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Filed under: Raiding

Patch 5.4.8 and the wait for Patch 6.0

With patch 5.4.8 we're seeing a new way to achieve an old goal - allow players to get further in established content while it remains the most recent content available. In essence, with this patch, we will be able to buy slightly increased ability to progress with valor points. This isn't new - it's what the item upgrade system has always been.

I've been thinking about the new item upgrades and the Deeds of Valor since they were announced. I haven't been able to play WoW as I'd like lately (health reasons) but one of the things that immediately came to mind when they announced Deeds of Valor was that this was an entirely new way to nerf raid content at the end of an expansion. Instead of a progressive buff to the players, or a progressive nerf to the bosses, we're seeing a mechanical way to spend valor points to gain the same ultimate aim. Making it possible to trade in your Timeless Coins for valor points is a good way for players who are flush from constant Timeless Isle grinding to convert them to something useful, and allowing players to upgrade items an additional 2 times (for a total of four upgrades) serves to nerf content without nerfing it. Everyone will be stronger, will hit harder, will have more mana for heals.

I have some opinions about this, of course. Others have already expressed theirs - and to be fair I accept the basic premise that these are quality of life changes that will cease to matter in patch 6.0. And I'm okay with that, because again, I see this primarily as a way to nerf Siege of Orgrimmar without actually doing so. It gives us another valor dump, of course. But with changes like Heart of the Valorous (which won't be live when 5.4.8 drops) it feels as if valor itself is being made into a progression mechanic.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

The tension between balance and player interest

I'm looking forward to Ashram, the new PvP island zone in Warlords that seems to combine elements from zones such as the Timeless Isle, Wintergrasp, and the old days of world PvP. So I tend to go looking for information on it, which is where I found the following.
With cross-realm groups being possible on Ashram, this is a perfect example of the ways the game has to balance what most players will do vs. what some players will do - balance the min-maxing attitude vs. the more common, and more often executed, use of a feature or game element. Ashram as it stands will allow players to group cross realm - this is intended so that players who have characters on separate realms (my wife and I, for instance, often would run the Timeless Isle on characters that were on separate realms) can still go to Ashram. This is a good and fun use of cross-realm grouping. But there's a potential down side to this.

Since cross-realm grouping is possible, we know the next step - something like oQueue that allows you to put together a group of 40 players and go destroy Ashram on an already imbalanced server. If a certain server is already heavily skewed towards the Alliance, putting together a 40 player group (since Ashram exists in the world and not in a raid instance) and just destroying any hapless Horde you come across, or vice versa. Even if you don't pick a server with a faction imbalance, it's still feasible that a big raid group could end up owning Ashram for an extended period of time, and using players that aren't even on the server.

Decisions in the game's design are always made between these two poles - between the ease of abuse, and the benefit it brings to individual players. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, things don't work out like we'd hope. Reforging, as an example, falls into the 'possible player imbalanced use trumps player convenience' category.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Warlords of Draenor

What is the average?

People make assumptions. We all do it - even when we know they might not be warranted, making an assumption is an easy shorthand, a way to skip a few steps. One of the things we as players often do is assume that our peer group - the people we play with, the people we know who play the game - are in some way representative of the game as a whole. We assume our personal experiences are universal. I bring this up because of this recent tweet from Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas.


What Watcher is pointing out here is that for many of us, our group of peers is the game. We only see the game we play. Any assumptions we make about the game (such as, the difficulty of the raids, the quality of our fellow players) can be hampered by the assumption that what our group experiences is what all groups experience. The tweet that Watcher responded to argued that the Cataclysm launch raids weren't overtuned because his peer group, which he considered 'below average', was clearing them. Watcher's response points out that it can be difficult to define what the average is, much less whether or not you're there.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding, Raid Guides, Mists of Pandaria

Siege of Orgrimmar changes in patch 6.0

So if you're raiding Siege of Orgrimmar, there's some news to be had - namely, some things are going away, and other things are becoming a lot easier to get.
  • First off, if you haven't gotten the Kor'kron War Wolf for the 'Ahead of the Curve" achievement, it will cease to be attainable once the patch drops.
  • Garrosh Hellscream will no longer have a 100% chance to drop the Kor'kron Annihilator mount on the new Mythic difficulty, once you can level past level 90.
  • If you have not already gotten an heirloom off of Garrosh Hellscream, you will have a 100% chance to get a specialization appropriate heirloom, and your chances to get an additional heirloom will be increased. But once you can level past 90, you will not be able to get heirlooms from Garrosh anymore.
  • Group finder will be available.
For all this news and more, check out this post on the official site.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Loot, points, bonus rolls, and other options

Before The Burning Crusade, there simply wasn't any other way to get gear for your character but for it to drop past a certain point. Sometimes you could buy a BoE piece on the auction house - my first epic was a Brain Hacker my wife bought me on the AH. But in general, if you wanted a piece of gear, you farmed for it. You ran dungeons over and over again, hoping a piece would drop, and hoping you would win the roll - and if neither of those things happened, you just kept running. It was possible to run the same dungeon every day, over and over again, and never get that drop you wanted - one friend of mine never completed his dungeon set, even when he was working on raiding Ahn'Qiraj, because the shoulders simply would not drop.

But during BC the Badges of Justice were devised, and for the first time players had a way to get around the luck of the draw. Over the course of the expansion, new gear was placed on vendors, gear that could be purchased for Badges, and this meant that players kept running as much content that dropped those badges as possible. It's fair to say that the badge system kept Karazhan going as a desired raiding location - people would bring their geared mains, even, just to get the extra badges. When the Isle of Quel'Danas vendor opened, all of my friends and guildmates (who were raiding TK and SSC and moving up into Hyjal and the Black Temple) picked up gear from the IoQD vendor, because it was easily as good if not slightly better as the drops we already had. It filled weak spots (those pants or boots or belt that never dropped) or provided us with weapons absolutely as good as drops we hadn't even seen yet.

The badge system got ever more complex in Wrath, with each new raid tier also seeing the debut of a new type of badge and new gear that badge could be spent on. As a result, the two tiered point system (justice and valor points, honor and conquest points for PvP) was introduced in Cataclysm (technically, during the tail end of Wrath) to simplify everything. It worked, to a point. Now, in Mists of Pandaria, we've seen justice and valor points be superseded by the bonus roll mechanic, one that will be revamped in Warlords of Draenor. One could argue that the bonus roll system puts the emphasis back on whether or not an item drops as opposed to simply collecting points to buy an item - it removes the certainty of reaching enough points to make a purchase, as well.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

LFR, Warlords of Draenor, and you

I've been thinking about the changes coming to LFR ever since yesterday's big post about raiding in Warlords. One of the things that seems really clear about the changes is that LFR is now seen as part of a progression path for raiding - at least some players are expected to go from LFR to normal raiding in the expansion. With the removal of shared set bonuses and even tier gear from LFR being entirely gone, LFR feels to a degree like it's being downshifted in difficulty and placed in a different position for player use than how it is currently employed. Right now, for many players, LFR is their raiding. They don't run flex or normal, much less heroic. And with dungeons basically only for valor farming, LFR has become an important part of people's endgame.

The idea of making LFR a stepping stone to normal raiding via the incoming group finder is interesting to me. Since you won't be able to get tier gear, or scaled down versions of the same loot as in normal/heroic/mythic, LFR feels like it will simultaneously have less and more importance. The effort to elevate dungeons to a much more prominent role in endgame (especially challenge modes, which will actually reward gear) and make it so players have an incentive to try and make the jump from LFR to normal/heroic raids. It's an interesting shift in priorities, but what will it mean for players who currently use LFR as their endgame?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Raid design evolution and Warlords of Draenor

Blizzard has posted parts one and two of a series of Dev Watercoolers, discussing raid design over the course of World of Warcraft. Now part three is live, highlighting and explaining where raiding is going in Warlords of Draenor. The post covers new systems like the Group Finder (basically integrating the OQueue style functionality), buffs to LFR, explains the new Mythic difficulty and flexible group system for normal/heroic, and discusses how raid lockouts will work in Warlords, with each raiding difficulty (Raid Finder, Normal, Heroic and Mythic) having its own lockout, and how valor points will be scaled back to prevent players feeling like they have to clear each raid difficulty each week.

If you raid, you should probably check it out. The full text is reproduced behind the break.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Could WoW have an expansion without raiding?

I have raided in World of Warcraft since the beginning. Raiding has always been a big part of why I play the game. If not the reason I play, certainly a reason. So when I was sitting up last night and it occurred to me that I've never gone an entire expansion without raiding, I didn't initially think anything of it -- to me, raiding is what you do in WoW. But then I started really thinking about it. Because lots of people don't raid. Before the rise of LFR and flex, a lot of players -- the majority of players, really -- never set foot in a raid at all. They had 5-mans, and that was basically it for group content for them outside of PvP.

So I started asking myself if it would be possible to release an expansion with little to no raiding content at all. Would players accept it? It's a cliche (and an overused one among the community) that Blizzard didn't do this or that 'because it would cost us a raid tier' but let's really consider -- what if we could have the expansion next month, but it wouldn't have any raids? Would that be an expansion people would be willing to play?

One of the reasons I consider this a more controversial question that it would have been at the end of Wrath is because now, raiding is far, far more accessible than it was even then. With the advent of LFR and the recent development of flexible raiding, it's never been easier to raid than it is. While Warlords of Draenor is changing the raid game, those changes will only make mythic raiding in any way more restrictive -- the rest of raiding will remain very accessible.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Events, Blizzard, Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Raid design evolution from Cataclysm to now

Horridon header
Yesterday Lead Game Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas published a fascinating Dev Watercooler blog that discussed the history and evolution of raid design in World of Warcraft. That article was part one of a three-part series, and looked into the way that raiding developed from WoW's original release through to Wrath of the Lich King. In part two, published today, Watcher discusses the ways raid design has changed, and stayed the same, through Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria.

The article focuses primarily on difficulty levels and raiding. Watcher discusses in detail the problems inherent in the "10-man is easier, 25-man is harder" approach, as well as the ways that making 10- and 25-man raiding more equivalent in difficulty led to new problems that hadn't existed before. From there we learn about the origin of both the LFR and Flex raiding options from the perspective of how different raiding difficulties serve different portions of the WoW player population. If you've ever wondered about the thought processes that went into developing the different types of raid systems we see in the game today, this is an excellent article on exactly that.

Check out the full blue post after the break.

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Filed under: Raiding, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Blizzard on raid design evolution

Lead Game Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has written a very extensive blog on the evolution of raid design, the first installment of which went live this morning. In this first part, Watcher covers the history of raiding, from the launch of the game in 2004 all the way through to the end of Icecrown Citadel in 2010.

For many, these were the glory days of raiding and World of Warcraft alike, well, if you believe the forums at least. Watcher talks about the developers' aims to make raiding more accessible, and to improve the gameplay of groups by reducing them in size -- one healer in a group of fifteen healers can't have as big an impact as one healer in a group of five or two. He also discusses the introduction of varying difficulties in raiding, and looks back over all the patches of some of the game's greatest raids.

Hit the break for the full post.

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Filed under: Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

Warlords of Draenor: New info from PAX East

Elekks on Draenor
PAX East 2014 has come and gone, but we at WoW Insider have come away from the weekend with juicy new information to share with you about Warlords of Draenor. During the expo, I sat down for a chat with senior game designers Steve Burke and Brian Holinka, lead class designer Kris Zierhut, and other developers.

In our brief time together, they told me some exciting info about garrisons, raiding, transmog, and the expansion's starting experience. They also provided insight into what a boosted level 90 will experience after the expansion launches.

Please note that mild spoilers about the early story of Warlords of Draenor will follow. Join me after the break for all the new info!

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Filed under: News items, Raiding, Interviews, Transmogrification, Warlords of Draenor

Switching roles

It's officially the end of the expansion, because I'm tanking again. Every expansion, this happens. I start off tanking, something happens and I switch to DPS, and then by the end of the expansion I'm tanking again. The best part is that it usually happens in the middle of working on heroic progression, meaning that I'm suddenly tanking the hardest fights in the game. Usually without having ever tanked them before, in fact. Last night for instance I found out that I am much better at doing Heroic Norushen if I go down to kill the big add with some Vengeance built up, for how much it helps with Shield Barrier if I mis-time and get hit by the big attack.

My gear is adequate - about ilevel 566, with quite a few heroic pieces - but it's still a learning curve and one that's sometimes fairly hard to adjust to, and not just for me. This is a raid we've been clearing weekly, and suddenly here's a new tank who doesn't know what's going on as well as the previous tanks did. Combine that with my general sense of perfectionism (I do not like making even the most understandable mistake) and it can be pretty stressful.

But sometimes it's necessary -- your group has all the healers it needs, and you volunteer to DPS. You've been playing a hunter, now you're on your priest healing instead. (Hi, Final.) You're a tank but you're burned out and you need a change of pace. So, how can you deal with this, both as a player and as a group with a player switch? While I'm not pretending to having any sort of universal answer, here's a few things I've noticed.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

Warlords of Draenor: The changing face of buffs and debuffs

One of the changes that will have a pretty significant impact on how we play both in PvE and PvP is that many buff and debuff spells are being changed or removed. It can all seem a bit complicated at first viewing, what with all the class specific changes, but it's really fairly easily broken down and it won't directly affect how you play all that significantly. We're going to go over the changes and explain what they are and how they'll change how you play, if they do.

First up is the Weakened Armor debuff. Essentially, this is the old-school Sunder/Expose Armor affect. It's gone entirely. Rogues no longer have Expose Armor, warriors no longer have Sunder Armor and the Devastate prot warrior ability no longer applies Weakened Armor. In addition, the druid ability Faerie Fire now applies Physical Vulnerability instead, increasing all physical damage taken by its target by 4% for 30 seconds. This is because it was thought that having both Weakened Armor and Physical Vulnerability was excessive, since they did basically the same thing. What this means in terms of how we play? Almost nothing. If you're a rogue, you won't use Expose Armor anymore because it's gone. A warrior tank will hit Devastate the same as they always did. Druids are still going to use Faerie Fire to debuff things. Hunter pets that had similar abilities will no longer have them.

Next up is the Weakened Blows ability that almost all tanks had - it reduced incoming damage. The abilities that provided it still exist, they simply don't provide it anymore. Thunder Clap is an example of an ability that currently provides the debuff, but won't in Warlords. Since all tanks applied this debuff, it basically wasn't very meaningful, and instead monsters will simply be tuned to do less damage to compensate for its removal. What changes for players? Nothing. You won't apply the debuff, but you'll still use those abilities that did once apply it.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: Tanking and the future

One of the things I'm thinking about lately is how tanking is changing in Warlords of Draenor. In at least one major way, it's not changing - Active Mitigation established itself in Mists, based in part on DK tanking in Cataclysm, and it's going to be front and center in Warlords of Draenor. But right now, AM tanking heavily relies on four stats (depending on the tank class) and all four of those stats will be gone come Warlords, meaning that we're looking at a pretty significant change depending on the class. The remaining stat, mastery, is probably going up in value, and in addition, we'll have crit, haste, readiness and multistrike to consider. But stats aren't the whole of the game, and they're not the whole of the changes, either.

In addition to new stats, there are the abilities each tank will see affected by readiness to consider. There are also Draenor Perks for each tank spec, granted randomly as we level from 90 to 100. There are changes in what abilities exist, in what specs get them. Vengeance is gone, replaced with Resolve, buffing our self heals and absorbs. In short, while the basic idea remains the same - generate resources via attacks to spend on damage reduction in one fashion or another - how we go about it, how it interacts with us has so many changes that it's worth discussing in length. There's so much change coming in that I don't pretend I'll catch all of it, which is why we have comments, after all.

So what do I expect to see out of tanking coming 6.0? It should be noted, this discussion is based on the Warlords alpha patch notes and such datamining as I've looked over, and I freely admit I only tank on one class, so while these are general observations I may be missing key class specific factors.

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Filed under: Druid, Paladin, Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Death Knight, Monk, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Garrosh Heirlooms have Bad Luck Protection

Garrosh has been killed captured many times over, thanks in part to the heirlooms that he drops. Everyone wants one, and players are frustrated at what is seen as a very low drop rate. I am among those players, so Lead Encounter Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas' tweets are music to my ears:


This is great news, and indeed, on my tenth kill of Garrosh on my shaman, my 14th kill across all characters on that account, my bad luck was finally protected, and I got my first heirloom. The message to keep at it is a good one, and maybe in time, as the expansion wears on, the game's tolerance for bad luck will be adjusted. Or people will have killed him so many times that they're drowning in heirlooms.

I'd love to know a little more about how bad luck protection works, too. How unlucky do you have to be, does getting one drop completely reset its count no matter how long that drop took to happen? How's your luck? For clarity, these heirlooms only drop from Flex and above.

Filed under: Raiding

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