Monday, 28 February 2011

Sold! To the gentleman at the back with the green skin and tusks.

One of the things I've never really got into in WOW is the auction house, this isn't due to a lack of interest, in fact the economy in WOW and how massively it varies from server to server fascinates me; I suppose the main reason I haven't bothered is the time it takes to make money, I've always had enough gold to get by, but never been filthy rich in WOW terms, but providing I could get hold of all the stuff I needed for raiding I would stay away. If I needed reagents I'd generally go grind for them, the only occasions I would venture into the Auction House was when I was short of time before a raid, needed a couple of materials to level up a trade skill, or when something was on there which I needed but was on for less than the time it would cost me to grind it myself; for instance, Golden Pearls, back in the days of Vanilla WOW I needed two for the Mooncloth Robe which was the best crafting robe for healing at the time, it required two Golden Pearls which retailed at 80-120g each, so I wouldn't be getting much change from 250g, 250g was a massive amount back then, so of I went to grind, it took about two hours of killing things but I got there, I'd have made about 50-80g in 2 hours of grinding so it made sense to go for the pearls. Now the duckers and divers amongst you will be asking why I didn't simply grind Golden Pearls to make money at 1 pearly an hour it'd average in the region of 100g an hour profit rather than 30 ish, well simple really, these pearls were quite rare, but also quite specialist at the time, they weren't used in too many recipes, so should anyone grind them on mass the bottom of the market would quickly fall out, and by the time I came to need the third pearl, it had. Someone had obviously been grinding, there were loads in the AH, the best price was in the region of 50g which meant it was far more advantageous to simply click buy than go spend hours grinding.

Since coming back to WOW, I've used the AH occasionally for bits and bobs, gold is quite easy to come by these days, so the occasional glyph or reagent, but again, never really selling. That was until this weekend; I've been levelling the druid over the past few weeks, while doing this I've skilled up both mining and herbing (this was my primary reason for levelling this character as I was sick of the flight form druid sweeping in, herbing, and flying off as I'm still stood there trying to dismount and wondering where the hell my herb went) on the way I've banked all of the materials (and the cloth too) gathered rather than selling it. The druid is now in the mid 60's which mean, with the stash of higher level herbs I had on my mage from his herbing, I could pretty much level inscription from 0 to 525 in one shot, there were occasions where I was a few herbs short so a swift trip to the AH filled the gaps, whilst I was being rinsed of my gold for these stacks of low level herbs, I noticed something; how much money there was to be made on the AH these days. As a result of levelling inscription I had loads of glyphs, cards and scrolls, on my server glyphs go for anything between 20-200g 20 for the crap stuff which no one but the people who must have every possible glyph for their class, around 50g for the useful but optional ones, and anything from 100-200g for the 'must have' glyphs. This is a huge amount, and probably a reflection of the 30-50g price for most stacks of herbs (other than the top level ones which are just silly prices). I decided I'd have a punt with some of the glyphs, it seemed a waste to just vendor them, so I stuck about 15 of the hundred or so I had on the AH, choosing the ones which were going for more than 80g, and just slightly undercut the best prices on there. To my surprise I sold 5-6 of them which more than covered the cost of the materials I'd had to buy to fill gaps as I levelled. Smelling a profit, I put another 20 or so on, and got thoroughly hacked off with the amount of time it took to check the prices, and create the auction. It was only a minute or so per auction, if that, but it soon mounted up. Yesterday I decided to do something about it, I decided to have a read up on the addons available for auctions, I'd previously used Auctioneer a little bit, but as I'd never really got into auctions, I'd never really tested it fully, I headed over to the developers page and to my disappointment it hadn't been updated since last October. Undeterred I had a look through and, picking the addon which had been downloaded by a good number of people and received some pretty good reviews, this was Auctionator. I can now instantly drag items into the interface giving me a breakdown of the current competing auctions, automatically selecting the best price, and even offering the ability to buyout some of the sillier priced items (I spotted a Glyph of Obliterate on there for 8g, which I instantly relisted for 99g and sold 10 minutes late!). My early success encouraged me to stop slacking on the enchanting front, utilising some of the vellums I'd created for levelling (the mage is also my enchanter) I knocked out a few enchants to the level, to my surprise they sold too! All in all, with no more than an hour spent this weekend (including a good 20 minutes researching and installing the addon), I reckon I've made in the region of 1500g, now this is a bit of a false figure as I already had all of the mats for the items which I sold, but even so, if I was grinding mats purely to sell in the AH there's good money to be had.


Friday, 25 February 2011

Nostalgic goodness or developer laziness?

The blogsphere has been awash with news of the instances in 4.1 since the first inkling that Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub we're to make a comeback in the same way that SFK, Deadmines and Onyxia did in Cata, and Naxxramas did back in Wrath. There's been a mixed response on the blogs I've read, and the comments left on those blogs, some hailing it as a great idea, some lambasting blizzard for profiteering and laziness.

The draw of rehashing old content, from blizzards point of view, is pretty clear. Instance design is not an easy thing, simply reusing old instance 'skins' takes a lot of time (i.e. cost) out of the development and testing process so hypothetically sees more profit for them. If you assume profit equals entertainment value though (i.e. blizzard keep making profit as long as their game still entertains people) is this quite the case? Larisa talks about an analogous gum chewing exercise in diminishing returns with her post on the subject, and I have to say I agree (to some extent) with her on this; players play WOW for entertainment, entertainment comes in many forms, but in terms of raids and heroics you can safely say it generally comes down to a mixture of: the challenge, new experiences and loot. If the instance is the same layout and the same strategies, the longevity of the former two is diminished. That leaves you with loot, I've talked about this previously, people think they want loot, but actually they don't it's a pseudo-reward, people need loot to progress to the next stage in the game, it's a means to an end, nothing more (though I accept there are some people in the game who just want loot for loots sake). This potentially leaves Blizzard in a dangerous position which many companies see them self in; reducing costs to boost short term profits, but at the expense of future opportunity. Opportunity is a very difficult thing to measure, and because of this the men in grey suits tend to ignore it; if an organisation cuts costs and costs alone they eventually erode that company's ability to make and money, this is a long drawn out process and is hard to see happening until it is too late. In the same way, Blizzard could find themselves in the position of having a disenfranchised customer base, who up sticks and jump to another game where all of the content is new to them.

The flip side of the coin is actually two fold, firstly, a lot of the players who've been around the block and look back to Vanilla WOW with a certain fondness (despite all of its failings that we've all conveniently forgotten) the chance to run those early instances again, with an added bit of spice is quite appealing. But also, for those players who never played in the days of Vanilla WOW, and there are lots, all of these instances will be new (or very nearly new) to them.

I'm undecided as to whether it's actually a good idea or not, and I suppose the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. I suppose the trick for Blizzard to achieve success with this is balance. Mixing desirable old content with enough new content to attract new and old players alike without giving the impression of the stale gum Larisa refers to for those who've been there before. My fondest raiding memories of WOW are in the days of Molten Core, and Zul'Gurub, but actually thinking about it now, you can compare it to that old flame from school that you never quite got over, as memory fades the downsides are forgotten and the good memories highlighted. Just as in the days of progress raiding in MC, it was mainly fun, but quite often an organisational nightmare which took at least 30 minutes to set up, and 15 minutes per wipe to organise which turned into a monotonous, soul destroying, grind as people geared up for Nax. In the same way, when you really think about it, the old flame was a phsyco bitch from hell and you're well shot of her…. But that's nostalgia for you…

From the limited information which has been released, I'm thinking (or is it hoping?) Blizzard might have got the balance right, they seem to be following their tried and tested model of opening up end content to the masses, just in a different way, this time converting old end content to new 5 man stuff. I like the idea (I think) of the higher ilvl requirement which makes for a heroic-heroic of sorts. I just hope, I mean really hope, that this isn't simply the accountants standing behind the game designers, with their clipboards, ready to pounce on any though of innovation which isn't focussed at maximising short term profits for the shareholders. Old content is fine, so long as it's innovated around, taking the best of the old world content and building on that, so long as this is done in addition to new content and not instead of new content, and for the love of the children, please not all of the old content; there are some things that are best left forgotten (LBRS anyone?).

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Altoholics anonymous

I'd never really considered myself an altoholic, yes I played alts, but I'd never really got into multiple toons in a big way. Throughout WOW I've generally had 3 characters at the top level, be it 60, 70, 80 or 85, generally one as a gatherer primarily and the others two as my main play-things, one which was my primary raider the other as my alt runner.

