Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Curious Case of the Big Daddy and Secretly Scaling Equipment

The Big Daddy is the Cataclysm heavy explosive available to Goblin Engineers. It requires Engineering 440 to use, and 500 to make, it’s expensive, but it also does respectable damage – about 5k – and the damage is tripled against targets at full health. Oh yes, it can crit, too, so you could get a lucky 30k damage off this baby. It’s also off the GCD, so it’s great to use after an instant cast spell, though you really want to use it on “unsuspecting targets” – thats those poor folks at full health – whenever possible.

They’re not quite as nice as the Global Thermal Sapper Charge was in the early days of Wrath – massive siege damage in SotA/WG/IoC was awesome – and they’re not as cheap as Saronite Bombs, which you could make part of your attack rotation with impunity – but they’re good for what they are.

Except… you notice that little bit about “Requires Engineering 440″ to use?

You can get Engineering 450 at level 65, when most characters have around 4k-8k health. Even in the level 70 twink bracket, health pools range from 10-14k, with 18-20k reserved for tanks.

These bombs can 1-shot an entire defending force if you attack when they’re at full health at level 70. At level 80, they can still take out 1/3-1/2 of the defender’s health.

Holy crap.

PvP being PvP, players figured this out, and maxing your Engineering at level 65 became an even easier way to dominating the battlegrounds than rerolling Mage.

(I kid, I kid!)

So far, you’d think that this is a simple story of an item being overpowered in the leveling brackets and getting removed from said brackets, right? I mean, you can’t have bombs that can take out entire nodes of defenders, can you?

But instead of doing the obvious thing – raising the required Engineering level beyond 450 – Blizzard did something really interesting.

SCALING DAMAGE WITH LEVEL

Sometime between 4.1 and 4.2, the Big Daddy was changed so that the damage scaled with level. No longer was it 5k at level 65 – now it was 700. Level 79? 1400 or so. The damage was changed to allow it to still be used at lower levels, but for it to become less attractive overall. Saronite Bombs do more damage at level 65 than Big Daddies, which solves the problem neatly and returns us to the idea that you might be able to use things from the next expansion while leveling, but you probably shouldn’t be using things from two expansions away.

That’s actually an interesting rule to consider: think about how unbalancing Wrath-level gear, gems and enchants would be if they were available at, say, level 30. There are limits on enchants to prevent this from happening, for instance (item level 35 for BC, 60 for Wrath), but no limits on the gems – but sockets don’t show up until BC-era gear anyways, so it isn’t a big deal. With the introduction of Cataclysm, gems needed to have restrictions added because you could have level 60-70 players sporting Cataclysm gems.

So why didn’t the devs just change the Engineering requirements on the Big Daddy to be 475 instead of 440? This would have placed the items out of reach of everyone lower than 75, which would take care of the most egregious abuses. It would still unbalance the 75-79 bracket, but that bracket is already unbalanced because of the availability of Cataclysm-balanced gear starting at 78. The 80-84 bracket is unbalanced as well, but it’s unbalanced because of scaling and the hard ramp of gear. Adding in a bomb that does 5k-30k damage isn’t going to further unbalance things.

Or will it?

Think about this for a minute. Instead of making a simple change that mostly fixed a problem, the developers dramatically changed how something worked by level, making it scale all the way from 65 to 85 (and possibly beyond). It still does a lot of damage, and is great against unsuspecting targets, but it’s not going to 1-shot people in any bracket it’s available in. That took thought, planning, and careful analysis to realize that a simple level restriction wasn’t going to work.

In every sense of battleground fairness, this is a great change. And it’s great for many brackets.

Which is why it’s so unexpected. Not because we shouldn’t expect that Blizzard does the right thing (we should), but that it’s one of the first times I’ve seen an item nerfed in PvP in such a way to take into account its impact in multiple brackets.

The problem with items with fixed stats is that their value increases the earlier you get them. Cataclysm introduced stat inflation into not just the endgame, but up through level 65. The inflation is really unbalancing. It doesn’t take a scientist to notice that if you increase health pools five times between level 80 and 85 that maybe, just maybe, items that are scaled for 85 shouldn’t be used at lower levels.

