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On the Differences Between the PvP and PvE Gear Models

MMO Melting Pot highlighted an interesting post over at Killing Me Slowly about gear, where Fulguralis compares his experience gearing up via raids versus gearing through Arenas, and finds the PvE experience… lacking. Fulguralis has some interesting points about how the VP grind is necessary because the raid drop tables are terrible. And yet, the VP grind is slow, while the CP grind is comparably fast.

On a completely related vein, Perculia and Hamlet have a great post up at FTL about Failure, Challenge, and the Decline of WoW, which touches on the transition away from the drop system to the badge/point system and the implications of gearing up through something other than the primary activity (5 mans vs raiding).

Consider the KSM and FTL articles together. Forget PvP for a bit, if you can. KSM expresses the frustration with the current gear process that’s described in FTL – one is the expression, the other the analysis. I recommend reading both, just to see how they intersect.

Okay? On to the PvP.

When I first read Fulg’s post, I was like… wait, PvP gearing is good? The hell? What are you talking about, Willis?

Then I remembered how much fun I had gearing up through Arena in Season 9. It was fun. Getting my Conquest gear was more enjoyable than my Honor gear. Two hours of Arena play and I’d get a piece every 1.5 weeks or so. Definite, measurable progress there – but also doing the thing that I wanted to be doing, namely working on rated PvP. I ended up doing about 6-10 hours of Arena every week – basically, whenever anyone was on in the guild who wanted to cap their CP, I would hop on to their team and play with them.

Compare that to the roughly 80 hours of grinding Battlegrounds it took to get my Honor set together, just so that I could play more Arenas. (I didn’t take advantage of the Tol Barad Honor Lottery.) It was slow. Really slow. And the devs realized this, eventually, and doubled Honor Point gains, but for a while it was harder and slower to grind out mid-level PvP gear than it was PvE gear. It sucked.

My perception of the latter obscured the former – I remember the HP grind sucking, while the CP grind was actually fun. There was no other way to get PvP gear than to do PvP, and that’s how it should be. I’ve talked to folks on Twitter who would be hugely frustrated with their PvE drops, and then turn around to do Arenas and get exactly what they wanted, on a consistent schedule, because it was the only way to get the gear you needed to play that part of the game.

The PvP gear process needed tuning, to be sure, but once it was tuned a bit (CP down, HP up), it’s hit a pretty decent balance. I don’t honestly think I have much to complain about with the process of gearing up within a Season. While higher rated players will gear up faster than lower rated players (thus widening the gap), that’s an incentive to get a higher rating earlier than later! Eventually, all other things being equal, everyone will end up in pretty much the same gear by the latter parts of the season, and games should be about skill and class composition, not about gear discrepancies.

So let me come right out and say: the PvP gear system has some strong points, especially when you start looking at the PvE gear problems described in the KSM and FTL posts above.

But let’s take a look at the two different models.

(I’ve had a long day at work talking to executives, so I’m thinking in bullet points tonight. Be glad it’s not a power point.)

PvP gear pros:

  • Gear is non-random, only purchased.
  • Comes from doing the activity it is designed for. Woah, I know!
  • Requires a night a week of effort to get a piece every week or so.
  • Rewards skill in that activity, not time, with more rapid gearing (higher CP caps), prestige items (2200+ armor), and (slight) gear advantage (2200+ weapons).
  • Eventually equalizes player base’s gear as season goes on.
  • Usually looks better than PvE gear. Sorry, it’s true.
  • Each season starts fresh with a gear reset.

PvP gear cons:

  • Gear value depreciates very rapidly at the end of a season. Conquest gear from one season is worse than Honor gear in the next, nullifying the efffort spent acquiring it.
  • No random drops means gearing can’t be accelerated.
  • PvE gear is sometimes better than PvP gear for PvP, encouraging players to spend time doing PvE for PvP gear.
  • PvP gear is boring. Not visually boring, but rather – each piece is pretty much the same. There’s no flavor or character around individual pieces. You don’t sit there and go, WOW, that piece not only looks great, but it has a really unique ability! No, you pretty much are stuck with Very Angry Gladiator’s gear.
  • (Theory: PvP gear looks better as a set to compensate for the lack of indvidual excitement about pieces.)
  • Each season requires a completely new gear grind.

Compare that to the PvE raid gearing model.

