LFR Loot Changes – Are you FOR or AGAINST?

LFR changes

I wrote about this topic as news a few days back and thought nothing of it. When I read the change, I immediately thought “Hey that’s smart, its better for everyone involved now!”
I then went on my merry way, made some lunch, drank a beer or two and never thought about it again…

Until recently, that is. Then I opened my eyes and saw alllll the massive posts on the official forums, and on every fan site under the moon. That is around the time that my confusion began.

So how do you guys feel about this? I’m typically not one to bash on LFR because I recognize its place in the game, but the fact that so many people suddenly want its purpose to be more than it should really gets my blood hot.

To recap, LFR will now have gear that is not equatable to the actual raid drops, meaning no tier set bonuses or trinkets or the like. Instead, it will be an alternative to 5 man heroics for the casual players looking to see the content, but still faceroll it and get some gear on the side.
When I say the word “faceroll” along side the word “gear,” do you think this change is bad? How could you? This is the way it should have been from the start, and here is exactly why.

When you have tier set bonuses and trinkets in LFR it opens up a lot of player’s eyes towards their availability. Imagine the first month of WoD, the four set for Resto Shaman is just mandatory. So good that it makes everything else seem weak, as is often the case for the first tier of a new expansion. People will then be near forced to run every difficulty under the sun just to get the set bonus, no matter the item level of the pieces. This creates the constant instability that rests with the first month or two, as people are scrambling to replace blues as fast as possible in order to push Mythic progression, and growing frustrated with many of the game’s systems. (A clear example of this was with Dailies in MoP!)

Another evident benefit of this change is funneling more people into Flexible difficulties now known as “Normal” and “Heroic.” The goal of the end game PVE model has always been progression, and LFR had its role in that until Flex came out and usurped it. It made it so LFR’s item level gear was completely by-passable and people would simply start with Flex when gearing up, but continue to do LFR to control their fate a bit more. This led to more petty grievances with LFR popping up by the week, chock full of the typical name calling and flame that you would expect. The more LFR goes down this path, the worse it gets, essentially being devoid of its true purpose, which is to help casual players see the content as their own pace. When a majority of the players in there are all immature self-entitled children, who really wins with those arguments?

So realistically, funneling people into Flex will be of great benefit to everyone involved, at least in my eyes! Now, players who only care to see the content, not have any challenge associated with it, can continue to spend their time in LFR. Those who are interested in good gear and character progression will work towards doing the new “Normal” difficulty, and likely fuel interest into further progression. This helps everyone involved, by adding more pool for recruitment for guilds building from 10 to 20 for mythic, as well as revitalizing the raiding scene and eliminating the stigma that its become too easy just because of one difficulty.

So if you are actually upset about these gear changes to LFR, what is your argument? I really can’t even think of one that makes much sense to me.

Facts are, if you are doing LFR weekly, you are doing it because you want to. If you are choosing to do this difficulty at the moment you know what comes with it. Near irrelevant gear comparatively, essentially no challenge, and a lot of impatience.

What changes in WoD? I’d imagine they make it even easier now. But what else?
Slightly less relevant gear? Marginally so, but even if that’s the case, does it actually matter? Even now, if you want good gear, you do Flex. It drops significantly higher item level gear and really is in no way challenging unless you have your brain on the table instead of in your skull.
I just haven’t seen a single facet of any argument have anything relevant to say here, yet soooo many people seem to be up in arms about this topic.

You can still do LFR friends, no reason to get so upset! Really, nothing changes except a small quality of life concern for those raiding at the highest level.
There are no even unique models for LFR gear, something that could not be said with SoO!

But anyway, what do you think? Let’s hear about your thoughts in the forums!
Get the conversation started over at http://stratics.com/community/threads/lfr-loot-changes-are-you-for-or-against.315398/

 

6.0 Battle/Combat Resurrection Changes!

combat rez

What a better time than Easter to talk about Battle Rez changes! Hope you all enjoyed your holiday, because the people at Blizzard were hard at work furthering the news dissemination that has been happening since Alpha’s notice.

Today, the aim is to first explain the Warlord’s Battle rez model, and then give my opinions on it and help give examples of fights today that this could be amazing or horrible for.

So for those of you who haven’t heard, with nearly all difficulties being flexible, (and Mythic being uncharted waters in general) we now will be operating under a new model that can be

You weren't Soul Stoned..?

You weren’t Soul Stoned..?

quite difficult to understand, but once implemented should really help things along. The current model has evolved along quite a patch. In the old days of Classic, there was no cap on rez in combat, but only Druids could perform the action. Soulstone was merely wipe protection, but if some one did take one in combat that of course didn’t effect anything either. So realistically, if you have 40 druids or locks, you could have two shots at the boss per player on average, if not more. This was a fact on some of the more difficult encounters Classic offered, forcing guilds to level alts then get soul stones to them before pulls in order to facilitate progression.

Fast forward to the present day, and we see a much different model. A well planed “1 per 10, 3 per 25.” This was quite fair considering how many more mechanics happen in 25 man, but the true upgrade was giving Locks and DKs an option to rez as well! On top of this, Holy Paladin with Symbiosis could also find themselves with a Battle Rez. This took the guess work out of the equation, but often lead to things like every player in the raid using their rez at the same time on the same person who is afk, and now they are all on CD! This will all become a thing of the past in Warlords of Draenor, however!

The new model will take a bit of getting used to, but let’s explain it in basic terms.

