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Posts with tag Relmstein

Designing around latency

Now, I do enjoy Naxxramas, especially in 25 man (the place feels very empty in 10 man) I have to admit that I despise certain fights, depending on how my connection is holding up. Some nights it's fine, and some nights I'm trying to do the Heigan dance with 1800 MS latency. I've wept, swore dire oaths, and of course died to a wave of green crap that was nowhere near me on my screen. It can be baffling because one day we'll be doing three drake Sarth and I dodge every lava wave and avoid all the void zones, and the next day I'm in stutter hell, no obvious reason for why it varied. And on fights like Thaddius, one person lagging can kill 10 in a second.

Over at The Many Relms of Relmstein, Relmstein discusses how Naxxramas was originally created to be the hardest of the hardcore 40 man raids and how what was then not as much an issue (namely, extreme latency causing issues) for the very few at the top is now somewhat more obvious. Since Blizzard designs raids to take buffs like Replenishment into account, should they go that one step further and assume there's going to be some latency? Some players report unusual latency in the raids that seems to have nothing to do with their internect connection (an issue that was supposed to be fixed in patch 3.0.8) so should lag just be considered a fact of life? And would we lose interesting mechanics (Relmstein himself mentions the Thaddius fight as one that would be hard to do with latency in mind) like the combined three drakes and their abilities?

Obviously I don't know, but I think a little thought placed into making lag less lethal for an entire raid would be a good thing, at least as long as it's out of the players hands like it seems to be now.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, News items, Instances, Raiding

The many benefits of being a high-level Cook

I agree with Relmstein: Cooking is awesome. Unlike, say, fishing (which I said on the podcast last week will never really stop being boring, since boring is "working as intended" for that one), cooking has really transitioned over the years. Back in the day, it was kind of a silly way to make new foods to eat, in Burning Crusade it became a pretty solid extra buff to have, and it Wrath it has really become a necessity for anyone looking to make their characters and their raids the best they can be.

Plus, as Relmstein notes, there's added functionality -- the feasts let you lay out an entire meal for your party, and the addition of the Dalaran cooking quests (and the recipe rewards) have turned the daily cooking quests from just a few extra gold and mats per day into a whole currency system on its own. Fooding it up ingame has become a minigame of its own, and with food giving out such diverse (and significant) stat bonuses, not to mention that it often fetches great prices on the AH, there's no reason for your level 80 character to not have worked a little bit on leveling up cooking.

Sold yet? One of the last things I did at level 70 was level up both cooking and fishing using El's Angling's great guide, and though it took me the better part of two weekends in a row, it's paid off many times over since. Cooking has definitely moved from kind of a fun third profession to mess around with to something that will seriously benefit you as a character in quite a few ways.

Filed under: Cooking, Items, Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Buffs

Can Blizzard fix all their launch problems in Wrath?

Our good friend Relmstein (who I was able to finally meet in person at BlizzCon this year) is back to blogging about World of Warcraft, even though he was on a WAR trip for a while there. But we're glad to have him back -- yesterday, he posted about how Wrath might tackle all the launch issues we saw with the Burning Crusade.

Everyone knows by now that Blizzard has split the entry area into two different areas (with four total Northrend entry points, one for each faction), and of course there's also Death Knights to roll, so hopefully the lag problem is helped (hard to believe it could actually be solved). But Relmstein has other ideas in mind: the dynamic spawn system (mobs will spawn faster the more people there are around killing them) causes some crazy repops last time, and hopefully that's been evened out a bit. He's also worried about the "leveling truce" on PvP servers -- during the last expansion, everyone was more interested in exploring than fighting for the first few levels, but if you missed that ad-hoc "truce," you had new level 70s beating you down as you were trying to explore the world. Hopefully the Lake Wintergrasp PvP zone will keep PvPers busy without griefing all of the people trying to see Northrend for the first time.