But hopefully, we can start seeing more fixes like the Big Daddy nerf, which address this inflation in multiple brackets.

Fixing leveling PvP is not simple. Little things add up. I’ll wager you didn’t even realize there was an explosive that could 1-shot you from level 65 to 80 until this post. The fact that it was fixed without your knowledge is a good thing. There are a lot of small, unbalanced items which good PvP players seek out and use against their opponents, and they add up. Not all of them are as big as this one, but hey – this is the Big Daddy we’re talking about.

Smart fixes like this raise the possibility of other items using smart scaling, which would be a good start towards equalizing the brackets. Heirlooms already do this; having normal items start adhering to this rule would help bring leveling PvP back into a more balanced state.

Bravo, Blizzard. Well played.

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On Lone Wolf and Cub, Oriental Adventures, and Pandas

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Lone Wolf and Cub is probably the first Japanese manga I read. While it was originally published from 1970-76 in Japan, it arrived in the US in 1987, right when I was starting to get into collecting comics. This was a fascinating time in the comic medium, with works like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen shaking up the American comic establishment from within, while the new Japanese style represented a strange, vitalizing foriegn influence. It was an exciting, dynamic time in comic history.

I didn’t know any of that at the time. I was 13 years old and discovering comics. I could see the differences between old and new, the strange mishmash of styles some were favoring, but I didn’t have the historical context yet. None of us did, really, since we didn’t know what these new, dark, gritty, realistic comics were harbingers of.

Consider Eastman & Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a brand which many know about through the PG-rated TV series and movies, a sanitized version of a gritty black-and-white comic that had more in common with Cerebus than Muppet Babies or Transformers. It started off life as a gritty, urban-apocalyptic tale of 4 turtles making their way in a strange world, and ended up with catchphrases and pizza.

Lone Wolf and Cub came onto the scene in a way that my adolescent mind wasn’t ready for – a story of Edo-era Japan, historically faithful but amazingly violent, artistic yet gritty, beautiful yet containing all the horrors of human existence. I found it a compelling, hard read at that age. I’m positive I didn’t understand even half of it; but I tried to get it, even as the shiny full-color Marvel and DC books beckoned. It’s the story of Ogami Ittō, a disgraced samurai and former executioner of the Shogun, and his son, Daigorō, as they seek revenge on the Yagyū clan.

The entire set is available to read online, which is a great way to get a sense of the story – but the entire tale is over 8700 pages long. Find the books, it’s a worthwhile read.

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When I say that the Tokugawa-era world of Lone Wolf and Cub is both artistic yet hyperviolent, consider the formative events of the story. Ogami’s wife and household are slain by the Yagyū clan, leaving only his 1-year old son alive. He presents a ball and sword to the child and waits to see which the boy chooses.

Should the child choose the ball, he will kill him. Should he choose the sword, the boy will join his father as a rōnin.

Daigorō chooses the sword, and together they wander the countryside, an assassin with a sign for hire pushing a baby cart. It’s an iconic image, one that is used in the television and film adaptations of the manga. Baby carriages have been used within violent scenes before – consider Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin‘s famous massacre scene on the Odessa Stairs, (a masscare which did not happen, at least not in that fashion) and the baby carriage rolling down the among the fleeing and dying crowds represents innocence amidst violence.

While there is innocence in the cub of Lone Wolf and Cub, he is raised in an environment of unrelenting violence and austerity, of revenge, and strict codes of honor. I love scenes like the one above for the juxtiposition of childlike joy on one face, and the joy of battle on the other.

Yet, the context of that panel is that Ogami just killed a man with a spear in front of his son. His son is happy because he’s peed, so he feels okay. A slaughter is about to take place; there is joy, and hatred, and fear, and a wild acceptance of fate and death.

This is a complex scene. It’s not about the glory of violence, though that is present throughout – the fierce honor imparted by bushido is not a simple one – but the contrasts that that violence brings about, how a cycle of bloodshed can consume families, how it leads people to depraved acts, and how – in the end – the son avenges his father’s death, though he is linked in ways to the Yagyū clan which he cannot comprehend.

