on their blogs could also be put into good use somehow (beside the already good use it's doing)... imagine the possibilites.

I'm not sure any of this made any sense, I am probably still in that sugar rush. /endramble

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Have shields become too good?

4 comments:
There seems to be a heated debate going around the priest community (debates, yay), the question being - are discipline priests too good? Or rather, have our shields become too good?
In the one corner are the priests that feel that Blizzard are going back on their "word" that healing wouldn't be about spamming only one spell in Cata, as it was back in Wrath. By making the shield so powerful it doesn't really matter how you want to heal, you have to spam shields sooner or later because that is where the discipline power lies. In the other corner we have the priests who feel like people are overreacting. That the buff to the shields was much needed, and that there is no way that we can start spamming shields anyway. I'll try to take you through this jungle and see where we end up. Are the shields really too good or aren't they?

When people say that shields are becoming too good, they generally mean that it's being used too much in raids. What they don't want are priests that only use this one spell, because it outperforms all the other spells we have. The way they know this is by checking how discipline priests heal through parsing tools like worldoflogs. It is true that shields make up a big portion of discipline healing right now, and even have made holy priests thinking about turning bubbly, but is that automatically a bad thing?

First of all, percentages alone won't tell us the whole truth. Having a high percentage in healing done with a spell only means that it healed for alot during a fight, not that it was used alot. See the difference? Some people are afraid we'll return to the one button mashing priests we basically were back in Wrath, and trust me that is definitely not something I miss. But having shields up as the spell that heals the most doesn't automatically mean it is the spell I use the most. Just that when I use it, it heals for alot. I remember that Hymn of Hope was some 15% of my total healing done back in Wrath, if I used it during a regular raid fight. That doesn't mean I spent 15% of my healing time casting it though, I had only cast it once. Unfortunately the numbers on worldoflogs only show how many times the shield was hit, not how many times it was cast, which bloats the figures somewhat (in most raids we can assume most shields to be completely absorbed by one hit, but this depends of course on how the shields are used).

Also, we have to take fight designs into consideration. Because of how the shields work, there will be some fights where shielding is optimal (Omnotron, Maloriak) and other fights where shielding will be alot less effective (Chimaeron). There is also a difference between 10 mans and 25 mans. We have to remember that the shield doesn't actually heal anything, it only absorbs damage. We still need other healers to do the actual healing or the shields aren't very useful. This matters, because it means that spamming shields is only good in raid composition where you know that the healing part will be taken care of by someone else. This is more often true in 25 mans than in 10 mans. In my raids, I often have to use gcds on aoe healing as much as I have time to shield, and I think this is true for many discipline priests at the moment.

There will always be a heal that people use the most. If you look at the other healing classes, they too have spells that are up sniffing at 30% healing done. Druids usually have over 25% healing done with Rejuv and/or Wild Growth, same goes with Priests and CoH/PoH, shamans and Healing Rain, paladins and Holy Radiance/Beacon. Like I said, this doesn't mean that they spam these spells, only that these spells are the most effective. Nonetheless, discipline priests often get close to 50% healing done with shields, something that is not easily done with other types of heals as it is now (without becoming completely ineffective or wasteful). It should be noted that top holy priests often have Prayer of Healing up at these numbers however, and up to 60% total healing (maybe my next post should be about whether PoH is too good).

Some healers are grumpy because the shield mechanic actually removes the need for healing, making it difficult for other healers to compete. There is no way to not overheal a shielded target, since the absorb will always be taken into account first when damage is dealt. Personally I don't see this as much of an issue at all, because it all matters on how much damage is dealt. As an example, remember how LK worked. Shielding was pretty op during that fight because it completely soaked the otherwise rather troublesome Infest. Shields would basically remove the need to heal anyone after an Infest. That doesn't mean that you could bring one discipline priest to the fight and have it done with. There was plenty of damage going around that the discipline priest didn't have time to deal with, and this is still true in Cataclysm. Even if we could spam our shields around like crazy, as long as we take more damage than a shield can soak before there is time to reapply a new one (~3000 dps/person in 10 man and ~1200 dps/person in 25 man, if you shield every person in turn) there will be a need for other healers.