I've tended to have a play with other classes in the past, but nothing too serious, I levelled a warrior to level 60 to have a go at tanking, but didn't really like it, then Death Knights came along and he became my tank and gatherer, so the warrior got neglected, stuck in the outlands at level 63. Anyway, I was doing a little house keeping over the weekend, clearing crap out of bags and seeing if I had any spare bank space when I realised I had a character in every class but Shaman! Most were in the 40's or there abouts, those of you who've been reading regularly will know I've been levelling a druid which is now getting on for 65, I remember playing around on a Paladin about the time of TBC getting to 50 odd, and then I spotted my hunter, I didn't even know I had a hunter!?! Its level 63 SIXTY THREE!!! How can I forget levelling a toon through 63 levels?

Quite bizarre really; so it seems I am an altoholic, I even created a level 1 Shammy just to complete the set… there we go, I've admitted it, the first step on the road to recovery is admitting there's a problem after all…

I wonder how many alts the average is and how many of those are 85 or regularly active, I suppose only Blizzard knows the answer. I've found my alts incredibly useful for a number of reasons, primarily, for trade skills, I use one alt to collect stuff, one to enchant and inscribe and my main for alchemy and gem crafting which works well for me. In the past when I've been raiding, and didn't need the gear on my main the primary alt of the moment was my 'fun' player who'd do the 5 mans and alt-raids etc. I've also previously used an alt as a sanity character back when I was actively raiding and a GM, sticking it in the guild so I could keep an eye on guild chat and log over if there was a run I was interested in happening but just kick back and relax a bit more.  As far as most of the guild were aware this was just a casual member so I didn't get the constant questions about DKP, when the next raid was, randoms whispering asking for a guild invite etc. etc. More recently my alts have been my go-to characters when I'm time constrained, you need at least an hour for a random heroic these days, probably more like two if you get one of the longer instances or encounter 'issues' with the PUG… plus the wait time in LFD. So if I can't guarantee I've got at least 90 minutes I tend to either log over and level something or jump into a normal.

I've found alts have been both an important boost to my performance on my main, in terms of positional play and understanding the new dynamics of other classes and other roles (particularly tanking). I've also found they can sometimes be a bit of a hindrance; healing on the druid, especially early instances is about as simple as it gets, little heal, mid-heal, rinse, repeat. With the addition of an occasional panic heal when you've been caught staring out of the window, on a number of occasions I've dropped straight out of a lower level normal into a five man and found myself forgetting about Chakra, refreshing Renews, Prayer of Mending and a whole heap of other stuff. I've also noticed my DPS mashing rotation is similar on my Death Knight to that of the order of mash for my shadow spec, similar, but not quite the same, which has led to me firing off Mind Blasts without Orbs up and refreshing SW:P when there's been no need.

I'm not sure what the point of this post is, more an observational post I suppose, whatever, the sandwiches have been devoured and I've shed loads to do, if I plough through it I might be able to get home early and start levelling the Shammy…


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The shifting sands of stat weightings

In continuation to my earlier blog on evaluating your SimulationCraft results, this post covers the stat weightings (or scale factors) in much more detail. These are the numbers that anyone new to SimulationCraft will generally be looking for, they are the way you decide one piece of gear is better (for you) than another, the way you chose your gems, enchants, how to reforge and even which buff food and flasks you use. There are a few things to note about stat weights, firstly they are variable, as your gear evolves, so do they; secondly they are unique to you and your gear, this means that the websites proclaiming the definitive stat weights for your class are, at best, an approximation of an approximation – unless they've been calculated with your stats in mind they won't necessarily be applicable to you; finally, and probably most important, the weightings are a reference, and nothing more – unless you are absolutely perfect in your DPS rotations and positioning, your play style will have a far bigger impact on your DPS, use the stats as a framework for improving your overall performance, but don't expect getting your stats right to instantly make you hit 18k DPS.

A word on variability of stat weights

As I mentioned above, stats weights will vary with your gear (and the level of the mob you're fighting) I've knocked together this graph to try and illustrate this from the five examples I made for my last post. Notice how Mastery gains in importance as your gear (or buff level) improves. You'll also notice that Spirit and Hit are useless to me in heroics, that is because I've reached the hit cap (Spirit gives hit with the xxxxx talent). The other weights vary as your stats change, this is why it's important to run a simulation yourself, I'd even go so far as to run one each time your gear changes so that you understand what the implications are. If you're a more serious raider, you might want to play around comparing what your performance should be like with and without raid buffs so that you can adapt your unbuffed gear to give you the best performance when in a raid.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

SimulationCraft: What does it all mean??

It's been a pretty busy week on my blog, the busiest one traffic wise since I started spewing my ramblings onto paper (well electronic paper). My post on SimulationCraft seems to have struck a few chords so in an attempt to aimlessly chase ratings expand on my success I thought I'd have a stab at explaining what the actual results mean in plain English.

So you've read the idiots guide, you've ballsed up at least 5 attempts at simulating your characters DPS, you've gone back and read the guide again, read the official help files a bit, scratched your head a bit, and finally got some figures that look like what you've been reading on the interweb. Brilliant! You've got a page of completely incomprehensible maths, statistics and pretty graphs that'd look more at home on a PowerPoint at that next dull management meeting you were trying to avoid…

There are some figures that (may) make sense to you instantly; there are others that are best when compared to an average, or a target of where you want to be. If you're comparing something you need a baseline, for this example that's you! (or me as the case may be). For the record, I've run 5 different simulations; one with the ultimate tier 11, 25 man gear, with all the raid buffs and trimmings; one with the equivalent 10 man gear and the same buffs; one with my crappy heroic gear with all the same buffs and trimmings; one with (a slightly unrealistic) all the buffs and trimmings but with the target_level override set to 87 (i.e. a heroic boss), you'd NEVER get this amount of buffs in a 5 man as you simply wouldn't have the classes there required (you're pushing it for a 10 man); and then finally, a far more realistic 5 man scenario with just plain old Fort, Int, and MOTW (a reasonable assembly of buffs in my view), oh and replenishment as you'll be keeping that up at all times (WONT YOU?!?) as it's one of your main sources of DPS. The baseline scenario will be the final, and probably worst DPS(it's chugging away as we speak, so we'll see if my prediction shows me up to be the eejit you suspect me to be).

I'm setting the fight length to 350 seconds (nearly 6 minutes), 2 adds, Patchwerk style fight, and assuming you're the best of the best when it comes to mashing keys and given you (well me) an elite skill level – the trick is to only change one variable (or set of variables) at a time so the comparison has some meaning. As homework, I'll leave you to run your own simulation, with your gear, with a realistic skill level and fight scenario, I can't stress highly enough that stat weightings will vary massively depending on your ability (or lack of it), your gear, the number of adds, the type of fight, and a whole host of other variables, what is certain is the figures are a model (a model, by definition is an approximation, and only an approximation) of reality. Go read about statistical modelling in a text book or here on Wikipedia or somewhere else where stats geeks lurk.

Lecture over, and here we are, remember I'm using me as the baseline, the links to the full reports are at the end, I'll reference sections only, for comparison in the main text to keep my ramblings to sub War and Peace word count.

First of all, and the thing you're almost all certainally here for, the scale factors, or stat weighting s as they're sometimes known. You'll notice two values, a scale factor and a normalised value; the latter is the one you want, it simply skews everything so that it's a direct comparison to your best stat (Int) to make it easy(er) to compare one stat to another when you come to chosing your gear. I'll be posting some specific analysis on stat weights in my next blog so if you're still confused check back and I'll endeavour to confuse you more.

Int will always be best, if haste comes in at 0.5 and Crit at 0.25 it means that Int is twice as good as Haste, and Haste is twice as good as Crit (and thus Int is 4 times better than Crit). Put simply, if given those weights, you have a simple choice of a tunic with 100 Int and 150 Haste, you'd always chose the first one (but it's never that simple is it?).

Next you're at the charts, the damage per execute is a telling chart, if interpreted correctly; it's basically saying for the amount of time you spend casting these are the spells which do the most damage – i.e. devouring plague is an instant cast spell so does the most damage per cast.

Next is the damage source pie chart, you'll notice that mind flay is near the top in all, which seems counter intuitive given the last statement. But think about it for a second, mind flay is your filler when all of the other spells are on cooldown or waiting for procs, you're casting it for the most time, so it does lots of DPS, but bang for buck its lower than the others.