Samwise Didier is 3 years older than I am. He was 15 or 16 when Lone Wolf and Cub appeared in American comic stores.

He is also the art director of Blizzard Entertainment, and he created the Pandaren.

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The first thing I thought when looking at the Pandaren images in Samwise’s gallery is the influence of Lone Wolf and Cub, both in theme and in style. There are even a few pieces featuring “Lone Panda and Cub,” which is drawn in a style so the cub looks cute, and the father could be interpreted as being happy – yet the cultural interpretation must be one of violence, of revenge, of regret, of discipline, of honor.

There are references throughout his gallery to old-school samurai movies, like the Zatoichi series (which he likes because they’re short). Other pictures resemble poses from Kurosawa films; this is an artist who has enjoyed many years of oriental tales, and it shows in his artwork. The Pandaren in there are not cute, except for the cubs – some poses evoke Conan on his throne, others are out of a Frank Miller fight scene – and that they are treated with gravity and seriousness by the artist. Even pieces which seem whimsical at first glance have depth within their tranquility – I like how the adult Pandaren serenely regards the dragonfly on his nose, while his cub tries to play with another dragonfly while balancing on his parent’s broad back.

There is a depth and history within Samwise’s artwork which suggests that this is not some passing Kung-Fu Panda-inspired direction. Lone Wolf and Cub appears to have resonated with Samwise at an important point in his life, and left its mark on his artwork.

More than anything else, the pictures above reassure me that the Pandaren will not be a joke race within the World of Warcraft. The stories which originated them are too deep, too dark, too steeped in human tragedy, to allow them to become a mere punchline for an expansion. Will there be humor? No doubt. We’ll see Jackie Chan’s influence in Pandaria, and thank goodness, because I love Jackie Chan movies.

The Pandaren vision originated back in those samurai classics which I grew up with. It takes one of the national symbols of China and transforms it into a creature that can be used to represent oriental culture in a fantasy world, without caricature or implications of cultural superiority. Remember the Neimoidians of the Trade Federation, introduced in Star Wars Episode I? Hackneyed villians with a caracitured oriental accent that left you wondering how George Lucas thought this wasn’t going to offend someone? That’s the wrong way to associate your fantasy race with a culture. Don’t pick the negative stereotype and use that as the only reference back to the original group – that’s offensive. Pick the positive elements and adapt them to the fantasy world you’ve created, instead.

I wonder about the limits of CGI art, sometimes. I wonder if the associations people are making with Kung-Fu Panda is due to the resemblance between two different computer-generated CGI pandapeople more than anything else. Yes, they look somewhat alike. But will they act alike? I don’t think so, at least not universally.

Looking at Samwise’s art, and remembering the depth of Lone Wolf and Cub, I see a lot of potential in the Pandaren expansion.

Blizzard just has to execute on that potential.

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Oriental Adventures was one of the first sourcebooks released for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (back in 1985, do you notice a trend here?) that changed the cultural setting of the game. It was one of the first sourcebooks, period, but it was especially groundbreaking in that it presented a way to play AD&D outside of the Western European feudal-inspired fantasy setting that was core to the game’s early development. You could take the same rules that let you play a Paladin or a Magic User, and use them to play a Ninja, Kensai, or Wu-Jen.

This was actually pretty big for the time. RPGs had already started exploring plenty of genres outside of traditional fantasy (Gamma World, Boot Hill, Twilight 2000), but always in the context of a different game, not the same game in a different setting. Oriental Adventures plucked us out of our traditional western setting and dropped us in the orient, creating a new game with the rules we were used to. We could mash them up, or play them separately, but the exotic people, races, and lands of Oriental Adventures had magic all their own.

Twenty-six years later, it seems kind of silly to talk about the impact taking an occidental fantasy game and porting it over to an oriental fantasy setting. We think about games differently now, thanks to GURPS and FUDGE and the D20 system. Rules are portable, settings vary. Rules should be able to handle any world.

But at the time, man, it was big.

Another thing to consider is that China was still very much a big unknown to Americans in the mid ’80s – a sleeping giant who had turned almost totally inwards. Our cultural focus was upon the Russians and their influence on the Chinese, not China – not yet. We didn’t see them as a serious source of competition yet.

