Tag Archives: Rants Disguised as Posts

The Isle of Conquest is REALLY Broken

First off, did you know you could repair cannons in the Isle of Conquest now? I think this is new. I don’t know if this is something only Engineers can do, but it’s kinda cool to be able to revive cannons.

Repairing cannons is about the only good thing I can say about the Isle of Conquest right now. It’s broken in so many ways that puts every other time I’ve said it’s broken to shame. This isn’t about having the terrain favor one side or another.  Oh, I long for those days now!

No, instead we have:

  • Trying to get to the Airship from the Hangar kills you instantly, sending you 8 miles off the coast of the Isle to drown in deep water.
  • Huge pink blocks of doom that appear when the Alliance breaches the gates of the Horde Keep.

Think I’m kidding about the Big Pink Blocks of Doom?  Vikt (from Of the Horde) sent me this great screenshot:

… which kinda demonstrates the futility of Alliance breaking down the gate.

Let’s look at what these bugs do to each side’s strategy.  For Alliance:

  • Avoid the Hangar, it’s a death trap.  So no parachuting into the keep.
  • The Workshops are mostly useless to you on Offense, since the siege can’t break through the pink blocks once the gates are down.
  • Take the Docks, ignore the Glaives, and use Catapults to get inside the keep.

For the Horde:

  • Avoid the Hangar.
  • Take the Workshops, since the Alliance aren’t going to contest it anyways (as it’s useless to them).
  • Let the Alliance take the Docks, then station a defensive force to kill the Catapults just around the bend in the road, where they’ll be strung out and poorly defended.
  • Used the vehicles from the Workshop to take the keep and win.

As a Horde player, you absolutely want to be queuing for Isle of Conquest right now.  You are going to win. Seriously, you are going to win. The odds are stacked so high right now in the Horde’s favor, you’d be dumb not to queue for this one and rack up some wins.

As an Alliance player, you’re going to get IoC in your random queue more often than you like precisely because the Horde are queuing for it. And that means you’re going to lose. (Sorry about that, I’m just keeping it real, yo.) The best way to try to win is to send a small force to the Docks, with a larger force to contest the Workshops. I have yet to see this work, but it seems like the only viable strategy is to disrupt the Horde assault.

The important thing to keep, if Isle of Conquest comes up as your random BG, is your sense of humor. This battleground has BIG PINK BLOCKS that completely negate whatever skill advantages your side might have (or lack). This BG is broken.

Don’t sweat it. Laugh, and move on.

P.S. The scoreboards are broken, too:

Although, I suppose it’s possible that those two REALLY know how to heal…

14 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

The Case Against Heirlooms

I love Heirloom gear. I love having complete sets ready to go for pretty much any low level character I choose to roll. I spent much of Wrath obsessed with collecting them.  I have, at last count, 29 heirloom items. That’s twenty-nine pieces of Bind to Account gear, all dedicated to making me an awesome leveler.

And yet… I’m not an awesome leveler.  I’m just not.  I’m great at rolling alts, and pretty good at making them as powerful as I can at any given level, but I’m just not a great leveler.  I play with some great levelers, people who can take a toon to level 40 in two days, with full professions, and completely enjoy the experience along the way.

That’s not me.  Each level is a struggle, and there’s this constant sense of guilt that I should be doing it faster, better, are we there yet? that makes me wonder why I roll so many alts in the first place. Having all the Heirlooms in the game wouldn’t make me better at leveling.

And yet: I enjoy questing. One of my biggest personal lessons with the Level 19 Ambassador Project was how much I enjoyed discovering the stories behind the game, of seeing the reasons why places are the way they are. I enjoy collecting gear, of sifting through quest rewards for the best, the prettiest, the coolest-looking, the oddest. I love having torches and lanterns and pretty dresses. I can even enjoy leveling, when I forget that there’s a goal I’m trying to reach.

I laid out the case for Heirlooms in an earlier post, but it’s relevant to summarize it here.  Heirloom gear serves two purposes; to give experienced players a shorter path through content they’ve experienced before, and to allow for gear to be shared between characters on a server.  Heirlooms are good gear, sometimes great gear, sometimes the best gear you can get.  You can enchant them once and never have to enchant that slot again.  You can get stats that are otherwise rare or unavailable before level 60 (Hit, Haste, Resilience.)

But when Cataclysm comes, I think I’m going to level a lot of my alts without Heirlooms, or only with a few selected ones.  I’ve already started using my Heirlooms less and less, and am finding it a more enjoyable experience overall.

This is, frankly, odd for me to admit, since in terms of efficiency (and regular readers know how I feel about efficiency), Heirloom gear cannot be beaten.  (Even speed enchants on your boots can’t quite compare to Heirlooms for increasing your experience gain.) Going without the chest and shoulders means you are leveling 20% more.  That’s crazy.

And yet…

THIS ISN’T OLD CONTENT

The old world is not going to be old anymore.  The experience from 1-60 has been redesigned, the stories are different.  Leveled through Darkshore, Westfall, and the Barrens dozens of times before?  Well, you’ve never leveled through these zones.  They’re different now.  You can’t be bored with these quests yet, you’ve never done them!

Doing all of the tier 1-2 zones on a single character made me realize how different each zone could feel, how some zones appeal to you and others don’t.  Taking time to experience each zone and the stories within it is a good, enjoyable part of the game! Remember your first character, stumbling around without much of a clue, discovering new places, being awed by the immensity of this game?

Don’t rob yourself of that innocence too soon.  Take your time.  Stop and smell the roses.

(Okay, Outland and Northrend are still old content.  Get every XP boost you can to level through those quickly.)

THIS ISN’T THE FASTEST WAY TO GET A NEW RACE TO 85

If you are really in a hurry, Heirlooms will not get your new goblin or worgen to 85 by December 8th. No, if you want to play one of the new races in the endgame as soon as possible, your best strategy is to take an existing level 80 character to 85 and change their race.  There realm first racial achievements have been removed, so there’s even less incentive to try to do this, but if you’re dead set on playing the endgame with one of the new races?

Get your level 80 character ready to switch.

THIS ISN’T THE WAY TO BE OVERPOWERED

I’ve been rolling a lot of alts lately, and I’ve heard people talking in battlegrounds about how overpowered someone is because they have Heirlooms.  I think this is probably filtering into the Dungeon Finder, too – “lol no heirlooms.”

This is stupid.  It’s not stupid because it’s childish (though it’s that, too).  It’s not even stupid because it ignores player skill (which is also stupid.)  It’s stupid because it ignores math, and ignores a simple fact:  for the first 30 levels or so, your enchants are better than your gear.

I rolled a Hunter recently, why, I wasn’t quite sure, but I did and I’m enjoying it.  I tossed a Lovely Purple Dress on her and a set of enchanted white gear I got from the starting area vendors, and then proceeded to destroy the starting area. I tossed Heirlooms on her at level 10, keeping the same enchants, and have proceeded to destroy every instance and battleground I’ve been in.

Why?

+7 Agility to the boots.  +9 Stamina to the bracers.  +15 Agility to the gloves.  +15 Agility to the main hand weapon.  +100 Health to the chest.  +2 damage on the bow.  +16 Armor to the legs.

For a Hunter, that translates to 74 Ranged Attack Power and an additional 190 health, just from enchants.

A full kit of Heirlooms provides (at level 19): +5 Agility from the shoulders, +7 Agility from the chest, +3 Agility from the MH, +18 Stamina, +6 Haste, +6 Resilience, and a PvP trinket.  That’s 30 Ranged Attack Power and about 4% Haste, 180 health.  All good stats, and worth having for maximum pwnage, but it takes a while for gear to catch up to the wonderful enchantments you can place on level 1 items.

Think about that again.  A properly enchanted set of white gear gives you better bonuses than Heirlooms for the first 20 levels.

Heirlooms are a good way to ensure that several of your slots are filled with good, enchanted, blue-quality gear.  They mean you can enchant a slot once and never worry about it again, which I greatly appreciate given how much I love the Crusader enchant. But it’s not just the weapon damage that is important there: it’s always having an enchanted weapon. You save money, you don’t skimp on your Heirloom enchants like you might on something you’re going to replace in a few levels.

THEY OBSCURE YOUR VIEW OF THE GAME

A related pet peeve is that it also surprises me how often I hear players refer to Heirlooms as best-in slot items.  They’re not, or not always.  At any given level, for a specific class, they might be the best you can get – but more often than not, there’s something else you can get.  If you have Heirlooms and are leveling quickly, you’d probably never notice this.

What I’ve noticed while using Heirlooms is that I start ignoring whole swaths of gear, and stop making choices around them.  That’s okay – it’s one of the advantages of Heirlooms – but it’s also a disadvantage.  There are some really great items in the game that you’ll never acquire, never even notice, if you level in full heirlooms.

I obsess a bit on my twink blog about the best weapon for a given spec or situation.  And yet, I often use the Venerable Mass of McGowan for my MH weapon.  It’s a great tanking weapon because of the Agility, though there are some swords that outclass it for sheer DPS.  So I switch, depending on what situation I’m in.  (The 2H Heirlooms are all outdone by several different quest rewards and I don’t even have them on ‘block anymore.)

But Cyn, you’ll rightly say, why should I spend the time researching that when the Heirlooms are good enough, and when I’m going to outlevel that reward in a dungeon run or two anyways?

Because it’s a part of the game that you’re missing.  If you wear your Tattered Dreadmist set all the way from 1-80, not only do you miss out on any sense of progression in your appearance, you lose out on how bad and awkward the outfits were in Outland (and how drab everyone is in Northrend.)  Your gloves, helm, and boots change, but you basically look the same from 1-80.

If your goal is getting to 80, then maybe that doesn’t matter.  There’s no right or wrong here, just a matter of preference.  Looking like a clown in Outland isn’t something to seek out, exactly – but it’s part of the game, and a fun part of the game.  Replacing my purple tunic was a big step – though it was nice seeing my legs again!

THEY GET IN THE WAY OF LEARNING YOUR NEW CLASS

It’s one thing to say that Heirlooms let you skip over seeing a part of the game (gear).  The more I’ve leveled with them, the more I think that they can hinder becoming a real expert in your class.

