31 July 2008

Getting recruitment right

In guilds, as in companies, recruitment is the foundation of achievement and success, but get it wrong and you will be counting the cost for years to come. If you're one of those guilds that welcomes everyone without question because you think it's elitist and 'hardcore' to ask questions first, this is for you.

Imagine if your company put a job add in the local paper. Something along the lines of:

Acme Manufacturing is recruiting. We need more people to make and sell stuff with us. All ages and abilities welcome. Just turn up to get a job.

Then imagine they invited you and your colleagues to pluck people out of the local mall and drag them along to the office with you in the morning. Anyone who turned up was automatically hired.

The best people already have jobs. They wouldn't turn up on the promise of a random opening — they'd want to know what it involved, who they would be working with, what their hours would be, and how much they would be paid. They'd want to know what you have to offer that would be worth the switch.

And the ones who did turn up? They would be the ones who are out of work. Maybe they've never had a job before, or maybe they were sacked from their last one. Maybe they're fresh out of college and don't know what they want to do yet. They just need some cash to pay the rent. How many do you think would do a good job? How well would they fit in? And how long would they stick around? I can tell you right now: the losers would hang around forever disrupting your work and making your life a misery; the rare, intelligent guys you get on with would move on as soon as they found something better.

No company could function this way. Not even some surf shack hire company, not even a junk mail postal service. Yet I see guilds making these basic mistakes every week, and I've been in guilds crippled with problems that often, at the root, can be traced back simply to a lack of a decent recruitment strategy.

Think about the guilds you have known. How many members did they have? What proportion of those members were active in guild chat? How many responded to requests for help? How many members regularly took part in guild runs? How many members organised runs themselves? And what were they doing in the guild if not these things?

This is where so-called casual guilds can take a leaf from the books of 'hardcore' guilds. I dislike those terms for exactly this reason — it's not hardcore to be smart about who you want in your guild.

All recruitment, whether it's done with a wink and a nod between friends or conducted on the most professional terms, must follow a basic pattern:

The big idea
Somebody somewhere has to think up the job. "Guild chat is a bit quiet, let's get some more folk in" does not count. It's simply common sense that you should know before you recruit what type of people you want. Are you a pvp guild or a pve one? Are you a raid progression guild? Who are your active players now? Where are the gaps in your class and role profile? When are you most active? You must have a vision for your guild, otherwise you simply can't move forward.

The approach
Maybe you have someone in mind, maybe you need to advertise. Either way, someone is going to be approaching someone else. This is why you need to have a good idea about what you want first. If you choose to advertise, be specific about the nature of your guild and the type of person you are looking for. How do you know if someone is good for your guild if you don't know what you're looking for? How do they know you are right for them if they can't see how they'll fit in? Maybe you can't get enough across in trade spam, so set up a website or wiki where you can expand on the basics.

The talk
For top-end raiding guilds this may well be a formal written application; for more relaxed guilds it could just be a few whispered lines. This is where you ask the important questions like what spec are you, what do you hope to get out the guild, and when are you usually online? They're going to have questions too, of course, and it will save a lot of trouble if you answer them up front. At the least, make sure they understand what you expect of them, whether they be in terms of raid attendance or simply following basic guild rules. And again, it isn't 'hardcore' to probe a bit deeper — if you are looking for a main tank, you are allowed to ask what experience they have; if you are progressing through T5, it's only sensible to ask about their gear. This is also your chance to get to know the player, however superficially, to gague how they might fit in your guild. And I hope it goes without saying at this point, but you are allowed to turn them down if they don't match your criteria or you don't think they will fit in. This is one of the biggest problems with 'casual' guilds — they think it's elitist to turn people down. Let me put your mind at rest: it's not.

The test
Or sometimes, tests. This is where you make sure you get what you want in your member. There's always a test, even if they don't know it, even if it's just an officer keeping an eye on the new member for a few weeks. Be clear of your intentions from the start — you can put them through a trial run or two if you need specific skill and experience, or you can simply set a probationary period to see how they settle down. The important thing is the new recruit is aware of the rules from the beginning.

Of course, recruitment isn't the only factor in a company's, or guild's, success or failure. But it's a critical one, and critical to get right.

