30 June 2009

They're doing WHAT?

A steam-powered auctioneer has been added to the Dalaran Like Clockwork engineering shop, allowing access to one's faction auction house. The steam-powered auctioneer was programmed with a superiority chip, and will only interact with grand master engineers.

Forget that rogues can eat me in one faceroll, or that paladins can solo ANYTHING. This is the only thing worth fighting for in the whole of WoW. I want a dalaran auctioneer too, dammit!

28 June 2009

*Doilies sold separately

Online game-playing grandparents are notoriously difficult to buy for. Thankfully, we can all now breathe a sigh of relief as Blizzard comes to the rescue with a new series of WoW pet figureines. You read that correctly.

Meet Speedy, yours for only €27.95. Also available are Stinker and Rocket Bot. The set of three is a snip at €68.85. What do you think, is this Blizzard's attempt to crack the QVC market?

26 June 2009

Misery in mourning

I'm too emotional to write a proper post this morning. Yesterday the world lost a very great musician — and I had to learn about it in trade. In trade. There's no way to take that back. His passing will now forever be associated in my head with paedo jokes and bad spelling. I'm going to need a lot of therapy before I can ever listen to Ben again.

In the meantime, if you're joining us for the first time from wow.com (thank you Mike Schramm!) I can only apologise for the hiatus and appeal for your help. Let me know what you'd like to see here in future and I'll get right on that just as soon as I'm over the shock.

PS. OMG, Farrah too! Somebody pass me a valium!

19 June 2009

Groundhog day, replenishment style

I'm not a fan of replenishment. I have not been shy in sharing this. I think it's a clumsy, unsophisticated mechanic, the proverbial nut-cracking sledgehammer. It doesn't fit with the nature of any class that provides it, its benefits are wildly unbalanced across a raid group and it scales crazily. Replenishment is the elephant in the room, a significant cause of Blizzard's mana regeneration headache and the single biggest reason why they are apparently struggling so much to solve it.

So it comes as no surprise that it's getting nerfed in patch 3.2, though it does provoke from me much tutting, eye rolling and exasperated sighs.

The nerf — reducing the effect from .25 per cent of maximum mana per second to 1 per cent of maximum mana over 5 seconds — represents a 20 per cent reduction in the buff's effectiveness. I'm not sure how the shift from a standard rolling return to a ticking 5-second return will be enacted. Right now, replenishment lasts 15 seconds. Does this mean it now lasts only 5? That could mean a bigger nerf than the numbers imply. For now, I'm going to assume best case scenario which says over the course of an average fight mana users simply receive 20 per cent less mana from replenishment than they do now.

However the nerf manifests, the effect is impossible to quantify on paper. Replenishment depends on many factors, not limited to the number of sources in a raid, the number of mana users, the maximum mana pools of targets, the remaining mana of targets, and the effectiveness of the sources in maintaining the buff. But we can see clearly how this nerf affects all mana users equally. Holy priest? 20 per cent less. Arcane mage? 20 per cent less. Enhancement shaman? 20 per cent less.

Can we then assume that Blizzard considers all mana users to have it too good right now?

Well, actually, no we can't. Blizzard has only shown any real concern (to date) about three groups of players — healing priests, healing druids and healing paladins. As far as this nerf goes, the rest of us are just collateral damage. The joke is, this change will probably hurt those it is targeted at least of all because they have the highest base mana regeneration to start with and have probably prioritised intellect much more than anyone else.

In a warped, twisted way, Blizzard are right to target replenishment — again. It IS a problem, just not in the way they think. Replenishment IS too powerful — but only for SOME players. They have created a monster. The only way to fix this problem is to scrap it and start again. Get rid of replenishment, manage each class on its own terms and in its own ways, then you can be confident of actually achieving your goals, not just condemning yourself to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

18 June 2009

Target healing priests, cast slap

The 3.2 patch notes are out and notable by their rather blunt and brief address of priests:
  • Prayer of Healing: The percentage of spell power this spell gains in healing (per target) has been reduced from 80.7% to 52.6%.
  • Penance: Cooldown increased to 12 seconds, up from 10 seconds.
  • Inspiration: The buff from this ability now reduces the physical damage taken by the target by 3/7/10% instead of increasing the target's armor.
Ouch and ouch. The third bullet may or may not be awful, someone put me out of my misery.