First of all, this is only applicable to raid encounters, so elsewhere I’d imagine the old rules still apply.
So during an encounter, anyone with the capacity for a battle rez will have a new raid-“wide charge” pool that changes over time. When the boss is first pulled, there is only one charge, so no matter who attempts to rez some one, it can only be done one time off the bat. This charge pool will accumulate another or refresh itself over a fixed interval derived using the following equation:
1 charge per 90/X, where 90 is an arbitrary formulation and X = RAID SIZE. So let’s explore real possibilities before we delve into the other features.

10 man (lowest difficulty)  – 90/10 = 9, thus 1 charge every 9 minutes. Effectively, one charge per encounter, as a 10+ minute fight will nearly never exist outside of Mythic.
14 man (common flex size) – 90/14 = 6.4, thus 1 charge every 6 and a half minutes. Effectively, one charge early, and one charge at the very end on some encounters, but likely just 1 per on most lower difficulties.
20 man (mythic, end game difficulty) – 90/20 = 4.5, thus 1 charge every 4.5 minutes. Effectively, one charge early, and at least one more in the middle of the encounter. Depending on how encounters go, there is a real possibility of a third rez used towards the end, as the 9 minute mark approaches. This makes sense, as Mythic will be the hardest difficulty, and likely have 10+ minute encounters like we see now.
40 man (potential top end for flex, unlikely) – 90/40= 2.25, thus 1 charge ever 2.25 minutes. This is where things get pretty silly, as if they do actually allow for 40 man flex, having a rez every 2 minutes is disproportionate to the previous trend for that many players. Its likely 5+ players will die every encounter, if not 10, so only having 3-4 rezes is just too few. Unlikely to see 40 man as a potential option return though either way.

OK, so now let’s examine the second half of this change and how it will effect the raid!
The UI for this will be much more intuitive, as hinted at earlier. Since they all share a CD and pool of charges, everyone will see the charge spent only if the player takes the rez successfully. This means those silly DC battle rezzes won’t happen, and if it some one dies, gets a rez but doesn’t take it, you can simply use it again on the next death. On top of this, there will be a debuff on players that have a pending resurrect. This alleviates the issue that happens now summed up as: I DID REZ HIM DUDE HE JUST ISN’T TAKING IT.
Now there will be no grey area! Only thing that needs to be done now is remove the runic power requirement on Raise Ally, and we will be in heavenmode.

 

Not related.

Not related.

So anyway, let’s discuss how this can immediately be amazing and its opposite based on SoO. Of course, fights are likely getting a huge overhaul given 20 man and the healing changes, so don’t take this too far. Its only really relevant as a showcase, and not as a prediction.

Best case scenario: Paragons 25 man Heroic – 12 minute enrage that has the potential to extend. Typically, a player may die early to something silly, but since its such a long fight, there is potential for 3 resurrections used easily.

Worst case scenario: Norushen 25 man Heroic – The only time players ever die in this fight is right after the first 5-6 adds spawn from those returning from the trial. If you are going to use three resurrections, they will all be within the first minute, but now they can not be.

These are just two examples of how this can effect us, but in short its obvious that this benefits a longer fight time. If the fights are less than 5 minutes as there were in ICC, then expect only 1 rez to be used effectively. Only time can tell how this will play out, but I immediately like this concept much better than the previous. If you guys have any questions or want to discuss your thoughts on this change, we encourage you to head over to the forums at http://stratics.com/community/

See you in the next article!

Druids In Warlords of Draenor – Healing Discussion and Overview of 6.0 Changes

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druidy

Recently with the patch 6.0 Warlords of Draenor Alpha patch notes, Blizzard gave us a substantial amount of information as to the progression of both talent additions and changes to each class. Add to this the recent data-mined information from both MMOChampion and WoWHead forums; we can begin to piece together the possible state of classes and their functionality within Warlords of Draenor and Patch 6.0.

Druids in particular have seen some interesting decisions and changes which ultimately change the play style and quality of life for each specialisation.

Let’s take a short rundown of each specialisations changes and the talents within, looking primarily how they compare to current in game states and what exactly has changed. This article will however focus primarily on Healing changes and written from the perspective of a restoration druid player, so expect more lengthy details and comparisons in that area in particular.

Firstly let’s look at removals from the class. As a whole, across the board many classes have had many of their abilities cut out or changed so that they better represent their specialisations. Mages for example have seen changes to fire spells being more used and some only accessible to fire mages for example, this is pretty much the same theme across the board for all the classes in the game. This homogenisation actually specialises the player to a specific role and allows for unique benefits for bringing certain specialisations, rather than just the highest dps role in any given situation.

rippers

The Removals.

First on the chopping room floor to go is Innervate; currently in game used as a near endless tap of mana usable every 3 minutes, replenishing mana equal to 50% of the casters spirit every 1 second over 10 seconds. This particular ability was a primary cool down which would be used half way / towards to the latter phases of fights and would allow you to spend much greater amounts of mana than you would without it, knowing that you have the cool down if it was needed. It also allowed for use on other players as a resource for their own mana restoration in various situational fights or if the other player needs a cool down more than you later into fights.

The removal of the spell in my opinion is more of a removal of a utility than anything else, yet the idea is that the mana restoration effects it would provide will now be hard wired into restoration druids instead of a cool down to restore the same amount which would now be static additional regen.

This, however well implemented does alter the play style of a restoration druid, as much of the usability of Innervate was dependant on the gear level of the character. Many of the gear improvements I acquired later into Mists of Pandaria allowed me to use my Innervate on other players in our raids due to my regen reaching the point where additional cooldowns were almost un-needed. However early into the expansion the cool down was used more and more frequently earlier in fights, so it will be interesting to see how Blizzard implements that missing regen early on in a tier when the player is less geared.