The other thing to note in these early graphs is the mana timeline graph, if you're going oom regularly, you're doing something wrong (or something right, i.e. emergency healing which is saving the wipe), I've heard a few Shadow Priests complain about mana issues, this should never be the case with any level of gear.

The most important graph in my opinion is the DPS scaling at the end, this basically says if you add 100(for the sake of argument, you could use any figure) of any given stat, what is the expected DPS increase? You'll notice for me Haste Crit and Mastery all look pretty much the same, crossing once or twice; for the best spec there's a far bigger difference as you follow the graph up with Haste becoming the worst and then the best and then the worst etc. as you go up. This is because of a whole heap of internal metrics (some of which we know about or can approximate, some which Blizzard keep close to their chests).

Notice on the t11 graph, Hit and Spirit have a scale factor up to 0 (i.e. if your gear was worse) and then abruptly stop giving a dps boost – this is the hit cap. Also notice for me, it's pretty much horizontal (at target_level 87) which means I'm over my hit cap for heroics (naughty me, I'll be remedying this immediately).You'll also notice, if you look at the 3rd scenario that my dps drops, even though I've got massive buffs, this is purely because of the hit cap dynamic, and is a good reminder to follow the basic principles that have been with us for all (well almost if you forget the last 3 months) of WOW - get hit capped first!

That's it for the basics, there's loads (and loads and loads) more, have a read, if there's anything you want me to explain (or make up on the spot) leave a comment, or email, tweet, or send a carrier pigeon. I'll be posting an additional blog on the differences of the stat weightings specifically tomorrow.

Report Download

Scenario 1 – best T11 25 man gear, all buffs, raid boss

Scenario 2 – T11 10 man gear, all buffs, raid boss

Scenario 3 – my crappy gear, all buffs, raid boss

Scenario 4 - my crappy gear, all buffs, heroic boss

Scenario 5 - my crappy gear, sensible buffs, heroic boss


Monday, 21 February 2011

Where do you get yours?

Whether you're new to WOW, been milling around Azeroth off and on for years, or a hardcore lunatic, there's one thing that's pretty much certain you'll have in common; at some stage (I'd guess pretty frequently) you'll need someone else's help or advice on something. This could be anything from not knowing there's an auto-run button, to working out where a quest item drops to finding the best in slot piece of gear for your class, and which mob drops it. Back 'in the day' of Vanilla WOW, you got a dauntingly thick 'manual' which was already 3 patches out of date and after a cursory glance was swiftly consigned to the back of the drawer (I know this because I've just binned mine after an office clean-out during a particularly dull conference call). Back when WOW was new there wasn't much in the way of internet information to be had, everyone was still learning the ropes and it was quite common to see questions in general chat asking questions which would have red hot scorn poured all over them nowadays should an unsuspecting newbie be silly enough to ask. The fact that people now (generally) know the game better, there's a lot more information available on the interweb, and the complexity of the questions mean that they're not as simple as the "where's Wailing Caverns?" you'd see in Barrens chat at least twice a minute. Trying to glean the finer points of DPS rotations from general chat is simply impossible.

I've (obviously) come back to the game and been playing for three months (is it really that long??) and am at a stage now where I'm comfortable, but don't claim to know everything that's gone on since I left and the thing that strikes me is the complete dearth of good information that's out there. Now I'm not saying there's no information, in fact, there's loads of it, my issue is that much of it is out of date, and not only out of date, but now completely wrong and misleading due to patch changes, some of it was never right in the first place, either just because it was incomplete, or a completely incorrect interpretation from the original author. It was pretty daunting for me as a priest, who'd kept an eye on developments, returning to the game to work out what was going on, for someone new to the game it must be near impossible, the learning curve is so steep I'd imagine a lot of players give up before getting anywhere near 85. Let me give an example, over the weekend I started mucking around with my Death Knight, I'd already fumbled my way to level 82 with him, in something akin to a spotty teenager fumbling with a bra strap in the dark, in order to do some mining for my priests Jewel Crafting habit. But I'd decided to give it a proper go, so first up I Google for "death knight levelling spec" which brings me to a site which states categorically that unholy is the way forward, I looked around a little more and found nothing to dispel this, so off I went looking for "unholy dps rotation" and various other connotations, which took bleeding ages. After a bit of messing around I decided that I wanted to do a few instances and I wasn't particularly enamoured with the potential 13 hour wait time as DPS so I collared the one of the guilds raiding DK's who'd just logged on and pumped him thoroughly for information. Turns out all three specs are equally as viable for DPS, the Frost spec that I'd read as being 'the only one' for tanking claim was complete arse, and I set off copying his tanking build from the armoury (after a quick lesson on ability priorities, apparently DK tanks don't do rotations, they have priorities – it looks like a rotation to me…I think they just want to be special). It turns out that most of the sites I'd visited were completely out of date, even though some of the (the tykes) had 4.0.6 in the keywords, it looks like these are auto generated to boost traffic.

So my question to you is how do you get your information?

My first point of call for simple information, the type that has a definite answer is friends or guildies, I'm not too bothered about looking like a nub, so I'm happy to ask in guild chat if necessary. That is providing it's not something you can get from wowhead, I'd be first to mock a "where's the Hyjal Guardians Quartermaster" as it's a simple search, but something more along the lines of "where in the interface do I change the contrast" which isn't such an easy question to Google is fine.

I use wowhead extensively for all quest, NPC and related information

Wow wiki for boss strategies, although I've been incredibly disappointed by how out of date, and badly edited / written, some of the pages are, even to the extent of having to edit them myself.

For the more 'fluid' questions of stat priorities playing styles and similar questions which don't have a 'binary' right or wrong answer it's a lot harder. Shadow used to get a lot of my time, it was always a bit of a jumble, but recently it's been horrendous, trying to work out what's relevant to 4.0.6 and what's now, whilst wading through threads of several hundred replies is painful. Tankspot and elitist jerks have filled a little of the hole left by, whilst they're not focussed entirely on Shadow Priests, they're generally pretty tidy and hold good information.

The official forums or right out, they tend to be full of guff; people who don't really know what they're talking about spouting their opinions as if they were fact. When someone who does know what they're talking about comes along they're drowned out by all the drivel.

And then there be blogs, since starting this blog I've got to grips with the blogsphere, I never really read too many WOW blogs before coming out of retirement, other than the trusty WOW Insider which was a daily haunt of mine, it took a little bit of getting used to, and I still don't feel totally 'there' but I'm slowly building up a list of authors who I 'trust' because of the continuing quality of their posts, I'm starting to feel I can take what they say as gospel (not that I ever would totally take something on board without checking, but that's just me). And even with these blogs, if you do a simple web search you can quite easily end up at an old post that is out of date (and now incorrect) with no way of telling whether it's correct or not.

All in all its rather difficult to find concise information which you can have confidence in nowadays, I have to say I've been quite disappointed with the amount of erroneous information that's out there, especially the occasional sites which are pulling nasty tricks with keywords to get hits; as a result I've made sure my tags are all up to date, and the permanent information pages which I'm writing (watch this space) to supplement the blog musings will be kept up to date (or at the very least marked as out of date).

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Just what makes you tick?

As an ex guild leader, recruitment officer, raid leader, website admin, raider, and now just plain old run of the mill casual I've seen what goes on in a guild at pretty much every level, both publically and behind the scenes. Over the past three years or so I've been studying an MBA which looks at all aspects of business. This has been sponsored by my employer and has an obvious tie in with my day to day work but I've often considered that a typical guild structure mimics that of a corporation, not only that but the types of character, and more specifically leader match the people you meet in industry and the types of characteristics you find in people which makes companies or teams more likely to succeed, or fail, are almost identical to those you find in WOW.