And later on, the Karazhan bump is a worry as well -- lots of guilds, early on in BC, were crushed by Karazhan's 10-man limit and the gear checks in there. Will 10-man Naxx also cause a ton of guild breakups, or will the 10/25 man split help guilds play what they want to play? We'll have to see how it all works out -- this is only the second time Blizzard has released this amount of content into the game, so while they're sure to have evened out some problems, you have to think that there will still be a few bumps in the road.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Expansions, Raiding, Leveling, Wrath of the Lich King

Relmstein explains arena team ratings, and how Blizzard is working to combat exploiting them

Relmstein of The Many Relms of Relmstein has posted an updated version of a post he originally wrote in 2006 that is one of the most concise and clear explanation of how team ratings work and how people exploit them, including how Blizzard's planned arena rule changes will help stop these exploits.

Read more →

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Arena

The evolution of World PvP rewards

Relmstein has a good post up about how Blizzard's world PvP has evolved over time, and what we might expect from Lake Wintergrasp, the PvP zone in Wrath of the Lich King. When world PvP began, it was very much an ad-hoc environment, which lead to a lot of 1v1 battles that eventually escalated when wandering guildies or alts showed up. As Relmstein says, the large majority of battles started with that stealthing noise (that used to inspire chills in the spines of those on PvP servers), and ended with an all-out brawl with no rewards but to get the other guys back.

Nowadays, world PvP is much more organized, in the sense that there are specific objectives and goals to go after. The original reward was a zonewide buff (in Silithus and the Plaguelands), but Blizzard eventually morphed this into something more permanent -- in Auchindoin, you fight for a buff that earns you tokens for rewards, and in Halaa, you fight to get the rewards themselves.

Which leads Relmstein to suspect that Wintergrasp will have direct rewards of its own, almost equal to the gear you get from endgame dungeons and Arena PvP. He predicts that it will be token-based (not a bad idea, considering all the badge changes Blizzard has put in lately -- in fact, Blizzard might even cut a corner and have Wintergrasp reward players with WotLK's version of badges directly), and that it will be updated with each Arena season, to keep players fighting there. All good ideas -- Blizzard has definitely innovated (successfully or otherwise) in the area of World PvP rewards, and we'll look forward to Wrath to see what they come up with there.

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, PvP, Expansions, Wrath of the Lich King

Balancing crowd control

Relmstein has an interesting commentary up about crowd control in World of Warcraft, and how balancing it is imperative to get PvP done right. It used to be that fear was the main problem, but now that fear has been nerfed and balanced with so many other abilities, it's just crowd control in general that has become the main issue. Instead of Warlocks and Mages ruling the roost with Fear and Polymorph, almost every class has picked up their own little methods of stopping other players in their tracks momentarily.

And thus, says Relmstein, the quicker abilities are becoming more powerful. Blind and Cyclone are the two main abilities he mentions, and both are extremely powerful in that they can be used by Rogues and Druids in conjunction with their escape abilities. And on the other side of the equation, Relmstein says that burst damage is king-- doing serious damage in between those moments where crowd control can stop you is critical. And that's why Warriors (and to an extent, he says, Hunters) are doing so well in the Arenas. When you can break out a ton of damage and debuffs during someone else's global cooldown, you're going to go a long way towards winning.

And it'll be interesting to see where this all goes in the future. With the recent changes to spell haste and the curving up of gear in the expansion, things are just going to get faster and faster-- players are going to be able to push out damage quicker and quicker, and crowd control will be more and more powerful.

Filed under: Druid, Hunter, Rogue, Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Buffs

Surprises may loom in Wrath

Relmstein has posted a theory that Blizzard has been holding back some surprising features of the upcoming expansion Wrath of the Lich King. We've had no news about the expansion for quite awhile now, and no news might mean good news.

In the near future, World of Warcraft will be facing some hefty competition from the MMO world, from games such as Warhammer Online. Relmstein has asserted that "Lake Wintergrasp, one hero class, and ten more levels...can't hold up the expansion". Compared to what the competition will have to offer, if Blizzard doesn't up their ante, the launch of Wrath of the Lich King could get lost in the mix.