Hear me out.

It’s fairly straightforward to pick out a good set of Heirlooms for a given class.  You might not get the best ones for your chosen spec, but you should be able to do pretty good overall.

But what if you want to tank instead of DPS?  There’s no gear that’s specific to tanking, and even though the instances 1-80 aren’t that demanding anymore, you’re not getting exposed to the idea that you should gear differently for tanking than for DPS – until you hit the endgame.  I ditched my DK’s Heirloom chest when he hit 70 and went with the crafted tank blues instead.

The difference was noticeable.  Having dedicated tank gear in all slots made a big improvement back in the days of Defense, but even at lower gear levels I believe it’s important to start learning the ins and outs of why gear works the way it does while leveling, not at the endgame.

It’s not just the roles of the holy trinity that need to be learned through the leveling process – the distinctions between gearing different specs are lost in the heirloom shuffle.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve got a Rogue I’m leveling Combat.  I’ve probably mentioned that I’m also not very good with her; I don’t really understand what I’m doing aside from Sinister Strike > Slice and Dice > SS x5 > Eviscerate, with occasional Blade Flurries to spread the damage around.  I’m basically doing what smarter Rogue players than I have told me what to do, and running LFD so that I can level her up.

The reason I’m leveling a Rogue is that I want to level her Enchanting and Inscription.  Heirlooms work great for this purpose; they let me grasp the basics of the class, keep the same gear throughout the process, and every once in a while drop into LFD for some dungeon runs.

But at the end of all of this, after I hit level 80, will I be a good Rogue player?  No. Absolutely not.  I grab random gear with Agility, Hit and Stamina off the AH or from dungeons, but basically I’m powering through on Heirlooms.

Conversely, I plan on leveling my warlocks in Cataclysm with minimal Heirlooms, precisely so I can see what it’s like.  I want to experience the new gear.  I want to see what it’s like in the field, how it looks, how it works.  I want to sit there actually thinking about a quest reward before turning in the quest.

There’s a counter-argument to be made to this – namely, that you don’t need to be an expert in how a class levels to be an expert in it at the endgame, or to be a really good endgame player.  I absolutely agree with this.  If leveling is not your goal, but the endgame is, then you probably don’t need to know the intricacies of how a class levels up.

But there are skills you learn while leveling that are important (kiting, trapping, jump shots, CC, pulling, healing on the move) that you need at level 80/85.  Don’t dismiss them out of hand if your goal is the endgame.

NEITHER WAY IS WRONG

I know me.  I’m going to waffle back and forth between using Heirlooms, not using Heirlooms.  I love them too much to abandon them entirely.  Some toons are going to be totally tricked out, and that means they get the purple dress and skull shoulders and staff.  Others are going to be left to fend for themselves.

That’s okay.

Leveling, it seems to me, is as much about the journey as it is the destination.  Sometimes we just want to take the highway and get there as fast as we can.  Sometimes we want to take back roads.  One might be faster, but that doesn’t make it better.

And that is the crux of my case against Heirlooms.

22 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

The Broken Battlegrounds of 4.0.1

So I logged in last night with the intent to get my PvP spec squared away, get my new Wrathful gear gemmed and enchanted, and spend some time in the battlegrounds to get a good, solid impression of how 4.0.1 has changed them.

It was, frankly, an awful experience.

Most nights when I have a bad night in the BGs, it’s because I’m losing, a lot, and my fellow teammates are being nasty about it.  I don’t mind clueless, I do mind vicious.

No, it was awful because of the bugs.  Glitches, freezes, disconnects, all conspired to make trying to fight in a battleground an exercise in frustration.

The worst part, in asking around, I know that this is not universal.  It’s there, people are having problems — but not everyone.

I’ve debated posting this.  I’d much rather have an analysis for you of what’s happening in the BGs right now, which, I’m told, is horribly imbalanced, with Resilience stacking making certain classes unkillable, with clothies running roughshod over melee… but all I have are bugs.

Here are the bugs I’ve seen.

THE FLAG BOSS / MAGE TABLE / CLICKING IS DANGEROUS

There’s a bug with one line tooltips where your client locks up/disconnects when you mouse over anything that turns your cursor into a cogwheel – like, say, the flags in Arathi Basin, mage tables, warlock portals, the Headless Horseman’s altar – anything you need to click that has a 1-line tooltip can cause it.

For this one, there’s a fix: CogFix, an addon that eliminates the tooltip.  It works okay in most situations – I stopped crashing at the flag, at least – but there were still some other situations that still did it, like the fantastically bugged EoE.

RANDOM DISCONNECT AND DESERTER DEBUFF

I love this one.  For no rhyme or reason, the client locks up, crashes or disconnects, and when you log back in you have the Deserter debuff.  This one happened to me a lot last night, and unlike previous patches, there seems to be no way to get back in without picking up the Deserter debuff.  I’ve DCed before and gotten back in to the same battle within 30 seconds; now, the debuff prevents that.

I don’t really care about the Deserter debuff.  It’s annoying, but if this is just a case of the debuff being tuned more strictly, I can live with it.

But I DCed from 8 out of 10 battlegrounds last night.  It didn’t matter how much activity was on the screen, or system load, or anything like that – I’d be running along, then BAM, client crashes, I start fumbling for my authenticator.

Deserter.  Ugh.

This instability has made any sustained BG play basically impossible for me. After a while, the sane response is to go do something else.

SCOREBOARD ERRORS

I’ve seen two different kinds of scoreboard errors so far.  The first is that people who leave the BG are still listed on the scoreboard, causing it to be useless as a roster.  When you see that you’re facing 44 people in Alterac Valley, something is definitely wrong.

The second bug is that not everyone shows up on the scoreboard, and if you’re not on the scoreboard, you apparently don’t get any honor for winning or losing.  Which, kinda sucks.

HONOR POINT REWARDS

I did the Grizzly Hills and Wintergrasp PvP quests for a few honor points, but figured I’d work towards my next Wrathful piece in the battlegrounds.  The quests aren’t bugged, they appear to give you the amount they say they will.  The BGs don’t, though.  I had two losses, which I completed all the way through, and failed to get either the amount of honor listed on the scoreboard or the daily quest minimum.

If I can force myself back into the BGs, I’ll try to track this more concretely.  It was only when I opened up my currency tab and saw 72 honor points for the entire night that I realized what was happening.

CLASS IMBALANCE

See, this is what I wanted this post to be about – how are things going in the battlegrounds?  Which classes seem to be doing well, which are struggling?

I don’t really have a lot of firsthand knowledge, though.  Demo seems strong, though I’m having trouble playing it.  Destro is definitely strong.  Affliction seems to be fine, actually.  Casters seem to be doing quite well in general.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some crash-free playtime in soon to give a better update than that.

BEFORE YOU ASK

2008 Macbook 4,1, 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB RAM, Intel GMZ X3100 video card, 144MB VRAM, fresh installation of Warcraft.

HERE’S WHERE YOU SAVE THE DAY, OR AT LEAST THIS POST

So I was writing up this bug report known as a post when it occurs to me: I might not have any clue what’s going on in the BGs right now because they’ve gone all Crashy McCrasherson on me, but my smart readers surely must!  YOU have been in the battlegrounds of 4.0.1 and seen the effects of Resilience, of class changes, of the new water textures!  YOU have got the knowledge we all seek!

Let me know your impressions in the comments.  If I can’t BG directly, I’ll do it vicariously through you.

Here’s to hoping 4.0.3 is more stable!

22 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Blizzard Killed My Dog


Shaggy always did have a sweet tooth.

I was looking forward to Patch 4.0.1.  There’s something exciting about having things change; new things to learn, new ways to do things, new stories to tell.  Sure, there was apprehension, because changes that you don’t know about can be scary, but in general I think change is necessary.  It forces you to adapt.

My enthusiasm even kept me going through problems with the patch download, the first time I’ve ever had problems there.  Even though the servers have been up for about 12 hours, I still haven’t gotten to log in because my installer can’t handle baby murloc noises.  Maybe they’re too cute?  I don’t know for sure, but I’m reinstalling from scratch to see if maybe a fresh installation will do it.

But my enthusiasm vanished when I heard that warlock minions had been renamed in 4.0.1.  Last night it was temporary; today it is permanent.  When you summon your demons, you may have one of them keep the same name, but the rest… are all new.

Helola HATED that I put her in this shot. Heh. I called her Penguin-Girl for weeks!

Warlocks don’t get to choose their demon’s names.  We find out their names as part of the summoning rituals, of enslaving them to our will.  And while they’re our slaves, servants, and minions, they are also our constant companions.  They adventure with us, they fight for us, they die for us, they come back for us; we didn’t choose them, they didn’t choose us, but together, we’re a team.

Cynwise’s demons are part of her, part of her character.  Her relationship with each one of them is complicated and unique.  Part of the story that I’ve spun as I’ve played this crazy game has been around those demons; lesser characters, but characters in their own rights.  They make each warlock unique; no matter how you try to replicate them, the demons distinguish us from each other.

The names may not be unique, but they make the warlock unique.

But now, without warning, that part of my character is gone.  The sinister, sexy Helola who graced the pages of Arren’s site, the one who provides the dark reflection of Cynwise’s personality? Gone. Thoglos, the voidwalker who always stands on my questgivers, the one who shields ‘wise when she hurls herself into melee?  Gone.  Chojub, her imp with a sense of humor who randomly pulls bosses? See ya.  Skelzeras, the grumpy Felguard who was really quite a pushover?  Thanks for the help in ICC, buddy.

And Shaagrym, dear Shaggy, Cynwise’s felpuppy, the rage magnet, the reason Affliction is so feared in battlegrounds… my companion in so many of these fights that you’ve read about on this site. Shaggy is gone, too.

From the blue post:

We apologise for any inconvenience these name changes might cause and thank you for your patience and understanding.

Patience? Understanding?

You killed my dog and replaced him with a lookalike, and you want my understanding?