  • Some gear is random drops, some gear is purchased with points.
  • Some gear – like the absolute best gear, Heroic gear – only comes from raiding. The basic set, however, comes from doing 5 mans, which are not raids.
  • Requires 2-3 nights of play to get a piece every 2-3 weeks or so.
  • Purchased gear rewards time spent, not skill. Skilled players may be able to grind VP faster than unskilled players (making them spend less time each week), but they can’t get more VP each week.
  • (Dropped gear may reward skill – but it also rewards luck.)
  • Gear value relative to the content inflates over the course of a tier. As the content is nerfed, PvE gear becomes more effective to accomplishing it’s goal.
  • PvE gear retains its value when new tiers are launched, relative to the content it was designed for. If you get a T11 set, you will always be able to do T11 raiding with that set. Just because a new tier comes out doesn’t mean your raid gear suddenly sucks in the old raids.
  • PvE gear has unique stats and abilities, with each tier sporting new bonuses, with random, interesting drops, and with excitement about the randomness of drops.
  • Stratifies the player base over the course of a tier, as skilled raiders down Heroic bosses, promotoing player inequalities.
  • Gear is not reset with a new tier. Players who did well in one tier are granted an advantage in the next.

It’s interesting how different the percieved problems are, isn’t it? It’s like looking at mirror images of gear problems. PvP is constant, steady, and rewarding, but since the difficulty level of opponents is dynamic, the gear value deteriorates. PvE is slow, with a chance of random gearing, but becuase the content will be nerfed over time, gear improves and becomes more effective as the tier goes on.

Two very different sets of problems, but … one gearing model in common. The point/badge model.

The problems in PvP gear are between seasons – of rapid gear deflation, of no carry-over of value from one tier to the next.

The problems in PvE appear to be struggles to combine both a random and consistent gear reward model, with neither working well together. Changing from one tier to the next isn’t really an issue.

There aren’t a lot of easy answers here. It’s not like you can just say, points are the problem in PvE. Badge gear served a purpose, and if you take it away, then that task – providing catchup gear for raiders who struggled with the previous tier – still remains. If you leave that in there, then guilds will remain stuck in a single raid. (Now, you may ask: is that a bad thing? I am unqualified to answer that.)

There aren’t a lot of easy answers – for either realm of the game.

But at least it’s good to put the problems with PvP gear into a larger perspective.

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On the Reclamation of Cyn’s Wayward Druid

Cynli_in_westfall

She started out small, one of my first real alts. She was my first healer. I struggled with her a lot, made mistakes, but kept at it.

Cynli_level_30_twink

Some of my mistakes were fashion mistakes. I admit it.

I beat a level 19 pally on her at level 16 because I knew how to use Entangling Roots and nuke from a distance, then went Bear and kicked his ass. The pally was a punk who tried to start a fight with my guild leader.

I took him out back and showed him that he needed to L2P.

The_trees_of_wsg

I PvPed as a healer. It went well until I got Tree of Life form, when suddenly I discovered I was popular in battlegrounds. Really popular. Super popular.

So I tried Feral. I wasn’t very good at Feral in PvP, but I could be a Bear. So my little healer became a Bear.

There were good runs in LFD. There were okay runs.

Then there was a really bad ZF run. I decided to put my druid away for a little while.

There were Druids I looked up to during that period of time; Druids who showed me what the class was capable of, of how FREAKING hard they were to kill in PvP. But I had Banish, so I didn’t feel the longing to return to my Druid. Besides, I wasn’t very good at Druiding, ZF had shown me that.

Looking at her made me sad, so eventually, I deleted her.

***

A few months passed, and for one reason or another, I decided I wanted to move some things over to the other side of my server. So I brought her back, loaded her up with things, and turned her into a he.

Thus began my druid’s career as a mule.

3 server transfers, 2 faction changes, 4 name changes along the way. I didn’t know who she was anymore. I leveled her/him – she was a male tauren in Mirren’s Drinking Hat, I’m not vendoring that again – up through the 60s, slowly, flailing at Bear tanking. It was like being a Warrior, which I did know how to play, only without all my warrior tools, so I didn’t play it well.

I tried healing once or twice. It didn’t go well.

I updated my UI several times. My keybinds got all messed up. I couldn’t play this toon anymore. Better to reroll.

I deleted her again.

***

I brought her back, one last time, to serve one last heriloom transfer to a new server. She was high level but unplayed; even her professions weren’t useful to me. So I brought her back.

But I had a new healer, a priest, one that I was actually getting pretty good at playing. Maybe I could …

No, Cyn. You can’t play a Druid. Remember ZF? Remember Durnholde? Remember Mana Tombs? Remember every time you’ve queued up for PvP?

But wait.

Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can ask for help, maybe I’m trying to do too much. Maybe I need to simplify down and say “what 10 keys do I need, screw the rest?”

I asked for help. I got it, in spades. Almost too much at times, too much information, wait, I don’t understand, where is Healing Touch, I used to spam that, it worked well. It’s now level 72? Okay, wait, how do I cast on people? How do I use Vuhdo again? Wait, what?

70 levels doesn’t come back to you in one night. Not when it was a slow, fragmented leveling, with different specs, over two years. There’s too much to learn.