If all you want from a guild is a big roster and a clever name above your head, feel free to ignore me. But if you've ever found yourself struggling to fill a raid spot, or wondering why half your guild is in warsong gulch when you wanted to run ZA, I strongly recommend you examine your recruitment and see if any of this applies to you.

28 July 2008

I'd rather be beta testing...

Merlot didn't get a beta key, but I know a shadow priest who did...

MD, over at I'd Rather Be Wowing!, was lucky enough to get a key and has already started blogging about their experiences. If you don't mind the spoilers, and fancy a little vicarious adventure, I heartily (and jealously) recommend it :)

Gratz MD, have fun!

Back to earth

I'm back at work this morning and the pool and cocktails are already a distant memory. As I dressed I realised I have doubled in size and will be on a diet for the rest of my life. I am staring at 300 emails but have not yet conjured the energy to open them. I have hellish jet lag which is accompanied by a pulsing headache and nausea. Worst of all, I am pale with fatigue, completely counteracting the pleasant tan I picked up specifically for the purpose of instilling envy in my co-workers.

I fully intended to write about the beta talent changes (merlot is not a happy priesty) but now I'm wondering if I can be bothered. They'll only go and change 30 seconds after I publish. Is it just me or are the holy and discipline changes more exciting? Oh well, at least we're not fire mages ha!

Maybe I'll have a think about the talents when my headache goes. If it goes. Or when I've stuck a pencil in my eye to distract from the throbbing.

20 July 2008

Wrath beta: you win some, you loose some

Ok, so I've had a couple of days to chew over the beta notes. In that time I've also managed to travel half way round the world and now sit by a pool in Key West with a cocktail by my side and the sound of insects in the background. This puts things into perspective. No beta key, no guild, no cares. I will work these things out eventually (long after my tan has faded and my liver recovered). Thanks also for the messages of support after my last post, they cheered me up no end.

Anyhoo, let's get on with the show. You've all read this by now I'm sure but here are the patch notes for priests.

  • Circle of Healing (Holy): Now works on any targets in the caster's raid, and is now a "smart" heal and chooses the lowest health targets to heal first within it's range. Also now has a 6 second cooldown. Also no longer will heal summoned Snakes from Hunter's Snake Trap.
  • Enlightenment (Discipline): Now also gives 1% spell damage and 1% heal per point.
  • Focused Will (Discipline): Now increases healing effects on you by 3/4/5%, down from 4/7/10%.
  • Force of Will (Discipline): This talent now increases your spell damage by a flat amount, rather than increasing your spells by a %. (Now increases school %, rather than selected spells damage %). In other words, your spell damage gained from this talent is now reflected on your character sheet, rather than the skill tool-tips.
  • Holy Fire: Cast time reduced to to 2 seconds, down from 3.5. Damage increased roughly 60%. Duration for the damage over time effect reduced to 7 seconds, down from 10. Holy Fire now has a 10 second cooldown.
  • Improved Inner Fire (Discipline) - Now also increases the bonus healing on your Inner Fire spell by 10/20/30%.
  • Improved Shadow Word: Pain (Shadow) - Now increases damage done by your Shadow Word: Pain by 5/10%, but no longer increases the duration of your Shadow Word: Pain.
  • Levitate now costs 3% of base mana.
  • Lightwell (Holy): Cast time reduced to .5 sec, down from 1.5 sec. Charges increased to 10, up from 5. Now breaks from any attack that hits you for 30% or more of your total health. Cooldown reduced to 3 minutes, down from 5.
  • Mind Control now has only one rank and costs 12% of base mana.
  • Mind Soothe now has only one rank, costs 6% of base mana and has no max target level.
  • Mind Vision now costs 3% of base mana.
  • New Talent: Improved Spirit Tap (Shadow) - Gives you a 50/100% chance to gain a 50% bonus to your Spirit after gaining a critical effect chance from your Mind Blast or
  • Shadow Word: Death spells. For the duration, your mana will regenreate at a 25% rate while casting. Lasts 8 sec.
  • New Talent: Twin Faiths (Discipline) - Increases your damage and healing by 1/2/3/4/5%.
  • Pain Suppression (Discipline): Cooldown increased to 3 minutes, up from 2.
  • Power Infusion (Discipline): Cooldown reduced to 2 minutes, down from 3.
  • Psychic Scream now costs 15% of base mana.
  • Searing Light (Holy): Now also increases the damage of your Holy Nova and Penance spells.
  • Shackle Undead now costs 9% of base mana.
  • Shadow Focus (Shadow): Now a 3 point talent, down from 5. Now also reduces the mana cost of your Shadow spells by 2/4/6%.
  • Shadow Resilience (Shadow): Now reduces physical damage taken by 2/4%, but no longer reduces the chance to be critically hit by spells.
  • Shadowform (Shadow): Now has an innate 30% threat reduction. Now has a shapeshift UI.
  • Silent Resolve (Discipline): Now a 3 point talent, down from 5 points.
  • Spirit Tap (Shadow) - Talent reduced to 3 points, down from 5. Now also leads into "Improved Spirit Tap"
  • Wand Specialization (Discipline) has been removed.