Other removals include; Enrage, Mangle-cat form, Swipe-Bear Form, and Symbiosis. The removal of spec specific mangle and Swipe is understandable and works very much as I previously mentioned with the Mage idea, however some changes actually added to all specs of the class. Shred for example is now available to all Druids. Symbiosis is actually a pleasant surprise, the whole idea that situational events would require certain specs of certain classes to then gain a weakened version of an extra ability such as tranquillity from a Shadow priest for example. This idea, although good on paper actually forced confusion and far too much meta gaming and objectivity within raids, with many of the potential benefits being too weak or simply negated as they were not widely understood due to the complexity of setting up what does what where and how useful it would be in a given situation.

Nourish is also getting removed, a small filler heal for restoration druids that would amplify in its potency if the target being healed had a heal over time on them already such as Rejuvenation, lifebloom, Regrowth or Wild growth. This spell soon became less useful as we progressed through the expansion in favour of only slightly more costing abilities would heal for more and even hit multiple targets, which ultimately makes the spell an extra button that we could do without. One further, yet expected removal is the passive ‘Balance of Power’ for Balance Druids, which if you never knew is the name of the skill that grants hit rating based on the amount of spirit you have from equipped items or status effects, this is ultimately due to hit rating being removed completely from the game within WoD.

jews

Additional Changes to Existing Abilities / Spells

Many of the removals from the class are fundamentally to make way for the changes to other spells which help accommodate the class and rebalance it. One such change is to Cyclone, our Crowd Control ability, which presently cannot be cancelled by immunity effects such as a paladin bubble. This is changing in 6.0, with Cyclone finally being broken by Divine Shield, Ice Block and other immunity granting abilities. This change is long overdue, as it falls in line with other crowd control abilities within PvP that already break from such effects.

One of the most significant changes to restoration druids is one effecting the cast time of Wild Growth; a key healing ability that applies a heal over time to multiple targets and presently works as an instant cast spell. This is set to change with 6.0, with Wild growth now having a 1.5 second cast time. A change like this does alter the usability of such a spell, especially due to the fact that Wild Growth is currently an extremely viable filler and low cost way of AOE healing. Having to plan the use of this ability more doesn’t make it completely useless; it just means that you could have been healing a single target for more during that time. Many instant cast healing abilities from other classes have had a similar treatment in the patch notes and it’s no surprise that Blizzard want to make healing more defined and forward planned rather than sporadic and wasteful. Remember that Rejuvenation still remains as an instant cast past these notes, and that that along with improved Mushrooms we will still have the effective healing we currently do in my opinion.

Swiftmend remains in the game thankfully and has avoided the chop, however it seems that the glyph that added efflorescence to Wild Mushroom’s Bloom ability was seen as a success to the point that in 6.0 it will be the only way to cause the efflorescence effect and to spawn it at the mushrooms location. This adds more flexibility and positioning for this powerful ground ability, something that definitely makes for a more powerful and effective utility rather than accidently causing the effect on one player at range when all you wanted was to heal them up quickly.

Tranquillity doesn’t avoid the list of changes either, with Blizzard mentioning something about the spell being confusing to players (I would love to meet these confused players), regardless the spell is changing to heal every party and raid member within range every 2 seconds for 8 seconds total. It no longer places a periodic effects on each target either, weakening one of the strongest healing cool downs in the game. The total healing it generates should be the same as it currently is on live in raids, but to be honest I’m not sure how that could be the case, but I’m sure time will tell. The spell was never confusing to begin with, and saying it will be just as strong without its periodic attribute is hard to imagine, even with it now definitely hitting EVERY player nearby.

talents

Talent changes

The level 90 talents seem to be getting some changes, but more interestingly out of all of them is one of my favourite abilities; ‘Natures Vigil’, essentially a power button you would usually press in dire situations as one of your direct healing cool downs. Natures Vigil currently in game amplifies healing caused by healing spells by 25% and all single target damage spells to heal a friendly target for 25% of the damage dealt. In 6.0 Blizzard are planning to change the healing caused to only 16% but actually buff the damage to healing portion to 35%. This change is somewhat of a nerf to the part of the ability that I liked yet it still seems like one of the most viable of the tier of talents, with the damage to healing buff being useful in some situations, but perhaps not for general use in raiding. Many of the talent choices are options to add hybridity to the specialisation you are playing, something that doesn’t particularly make me too excited. Even though the plan was to add more flexible utilitarian options, I think that they end up just never being used. In my opinion, if I wanted flexibility with these talents they could tailor the way certain abilities heal, not add benefits to damage dealing abilities that I find a fairly wasteful use of mana that could be used to heal directly in encounters.

Changes are one thing, and no matter how you look at it all classes are getting cuts that may or may not make sense at this time, but we also got some information on additions to each class that make things more positive to imagine. The level 100 Talent ability choices were unveiled with some interesting functionality. The way we see talents in WoD will be dependent on specialisation within the class rather than see the same abilities and have to read tooltips on those abilities to see what they do for your spec. So below are the NEW talent options listed with notes dependant on spec.

 

Talents-

Left

Sunfall (Balance) – Entering Solar Eclipse will transform your Starfall spell into Sunfall and reset its cool down.

Lunar Inspiration (Feral) – Moonfire is now usable while in Cat Form, generates 1 combo point, deals damage based on attack power, and costs 30 energy.