I looked at her, more often than not, and wondered if I should just delete and reroll. Even though I’d already rerolled and deleted a druid in the meanwhile, I still thought… maybe this time.

Maybe it’s me.

Maybe I can’t play a druid. I’m so much better on my priest at this, maybe it’s me.

***

Things slowly fell into place.

I tried out a macro on a spell, saw what worked and what didn’t. A lot of things didn’t work.

Kept asking for help. Felt like I was getting nowhere, but really, I was slowly leveling again, realizing those things that make sense if you’ve played a character straight through. When do I Lifebloom? When do I Swiftmend? (All the time.) When do I use WG? (All the time). Nourish? (Never in PvP.)

Locked XP at 70. Figured I’d get the gear out of the way and just focus on the class for a while – classic PvP pause.

Finally, last night, it happened.

Screen_shot_2011-10-04_at_9

We lost this AB, but I did well in it. Can’t win these things on my own, not at level 70.

Screen_shot_2011-10-04_at_9

Hard-fought Strand. I kicked ass in it, and not just because of the numbers. Entangling Roots and Moonfire spam? I can do that! I didn’t think we were going to win – Alliance went first, only got the relic with about 1 minute left on the clock – but after losing 2 gates to an initial rush, we put up a brilliant goal line stand in the courtyard and never let up. YOU SHALL NOT PASS.

I got jumped by a rogue. He beat on me for about 2 minutes while I just healed away, healing the people around me after my own HoTs were rolling.

He gave up, eventually.

(I rooted him and let a Ret Pally tear his face off. It felt good.)

Screen_shot_2011-10-04_at_10

Alterac Valley, won on reinforcements. We couldn’t get past the Horde Turtle once we had a few towers down, so we just whittled them down. I healed for 5 minutes effectively OOM; I should have rushed into the Horde to get killed and reset my mana pool.

A punk DK yelled at the beginning of the battle that the healers sucked. I took that as an insult and was not going to heal him – but I ended up doing it anyways. As the front slowly pressed on south of Tower Point, he remarked:

Holy fuck, our healers are beasts. I take it back, I must not have been in range.

Damn straight you weren’t in range before, punk. You’re alive because of ME. And the 5 other healers who kept you, and that whole team, up.

I am a beast of a tree.

Word.

***

I didn’t expect to get comfortable with Cynli again. To get to a position where she’s playable, where I’m competent with her, where I could do both PvP and PvE with her.

I still have a long way to go – I haven’t learned anything to make me think I’m a good Druid player, per se – just that I can be competent. I need to learn other specs. I need to learn shifting between specs better.

But still, I can keep a warfront alive.

I can keep a tank alive, too.

For the first time in a long time, I look at this toon and go – you’re fun to play. (You need a better looking outfit, but you’re fun to play.)

Thank you, tree-signal. I’d written this character off a long time ago. Last night, I proved I shouldn’t have done so.

/use Tree of Life

/dance

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Five PvP Gear Set Names I’d Like To See In The Next Expansion

  1. Mildly Irritated Gladiator’s Gear
  2. Tiny, Angry Gladiator’s Gear
  3. Ugly But Still More Attractive Than PvE Tier Gear Gladiator’s Gear
  4. My Little Gladiator: PvP is Magic Gladiator’s Gear
  5. Fucking Hostile Gladiator’s Gear

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On Gear Value Deflation and Making Gear Matter

Ashwalker_-_how_do_you_have_all_purple_gear_-_hmgt

Last night I dove back into a topic I’d been blissfully putting off for the past few days – the upcoming PvP Season 10-11 transition. It’s not that I mind writing a guide to it – I think it’s valuable to sit down and plan out what you *really* need to do to be prepared for a new season – but rather that it brings up the Season 9-10 transition.

And that transition broke the endgame for me. 

I can say that now, in hindsight, though I didn’t realize how fundamental a break it was. My warlock, my main in name but not in practice, sits in her dusty Season 9 gear, not raiding, not PvPing, not really doing very much. She occasionally makes some Dreamcloth or quests around the Cata zones. Actually, she’s done with the Cata zones, so that’s finished. 

No dailies. No dungeons. No BGs.

Lots of alts. Lots of twinks. Lots of projects.

It’s hard to watch a character go from (near) the top of a gear chain to the bottom. In a few weeks, Cynwise will be wearing worse gear than a new level 85 starting PvP with crafted gear. This happens, it’s part of the game, but… but it’s disheartening.

It brings up all the anger I felt when I’d walked away from the game and came back, tentatively, only to find out that the grind I thought I’d already done wasn’t done at all

It turns out, I’m still pretty angry about it. I am starting to feel an itch to play my Warlock again, but I look at picking her up now, and it’s like… why bother gearing? It’s going to be replaced in a few weeks. Like, literally, 6-8 weeks. 