I’m a Wrathbaby; started playing in November 2008.  In two years, I’ve grown really attached to my demons.  I can only imagine what it’s like for warlocks who started playing in 2004.

This is changing my character, without my consent.  In RP terms it would be godmodding. Even though I don’t RP with others, I do experience the story of Warcraft through the view of my character; and now a fundamental part of that character is gone.

Chojub LOVES Chaos Bolts!

I shouldn’t be this angry.  I shouldn’t let myself get so upset over something that I do for fun, for something that I do to amuse myself in my idle time.

But I am.

I’ve been an IT professional for 15 years with experience in large enterprises. Professionally, I understand that there are likely technical reasons behind this, and that the mistake, once made, is irrecoverable.  The names were probably not permanently stored, but randomly assigned and it’s that random assignment that was lost.  There were significant changes to the way in which demons were handled, and summoned… I get that.

Yet, as a player, I can’t get past that my dog is dead.  I might have a new dog, just as good as my old one.

But I don’t want a new dog.  I want my old one.

See, Shaggy wasn’t just a mobile DoT with special abilities I could keybind.  From a development perspective I can see treating him as such, but from that perspective, my warlock is just a mob that accepts player instructions with a defined set of abilities that can be executed in specific sequences with specific results.  This perspective, while absolutely factual and correct, ignores the elements of imagination that make us want to participate in this game.

I could play a little floating box that casts a damage over time spell that inflicts 40-80 points of Shadow Damage every 3 seconds for 18 seconds.  Or, I could play Cynwise the warlock, the ambitious girl from Northshire who was jealous of her sisters and forged her own dark path to power.  And who mastered a series of increasingly powerful demons, bending them to her will.

Which one is more interesting to you?

The first time I met Skelzeras, he helped me kill Ony-60. Thanks, you big lug!

Each and every warlock has a story to tell about their demons.  Cynwise didn’t meet Skelzeras, the Felguard, until she needed to spec Demonology to take on Onyxia at level 60.  Now, a year later, I’ve been raiding ICC as Demonology for 9 months and depend on the big lug to do major damage and provide the buffs our raid needs.  He is the one who pulls Lady Deathwhisper, who charges ahead of the tank on Marrowgar, who is the sign to every tank in the raid that Cyn is pulling, get ready to fight to hold threat.

Skelzeras is impressed by the decor, not the boss. Don't let his expression fool you.

For someone who I didn’t expect to like very much, Skezel has grown on me.  He and I have seen a lot of things together I’d never thought I’d see in the game.

Thoglos is my Voidwalker, first my leveling companion, later my best friend against rogues and other melee classes.  Thog has tanked entire instances for me, rounding up all the mobs for me to then Shadowfury and Hellfire down. He shares every Voidwalker’s tendency to stand on quest givers, but he was always apologetic.

Thog, COME DOWN FROM THERE! I can't take you ANYWHERE!

He just never moved unless I told him to.

CHOJUB LOVES FIRE! YES, MISTRESS!

Chojub is my imp.  He pulls bosses and then pretends he had nothing to do with it.

You know no one in the guild believes you, Chojub?  You do know that, right?

Oh, whatever.  He doesn’t care if they know or not, he’ll keep on causing trouble no matter what.

"Mistress, surely I can find you a date somewhere else?"

Helola was the most evil of all of Cynwise’s demons.  Malicious, ruthless, manipulative, always willing to do whatever was necessary, Helola is the dark side of Cynwise, always tempting her to do what is effective versus what is right.

She’s also really good at Seduce-nuking people to death.  Damn, she was good at that.

Shaggy likes the Underbelly. He's got a bed there and everything.

This is my dog, Shaggy.

There are many felhunters like him, but this one is mine.

Remember when we pulled Deathspeaker’s Camp together, Shaggy?  Good times.

Chojub likes to practice his skateboarding when I'm not looking.

I know that there are probably technical reasons why it’s impossible to go back, why when I log in I’ll be faced with at least 4 strange new demons.  With Cataclysm on the horizon there may be no resources available for this kind of a bug fix, and even the simple fix – giving warlocks the ability to rename their demons – might be too much to handle with a major deadline approaching.

I don’t care. My practical, professional side can go shove it.  I don’t care.

Blizzard killed my warlock’s dog.  And her blueberry, and her sexy whip-cracker, and her big guy with the axe, and the little dude who throws fire.  If I’m lucky, I get to keep one of them, but the rest are all gone.

There was a story there, a story I was looking forward to continuing to tell, of seeing the new lands of Cataclysm.  My demons were a part of that story… or they were, until now.

Warlocks are the single least played class in Warcraft.  They’re tough to master, hated by opponents in PvP, hated by tanks and healers in PvE.  They are complex, confusing, squishy.  Players who not only play them, but love playing them, are a minority.

And Blizzard just killed our dogs.

I don’t know if I’m going to play Cynwise at this point.  I feel that strongly about this, that I just don’t know.  I may as well race and faction change her, since she’s not the character I was playing this weekend.  In game, and in the pages of this weblog, I tried to create a strong female character who represents a way of looking at battlegrounds – and her demons are part of that.

It’s odd for me to write that.  Cynwise is my main, and I really had no intentions of changing that.  But Cynwise without Chojub, Shaagrym, Helola, Thoglos, and even that big lug Skelzeras?

She’s just as strange to me as these replacements are now.

Damnit.

I can’t believe they killed my dog.

—-

UPDATE: Blizzard is at least looking into this now.  Blue post:

The Warlock naming issues is still under investigation but thus far it appears that the change was not intended but an after effect.

Under investigation, at this time, is if the name change can be reversed. Though that may not be possible, we await more information.

Let’s hope it can be reversed.
—-
BIG HUGE UPDATE: Blizzard found our minions!  From Bornakk, who I could hug right now:
Since the release of 4.0.1, more than a few warlocks have noticed that their pets are in fact no longer their familiar demonic servants, and instead appear to be new entities with different names. We’ve been able to pinpoint the cause of the issue, which should be resolved by tomorrow for any warlocks that log in for the first time from then on. We’ve also been able to determine that we will be able to restore any renamed warlock pets to their original pre-4.0.1 names during next week’s scheduled maintenance.
For those of you who like your new pet names, we’re working on a feature for a future patch that will allow you to refresh your summons and essentially generate a random pet name without having to level a new warlock.
I’ve left the original post as-is, because it’s basically a love letter to my demon minions and is worth keeping.  I <3 you guys!
—-

58 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Friends and Foes

I enjoyed my time in the leveling Battleground brackets with Cynwise.  I call them leveling brackets now, but back then they were just the non-endgame brackets, the place where people would go to let off steam and grind some Marks of Honor.  Since you didn’t gain any experience points in them, your characters could stay in a bracket indefinitely just by sticking around a major city and not going anywhere.

Your character may not have gained experience, but you, the player, certainly would.  You’d meet the same characters over and over again, both on your team and on the other side.  Having a smaller, more stable PvP population meant that you would get to know your fellow players.  Not well, mind you.  But you’d chat about how the other BGs were playing, get a sense for people’s strengths and weaknesses, and even find enemies you’d enjoy facing – even if it’s because you wanted to settle a score.  When people would level out of a bracket (always in Alterac Valley) there would be congrats and farewells.

There was one troll rogue in particular – Waternoose from Stormrage, though I can’t find him in the armory to be sure of the spelling – that bedeviled me throughout the 69 bracket.  He would make it a point to come and gank me at least once every battle, and I would make it a point to Fear him around whenever the opportunity presented itself.  It was a lot of fun zoning in and going, oh crap, it’s Waternoose.  Other clothies had similar opinions of him.

Once you get to the endgame the population swells, and it’s harder to get to know people.  It’s also harder to form a sense of community in the leveling brackets, as players move through the levels so quickly that you have maybe a few days to get to know fellow battleground enthusiasts, if that.  From what I’ve seen the twink brackets are the place with the strongest sense of community and player recognition – several times in the past few days I’ve gotten detailed precis of opponent’s behaviors in /bg chat.  (Like, spooky awareness of player behavior – “he’s losing, he’s going to /afk… the he goes.”)

I bring up these old war stories because they highlight a problem in battlegrounds and, to a lesser extent, the Dungeon Finder tool. Communities are built through repeated personal contact.  The changes to battlegrounds in Wrath have increased convenience (and therefore appeal) but lessened the sense of community.  If battlegrounds go cross-battlegroup in Cataclysm, thereby massively expanding the pool of available servers each BG pulls from, it could all go out the window.

But it doesn’t have to.

THE PROBLEM OF SERVERS

The biggest problem is crossing servers; there’s no way to talk to people that you’ve just worked with in a battleground or dungeon run unless you use RealID.  You can’t add them to your /friend list, because the list doesn’t work that way.

I read an interview with Ghostcrawler where he pointed out this was one of the biggest challenges of Warcraft – you meet someone at a social gathering, discover you both play WoW, and then discover you play on different servers.  Bummer.  You can’t play together.

RealID is a step towards solving this, a bit.  You could exchange IDs and at least talk to each other, if not actually play together.  But you couldn’t raid together, or queue up for a BG together.

Earlier this week I was talking smack to @morkuma on Twitter, and since we’re in the same battlegroup but play different factions, we decided we were going to try to face each other in a BG.   We tried for almost two hours to get into the same battleground but couldn’t.  Even something like Alterac Valley, with long queue times, was impossible to coordinate.  It was really frustrating to want to face someone in friendly competition but to be completely unable to make it happen.

The worst part was realizing I could /ignore Morkuma and the system would prevent me from ever grouping with him, but I couldn’t /friend him to get a matchup.

/FRIEND, /FOE, AND /IGNORE

What we need is a better way to manage who we group with in the randomizer.  Both the Dungeon Finder and the BG Finder work in fairly similar ways: you can join by yourself, or as part of a party, or as a complete party.  You have control over who you don’t want to group with cross server through the /ignore command, and control over who you group with on your server with your party.

What we need is an inverted /ignore command for your friends … and your enemies.  Here’s how I see it working.

