Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Message of the Day

Today's message of the day as I logged into WoW was "Being polite in groups will get you invited back."

They need to update it to "Being polite in groups doesn't matter any more because you can just re-queue straight away."


I had a total blast leveling through Draenor. Some of the most interesting questing I've seen in the game so far. I did a few leveling dungeons are they were all fun and challenging. Whether the challenge came from the dungeon or the poor gameplay of my teammates wasn't really relevant-- I had fun.

Then I reached endgame.

Now there is something you need to understand about World of Warcraft. It's the healer's job to keep everyone alive. So if someone dies, it's only because the healer failed to stop them from dying. This is so obvious to everyone that it's not even worth saying. Yeah, that's right, you just wasted seconds of your life reading something you already knew.

Maybe I just need to face up to being not a good enough player to heal heroic 5-man dungeons. Self-delusion can be pretty insidious.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Angry ranting

I really wish Blizzard would stop selling more than they're capable of delivering.

I paid for this expansion six months ago. I paid for my current subscription time in July. This is not the way I expect to be treated after handing over that much money, that far in advance.

Did we not know what was going to happen on launch day? The same thing that happens on EVERY FUCKING LAUNCH DAY?

Okay great, you convinced a million ex-WoW players to resubscribe. Pat on the fucking back. I'm sorry I didn't threaten to unsubscribe enough for you to care enough about my experience.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dances with raiders

If you've ever used the term "dancing" pejoratively when you talk about raid gameplay, you absolutely need to read this blog post from Alexander Brazie on how he fucked up the Netherspite encounter, specifically naming how and why it ended up becoming a "dance". I'm so convinced by his definition that I have to concede that this term can be useful for describing a specific type of raid gameplay.

But I maintain that the word has been used unfairly way more often than it has been used fairly. I've seen a clear pattern of mid-range guilds whose raiders lack the situational awareness to "play" encounters as intended, so the leader must resort to dictating specific instructions just to keep people from doing the wrong thing. This type of raiding group makes encounters into a dance, and to be fair it clearly works, for the simple fact that most people are better at following instructions than thinking for themselves. It's just another example of players taking the efficient route to success rather than enjoying the game as intended.

The root issue has always been that the raiding game was too difficult for a majority of players, a criticism that Blizzard has more than owned up to, and today's range of difficulty levels are a incredible improvement. It's so vitally important for any game to match itself to the skill level of the players.

I'm reminded of this pervasive idea of the "Patchwerk fight". Pervasive despite the first rule of Patchwerk fights being that you don't talk about Patchwerk fights because they are boring and raiding is so much more than that. I don't disagree.

But players love these fights. Players love the pure throughput environment, simply because this kind of sustained DPS/healing check gives them the (rare?) opportunity to kick into top gear, to use every cooldown, every proc, and for once not worry about distractions like target switching or ramping or delaying abilities to run away. It's like a drag race for your WoW toon; less about finesse and more about who has the fastest engine and knows how to drive it.

Perhaps this drag race metaphor better illustrates some players' overwhelming tendency to play chicken with deadly mechanics.

The problem with Patchwerk fights is they are only relevant at gear level; once the raid's throughput passes a point the switch flips to trivial. I wonder if it's at all possible to save this type of fight from sudden obsolescence by implementing mechanics that scale with your raid's throughput. Not so far as to negate gear, but just enough to stop the encounter from becoming trivial overnight.

I suspect that there is a very large group of players who genuinely enjoy standing still and DPSing and are more than happy to ignore raid mechanics as much as possible because their combat mechanics alone are intrinsically fun and/or because competing with others in the same role is the main goal for them.

Social competition is a stronger motivator than we realise. In the end it's the same old human story; we covet our neighbour's ass, so we feel compelled to spend three years grinding to get the same mount to drop for us.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The dream of melee healing is alive in Mistweavers.

UBRS is fun. I've been running it over and over, spending as much time in Crane (melee) stance as possible. I can melee heal the whole dungeon now (as long as the group isn't terrible), it just takes balls to play so close to the edge the whole time. This usually puts me at the top of the damage meter too, but I feel like this might have more to do with my gear level and the relative power of the caster Legendary proc. I have a suspicion that 100% melee healing may not be a viable playstyle for doing content "at level", but dammit if I'm not going to try.

I take everything back about my class being less "active" now. Crane stance is intense and frantic. I'm starting to appreciate that as long as there is an enemy in melee range I'm a 100% mobile healer-- free forever from that terrible choice between finishing a cast and avoiding an effect. I feel like I have a response to any pattern of damage now, so the panic attacks are becoming less frequent. Protip: Detonate Chi is absolutely essential-- it a major AoE heal. Don't let your party let themselves die while your balls are right in front of them. Remember Thunder Focus Tea can be used for a double-strength Surging. Also, Revival and Grape Bubble early and often. There is no need to change stance until both of these spells are on CD.

I swapped out my Surging Mist auto-target glyph and changed a few of my mouseover binds for better access to the Crane stance spells, which has kind of messed up my muscle memory for direct healing, but I'll get used to it because clearly I'm the kind of player who will change playstyle completely if I think it will be more efficient in the long run.

Crane stance feels like a damage spec with healing utility. I keep flashing back to healing dungeons as Enhancement Shaman towards the end of Wrath-- I mean Enhancement is where that "buff that stacks to five with each stack reducing the mana cost and cast time of a healing spell by 20%" paradigm first came from. We had Chain Heal back then too... but I guess Blizzard always was pretty hot and cold with what they "allowed" melee healing to get away with.

Speaking of flashbacks, Jade Crackling Lightning mixed in with melee abilities feels like playing a Sith Assassin again, which is pretty cool. I'm not sure whether this phenomenon exists in other classes, but since the level one hundred patch I have never run out of mana while healing. Jade Lightning however drains it fast. In today's near-infinite mana environment it's still expensive, so does that mean the mana cost will be even more severe when the class reaches equilibrium again?

Now I want to tell you the most ridiculous thing about Crane Stance. Changing stance back to Serpent, starting a channel hot, and firing a big direct heal: total time 1.9 seconds.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Pre-expansion Month; or "Why Did I Pay For This?"

The new Blackrock Spire is short but sweet. I ran it a few times just for fun. (I know, right. Does anybody play video games for fun any more?) Also because it's the only challenging healing environment that exists right now because the rest of the game is fucking broken.

"But Coreus, it will all work out at level 100! This version of the game isn't designed for level 90 so it's unfair to--" Yeah let me just cut you off there. If it's not designed for level 90, why did they put it out while we are all stuck at level 90? A week or two before the expansion is understandable when the changes are this drastic, but we are spending one whole subscription period in limbo between working versions of the game.

If I'm starting to sound a bit like a broken record on this subject it's only because I can't do Proving Grounds, I can't do Arenas, I can't do Brawler's. The Black Market is gone. PvE is a joke now but I can't even put out decent numbers because my class is dependent on abilities and stats that are not in the game yet.

I know the game never has been perfect but this is the definition of breaking it.


But anyway, Blackrock Spire. I feel like I'm doing more damage (relatively speaking) than I was before, but that's not something you can really judge in a 5-man dungeon, especially when you significantly outgear it.

There were some wipes, but only because BRS was designed in 1996 when claustrophobic three-hour-long maze-like dungeons were the new hotness. So we still have to deal with low ceilings, tiny doorways, mobs strategically placed within aggro radius around corners and not a single clue which way is forward.

Now I'm worried that they're doing another Cataclysm and making the game too hard again. I mean I'd be happy with that but I understand the other eight million players aren't so easily entertained.

I keep instinctively trying to switch from melee straight into direct healing and have a minor panic attack when I realise that it's not working and everybody is still dying, then another panic attack when I realise I could have changed stance by now if I'd remembered to do that first and everybody is still dying.

Blizzard seems to have recognised that smart heals were ironically dumbing down healing, so every untargeted healing event now follows the "random injured target" paradigm, with the exception of Renewing Mists which I assume would be just terrible if it wasn't intelligent about its targets.

The annoying thing for melee healing now is the number of buffs we need to juggle. Tiger Palm, Crane's Zeal and Rising Sun Kick all need to be kept up, while managing Chi and Vital Mists, and if you have any cognitive resources left on top of that, a glance at the group's health bars every now and again can be useful.


I've been pondering doing that thing where you keep 25 completed quests in your log for some quick XP once we can level again. What I thought was funny when I googled it was all the people who went to the trouble of writing a whole big paragraph about how that would be a waste of time and there's no way they would waste their time doing anything pointless like that.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fistweaving is awesome now

My guild's new "combined" Mythic raid killed Garrosh this week. "Post nerf" if you will. "Totally carried" if you will. That might be an overstatement, but I just never feel like I'm playing properly if I'm at the bottom of the healing numbers.

I need to reiterate at this point that it's fucking bullshit to ask us to pay for one whole subscription period of "between expansions" where half the game is broken because the game is now designed for a level that does not exist. Most of the information online is now out-of-date, the rest is irrelevant to the current state of the game.

With that over with, I'm gradually hating the Mistweaver changes less. The unobvious tradeoff for slow stance changes is that the melee stance has been developed into a much more "complete" specialisation.

Melee is now actually interesting, not just the same two abilities over and over. Blackout Kick finally justifies its Chi cost by causing literally five healing events per cast, and we now have burst AoE healing. We're doing junk for damage, but honestly that was never the point.

I've been meleeing between critical healing phases because mana regen is so ridiculous and tanks are so self-sufficient that we suddenly have a lot of downtime and I would probably get totally bored with raiding if I didn't.

Detonate Chi is the main burst AoE ability for crane stance and seems to have a spectacular synergy with the improved Blackout Kick-- five separate heals means five times the chance to spawn orbs. I'm a bit confused about whether this ability does five heals from yourself and five from the statue; or whether it chooses five targets from within the combined range of yourself and of the statue. I've tried google and a few theorycrafting forums but haven't found anything.

Detonate so far seems like it's been mostly ignored by theorycrafters, since they seem to assume that (a) your balls will expire while there are people in range (b) those people will probably need healing at that moment. When we could glyph our balls to last for three minutes it was a lot easier to justify leaving them around for people to use later on in the fight. But the whole point of this ability is burst throughput, not increasing overall healing. Our first job is to keep people alive, as much as we obsess over numbers most of the time.

I get that it's not really possible to track your active healing orbs so it's hard to measure, but I strongly suspect that both Detonate Chi and Blackout Kick are probably being undervalued by the theorycrafting community at the moment, especially in the current half-broken environment. Every time I've remembered to use it has resulted in a massive amount of Gift of the Serpent healing-- you can't explain that.

Jade Crackling Lightning has changed function completely. This ability used to be ridiculously strong; dealing almost the same damage as the more complicated melee rotation but without the range or movement requirement, and it follows people around line-of-sight breaks. I know, right? But it never comboed well enough with any Chi spenders to be a cohesive playstyle; I always felt like using it as a primary damage ability was cheesing the game.

Now the duration has been reduced from eight seconds to one-point-four and all four ticks generate a Chi. Also it costs about a quarter of your mana bar-- it's the "fast heal" of crane stance, generating four Chi in the time it takes a basic melee attack to generate one, so you can keep pumping out kicks and orbs. Also I think it might do damage to its target, but I haven't confirmed this.

Revival and grape bubble (I literally can't remember the name of the big green absorb bubble ability) are both unrestricted by stance thank god. And for that matter Surging Mist actually is not a terrible substitute for proper healing if you just need to top someone off. Revival is ridiculously strong at the moment, probably just due its design-- I'm pretty sure that it is simply the one spell with the most healing throughput.

Good to know Monks still get something OP.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mistweaver crisis!

I raided Mythic last night and I'm pretty sure my class is ruined forever. They turned the most innovative healing class in the game into this weird emulation of a classical healer that is allowed to deal damage only under strict regulatory guidelines outlined in paragraphs one through three of Stance of the Spirited Crane.

Over the course of the raid I did eventually get used to the weird timing of half-second GCD followed by 1.5 second GCD, and I figured out that Surging Mist is now just Heal with the ability to "cheat" the cast time...


I guess I can't help but see all of this as a big huge nerf. Back in July last year I posted about my first experiences with this class, that I loved the high skill-cap of doing two jobs at once with one set of resources, how smoothly you can transition between damage and healing, and I loved how active the class felt, having a multitude of support abilities and a multitude of responses to any situation and being able to choose the most fun.

Now the class is literally slower, with fewer support abilities, and a deliberately un-smooth transition between pure healing and damage healing.

Skill capping a Mistweaver now means changing stances in low damage phases, then dumping your Chi and changing stances again, and again and again, and again and again.

Have you ever been forced to change stances in combat? Wasn't it the most fun you've ever had playing WoW? Yeah I get to do that now. I assume that Warriors and Warlocks are stuck with an extra GCD of fun when they change stances, right? Right? It's not just my class getting fucked in the arse?

That cross nanny metaphor perfectly represents how I felt about stances while raiding last night. Melee abilities are simply not allowed while healing. And direct healing is simply not allowed while damaging. It wouldn't be proper.

This happened before with Paladins in early wrath. Stop taking away my fucking melee healing. I enjoy it. I paid for another fucking expansion because I was having so much fun with it. Why bother creating brand new innovative gameplay only to savagely homogenise it?



Assuming anyone made it this far into my rant, there's a question I've been pondering out of curiosity. Many class abilities get tweaked early on if players weren't using it as intended, but removal implies that the whole concept was a mistake to begin with:

In all of WoW's history, what active class ability (button) was in the live game for the shortest time before being removed completely?