Guardian of Elune (Guardian) – Savage Defence now lasts 4 sec, and increases your chance to dodge by 100%.

Moment of Clarity (Restoration) – Omen of Clarity now lasts 5 sec, instead of 1 cast.

Middle

Insect Swarm (Balance) – Swarm the target enemy with insects which deal XXXX Nature damage every 3 sec for 15 sec. Each time that it deals damage, it also generates 5 Lunar or Solar energy, whichever is more beneficial to you. May only be cast while not in an Eclipse. 2,688 Mana, 40 yd range, 1.5 sec cast

Bloody Thrash (Feral) – Thrash now also applies the Rake bleed effect to all damaged enemies and awards 1 combo point if it strikes your current combo target.

Pulverize (Guardian) – A devastating blow that consumes 3 stacks of Lacerate on the target to deal 500% weapon damage, generate 30 Rage, and reduce damage taken by 20% for 10 sec. Melee Range, Instant, Requires Bear Form

Germination (Restoration) – You can apply two Rejuvenations to the same target.

Right

Savagery (Feral) – Savage Roar is now passive.

Bristling Fur (Guardian) – You bristle your fur, reducing all damage taken by 50% for 3 sec. Instant, 1 min cool down

Rampant Growth (Restoration) – Swiftmend now consumes your own Regrowth or Rejuvenation, but has no cool down.

 

The new talent options from a healing perspective are very interesting and will be extremely exciting to test when we gain access to beta testing later in the process of development. For now when I look at prospective choices, I really like the idea of ‘Germination’ and its application of two Rejuvenation’s on the same target, I remember how in Wrath of The Lich King and to some extent beyond that Druids would ‘roll’ rejuvenation on as many targets as possible and with changes to Wild Growth and other Hot’s it seems like this will likely be a viable and very powerful option once again, especially with Genesis being used in conjunction. The other choices; Rampant Growth and Moment of Clarity are nice, Moment of Clarity seems the weakest link of the three for general purpose encounters, however Rampant Growth offers an interesting and possibly equally powerful way of healing as Germination, with the removal of the cool down being extremely strong.

It remains to see how these talents will change and what will remain throughout the testing processes before us, but I can only comment on what’s written before us on paper, which so far looks fairly promising for the playstyle of a resto druid, yet cannot be hidden that many of the changes feel like they have removed more than they have added to the class in all. As any of these changes alter throughout the Alpha and Beta process, you can be sure to stop by WoW.Stratics to see updates and opinions on all aspects of the changing World of Warcraft we play towards Warlords of Draenor.

Game’s Too Easy? – Raid Difficulty Changes and Comparison!

Garrosh_2_000000

Hello and welcome to the series “Game’s too Easy?” Within, Metro will sarcastically discuss any number of assorted topics in an attempt to dispel myths and hearsay surrounding such. The focus of today’s discussion will be the difficulty changes PVE Endgame, aka “Raiding” has seen since its conception and the unfounded rumors of how this effects difficulty. The secondary goal is to dispel any notion that because LFR is out, top-tier progression is somehow made “too easy.”

garrosh

In order to properly understand this topic, we first must understand the progression of raiding. For those of you who have been around since day one as I have you will do best to skip ahead or get a drink while this part runs its course.

In the beginning there was only darkness, and the world was not yet molded. There was only a great darkness and the Everlasting Dragons ruled with impunity. We had but one raid difficulty at launch, being 40 man, yet having a variety of dungeon options. The original concept the game contained was a free-form dungeon style, allowing any number of people (1 through 40) to be able to complete a dungeon, but obviously allowing only one piece of gear from most bosses to discourage this. From this, we have developed 5 mans, and one 10 man dungeon known as Blackrock Spire.

It’s important to understand that bit of information so you can understand what 40 man raiding actually was. As was the case with dungeons, raiding also was very much this way. MC was encouraged to be done with any number of players, and had so few mechanics that most of the entry could easily be done with 20 or even less! Of course, this was fundamentally flawed, because raid lock outs where number-specific, so you couldn’t break down into multiple groups to kill early bosses for extra loot and you would obviously need a full raid to complete the latter half, so it was an inconvenient  concept to think of.

First documented appearance of the line between "casual" and "raider."

First documented appearance of the line between “casual” and “raider.”

Unconfirmed is their intentions with this, but it was likely the earliest form of the Flex difficulty idea – allowing a smaller number of players access to bosses that were complete jokes with a full 40, but requiring larger numbers for latter, especially the last two. Regardless, early bosses dropped as low as 2 pieces, while Ragnaros dropped 6.

As the vanilla game continues, we find ourselves getting real mechanics around Chromagus in BWL, and then through some of AQ40, as well as all of Naxx 40. The developers noticed the model wasn’t quite working, and anyone taking anything serious had solid 35-40 players that could knock over any encounter. On top of this, addon and boss timers were making raiding easier each week. However, the groups that could not field 40 were left in the cold without hope. They could NEVER complete anything past BWL, and even if they could scrape together a full raid, it was near impossible to keep it together with the top guilds scavenging for anyone with epics and attunements.

Thus the lords of Light find the world and the Burning Crusade was born. The expansion was announced shortly after Naxx’s deployment, and with it the word of massive changes to the raid system. The dungeon caps added in Classic would carry on to TBC, and raiding would be capped to 25 man size as the upper level of content, but with a ten man alternative that gave viable gear. This allowed small groups to still get something done and made it possible to gear up without needing a full group regularly.