  • Expand your /friends list to include cross-server friends.  There doesn’t need to be any RealID-like functionality added here – you don’t need visibility to see if they’re on.  This is just to set up a list for use in the queues later.
  • Create a /foe command to ‘friend’ characters from the other faction.  Again, this is just building a list.
  • Add a “Friends and Foes” checkbox to your queue. When checked, this would check your /friends and /foes and see if any of them are in queue, too.  If they are, you’re treated as tagalong to their invite and the system attempts to put you into the same battleground.  If not, you get a small delay added to your queue to allow your friends to queue up too – and then you’re placed as normal, with a warning that no F&F are available in this instance.

You can think of this as giving you priority to certain random which contain /friends and /foes, without guaranteeing a spot in them.

The idea here is to try to group you with your Friends and Foes before inserting you into a normal queue.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds; the queue will need to take into account that the target may be in normal mode, and should queue as quickly as possible, while you are in F&F mode, where you’d prefer to wait to queue with a friend (up to a point).  There’s also the question of delay: do you look just at the people queued for battlegrounds right now, or poll them periodically for 2 minutes to see if someone joins?

Perhaps one solution is that if you have mutual /friends (or mutual /foes) then you’re treated as a single unit within the queue, and placed only in battlegrounds that have space available on both sides. If it’s one-sided, however, then the placement delay kicks in.

I look at this as a nontrivial problem that appears trivial to outside communities.  There are a lot of complicated use-cases that the queuing system needs to account for, and the inner workings of their logic may make this well-nigh impossible to do.

But it would increase the fun of the game.  Playing with friends on the Internet is what this game is about; removing the server restriction would be worth it.

STALKERS AND GRIEFERS

As I was mulling the /foe idea over in my head, eventually I settled on one main problem – griefers.  I enjoyed my fights with Waternoose, but he won an awful lot of them.  What if he’d chosen me as his /foe, but then kept singling me out for camping?  And what if this behavior carries on beyond the battlegrounds and dungeons of Azeroth?  This isn’t like following someone on Twitter; you can actively ruin someone’s fun by griefing them.

The best solution I came up with is to have /ignore work cross faction, and /ignore trump everything else. As soon as I realize someone is deliberately trying to ruin my gameplay, click ignore and I never see them again.   Done.

(Making /ignore account-wide would be awesome, by the way.)

Ultimately, the possibility of abuse is the biggest concern I have with Friends and Foes queuing.  It could lend itself to some bad behavior in the battlegrounds as well as the dungeons.  Imagine trying to queue as a tank but getting healers all from the same guild on a different server, all who refuse to heal you?  All because you vote kicked one of their guildies?

Bad times.

REAL ID TO THE RESCUE?

Perhaps this is where RealID comes into play again.  The whole idea behind RealID is to allow you to connect to real-world friends, to have control over who friends you – and who doesn’t.

There’s something to be said for adding an additional layer of personal contact to the random queues. If I know someone outside of the game – met them at a party on Ghostcrawler’s yacht, got challenged to a duel on Twitter, etc – then I presumably have a way to exchange information to set up RealID outside of the game with that person.  Easy enough to do, and easy enough to set up.

But what about the people you casually meet in the BGs and LFDs of this world?  The ones where you’d like to PvP or run a heroic with them again, but don’t really want them to know all about you?  There’s a gap here that the systems don’t really fit.  Either you’re close, or you’re completely isolated.  Where’s the middle ground?

The battleground communities that existed when I was leveling Cynwise still exist.  They’re out there. You’ll strike up a conversation in the flag room during preparation, or maybe tell a joke while guarding a flag in Arathi Basin, or find some really inspiring leaders in the Isle of Conquest.  It’s just hard to find them, and harder to keep them going when you do find them.  Removing battlegroups will make it even harder, as the sheer number of people will make it increasingly likely you will never see any of those people you spent 20 epic minutes with ever again.

And that’s sad.  It’s not fun.

This isn’t a simple problem for Blizzard to solve.  I know it’s not.  While I, personally, would like the ability to create an ad hoc community of my own to PvP within, there are some serious, viable concerns with how it could be implemented.  There’s the rub.

(Though, seriously, Blizzard: consider account-wide /ignore lists as a start.  Please?)

14 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Embracing Constraints

There’s never enough. Time, people, money, focus, whatever it is – there’s never enough of it to go around.

If I had enough time, I am sure that I’d be Arena Battlemaster Loremaster Cynwise, the Light of Dawn, goldcapped several times over. More time would mean more opportunities to do those things necessary to reach the pinnacle of every aspect of the game.

But I don’t have unlimited time, and neither do you. We all have limits.

And limits are wonderful thing, because limits create focus.

When you can’t have everything, you have to choose those things that matter the most to you and discard the rest. If I want to do X, I can’t spend that time doing Y; so which one is more important to me?

Without constraints, you don’t have to make choices. Yet our choices make us who we are.

Work with what you have. Don’t reject your constraints: embrace them.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT

A little while ago I realized that time was running out on the World of Warcraft as I knew it. I mean, I’d known intellectually that major changes were coming, but I was pretty content to pass the time doing what I enjoyed. I’d pvp some nights, raid others, play the auction house others. (Okay, who am I kidding, I played the AH every chance I could.)

I was content.

But then the Beta came along, and more of my friends and acquaintances started playing in it. And the pre-expansion blues hit, when folks went back to school, the markets stabilized, but folks were on less, maybe leveling alts, maybe doing… things?

And then came the Fall of Zalzane/Operation: Gnomeregan, and now the 4.0.1 PTR, and something became very, very clear.

I had two, maybe three months tops, to do everything I want to do in Azeroth before it all goes away. No more delays, no more tomorrows. I’d get maybe a day or so warning – a week if I was lucky – before Cataclysm hit the live servers.

Here it is, the biggest constraint of all: the world you’re playing in is doomed. It’s like we’re players in a Greek tragedy, and the Chorus is telling us that our fate is coming to meet us.

On top of having to find time to play amidst real life, of finding people who are interested in doing the things you’re interested in too, comes an unalterable deadline: Soon this will all be gone.

It’s not the time to panic. Now is the time to get to work.

KNOW YOUR MOTIVES

In my first version of my Cataclysm Bucket list, I had a lot of goals that seemed big at the time. Go fishing in zones that are getting changed! Run old classic dungeons! Level a bunch of alts!  Ony Ony Ony!

You know what? I went to Azshara to fish, and the fishing there sucks. The beaches are hard to get to, there are grumpy turtles and Naga everywhere, and the pretty places are just acres of unfulfilled promise; scenery, like Crystalsong Forest, only more disappointing.

And Onyxia was fun to duo at 60, but she’s now a loot pinata at T10 gear.

In the year since I’d written that list, my priorities had changed. I couldn’t force myself to level alts that I knew I’d abandon; travelling to places I’d already been didn’t interest me at all. So what was I left with?

I wanted to experience the Horde from their perspective, before it all changes.

And I wanted to kill the Lich King.

Two different goals, but all doable in the time left to me.  The biggest problem would be motivation. I like doing content once, but going over the same thing bores me. It’s why I PvP so much: every battle is different, even if the maps are the same.

THE OTHER SIDE

I tried, and failed, to level alts on the Horde side of my server.  The best leveling area in the game, Eversong/Ghostlands, saw me get stuck before I finished any of the cool questlines, and I never went back to any of the other starting areas.  The highest I got was a level 17 mage, who I leveled the last few levels in Warsong Gulch, which kinda missed the point of it all.

This changed when I faction changed my level 19 warrior twink, Cynderblock, to pursue some best in slot gear.  I’m over there, grinding away some quests for a cool shield, when I realize — I could just go do all the starting areas. No pressure to level up a throwaway alt, no need to start out weak and gear up with the same crappy quest gear — just quest for the cool rewards and see what there is to see.

Then I thought… wait a minute, I could get all the reputation gains from the Horde quests, and then faction change back to Alliance and do the same… maybe I could get Ambassador?  Ambassador at level 19?  Is that even possible?

That crazy thought was exactly the motivation I needed.  I found out that I really did want to see all of the Horde areas, but I didn’t want to do it and never look back.  I wanted it to matter.  I needed to put constraints on my leveling to make it crazy, absurd, audacious.

Try for Ambassador at level 19?  Exalted with all 5 factions, without a mount?  SIGN ME UP.

Back at an old job we were asked to set BHAGs: big, hairy, audacious goals. These were goals to not just stretch yourself, but push yourself to do things you’d never rationally consider.

A BHAG was what I needed, a BHAG that embraced constraints.  Plenty of folks can, and do, level through the starting zones in a very short period of time.  I don’t enjoy leveling enough to do that to myself once, let alone five times.  But doing something on a character that you are going to keep, where you don’t know if you can succeed, and where there are some specific limits?

Yes.  By setting limits creativity flourishes.  And that’s what happened to me with the Level 19 Ambassador project.

Cynderblock has completed nearly 400 quests in every single Horde zone from 1-30.  Every quest that was available to a level 19 character and awarded reputation with one of the 5 main factions is complete.  The only exceptions were two of the rare beast quests in the Barrens (couldn’t find them) and the repeatable Chen’s Empty Keg quest in Ratchet.  I looked at that and said, let’s try this without that, and if we need it later we can come back for it.

I’ve started the faction change process again, this time to bring Cynderblock back to the Alliance as a Human — hopefully Diplomacy’s bonus will be enough to get her over the finish line.  If not, there are some daily quests during the Harvest Festival to try.  And if not.. we might be brewing beer in the Barrens.  Or we’ll wait for Cataclysm and do all the *new* quests.

All I needed to do was find the right constraints to get this one done.

THE COMING MONTHS

I still have a bit of work ahead of me on Cynderblock; I have to go visit all the Alliance starting areas, doing all the quests I’d skipped over the first time.  There are areas I know I skipped entirely (Loch Modan, Darkshore, Ashenvale) that are changing in Cataclysm, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again.

And there’s also the little matter of the Lich King.

I never expected to raid; when I first started playing, raiding seemed to be completely out of the question. I didn’t even run dungeons while leveling!

So I’m pretty happy that I found a guild who would take my PvP-educated self through heroics, and then 10-mans, and finally 25-mans.  It’s helped me grow immensely as a player, but there’s one thing missing.