Many things have changed in the intervening quarter century. China underwent an accelerated industrial revolution and is an economic force to be reckoned with. They’re a dominant player on the world stage, having embraced limited, controlled types of capitalism, yet with the Communist party still firmly in control. Sino-American relations are complex, and far beyond the scope of a video game to cover.

Mists of Pandaria is WoW’s Oriental Adventures. 

It’s a little bit different, to be sure – there’s an optional element to AD&D that is always lacking in WoW. You can’t look over the sourcebook and say, hey, this isn’t for me, let’s go back to our medieval campaign in Warcraft. If you want to play WoW during MoP, you’re going to have to play WoW: Oriental Adventures.

(You, of course, have the option of sitting out this round. But there are pressures to keep playing.)

The Pandaren and Monks are the gateways into this new world, which I find exciting. I find it exciting because I’m not expecting Kung-Fu Panda, but rather Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero, even The Replacement Killers.

Picking one aspect of a culture, especially a negative aspect, and assigning it to the entire culture, is counterproductive. It casts cultures in a overly-simplified light that makes it easy to accept or condemn them based on one thing.

I see a lot of depth behind the Pandaren concept. I see an artist who created them out of respect for the artistic works he enjoyed growing up, and the works he continues to enjoy.

Will there be silliness? Yes, absolutely.

But will there be darkness, and violence, and warmth, and passion, and betrayal, and revenge?

Yes. Absolutely.

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We will be given a ball and a sword, and the choice will be ours to make.

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On Witches and Warlocks

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Modern English uses warlock as the masculine form of witch, which is surprising when you consider that the words are etymologically unrelated.

Warlock comes from the Old English wærloga, or oath-breaker, deciever, liar. Witch comes from wicca and wicce, and used to apply to both men and women. At some point the word shifted over to refer to primarily women, so another word had to be brought in for “male witch.”

Some of this, no doubt, is due to the effects of works like the Malleus Maleficarium, a fifteenth century work which argued that most practicioners of witchcraft were women. But even works like this (aided by the new printing press) aren’t to blame for the polarization of the terms witch and warlock - the entire early Reformation was a time of strange cults, of religious fervor and occasional hysteria, and of people trying to adapt to a suddenly fluid religious and political landscape.

It’s interesting to look at the rise of cults like the Benandanti in Italy to see how the meaning of “witch” changed over time. In the eyes of the Catholic church, the Benandanti were witches, even though they explicitly said they fought against witches and warlocks to protect their towns. In their eyes, they practiced magic akin to shamanism; channeling the good spirits in a battle against evil. (The book to read is Carlo Ginzberg’s The Night Battles.)

Consider the position of the Catholic Church on witchcraft; in early medieval times, before the witch-hunting craze hit Europe, it was considered a sin to believe that witchcraft existed. Thinking that people could wield magic innately was a pagan superstition.

In the fifteenth century, however, the church completely reversed itself; it became a sin to not accept that witchcraft was real, that people who wielded it were tools of the Devil. It’s a remarkable about face. But even during the height of the witch huntes, the concept of “good” witches lingered, and never completely died out.

The rise of neopaganism in the late 19th and 20th centuries did much to restore the good name of witches. By adopting the old name (wicca/wicce) and harkening back to a more shamanistic vision of a witch, the neopagan movement reclaimed the name. In the 20th century, the commercialization of Halloween made witches seem even more benevolent; in TV, books, advertisements, witches were helpful, if somewhat misunderstood.

Warlocks were left behind in this reclamation project. They remained true to their original form – dealers with the devil and demons, unrepentant evil, traitors to their race.

It’s interesting to see how Warcraft picked one word over the other, and what the implications for the class might have been had they named it differently.

You hang a lot on the name of a magic-user. Even that term – Magic User – carries with it connotoations and expectations. Sorceror, wizard, mage, enchanter, necromancer, conjourer, witch – all of these carry baggage and flavor. They’re interesting and distinct in their own right.

I have been flying around on Cynwise, getting enough treats for her to get a kitty on a broom. I’m still really uncomfortable on ‘wise, still working through issues in my own head with my relationship to my ex-main.