The jump from 40 to 25 man was extremely harsh for a lot of groups, but Blizzard recognized that 40 man presented two distinct problems. The first was that most 40 mans had to carry 10-15 players anyway, especially with how little gear was available, and the second was how despite thousands of man hours and dollars going into raids, most players would never see it because of both its coordination requirement and then difficulty later. This is an important time to remember, as it EXTREMELY relatable to the MoP -> WoD changes that we will be discussed in our first Podcast, as well as in another article soon.

While TBC progresses, we continue to get more content to do like is expected. The original plan of 25 man being the top tier of progression falters in tier 4, but is the only option in tier 5 and 6. However, a few months after Black Temple was well underway, Zul Aman was announced as the next 10 man raid of the expansion, once again allowing both under-geared raiders to catch up on off nights, but also players without a suitable home to see some PVE endgame. The expansion continues without a hitch, but by Sunwell’s deployment it is obvious there are two very separate scenes developing.

With this in mind, Wrath is announced and once again carries sizable raid changes. For this expansion, we will see both 10 AND 25 man difficulties of the same raid – a HUGE step in the direction of localizing communities that couldn’t field a successful team. The largest contributor to this decision surely was the issues surrounding both Naxx40 and Sunwell – which a hilariously small percentage of the raiding community would complete, and an even smaller percentage of the overall community would ever see past the first trash pack.

At this point, we see the first signs of Blizzard’s willingness to discredit the epic feeling of large group raiding to help smaller groups of people stay interested, likely due to the fact that there was nothing else available once max level was reached. Luckily, Wrath continues with a pretty interesting model, having 10 man as a considerably easier difficulty and tuned such, so that 25 man was still the top tier of raiding and dropped better loot to prove it.

Here we see another stem in the evolution of the Flex notion, allowing for 10 players to see the content they normally would have never seen, but making sure actual raiders were still given the challenge and accomplishments they wanted.

As the expansion progressed, Wrath of the Lich King continued with its segregation further, introducing “Heroic” modes. This started out simply for achievement purposes and were contained within some vague element you could incorporate into the encounter to artificially increase the difficulty. However, it concluded with concrete “flip of a switch” difficulty status, that added a whole new sub-tier to the raid. The concept is as we know it then, where you have to complete normal before you can complete Heroic, and both shared a lock out.

After the expansion came to a close, we look back and see massive change from TBC. Many people won’t take the time to properly examine the change from 10 and 25 raids once separate to both being in the same instance, and even fewer will acknowledge the further segregation Heroic brought. Let it be clear: Heroic raiding should be regarded as the difficulty of choice for anyone playing seriously, and should be comparable to BT and Sunwell, where as Normal is T4 and T5. This is the second lesson of the day, and it should stick in your mind until we reach the final discussion.

Things were much more epic with 40 players!

Things were much more epic with 40 players, but difficulty was compromised.

The mentality of the company changed even more so with Cataclysm’s announcement. Attached was another substantial change – that 10 and 25 would be tuned equally and that both would share loot ilvls between respective normal and heroic difficulties. With one fell swoop Blizzard had managed to completely destroy everything that raiding originally was, in favor of these small groups of voices that popped up. Originally, raiding was meant to be epic and required many people, but as more and more people continue to reach max level, we get more people not wanting to try to find large group raiding guilds, and just do content with their immediate friends. However, I personally feel they overstepped their boundaries by asking not only to avoid large group raiding, but then to ask that they get the same rewards as those doing it the intended way.

This is the way progression raiding is all through Cata and MoP, and unfortunately has created a massive rift that essentially killed off any fresh group looking to do 25 man raiding. Why bother, when ten man is so much easier to not only coordinate, but recruit skilled players per available slots for?

Now let’s remember the second lesson here, that Heroic difficulties of each 10 and 25 are still and should remain the target for anyone considering themselves a serious endgame PvE player. Promise me guys, it’s really important you remember this because… things are about to get all messed up…

At this point, we receive the Great Calamity, called Meds Yeghern by the Armenians, but known as Looking for Raid by the English. It’s important to understand everything else you have read thus far before we discuss LFR, as it will allow you to come to the realization that I am about to put on paper before I do so.

As you and I travelled through the timeline of World of Warcraft raiding, we learned that Blizzard as a company was disappointed in how many people got to see the raids they spent months designing. This caused them to implement the 10 man difficulty wholly in Wrath, where before it was meant to act as a catch up as well as daycare for those who couldn’t field 25. In cataclysm, they removed the segregation and allowed both to be treated as equals, and because of this, a gap was left unfilled.

You see now? In their eyes, LFR was the logical choice, as it did exactly what they had been trying to do for ever. You were now able to see the full raid with 24 other humans as it was intended, but through a considerably easier difficulty. This level of difficulty was what the original ten man concept in Wrath was meant to be – something you could join with anyone you wish, and have little resistance doing so, while getting to see the content. I would have imagined the queuing system would have been included as well in Wrath if the technology was available at launch, but it was not.

Hopefully we are on the same page here, but if not let me spell it out for you. LFR has been brought into the game to help people who can’t raid otherwise see content that is presented as a major focus of each patch. The difficulty is as it is to ensure people do get to see all of it, and was simply a replacement for the whole that was left when ten player difficulties escalated to endgame levels.

Anyone with a brain ticking inside their head should now understand exactly how raiding should be examined and why LFR is what it is. 25 man Heroic progression raiding IS the pinnacle, and should be equitable to TBC’s Black Temple etc. Normal raiding should be equitable to Gruul’s Lair in BC, or ICC / ToC 10 Heroic. Current normal modes are a challenge, but should be recognized as a means to progression only, and should not be referred to as content suitable for adequate examination of progression. And finally, LFR should be equitable to Karazhan and ZA (easily puggable, no commitment required) and then to 10 man normal Naxx, despite being even easier due to the queue system.