The picture at the top of this post was from an amusing run through H-MgT when someone finally bothered to inspect Ashwalker and discovered I was in full epics. Not even real tanking epics, but PvP epics – but epics, nonetheless. “OMG HOW ARE YOU IN PURPLES?” amused me at the time, but it also reminds me of an important fact – as long as I choose to keep her there, she’s geared as well as she needs to be. I could tank BC raids in her gear if I wanted. I can play around with Fury or Arms in PvP, I can just go tank Drek if that’s all I want to do. I can log in and do the Dalaran JC daily, if I’m really bored, but I have all the epic PVP gem patterns now, so I’m set.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Well.

Warriors are really weak in the 70s bracket – possibly the weakest PvP class. It shows. I flip from Prot to Arms/Fury and die immediately without the mobility of Prot. There are BGs where I can do well – WSG and AV! – but I really struggle on EotS, and AB and SotA are kinda tough. I’m geared enough that I can actually read the bracket issues as class balance issues, not as gear issues, or even player issues. Mages own the 70s, and Mages own Warriors. 

Ashwalker_and_icedragon_-_kara_nap

Tanking is still pretty fun, but the only place I can get gear upgrades is Sunwell, so aside from the Kara runs for pretty shinies, there’s not a lot of motivation there to just randomly tank heroics.

I have a priest and a druid in the 70 bracket, too. They’re not completely geared/gemmed, but they’re getting close. I thought I’d quest around more on the priest, see the Horde side of things, but I basically have her around to PvP and heal for @druidis4fite’s baby tank. (Got a great Sunwell healing mace on her, though.) I’m slowly learning how to heal on the Druid, she’s doing better now. But the 70 bracket is unbalanced, just like most of the low level brackets. It gets tiring getting facerolled by mages. It’s good practice but is starting to feel stale.

Gear only matters for so long, even for twinks. Once you have best of everything, then it comes down to – are the other activities enjoyable in and of themselves? Do you feel like you’re still accomplishing something, or is it just another night in gorram Warsong Gulch?

(At least if you level to 75, you can get a maxed profession mule for your troubles.)

Once upon a time I thought that the problems I have staying with playing Cynderblock, who really is my best-geared toon, was just because she’s a weak class in a tough bracket. Warriors were nerfed to the ground in level 19 play with the Sundering, and it took me a while to reconcile with switching entirely to being the FC, nothing but the FC, and that is fun enough. 

But I have a level 24 hunter now, and that’s about as OP a twink as you can get – OP class in an OP bracket – and she’s pretty boring to play. Once you get the basics down, lowbie Hunter PvP isn’t that hard, playing WSG well is hard. The quality of the play in the 20-24 xp-off bracket aren’t up to the 15-19 xp-off bracket – you do see a lot of WTF things going on in the 20s that just don’t happen in the 19s. But being OP doesn’t hold my attention either. 

(I should remember that as I struggle to retain interest in leveling a Mage via PvP.)

There’s an interesting dichotomy here; I don’t know how to resolve it. I enjoy gearing up toons. It’s obvious and apparent with my twinking obsession that I actually like making them more than I like playing them for long periods of time. I like going and doing crazy things on them, but once the crazy things are done, I don’t feel the need to obsessively play them. They’ll just sit there, waiting, for when I want to play them again.

But the problem with twinks is that, once they’re geared, they’re done. They’re not as interesting to me once they’re geared up; sure, I could spend hours and hours trying to farm Sunwell gear on them now, but … why? Their gear is good enough for their primary activity, I don’t really have the time to raid (no matter what the level), meh, done.

If I’m going to spend time getting gear, I want the gear to matter. I want my effort getting it to mean something, for it to be an accomplishment that retains value. That’s my major problem with the Cata PvP transition – it shortens the useful life of the gear I get even further than it was previously. 

The dichotomy between an endgame character, where you are always gearing up a toon, and a twink, where you gear them up once and are done, is pretty big. What I’m wrestling with again, what I am probably always going to wrestle with, is that I enjoy gearing up toons, but that I want that gear to matter.

I’m starting to think my problem isn’t with the endgame grind, per se, but rather with the perception of the value of gear relative to effort spent acquiring it. If it takes me an entire PvP season to gear up to Conquest gear, and that gear has little value in the next season, then I feel it’s not worth it at all.

If my effort had more lasting value, if the endgame gear had some more longevity, I think it could draw me back in. 

Right now I’m looking at it going… I have an itch to play my Warlock, but having to go back and redo everything has very little appeal when I know it will all be replaced soon. Real soon. 

I could literally go farm cloth, Volatiles, and Honor/JP and get more bang for my buck than kitting out Cynwise right now.

That just doesn’t feel right.

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Five Quality of Life Improvements I’d Like to See in WoW

There was a question on the class feedback threads – what quality of life improvements would you like to see? – that I quite liked. My only complaint is that it was class-specific, not general.