After weeks and weeks and weeks in Icecrown… I still haven’t killed the Lich King.  Our guild has, but I haven’t.

I want Arthas down before Cataclysm.

And I will get him.

NARROW YOUR FOCUS

I’ve heard a variety of dates around Cataclysm’s release date: early to mid-November, late November, early December.  I don’t think anyone knows yet.

But I can look at the calendar and say, I have 6 weeks before the earliest feasible date, 2 months tops.  What are the most important things for me to get done?

Two titles: Ambassador and Kingslayer.  Everything else is a bonus.

Embrace the deadline.  Narrow your focus and make sure you get the things done you really want to get done.

Cataclysm will come soon enough.

10 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

The Walls of Wintergrasp and Terrain Exploits

I hate to sound like all I’m thinking about these days are exploits, but I was recently shown a conversation between a player and a GM which confirmed a prediction I made back in February: that Blizzard applies the same reasoning to the walls of Wintergrasp as they do to the Stables of Arathi Basin. The conversation is between a player and a GM over attacking people near the mount vendors from the walls, something that happens all the time.

Blizzards stance, as stated in both blue posts and GM conversations, is consistent. From the blue post:

Players accessing any area of Arathi Basin in order to engage other players from a safe vantage point but avoid combat themselves is considered a reportable exploit.

From the GM, Gallordrynn:

(I)f you can attack someone from a vantage point and they have no way possible to reach you or attack back then it is clearly terrain exploitation.

(GMs) will all agree that attacking someone from a vantage point in which they cannot escape, defend themself, or reach their attacker is considered terrain exploitation and is a bannable offense.

This now seems like a clear, well-articulated policy within Blizzard. It’s no longer just a blue post, it’s part of the GM’s handbook. There is a policy that says certain activities within PvP are considered bannable offenses. The language is clear and repeated several times. (“Vantage point.”)

But what, specifically, are these activities? How do they differ from normal PvP? Even with a clear policy and message, I’m as confused as the player in the screenshot as to what Blizzard considers an exploit and what they don’t. The message may be clear, but the application of it is certainly not. How can doing PvP get me banned?

In other contexts I can agree with what Blizzard is doing with this policy. There are times and places where you can exploit the terrain to your advantage, and doing so is grossly unfair to other players. That kind of thing should be stopped.

I don’t think Blizzard has fully considered the implications of this rule in Wintergrasp. In applying it to Wintergrasp Keep they’ve classified many PvP activities as bannable offenses. Not just world PvP ganking from the tops of walls, either — normal participation in the defense of the Keep, during a battle, is now a bannable offense.

There’s a time and place for every rule. Wintergrasp is not the place for this one.

WHAT IS A TERRAIN EXPLOIT?

Based on the rulings we’ve seen so far, I think we can make a working definition of what Blizzard considers to be a terrain exploit.

To exploit the terrain in PvP, you must cause damage from a position where your opponent:

  1. Can’t escape,
  2. Can’t defend themselves, and
  3. Can’t reach you.

There are therefore two vital components to a terrain exploit: damage and position. Each of those is problematic when talking about the fairness of an exploit, but damage is at least easier to identify.

My twink has been trying to get the Arena Grand Master trinket from the Gurubashi Arena in STV lately, and I’ve gotten to watch some wicked healing exploits first hand. Basically, a group of fighters will come into the arena with their healers lining the ring around the floor and mop up. The healers are untouchable by everyone – I play on a PvE realm, and they’re not flagged for FFA combat – and the only way to take out their DPS is to get them out of range of some of the healers and burn through the healers.

Given that several of those DPS were in full Wrathful PvP gear, killing them took a lot of coordination and focus. And then they’d show up again a few seconds later. :-(

According to Blizzard’s own statements, this is not an exploit. They’re not doing any damage, just healing their friends from an unassailable position. Even though that healing is directly affecting the outcome of PvP combat, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, it’s not an exploit.

It’s clever use of the rules of the STV Arena, that’s what it is. Work that one around in your head a bit.

The great thing about the STV Arena is that things are so clear cut in a PvA environment. Either you are flagged for PvA, or you are not. If you are flagged for PvA (down on the Arena floor), everyone can attack you. If you are in the stands, you are not flagged, and therefore untouchable (unless flagged for PvP.) The game very clearly draws a line between who is accessible and who is not.

But what about those areas where the lines are not so clearly drawn?

THE UNTOUCHABLES

There

We now have two examples of what Blizzard considers to be exploits: the roof of the Arathi Basin Stables and attacking people near the vendors from the walls of Wintergrasp Keep. What do these two situations share in common?

  1. Both take place in PvP zones between PvP-flagged players. There is no PvE in the area.
  2. Both involve a difference of elevation to separate the two players. They are on different surfaces with the exploiter having the high ground. (Thus, preventing the victim from being able to jump down to the other player.)
  3. There is no clear path between the two players. Pets can’t go from one to the other, warriors can’t charge, etc..
  4. Ranged attacks, and only ranged attacks, are possible between the two players.
  5. The exploiter has a line of sight defense readily available to them due to their position. They can attack and move back out of LoS quickly. While attacking both parties have LoS on each other; but the exploiter can break LoS with a few steps.
  6. There are clear escape paths available to the victims. They can quickly run out of range of the attacker, who must abandon their unassailable position to follow.

The situations aren’t identical, however.

  1. The Wintergrasp vendors are only available when the battle is not in progress, so this is not during a timed battleground. Arathi Basin has a PvP objective and a clock running.
  2. Because there is no battle, you can bring in unlimited reinforcements into the Wintergrasp zone. Arathi Basin is limited to 15 on 15, and you can’t summon your friends.
  3. Flying is permitted in Wintergrasp when there is no active battle, but never in Arathi Basin. This means that the exploiter is accessible to anyone with a flying mount who is either currently mounted or not currently in combat. In Arathi Basin, the Stables roof is accessible to anyone who knows how to jump.
  4. There are other Wintergrasp vendors who sell most, but not all, of the items in that location. There is only one flag at the Stables, and only one roof.
  5. There is a clear escape path in both cases, but in Arathi Basin the objective you’re abandoning is mandatory, not optional. You have to fight for the right to shop at the Wintergrasp Mall; fighting through the checkout line shouldn’t surprise anyone.

How do all of these compare against the stated policy (no escape, no way to defend themselves, or can’t reach the attacker)?

In both situations players can escape their attackers. The GM makes a big deal about the inability of the non-mounted victim to escape, but most sensible people in Wintergrasp just run out into the courtyard, get out of combat, and mount up. The position of the attacker doesn’t prevent the victim from escaping. If you choose not to run away and stand and fight, that’s your choice, but if you take off when you get hit you’ll likely get away. So it’s not really escape.

Classes with ranged attacks can defend themselves, but melee cannot, if by defense we really mean counterattack. There are no LoS bugs in AB or WG that prevent players in these positions from trading ranged attacks; the only limiting factor is range, and that would be true regardless of the presence of the wall or roof. If one side has range extension talents and the other does not, well, that’s an imbalance no matter where they are. The person with longer range will usually win, which is why most PvP talent builds take the range extension talents. It may be difficult to return fire if the attacker make smart use of LoS, but that’s true of anyone using LoS intelligently. Using LoS around a pillar or doorway achieves the same effect, where you create very small windows where you can cast instant spells on your target and then hide. If your opponent is spamming instants back at you, you’ll get hit, too. (LoS doesn’t defend against smartly placed AoE, though.)

Melee classes, however, are at a disadvantage in these situations. They can’t do much to the attacker except try to get up to their position by either climbing up to the roof themselves or by getting out of combat, mounting up, and flying to the top of the wall. This makes it harder for melee to effectively counterattack, though not impossible.

Obviously, nothing the attacker does from their high vantage point prevents the other player from using their defensive abilities. Real defensive abilities (Shadow Ward, Ice Block, bubbles of all shapes and sizes, etc.) function just like as if the attacker were on the ground shooting at them.

So the salient feature out of all of this is that the player does not have a clean path to their attacker. If they are a ranged class they can return fire, but there’s nothing a melee class can do once they’re in combat in that situation. Pets cannot travel from one player to the other (though pet ranged attacks still work), Warriors cannot Charge up a wall.

Pathing appears to be the common factor in determining if a position is an exploit position or not. A Warrior can’t directly attack someone on the balcony in the WSG flag room, but a pet can find its way to that person and savage them. The same warrior could run along that same path and reach the balcony (or roof, for that matter.) The different in elevation doesn’t matter, the fact that the warrior has no real counterattacks is irrelevant – if a dumb pet can get to that attacker, then the smart melee can, too.

We then have a definition to work with: terrain exploits are when you attack from a place where no clear path exists between you and your target, best tested by pet pathing.

But there’s a problem with this definition. A big problem.

THE PLATFORM PROBLEM

Wintergrasp Walls - THESE ARE THE OK PLATFORMS GUYS

Defensive Platforms in Wintergrasp

The above picture highlights the defensive platforms along the eastern side of Wintergrasp Keep. Each section of wall has three components: two walls, a central pillar, and a gun platform accessible from inside the keep. The guns only appear during a battle, and the platforms are often used during the battle as positions where defenders can attack the offense from relative safety. Melee players on the offense can’t get to them, and ranged offense have to establish LoS to attack defenders. Smart defenders duck back off the platform and heal between sniping folks on the ground.

The lower platforms around the tower are similar, though they don’t have guns. Guns do appear on the upper tower platforms, and if you have extended range talents you can stand up there and cast on the ground. On the lower platforms you’re fairly exposed to the enemy, but you can step behind the smaller walls or back up and break LoS to heal safely.

Pets cannot reach these platforms. Warriors cannot Charge up to them. The offense cannot reach them without breaking down a wall, unless you’re a Rogue with Shadowstep, but Shadowstep breaks pretty much every rule in the game.

