30 October 2007

Too many cooks?

You can get away with a lot in a five-man instance: shadow priest healing? No problem. Four hunters? Trap away! Does that flexibility extend to raids? I'm guessing not. My guild is just starting to think seriously about raiding and this is one of the issues we will inevitably have to tackle.

There are really two questions here: firstly, do you have a balance of classes in your raid pool, and secondly, are they specced for the roles you need in your raid?

Having never raided before, I can speak with the complete conviction of a novice and say I believe there is a role for every class in a raid. And probably for every possible spec of those classes. That suggests to me that a good raid group would have a balanced mix of classes. But it's virutally impossible to find that balance on a server where hunters outnumber all other classes and good tanks are rarer than gold dust. So immediately, you might see an important gap. Buffs like Gift of the Wild, blessings, and certain crowd control can make your job as a raid group that much more achievable.

And what roles are those classes going to play? We all have to get to 70 somehow, and most of us choose the high-damage route. So you end up with a guild of retribution paladins, enhancement shaman and feral druids. And, er, shadow priests. And there is probably a role for all of these players in a raid. Just not all at the same time. This is a fundamental flaw in the game: it encourages all players, of all classes, to get good at killing things on their own in order to level. But in doing so, you learn one style of play at the expense of all others. I've grown rather fond of melting faces and don't much fancy the prospect of going holy. Not to mention the fact that I haven't done much healing and would pretty much have to learn my class all over again. I imagine the same difficulties for all of the multi-role classes.

There's no point in forcing players to fulfil a predetermined raid role — they will either suck at it or grow bored and leave. But unless you have a good balance of classes and roles, you'll at least have to ask players to consider it. The decision could mean the difference between them making the raid and sitting it out.

19 October 2007

Primal scream

When you hit 70 you have no choice but to suspend all enjoyment of the game and go grind elementals until you are cross-eyed and dreaming about them. This is because they drop motes, which are the basis of the most evil economy known to man (or troll, or gnome etc).

Many high-level crafted items require primals — powerful elemental ingredients that are created from ten motes of the same element. And the elementals drop the motes. Occasionally. If they feel like it. On a good day. You collect ten motes, right click on the stack, and hey presto you have a primal.

If, like me, you are a tailor, you will spend mind-numbing hours nuking the little buggers for slow progress on your epic set. Ditto blacksmiths, leatherworkers and engineers.

Even if you don't need to make something, you need 5,000 gold for your flying epic mount and primals are one of the best ways to get it.

You will be competing with gold farmers, sociopaths and 12-year old boys.

The result is a world of cut-throat camping and competition that reduces even the most noble of paladins to dirty, underhand tricks. If there is a night elf hunter within firing distance you can bet the scum-sucking bastard will time an instant shot while you're casting your first spell.

If you try to buy your ingredients you will be permanently broke, begging every mage in Shattrath for water and emptying your bank for silver.

The worst thing is, I really have nothing better to do with my time. The frozen shadoweave and spellstrike sets are widely considered to be the best items out there before raids. And I'm too busy grinding primals to raid. (Is that what you call a circular argument?)

So if you see me in Nagrand with a harried, haunting look in my eye, please be kind and find another area to grind in.

15 October 2007

The ultimate quest

When you spent mind-number hours in the yeti cave waiting for Helcular's Rod to drop (substitute any other painful grinding memory here) you at least had something to look forward to. Every kill brought you a small step closer to Outland, every dead yeti meant a skill point in skinning, and a few extra coppers towards your mount. So it was something of a disappointment to hit 70 and realise nothing much had changed. Well, the 100 gold you needed for your blood elf racing turkey has inflated to 5000, and the yetis are elementals now, but it's all sinkingly familiar. While the taunting little blue line has vanished, you have the unsettling feeling that there are unseen levels left to climb. You inspect other players at a frequency bordering on paranoia. And they always have better gear than you. You discover the armory. You read a post on the blizzard forums that says you need a minium of 600 shadow damage to get into Karazhan. You don't even know what Karazhan is. You get the feeling that there is more to this game than levelling and resolve to do some research. And you think, modestly, that others might like to follow you on your quest.