So, here’s my non-warlock list.

1. Bring back the city portals. In an effort to get everyone out to see the world, removing the city portals concentrated everyone in SW and Org. No, not concentrated – isolated. Most toons don’t leave the city. (Corollary: give mages a wider variety of ports.)

2. Allow people to change their RealID names. Learn from Facebook and Google+; people want the features of RealID without divulging personal info. This is still an issue, even if the forums don’t require it.

3. Clickable fishing poles. This is a small thing, but it screws up new players all the time. Most items are click-to-use, but not poles, and not ranged/thrown, for that matter. Having to find the ability is jarring.

4. Publish your Macro API and keep it up to date. Include basic tutorials in-game for making /startattack macros to streamline early play. Stop breaking my focus macros! :)

5. Cross-server heirlooms. Seriously, I could fill a list with this one entry. The inability to send heirlooms around really dampens playing on different servers with friends. If this is too big of a problem to solve, consider controllable XP buffs instead – you “unlock” certain tiers of XP gain that can be toggled on and off for a fee, just like the Experience Eliminators. Divorce the XP boost from the gear.

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On My Continuing Struggles with Druid Healing

Cynli_-_scoreboard

So if there’s one thing I’ve learned about WoW bloggers, it’s that healers are an extremely passionate bunch. Make one observation on Twitter – especially if you’re having trouble with a class – and you will be SWARMED with helpful advice. You will literally get piled on by helpful druids, priests, paladins, and shamans. HERE LET US HELP YOU KEEP PEOPLE ALIVE.

And then suddenly you’re at the bottom of a pile of healers, all of whom are trying to hug you and let you know that it’s okay, you CAN do this.

This is, uh, somewhat different from the PvP community, where… how can I put this politely?

“Welcome to PvP! You’re probably going to hate everything you see in /bg chat for the next 6 months and spend more time at the spirit healer than you ever imagined. Enjoy!”

So I mentioned today that I wanted to try something different on my level 70 Druid, Cynli. She’s resto and healing battlegrounds right now. Healing them badly. I mean, I have finally overcome the problems of my UI – mouseover macros and raid frames are working for me – and I think I got the idea behind the spells – I know what Swiftmend does now, even if I don’t use it enough – but I’m still just kinda floundering along.

I’m also getting my Disc priest Cynedra up to level 70 (66 now), and I’m not floundering on her. I might not be using her to her full advantage – I basically bubble, renew, flash heal, and occasionally PoM the party – but I’m 50 times more competent on her than my druid.

It hit me last night that I wasn’t having fun healing on my druid, that I was just not getting it, and that perhaps I should try something else. And being a druid, I have a lot of options!

But by mentioning it on twitter, and opening up the new spec to public opinion (holy crap I know a lot of Boomkins), the Resto Druid community quickly banded together and SMOTHERED me in a leafy wave of enthusiasm.

Seriously. Do you guys have a Tree Signal or something? I think you do. I think there’s like some kind of alarm system that goes off in the druid healing community when someone even thinks they’re having trouble.

The Boomkin and Bears were right out of the gate, but the trees moved right behind, going WAIT WAIT WAIT WE CAN FIX THIS, YOU ARE BEING SILLY CYN.

Warlocks? We warlocks are like, oh look, another warlock rerolled mage today. I hate myself and will stick with this class because mages are too happy and OP, I like pain.

I feel like part of the problem is that I’ve gotten pretty good with Disc, and the Resto playstyle feels really … different. If I don’t have a bubble on someone in PvP, I can get it up and immediately stop the damage. BAM THIS FAR NO FURTHER. They get a Renew (if I’m moving) or a Flash Heal (if I’m not) and maybe a Binding Heal (if I’m injured too.) Then I move on to the next one.

On my Druid, I’m like, crap, they’re taking damage, Rejuvenate!

And then they die.

So I think I’m doing it wrong.

I’m really touched by the response of the druid community – y’all obviously have some kind of strange communication mechanisms that are far beyond the ken of this simple lock – and the enthusiasm Druids have for healing is contagious.

And very much appreciated by this struggling druid healer. So, thank you.

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On Warlock Need to Know Setups (PvE)

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It’s been a while since I posted a doodle from my actual notebook. Working on a Need to Know post, I’m struck by how many things you could be tracking in PvE, versus what you really should. (I would trim these lists by a lot in actual practice.)

There are other components, like Demon Soul CD tracking, where I think you’re better off just letting it sit on a consistent spot on your bars and getting OmniCC to track it. Yet some CDs (Chaos Bolt, Conflag) should be tracked.

I’m also missing Backdraft from the Destro side. Just realized that. I’m in favor of Jagoex’s strategy, which is to only cast Incinerate when Backdraft is up, otherwise hard cast Soul Fire. Incinerate is too slow. It’s a proc with actions and decisions attached to it, which is different from Eradication, which … well, you keep on keepin’ on when it procs.