I apologize for taking nearly two thousand words to describe this, but it’s mandatory in this discussion, as far too many people don’t seem to understand WHAT the Looking for Raid Difficulty actually is intended to be. Let’s wrap up!

Difficulty Discussion:

So today you and I have learned all about PvE, and now know that when we are talking about difficulty of raiding and the “game” in general, we should ONLY be discussing 25 man Heroic progression. It’s the way the game was meant to be played, and all other difficulties should be inferior if you are discussing coordination and skill based challenges, even 10 heroic albeit difficult for its own reasons.

With this firmly implanted in our brains, how is the argument that “the game is too easy now” citing raid difficulty possible? The illusory wall that most people don’t see past is that illidan_stormragethey think because people in TBC were literally not allowed to see the content unless they were in a top tier guild, this made it inherently more difficult than today. All arguments I have seen presented seem to boil down to that topic, so let’s explore it. We will stick to TBC, but realize this can also be applicable to Naxx40 and to some degree Wrath Heroics.

Raiding Black Temple was no doubt a considerable challenge, mostly because of attunements and natural player gating, but also due to difficult mechanics and large DPS checks. It’s also important to remember that group maximization used to come down to the 5 man composition and that nearly all buffs were group wide instead of raid wide. This put a lot more focus on actual organization for the raid leaders, and even with strong players, it would take proper buff placement to complete many encounters.

In 25 man Heroic SoO, this is completely eradicated; all buffs are raid wide, and it is encouraged to “bring the player, not the class.” So in terms of organization on the leadership, it is logical to say that TBC or Classic raiding was far more complicated than MoP raiding. However, the quoted statement above brings a LOT more to the table than you may originally realize!

With group-wide buffs eliminated, this turns the meaning on its head. Most people think brining 10 of any class makes the game easier, but all it does is streamline the process and allow Blizzard to make more dynamic and tightly tuned encounters.

In the past, you would be required to bring at least 5 shamans, if not more, for bloodlusts in your DPS groups, as well as for certain totems. Having a Bombkin with your Fire Mages was also near mandatory, as well as certain debuffs from Rogues, Ret Paladins, and Hunters. At the time, it would be more pertinent to bring a mediocre (or even annoying) bombkin doing 0 dps yet buffing each mage’s dps by near 20 percent, than simply bring another skilled mage.

In today’s time, you have much less room for carrying a player because they bring a buff you need and with the exception of Bloodlust in a group that has none, no one class doing essentially 0 will contribute anything worthwhile to the raid. So in terms of individual requirements, it is logical to say raiding is much more difficult now.

The final point will rest in actual completion rates. Remember, completing LFR and normal modes DO NOT COUNT! As of January 18, 2014, the statistics for Heroic 25 man Siege of Orgrimmar read as follows:
2738 guilds have cleared NORMAL Immerseus (first boss).
“2738” used as normalized baseline to count all guilds considered raiding.

1489 guilds have cleared NORMAL Garrosh (Last boss).
1489/2738 = 54% of all raiding guilds have cleared Normal Garrosh, unlocking Heroic.Untitled

1518 guilds have cleared HEROIC Immerseus
1518/2738 = 55% of all guilds have stepped into Heroic. *Discrepancy due to normal 10 man  unlocking both heroic 25 and 10.

955 guilds have cleared HEROIC Nazgrim (8/14 Heroic – Over half way through raid).
955/2738 = 35% of all guilds have cleared over halfway through Heroic Progression.

329 guilds have cleared HEROIC Blackfuse (12/14 Heroic – commonly considered a “guildbreaker” boss.)
329/2738 = 12% of all guilds overcome the “guildbreaker” boss of the tier.

115 guilds have cleared HEROIC Garrosh (full clear)
115/2738 = 4% of all raiding guilds have cleared everything.
115/1518 = 7.5% of all Heroic Raiding guilds have cleared everything.
115/329 = 35% of guilds capable of overcoming Blackfuse have cleared everything.

Patch 5.4 launched September 10th / 11th 2013, so has officially been out for 19 raid resets. (http://www.wowprogress.com/rating.tier16_25, Jan 18 2014)

Unfortunately we don’t have distinct values on TBC raiding, but regardless, I think less than 8 percent of all heroic guilds full clearing, with 35 percent of all guilds getting more than half-way through speaks volumes. It was common for bosses to take weeks for Realm or even World firsts back then, but either way when talking about longevity of a tier, it should be pretty obvious that top level progression is still as difficult as it’s ever been, if not more!

For the benefit of the reader, I will summate my points and conclusions so you can form your own opinions and perhaps contribute a counter point.
– LFR is easy intentionally. You cannot count anything lower than Heroic as actual progression as they are expressly created for lower level play.  Saying “the game is too easy now” without clearing Heroic bosses entirely discredits the argument, which a majority of the people making the argument don’t seem to understand.
– 25 man Heroic Progression was examined to remain brief, but also because larger groups raiding is how the game was intended to be played, confirmed with 20 man Mythic’s announcement.
– 20 weeks through patch 5.4, 4% of all raiding guilds have completed full clears of Heroic, 54% have full cleared normal.
– Raiding in TBC was considerably harder to organize, but mechanics and DPS requirements depended mostly on having certain classes and buffs. Now success is nearly entirely dependent on individual players and buffs are mostly baseline. This sees raids needing to bring a full 25 competent and alert players, instead of 20 beasts, and 5 buffbots. This also confirms 25 man to be the harder difficulty, as upkeep of 25 players is considerably more difficult than 10.
– World and Realm Firsts still take hundreds of pulls. No matter how hard something is in any video game, you’ll get it eventually!
– Raiding has changed a lot over the years, but it’s important to realize why subsequent difficulties have been created such as LFR and eventually flex, a topic that will be covered in a subsequent editorial.