I'm going to talk a little here about leadership characteristics (I don't necessarily mean an appointed leader, anyone can 'lead' something in a given situation) which make for success in any organisation (including guilds). It's important first to understand what the objectives are of an organisation; you may assume all commercial organisations exist solely for profit, and that may be true, to an extent, for some. But profit for who? The owners? The shareholders? What about the workers? They make a 'profit' of sorts in their pay packet every month. Even customers make a 'profit', when looked at in these terms, they are gaining some sort of benefit from being a customer there is value in this benefit to them (the reason they derive value doesn't matter, it just matters that they do). Charitable organisations aren't really interested in profit in normal terms; they are mainly focussed on helping their target area. Even culturally company's outlooks differ, Japanese corporations, for example often regard future growth as highly, if not higher, as current profit, whereas western organisations tend to focus heavily on the short term here and now, often to the detriment of longer term stability (incidentally one of the contributing factors of the current global recession). So actually when you look under the hood of what makes an organisation tick, it differs wildly. Being very generalistic about the objectives, you could say that any objective of an organisation is to give value to its respective stakeholders. Stakeholders are anyone who has a vested interest in that organisation, no matter what it is; value is whatever benefit they derive from being a stakeholder. For a shareholder in a big company it might be the yearly dividend they receive, it may however be the opportunity they get to turn up each year at the AGM and shout at the CEO, my point is it's down do the individual; as a WOW player, in a raiding guild, it might be the shiny purples, it might be the experience of raiding, it might be the social scene, it might be the fear of not playing (addiction) or a whole range of other reasons unique to the individual. As a leader, it is important to understand what makes the stakeholders tick (and it may change from minute to minute or year to year).

Once you understand what makes people tick (or at the very least what makes others tick is not necessarily the same as you), a leader can set about trying to lead. I'm going to draw heavily from a text book which I read cover to cover for my first ever MBA module, "Reframing organizations: artistry, choice, and leadership" by Bolman and Deal, it's a great read (if you make it through the first two chapters which are truly awful), if you're actually interested I'll link this and any other reference material at the end.

So, you know what makes people in your guild tick, you understand people have different outlooks on life, and you know these differing views will inevitably cause friction at some point, how do you go about setting up your organisation (guild, raid or even 5-man party) to succeed? Firstly ask yourself what does success look like, if it's a heroic party, it might be clearing the instance; it may however be simply completing the daily heroic requirement, skipping everything that isn't necessary, it may simply be the first boss because the party's been set up to get a particular piece of loot. It may be a combination of all three (and any number of other) reasons for each of the members, already you have a possible 15 permutations (from 3 'success' criteria and 5 members) for a simple 5-man, it's a wonder any part s ever successful! For a guild it's much, much, more complicated! Hopefully you're starting to see there is no one correct answer which suits everyone, and even if it did, it would change so frequently you'd tear your hair out. All you can hope to do is abstract a set of principles or goals which mean success and apply a general framework to achieving that. By abstraction I mean Bob wants epics, lots of epixxxes; Fred wants to be the highest DPS in the guild; Clare whose sole aim in life is to wear the Mantle of Nefarius can all be abstracted to complete Blackwing Decent 25-man by x date. The framework is the tricky part, how do you as a leader best lead? This is where I'm going to reference Messer's Bolman and Deal, they refer to "four frames" of which a leader can use to lead; structural, human resource, political and symbolic. Each of the four frames is better suited to some leaders personalities than other, each has its place and depending on the situation will become more important than others.

I'll describe the four frames briefly, but if you're interested go read the book referenced at the end (it's available to view, in part, on Google Scholar)

  • Structural: the most obvious, it's about the organisational boundaries, chain of command and process, there being a set list or blueprint for getting things done. A good example of where this works is an army, in the heat of battle soldiers, no matter the rank, fall back on their highly structured, highly disciplined training.
  • Human Resource: sounds a bit corporate dunnit? Not really, the HR frame focuses on how characteristics of organisations and people shape what they do. It's the 'most important asset are our people' mentality, whereas a structural organisation will have people doing things because "that's how it's done" a HR focused organisation will more likely have people doing things "for the love of the organisation" (i.e. their derived value is more than just the pay check at the end of the month).
  • Political: it's not a dirty word, don't assume it's the negative aspects of spin and self-interest you see in the media. Viewing an organisation from the political frame simply means you're making decisions to achieve set goals whilst taking account of scarce resources and diverged interests. It's a balancing act of trying to satisfy the most people possible in pursuit of achieving your goals.
  • Symbolic: this is often one of the most powerful (and possibly destructive) a symbolic leader can be extremely powerful in terms of motivating people, think Ghandi or Martin Luther King, people we willing to die for their cause. Symbolic gestures too are extremely powerful, I remember a story of a Chief Executive and Chairman (possibly Ikea, I can't remember the exact details) who would share a hotel room whenever they were away on business "to save money" now in the context of a multi-billion pound company, a £100 a night saving isn't great, but the symbolism of the gesture is immense. Similarly adverse symbolic gestures can be hugely detrimental, think about the bad press city bankers have been getting lately for taking huge bonuses when the tax payers across the world have paid Billions to bail them out.
No do something for me, try and think of one example of each of these frames have been applied in your guild, by design, or by accident – is it the structure of officers and raid leaders, the selfless help offered in gearing a member up to raid who's taken some time off or the GM benching himself for a raid because there are more people wanting to raid than there is space? Actually, I've only given positive examples, try and think of one positive, and one negative, and then try and decide whether the person(s) involved acted without knowing the consequences, or whether (in your opinion) they'd weighed up the pro's and con's and taken the course of action with full awareness of the consequences (probably best to keep your findings private, you might upset people if you post your examples on the guild forum – political frame and all that… :-)

If you're an experienced GM, raid leader, manager, or have had any other reason to 'lead' a group of people you've almost certainly recognised yourself in what I've said, perhaps more by accident than design you'll have done things which could be construed as fitting into one of the four frames. Whether you're a GM, raid leader, or just a standard player, take some time to think about what you and your 'colleagues' want from the game in any given circumstance, and try to work out the best way to achieve 'success' whatever success may be.

WOW is a strange animal, it thrusts people into situations, which in the real world they'd never dream of, yet they survive, and not only that, excel! How many people have managed a team of 40+ people? Not many, I've had a reasonably long career in industry, managing a variety of teams, and approached that number in a couple of occasions, but think back to Vanilla WOW I was regularly organising and running 40 man raids, as were thousands of others across WOW. Leadership, more importantly good leadership isn't about being the boss, or necessarily the one who gets all the credit, it's about getting more out of others than they thought they were capable of in pursuit of achieving the organisational goals.

Even as an individual raider in a group of 25 you can have a positive impact on the group as a whole, think about the symbolic gesture of passing on a bit of loot, even though you're top of the DKP tree, for a newer raider who's gear is far worse – the total improvement to the organisation is far larger, but the symbolism of you looking after the interest of the whole guild or raid won't be lost, others will take the example and act in a similar way.

Now the reference – the link to Google Scholar

Or the proper Harvard style reference for you more studious types:

Bolman L.G. and T.E. Deal (2003). Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Idiots guide to SimulationCraft

I recently downloaded SimulationCraft in order to get a better handle on whether I'm missing something on the DPS front, and what my ideal stat priorities are. I've played with SimulationCraft in the distant past but haven't touched it for a couple of years. I'd like to state up front that it's a cracking tool, though it is a modelling tool, by definition models give an approximation of reality and aren't necessarily an exact representation of it. The current version gives you the opportunity to simulate the 'ideal' fight, where everything is straight forward in terms of needing to move (which affects your DPS rotation), hitting your rotations exactly as planned, receiving buffs, and not suffering debuffs. It also gives you the ability to simulate a fight which is a bit more realistic, where you might need to be moving out of crap, dealing with adds, messing up the occasional button press etc.

So why simulate your DPS in such a way? Simple really, it gives you an idea of what your DPS potential is given your current gear levels (rather than what some Elitist Jerk tells you it should be) and lets you compare your 'normal' performance with what it could or should be. More importantly, it lets you play around with your Enchanting, Gemming and Reforging to maximise your DPS (and of course you re-run the simulation when you've changed it to confirm it's had the desired effects). SimulationCraft can be very eye opening if done right, but it does require you to be honest with yourself, if the figures come out at 15k DPS and you currently do at best 7k have you done something wrong, can you dismiss it as errors in the tool, or is there something fundamentally wrong with your playing style? Use SimulationCraft as any other addon or tool, to augment your ability to playing performance.

The main issue for most with Open Source packages such as SimulationCraft is the sheer dauntingness of opening up for the first time and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. I've had occasion to be involved in several Open Source projects over my career (I've even wrote a number of white papers on the subject) and there are two recurring theme's which are replicated in most project. Firstly the project fills a gap which is missing in the area, it is written by the 'people' (by people read user / consumer etc.) because there is a dearth of information or functionality in the said area. Secondly, the documentation sucks; developers hate documentation, Open Source developers excel at hating documentation… SimulationCraft seems to fit these two area's quite nicely, hence me writing a quick guide, I'll cover the 'perfect' scenario for a boss fight in Heroics for a Shadow Priest, the closest approximation I can come up with off-hand in Cata is if you stand up on the statue for the croc boss (thus avoid the adds) in The Lost City of Tol'Vir. I'll leave it to you to make the changes for the less than ideal scenario, raiding, or other classes, the best advice I can give you is have a play, it's the best way to learn.