As I looked at her, I wondered how this would have all played out in a more traditional RPG, where you can change the flavor of the character to suit the desires of the player.

And I can’t help but wonder, would warlocks be more popular if they were witches?

Would I be happier if she a witch instead of a warlock?

Possibly.

Names are important, but their meaning to people change as the language develops.

I could get used to ‘wise being a witch. It would make a great change of pace.

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Blizzcon 2011: PvP Changes in Mists of Pandaria

In the course of Blizzcon 2011, Blizzard announced several changes to the PvP system, as well as planned additions to the Battleground and Arena system. It is worth noting that none of this is set in stone; Blizzcon announcements are more akin to ideas presented at a product planning meeting than actual release notes. I’ll try to keep the speculation to a minimum.

NEW BATTLEGROUNDS AND ARENA

Three new battlegrounds and one new Arena map were announced as potential additions to the PvP system.

The following are the proposed BGs:

  • Stranglethorn Diamond Mines: “Payload” gameplay
  • Valley of Power: “Murderball” gameplay
  • Azshara Crater: DOTA-style gameplay

And a new Arena map:

  • The Tol’vir Proving Grounds will utilize the sweeping vistas of Uldum and the Tol’vir art style with a simple layout based on Nagrand Arena.

Some of the terms describing the battlegrounds might be unfamiliar to you – I know they were to me, because I’ve never played Warcraft III.

  • Payload games are generally when the teams are split into offense and defense, with a moving objective – the payload – that needs to be protected. Generally, there are multiple checkpoints that need to be captured, and the teams are competing to move the payload along to the final checkpoint. One team will protect the payload as long as they can, then the other.
  • Murderball games (and there are several kinds) involve trying to get a ball or flag over the key or goal line of the opposing team. In some variations it’s anything goes; in others there are rules about who “anything goes” applies to. It looks like this one will have a ball that you carry that scores points, but also does damage.
  • DOTA (Defense of the Ancients) is a popular custom scenario for Warcraft III, where players control powerful units (heroes) to destroy the Ancients in the middle of their opponent’s bases.

For screenshots from the presentation, let me direct you over to the Hunstman’s Lodge. They have some nice screenshots from the livestream.

I wouldn’t count on all of these making it in to the final release of Mists, or of making them in with their current forms, but it’s nice to see some really interesting new ideas out there. While I like that Twin Peaks and Battle For Gilneas are variations on two very good existing battlegrounds, it would be nice to see something new.

Of course, vehicle combat was new, but it didn’t make for more compelling games. I’m interested to see how the DOTA game, in particular, shapes up – will players control avatars that give roughly equal abilities, removing class and gear inequalities? Some people would love that (skill > balance!), others would hate it (I didn’t level a Demolisher 85 levels.)

We’ll have to wait and see.

As far as the new Arena map? It’s about time. Getting the Ring of Valor back during this expansion wasn’t exactly an improvement. There was a great lack of anything Cataclysm-themed in Arena. Getting a Cata map an expansion later isn’t great, but it’s a sign that Blizzard is showing some attention to Arenas again and could indicate a Pandaren-styled map later in the expansion.

WORLD PVP ZONE

From the Q&A:

You did not mention a world PvP zone for MoP, maybe that could be the World PvP area for MoP?
The war between the Horde and Alliance will really heat up in Pandaria every patch, so we are looking forward to integrating that.

Cataclysm had a certain amount of “the war heats up” feel to it in the Blizzcon previews too, but World PvP took a hit on most realms. The biggest success for World PvP wasn’t the zone designed for it – Tol Barad – but rather Firelands on a PvP server. That’s where the real PvP has been happening, not in the island of musical chairs.

So it’s interesting when Blizzard doesn’t announce a featured world PvP zone after two expansions with a PvP zone as the PvP centerpiece of the expansion.

I think it’s incorrect to say that the idea of a world PvP zone is a failure just because Mists doesn’t have one at this time.

What I do think this implies is that world PvP zones are expensive to create, and that Tol Barad consumed far more development resources than it saw playtime.

