29 January 2009

3.0.8a — small patch, big cockup

Patch 3.0.8a has been a complete bork for many Europeans but the Blizz geeks are remaining loftily silent on the matter.

Yesterday, I along with hundreds of other players, had problems downloading the patch. Blizzard's new downloader reported the tracker unavailable. We checked firewall settings, followed the usual patch-day advice, to no effect. Dozens of threads on the technical support forums containing hundreds of cogent reports and requests for help received only a token blue response.

For some, the problem resolved itself, but for many others, including myself, we were forced to turn to patch mirrors for the download.

This in itself is fine. It worked. But it's completely unacceptable. It puts my computer at risk from malicious software and it does nothing to address the issue.

In a very polite request on the forums, I asked if Blizzard had identified the problem and taken action to fix it for the next patch. That thread was locked without response. Other such requests have received the same stoney treatment.

When hundreds of people all report the same symtoms, having had no prior issues with patching, having made no software or hardware changes, having no other perceived problems with their computer, and having followed all available official advice to diagnose and correct potential causes, you must at least accept the possibility that these are not all local issues. It does not take a genius to work out that the common factor among all of these complaints is... Blizzard. New downloader? First public appearance? Now what could possibly be causing this widespead patching failure?

I accept there are going to be problems. Blizzard rushed this patch, no surprise there. But I resent having my fault report dismissed with a condescending flick of the wrist, as if the only possible explanation is my own stupidity. Am I not paying for this service? Is it asking too much to want an official acknowledgement of the inconvenience caused? And perhaps some reassurance that we will not have to go through this trouble again at the next patch?

22 January 2009

Herding cats, Blizzard style

What the 3.0.8 patch notes should have said:

Fixed bug with shadow word: death that would apply two stacks of shadow weaving.

Introduced bug with mind flay that applies two stacks of shadow weaving.

21 January 2009

Sex workers call time on missing favourite

DALARAN. The female workers of Dalaran's seedy Sunreaver's inn have launched an appeal after their most popular — and generous — patron went missing.

Troll priest Dralban — who, it must be said, lives more to the spirit than the letter of his calling — was last seen five days ago celebrating the death of black dragonflight honcho Sartharion.

The girls are offering a reward of twelve northern stew and a lap dance for any information that leads to the good-time cleric's safe return.

"It's not the same without him," pouted one of the bar's many buxom wenches, picking her teeth. "Nope," agreed another. "My tips are down twenty per cent."

20 January 2009

(Off topic) A new hope?


I'm watching news coverage of the US presidential inaugration and I'm getting goose-bumps. I'm not even American. Most of history's momentous occasions pass us by, or else go unrecognised, but it feels like I am right in the middle of this one. I've never known a public figure to ignite so much hope and optimism on such a universal scale. I know right now he is the most important person of my generation. And not just because he's the first US president to play World of Warcraft. Although I expect mages to be buffed considerably in the next patch. No matter what happens next, he has already achieved something remarkable and I wish him the best of luck for the future. Just wanted to get that off my chest :)


When guilds run out of steam

Seeing as the last post fell flat as a board, I'm back on more familiar, dear-diary angst-ridden reportage. This week, we have Guild News. (You only have yourself to blame...)

As guild news goes, this isn't terribly dramatic. It is the Switzerland of guild news. But it's still the biggest thing to happen to me in game for several weeks, so I'm going to write about it anyway.

Last Thursday it took two hours to get ten people into OS. That's right, it took longer to form the raid than to execute it. It took us time to pug a slot here, a slot there, and we bled players even as we worked to plug the holes. We finally made it in there. We hadn't even wiped when someone had to go to bed, another quit for no apparent reason, there were brbs left right and centre. It was agony, and the last straw for a guild that has been loosing members to boredom, Xbox and real life since the expansion.

We have been stuck in this vicious circle for some time now. If you aren't enjoying your experience of the game, you may look to change your circumstances (e.g. find a new guild) or find another way to occupy your time. Either way, you are less likely to be around when the next raiding opportunity arises. This is the long, slow death-by-attrition of a casual guild that has lost its momentum.

But what can you do? We are friends now, we like playing together, even though when you sit down and work out who's generally online with you the list is alarmingly small. A recruitment drive just hasn't worked. There are way too many guilds in a similar position, with more to offer when it comes to raiding. (Guild glut perhaps?)

So we have approached another guild, not so much to merge but to immerse. They will take all of our members who want to move, and in return we offer them a small but dedicated number of raid-ready players who will potentially swell their numbers enough to enter 25-man content.

