April 2010


OK, it’s not really breaking… we heard about this yesterday. I’m not the first on my block to blog about this. Still, the blogoverse is all abuzz with the latest Cataclysm announcements regarding raid lockout changes.

I’m sure you’ve read the details elsewhere, but to recap:

  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will drop the exact same loot, but 25-man will drop a higher quantity of items.
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid.

10-Man and 25-Man raids will drop the exact same loot, but 25-man will drop a higher quantity of items. HOORAY! Does this mean my raiders don’t have to feel like second-class citizens anymore? Because I think that sounds awesome. I’ve done 25-man raiding and 10-man raiding. While I agree that 25s are more difficult to organize, I don’t think the fights themselves are necessarily more difficult. True, there’s often more going on, and more people means more opportunity for mistakes. But it also has more room for mistakes than a 10-man. When I was raiding 25s on my rogue, if I wound up tanking the floor, it wasn’t the end of the world. In our 10 -man team, the fights are less forgiving and each member is crucial. A lost dps or two can mean a wipe. So it’s been frustrating that if my raid team wants the really good gear, we have to pug 25s.

As for the higher quantity of items dropping for 25s, I’m OK with that. They have more people to organize, so give each of them a somewhat better chance at the loot that drops. Extra badges points (see below), extra gold, extra loot? Fine. I’m just pleased that I’ll finally have a chance at the same quality of gear that 25-man raiders enjoy.

10-Man and 25-Man raids will share the same lockout. I’m less sure exactly how I feel about this. Mostly, it won’t affect me personally, since I run 10-man raids. I’m geared well enough to run 25s, so I could pick one up from time to time, but I just don’t. I’m too spoiled, I think, by my own raid team. We’ve built a close-knit team that’s friendly and relaxed, and while we naturally can become frustrated when we’re learning something new and wiping a lot, it’s never the kind of stress and infighting I’ve seen happen in 25-man teams.

On the other hand, we have used 25-man raids to do weekly raid quests when we were saving our 10-man ID to work on a tough boss (Yogg-Saron, I’m looking at you!). That’s a special circumstance, though, and not too important. And while it was nice to know that I could pick up a 25 if I wanted to, if the loot’s the same, the motivation for doing two versions of the same raid is certainly diminished. At any rate, the more I think about this change, the more OK I am with it. I know a lot of 25-man raiders are screaming about it, and I know some people are predicting that it means the end of 25-man raiding. I think people who want to raid 25s will still do so, but even if it does mean the death of the 25, honestly, I’m just not sure I care.

Goblin LFW!

As for the rest of the news — the similarity in difficulty, the Normal vs. Heroic, and smaller raids — that all sounds good to me. So does the other bit of news released last night: Emblems will be replaced with Valor points and Hero Points. So we get points instead of emblems, and they will be downgraded (Valor >> Hero) as new tiers are released. Much simpler, and I’m totally fine with it.They’ll be capped, and I wonder what the cap will be like, but since I spend my highest tier emblems as soon as I can afford something, I’m not very concerned. I do wonder about the future of that money changer in the Underbelly, but she’s a goblin, after all. I’m sure she’ll find some way to turn a copper.

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Based on recent reports from Blizzard that 70% of their accounts never make it past level 10, Guthammer of Guthammer’s Last Stand suggested this Blog Azeroth Shared Topic.

When Blizzard recently disclosed that 70% of their accounts never get past level 10, I was a little surprised. Leveling 1-10 is so fast and simple, I was surprised that people give up that quickly. Trials are 10 days long, and the first ten levels only take a few hours.

But perhaps my view of the first ten levels is a little skewed. After all, longtime players have significant advantages over newbies when it comes to leveling.

First of all, I have heirloom gear and funding for any alts I decide to start. Ginger had all available heirlooms equipped at level 1. With a twenty percent XP boost, and the equivalent of blue-quality items, the first ten levels are lightning fast.

And I know the first ten levels. Of course, I’d be a little lost if I rolled Alliance, but after five years of rolling Horde toons, I’m deeply familiar with the starting areas. I know where the mobs are, the fastest way to the major cities, what areas I’ll go to next. I know which quests to do and which ones I want to skip.

I also have the advantage of addons. Brand new players aren’t likely to know about addons and how much they can speed up the leveling process. It doesn’t matter if you use Carbonite, TomTom + Lightheaded, or Quest Helper, these help streamline leveling.

Finally, I have a great deal of social support in the game. When I’m starting a new alt, I can get help from my friends when I need it, whether that’s quick instance runs, downing elites, or just chatting as I crank through the early levels. Unless they come to the game with real life friends, new players have little or no social support: no one to run instances with, no guild or buddies to help or guide them. Ever try asking a newbie question in trade or general chat? It’s not particularly encouraging.

So how do you fix these issues for brand new players?

Some efforts have already been made. The tutorial has allegedly been improved, though I confess I haven’t checked it out yet myself. I actually kind of remember the tutorial as being OK anyway, but as I said, it’s been a long time. Blizzard has added quest helper functionality; I still prefer addons for this, but it should be a big help to newbies. Not everyone wants to spend an hour hunting for the quest location like I sometimes did when I started!

An increase in health and mana regen for low level toons, coupled with decreased mana costs on their early spells, should also help with some of the tediousness of the early levels. (You know: Cast, sit & drink, cast, sit & drink.)

More changes are planned for Cataclysm. All the starting zones are being revamped, with improved flow like that seen in the Blood Elf and Draenei starting areas. Class changes for low levels — giving level one hunters a pet or equipping level one rogues with two daggers, for example — will give players a better feel for their class from the start.

I think all those things will really help new players, but I find myself coming back over and over to the social aspects of the game. Don’t get me wrong — I think the game itself is extremely engaging. But I increasingly find it’s not about just the game for me. It’s much more about the friendships I’ve developed in the game. I find myself logging in just to see if my friends are around, sometime on nights I might otherwise take off of the game.

Blizzard is implementing new guild rewards in Cataclysm, as well as the upcoming Looking for Guild function, to encourage the development of these kinds of relationships in-game. Recruit-A-Friend, too, is meant to encourage in-game relationships, this time by getting your real life friends involved. The more social interaction you have in the game, the more likely you are to keep coming back to it. Conversely, the more asshattery new players encounter, the less likely they are to return.

I’m not sure exactly what Blizzard can do about some of this. Some players are just jerks — we’ve all seen them. Other players will restore your confidence in humankind. Player interactions are really up to the players themselves. We can’t kick the jackasses out of the game, sadly, but we can choose to be helpful and friendly. The game has gone beyond being a game and has grown into a community. I hope most players will decide to welcome others into that community.

A lot of this goes well past level 10, of course. Blizzard is making its effort to help out those new to the game, but established players have a part to play as well. So be a community player, and help a noob get to level 11 (and beyond) today!

Woot!

My raid team finally got Yogg-Saron down. This had been a bit of a sticking point for us. The initial plan had been to clear Ulduar completely before moving on to Icecrown Citadel. But power outages, screwed up raid lockouts, and scheduling issues frustrated our efforts, and when we could get in to fight Yogg, we found the fight coordination a little troublesome. Last night, we worked it all out and got Yogg down for the first time. Woot!

Of course, we didn’t wait to get Yogg down before we entered ICC, because at some point, it just seemed silly to let this one clusterfluffle of a fight stall out all our progession. Still, it’s nice to have it cleared and feel like there’s no unfinished business. We can really focus on ICC “with a clear conscience,” as our main tank said.

As for Ginnger, she’s now at level 70 and living at Vengeance Landing. I’m running her daily random to save up emblems for when she gets to 80, and doing some questing, of course. But her leveling has been slowed down by my decision to change her profession.

I’d been leveling skinning and leatherworking, because skinning is leveled so naturally while you’re questing, and I could make some decent mail gear with leatherworking while she leveled. On further reflection, however, I decided mining and jewelcrafting would be a much better way to go. It’s something that will benefit all my toons, unlike leatherworking. My rogue is an herbalist/alchemist, so I’ve got that synergy working for me. So now Ginnger has gone back to Azeroth to level mining in between random instance runs. I hate having to go back and do that, but better now than at level 80.

OMG A FLYING HORSE OF STARS!

I’ve been sneaking in an extra hour here and a spare few minutes there, in Winterspring and Silithus, to get Ginnger to 58. In the race to 58, Ginger had never been to Stonard, so I hit up a mage friend for a port and ran her down to the Dark Portal. Outland at last!

I’ve always just leveled by questing solo and running occasional instances in appropriate-level groups. No dungeon run-throughs from higher level players or anything like that. But when Ginnger got to Outland, my druid friend (and raid co-healer) came out to Hellfire and leveled me up to 60 in less than an hour. It was pure awesome!

I’ve run Ramparts several times already, and I’m finding it a lot of fun. When Sindei ran these instances, I was still new to healing, and I was pretty nervous about it. When you’re responsible for keeping everyone alive, that can be a lot of pressure!

With Ginnger, I have a lot more confidence. The specific tools are different, but now I have a deeper understanding of healing. And healing at this level can be more interesting. On Sindei’s daily heroics, the groups are generally experienced and overgeared. They often take little damage, and I don’t have to do much to keep them going. But the groups Ginnger is running with really need her. There’s nothing quite like getting an inexperienced group through a tough situation, saving people who are sure they’re going to die, and at the end of it, seeing “Epic heals!” in party chat.

So I was trying to figure out what my next post would be about, when BAM! Blizz to the rescue with the Cataclysm priest changes. Thanks, Zarhym!

  • Heal (available at level 16): Yeah, like most priests, I never ever ever use Heal or Lesser Heal. Heck, I forgot they even existed! I get the idea that this revamped Heal is intended to replace Flash Heal in my typical rotations.
  • Mind Spike (available at 81): My first new level in Cataclysm, and I get a dps spell? Sigh. Shadow DID need an instant nuke, which is what this sounds like. It’ll be available to all specs, so helpful for those times I need to DPS. Fine.
  • Inner Will (available at 83): Buff to run speed and cheaper instant casts? Yes please! I’m sure Inner Fire will still be used most of the time, but this certainly will be handy in some fights.
  • Leap of Faith (available at 85): The ability to grab players out of danger? Sweet! I’m not so sure I’ll be grabbing you if you have aggro, as I’m not interested in meeting your new little mob friend. I may grab you out of the fire … if I like you and if you don’t deserve to die of your own stupidity, that is.
  • Discipline Talent: Power Word: Barrier. Oh, Power Word: Barrier, how I have dreamed of you! Instead of spamming bubbles one-by-one, I long to shield an entire group! Made of win.
  • Divine Spirit and Prayer of Spirit: GONE! I’ll miss the spirit buff, but my Devout Candle budget just got more manageable.

The other thing that seemed big to me is mana. To quote Zarhym:

Mana will be a bigger consideration for all healers. We aren’t trying to make healing more painful; we’re trying to make it more fun.

ORLY? Because I’m pretty sure when Blue says: “We aren’t trying to make healing more painful,” it means: “Healing is about to get painful!”

Pet rabbits do not behave well for photographs.

Even with all the egg-camping going on the first day, I had no trouble to speak of getting Sindei her Noble Gardener achievement in short order. I started out in Falconwing Square, thinking it would be less crowded than the other areas. I clearly wasn’t the only one with that idea, because it was totally crowded.

For the record, the fountain in Falconwing Square is my favorite place to hunt for eggs. They appear in the fountain and under the benches. It’s easy to grab them quickly and they spawn pretty frequently. A lot of folks seem to not notice them under the benches. I grabbed plenty that people had just run right past.

Still, I persevered, and was lucky enough to get my Spring Rabbit’s Foot within my first 20 eggs or so. That made it easy to get the Spring Fling achievement, because on the first day there are plenty of people hanging around all the starting areas with their Spring Rabbits.

I don’t buy anything for the holiday until the end, because if I do, it’ll surely drop from the eggs right after. Basically, my strategy is to just farm the 100 eggs for the Chocoholic achievement, then keep farming until I either have enough chocolate to buy what I need for the meta OR the eggs drop whatever I still need for the meta. The eggs dropped Spring Flowers for the Shake Your Bunny-Maker and the Spring Robes for Desert Rose. I also got a couple of Black Tuxedo Pants from the eggs, but no shirt. Marsha had the shirt in her bank, though, and since it’s not soulbound, I was able to send that to Sindei for the Blushing Bride achievement. In all, I farmed about 200 eggs and the only thing I had to buy was the Brightly Colored Egg to hide in Silvermoon for the Noble Garden achievement.

For Hard Boiled, I just waited until one of the eggs turned me into a bunny, hearthed back to Dalaran, grabbed the portal to the Caverns of Time, and ran my little bunny-self down to the hot springs in Un’Goro Crater. I found a safe spot to go AFK, went to the kitchen for coffee, and by the time I got back, boom! I’d laid an egg.

In all, Noblegarden really is one of the easier holidays. My goal is to get Sindei the Violet Proto-Drake reward by the time the next Brewfest rolls around. The only holiday that’s got me worried is the Midsummer one, because I wasn’t that good at the torch juggling and such last time I tried them. I guess we’ll have to see.

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