Some of this you will already recognise from the alpha leaks. Not everything from the alpha notes is here but that's not so say it won't still be implicated. None of these notes, I think I'm right in saying, include the new post-70 talents, only new and reworked talents within the existing talent trees.

The most interesting thing for me, which I've commented on before, is the increasing utility Blizzard is placing on spirit as a stat. We see improved spirit tap, which will buff spirit and mana regeneration on the back of crits, and there is a hint of a talent yet to come which will buff spell damage by a percentage of spirit. The benefit will very much depend on gear of course: both crit and spirit matter more when your longevity depends on them. But these notes also include official confirmation of the new spellpower mechanic and the general homogenisation of caster gear for both healers and dps. Once again, shadow priests will have access to spirit on dps gear, buffing both our out-of-combat mana regeneration and our in-combat regeneration. You know those mind-boggling mp5 figures our holy brethren achieve? They could be ours too.

The other pleasant surprise comes with shadowform and the innate 30% threat reduction, which as Ho Ho pointed out in the last post, could easily negate the loss of blessing of salvation. If it works out that way. But that's only if we retain shadow affinity, our existing threat reduction talent. There's nothing in the post about it, but will Blizzard really allow us such massive threat reduction? Possibly. Or possibly it won't matter. In the shaman notes, alongside the message that tranquil air totem is being removed, Blizzard hinted at a general realignment of threat in game: "Threat is being addressed by modifications to the base threat of players and/or 'baked' into tanking abilities." Only time will tell.

The expected nerf to shadow word: pain was confirmed, the improved talent now increasing damage by 10% rather than two ticks (a drop of about 15%). And we can probably confer from the notes that we are loosing a hefty chunk of spell hit with the changes to shadow focus - even though the note itself is frustrating vague. Yes it's down from five points to three, but that could mean anything! Does it mean the actual hit is unchanged? Does it mean each point still grants 2% spell hit? Or does it mean the total spell hit provided is, like the alpha notes showed, now only 3%? They really ought to be more specific.

The only other surprise for me was was the change to the first tier of disciple. We are loosing wand specialisation, to be replaced by a flat 5% (at max rank) increase to spell damage and healing via twin faiths. This is good change to raiders of all specs, who had to pick up poor talents to get the meatier stuff further down the tree. But I can't help but feel a little sad. The days of my 700 wand crits are coming to an end.

Well, that's all for now I think. The most interesting things have yet to come. Let me know what you make of the talents anyway. And if you have a beta key, drop me a line.

18 July 2008

A night of disappointments

  • Zul'Aman raid cancelled
  • Quit guild in disgust
  • No beta invite
  • Blessing of salvation is being removed

More on the beta notes (and guild drama) when I've had time to order my thoughts.

17 July 2008

What other people say about spellsurge

I'm at that level of raiding where I can still compete in dps; I haven't yet lost the thrill of seeing my name at the top of Recount (or indeed, the misery of seeing it at the bottom). So when a priestly colleague of the holy variety told me I was getting spellsurge, I felt a small colnel of rebellion swell inside me even while I knew it would be futile to resist.

Spellsurge, in case you don't know, is a weapon enchant that has a chance on successful spell cast to restore 100 mana to everyone in the caster's party over 10 seconds. But as you can only have one enchant on your weapon at a time, it takes the place of the modest 40-damage or more glamorous soulfrost enchants, both of which cause more pain to baddies and are therefore far more appealing.

That's 40 (or 54) damage I won't be doing to my enemies, which seems like a lot. So I went in search of some sensible comparison of the two enchants. I found a cracking post from the Troll Priest which does just that. (Please come back to us Troll!)