Yet, these platforms are obviously intended as part of the defensive fortifications of the keep. This isn’t a situation like the walls, which you couldn’t get onto before flying was introduced in Wintergrasp. This isn’t like the roof of the Stables, where you have to be a proficient jumper to get up there. There are ramps with two stairs up to those gun emplacements. The lower tower platforms have walls that are lower and higher to give you defensive options. These platforms are important parts of the defense of the keep.

But the defensive platforms allow you to attack from a place where no clear path exists between you and your opponent.

It doesn’t matter if the Battle for Wintergrasp is in progress or not, honestly. If I’m on the platform, and you’re on the ground, you can’t get to me if I attack you. The situation is exactly the same as someone taking pot shots from the wall at players at the WG vendor… except there’s no shopping going on.

So is attacking from the defensive platforms an exploit? If I want to follow what Blizzard has set forth, yes, it is. But I’m encouraged to use them in the battle! To put them in usability terms, the platforms afford this use. They suggest that you are up high and can shoot at people, so you shoot at people from them!

The only difference between the defensive platforms and tops of the walls – aside from protecting the WG shopping experience – is that you could argue that the developers intended the platforms to be used that way, but not the tops of the walls. I heard this objection a lot when discussing Arathi Basin, and I think it’s particularly troublesome. Especially here.

THE PROBLEM WITH DEVELOPER’S INTENT

Wintergrasp Walls - The Developer's Intent

Okay, so where is it okay to stand?

Where is it okay to stand and fight? That’s really what this discussion comes down to, isn’t it? As players who want to follow the rules, but also want to win, where is it okay to stand in Wintergrasp? Knowing that you can get a ban from attacking from easily accessible locations makes me very uncomfortable. This entire post is trying to determine some logical rules telling me where I should and shouldn’t stand.

I had several great commenters disagree with me on the Stables roof exploit, saying that players aren’t stupid and they know what the intent of the developers are in a given situation, and that circumventing that intent is disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst. There is a lot of validity to this argument. I’ve fallen through the walls of Stormwind, which is obviously not the developer’s intent (though it’s ultimately harmless.) People who exit the starting area in Arathi Basin to cap flags before the start of a match are obviously circumventing not only the developer’s intent, but the rules of the battleground. (It’s the preparation period, for crying out loud!)

But what happens when it’s not so clear cut? What about when getting to a spot is trivially easy and part of the game? I’m no longer talking about a set of jumps onto a roof, I’m talking about landing your flying mount on a platform.

Let’s look at the walls of Wintergrasp in the picture above. I’ve marked off three types of areas, all which fit the criteria of attacking players from an unreachable position. Green areas are those which afford you to stand and launch ranged attacks at your opponents – either there are ramps leading up there, or stairs, or doors, or guns – something suggests that this would be a good spot to defend the walls from. Yellow areas are questionable areas. They’re accessible on foot while the battle is raging, but the affordance is less obvious. You have to climb over a defensive wall and drop down to get onto this wall. There are similar spots in Isle of Conquest, by the way, but they’re much easier to get to – just drop down off the tower and land on the keep wall. Red areas are only accessible via flying mount or parachuting in from Icecrown, and are probably considered off-limits during the battle.

Wintergrasp is especially problematic because there were two distinct phases in its existence: pre- and post- flight. When it launched it was like an old-Azeroth zone, with the only flight possible via taxi birds across it. If you took your flying mount over WG you would get dismounted. So all of those areas marked in red were completely inaccessible until patch 3.2, when flight was enabled in the zone – but only when the battle was not in progress. So you could argue that flight was never in the developer’s original intentions, since the zone, as released, was a ground-only zone, and that the red zones were never intended to be landed upon.

But if you look at the history of Wintergrasp’s development, they fully intended to have not only flight, but aerial combat within the battle! It was on the box but never made it into the game! That’s why the upper reaches of Wintergrasp are so developed; it wasn’t just a sense of completion, but also because the developer’s intention was to have flying PvP.

If you didn’t know the history of Wintergrasp’s development, you would still be presented with features like this room, atop one of the towers in the southern courtyard:

 

Huh. I wonder what

If you haven’t been in this room, which I believe was rumored to be one of the spawn points for the defenders, you should take a look. It’s a great example of Titan interior decorating.

As a player, what should you infer about flight in this zone? There’s a lot of exploring you can do above ground on the structures, a lot of interesting details coupled with flat areas for PvP. Folks often have running battles atop the walls. There’s nothing in here to say flight isn’t allowed, or that standing on the walls is a bad thing to do. This is a World PvP zone, where even on PvE servers people explore the terrain, make use of cover, and ambush folks mercilessly.

So why is it okay to engage other players where there is no clear path between you and them in some spots and others? What makes the platforms okay but the tops of walls not?

Here’s my biggest objection with saying that players should know the developer’s intention and use their judgement to know what is right and wrong. Sometimes, the developer’s intention clear. But when it is not, it is unfair to blame the players for misunderstanding unwritten rules. Players may get mixed signals because design goals changed mid-stream, or just because of bad design – but whatever the reason, it is clear that the No Clear Path policy in Wintergrasp directly contradicts elements of the battle itself, and saying that it’s okay in some cases because the developers intended it there is tacitly admitting that the rule is arbitrary.

Holding people to an arbitrary standard is unfair. Banning them for doing something you’ve actively encouraged is inexcusable.

THERE IS A REASON BEHIND EVERY SIGN AND RULE

Every time you see a bad sign, say on a refrigerator at the office or on the notice board at school, or run into a stupid, arbitrary rule or law, you can be assured that something prompted that sign or rule. Someone did something stupid that prompted someone else to make a rule that says you shouldn’t drink whiskey from someone else’s hat, or to put up that sign reminding folks not to eat other people’s lunches.

I think that’s the case here, with the No Clear Path rule. There are legitimate exploits that prompted Blizzard to put this rule in place, just not in Wintergrasp.

  • In Goldshire, it’s possible to jump up on top of both the Inn and the Smithy, allowing players to gank lowbies with impunity. Getting to these places involves some complex jumping and there’s no clear path.
  • On the Isle of Quel’Danas, attackers could get out of reach of the guards so that they could attack other players, but any retaliation would cause the guards to attack their victim instead. (I think Silithus worked like this, too.)

I’m sure there are other examples that led to this rule. In situations like Goldshire, you can see why Blizzard might step in and take action; it’s not fun, it ruins new player’s enjoyment of the game before they have really committed to it, etc.. It’s not a bad rule, per se.

It’s just that Azeroth has changed. World PvP battlegrounds like Wintergrasp are relatively new. The game changes, and rules have to adapt to those changes.

Look at the above picture of the WG heirloom vendors. The entire area is a PvP zone, a place where players try to gain every advantage when attacking other players. This place is where the most distracted players will be, as they consider how they’re going to spend their Stone Keeper’s Shards and Wintergrasp Marks of Honor. This is a target rich environment for ganking.

But if you play a ranged DPS class, don’t stand on the wall to attack, even though that’s the most advantageous spot for you to attack from, because you’ll get banned. No, the proper tactic now is to put your healer friend up on the wall and you fly down into the thick of things, which totally plays to your strengths as a ranged DPS. Don’t worry, the healer will keep you alive!

Wintergrasp is a world PvP zone with no new players. Anyone who gets here has been playing for a while and has a character who is within spitting distance of max level. Nearly everyone here can be assumed to have flying mounts, and it’s a good bet that the zone is filled with all 80s. If there’s any place in the world where World PvP can take place on equal terms, this is the place.

And yet, Blizzard is trying to apply a rule designed for other places and times here, which reveals the flaws of that rule.

ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE AND WORLD PVP

Are you sure it

Here I am, atop the structure in the antechamber of VoA. The only way to get up here is to wait for a battle that destroys at least the top part of the chamber gates, fly in at full speed near the top, then pull up sharply. If you time it right, you’ll land right on this ring, which allows you to gank people below with minimal risk. You can be targeted pretty easily, and it’s easy to get flanked so there’s no LoS defenses, but you can cause a lot of havoc from up here.

I’m pretty sure that I shouldn’t attack people from up here. There are very specific conditions that have to be present to access this ring (gates must be open), and if you log out at the end of one battle and log in again after another one, you can be up there with no way for other players to reach you. So while the gates are down, this ring is like the walls of Wintergrasp Keep, albeit a little trickier to reach. But when they’re closed, you’re honestly inaccessible. It’s not fair to hit people from up there.

But this is world PvP. Just because you win Wintergrasp doesn’t mean you can walk in and out of it unmolested. I have heard of servers where one faction loses Wintergrasp only to successfully deny the other side access to VoA through PvP domination of the entrance. That’s pretty cool, actually; just because you lose a battle doesn’t mean you have to lose the war.

I confess, I was really disappointed when I saw the screenshot that started this post. I had hoped that Blizzard was not going to apply the same conditions to Wintergrasp that they’d imposed on Arathi Basin, that they’d recognize that part of the mechanics of the battle is making yourself unassailable on defense.

But they didn’t.

FIXING IT

I admit, I’d rather see this rule just go away than try to salvage it. But since it does serve a purpose in other contexts, perhaps Blizzard could make some changes to take Wintergrasp into consideration.

  • Don’t design new battlegrounds to use terrain exploits as part of their mechanics. Wintergrasp is now old content, but having the same behavior be okay in one place and time, and bannable in another, is confusing and demoralizing to players. Don’t give the defense this advantage in the new battlegrounds.
  • Don’t enforce terrain exploitation bans in battlegrounds which do have it as part of their mechanics. Save time and money by ignoring tickets of people attacking on the walls so you can focus on other, more serious problems with your staff, like hackers using programs to automatically gather resources.
  • Consider giving players more abilities to reach attackers in unusual locations. Rocket packs would be a good place to start. As used in the Gunship Battle, rocket packs give players the ability to move to unusual places while in combat. If this kind of item were made available for general use, this kind of exploit would be nearly impossible because players could always reach their attackers. Plus, rocket bears!
  • Treat healing and damage the same way. Exceptions like that make no sense and lead to further exploits, like in the Gurubashi Arena.

Rewriting the policy would be another obvious step, but to be honest I don’t know how you could do it to be effective in the places you need it (Goldshire) and not where you don’t (Wintergrasp, BGs).