And that's it? Shadow? Not even on the radar.

17 June 2009

Merlot gets serious

There's a mage on my server called bumboy and a paladin called gayelf. If either of these names make you snigger this post probably isn't for you.

I'm far from impressed and vaguely offended, but to be honest, I'm not sure why.

First, let's rule out any squeamishness on my part. These words do not offend me. I am not so sensitive that I blanche from a little moderate slang. I recognise that the meaning of a word is not an absolute, that the intentions of the users and the social context of their usage are essential to correct interpretation. What I mean is, my best friends can call me a moron and I will laugh it off, but if my boss says the same thing I may react very differently.

So I need to understand why these players chose these particular names.

Does anyone here think these are gay men reclaiming their sexuality through a video game? Spider pride? No, me neither.

And a quick flick through google effectively rules out any translation errors. We can safely assume bumboy does not, incredulously, mean something innocuous in Turkish.

The most likely explanation is the one I jumped to instinctively when I first saw the names. I am meant to be offended. While I can't hope to fully understand what passed for thought in these players at the character creation screen, it's safe to assume it was not benevolent goodwill to all humanity.

There is something very immature and threatening about someone who chooses a term of hostility as their most visible identifier. It may just be a childish in-joke, not an intentional act of hatred, but it carries the same consequences. The best you can say about these players is they lack empathy.

I may well have over-reacted, it depends on your triggers. What one person may think passes for humour, another will deeply resent. How do you feel about spastic, rapist, spic? In reality, it's not so easy to know where to draw the line.

So while I can't necessarily explain my reaction, I stand by it. Life is full enough of unpleasantness, without it spilling over into a fantasy life that many of us use as an escape from that shit to start with.

16 June 2009

Off topic: we're all pirates in this war

Nothing to do with WoW or shadow priests, just wanted to share this interesting analysis of some recent anti-piracy hype from Ben Goldacre. Ben, for those who don't know, deconstructs media misreporting of science issues on his brilliant Bad Science blog, as well as in the Guardian column of the same name. In a world of vapid, pop-tart celebrities and publicity vampires, Ben is a rare beacon of integrity and talent, one of only two living people to make my last supper guest list (Cher's the other).

A recent report by a UK government agency claimed seven million Britons were depriving the economy of £12 billion a year through illegal file sharing and the papers were content to repeat the number parrot-fashion, without any understanding of where it came from or what it actually means.

This is shamelessly lazy reporting. Does anyone really think those people would be spending over £1,700 a year if it wasn't for the intranet? And that's if you take the numbers at face value, without questioning how the agency priced those goods to start with. The actual research is a whole other can of worms.

This is a recurring theme in Bad Science — how press releases manipulate the facts and journalists blindly cut and paste the press releases with predictably piss-poor results. It probably doesn't help that most of these papers are owned by powerful organisations with deep-rooted commercial interests, but you also have to ask how interested the editors are in their own profession.

This is a much more complicated debate than the key protagonists either side would like you to believe. File sharing is hardly morally pure, but nor is it always the crime of the century. There is a huge gulf between the student who downloads last week's Lost because they were cramming for a final when it aired and the self-employed businessman who gets all his business software from bittorrent. Extreme examples of course, but some people on either side of this debate would lump them both into their self-serving camps.

With governments taking an increasing interest in this area, we're going to be bombarded with a lot more of this fluff in the coming months, possibly years. The only way I know of navigating the hyperbole and propaganda is to follow Ben's example and approach the issue with a modicum of scientific aptitude.

13 June 2009

My questions for the developers

Are there any plans or intention to give shadow priests tools to contribute more effectively during burn phases in raids? Short of trinkets and a shadowfiend, we have no cooldowns to blow, no execute mechanic and naturally receive far less benefit from bloodlust/heroism than other casters. And when switching single targets, we are slow to ramp up the damage.

Are you content with the current balance between shadow's effective aoe and single-target dps? Do you see any need to moderate one or boost the other?

Please can you explain the intended sw:p refresh mechanic of pain and suffering? And please clarify whether it is supposed to work with the wide range of buffs — including shadow weaving — that it currently ignores.