It's not the answer I wanted. Apparently, on paper at least, spellsurge does return more mana to the party than soulfrost (via vampiric touch) — but at the expense of a bucket load of damage, which must also be taken into consideration. I have to ask as well just how necessary that extra mana is to the success of my raid? Has anyone died from lack of mana? Have we ever failed a boss because of it? The answer is very, very rarely.

Ultimately, Troll Priest argues in favour of an addon to automatically swap spellsurge in and out during the internal cooldown, which is probably a decent compromise. Now all I have to do is find a second weapon worthy of the enchant.

Incidentally, Matticus has an equally enlightening comparison of spellsurge to 81 healing, for you holy types. Again he concludes that you can probably settle for both with the right weapons.

15 July 2008

Could this be war brewing?

Thankfully, most of my readers put aside their Teletubby fetish to vote sensibly in the latest Misery poll. The results are a worry though. There's a strong split in opinion over our fishy friends the Murlocs. Will our alliance in Northrend appease or inflame this standoff? Only time will tell!

Meanwhile, I thought it was time to rake through some more familiar territory. Let's see who your friends would be if you could choose — and who wouldn't. Go vote now. Or wait a few weeks. I'll probably forget to take this one down too.

Spell haste and you

I promised to write about spell haste, didn't I? I will be more careful what I promise in future. Some of the discussions of haste are mind-numbingly obtuse. They make my eyes bleed. I don't have much direct experience of haste either, so can't claim to be an expert. I'm going to give you the idiot's guide instead. By that, I mean it's written by an idiot, not for them, so please take everything I say with a pinch of salt...

Know haste, love haste
Spell haste is a stat you find on some badge and raiding gear. It reduces the casting time of direct and channelled spells, and reduces the global cooldown (to a minimum of one second). It works in exactly the same way as other hasty effects you may know, such as bloodlust, berserking and icy veins. Effectively, it speeds up your spell rotation enabling you to do more damage in the same space of time.

It takes 15.7 haste rating to get 1% spell haste, and 1% spell haste will reduce the associated time by 1%. So with 1% spell haste, my 1.5-second mind blast is reduced to 1.485 seconds, and a 3-second mind flay will take 2.97 seconds. If I plucked from thin air the random figure of 30 and ascribed that as the average number of spells cast in one minute, I would be able to cast one additional spell in the space of 3 minutes, 20 seconds.

So you can see at small numbers it provides a very modest benefit that probably only kicks in on boss fights. But as your haste rating increases, the time at which the benefit kicks in gets shorter and you can squeeze more and more spells in.

Sort of.

Haste shmaste
What haste does not do is reduce your spell cooldowns. So even with haste, the time between your shadow word: deaths and mind blasts will never shrink. The best you can hope for is that haste presents you with more opportunities to use them.

Neither does it affect the duration of your dots. That's annoying, because it means that while you may be saving time on each spell cast, your spell rotation is still essentially anchored to the fifteen-second cycle of vampiric touch.

If my maths is correct, it will take somewhere between 11-12% haste to save enough time for an extra cast between vampiric touches. Before that point — and indeed, after it — you must either cast an extra spell and live with the lost up-time, or recast straight away and overlap.

Overlapping dots is clearly the lesser of two evils. It probably isn't going to hurt your dps, but it is going to eat into your mana. This on top of the fact that you are casting quicker anyway. So haste is a double-edged sword — you will do more damage faster, but you will run out of mana quicker.

The misery verdict
If I were one of those single spell-spamming classes, like a mage or a destro lock, I would eat haste up with a spoon. It's a no-brainer — cast more often, crit more, do more damage. But I'm not. I'm essentially a dot class, whose damage and utility is dependent upon maintaining maximum uptime of spells that remain infuriatingly intractable to haste. Is that right? Is that fair? I don't know. But it's not something that's going to change any time soon.

Spell haste can and will enable me to set up those dots faster, and cast faster in-between applications. So there is a dps boost. But I am deeply suspicious of any claim that haste is of more than marginal interest to shadow priests in its current form. I've seen one claim that says 1 spell haste equals 1 spell damage at 1400 spell damage. That was for locks, so I'm not sure if the claim is made across the board. Either way, that's a figure I can only aspire too, but I promise I will keep my mind open as I pick up more haste.