Anyway, enough rambling, here we go:

You'll need to download and unpack the SimulationCraft files from here it's a standalone executable (i.e. you don't need to install it) so just stick it somewhere on your hard drive, open the folder and double click the SimulationCraft application icon in the base folder.

First thing to do is make sure you have your base options right, we're going for the 'ideal' run of the mill scenario so we'll be picking pretty easy variables. Click on the options tab and then Globals if it's not already selected here you'll see a number of options, I'm ignoring the obvious ones and concentrating on the less than straight forward ones; you're a Shadow Priest, you obviously have some common sense, use it for the options I've missed ;-)

Iterations (next to the red 'A') are important – you're simulating what could happen, there are lots of random variables around the lines of hit chance, crit chance and a whole host of others, to make sure you're using a statistically significant number you should use at least 1000 iterations, as a rule use 100 first while you're getting to grips with the tool (you'll almost certainally balls it up first time) 1000 when you're comfortable with it and 10000 when you have everything set exactly right 1000 iterations will take 10 times longer than 100, and 10000 another 10 times longer than that.

Length (B) refers to the length of the fight in seconds, we're doing heroic boss fights so pick something sensible, 200 seconds is 3 minutes 20 Seconds which seems reasonable. The vary length (C) introduces a bit of variety into the length, at 20% each iteration will pick a fight length randomly between 160-240 seconds. Adds (D) is pretty self-explanatory – we're doing straight forward so let's go for none. Fight style (E) offers the opportunity to introduce the random movement elements into the fight, Patchwerk (if you remember Naxx) is a stand and deliver DPS race, Helter Skelter is the move out of the crap equivalent of most boss fights, pick Patchwerk for now, but use Helter Skelter when you're looking for realism. The target race (F) offers the opportunity to pick a race which your class / race / build / gear allow you to excel or struggle against, stick with humanoid. Player skill is a strange one, no one (I don't think) can class themselves as Elite this, as I understand it means you get off every spell cast at the perfect moment, without lag or any other issues, even for the baseline I always select good (as an experiment you might want to keep everything else the same after your first run, and come back changing this to elite – I did say have a play!) Threads (H) refers to the processor on your machine, most modern processors have multiple cores, so can use multiple threads (i.e. run faster) if you're unsure hit ctrl-alt-delete (on windows) select task manager and then the performance tab and count the number of boxes in the CPU usage history section, or just select 1.

Next select the buffs tab, you want to be realistic here, I've assumed the presence of a druid and a mage (which isn't unreasonable) plus your own buffs, if simulating a raid you'll add most / all of these. Similarly in the debuff tab I deselect everything, it's a baseline after all, when you're playing later to get a more realistic level, try putting some in.

For Scaling and Plots (i.e. the stats which are pertinent to you as a Shadow Priest) select all of the figures which make a difference to your DPS, if you're looking at a different class then you need to know which these are.

Now comes the tricky bit, the character import, I'm on an EU server, hence the url shown, the important part is to ensure you get the correct server (I) and the character name (J) once you are confident it's correct click import and you should automatically be directed to the simulation tab with a load of stats in front of you taken form the armoury (if you haven't, which happened to me on several occasions, the only way I've got round it is to close the program and restart.

We're now almost ready to simulate something, I say almost because there's one important variable we've forgot, the boss level, SimulationCraft assumes raid boss, but we're looking at Heroic Bosses. Click on the overrides tab and enter the line 'target_level=87' as shown.

Now you can click simulate, and we're off! Depending on the number of iterations, and the speed of the computer you're using this may take some time. If you're on a reasonable PC, by the time you've read this it'll be done, if you're on a Spectrum ZX81 then go make a coffee, if you don't know what a ZX81 is, you're too young and you've not lived! Go ask your dad. Once the simulation has finished you should get a nice results pane, I say 'should', but it never works for me, if this happens go back to the SimulationCraft folder and double click the simc_report.html file – it you're unsure order the folder by date modified, it'll be one of the files close to the top – this will open the report in your web browser of choice.

And there you have it, SimulationCraft, easy no? make sure you look out for the normalised scale factors, these are your bread and butter for gearing, but also have a look at your damage sources, you'll notice your dots are the top DPSers excluding Mind Flay, you'll then (hopefully) notice the DPS per execute times and realise that for the amount of time you spend casting those DoTs compared to MF they're a huge DPS / time boost. Happy Simulating, I don't claim to be the font of all knowledge on this subject, so please if I've missed something please let me know, or just let me know how you got on.

NB: there's some suggestion that there is a slight bug in the SimulationCraft software since the 4.0.6 patch which is causing some inacuracies in the results; you might want check back and download the latest patch from time to time as these these bugs are fixed

Friday, 11 February 2011

No "i" in team

I've read a few blog posts recently about the changes to the social scene in WOW and MMO's in general, some of them were pretty damning, some of them going so far as to herald the death of MMO's. I can't actually remember a positive post on the state of the social aspect of WOW so, as I'd planned for a while to pen a few words about the way the social aspect of the game had developed over the years I thought I'd high-time I did just that.

I started playing this game just under 6 years ago, it was my first ever experience of an MMO, back then the social aspect of the game involved chatting to the one or two real people I actually knew who also played on the same server, and asking other better players who had the misfortune to party with me some really dumb questions about the game. As I described in my first post it wasn't long before I met a few likeminded folk and formed a guild. The guild grew and grew and we got to raiding and set up a Teamspeak server, this was the first step in my opinion to forming some lasting friendships, which have spilled over past the boundaries of WOW. We never managed to set up a guild meet, although there's one in the offing for next month, but on my travels I've had chance to meet 5-6 of the guys I've met through WOW. Back in the vanilla days, there was no dungeon finder, the onus was very much on the player to be proactive and find parties. This was frustrating in one respect, because it took longer to get a party together. The two main advantages to this were you relied on your guild heavily for players, either directly, or recommendation of their friends who fancied a chop, and when you met someone who you had a pleasurable experience with you quickly added them to your friends list and kept in touch for whenever you were looking for a party. People thought nothing of sitting on Teamspeak (or Vent) waiting for someone else to log on and just have a chat, I'd even sometimes log on to vent when I was working from home.

Now since then, the focus of WOW has changed, Blizzard are clever people and have realised that there's more money to be made in the mass market (i.e. casual gamers) than with niche players (i.e. hardcore raiders, pvp'ers etc.). Blizzard , in my view, have been very clever in what they've done, they've realised that the people with the most disposable income, young professionals, don't have time to grind endlessly to prepare for raids, they also realise that the high end content, the pinnacle of what you can do, is the thing almost everyone aspires to. So they've cunningly introduced patches which offer new harder content, with less people requirements (10 man and 25 man as opposed to 40 man) which the hardcore's see first, and then slowly nerf it so that jo public also gets to enjoy it. This has attracted more people to WOW (or back to WOW) but it has had on (possibly unintended) consequence; guilds aren't that important anymore! Not unless you're a hardcore raider anyways, back in the days of Molten Core we had a core of 35-45 players who raided 75%+ of instances and another 20-30 players who were more casual, and another 15-20 who would help out if they were about and we were desperate. Looking through the guild list now, I reckon there's 50 unique accounts tops. When I first came back to WOW, just out of habit, I'd click the Vent icon on the desktop before loading WOW, most of the time I was sat listening to my own feedback.

Now I'm not saying the changes are a bad thing, they've achieved Blizzards objectives of repeat subscriptions (i.e. revenue) and they've opened up the game to more people. It just means that people have to work harder at being sociable, but it's a catch 22 situation; you can't foce people to be sociable, they play WOW for one reason, enjoyment (or is it addiction?) the aspects of the game which people enjoy differes, and they'll focus on those areas, for me it's (these days anyway) the social aspects of the game, the team challenge of achieving something together. I couldn't care less about shiny purple pixels – gear is nothing more than a means to an ends; to allow me to play with other people I enjoy playing with.

The other reason I believe the social scene has dropped off, which I touched on earlier, is the dungeon finder. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent tool, I just think it could do with some improvements. Firstly I'd like to see it favour other people from the same server who are in the queue when constructing parties, I can count on one finger the number of times I've randomly been grouped with someone from my server. By meeting people from the same server, you're more likely to form lasting friendships with them and do something together in the future. Secondly I'd like to see the Real ID system overhauled a bit so you don't have to give out your email address to befriend someone, and could actually use that friendship to form a cross server party prior to queuing for an instance.

For me, those are the two main issues which could be improved on, the game has obviously been refocused toward the type of player who only has an hour or so to log on in an evening, I probably fall under this category myself most evenings. There will come a day, and it's not as far as you might think away, where artificial Intelligence is advanced enough to be able to operate 24 other members of a raid, talk like people, act like people, and I suppose even throw hissy fits like people. This will allow the true casual to play single player MMO's, and may satisfy some, but not me, I like the social interaction, I actively pursue it in WOW it's not enough for me to stand triumphant over a bleeding pool of dead pixels, I need people to talk to, and in my view Blizzard need to encourage the community wherever and whenever they can or face the prospect of people falling out of love with WOW. More please Blizzard, much more.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Go Forth and Reforge

I'd like to state up front, these stat priorities are quite probably slightly out for tier 11 as it seems simlecraft is a bit buggy, but it's the best we've got at the moment

I'd also like to say that, like normal, if your gear is different then the stat weights will be different – this seems especially so since 4.0.6 as Haste and Mastery seem to swap over in importance as your gear improves.

I've stolen referenced the information here from a number of sources across the web, it's a combination of what people are saying with what I know not to be correct, the sources are generally good and I trust them, however it may not be fully correct.

Stat weights

Intellect 1.00
Spellpower 0.79
Spirit/Hit 0.43 (before hit cap)
Mastery 0.43
Haste 0.40
Crit 0.39


The rotation shouldn't change really if you were doing it right before 4.0.6 hit, Mind Blast has obviously had a bit of a buff so you'll want to cast it as soon as you can (providing you have an orb up).

Hit Cap

That's right, there now seems to be a hit cap, as I suspected due to the changes to Mastery it now means things hit harder thus the knock on effect is that it's more efficient to make sure you hit first time; go forth and reforge!

For heroics only it's 6%

For raiding you'll want 17%

I'm told PvP is 4% but I haven't dabbled at all in it since I returned to WoW so haven't done much reading on the subject

Reforging, Gemming and Enchanting

Obviously you want to be aiming for more hit if you weren't hit capped previously, you need to start removing those Mastery to Haste reforges that you've had on your gear per 4.0.6. Gems and Enchants need to follow the stat weightings, be careful to take into account socket and meta gem activation bonuses when doing so. You may have noticed that all of the secondary stats have levelled out somewhat in importance, so even if you get it wrong, you shouldn't make too much of a dent in your DPS (that's not to say you shouldn't try and do it right in the first place).


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Melting faces after 4.0.6

As I've done for Holy, this is a look at the effects of the changes to the mechanics on your friendly Shadow Priest which should hopefully hit the EU servers today. As with my previous post, this is based mainly on the patch notes which MMO Champion have published and a few other sources that I've been reading.

On the face of it, not much has changed, the shadow priest specific changes are a measly two lines, looking at the general changes there are a couple more that affect shadoo and a glyph change, but that's it, so same old same old then yes? No.

Mind Blast now does 18% more damage than mind spike, now this seems to be a cack-handed way of describing what a spell does, basing it on what another spell does, but what does it actually mean. Well not much really, I suspect, for boss fights anyway; I'm yet to see the cold hard stats in the light of day, but I suspect this will still keep MB as a buff for other spells rather than a direct source of DPS. It will however increase your numbers on trash if you're using MS / MB / SW:D combinations because they go down too quickly to warrant a full rotation. Nothing to write home about really.

Mind Sear damage increased by 15% AND (and it's a big AND) you can now target it on a friendly player which is an even bigger DPS boost. Stay with me here… being able to target it on a friendly player is a DPS increase because it gives you one extra target to hit (it doesn't damage the target). Here's why; let's say you average 1000 DPS (for the sake of argument) using Mind Sear alone on a group of 5 mobs (i.e. you're targeting 1, and damaging the other 4) now you target the tank, and damage 5 mobs so 1000/4 = 250 dps per mob = 1250 DPS for 5 mobs which is a 25% increase. An additional 15% on top of that and you're up to 1437.5 DPS. That's a massive 43.75% damage increase (for 5 mobs, it varies depending on the pack size). Searingly HOT.

Shadow Orbs benefit from mastery increased by 16% this is a BIG change, I'm seeing on twitter and the occasional US based blog (who've already got 4.0.6) that this means that mastery is now more important than Haste! Did I not tell you it would be? Yes I did, right here.

Vampiric Embrace now lasts until cancelled. Finally! Do the same to Inner Fire please.

Glyph of Mind Flay no longer requires SW:P to be on the target, flay away boys! Given the mastery increase this may mean that you flay first, get an orb and then DoT up, this sounds dangerous to me, I need to do some nasty maths (or steal someone else's) but I don't have time at the moment. It may also make MF viable as a trash melter as a replacement / augmentation to MS / MB.

And that's it! Well, that's it for the patch notes, there is one more, potentially massive change to the way you'll need to stack stats. I'm hearing on the grapevine that Hit, or more specifically, the Hit Cap is back as of 4.0.6, there's nothing to indicate directly why this is in the patch notes, perhaps as a consequence of the Mastery buff. If this is the case, then there will be a lot of Shadow Priests breathing a sigh of relief, there was no definitive "you must have x% Hit" prior to 4.0.6 which left lots of muppets making totally unsubstantiated statements about it. If there is now a hit cap then it makes things a lot more cut and dry, get 17%, reforge and regem immediately. I won't tell you again. It might even make smelly Spirit more desirable.

I'm still trying to dig out some hard evidence for this, and have run out of time for the moment (some of us have work to do….) but I'll post an update as soon as I have anything.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A look at Holy Healing after 4.0.6

Disclaimer: this is based purely on released patch notes so far and may be subject to change

With 4.0.6 seemingly just around the corner, I've been having a read up on what it'll mean to me in both Shadow and Holy builds. I have to say up front, I'm a big fan of where the priest is at the moment, I can't really speak for Disc, but from both a Holy and a Shadow point of view they're both extremely fun specs to play, whilst not the easiest, definitely great fun. Who wants easy anyway? Easy is for wimps. I'm concentrating on Holy here, if I pull my finger out I'll get a shadoo version written some time tonight / tomorrow morning too

Whilst I'm definitely a fan of Holy healing, that's not to say there can't be improvements made, improvements can always be made… so firstly, why do I think Holy is such fun currently? I think it boils down to two things, firstly Chakra which allows you to 'specialise your mechanics' on the fly to suit the situation; the art of choosing which Chakra state to be in at any given time and predicting which one you'll need next is a fine art. Secondly, the choice and variation of spells, I don't believe there are any other classes which have such a variation of spells; this is daunting at first, especially when combined with Chakra but means that the way one Holy priest goes about healing will almost certainly be completely different to the next. My normal healing style is with Serenity active (direct healing) with a Renew on the Tank (plus up to two others) being renewed by Heal with Greater Heal and Flash Heal used sparingly depending on how hard the panic button is being pushed, with the odd Prayer of Healing to top up the Party. I'll occasionally use Sanctuary, depending on the situation, and obviously Prayer of Mending and Holy Word: Serenity as the situation dictates, I also tend to throw the occasional Power Word: Sheil around as a fire and forget spell to protect people who've been slapped if the tank is taking big damage too. Lightwell tends to be a boss fight only spell for me but is still an important tool.

I'm going to go through the changes I feel are relevant in the patch notes posted on MMO champion here in the order they appear.

Power Word: Shield mana cost increased by 31% with its effectiveness more than doubled, this is a huge change which will change how I use PW:S drastically, because of the mana increase I won't be using it where I don't think there's a good chance of it being needed, the changes to Renew (detailed below) mean I'll probably be using that as the fire and forget spell of choice. The increased effect makes it even more useful as a pre-fight cast to be used just before the pull (have a look at this blog post for more on pre-casting).

Renew mana cost reduced by 24%. There's been a lot of, well, complete arse written recently about Renew not being viable anymore because of the mana cost, the fact is it's use has changed, it may not be viable to use Renew whack-a-mole Wrath style to heal everyone in a 100 mile radius but when combined with Serenity it is pretty much a free heal. The very fact that in some fights you can have 3 or even 4 Renews rolling on continual (free) refresh by throwing out heals on rotation make it exceptionally powerful. The reduction in mana cost won't have much effect on this use, other than extending your mana pool and giving you a bit more of a buffer, it will however make it more viable as a fire and forget heal where you just need to top someone up a little.

Prayer of Healing effectiveness reduced by 15%, you didn't expect it all to be good news did you? What Blizzard giveth with one hand they taketh away with the other… seriously though, if you're healing style is anything like mine, this won't make much difference. Yes there are some fights where you need to top everyone up quickly, and that will be more mana intensive, but under normal circumstances I can't see it affecting me too much.

Chakra now lasts 1 minute Amen! One of my (minor) gripes with Chakra is it runs out too soon, having to re-click it and then (in some certain circumstances) switch from the big or fast heal you're spamming to standard Heal to reactivate it can be fatal. On the flip side, a 1 minute length might be too long for some fights (Forgemaster Throngus anyone?). Whilst you can currently right click the buff to cancel it, it's a 30 second cooldown so it's pointless doing so. Leaving the the cooldown at 30 seconds might be a good idea, but I'll settle for a 1 minute duration, I think.

Binding Heal and Holy Word: Serenity now refresh Renew, more Renew lovin, thanks Blizzard. (Not that I ever use binding heal, and the later will normally be combined with another direct heal shortly after, but nice all the same).

Binding Heal, Flash Heal, and Greater Heal can now trigger Chakra: Serenity this was my only Major gripe with Chakra, when the brown stuff has hit the fan and you're dishing out the big heals, the last thing you want to do is have to drop off to a lesser heal, much more useful and a massive improvement.

Circle of Healing effectiveness has been increased by 30%. I almost never use CoH due to its mana intensity, this, combined with the PoH nerf make it sound almost viable, though I'll reserve judgement till I get to have a play.

Desperate Prayer now heals the priest for 30% of their total health – stop standing in crap and you won't need this anyway. I might bind it to an action key now so I can hit it in a hurry if needed, rather than have it languishing on my secondary bars.

Guardian Spirit: The absorb/heal from this ability can now never exceed 200% of the maximum health of the target. No biggy really, if your tank was taking this much damage chances are you're boned the second the effect lapses anyways…

Holy Concentration now increases the amount of mana regeneration from Spirit while in combat by an additional 15/30%, down from 20/40% even more reson to tear up and burn all of your Spirit gear… err, sorry, still in Shadow Priest mode. Bit of a ball-ache this, but again, nothing to be overly concerned about, Blizzard have already stated they don't want players sat there scratching themselves in inappropriate places for large durations of the fight in order to regen mana. I won't be massively surprised if in combat mana regen is removed completely at some point (Innervate and other 'specials' withstanding).

Surge of Light can now also proc from Flash Heal and Greater Heal, and can now also critically hit. Previously a bit underpowered, nice buff adding longevity to the mana pool again.

Glyph of Spirit of Redemption has been converted into Glyph of Prayer of Mending, which increases the healing done by the first charge of Prayer of Mending by 60%. This I like, an extra 6 seconds floating with wings isn't to be sniffed at, but as you get better, less and less useful (unless you have suicidal tendencies). 60% increase to the healing of the first charge of PoM is awesome, if used correctly (on the tank generally) it means that your total number of heals needed will be reduced, thus extending your mana pool further, who needs mana regen??

And there you have it, all in all some great tweaks to the Holy Priests arsenal, without too much of a reduction. Personally I don't care too much for in combat regen, I know others will bitch and whine about the nerf, but at the end of the day you just need to get on with it. This patch, in my view, is aimed to bring priests back to the fore in healing whether it be in instances, tank or group healing in Raids.


Dungeon Finder Personalities

I've spent a fair bit of time in Dungeon Finder over the past two months, usually with a guildie or two by my side, but sometimes on my own, I've met a number of interesting personalities on the way. One of the drawbacks with the dungeon finder, in my view, is it doesn't seem to group you with people from your server as often as it should which reduces the chance meetings of people who you are likely to get to know better through sticking them on your friends list and playing with them in the future. I've met two people thus far from other realms who I've added under the real id system, the first one a new player which I wrote about here and a recent altoholic who I got chatting to over the course of several instances which I mentioned in a post more recently. I added the priest because she was new to the game and needed some guidance, I'd spent a while talking her through the basics and said I was more than happy to help her again if she had questions, the friendly tank I added under the assumption that we could group together again. It seems on the later assumption I was much mistaken, come on blizzard, sort it out! Anyways, I digress (again? Would you believe it…), I was going to talk about the types of people I've come across.

Now I always try and be, at the very least, polite and tolerant of other players I come across in dungeon finder, peoples personas will change depending on the day they're having, or the way the group is going;I'd like to hope that I give people a fair crack at the whip. As a rule, I always say hi as I join a group, I tend to make the occasional joke, usually aimed at my own inadequacy to lighten the mood, especially if people seem to be getting frustrated at a roadblock, and if I think I've screwed up, I'll always admit it. I won't reach for the vote kick button too readily, with one exception, if a player is abusive to another party member which in my view is over the top, homophobic, racist or otherwise out of line. So these are my categories of the different types I've met so far:

Quietly Competent

Doesn't say much, just gets on with things, usually DPS or Healing types (Tanks tend to need to be a bit more gobby), they'll just get on with doing their job pretty well. The Quietly Competent player might just squeeze a "hi guys" out at the start of the instance, and possibly a "thanks for all the fish" at the end, but that'll be all you get. They normally have pretty decent gear, either from raiding or rep and dungeon drops. I imagine the Quietly Competents have an accomplished social life and a massively social circle in WOW thus don't need to talk too much in the PUGs, then again they never tell me anything, so I just don't know. Several QC's in a PUG usually make for a quick and uneventful run, but they don't mix too well with players who need a bit of guidance.

Talkative Types

Greet everyone with a hearty hello at the start of every instance, they are happy regale you with stories of their last instance, make sure everyone knows what to do on the next boss, or just generally talk about the price of fish. Can sometimes become a little distracted by the conversation and not notice the patrol mob who's just tapped them on the shoulder and is waiting patiently for them to shut up so he can slap them down into a bloody pool. TT's will often go quiet for what seems like seconds, at which point they're either talking in their guild channel, whispering multiple other friends, or dead.

Assertive leader

This guy knows his stuff; he's been around the block and got the t-shirt, twice. He knows everything there is to know about the boss you're about to fight and will make sure you four slackers don't mess it up for him. He'll generally courteous to other players and may join in with the talkative types on the trash, will get frustrated easily at Complete Noobs (see below).

Abusive Idiot

You all know the type, the Abusive Idiot is that guy who uses lots of acronyms, like OMFG, WFT, etc. (not "etc." that's an acronym I'm using to indicate there are more… oh you know what I mean), blames everyone else in the party for everything which has gone wrong in their life and is going to make damn sure you know it's all your fault. The Abusive Idiot, AKA CAPTAIN CAPSLOCK will often try to take the guise of an Assertive Leader, but often not have the first clue what he's talking about, occasionally he will know what he's talking about and just be a prick. He's not afraid to use the leave party button, SO YOU BETTER DO AS HE SAYS, right? Or save him the effort and kick him yourself. The idiot is generally a 15 year old schoolboy who hasn't seen daylight for 10 days and will never experience the pleasures of the opposite sex without first parting with cash, possibly in Amsterdam.

Complete Noob

The complete Noob really shouldn't be here! They're not good enough to be in heroics, and will never be, they're incapable of learning how to play the game and can't understand why they keep being kicked. Complete Noobs shouldn't be mistaken for people who are new to the game and still learning, they are complete basket cases, no hopers, useless. It's possible that your Complete Noob has just parted with their hard earned cash on a popular auction site, the very fact that they've managed to get to level 85 any other way is too scary to contemplate. The Complete Noob is a conspicuous type, generally given away by the fact that they've caused two wipes before you've buffed up, have a spec that looks like your three year old niece chose it for them and wouldn't know what reforging was if it jumped up and bit them on the arse. Noobs will often be quite bitter about the fact that they keep being kicked, and may try to conceal their nubidity (it's a word, I just made it up) by turning into an Abusive Idiot.