TL;DR

Blizzard considers attacking other players from a vantage point where your opponent cannot easily reach you terrain exploitation, which is a bannable offense. This rule was applied in Arathi Basin to players accessing the Stables roof, and is now being applied to players attacking other players near the Wintergrasp vendors from the top of the wall.

This rule should not apply to players in Wintergrasp for several reasons.

  1. Mounted players can immediately escape. Unmounted players can run back out of range of their wall-bound attacker, get out of combat, and mount a flying mount. If a player is on a flying mount, the attacker is not inaccessible.
  2. Wintergrasp Keep has many vantage points where opponents cannot reach defending players that are integral parts of the Battle for Wintergrasp. The gun platforms on the walls and towers, as well as the platforms surrounding the towers, give defenders the same advantage as being on top of a wall.
  3. Taking advantage of these terrain exploits is encouraged by the design of the Keep, as well as the tactical necessities of the battle.
  4. The introduction of flight back into Wintergrasp only adds to the number of vantage points where players can exploit the terrain. It does not change that terrain exploitation, as defined by this rule, is both possible and encouraged by the design of the battleground.
  5. If there are differences between the vantage points that make some permissible but others not, they are not obvious to players, nor are they reflected in the rules as currently understood.

While it is almost certainly impossible to change Wintergrasp so that the rule can be fairly applied at this point, I hope that Blizzard will stop enforcing it in Wintergrasp and design their future battlegrounds to not encourage behavior that can get players unwittingly banned.

I love Wintergrasp. It pains me to have to choose between playing it with all my creativity and cunning and risking a ban, or playing it safe while my opponents do not.

But banning people for playing the way the game teaches them to play is not fair.

 

 

23 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

The Battleground Scoreboard

If you’ve played a Battleground, you’ve seen the Scoreboard. There, posted for all players to see, is the recount of a few key statistics of every player present when the BG ends. It pops up as the match is won, letting the combatants know who won and that it’s time to move on. You have to click “Leave Battleground” on the scoreboard to exit the BG, or stare at it for 2 minutes. I feel like I should capitalize it or something, because there’s no avoiding The Scoreboard.

It’s big. It’s bold. It’s in your face.

And it’s a problem.

MEASURING BATTLEGROUND SUCCESS

The problem with The Scoreboard is psychological: if you present numbers about an item to people, they will use them to judge that thing and compare it to other, similar things. There’s nothing wrong with this — quantifying things is what numbers are for.

But what if you’re measuring the wrong things?

Let’s say I have two Mekgineer’s Choppers. One has the equivalent power of 30 horses, the other 60. If I’m choosing between the two, and that’s the only measurement I have, I’m going to pick the 60 horsepower Chopper every time.

But what if the 60 HP Chopper smells like old Yeti fur? Or it will go twice as fast but require four times as much fuel? Or it blows up occasionally? Or the 30 HP one comes with an in-dash navigation system with automatic quest turnin and XP bonus? Now which one should I get?

Numbers are great at quantifying elements. But we, as people, have a tendency to give them too much weight when presented with numbers.

Let’s take the example scoreboard up above. What are the two most important conclusions that you can draw from it?

I’ll give you some hints.

  • It’s not that Sidni-Medivh led the Damage Done column, though she did. (Warlocks represent!)
  • It’s not that the Horde had the top 2 healers, though they did that, too.
  • It’s not that Dukko, the only Rogue in the battleground, topped Honorable Kills and tied for first with Killing Blows.

No, the most important thing the scoreboard displays?  The Alliance won.

The other important thing to notice is that the Horde was running a premade.

The Scoreboard does tell you these two key pieces of information. But the numbers presented on it are irrelevant to the story of that battleground. Two teams of twinks faced off, and the PuG beat the premade. Every single person contributed in this battleground.

Even now, after hundreds of battles, I find The Scoreboard puzzling. It presents the most important piece of data — who won or lost — in the smallest space possible, while the bulk of the report is given over to individual metrics. For something that is a team activity, this is mystifying. It would be like reading the sports page and having to hunt for the actual results of the matches among the individual player stats. At a high level, I don’t care if one team gained more yards than the other, or who got the most fouls; my primary concern is if they won or lost.

The problem with this presentation isn’t semantic, though. If, in your final summary of the game, you stress the performance of individuals over the performance of the team, the players of that game will start thinking that their individual numbers are more important than the team’s performance.

But topping the meters while losing means that you were highly effective at doing the wrong thing.

THE RECOUNT MENTALITY

When I first started playing battlegrounds, I often looked at my damage in comparison to everyone else, and since I was usually pretty high, life was good. When I played my DK it was even better, because I’d often lead damage, HKs, and killing blows, because Pestilence used to be even more awesome than it is today, and Howling Blast was within reach of a level 59 Death Knight.

Every time I lost while topping the meters, though, I got pissed. How could we lose if I’m out there dominating? Look at my numbers, people, I owned midfield! Sure, I ignored the EFC, but someone else should have gotten him!

In Heroics and Raids, I’d call this The Recount Mentality, when you start improving your individual performance at the expense of the group.  Here’s a shot from ICC-25, where I finally broke the 10k DPS barrier on a single boss (Lord Marrowgar.)

I did a lot of things right in that fight. I had good cooldown management, I popped potions in the right spot, I stayed out of the fire. But once I saw that I was doing well on the meter, I started doing stupid things that I don’t normally do. Once Decimation hit, I ignored everyone who was spiked and focused solely upon the boss — despite what our raid leader asked, and what I know my job is to do — all in the name of more damage. That meant other people had to stop to take out the bonespikes, lowering their individual DPS, because I was focusing on the boss.

And I only did that because I had Skada open, so I could see that I was already near the top of the charts, and had a shot at breaking 10k.

The psychology of measurement is really fascinating. And by fascinating, I mean sometimes it’s a pain in the ass. Instead of focusing on the main goal – is the boss dead? – we’ll sit there and compare ourselves, based on a number which may or may not reflect our real performance.

If you want to observe this in action for yourself, try raiding for a night without any meters.  No meters whatsoever.  Once you let go of the idea that you need to know how well you’re doing, you’ll probably find it very relaxing.

MEASURING THE RIGHT THING


Damage seems a simple thing to measure.  Unlike healing, where you have several different types of effects you need to track, damage is damage.  On a tank and spank fight, at least, you sit there, you wail on the boss, the boss dies, you loot.  If I do 5k DPS on Patchwerk, and you do 6.5k DPS on him, you’re doing more DPS.

But most fights are not that simple.  You may need to move to avoid the floor killing you.  You may need to interrupt certain abilities, or dispel certain effects.  You might need to switch onto adds, or slow your damage down during certain phases to make sure the tanks aren’t overwhelmed.  You have a role to play in the fight that is more than just standing there and doing damage.  Those things are vitally important to the success of the raid, but don’t contribute to your DPS.

In PvP, this issue is magnified.  If you aren’t fearing, counterspelling, kicking, trapping, and silencing your way through a fight, you’re going to get controlled and likely will die.  If you aren’t bandaging and healing when necessary, you’re going to die.  Damage Per Second is a completely meaningless metric in PvP.  Every few actions will be something not damage related, or focusing on burst instead of sustained damage.

And yet, there is the metric on The Scoreboard:  Damage Done.

It honestly didn’t take me long to stop getting pissed at other people when we lost but still topped the charts.  Instead, I got angry at myself for having done the wrong thing, for having focused on personal glory instead of winning the match.  What did I need to do differently?  (You mean fighting in midfield and ignoring the EFC wasn’t the right thing to do?)

I think that’s one of my biggest frustrations with The Scoreboard: it doesn’t tell me if that was a good battle for me or not.  The more I play, the less important the metrics on it become.  How many HKs, okay, fine, I was on defense so I didn’t get as many of those.  How much honor, okay, well that’s totally skewed because of the random BG finder.  Deaths can tell me a bit about how well I did, but I usually already know if I’d had a good game or not.  And battleground objectives?  Did I take the right graveyard?  Did I hold that tower after I assaulted it?  Did I peel the healers off the EFC?  Did I keep the flag away from others and then let the druid take it?

If I can’t use the data to evaluate my own performance, why would I think it would be right to evaluate others with it?

When you start looking at The Scoreboard, and using your performance on it to justify anything, you’re doing it wrong.

(In case you’re wondering, the example at the beginning of this section is what happens when you have a draw.  How’s that for poor display?)

WHAT THE SCOREBOARD DOES WELL

I’m not completely down on The Scoreboard.  It’s a valuable tool that lets you know some key information:

  • The class composition of your opponents.
  • If someone is AFKing, leeching honor by doing no damage or healing.
  • The server composition of your opponents and if you’re facing a premade.

The first one, class composition of your opponents, is vital in the planning stages of a battle.  If you see you’re in WSG against 5 hunters and 5 DKs, you may just want to leave, because that one’s going to hurt.

Detecting AFKers through The Scoreboard is fairly reliable, though plenty of smart bots now exist that ride out and perform simple PvP actions.  (It’s unnerving to watch those in action, by the way.)  One weakness is that you don’t know how long someone has been in a BG, so if a real player has just zoned in with 0 damage/healing, they’ll look just like an AFKer.  You have to give folks a minute to find a fight before judging.  (Adding the time spent in the match to the display would help here.)

The last point, that of detecting premades, is of dubious value.  I don’t really care if I face a premade or a PuG, and you shouldn’t either.  I’ve faced plenty of premades which were terrible, and plenty of PuGs which were awesome.  A premade never, ever means instant win.  (It does mean you have to use /bg chat, though.)

Oh yeah, one last thing:

  • Who won the battle.

But you probably already got that one down.

YOUR PERSONAL BEST

Different types of sports have different ways of determining success.  On a team sport, you are expected to sacrifice your personal best for the good of the team.  You can be the best wide receiver in the league, but if you decide not to throw a critical block because that’s not your job, well, you’re not a team player, and your team will fail because of it.