I have in the back of my head that there’s a KPI Blizzard uses to evaluate the success of a development effort – player time over development cost. The idea is that something that is cheap/easy to implement and draws medium interest is better than something that costs 50% of your development resources but draws in the same interest. The ratio of player participation to development effort would seem to be a key success metric in any subscription model-based business that wanted to optimize development priorities.

And that’s what I think happened here. Wintergrasp was ambitious and brought in the players, but incurred major costs down the road when it couldn’t scale. Tol Barad cost too much to build relative to the number of players playing it, so Blizzard is going to try something else.

The other problem I see about prioritizing World PvP zones like Wintergrasp and Tol Barad is that they are effectively throwaway code with a limited lifespan. Unlike regular BG development, where you develop a map which will see use through future expansions, World PvP zones have a lifespan limited to their expansion. Halaa is deserted. Wintergrasp is deserted. Tol Barad will become deserted.

All that development effort for naught.

I don’t blame Blizzard for axing the idea of a World PvP zone. Tol Barad cut short development on both Twin Peaks and Battle for Gilneas – dramatically on BfG, as they had to scrap their original plans for a battle within the city and reskin Arathi Basin to get something shipped in time for Cata’s launch. Having development resources focused on Battlegrounds and Arenas is actually a good thing.

ACCOUNT-WIDE ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Achievements will now become available at the Battle.net account level. Many achievements will be shared among characters, including those for raiding and maxing out professions.

If you’re working on Battlemaster, you might have cried a little bit upon hearing this. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has tough achievements on alts, but not on my main.

There are a lot of questions to be answered about how this is going to work; if your total number of victories will count for Veteran achievements, if your meta-achievements will include the prerequisites on multiple characters.

But it’s a step in the right direction.

RESILIENCE AS A BASE STATISTIC

Big, major changes ahead for PvP gearing. Resilience will become a base statistic.

  • Devs like the way Resilience works in PvP, and how it gives a nice goal for players looking to progress/upgrade their gear in PvP
  • Resilience is a pretty huge barrier for people who want to start PvPing.
  • Resilience will become a base stat, and will increase a little every time you level.

I think it’s honestly easier to tell you what we don’t know about this change than what we do know right now.

Making Resilience a base statistic is a neat twist to the Valor and Vengeance system used by Rift – it allows the PvE and PvP systems to have effectively different damage systems regardless of the gear worn by players. That’s pretty neat! If damage gets out of control in PvP, they can either add more Resilience, or change how it scales so everyone takes a bit less.

The problem is that we don’t know how PvP gear will look in Mists. Will players still progress from about 25-30% damage reduction to 45-50% over the course of the expansion? What will the baseline reduction be with no PvP gear? Will there even be any more PvP gear?

I hesitate to even say that this is a good solution to the problems of low level PvP, because I don’t know how the scaling is going to work. Right now, Resilience has a flat application (10.74 points per % reduction) until level 35, when it starts to increase on a curve to hit a degree of normalcy at level 70. If this scale remains the same, then low level characters will start off with weak damage reduction that increases as they level. Unfortunately, burst damage is highest in the lower levels, and damage reduction is more necessary at 10-25 than it is at 50-80. So maybe they’ll start off with a good chunk of Resilience to help with lowbie PvP, or the scale will be changed…

… we just don’t know enough to say how it’s going to help certain areas of the game. It has the potential to be a good improvement to PvP at all levels, but we have to wait and see.

That said, I am cautiously optimistic that this is going to be a very good change, both for leveling PvP and endgame PvP.

NEW RACE: PANDAREN

Pandaren racial abilities are:

  • Racial – Epicurean – Increase the stat benefits from food by 100%
  • Racial – Gourmand – Cooking skill increased by 15.
  • Racial – Inner Peace – Your rested experience bonus lasts twice as long.
  • Racial – Bouncy – You take 50% less falling damage.
  • Racial – Quaking Palm – You touch a secret pressure point on an enemy target, putting it to sleep for 3 sec.

Okay, food, ok, more food, ok, XP, no biggie, bouncy, ok, nothing here to see for PvP…

… wait, was that a 3 second CC/interrupt I just saw?

… off the DR of many, many other CCs in the game?