Do you think it's time to review mind flay's base range? Elemental shaman are the only other class with a stunted range on one key nuke (flame shock) and this is nullified by talents. This implies you design raid encounters around a 30-yard range for ranged dps. Does this mean that you also assume shadowpriests have the glyph of mind flay equipped?

Are you satisfied with the glyph options for raiding shadow priests? As my last question implied, it feels like shadowpriests are bullied into taking the mind flay glyph. The only reason more people aren't complaining is because there are so few viable raid dps alternatives. I hate to use the 'everybody else has it, why can't we' argument, but we have the fewest glyph options of all dps specs/classes.

Do you think gear itemisation is fair for shadow? Are you happy with the benefit we receive from haste, given its ubiquity on gear? And is it right that as the class with the closest affinity to spirit, we now receive the least benefit? Will we scale fairly with raid content throughout the rest of Wrath?

Do you think the conceptual design of shadow fits as well with priests as it should? I'll be honest, shadowpriests don't feel like priests to me, they feel like something removed from the rich design and lore of the priest class. We are locked out of all hymns and prayers — not just the healing ones, which makes sense, but the mana regeneration one, which doesn't. And there are no shadow equivalents — no dark prayer, no hymn of shadows. Are we supposed to be athiest? Or can we have the concept of faith more closely woven into our design please?

Are you happy with the state of out-of-combat mana regeneration since the recent nerfs? I went back to level a second priest and have found that spirit tap, even with stacked spirit, is almost worthless for grinding. It has pushed us back from being the dynamo of levelling classes to mages without the nukes.

Would you be willing to spend some time on the European forums every now and then? My perception is that any regular developer-community dialogue happens on the US forums — and, rightly or wrongly, that seems to happen a lot more for some classes than others. I'm very, very grateful for this opportunity to put my questions to your team, but there are a lot of them. Some of these things, like the pain and suffering issue, could have been addressed very easily to prevent months of hand-wringing and frustration. Small, regular outreach could, I think, help maintain a contented priest community, both sides of the pond :)

Don't forget to add your questions to the threads:

12 June 2009

Priest Q&A live now!

I turn my back for one second and five pages of questions appear on the EU priest forum.

Nothing much posted to date surprises me, I think anyone who has raided as shadow knows the powers and limitations of the class. There is a very clear consensus on the key issues — PVP survivability, burst, scaling, bugs. I'll be adding my own voice on these topics to help ensure they get ample coverage from the devs.

If you play a priest, or even have an interest in their future, I urge you to go have your say. US cousins can post here.

10 June 2009

Ticking over

Hi all. Sorry if you're waiting for some new content (I know there are hordes of you gnawing at the bit). It's the usual work pressures getting in the way. I'm waiting avidly for the priest Q&A to open up, then I'll make some more time for the blog.

On the game front, I have made some plodding, tentative steps into Ulduar, to the point where I almost know what's going on with flame leviathon. I've got to stop loading myself accidentally into the catapult.

And on my last run, I picked up the rather fabulous collar of the wyrmhunter from razorscale.

And I take everything I said about the priest glyph designer back - it's not just them, it's the whole damn profession that's screwed up. Will somebody please explain the logic of a profession which, as with shaman for example, has zero usable minor glyphs at the level when the first glyph slot opens up? Or please help me understand why one might need to learn from a Northrend world drop a recipe for a glyph which can be equipped at, say, 15 and requires materials created with pre-Outland herbs? Those were rhetorical questions by the way, I already know there is NO LOGIC. Someone made it all up while stoned. I speak the truth.

1 June 2009

Caving to pressure

I completely missed this story on Friday, courtesy of wow insider wow.com. Blizzard has announced plans to run question and answer sessions on all classes and have put out a call for questions.

I like to think my own little campaign for answers played some small part in bringing this opportunity about :)

I've yet to work out if this is a US-only deal or something they'll be repeating on the EU forums.

Edit: ok, so we're having EU questions too, they just haven't opened the thread yet. I'll let you know when it comes along.

In the meantime, if you have time and are willing, go pester them about shadow's shortcomings. You know the ones:

  • Pain and suffering 'bug'
  • Lack of cooldowns and executes
  • Anachronistic range on mind flay
  • Dearth of dps glyphs
What questions would you ask?