One argument some priests use is that it doesn't matter how good the shield is, the vast majority of priests won't be able to spam it around anyway because they will oom. Even if there are some priests out there that are able to keep the raid shielded throughout a fight, these are a minority and should not be part of the calculation. Although I usually agree that extremes are not much worth to look at unless you're part of such an extreme yourself, in this case it does point to something important. These priests are an example of what could come. If there are priests out there who can go through an entire fight just spamming shields (and still do a good healing job, I mean anyone can go crazy heal without it meaning much), it shows that this healing style is possible. Gear differences are smaller than ever before, meaning many of us could soon be in the position where we find that we have gear enough to deal with a healing situation solely by spamming shields. And even worse - it could be the best way to deal with a healing situation. This is what many priest fear right now. That spamming shields is the best way to deal with something, and were only limited by lack of gear, something that won't limit us for very long.

What solutions are there?
As a holy priest I used to basically spam PoH (and spamming PoH is still alot what priest healing is about tbh, see above). Do I like it? Not that much, but it is an extremely effective spell and there is always some aoe damage to heal up. PoH was nerfed for this reason, and some of the aoe love was given to CoH instead to encourage holy priests to use more than just one spell. This was a great solution imo (although perhaps not strong enough), and I wouldn't mind Blizzard doing something similar with shields. Nerf the output of shields somewhat and have other spells boost the effectiviness. Grace already procs from heals, but they could make Renewed Hope proc from heals as well, instead of Weakened Soul.

Another idea that was thrown around on forums (see first link) was to make mana cost of the shield scale with gear. Right now all spells cost mana based on base mana which means they become more and more mana effective the better our gear gets. There is a point to this in the game, of making us feel better and better and make getting new gear worthwhile, and I don't think it is something easily changed. I don't see this as a good solution since it would actually make our shields unaffected by gear. That reminds me of the flat damage casters used to have on spells back in Vanilla, and there was a reason they decided to remove that alltogether. A version of this could be to make it also absorb damage based on max mana (this was Loves idea), make it both scale positively and negatively with gear (aka even out). This would probably turn the shield into more of a cooldown, kind of like a small Lay on Hands, and perhaps changes would have to be made to our other heals to account for the "loss" of shielding.

A third solution would be to lower the duration of the shield (also taken from first link). It is currently on the target for 30 seconds, but by lowering that duration to 20, 15 or 10 seconds the shield would need alot more planning to be used effectively. It would definitely quell some of the spamming, except under times of heavy aoe raid damage where you know that the spell will be soaked during its uptime.

Is there really a problem?
Currently, and speaking of personal experience, I don't think there is a problem. I don't use shields on more than 5 targets at the same time at most, simply because the hps is too low to use it on more during heavy aoe and that combined with me ooming too fast if I do that just doesn't make a viable healing style. But I do recognize the issue - if the shield is too good, we will start using it more and more the better our gear gets. I look at three things here - do I feel like shields are too big a part of my healing? No. Do I think it is to most other disc priests at the moment? No (based on checking logs of random disc priest healing). Do I think this can become a problem later on? Yes. This isn't a problem exclusive to discipline priests though. Just as druids spammed rejuv, paladins spammed Flash of Light, shamans spammed Chain Heal and holy priests spammed renew back in wrath, this is what happens eventually when players get better and better gear. Just as we reduce cc to a minimum and start bruteforcing heroics like we did in Wrath. We get better and our environment doesn't, it is inevitable that we will start spamming our way through content. Like I said, this isn't an issue only aimed at discipline priests, this is an issue with game design overall and there definitely isn't an easy solution. Even if shields are too good now and discipline priests are spamming them, it would only be the tip of the iceberg. Other classes are soon to follow (and already are to some extent) and therefore I think we should rather find a solution to this overall issue than cry too much about the shields being too good.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Burning Crusade still haunts me

2 comments:
Having alot of alts also means you sometimes find things lying around. Things that should've been dealt with long ago. 3 years ago? Yeah, that happens. The other day I was playing my lock and put her up for a random dungeon. Since the wait is some 20-30 minutes, I usually go read a book or something like it. But this time I thought I might do some quests while waiting, so I wanted to see what quest to do next. I opened up her quest log, and what do I see?