Follow up question for Cyn – if both Molten Core and Decimation are up, which takes priority? My Wrath logic says Decimation, but the talents were changed since I played Demo. I think it’s actually Molten Core > Decimation now.

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On Staying Away From 85

Screen_shot_2011-09-15_at_11

I was reading the forums the other night after filling out my warlock survey when I came across a few threads about locking XP in the 80-84 bracket. It’s a small PvP bracket right now, with most people staying at 80 for the beneficial stat scaling on the gear that exists (much like the 70 bracket.) Some class combos, though, apparently fare quite well at 84 – Frost DKs in particular.

Hey, I thought, I have a level 84 Frost DK. I should lock XP and check out the bracket.

And then I suddenly felt much better about Cynwulf’s future.

Locking XP at 84 seems a little crazy – you’re almost there! – but I’ve been dreading getting to 85 with him. He’s currently my gathering toon, the one I play when I’m on my treadmill so I can fly around and mine ore, and he’s slowly crept his way from 80 to 84 on mining XP alone. And I suppose, once he hit 85, I would probably be okay with outfitting him with some cheap Bloodthirsty gear and continuing to use him to mine. It’s a boring existence, but at least it has a purpose.

But there’s a very different world that opens up at 85, a world that requires a commitment to get good and stay good. There are dailies and reputation grinds and PvP and dungeons and heroics and raiding and gear and gear and more gear.

And I don’t want that for him.

Leveling to the endgame makes me feel like the character is never complete. There will always be something else to get, something else to do. That’s okay – that’s part of what WoW is about. That’s why I have an endgame character to experience it, and when I’m playing her, I always have something to do. Always.

But there’s a darker side to that, which took me twinking Cynderblock at 19 to realize: I will always be running to catch up with the endgame. The price of seeing cool things and playing at the endgame is the fundamental knowledge that the gear I have now will not be good enough in 3 months. That the dailies I do today will be replaced with different dailies later on. That there will be always be a compulsion to keep up with the Joneses.

Some people are able to manage this really well psychologically. They get endgame characters to a certain point and go, good enough. I can do that in PvE well enough, I suppose, but in PvP I’m constantly going, gear is an issue. Gear is an issue. Gear is an issue – until it finally isn’t. Then there are a few weeks or months where I have the best PvP gear available and play to my heart’s content – until the new tier/season comes, and it starts all over again.

I don’t like putting work into something only to have it lose value, and lose value rapidly. So there’s an issue with gear.

But there’s more to it than just a gear grind. That’s a big part of it, but not all of it.

I’ve written before about how I’m trying to think of my characters as projects, with specific purposes behind each. It’s helped make me happier in game, of reducing the alt guilt and feeling that I should do something with any given alt. I rolled a hunter to see the 20-24 twink bracket; when I feel like playing her, I do, but as I get mostly BiS gear, I don’t feel any great compulsion to play her. There’s no guilt associated with not logging in, no sense of falling behind. I make peace with characters when they hit a point where they’re good at what I want them to do. PvP, PvE, leveling – if they’re good at doing what I want them to do, then I can settle down and enjoy playing them.

It’s funny – if I’m leveling well – decent gear, comfortable with abilities, confident with the class – then I find I actually enjoy the process. I like seeing the world. I like experiencing the quests. The pvp imbalances don’t bother me.

But when I’m lost within a class, then I don’t enjoy logging in to them.

I locked XP on my druid at 70 to help fix this problem – stop the leveling, I want to get off for a little while and rediscover the joy in playing a toon. I’m working on her PvP gear, slowly, but my big thing is just trying to relearn healing wiht her. Locking XP helped me suspend any future changes to abiities, but also helped me suspend any expectations with her. It calmed me down about what I should be doing; not leveling, but just figuring out what spells to use, maybe a few macros to help out, work on cleaning up her UI when the fancy strikes. I’m doing the same thing on my priest, only I haven’t locked her XP yet – but I plan to.

And this is, surprisingly, working on these characters. I log in, I putter about and make some progress, and then I can leave them for days, weeks, or months. I don’t feel guilty about leaving them be, of falling behind. If I want to let them level up further, I can – my druid might go to 79 or 80, for instance – but I don’t really want to go any further. Stats start to drop off at 81 and go downhill to 85, making it especially unattractive for a healer.

So I don’t really think that locking Cynwulf at 84 is all that crazy – at least not anymore. It’s an opportunity to get him some more playtime in PvE and PvP without introducing the additional stress of the endgame. It avoids the dramatic drop off in abilities that happens at 85, a drop off which is only compensated for by gear.

Will I miss out on all the Cataclysm endgame stuff?

Yes. Absolutely.

But I don’t think I’m missing out on much, to be honest.

I’ll have more fun, and less guilt, this way.

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On Revisiting the 19 Bracket & Clutch Plays

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I’ve been playing Cynderblock again, in PvP. I gave up on trying to be a decent DPS and instead have focused entirely upon being the FC; this has worked out pretty well. I have been squeezing in a game or two a night with her, which is a fair chunk of my evening in WoW.

I don’t know how this happened, to be honest. I went in… to fish? To clean out her bank? I think it was to clean out her bank. And … I kinda signed up for a WSG game out of habit, and when it popped, I tried it and had a lot of fun. Different fun than with Ashwalker, but my skills as a FC have improved a lot in the last year or so. I still die sometimes to stupid things – usually getting caught out in midfield, or trying to be a damn hero – but not as often as I do as DPS, because my job is to be absurdly hard to kill.

The 19 bracket is different now. It’s strange to see the influence of the F2P movement, but it’s there. Health pools are a little lower. Damage is lower. People aren’t using as many absurd things. It’s no longer a unified strata of ubertwinks; different gear and skill levels are evident.

I think one reason I’m enjoying ‘block again is that I’m being asked to make clutch plays as the FC, and I’m making them. Damn, it’s fun when everything comes down to you making the right move at the right time.

Tonight I queued up and found I had a partial premade from <Five For Fishing> on my team – 5 in a group on Skype. That’s a good sign, especially since one was a hearler. On the other side was mostly members of <Cereal Killers>, which got a little confusing since so many of them were “Mini-” names. It was a good game – not a blowout by any stretch of the imagination. We went up 1-0, they returned the favor and brought it up to 1-1 with about 10 minutes to go. That’s not a lot of time for the return cap, but I was able to get back to our base with about 5 minutes left. Unfortunately, they grabbed ours, and we needed a cap to win.

The priest and I had clicked, so we sent everyone but us two to to corner the EFC, who was going ramp. We then proceeded to play cat and mouse with 4 of the Horde through the keep – up, down, up to the roof again – for a few frantic minutes when I got a whisper from the healer:

Get ready to cap – EFC cornered by zerk hut.

I looked down at the FR floor – the Horde was moving towards the flag. They knew the EFC was going down. Fuuuuuck, they have voice comms too. Works both ways. If they got the flag and get away, they could go GY and avoid our entire team. We would lose, there wasn’t enough time to get them. My priest friend had already jumped down into the middle of them. I took off from the safety of the roof, running for the edge.

EFC has dropped the Alliance Flag!

Priest: Psychic Scream!

Hunter and Rouge are affected. Warlock is not.

Someone has returned the Alliance Flag!

Warlock is still moving. Crap. Warlock is still moving.

Jump Cyn jump jump jump

Warlock is almost to the flag.

jump jump jump fuuuuck

Flag respawns.

5 5 5 5 5 5 5 

In the span of a GCD, Cynderblock Charged from midair into the Warlock, leapt over her stunned body, and landed on top of the respawned flag.

Cynderblock has captured the Horde Flag!

Your reputation with Silverwing Sentinels has increased by 45.

I look up from the fracas in the FR at the display: 2-1 Alliance, 3 minutes to go.

We’ve won.

We’d gone from losing to winning with a clutch Charge.

Holy crap, cynder. GG.

Yeah. I could get used to this.

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On Achievement Quality and the Inevitable Nerfs

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What makes an achievement good? What makes it worthy of praise?

I’ve been thinking a lot about achievements as part of my disassociation from my main, and this topic comes up every so often as I reconcile myself to having put Cynwise aside for a while; perhaps for the rest of the expansion, perhaps longer. I don’t even have a lot of achievement points on her, compared to many, but I do have a lot of time invested in her, a lot of expertise, and yes, a lot of points there.

Running Stormwind Stockades awards 10 achievement points. It doesn’t matter if you do it at level 20, or level 60, or level 85 – it’s the same 10 points. Bad group? No group? Doesn’t matter. 10 points.

But what if it’s your first dungeon? That’s a pretty big achievement, right there. What if you’re soloing it, at level? That’s pretty cool! (I’ve never done that.)

What if you’re running it on your 85 in full T12?

Er.

Well.

I hope you got some nice Wool Cloth?

The quality of achievements is separate from their point value, or even from their existence as “coded fun,” as the man behind El called them. They very often are worth pursuing, of having a goal and reaching it.

But the quality varies. Player’s situations differ – perhaps they’re in a group with skilled raiders, who have helped teach them how to become a great raider. Heroic Rag down? Awesome! Perhaps they’re in a leveling guild, and no one they know has ever done a heroic dungeon before. Heroic Stonecore down? Awesome! Both of these things are praiseworthy for the player, and should be recognized as such.