9 July 2008

Quagmirran's eye versus darkmoon card: crusade

This is what you could probably term a statement of the bleedin' obvious. But I've written it now so you're getting it anyway.

If you follow my blog you may remember I spent many agonising months grinding heroic slave pens, waiting for the final boss to drop his trinket, quagmirran's eye. If badges had not been an issue, I would simply have bought the icon of the silver crescent instead and been happy at that. The icon beats the eye in all ways. But I was saving my badges for a weapon. The irony is not lost on me that I didn't buy the weapon but instead only this week bought the icon after all. But I'm not going to dwell on that.

So now I have both the icon and the eye, as well as a third trinket, darkmoon card: crusade. But only two trinket slots. Choices choices.

The icon goes in slot one. It provides a flat spell damage increase of 43, plus a boost of 155 for 20 seconds every two minutes. That's dreamy. My dilemma is which of the eye and the card to pick for slot two. Here's what they do:

Quagmirran's eye: increases damage and healing done by magical spells and effects by up to 37; harmful spells have a chance to increase spell haste rating by 320 for 6 secs.

Darkmoon card: crusade: Equip: harmful spells landing on an opponent gives you 8 spell damage for 10 seconds, stacking up to 10 times.

Quagmirran's eye provides a flat increase to spell damage plus a random spell haste bonus. The haste bonus, I can tell you from experience, will reduce casting times and the global cooldown by about a sixth. This proc essentially enables you to do more damage in the same space of time, so in that respect the trinket is the equivalent of more than just the 37 spell damage it provides on equip. But I don't know how to calculate its true worth so for the basis of this comparison I'm going to ignore the haste proc.

The darkmoon card increases your spell damage by 8 every time an offensive spell successfully lands. (It also works for melee but we won't go there). It stacks up to 10 times, so at maximum increases spell damage by 80. This buff lasts 10 seconds, but is renewed every time another offensive spell lands so as long as you are casting it remains active. Helpfully, non-damaging harmful spells, such as vampiric embrace, proc the effect; resists, player buffs and heals do not. Also, it's useful to know that this buff carries through regardless of your target — you could dot up 10 different mobs or focus-fire on one, the buff will still stack nicely.

The eye then has a head start. It will take you five successful casts to stack the card buff to a point where it provides a greater spell damage increase than the eye. This will take you at least 7.5 seconds — actually nine, when you consider you won't get the benefit of the buff till your following spell cast. During these opening seconds with the card, your spell damage is inferior to the eye, but it will get better as you continue casting. I'm no theorycrafter, but if it took 7.5 seconds to bring you on par with the eye, I assume it will take an equal time of constant casting to break even in damage done. In other words, in a dps race between the eye and the card, it will take the card 15 seconds to pull alongside, and then ahead, of the eye.

In practice, it won't work quite this neatly. Your spell rotations will vary, lag will affect cast times, and the nature of the encounter may necessitate periods of moving or doing other things, not to mention the fact that we're working using 1.5 second cast times and mind flays are 3. In reality, it would take a fair bit longer than 15 seconds for the trinkets to draw level. But remember that your dots get the benefit of your spell damage at the time of casting, not as they tick along, so even if the card buff is not fully stacked, it might still be the better option for dps.

My general rule of thumb is this: If a fight is long enough for you to apply a second vampiric touch, the card is probably the better trinket. On boss fights, it almost certainly is, but this is probably true equally on fights with short-lived trash mobs — providing you are able to move from one target to the next without dropping the buff.

My conclusion: darkmoon card: crusade is the best trinket for raiding and instances. You see? Bleeedin' obvious. Ho hum.

But I'm not getting rid of quagmirran's eye just yet. It's still the better trinket for grinding. Nothing takes 15 seconds to kill and I never cast 10 spells per mob. In fact, I rarely cast more than four or five before switching to a wand. By the time I arrive at the next mob, chances are the card buff has dropped off. It's rather annoying to know I now have yet more things to switch between when grinding or grouping. At this rate, I may even think about getting a costume addon. But at least I know I've made the right choice in raiding trinkets.

8 July 2008

Answered prayers

Clap, dance, sing, jump, tra la la Misery has a new knife! I'm still pinching myself. I'm just not this lucky with loot. I owe our mage big time for not rolling against me. We're going to get her Aran's shoulders, I promise.