Of course, the expansion will also be including a new profession called inscription, as well as siege weapons, new NPC races, changeable hairstyles, new dances, and other interesting details.

Askander, a commenter, pointed out that pre-BC, Blizzard withheld the announcement about the "Shaman/Paladin faction swap" until late in the game, surprising many players. While some players may remain cautiously skeptical, Tigole has been on the forums hinting of bigger things to come.

What do you think? Does Blizzard have some dynamic plans in the works that they're not sharing for the upcoming expansion, or will they launch with only the announced features? Do you think they have underestimated their competition, or have grown distracted with development of their upcoming MMO and Starcraft 2?

Wrath did make Yahoo!'s list of the most anticipated games of 2008, and was the only expansion listed. Can Wrath live up to our expectations without added features?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Expansions, Death Knight, Wrath of the Lich King

Blizzard and unintended consequences

Relmstein has an interesting post about Blizzard and all the "unintended consequences" they seem to run into. He talks mainly about Alterac Valley and Blizzard's recent AFKer battles, as well as the fight against smurfing and selling Arena ratings. Both times, Blizzard implemented fixes that were meant to, well, fix things, but both times, the "fixes" were either completely dodged, or simply lead to more problems.

Now, Relmstein is just thinking critically about Blizzard's actions, and we always encourage that. But at the same time, you can't really blame them for having unintended consequences to their ingame actions-- the law says everyone does. And to go the other way, the mere fact that Blizzard is confronting this stuff (honor exploits and rating sales) while other games are just trying to get PvP or a good Arena system down says that they're way ahead of the game already. They're dealing with specific problems in implementation, while other developers are still just trying to get people to play.

But at the same time, Relmstein is exactly right to call both of these examples Blizzard attacking the symptoms rather than the underlying problem. Why do people sell Arena ratings or AFK in Alterac Valley? Because Blizzard's honor rewards system makes it easier for them to do that rather than actually be good at PvP. If Blizzard attacked the problem (a mixed-up rewards system) rather than the symptoms (AFKers and smurfs), then there would be no dodging their fixes.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Ranking, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Battlegrounds, Arena

Relmstein tells you how to poach great raiders

Relmstein has a great tongue-in-cheek guide up about how to "poach" great raiders for your guild. I'm assuming that he doesn't actually suggest you start stealing raiders from other guilds (unless you want to show up in Guildwatch next week), but not only is Relmstein's writeup really funny, but there are a few actual suggestions hidden in there about ways to promote your own growing guild legitimately.

Now, you don't want to start lying about how Eyonix is your GL (#7), or stand outside Karazhan trying to show off (#4), but there's nothing wrong with making sure people know that you're progressing. Have your guildleader post on the forums when you make a big kill, or throw out a few yells when you're about to give out a zone-wide buff (I remember when my guild turned in the Onyxia head way back when, and we did a nice parade through the center of Orgrimmar, all decked out on our mounts). A great video helps, too-- a funny recruitment video will get you attention, but a how-to video for a tough boss your guild has on farm will attract exactly the kind of people you want on your team.

You should never try to steal raiders from other guilds-- guildleaders have a hard enough time keeping a raiding team together as it is without teams fighting amongst themselves for players. But there are always good ways to "advertise" your guild to the right people, so that when a good raider is looking for a place to hang their hat, you can make sure they find you.

Filed under: Guilds, Odds and ends, Humor, Raiding

Reviving the pugs

Relmstein recently talked about many people's least favorite concept in WoW: the PUG. The premise, it seems, is that because raiders don't need the gear, they are not running with pick-up-groups, and those that do need the gear tend to run with their friends. The looking for group module is therefore filled with people that don't have a friend's list full of associates willing to help them, and those that don't have the experience raiders do.