It's not without its drawbacks. Many of our players have history with this other guild, and not all of it good. And a new guild means new rules, for the first time some of us will face competition for raid slots, we'll have to start performing again.

But I think the benefits outweigh that. For one, we owe it to ourselves and our members to open up raiding opportunities to those who want them. And even on a social level, a bigger guild is almost always a positive. You may not be raiding, but chances are there will be other activities, more active chat, and more people around to help you out when you need it.

We broke the news to the few members that were online last night. Mostly, I think it went down well. There were only one or two complaints of the 'we should try and make it work' variety and the most vocal of these came from a player who took their main raiding character to another guild about a year ago. The irony was lost on them.

My biggest worry now is how to pitch myself when I arrive. My game plan is clearly to get back to shimmery purple goodness, but how? Some of them have already seen me tossing out frisbees and holy balls (my new name for penance). I probably need to do some research ahead of the move. See if they are short of healers or dps, whether they have regular replenishment, and what level of dps I would have to put out to compete for a shadow slot. I'm under geared for anything but entry level raiding so it's not going to be easy. And I'd have to re-gem. Again. Sigh.

But things, I would say, on balance, are looking up.

19 January 2009

Warcraft the movie: rejected scenes #13

The cast:

Gorlak: orc warrior. Our intrepid hero, gruff-yet-honourable, driven to redeem his father's name but tortured by self doubt and the knowledge that one day his battle prowess will be put to the ultimate test.
Greatfather Nim: tauren shaman. Battle-weary self-appointed spiritual guide to the troubled Gorlak. Wields terrifying elemental powers but tortured by self-doubt and the knowledge that one day he may not be around to protect his daughter, Moosha.
Moosha: tauren apprentice shaman. Plucky teenager, eager to please but tortured by self-doubt and the knowledge that one day her healing powers will be put to the ultimate test.
Arnold: forsaken rogue. Harbours violent hatred for Gorlak's enemies, for unknown reasons. Vows loyalty to our intrepid hero but his secrecy and rotting flesh lead to tension and mistrust among the allies. Tortured by the loss of his family and the memories of his life before the plague. Has no self-doubt though.
Fluffy white bunny: Arnold's companion.

Our misfit band of adventurers arrive at the gates of Zul Morte, the ruins of an ancient and evil troll empire. The dark, foreboding city stretches far in every direction.

Moosha: Where are we?
Arnold (spitting): Zul Morte.
Greatfather Nim (troubled): I have heard of this place.
Arnold: Once, it was the greatest of troll empires. But that was before their arrogance and ignorance led them to unleash the terrifying power that consumed them. They died of stupidity. Now their dim-witted spirits haunt the ruins. But the greater evil lives on.
Moosha: Greater... evil?
Gorlak: Trolls! Why does it always have to be trolls!
Greatfather Nim: We should not be here.
Gorlak: I am not afraid.
Arnold: You will be!
Greatfather Nim: It is folly to proceed.
Gorlak: It will takes months of travelling to go around. I say we continue.
Greatfather Nim: Very well. If you insist...
Moosha: Wait! That sign says five man.
Gorlak: Huh?
Moosha: Well, there are only four of us.
(Gorlak begins to count.)
Greatfather Nim: We should find another.
Moosha: But where? This place is deserted.
Greatfather Nim: Arnold, do you know anyone?
Arnold: I know many. But none from these parts.
Greatfather Nim: Gorlak?
(Gorlak continues counting.)
Greatfather Nim: Well I suppose we could ask your mother.
Moosha: But she's a healer too.
Greatfather Nim: Then I shall commune with the spirits.
(Greatfather Nim enters a trance.)
Gorlak (grandly): There are only four of us. We should find another.
(Arnold rolls his eyes, Moosha studies the floor.)
Gorlak: We need crowd control.
Moosha and Arnold (together): What's that?
Gorlak: You know, like polymorph and freezing trap.
Arnold: I can sap as long as we're not in combat.
(Gorlak and Moosha look confused.)
Arnold: It is famed that this city once contained grand treasures. I need a new dagger.
Moosha: What is this... greater evil you spoke of?
Arnold: Oh that. An Old God is said to rule over the ruins. But he's easy when you know how.
Gorlak: Enough! It's getting late, let's just do this. Nim, come.
(Greatfather Nim stares, unmoving.)
Gorlak: Great, now we've lost the shaman.
Moosha: He is communing with the spirits.
(Arnold snorts.)
Gorlak (poking Greatfather Nim): Hey!
Greatherfather Nim (shaking the trance): I have returned from the spirits. Apparently we can do this with just four. Let's go...
(They head towards the ruins, sand whipping up in their wake.)
Arnold: Has anyone got any food?