Remember LFR is NOT raiding. If you say it is, this squad will destroy you IRL.

Remember LFR is NOT raiding. If you say it is, this squad will destroy you IRL.

Thanks for reading! As always, we encourage comments and discussion here at Stratics, so if you have any thing you would like to add, it would be my pleasure to continue the conversation with the readers!

 

Lore, Warcraft & You! -Introduction

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Welcome to Meoni’s lore column, each week we’ll be talking about events or opinions on general Lore elements and how they are told within the World of Warcraft videogame franchise! This week in Lore, Warcraft & You! I take a look at what lore actually is, and why it’s important to the games we play, ensuring a continued value for money experience in a growing world of ‘competition’.

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As a child, books were never things I would actively seek out, nor did I find much interest in written media at all until much later in life, but the one thing that stays in my mind are stories such as the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, or any of the Terry Pratchett works. Like most children, I had stories read aloud to me by either my parents before bed or at school, and honestly I preferred it that way, and have continued to be this way to this day, with many audio books adorning my media player library in preference to the books on my shelves. I feel this relaxing, almost meditation like state allowed my mind to race away with conjured up images of what a Hobbit even looked like, or what I believed Smaug the dragon would sound like in his bellowing narrative.

Such grand, epic stories, so colourful and rich, written so beautifully the narrative medium they were delivered upon was always clear and painted the scene perfectly. That in my opinion is then the definition of a good story, one that can be told without too much guidance to the reader, and one that doesn’t require time to understand what is happening on the pages during action sequences or heavy interactions between multiple characters. Translation between media allows for a much purer experience, but only if delivered properly, which is why making content based on pre-designed lore, such as a film or game, is the most important thing there is.

Now if you look at the Warcraft franchise, it’s clear to see that development in all aspects of the medium has resulted in more and more time to focus on enriching story elements to the point of equality, or in some cases even better than what could possibly be explained in pages in a book.

Lore in itself is not the story, but the context of that story, and a slight error can mean the difference between a fluid experience and one of pure misery when trying to piece a world together, especially as vast and intricate as Azeroth. A good example of this was during the Cataclysm expansions premiere at Blizzcon 2010. A fellow gamer and now well known lore enthusiast Ian Bates, better known as ‘Red Shirt Guy’ by both the panel and the wow community, asked a question based on one of these discrepancies he had discovered.

The question referred to a recent book in the Warcraft universe, The shattering, which told of the events leading up to the Cataclysm expansions present timeline. He pointed out that a character that Blizzard had forgotten about, ‘Falstad Wildhammer’, presumed dead by the lore panel team, was actually in fact actively playing a role within the vanilla WoW game all the way up to the end of the ‘Wrath Of The Lich king’ expansion, yet completely missing from the ‘Council of Three Hammers’, an organised group of leaders within the Dwarf race.

Chris Metzen and the lore panel then checked this and declared the ‘red shirt’ guy correct, changed the game to include the missing character in the next expansion in his rightful place, and even included the gentleman asking the question as the ‘Lore Checker’ NPC in the game, stood next to the ‘Council Of Three Hammers’ themselves.

Mistakes are easily made, and the previous example shows the dedication and following behind the Warcraft games and the respected lore behind each and every storyline. As a result of this community interaction, the game has enforced standards to be both met and addressed with each and every game design decision, which in turn has helped create World of Warcraft into the rich, story driven game it is today.

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It can be said that the game has never been as story driven as it has been in recent Expansions, with many new methods of telling those stories introduced into Mists of Pandaria. Lorewalker Cho for example, voiced by the fantastically enthusiastic Jim Cummings, a veteran in lending his vocal talents to the video game world is key to this discussion.

The Thunder King official trailer that Blizzard released prior to the raids release to the public, featured rhyming couplets and a poetic projection of the events involving the resurrection and history behind the end boss of that raid.

This by far has to be one of the most impressive works of art the Blizzard team has put together in my opinion, with an extremely high quality presentation level and frankly spine tingling delivery.

As Cummings’ character tells the story of the Pandaren people, raised as slaves under the ancient Mogu empire, ruled by the powerful Thunder King, you get a sense this is more than just the amalgamation of ideas on paper, but a whole intricate thought out part of why the Pandaren even accept the outsiders eventually and try to trust the player throughout their adventures in Pandaria.

To get such a talented vocal inspiration working on a project like this is no easy feat. Consider the distance the game has had to travel before not just the money, but the renowned respect the company was there for this to be possible. For it’s progression in dedication to both customer service and delivery of a worthwhile, value for money product for consumption, is obviously the key concern of the whole development team. This is just one of many other reasons we could talk about in a future post of why WoW still reigns as the number one subscription based MMORPG around.

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The community behind a project like this, is what makes World Of Warcraft what it is, without our ‘Red Shirt Guy’s’, and our passionate interaction with the entire franchise, a game would just not be as rich, or even half as interesting to play, regardless of end game playable content, which I feel is where the games ‘competitors’ go wrong.