Now here is where I have to agree and then disagree. On one hand, it is true, raiders tend to not run the 5-mans, at least in my experience, because they already have the gear. But there are plenty of excellent players out there that don't raid. While raiders are working to be the best at their particular class for a specific purpose, it's awfully elitist to assume that just because I raid I am therefore a better player. A commenter on the article mentioned a very valid fact: being a good player doesn't only mean that you know your class inside and out. There are also the other pieces to consider, generosity with loot, patience with new players, the ability to communicate with the group. And also, who's to say that there aren't raiders out there that enjoy running instances with people they don't know simply for the joy of helping others?

Relmstien goes on to say that the changes to the reputation requirements for heroic keys and the addition of daily heroic quests will go a decent way toward luring the better players back into the 5-man instances. I'm not so sure about that, seeing as how heroic badges will be dropping in the 10-man instances as well. I don't know that there will be enough incentive to bring players back to the PUG.

Filed under: Instances

The "punctuated equilibrium" of WoW content

Relmstein has posted a quick analysis of what he calls the "punctuated equilibrium" of WoW content patches. In evolutionary biology, there's a theory that species change not gradually over time, but in quick bursts of dynamic change. And Relmstein applies this idea to WoW's own population changes-- the playerbase seems to grow in quick leaps when brand new content is introduced, but slows down and even falls off when standard bugs are being fixed, or not much content is being patched.

What's really interesting, however, is that Relmstein then compares WoW's changes to the effects that content schedule has on other MMO releases. Lord of the Rings Online and Guild Wars (which are WoW's two worthy opponents) both released during downtime (after Burning Crusade and after the vanilla release, respectively). And on the other side of the spectrum, both Vanguard and Everquest 2 tried to go directly up against new WoW content, and, as Relmstein says, got steamrolled.

So looking towards the future, it's not hard to see what might happen. Wrath of the Lich King will make a big splash for sure, both bringing lots of players back, and maybe even bringing new players (who played Warcraft III and want to see Arthas) into the fold. Games like Age of Conan and Warhammer Online may try to go up against it, but it wouldn't be a good idea-- they'd be better off waiting until about a month after the expansion, when many players have reached 80, seen what they can see in Northrend, and Blizzard is confined to bugfixes and small content updates. Of course, a WoW content break isn't all these games need-- they still need to be good games by themselves. But placing themselves in this downtime between new content will give them a much better chance to woo more players away from Azeroth.

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Expansions

The least visited instance... and why

Overpowered on the forums wonders what the least popular instance is, and I'd say his guess of Blackfathom Deeps is probably pretty close-- it's a long run away for pretty much everyone but Night Elves, and at 25-30, there's so many more quests and things to do that BFD usually gets passed up. The other good guesses, I'd say, are the "old" late game instances like Naxx and LBRS. Unfortunately, while Blizzard tells us all about the most popular stuff in the game, they are pretty mum on what players don't like, for obvious reasons.

So how do you make an instance that makes players want to visit? Relmstein walks us through his idea of what makes a perfect instance ambiance: music, visuals, interactive features (the Chess Event is one of my favorite dungeon features, although almost all the dungeon dialogue "cut scenes" are fun for me), and memorable boss encounters.

But then again, BFD seems to have all of them-- it's a very pretty dungeon (I especially like the temple at the end), and while it might be a little short on interactive features, I really like the lore and the unleashing of the monster at the end. The last ingredient, I think, to a good dungeon, is just a storyline that drives you there. I'm sure Scarlet Monastery (except the Graveyard), and Deadmines are definitely among the most popular instances, and both of those have huge amounts of lore and mystery to make them interesting. Maybe if more players realized that Aku'mai was actually a pet of the Old Gods (or, you know, if there was a quest to kill him that explained that), BFD would see more traffic.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Instances, Quests, Lore

Dealing with queues on any new BGs

Players have been asking for a new battleground type for a while, and there are plenty of great ideas out there. So what's holding Blizzard back from creating a new one? Nethaera has said in the past that Blizzard is worried about queue times-- more BG queues to join means longer waits for players, and on some servers, the waits are already long as is.