Here’s something I hadn’t considered: by having so many achievements coded in the system, WoW actually enables in-game recognition of a wide variety of actual achievements by sheer coverage. Running your first heroic is a big thing. It’s easy to forget that when you’re running Zulroics all the time for points. It’s easy to lose perspective on how big your first PvP battle is, and how cool it is to not only get your first Honorable Kill, but That Takes Class! Wahoo! Stepping into PvP is scary.

So by having so many of the damn things, WoW is pretty sure to be able to give you a ding and a grats when you do something cool in game. That’s a good thing.

But it’s also interesting how psychology works. By celebrating a real achievement with a certain ritual (up comes the badge, lights flash, sounds go off, you get points in your bucket), that ritual becomes desirable in and of itself. So I (and others) chase it, even if the achievements themselves aren’t quite so cool, aren’t quite as awesome as the really neat ones.

I envy folks who don’t fall into this trap. I really do. It’s taken me a while to come out of it, to go… wait a minute.

I have Ambassador on Cynderblock, and I got it in a really fun and interesting way. I got to quest with some good friends of mine, see the entire Horde starting experience on a single toon before it all changed, and I grew to love a class and character through it. I had a blast chasing it.

When the city tabards came out in the Sundering, suddenly, the title became easier to get. A lot easier to get. My rare thing wasn’t so rare any more.

Except, of course, that the actual achievement – not the title, not the in-game achievement, but the thing that I did - didn’t get nerfed. So what if the title was easier to get now? I did this thing, it was hard, it was cool, I had fun.

Killing the Whale Shark at level 19 is a very different achievement, one which makes for a great story but really wasn’t that hard. Seriously! I lucked into a group that was doing it, I dodged level 80-81 mobs, and tried not to drown! It was fun, but I value it for vastly different reasons than chasing Ambassador. Killing the whale shark at 19 is the most in-your-face example of challenging notions of acceptable gameplay in WoW I can come up with. I took a lowbie into Vashj’ir. That’s crazy. Then I “killed” the Whale Shark (some random warlock actually kited it, not me).

It was all about having the guts to do it. That’s all that achievement is really about.

Context matters. Perspective matters.

So this isn’t really about ‘block, but about the inevitable nerfs. The Inevitable Nerfs are coming!

(That sounds like a band, doesn’t it? Ghostcrawler and the Inevitable Nerfs are playing the Astrodome on Sunday!)

Heroic Ragnaros got nerfed, there was some uproar, I dunno, I was in meetings most of today. The details don’t really matter, though, this is a story that gets repeated over and over again.

PvE content gets progressively easier as time goes on. Sometimes it’s obvious – the ICC buff getting stronger, bosses getting actively nerfed – but usually it’s through the acquisition of gear and experience. Your team gears up, people learn good strategies, everything clicks, boom, boss goes down.

It’s important to keep this in mind when hearing about content nerfs; timing matters. The best guilds in the world are going to kill a harder boss, with worse gear, than those who come after. Two guilds got the Lich King down at 5%, though only one of those counted in the end. Two. Maybe one, depends how you feel about Saronite Bombs as part of a Rogue’s DPS rotation.

I think only 37 guilds have downed H-Rag 25? Not a lot, really, and those who have done it struggle to consistently repeat it. It’s not like you get it and suddenly he’s on farm – no, this is a hard boss, dependent upon raid comp and RNG to beat. And now he’s a little less so.

I get that it can be frustrating, hugely frustrating, to have just run out of time to do something. The ICC buff drove that home – a lot of guilds were like, we need to get him at 10%, or 20%, dear god DIE Arthas! And some succeeded, and they made their achievement, and that’s pretty cool. Others didn’t, and that’s frustrating, but they got him in the end, which actually is still pretty cool.

I got him at 30%, with my rag tag guild, with friends. It was one of the best nights of my WoW life, that first kill. It doesn’t matter that it was “nerfed” content, it was big for me. Really big.

I got the same ritual ding and grats that everyone else gets with that kill. Doesn’t matter if it’s old hat, doesn’t matter if it’s a bunch of level 100s going back and soloing Wrath content, doesn’t matter if it’s your first time there, doesn’t matter if you’re carried or exhausted from weeks of wiping – you get the badge, you get the title, you get the points.

Heroic Rag got easier to kill this week. The inevitable nerfs hit the Firelord.

I wager that killing him is still really fucking hard, so while it might affect some people’s perception that their accomplishment is somehow … lessened?

But really, it just means it’s gone from really fucking hard to fucking hard, and the accomplishment should still be celebrated. So it’s not quite as potent as it was last week? Each week encounters get a little easier as raids accumulate gear; this just sped it up. Heroic Rag 25 hasn’t suddenly become Stormwind Stockades, after all.

The quality of an achievement, and an accomplishment, depends upon its context.

Changes to that context matter – but so do changes to your perspective.

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