A player is given the chance to experience the in-game content at their pace, which is expected of a premium pay to play model in today’s society, with anything less than that a sure-fire way of not making even a dent in competition.

Thank you for reading this article, if you would like to continue the discussion, please do. What are your most favoured Warcraft moments? What would you like to see added to the game to further enrich the experience? Let us know, Cheers!

 

Game’s Too Easy? – Questing “Difficulty” Changes!

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Hello and welcome to the series “Game’s too Easy?” Within, Metro will sarcastically discuss any number of assorted topics in an attempt to dispel myths and hearsay surrounding such. The focus of today’s discussion will be the process of leveling, with the goal to fully understand the progression from “classic-style leveling” to “cata-style leveling. We will also dispel the rumor that classic leveling was intentionally made challenging, while newer iterations were intentionally dumbed-down to remove said challenge.

Before we step inside the vast pit that is this topic, let’s first establish something that should be regarded as indisputable fact. Time changes all. Yes, it may slay kings, ruin towns, and beat high mountains down, but it also changes both the game, and the people who play it. This should be obvious to most, but it is an inherent flaw that exists with this argument that I feel needs to be apparent before it can properly be discussed.

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Let’s attempt to clarify by exemplifying, shall we?  Examine the development of mathematical studies and the introduction of technology via calculators. If we go as far back as the 1960’s, we will find people in their teens studying mathematics, learning to do long division with pen-and-paper configurations. The first time learning, a lot of mathematical equations and formulations seemed like quite a challenge. However, after doing it a few times, they were encouraged to learn shortcuts and memorize the basics, so the “challenge” turned more menial, allowing their experience to progress.

Fast forward to the 1990’s, and we will see this progression in full effect. Here we see children of the same age as previous learning math, but being formally instructed with a calculator alongside their pen and paper. The generations before them understood how menial the task truly was, and the educators decided to foster the use of technology, as to elevate the rate at which learning could be accomplished.

Finally, in the year 2014 we will have children not only learning to use calculators, but learning to use computer simulations to study geometry and physics. Fifty years in the cycle has changed not only the educators (in this case are the game’s creators,) but also the students (the players). Now, bring it full circle! What happens when we force a child with an ipad to do math by hand?

And so we have arrived at the point! Let’s not forgot this walk through time, as it is a near-flawless lesson in what this game has come through. With this firmly in our mind, we can begin our discussion at the most logical place: the beginning.

World of Warcraft was officially released in the US on November 23, 2004, but had been in development since 1999, being first announced in 2001 at the ECTS trade show. At this time, they were claiming the game to be an open environment which fostered exploration and allowed players to do what they please as they please it. It was boasted that quests were “optional,” meaning that if players wanted to just simply play the game and explore, they could continue to do so without being locked down to one zone – a concept that had revolutionized the market. The concept launched with the game, but of course players seeking an elevated level of success would not simply explore for 12 hours straight, and it soon became apparent that there was an optimal path that could be taken.

At this point, we arrive at our first “challenge” impasse!  At the time, questing was a method of gaining experience, but not all quests were equal. Some were quite challenging to

Notice the lack of "!" on Minimap, a feature not added until 2.0!

Notice the lack of “!” on Minimap, a feature not added until 2.0!

complete alone, or as a certain class or spec. Others took you half way across the world, but gave less experience than ones that could be completed in the zone they started in. Many quests would result in you dying multiple times, wasting both gold on repairs, but also playing time. So over the weeks following launch, players who had much experience with the quests began to develop routes to follow. They began to understand which quests gave the most “experience per hour,” and were able to identify exactly how and where to complete each quest. Eventually, this culmination of knowledge became “thottbot,” a database that would collect information such as location of the quest mobs, or where the quest item can be found.  This became an invaluable tool for anyone starting out, as it allowed them to access the information formally only gained through grinding.

Hopefully you see now, that this “Classic leveling” is akin to the 1960’s mathematics example of earlier. Most people learned the hard way, as it was the only way to complete the task, but those of a higher understanding eventually created technology that could be used for future generations. This is exactly so in Classic world of Warcraft, and when you hear people talking about things being a “challenge” it is important to remember these truths.

Now we can fast forward, as we did with our education comparison, many years in the future, where technology has become rampant. Over the years of World of Warcraft’s history, the people who learned how to maximize their questing experience developed addons such as Quest Helper, or Cartographer. These addon’s utilized the already-experienced map and quest knowledge of the developer to trivialize a lot of the game’s original “challenge;” which we have come to call “inexperience.”

Questing Technology independently created integrated into default game.

Questing Technology independently created integrated into default game.

With Cataclysm, we have seen an entire overhaul of the questing system, and many people criticize the integration of addons into the default package. They claim that it makes the

game too “easy,” but what they really mean is experience is less valuable. You see, there is no inherent “challenge” in the menial questing, as there was void in a teenager’s learning of mathematics. Technology has been developed in both cases, and once used by some people, it is only logical for those in charge to help those less fortunate by providing the equality in tools.

It is important to remember these lessons as the game continues to follow this road. Questing should be enjoyable, but a means to an end. The game has grown so much at max level, that continuing to keep vestigial remnants of old systems in just to prolong the system is frivolous. The game has progressed from a system that didn’t even have quest tracking on the screen, or !’s on the minimap, to having full walkthrough-type arrows on the world map, but this is simply as we have seen with the education example. The age of technology is the age of convenience, and to deny this is simply living in the past.

Thanks for reading! As always, we encourage comments and discussion here at Stratics, so if you have any thing you would like to add, it would be my pleasure to continue the conversation!