/jawdrop

(Keep an eye on this racial and consider it a viable option for many classes.)

NEW CLASS: MONK

Wears leather, tanks, heals, melee DPS, has cool moves… it looks great!

I saw earlier today in one of the panels (and I’ve lost the reference now, sorry) that Monk healers will have non-targeted heals and need to be in melee combat to heal. That’s potentially very useful in PvP, particularly Arena combat. We may see a lot of Monk comps in Season 12 based solely upon this mechanic.

I expect Monks will be very potent in the early stages of Mists PvP, and that you would not be amiss in trying one out. If the Death Knights were any indication, it will take an expansion to really get them balanced out.

If Pandas aren’t your thing, all races can be Monks except for Goblins and Worgen.

LOOKING AHEAD

The situation for PvP is going to change a lot between now and the release of Mists of Pandaria. While many of the changes announced this weekend are exciting, there’s a lack of a single, defining PvP centerpiece for this expansion. Instead of Arenas (Burning Crusade), Wintergrasp (Wrath of the Lich King), or Rated Battlegrounds (Cataclysm), the focus is on an “increased conflict between the Alliance and the Horde.” We don’t know yet if that means World PvP is going to make a comeback.

We shall have to see what this diffused focus means for Warcraft PvP.

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On the End of the World

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This isn’t a post about Mists of Pandaria. Let me get that out of the way right now. I might talk about Mists a little bit, but more about the idea of Mists than anything about the expansion itself. There’s a lot of buzz around the expansion announcement, and the coming days will be chock full of news tidbits. Some of them are going to be awesome. Some are going to induce panic and nerdrage.

Very little of it will be set in stone.

A lot of things will change over the next six months, year, however long it takes to get Mists done. But the announcement itself is, in many ways, a psychologically liberating event; it expands the horizons of our plans in-game, allowing us not only to look past Deathwing, but to say, hey, stuff is going to change again in a little while.

Be ready for it. Be flexible. Show some fucking adaptability, in the words of Doug Shaftoe.

(What? You haven’t read Cryptonomicon? Fix that, now!)

I need to learn to accept things as they are, not as I’d like them to be, and that those things are going to change. My hobby is going to stay relatively the same for a while – a few months, maybe a year, but not much longer – then things are going to be different again. The things which I learn to enjoy now may not be so fun later; the things I don’t find fun now could be completely different in Mists.

This is, ultimately, a good thing; we don’t find the same things fun forever; every activity grows stale with time.

Attachment leads to sorrow. I feel like I’m going back to my DT Suzuki books from college here, and revisiting the tenets of Buddhism in Warcraft, but I can see that the changes in the future mean that it’s important to find joy in play now, not later. If you don’t like something, put it down and try it later.

The annoucement spurred me to try new things tonight in Warcraft. I had a chance to run a normal instance with my guild, and I took it.

Not on Cynwise, though; on Cynwulf, my Death Knight. He’s been a mining mule for ages, but I dusted him off and am giving him a go. And instead of PvP, I ran a dungeon (Throne of the Tides) and lost my Cataclysm dungeon virginity.

Look at me, I’m PvEing! And not dying!

Holy fuck, but it’s a pretty instance!

And I had fun, wtf?!

I’d grown attached to the way things were going, or more correctly, the way I perceived things were going. It was a big step earlier this week to admit that I had a problem with warlocks, and that I not only had put them down for this patch, but that needed to put them down for a while longer. I needed to break free from the idea that my happiness was tied to a single character, a single way of experiencing things. Not only did I need to jettison the idea of having a main, but I needed to discard the idea that I should be having fun on a class I used to have fun on, just because I used to have fun on it!

Mists reminded me that there are changes coming, substantial changes, and that I can’t know how I’ll react to them. That’s okay.

Instead of attachment, cultivate mental flexibility. Instead of grinding out a single toon, have multiple options available for the future while playing now, while having fun now.

The world as you know it will change. Be ready to change with it.

—-

There’s only one real immediate problem I see, and it’s a kind of big deal to me. While I’m starting to have fun on my Death Knight right now, if I level him up to 85 and decide to do any Arenas, he’ll lose the Doomsday Messenger buff which gives him the sandwich board proclaiming the end of the world.

And we can’t have that! That would be a crime!

Okay, fine, I admit it, I’m really attached to him in that board. I should probably get over that.

(Or … I should roll another DK for PvP… ?!)

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Cyn’s Guide to Holiday Macros

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Cyn’s Holiday Guide. Sometimes, it’s good to step back from PvP and enjoy the other parts of the game. No, really!

One of the tiresome things about most of the holidays in Azeroth is the number of repetitive actions you’re going to do, especially if you do them across many characters. With Brewfest you might have had to dig in your bags for a Complimentary Brewfest Sampler or Ram Racing Reins; with Hallow’s End, you’re constantly getting Handfuls of Treats and using Water Buckets.

You can drag most of the holiday items onto your action bars, but that takes up space, and has to be done on all of your characters. It’s a minor hassle, but still – it’s a hassle.

Holiday macros are the answer. Make a single macro for all the items, and it will choose the right one for the task at hand.

If you don’t know how to make a macro, don’t be scared – they’re easier than they look! I have some macro resources on this site, including an Intro to Macros which shows you how to make them from scratch.

For a holiday macro, you’ll want to make a new Macro in your General Macros tab. This will make the macro usable for all of your characters, which is what you want.

The basic idea is that as you go through a holiday and use items, you add those items to the holiday macro. Pretty soon you’ll have all the items needed for the event in your macro.

No more opening your bags, looking for where the Handful of Treats has gone off to this time! Click the pumpkin, click your macro, auto loot, and you’re done!

Start with a basic macro setup.

  1. Open the macro pane by typing /m or /macro.
  2. In your General Macro pane, select New.
  3. Leave the icon as a ?, and call it “Holiday Macro.” Click Okay.
  4. In the Enter Macro Commands field, type in “/use ” and then Shift-click on the item you want to use. Or, enter in the commands discussed below.

Let’s start with the current holiday, Hallow’s End.

/use Handful of Treats
/use Dousing Agent
/use Arcane Cleanser
/use Water Bucket

This opens the treats you get from the treat baskets, douse the wickerman, clean up your home city, and put out fires, all with the same button.

You may get an error if you have the Dousing Agent in your inventory but aren’t by the wickerman. If so, you can add the following at the bottom:

/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

Here’s what I used for Brewfest:

/use Ram Racing Reins
/use Complimentary Brewfest Sampler
/use Elekk Dispersion Ray
/use Wolpertinger Net

The Ram Racing Reins are tricky, since they can disappear if you click on them with the Complimentary Brewfest Sampler in inventory and they’re not listed first. So make sure they’re first.

You can combine several different holidays in one, but one danger of that is that you’ll eventually bump into the 255 character limit. One way around that limit is to use the item ID, instead of the name. You can find the item ID by looking it up on Wowhead – the item ID is the unique part of the URL (wowhead.com/item=…).

The tricky part about using item ID instead of the name is that there might be different items used in quests between factions – Horde and Alliance often have slightly different versions of holiday quests, which usually results in different item IDs.

So, if you use item ID instead of item name, your Hallow’s End macro then starts looking like:

/use 37586
/use 68648
/use 68647
/use 69191
/use 70727
/use 32971

The other drawback of using IDs is that the code isn’t self-documenting – you can’t look at that and immediately see the macro does. I don’t recommend this unless you really are hurting on space.

I’ve gone ahead and added a Holiday page to the Macros section of this site, and will try to update throughout the year. Feel free to share your own holiday macros below!

(I just love the closing lines from the Orphan Matron; how will the kids ever fall asleep with all these heroes farming candy for them?)

Happy Hallow’s End!

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Five Ways to Troll The Denver Airport En Route to Blizzcon

1) Wearing khakis, polo shirt, and a blue blazer, loudly decry the MMO subscription model and rave about Facebook games to random people. See who you can get to agree with you.

2) Walk around to different stores and try to sell them Fish Oil. Get upset when the merchant doesn’t want that item.

3) Argue loudly that your reputation entitles you to a discount with all vendors.

4) Walk up and down the terminal asking people where you can buy PvP gear.

5) [Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker].

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