Individual sports are honestly different.  Individual sports are as much about beating your personal best effort as they are about beating the competition in a given match.  Constant improvement is the goal, and if you’re beaten by someone else but you still beat your personal best?  You’ve done better than you’ve ever done before, and that’s pretty damn good.  (Is it nice to beat your opponent?  Yes, absolutely.  But it’s not the only thing.)

It’s a pity there isn’t a better way to measure personal best in Warcraft.  For damage dealers like myself, it would be nice to be able to look at my previous attempts on a fight and go, have I done more damage this fight than last time? What about my DPS, was that higher?

But even with the recount addon tools we have, that kind of information isn’t available.  So we instead resort to comparing ourselves with others, and with our hazy recollection of our past performance.  In PvE it might be possible to store this information, but in PvP?  Too many variables.

Some days I defend Stables, other days I attack all over the Basin.  Those can both be very good games.

QUALITY VERSUS QUANTITY

I think what I’m fumbling towards is an objection to the influence the Scoreboard has in leading players to think that maybe this part of the game is about individual accomplishments, not team play.  Gnomeaggedon touched on this in his recent post There is no “I” in “PvP”, and BBB commented on it during Children’s Week, just to start with — but every time you enter a BG and see anyone talking about topping the charts, you feel its influence.

The key to winning a battleground is individual excellence in a team setting. The people on your team have to be able to execute and get the job done and perform.  Every single tired sports cliche I can think of applies here.  They have to be better than their opponents individually and as a team.  You can’t have one without the other.

If I were to try to encapsulate how I evaluate players in PvP, it wouldn’t be through metrics on an individual battle. They might contribute to my evaluation, but it’s pretty clear at this point that I think the Damage Done and Healing Done numbers are a load of horse-pucky.  If you can do a lot of damage, or heal a lot of damage, that’s a good sign that you’re doing well.

But are you winning fights?  Do you have a presence on the battleground?  Is the enemy gunning for you because they think of you as a threat?   Do you do the right things in a battleground?  Are they cool under fire?  Do they have a good attitude about losing?  Are they trying to improve?  These are the questions I ask myself when trying to figure out how I did, and when trying to figure out if someone else is a good player.

That’s what this is ultimately all about, isn’t it?  How do you tell if someone is good?  If they put up big numbers but they lose every game, are they better than someone who wins more but puts up smaller numbers?  What about someone who puts up big numbers and wins?

Using numbers to determine something’s quality is fraught with peril.  It’s an easy trap to fall into — the meteoric rise of GearScore’s popularity attests to this — but quantity should never be confused with actual quality.  The numbers on the scoreboard may be an indicator of performance, but that’s all they are — an indication that they can put up big numbers.

And yet, at the end of every battleground match, there’s the Scoreboard.  Sitting.  Waiting.  With your number on it.

Evaluating quality of play is more complicated than just slapping a number on people and stack ranking them.

TOWARDS A BETTER SCOREBOARD

Enough bitching.  This is a solvable problem.

  • First, leave the existing scoreboard in place.  It has value and doesn’t need to be taken out of the game.
  • Add a new field: time spent in the battleground. This will make it easier to detect AFKers.
  • Add API hooks into the scoreboard data so addons can make use of it.  (This would also allow you to report AFK through your raid frames.)
  • Present a different summary of the battle when it completes, emphasizing the team accomplishment and your individual contributions to it.

Really, it’s not The Scoreboard that’s the problem.  It’s how it’s used that is the problem, and the message that it sends that you need to compare yourself in order to succeed.

Here’s what I would rather see at the end of the match:

The result of the battleground is clearly displayed, unlike The Scoreboard’s display.  More than 50% of the display is dedicated to the most important piece of data:  who won.  You don’t have to look up at the color of a 5 pixel bar at the top of the scoreboard to figure it out.

Only your personal performance is displayed at first.  This lets you review your own performance and calls out some important information you’d actually like to know (like honor points gained) and lets you compute your honor per minute easily.  Honor points are the only loot we take away from the battlegrounds, so we should bring that data front and center.

And finally, links are provided to view The Scoreboard or to leave the battleground.  This allows people to still review the data they’re used to, to compare themselves to others if they like, and to see how your team fared against your opponent.

I know that redesigning The Scoreboard won’t magically make people look at Battlegrounds as a team sport.  I think it will, however, help players focus on success as a team, and help reduce the Recount Effect in BGs.

23 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

An Eye for an Eye

All reports point to Eye of the Storm as being the problem battleground for the School of Hard Knocks achievement. If guildmates who are skilled in PvP leave it frothing in rage, I can only imagine how inexperienced players are taking it.

There are two problems in EotS. First, your task can be easily disrupted by one player from either team. Because there is only one flag, someone can take the flag but refuse to capture it.  And players from your own team can grief you — and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Second, mutual assistance pacts don’t work in EotS. You are in competition not only with your opponents, but also your own teammates to capture a flag. There’s no way to equally distribute the achievement across a random group, let alone cross-faction.

The advice I gave in my School of Hard Knocks post still applies: don’t give up. If this is the last thing standing between you and that 310%, you will kick yourself for an entire year if you give up now.

But if what you’re doing just isn’t working, then it’s time to try something new. If one strategy – going in solo to capture the flag – isn’t working, it’s time to try something new.

It’s time to go to war.

There are two days left in Children’s Week. It’s time to abandon your scruples, your reserve, and your solitary nature. It’s time to go in with a new goal: dominate EotS so that you and a few others on your team get the achievement done. It’s time to find the biggest, baddest PvPers on your server and promise them a bloodbath in exchange for your getting to run the flag.

If you’re at the end of your rope in EotS, it’s time to bring the gun into a knife fight. It’s time to get as many friends as you can to come and beat the crap out of your enemy.

By dominating the BG and bottling up your opponents, you remove half of your competition. Don’t feel bad for them, not for one second – there is no way for you and them to reach your goal together, so you’re going to reach it. Period. The BG isn’t set up that way. So you have to win to win.

And by making it a group with a controlled composition, you give yourself a great chance to either run the flag yourself or to have a teammate hand it over for you to cap.  You remove the number of slots available to random people who can ruin your efforts.

Look at it this way — out of the 15 available slots on your team, the more you fill with either friends interested in helping you or server mates interested in killing the enemy, the less competition you have for the School of Hard Knocks.

So don’t go in alone.  Bring friends.  Lots of friends.

HOW TO RECRUIT YOUR TEAM

I heard the following last night in Trade.

LFG for that stupid School of Hard Knocks achievement, pst

This is not the way to go about assembling a team.  You are not making a School of Hard Knocks premade.  Advertising for that will get you the wrong kind of applicants – namely, people just like you who will compete for your goal.  You do not want competition.  You do not want inexperienced fighters.

Instead, you want the rough folks who are spoiling for a fight, the frustrated pvpers who want their battleground back. You want people who can calmly massacre hundreds of enemy players without batting an eye.  You want to take the people who are griefing your opponents and use them to your advantage.

So instead of:

LFM School of Hard Knocks, EotS

Appeal to the PvPer with promises of glory and blood:

Looking for kickass PvPers to come help own EotS. I’d like to do some flag running while we pay the Horde/Alliance back for the last week. PST for info.

By stressing things like winning and revenge, you attract the folks who are spoiling for a fight.  You want the PvPers in Wrathful who want to kick the shit out of people.  And trust me, those people are out there.

If promising a bloodbath doesn’t work, resort to the oldest trick in the book:  pay people.  People are ultimately mercenaries, and if you offer them 100g to help you get this achievement, you will get people to help.  Just remember to pay them after you get the achievement.

If you’re balking at that price, remember:  you’re paying 1400g for a 310% mount.  Keep that goal firmly in mind and the cost won’t matter.

Be sure to be up front with people when they do respond that you’re in it for the achievement, but stress that you want to win EotS.  Be honest, but appeal to their motives, not yours.

HOW TO WIN EOTS

Once you have the group, you want to give them a simple strategy to make sure they win.  There have been some great suggestions by the commenters on the School of Hard Knocks guide that I completely endorse.  They boil down to:

  1. Take three bases and ignore the flag at first.
  2. Half of your team pressure the fourth base, while the other half goes and wipes out midfield.
  3. Grab the flag (or have a teammate bring it to you.)
  4. Bottle up the opponents at the fourth tower and/or graveyard.
  5. Cap the flag.
  6. Kill the opponent at the fourth base, drive them to the spawn point.
  7. Win EotS.
  8. PROFIT.

You can sum this up as:

Okay, first we take three bases, then split up and pressure the fourth base while wiping out midfield.  Let me cap the flag, then we can take the fourth base and leave the Horde/Alliance in midfield as easy pickings.

Keep it simple.  Three bases, then take the flag away once, then four-cap.  Let your mercenaries do the rest.  They know what they’re doing…. mostly.  :-)

A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS

It’s practically an axiom in my guild that 5 people (with or without vent) can completely dominate a battleground.  I’ve seen this happen a lot — a core group of people working together in a PuG is vastly stronger than individuals trying to coordinate on their own.

So if you are still having problems with the School of Hard Knocks, find people to help you.  If your guild won’t do it, recruit bloodthirsty, frustrated PvPers.  If you can’t get them to sign on, pay them.  Do whatever it takes to win. Do not give up.  You can still do this.

Now go out and show the Eye of the Storm who’s in charge here.

14 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

A Vicious Proposal

Let’s say you read my modest proposal and didn’t agree with it.  Not one bit.  You want blood, and lots of it.  If silly people with orphans are going to get in your way, that’s too bad for them, right?

I can dig.  I get it. I pretty much want to kill things all the time in game too.

So let me make a second proposal.  A vicious proposal.

I hereby declare next week to be the First Annual Southshore / Tarren Mill World PvP Free-For-All. All PvPers with blood in their eyes and rage in their hearts are hereby commanded to report to their respective towns and tear apart the opposing factions.  Even if the other battlegrounds are compromised, the fields of Hillsbrad are not.

The fighting will be bloody and glorious.  There will be ganking.  There will be no quarter asked and none given.   Blood will stain the cobblestones of those two towns next week that will be remembered for years to come.

Or at least as long as the towns stand.

And when we get bored?

We’ll go to Halaa and do it all with flying mounts.

15 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual