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Filed under: Raiding

Siege of Orgrimmar nerfs incoming

Watcher has announced that several bosses in Siege of Orgrimmar will be adjusted starting with next week's raid resets. The affected bosses include Galakras, Thok the Blood Thirsty, Siegecrafter Blackfuse, and Paragons of the Klaxxi on various difficulty levels. Watcher's post is a long one, so check it out behind the break.

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Filed under: News items, Raiding

Tanking mechanics that aren't taunt on X stacks

Lead Encounter Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has been putting his new Twitter account to good use, keeping players informed of design intent, limits, ideas and more. One recent tweet particularly caught my eye, related as it is to my now-ex main, and a role I miss terribly.

The story behind this is that the taunt at X stacks model, that was so prevalent in Dragon Soul, in Normal Mode difficulty and some heroics, was the thing that made me switch from tank to healer. I even wrote about it, to express my frustration. Commenters at the time thought it was an attempt by Blizzard to make tanking more accessible, and to increase the tanking population. But, for me at least, easy-mode tanking drove me away.

And the "taunt on X stacks" model has far from disappeared as we've moved through Mists. While there have been fights like Will of the Emperor that really demanded a lot from tanks, many others didn't. Stone Guard, while it was another taunt-swap, at least required some more engagement. But there's still far too much of the taunting on X stacks. Writing the Bosses in 5 Seconds guides, I just have to figure out which debuff, and how many stacks for many of the bosses.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

Bosses in 5 seconds: Siege of Orgrimmar LFR wing four

While we've been busy, in my guild, trying to draw awesome stars in Paragons of the Klaxxi with Iyyokuk the Lucid's fire lines, I've apparently not been busy making a Bosses in 5 Seconds for the fourth wing of Siege of Orgrimmar. By way of apology to the many people who've been asking me where it is, I'm writing it right now. Sorry for the rather lengthy delay. You can see the rest of the guides here. As ever, these are minimal guides for LFR. If you use them for anything else, that's on you!

Siegecrafter Blackfuse
  • Don't stand in the bad.
  • There will be rings of bad appearing, the first one to activate is the middle one. Don't stand in it, then do, after it's gone off.
  • Kill the fixating crawler mines. Ranged are best at this.
  • Ranged spread out for sawblades.
  • Kite the laser away from the group
  • Taunt at around 3 stacks of the debuff.
  • Swap to tank the shredder. Tanks kill the shredder. Bad on the floor hurts it. Use DPS CDs once it's jumped, keep it 40 yds from the boss.
  • On the belt, don't kill the Electromagnet, prioritize Crawler Mines*. (LFR usually skips the belt)
*While it's not needed in the instructions, this merits explanation. The Electromagnet uses Magnetic Crush which removes the Sawblades from the area. These deal a good amount of damage to anyone who stands on or near them, so removing them will help your healers and keep the deaths low. Crawler mines require several players to switch DPS off the boss.

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Filed under: Raiding

My Warlords of Draenor Wish List

It should be noted that these are not features that have been announced, nor even speculated about or teased to my knowledge - if they have, I missed them somehow. It's possible. I'm human, I miss things. But I was thinking about the features announced for Warlords of Draenor (including recent announcements that blood elves and draenei will be among the races who get new models) and I realized that there's all sorts of things I'd like to see that haven't even been mentioned yet, and while I don't expect they'll happen, I might as well share them with you in the hopes that they may end up arriving at some point down the road. After all, transmog and LFR happened in the middle of an expansion, and they both worked out pretty well.

So here we go.

Level scaling

This is one I've wanted for a while. With flexible raiding now a reality, I'm drawn back to the idea of being able to scale your level down to run older content with friends, something the late, lamented City of Heroes had (called mentoring/sidekicking in that game). We've been teased with this potentially existing as recently as October of 2013 and whether or not it was a hoax then (I personally have no idea) it's something I've wanted for years. Sure, it's fun to bring your level 90 to an old dungeon and blow it up sometimes, but I want the option to step myself down and run it at an appropriate level in appropriate gear if I so choose. I'd also like to be able to boost a friend up to my level so that we can run stuff together, although I suspect the free level 90 boost is aimed at handling this same problem. Basically, anything that lets friends do more stuff together, I'm down for.

And speaking of that...

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Filed under: PvP, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

EU Heroic raider helps forums through Flex

There have been a good number of threads on the EU forums lately from would-be flex raiders complaining how they can't get into groups because they lack achievements or ilvl. While many would just tell them to learn to play, or turn a blind eye, heroic raider Anabelle of Revolution, EU-Kazzak-H has taken action. Anabelle has put together an "experiment" raid, with low ilvl requirements, and comprising of inexperienced players taken exclusively from the EU forums.

The sole purpose of the raid is to get forumers the achievements they need, and to hopefully get them some gear too. Anabelle's rule set prioritizes players who don't have relevant achievements, before taking players who do. Players need an item level of 520, and to bring along flasks and potions, Anabelle's covering the food. The first raid is scheduled at 1500 CET on Saturday.

And that's pretty awesome. Anabelle doesn't want to boost people, rather to have them work as a team, and is asking for nothing in return. Just to prove that a group of inexperienced people in 520 item level gear can do Flex, with leadership. It's a great initiative, we'd like to give Anabelle a special nod for being über, and helping out those fellow forumers who are struggling. Hopefully there'll be more of the same to follow!

Filed under: Raiding

Item Squish won't affect soloing capabilities, but other changes may.

The devs have been very keen to reassure us that the item squish incoming with Warlords will have no impact on our ability to solo old content. And Technical Game Designer Chadd "Celestalon" Nervig has tweeted, reasserting this point. However, in response to well-known death knight soloer Aelobin, he comments that other factors may have an effect.

What Chadd doesn't do is expand on just what exactly these "other changes" might be. At a guess, I would imagine that they may relate to ability changes, as there is a planned sweep to address the issue of button bloat, so you may lose some of the skills that you currently use to solo older content. Perhaps it relates to the non-linearity of expansion transition gear, or perhaps it's none of the above. Nonetheless, the message regarding the item squish is being received loud and clear.

Filed under: Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Do we need cross-realm Siege of Orgrimmar Normal?

Blizzard Senior Community Rep Jonathan "Zarhym" Brown engaged in an interesting conversation with a Twitter user yesterday, regarding making Siege of Orgrimmar cross-realm in normal mode as well as in Flex and LFR. You can see the whole conversation after the break as an image, but the jist of it is that the OP wanted it cross-realm, and Blizzard can't do it. The framework is apparently not in place, despite it being there for flex and LFR, and they feel the failure rate would be too high. Not to mention that any additional development work that was done on Mists would affect the delivery of Warlords.

Cross-realm normal mode raids are something that has been asked for for a long time, since LFR appeared almost. In the twilight days of Mists, it might be a good way for raiders to spend a bit more time on the content and might elongate the life of Siege. But is it really worth potentially delaying the new expansion? Given that the delay between now and the new expansion is the whole reason why we'd need it in the first place, it doesn't seem that way.

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Filed under: Raiding

Siege of Orgrimmar: 14 is not the magic number

WoW Insider posted previously about the changes coming in to reinforce the point that 14 is not some magic number for Siege of Orgrimmar Flex raiding. Lead Encounter Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has posted on the official forums once again to clarify that the recent hotfixes reinforce that position.

Watcher
You can read the latest hotfix notes here: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/11944164/542_Hotfixes_December_16-12_16_2013

Fun fact: The hotfix has actually been active since just before the weekend, but it didn't get caught in the prior round of hotfix notes. It's no surprise that it went largely unnoticed, since most all of the abilities with actual breakpoints going from 14->15 are things with very minor impact (Protectors' Shadow Word: Bane, Nazgrim's Bonecracker, Hisek's Multi-Shot, etc.). There are indeed a couple of more impactful breakpoints on Garrosh's Touch of Y'Shaarj and Sha of Pride's Imprison, but those both occur at raid sizes well above 14, and randomization isn't the correct solution to either.

The 14-player "magic number" is actually a fairly interesting social dynamic, since there never was anything particularly special about the number, and now there really is objectively no advantage. As we've said in the past, there's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to form a 14-player raid, but if you're turning away strong players or friends because you're convinced that your raid as a whole will have a harder time, you're making a mistake.

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Filed under: News items, Raiding

World of Warcraft, complexity, and design vs. sprawl

One of those trends that comes out of reading a lot about World of Warcraft is you start to see patterns in the responses. One trend I (and others, to be fair) have noticed coming out of BlizzCon, and then from discussions with people that I think needs to be understood and explored by players is the notion of vastness in World of Warcraft - this is a game that has recently celebrated its ninth anniversary. In that time it's seen four expansions, with a fifth on the way. Each of these expansions has added something to the game - reforging, transmogrification, arenas, new raid content, new dungeon content, new classes, new spells and abilities, new levels, new stats - and in many cases, this all increases the overall complexity of the game. It goes far beyond simple to understand symptoms of this growth, like the upcoming item squish, and into a realm of interconnected complexity that causes dominos to fall in directions we may not have even seen before it happens.

We started the game with three classes capable of tanking. We're up to five. Along the way, tanking has changed and changed again, until its modern implementation barely even resembles what we were doing back in the days of ten or fifteen person UBRS groups - tanking today has a host of mob control abilities in order to allow them to more effectively control groups of adds, tools for mobility and is based around actively reducing incoming damage in a way it simply wasn't years before. Now, consider this - how does the game itself change in order to challenge the modern tank? What does it do to demand they play to their best? Encounters of the past wouldn't even make a modern tank blink - what challenge would Garr pose to today's tank, for example? A bunch of adds? Bring it. So design has to take these new tanking modes and abilities into account and provide new ways to give them difficult encounters... and these encounters thus create, in their turn, the new tank of the future.

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

The Problem of Raid Clutter

What is raid clutter? Well, it's that mess of stuff that goes on during a raid encounter. It can be a boss, it can be trash, that's not really important. What is important is that absolute mess of spells going off, that can make it almost impossible for you to see anything. As fights get more complex with more encounter mechanics that need to be observed and reacted to, the clutter of modern raiding becomes more and more difficult to deal with. To use one example, the Dark Shaman fight is an absolute bonanza of raid clutter, especially on heroic - even separating the two shaman only means that half the raid gets to deal with tombs falling from the sky and ground effect cones while the other half of the raid has big red circles and purple cyclones. And that's just the boss mechanics - it doesn't take into account every member of the raid casting some form of spell or using some attack or ability, most of which have a visual component.

But don't take my word for it. Blizzard knows this is a problem.
This issue gets frustrating for players because it's not one they have much control of aside from just turning down their graphics settings. It can certainly cause graphical slowdown when fights get really busy, it can prevent you from being able to react to mechanics in time or even prevent you from seeing them. It exacerbates the need for raiding addons that call out mechanics for you.

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

Flex difficulty smoothing coming soon

Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has posted today on Flexible raids, and the scaling thereof. As ever, you can read Ion's whole post after the break, but the key points relate to what was discussed at BlizzCon regarding raid scaling. Essentially, the new system will, in most cases, introduce a chance at getting an extra instance of whatever ability. Ion explains this in full after the break, so I'll spare you the repetition, but the exciting news is that, to combat the current issues, it's coming in sooner than the expansion.

There are some misconceptions floating around, particularly in PuG Flex groups, that there are certain break points which make a raid drastically harder. While it is the case that, as Ion notes, certain abilities scale up with hard breaks at certain numbers, the scaling of Flex favors larger groups. The new scaling will do so even more, essentially removing hard breakpoints for raid size.

Hit the break for Ion's full post.

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Filed under: Raiding

Clarifications on Cross-Realm raiding and Warlords' Group Finder

Community Manager Lore has released some additional clarifications on the differences between the cross-realm functionality being added to the Raid Browser in patch 5.4.2, and the new Group Finder being introduced with the new expansion in patch 6.0. These two features are entirely different things -- the Group Finder is an all new feature being built from scratch. This new Group Finder will allow players to find and create groups for any content at any level.

The cross-realm functionality in 5.4.2, however, is just that -- cross-realm functionality. Currently, the Raid Browser only allows players to see other players from their own realm. In patch 5.4.2, players will be able to see cross-realm players as well -- something that is similar to what the popular addon oQueue already accomplishes via the BattleTag system. Follow after the break for the full post from Lore.

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Filed under: News items, Raiding, Mists of Pandaria

Should weapons be more universal?

I admit it, I love talking about the new gear paradigm in Warlords of Draenor because it's such a big change, with so many permutations. But as big as it is, some folks think it's not going far enough. This post over on the 7th Tower discusses weapons and how they could be made more universal, and it got me thinking - should we move away from the era of agi, strength and/or int weapons?

There are multiple ways to do this. The easiest would be simply to put Attack or Spell Power on weapons, which would still leave them segregated by role to some extent (melee would want the AP weapons, ranged casters would want the SP weapons, and hunters would still be the only ones using bows, crossbows and guns). A more complicated but perhaps more compelling system would be to have them switch between AP and Spell Power, so that a holy paladin could use a weapon for healing, then switch over and use said weapon for tanking. Still more complex but perhaps even more interesting would be to have weapons retain int, agi or strength and switch depending on which class was using them as well as each role. If you visit the original post at 7th Tower, he breaks down how it might look using Siege of Orgrimmar as a template. The current breakdown of agility and strength weapons would, in either scheme, now be available to a broader range of players.

It would certainly fit within the paradigm of broader usefulness for gear established by the changes to armor. The question becomes what are the up and downsides to this?

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

How hybrid should hybrids be?

In terms of design elements that have been problematic over the course of World of Warcraft's existence, the idea of hybrid classes and what, exactly, they should be able to do has always been one of them. When the game first debuted, two hybrids - priests and warriors - weren't even treated like hybrids. Priests were considered healers, with their two healing spects (holy and disc) while shadow was barely utilized, and warriors were not only nearly the only tanking class (druids and paladins could tank, but warriors were the unrelentingly favorite choice in classic WoW) and they were designed as a pure DPS class as well, not balanced as a hybrid, in their DPS roles.

Over the course of the years and years since classic (seven of them, to be exact) we've seen hybrid classes rise to ascendancy. The way hybrids were balanced for pure DPS changed to be much closer to pure DPS classes, and since all healers and tanks are hybrids there's been competition between each for both of these roles (considering that the two new classes added during WoW's life, death knights and monks, are both tanks and monks are also healers, competition has been necessary) making hybrids more attractive. However, it was really the addition of dual spec that made hybrids start to live up to the ideal of the hybrid class - with dual spec specialization, a druid can choose to have a tanking and healing, or tanking and ranged DPS, or healing and melee DPS specialization ready to be selected at the touch of a button.

However, it's never as easy as all that. Yes, a paladin can have a ret and protection spec, or protection and holy, or holy and ret ready to go. But he or she still needs to gear said spec. If you intend to heal for you raiding, tank for five mans and flex, and go ret for fun you'd actually not only need to hit a trainer from time to time to drop a spec, you'd also need three sets of gear ready to go. And it is this very limitation, so woven into the fabric of the game over the past few years that I myself have almost entirely forgotten about it, that is about to be bent further than it ever has been.

Make no mistake - Warlords of Draenor will change not only what stats we want on gear, but how we use that gear.

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

Patch 5.4.2: This is just the beginning for Blizzard's Raid Finder

We posted earlier about Blizzard's first steps towards building their own answer to oQueue, leveling various criticisms at what they had done so far for patch 5.4.2. Basically, you can head back and read the previous post, but the changes so far have all been to the existing Raid Finder tool. The one that nobody knows exists. And the one that nobody can find. Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street was quick to add, though, that this is only the beginning for Blizzard's group finder.

So we can allow ourselves to hope for better with 6.0. What would you like to see? Personally, I think oQueue, for all its bugs and quirks, does a pretty great job of finding cross-realm groups for people. I'd like to see something that mirrors oQueue, but with fewer issues like spam, memory use, and more. Of course, with Blizzard designing this themselves, it's very likely to be the case that it doesn't suffer any of these ills. I'd love to see it have all the ilvl restrictions, completion restrictions and other group restrictions applicable, and to have the option to appear offline, or hide.

One big thing, too, is visibility. It needs to either be integrated into the LFG panel, or have its own micro-menu entry. The single thing that such a system needs, as I mentioned in the earlier article, is people. It needs to be right in players' faces, more convenient than the competition. I believe Blizzard can do it, but to replace such a popular addon that's done so much good to the game, they'll have to do it well.

Filed under: Raiding

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