Fade to white. End scene.

15 January 2009

Priest Q&A

Just in case you haven't seen it reported elsewhere, ghostcrawler took part in a priest Q&A today. It's focused on healing, and in particular there's a lot about discipline pve healing which is all very interesting and (I think) encouraging. Go take a look (link courtesy of mmo champion, thank you!)

Blackout on borrowed time

Ghostcrawler popped up in this thread to talk about, tangentially, random proc stuns. The original post was actually all about the upcoming changes to starfall but buried deep in ghostcrawler's response was a chilling message to shadow priests:

We have been waging a long war against random proc stuns. We managed to clean up several of them when we changed mace spec, but like vermin, they sometimes crop up again. The Death and Decay glyph and Starfall with Celestial Focus were the two greatest offenders because they affect multiple targets. We will almost certainly be phasing out the single target random stuns (such as the Starfire stun of Celestial Focus and Blackout) as well. We didn't do that yet because it involves changing several talents and in some cases we will need to provide compensation.

I'm a big fan of blackout. (Didn't that proc rate used to be 15% by the way?) It's not something I'd recommend for raiding but it's a really neat spell for levelling and general grinding - and I'm sure it can be pretty powerful in pvp.

What we can expect to see in its place is uncertain. But if you're currently specced into this talent, enjoy it while you can.

14 January 2009

Patchwerk? Don't even bother

I ventured into Naxxramas for the first time last night. Still healing :(

We started in the arachnid quarter with two healers. For my first healing raid, it was a bit hairy. Anub'Rekhan took three attempts. On each wipe, I lost the tank; first time because I got silenced by insect swarm, second time because I got impaled and ended up out of range while the tank was kiting. A dps warrior helpfully told me to stay on the tank next time. Gotcha.

We lost a dps at this point and replaced them with a healer. Less pressure versus longer fights — I'm not sure which I'd take. (I'm in two minds about three-person healing, more on this another time.)

Either way, Grand Widow Faerlina was much easier. We wiped once when a retadin killed all four adds on the first frenzy. (Melee again, you see a pattern?) Otherwise, nothing to report. We came, we smacked, we looted.

At this point, we decided to skip Maexxna and go play with Patchwerk. Don't ask me why. I think we thought Patchwerk would be easier. I now know the folly of that misconception.

Don't get me wrong, I know that Patchwerk is probably an easier fight technically. Even for the healers, where chain casting and healing through hateful strikes is a mana drain, it's still a pretty simple proposition. But I didn't really appreciate the numbers involved until I read up about the fight this morning.

With 4,320,000 hit points and a 6 minute enrage, a 10-man Patchwerk requires a combined raid dps of 12,000. Let's say the tank and offtank can put out 1,000 dps. (Is that a good estimate?) We took three healers, so that means the five dps each have to maintain 2,000 dps for the entire fight. That's pretty sobering. Three of our dps were significantly short of that. We had lost the fight before we even began.

It didn't help that our the two melee dps couldn't manage their agro and got smashed by hateful strikes in the first 20 seconds. Twice. Even with three healers, we couldn't react quick enough. (If you play melee, let me know: is this tricky? Am I being harsh on them? How hard is it to stay third on threat?)

On healing, I'd say we will be fine. I would even possibly consider dropping one healer for the extra dps next time we attempt him. As long as the tanks and melee know what they're doing, the healing is quite manageable, if a little intense. With three healers, there was so much duplication and overhealing I'm not sure how much value that extra person adds. I think if they were a different class of healer, it might have been different. A chain-healing shaman or a hot-headed druid might have worked quite well, but we were three priests, each throwing out our biggest heals possible.

But on dps, we have a lot of work to do before we venture back into Construct. I think we'll be sticking to Arachnid and Plague from now on.

9 January 2009

Mind flay (sort of) fixed?

You'd have to be in a coma to miss the latest splurge of patch note posts across the blogosphere so it probably won't come as a surprise to read that patch 3.0.8 is looking pretty imminent.

Remember the original notes mentioned something about a mind flay targetting bug? Well that particular note has now been updated:

Mind Flay - Fixed a bug with targeting where you would not deal damage if not facing the target while channeling. Also corrected an issue where the damage from this ability was slightly delayed.

I'm not sure if this is an entire fix or only a partial one. "Slight delay" doesn't seem to describe fully what's going on with mind flay's ticks, but it does at least sound like Blizzard is addressing the problem.

I still see nothing about the issue with pain and suffering, where it ignores shadow weaving when refreshing shadow word: pain. The only possibility is this rather cryptic bug fix:

Shadow Word: Pain now will gain the correct damage modifiers for the creature type of the target.