So how can we fix this? Relmstein has a few really good ideas-- basically, he says that any new battlegrounds shouldn't replace the ones we have, but rather join the same queues. Instead of choosing from all the battlegrounds, AV and the new battleground (Relmstein pulls the idea of Alterac Ruins out of the air), would share a queue. That way, players wouldn't have to wait as long, and the new battleground would get just as much attention as the old battlegrounds.

Halo 2 (which I've been playing lately in expectation of Halo 3) has a system like that-- instead of joining a map, you join a "playlist," which has a number of maps and gametypes in it. That way, you only have to choose from a short list, but still get to experience all kinds of possibilities. And in this way, Blizzard could make variants on the fields we're playing now-- a new CTF map (like WSG) or a new node map (like AB) sounds like a lot of fun to me.

Of course the drawback to that is that if Blizzard comes up with an entirely new BG (like the rumored Scryer vs. Aldor BG), there's no real reason to queue it with AV, except for this problem of queues. Then again, for most players, pairing different battlegrounds isn't a problem, as long as it gets them in the game.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, PvP, Expansions

Pushing the limits of a class trinity

Relmstein is at it again, this time with a look at class trinity in MMORPGs. This is old, old RPG strategy stuff-- basically almost every RPG out there is based around three different class roles: that of tank, DPS or healing. Tanks (like Warriors and Fighters) take damage, DPS classes (like Mage and Rogue) dish the damage out, and healing classes (obviously) keep the party alive long enough to win the battle. For a while now, game developers have tried to vary up this class trinity, so that you don't just have the same options in every game. In WoW, hybrid classes like Paladin and Shaman can play more than one role, and classes like Hunters and Warlocks have extra abilities (crowd control and buffing/debuffing) that help them be something more than what the class trinity lays out for them. Or there are classes like Druids, who can play all three roles at various times.

But the problem here is that while there are some extra abilities floating around, there aren't any new class types to speak of. The reason for this in WoW is because the developers want to give every class the option to go all the way to 70 solo, which means classes that could be total crowd control classes, like Hunters, are forced back into one of the class trinity roles (in this case, DPS). So far, we haven't seen a really pure crowd control class-- at least not like we've seen pure tanking, pure healing, or pure DPS classes.

So let's put our minds to it. What kinds of classes could we make that would do something fundamentally different from tanking, healing, or damage?

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Classes, Buffs

More levels means fewer crits

To go along with the spell haste rating post from yesterday, Relmstein reminds us all about the apparent problem with the new combat rating system: if you don't replace it, the gear you're wearing gets progressively, comparatively worse as you level up.

Gloves of Spell Mastery, for instance, a high level tailoring item that used to say "+2% chance to crit" before the expansion now says a critical strike rating increase of 28. That still gives a +2% chance to crit at 60, but if you've made it to 66, it only gives a +1.5% chance to crit, and at 70, that drops to +1.26%. They're the same gloves, but the crit bonus you gain from them has dropped in almost half.

As an aside, don't forget that RatingBuster, an addon Eliah looked at last week, can help you out with all of this-- it'll let you know exactly what those ratings mean for the level you're at. You can literally watch your numbers drop after you ding!

Of course, as Relmstein points out, this isn't really anything to get worked up about, because the equipment is scaling with the rating, and so by 70, you'll hopefully be finding gloves with an even higher critical strike rating. And this does have, as he notes, the added benefit that 57s-60s (like my rogue right now) will get a little buff from having overpowered gear for their level, since the Gloves, for example, will actually give more than a 2% crit when worn by someone below 60. But it's true that on the way up, classes like Warriors and Rogues that depend so much on hits and crits will suffer a little bit.

Filed under: Items, Expansions, The Burning Crusade, Leveling

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