To celebrate, I shed a single, silent tear for the scryer's blade and blew 136 badges on other stuff. I got the fused nethergon band (who needs diamonds), the icon of the silver crescent and runed spell cuffs.

These last two items have given me wonderful fodder for future blog posts: namely, what the hell use is spell haste to me, and what do I do with my trinkets now?

And I'm only 6 badges away from the carved witch doctor's stick. Ignore what I said yesterday: shopping is great.

7 July 2008

Hoarding for Horde

I have 152 badges burning a hole in my pocket. I have toiled for months to amass them. I have fantasised and dreamed about the weapon they will buy me since the vendor arrived. But I can't bring myself to spend them.

I know the weapon is a good one, it is probably the best weapon I will ever have access to in Outland. But I also know the minute I spend my badges I'll be showered with modestly decent alternatives.

Last night we cleared up to Prince. Tonight we'll go in there to smack his demon butt and he could drop the mindblade (if I can remember to step back from the shadow nova). Ok, so it's not the scryer's blade, but it's acceptable. Acceptable enough that I could splash out on three or four other pieces of badge gear instead. So I'll wait for Prince first.

And if he doesn't drop the blade? Or I don't win it? Will I bite the bullet?

I think the credit crunch is getting to me. I'm already farming like mad on half-a-dozen toons to keep Merlot in consumables (the WoW equivalent of taking sandwiches to work), even though it's probably a false economy. I could surely make more gold on dailies than I save on consumables: I just can't bring myself to pay those outlandish prices.

Somebody give me a slap. I'm being thrifty with imaginary money!

4 July 2008

Counting the cost of turnover

In business, staff turnover is the rate at which people join and leave a company. The quicker people come and go, the higher the turnover. In some industries, where the work is seasonal or the staff base is transient, high turnover is a way of life. Travel and tourism, which often employs students, is a prime example. But high turnover can be very costly to an organisation both in terms of recruitment and productivity so most companies strive for a low staff turnover. A high figure can often be symptomatic of problems within the business.

The same can be said of guilds.

Think of it this way. A guild invests time and effort recruiting. It takes time for the new members to settle in, get to know existing members, find their place in the guild, learn the ropes. The guild invests further time, sometimes even gold and resources, on gearing up the new members, teaching them strategies and ways of working. Perhaps some of the long-established members take a step back in their progression to help out. In return for this care and investment, the new members are expected to contribute to the guild in whatever capacity they have jointly agreed.

When this agreement breaks down, productivity (i.e. progression) suffers, morale plummets, sickness and absence jumps and, inevitably, people leave.

High staff turnover can often be traced back to two simple factors: either employees are dissatisfied with their work, conditions, or compensation, or too few employees are performing to expectations.

Break these down further and you might find a dozen or more root causes, from low pay to poor health and safety. The point to remember about staff turnover, whether in your company or your guild, is that it's a warning sign — a great big flashing neon sign, a screaming siren that indicates something very serious is wrong.

If your guild suddenly starts haemorrhaging members, you need to ask yourself why. What is causing them to leave and what are you going to do to prevent it happening again? Because if you are loosing long-standing members, then chances are more recent recruits will have even less reason to stick around. As damaging as it can be to have long-standing members leave, it is much, much worse for your guild to have members come and go repeatedly, never finding their place in the ranks, never contributing, never growing as players. You will find yourself in a vicious cycle of recruit/recover/recruit/recover, your progress arrested, your underlying issues festering and spreading all the while. And every person who leaves your guild dissatisfied is liable to share their experience with friends, further reducing your potential pool of recruits.

Guilds can't weather high turnover the way companies can. If they don't act to stem the flood of members quickly, they may never recover. The survival is dependent upon the guild's ability to recognise changing circumstances and its willingness to tackle them. Successful guilds will evolve to find a new player base, a new direction in WoW; guilds that ignore the signs will simply die or fade away.

2 July 2008

My take on the pvp question

BBB has opened up a can of worms over the relative merits and availability of pvp gear. Well, you know what I think about pvp gear. There is something seriously wrong with itemisation in Warcraft that encourages — practically forces — players to pvp for gear in order to progress pve content. But BBB's challenge is not to whine the loudest but to find a way to balance gear effectively in end game, so I'll stop whining and start thinking.