The Cudgel of Kar'desh. I remember you! Didn't I complete you back in Burning Crusade? Yes I did. I wanted to turn it in, but it meant doing heroic Slave Pens, and I just didn't feel like it. Not for just one quest. And then Wrath was released and I forgot all about it. My warlock was sadly neglected throughout Wrath, I just didn't enjoy her very much. I also wasn't very good at playing her, I think there is a correlation there. I would open up her quest log now and then and see the quest and think "one day... I'll fix that. But that day is not today", close it down again and do something else. And now I have also added the Frostmourne quest chain to my list of "things I should've done a long time ago". Turning this quest in in Wrath meant travelling all the way to Outlands and solo Slave Pens, because finding a group to help me out just for the quest wasn't very likely. I just couldn't find the motivations for it.

But then, the other day I thought "now damn it, I will finally turn the quest in!". I didn't want to leave my dungeon queue, so I figured I had ~25min to get it done. Would I make it? I started travelling.

First step of the journey - getting out to Outlands. Good thing there's this nifty portal.

Ohh, this brings back memories. I remember the Opening Of The Portal event where hundreds of players were packed outside this portal to kill mobs in order to get a cool tabard. Being a priest, I had no instant-instants (I'll explain below) so it was basically impossible trying to tag mobs. Back then just engaging the mob didn't mean you had tagged it like today. It wasn't until you had actually dealt damage to a mob that it was considered "yours". I could use Power Word: Pain all I liked. Since it took some 2 sec to tick it just didn't help. We didn't have Shadow Word: Death yet and I hadn't talented Holy Nova (which you had to do in order to get it back then) but I was seriously considering it. Love on the other hand spammed Moonfires all around and tagged mobs like nothing. I managed to get my kills in the end though!

Outlands is still beautiful. I remember when taking my first flight over Hellfire Peninsula, the feeling of epicness I got from flying over all those elite demons fighting underneath me. I had never been part of something big before, although I had played most of Vanilla I never really got to sense the tide of history in fighting Ragnaros and Hakkar. I never really got to be a part of that. Burning Crusade was the first time I really felt like I was a part of the lore of WoW.

One of my favorite zones in Outlands was, and still is, Zangarmarsh. I really loved the Sporeggar, the design of the zone and the quests. Whenever I level an alt I make sure that one of the zones I quest in is Zangarmarsh. Those quests never bore me.


Running to Slave Pens. I remember how this area used to be gank-zone #1 on our server when guilds from all across gathered to get ready to do SSC. Although some gankig occurred outside of all the raid instances, it just never got as bad as here. It was quite the scene with 3-4 25 man guilds getting violent and bloody on eachother in completely chaotic pvp. Pvp at its best in my opinion.


Soloing the instance wasn't much of an issue of course, since I outleveled the poor things by some 13 levels. Actually the tough part was making sure to tag all the mobs before my pet had killed them, so I could at least get some loot. I remember how horribly difficult these instances where back in Vanilla. Maybe not Slave Pens so much, but instances like Steamvaults *shudder* and don't get me started on Magister's Terrace. Some BC heroics definitely required more cc than most Cata heroics do today. Or so it felt anyway.

Time is running short! Now I just have to get up there and jump down and I am basically at my goal! Will I make it?

No, I didn't make it. I made it up the ramp and was fighting the mobs up there when I got into my random dungeon. Although I was so close to my goal I decided I'd rather take the dungeon than leave and wait another 25 minutes for a quest which won't give me anything anyway. Was it the right choice? Well the quest aint going anywhere. Now I'll just have to wait another 3 years until the motivation to finish it comes around again.