Warlocks have a couple of similarly mystifying fixes. I was under the impression our spells hit all types of creature equally, but I'm not ashamed to stretch the plausible and hope that 'damage modifiers' might include shadow weaving with pain and suffering.

Edit: Ho Ho points out in the comments this probably refers to racial bonuses.

If anybody knows any better, please shout out.

8 January 2009

Zuramat the obliterator

Ok, Violet Hold heroic. It's an easy one. I can heal this. If we get the voidwalker, I'll cry. I can't heal that crazy shit. Oh shit. We got the voidwalker. Turn on V. Tell everyone else to turn on V. Kill the beacon things. How am I going to kill the beacon things? What does the debuff look like? Oh fuck, heal tank. Prayer of mending, shield, penance. Woa, where'd mage's health go? Shield mage, cast great... wha? Shield hunter. Shield on cooldown. Now shield hunter. Shield me. Wait, penance tank. Damn, prayer of mending again. Now heal me. Heal hunter. Heal mage. Heal... whatever, other dps. Shit, everyone needs healing at once. Flash, flash... what are those red bars? Oh my god I've got the debuff. What do I do? What should I do? Mind sear. Where's my mind sear button? That was fade dammit. Damn heal bar shit. Ok, holy nova. Run in, holy nova. Oo, nice big green numbers. How'd I do that? Oh shit, shield me. Shield me? Erm, quick heal. Flash heal. And PoM tank. Why do I always forget the frisbee? Omg, holy nova fast! Just spam holy nova! Why is their health not moving? Why are they standing over there? Quick, shield, cast great... Serves them right for standing over... shit, shield, penance, PoM... oh thank god. Over. I miss shadow. You can't pay me enough for this shit.

7 January 2009

Calling all EU casuals

There's only a slim chance anyone reading this is on the Darkspear realm, even slimmer you're horde and homeless. But I'm a believer in the long shot so here goes...

Freak on a Leash are recruiting!

We're a fun, friendly, casual guild in need of a few more dps and one or two healers to be able to raid 10 mans on a regular basis.

We we will be raiding two or three times a week on week nights, from about 20.00 gt.

There are no scary initiations, no stern spec or gear inspections. You don't even have to come to us raid-ready. We're looking for regular players with a good attitude and the desire to experience new content at a leisurly pace with a bunch of mates.

If that sounds like you, drop Merlot a whisper in-game or contact anyone in the Freak on a Leash guild to ask about joining.

What happened to crowd control?

If my experience is anything to go by, crowd control has gone the way of the dinosaur. And I have to say, as dps with limited options, this makes me do a jig. But as a healer with less than impeccable reactions and a spiky connection, it gives me the willies.
What's going on? In BC, you couldn't get a pug without two solid cc options. Wasn't that the reason Blizzard buffed roots and repentence, introduced hex? Now you run through heroics and you'll be hard pressed to even spot a sheep or trap.
Do mobs hit for less now? Can tanks hold that much more threat?
To be fair, the tanks don't seem to mind, although the rare feral drood I've seen struggles more than most on group pulls. Swipe's great as long as the mobs all line up nicely in front of you. And how often does that happen?
Still, I quite liked crowd control. It was an added dimension to the dps role and it made life easier for the healer.
I guess it would take a substantial increase in trash difficulty or a huge nerf to tanking to change things now so it looks like we're stuck with it. But it makes me a little sentimental. Am I the only one pining for the old oh-shit-a-five-mob-pull-we're-all-doomed days?

6 January 2009

Heal me!

Sorry for the extra long silence. I've got devouring plague :( New year was a right-off and I'm still trying to shake it off. It's apparently immune to dispel mechanics.

And while we're on the subject of victims, Merlot became the latest in a long line of devout shadow priests to... turn healer. It won't be permanent but while we're struggling to field 10 players for a simple it raid it may be a necessity. And clearly, as you wouldn't want a healer to walk into a raid not having thrown a flash heal before, I've been running some five mans in my spec of choice.

I've gone deep discipline and, surprisingly, I'm finding it a bit of a hoot. I suppose my heals would hit harder holy, and I miss circle of healing even though I've never had it, but there's a lot in discipline to recommend it. Penance is a really fun spell while discipline's focus on intellect and crit instead of spirit means my dps gear is ideal (I just need to get rid of some hit).

Don't look at my spec — I built it in a rush and made a couple of mistakes (I wouldn't take improved renew, and wouldn't forget to pick up pain suppression). I don't even know how long it will last — I'm still determined to claw back my shadow status. But for now, I'm not as miserable as I thought I would be.