What's all the fuss about?
Pvp gear is easy to acquire relative to pve gear. You don't have to win to achieve anything, you don't even have to kill anyone, although it's quicker if you do. You just have to take part and know that your reward is waiting for you. No boss strategies to master, no unlucky drop runs to overcome. And in many cases the gear is better. For certain slots, it can beat anything you would fine before 25-man raids. So your average player starts grinding honour long before 70 in anticipation of a buying binge when they finally ding. The more reluctant pvper will maybe do some research, like BBB, and find a certain pvp reward is their best option for a particular slot and spend a couple of weeks in the battlegrounds to buy it.

So what?

Well, what this system does is discriminate against the players who don't like pvp. Someone who prefers pve content may work for months to collect the badges and luck-out on the drops to get gear that comes so easily to people who grind honour. The pvp route does nothing to teach a player how to behave in a pve encounter nor does it contribute anything to the life of a pve guild, yet that pvp player can quite easily take a raid spot from someone who consistently organises and attends heroics and raids and has helped a guild stay active and progress.

Anyone who tells you to suck it up and grind that honour because the pvp rewards are streets ahead of equivalent raiding gear is Missing The Point. You shouldn't have to, and in one sense the game doesn't require it. Any raid can progress on gear only available via pve routes. That's the whole point of the raid progression system. If an encounter required pvp gear, earlier bosses would be dropping it.

The problem then is not with the game, but with the gear. Either it is too easily obtainable, or the quality relative to pve gear is imbalanced.

An easy fix
BBB considers several ways to address the issue, including making pvp gear harder to obtain and making it only usable in pvp scenarios, but neither are particularly pretty solutions. They only result in discrimination in other ways. He concludes by saying he thinks pve gear should be as easy to obtain as pvp gear, therefore removing the incentive for players to grind honour for gear. I don't think this is a solution either, because while it might help put pve players on an equal footing with their pvp counterparts it doesn't address what I think is one of the most irritating consequences of pvp gear — that you can walk straight into a raid spot without spending any time learning to play with your team mates or contributing to the guild. And besides, pve gear is just fine thank you very much, it's a challenge to acquire and a suitable reward and the progression between encounters is good enough — it's pvp gear that's at fault.

So when I look for a solution of my own I find that it already exists in the game. Blizzard has already introduced mechanics to balance the different gear — remember resilience? Spell penetration? Hit rating? Mp5? These are all features of gear that bring greater benefit to one aspect of the game. The problem is they just aren't balanced properly. When a shadow priest only needs a few items to max out spell hit, it doesn't matter that pvp gear has none. When a druid tank finds resilience is the best stat for improving their performance in pve encounters, they are obviously going to hit the bgs. So the answer to this problem is right in front of us — we simply tweak the game mechanics to more strongly polarise the need for certain features in each aspect of the game. If you turned up to Karazhan in full gladiator gear you simply shouldn't be able to perform. It already works like that in one direction — if I walked into an arena in my Kara kit I'd be squashed like a bug. So why doesn't it work the other way round?

1 July 2008

Putting quests into perspective

If you've ever taken stock of the number and scale of the quests facing you in Outland and shrunk back from the task through sheer intimidation, a shadow priest called Apanthrone on the US Bleeding Hollow server might have exactly what you need.

The volume of quests in Outland is staggering. Three times I have managed to ding 70 without even stepping foot in Netherstorm or Shadowmoon Valley. On one occasion, I hadn't even made it to Blade's Edge Mountains. This is great for your bank account, as you rack up the gold instead of experience. But the quests lines at seventy are massive, dragging you all over Outland and into instances and raids. Unless you luck out and find a bunch of people on the same quest line at the same time, it's all a bit overwhelming. And when you are faced with repeating the same quests multiple times on different toons, you'd be forgiven for passing them over in favour of your bog-standard dailies: easier gold in less time.

At least, that's how I've always looked at it. Maybe if I'd stopped to consider the story behind the quest, it might have felt differently. But as it stands, one thing that has always put me off progressing with the end-game quests is the sheer scale of the task. Apanthrone's answer was to take all the major quest lines and put them in one brilliant chart. I've seen this done for raid attunement before but never full quest lines. If, like me, you find yourself grinding primals or finishing up dailies because you can't think what else to do, this could be your ticket back into the game. I love it.