Better Than You

The Better Than You is clearly the most gifted player who has ever played WOW, and doesn't he know it. He's played WOW 27 hours a day since the Beta of Vanilla WOW was released, he knows every facet of the game and should clearly be placed on a pedicle by is fellow players. The better than you is at the pinnacle of his prowess and will whisper each member of the party in turn calling them noobs and asking them why they've made such silly choices with their spec, gear choice, enchantments and choice of tabard, despite not having the faintest idea about your class. BTYs have the propensity to quickly turn into and Abusive Idiot and flee the group should anyone dare to step out of line and die.

Happy to Help

Happy to helps are the type that will check you know what you're doing if you seem to be struggling, are generally laid back and unassuming, and are generally a bit more tolerant than most. They are the type who are competent with their class, and remember what it was like to be learning the ropes so are more than happy to offer their advice. This can lead to the Better Than You types getting quite irritated, "how dare you tell me what to do? I'm INVINCIBLE!!!11". HtHs will often offer advice to the party, or where there are Quick Learners in the party take it to whisper and even offer more general advice for classes they know in detail.

Quick Learner

The quick learner is a recent dinger at 85, has gone to the effort of getting some decent pre-heroic gear but doesn't quite know every fight but is prepared to ask. They might take a little more time through the instances than experienced players, but you'll know that they're a good player just waiting to turn into a butterfly. QLs are extremely thankful of a Happy to Help, and are particularly despised by the Abusive Idiots and Better Than You's of the world. They will one day become a Happy to Help or Assertive Leader themselves.

Mr Impatient & Short on Time's

Mr Impatient insists everything be done at the speed of light, he's living in the AOE filled past and doesn't agree with crowd control. He'll often spam "GO", "why are we waiting" and various other gems in party chat. He's not averse to ninja pulling just to help the tank along if things are going too slowly for his liking. Mr Inpatient's good friend, Short on Time is in the instance to do his daily, or get specific loot, he really hasn't got time to finish the instance for whatever reason (usually his mum won't let him play past 8.30) so will try and hurry the party along and is not afraid of logging out without a word of warning should the loot he want drops or he's had enough. Neither of these two characters get on with Quick Learners, Happy to Helps or Complete Noob's and will often imitate and Assertive Leader in order to get things done but invariably revert to becoming an Abusive Idiot.

Sneaky Cheat

The Sneaky Cheat is too good for the ilvl restrictions and has conned the Dungeon Finder by sticking as many rep reward items in his inventory as he can come across, even though he's a warlock and can't wear plate. He's donned in greens primarily, with the occasional blue if you're lucky. The SC has several other characters at 85 and can't be arsed grinding gear for this one, don't let his experience of other characters fool you, he's no more likely to know the strategy for the current boss as you neighbours pet dog.

Clique Group

Whilst not technically a person, the Clique Group is worthy of a mention. You've all been there, you join a PUG and three or four of the other players are from the same server and usually the same guild. The CG don't have enough friends to make a full group, so they've scraped the barrel that comes in the shape of Dungeon Finder and come out with you and your sorry excuse for an existence. They tend to be less forgiving than most groups, will whisper nasty things about you behind your back, and carry on talking on first name terms in party chat with each other as if you weren't there. It's important to note that not all groups of this make up are clique, just some of them, and it's impossible to tell before it's too late, grit your teeth, get on with it and get out as soon as possible.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Quick Foray into the Conclave of Four Winds

I know I know, I'm casual, I don't have time to raid… I've said it before and what did I go and do?....

Sunday evening is one of the nights my guild raids, normally I have family commitments on a Sunday evening so am not about until after they've started, this particular Sunday however I was at a loose end and when the GM started putting the raid together I whispered my normal "here if you're desperate" now I normally do this if I know I'm going to be about, as I know from experience how frustrating it is to be sat in a raid group waiting to fill the final one or two slots, fully expecting not to be needed. To my amazement they were obviously REALLY desperate and asked me to come fill the final slot. I did make sure they understood that I had no clue what I was doing, only having had a cursory scan over the raid guides and had done absolutely nil preparation.

So I logged onto Vent and off I popped to the Conclave of Four Winds. "After a quick conversation of this is what I think I need to do, is that right?" I was assured that all I needed to do was kill things and follow the group I'd been positioned with, this left me feeling a little uneasy as it didn't really give me a feeling of what to expect. Anyway we began, and the first thing which struck me was how straight forward it was, verging on easy. A little bit of crap on the floor, nothing too difficult on the adds front, just melt the boss then skip across to the next platform and repeat. I can see this fight being a bit of a pain for a PUG or any other group without voice communications, but with everyone on Vent it was pretty straight forward.

For those not familiar with the fight there are three bosses, Anshal, Nezir and Rohash, each of them on its own platform, having a special 'ultimate' ability which activate together when their energy bars hit 90. The twist being that all three of the boss' need to die within 1 minute of each other or they'll reset to 100% health. The trick to the raid is to have as many people as possible on Nezir's platform for the ultimate ability, he splits his ability evenly between all the people on the platform so the more people there the less deadly it is. He's stacks a nasty frost debuff so if you go to early you die, if you go too late other die. That's pretty much it, it strikes me that the Healers and Tanks have to communicate well, but there are far harder heroic bosses.

We wiped the first time, I think one of the tanks died, but the second time was straight forward, a bit of thinking on the fly by the raid leader to get more DPS onto Rohash, to kill him off at the same time as others, all in all not a bad way to spend 30 minutes of a Sunday evening, I'm sure it was so straightforward due to the competence of the other 24 people in the raid. I can happily say I didn't die, or do anything too stupid which took healers mana, though I did miss the first bridge to Nezir's platform. All a bit of a blur, and I can't say I fully got to grips with what was going on till after the raid and I got time to read up on what I'd just done and understand it, instructions on Vent saw me through safely and on the grounds I did reasonable dps (for me) and didn't die stupidly it was objective achieved.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Alternate Raiding Guide

A slight adaptation of a tongue in cheek guide to getting a raid invite which I wrote in conjunction with a few officers a few years ago for our guild website back in Vanilla WOW

What to do if you don't get an invite straight away

Go crazy and moan in the guild channel. CAPITALS ARE YOUR FRIEND they get you noticed quicker, whilst you're at it Google 'raid target icons' and add at least three at he beginning and the end of everything you say, no one else in your guild have ever thought of this and will instantly adore you for your ingenuity.

If your name appears in the guild channel often enough no one will forget your name, so you will be placed top of the waiting list. Remember, he who moans most gets his own way. People won't mess with you either so it's well worth doing anyway. Try it you'll feel great! Ensure your bitches/moans are circular so you don't get some twat giving you a definitive answer.

Better still (pro tip) bitch in the general channel, a sure fire way to gain influence, friends and popularity.

When you spam the '1 (general) channel' they will find it difficult to read raid instructions and as a result will probably die (haha). You can then blame it on them not having your UBER skills available to kill the boss. Genius! Also, lots of other people can see this too, so your notoriety will escalate along with your guild. Wait for the flood of invites from other/better guilds.

When you get an invite

Leave you character as far away from the instance as possible, make sure you're questing / herb gathering / clearing your nasal cavity in the trade channel in Org with all the other UBER players, that you're also in a party; this will make sure that the raid leader understands how in demand you are and that he was mistaken to bench you in the first place.

The most important thing I to ,ake all the other bastards wait for YOU! You are far more important than them. Ensure they know who it is they are waiting for – plebs. Tell them it's their fault for not inviting you at the beginning – that'll teach em.

When you are in the raid instance

Whisper the 'Raid Organisers' AT LEAST every 10 seconds – just to remind him how good you are, and anyway, what else will he have to keep him occupied if you don't speak to him?

This ensures they won't forget you and anyway they are lonely, sad virgins and need a chat. Say boobs a lot and swear, it titillates them.

Try and influence the allocation of DKP and don't read the website guidance on how DKP is allocated.

Always try your best to mess up the opposition (other players of your class). When they get disconnected, spam the raid channel that they have left early. Fools! Also, ask how much DKP you have every minute or so, as the Raid Organisers may give you a few more points just to keep you happy. If your DKP is the highest – shove it in everyone's face – ha! If it's lower – see bitching (top).

Spam the emotes

Spam raid target icons

Don't let them forget your there!

When you win an Epic Item

Spam your Epics to other Guildies especially those of the same class.

Others will admire you immensely for doing this. Privately they will think you are far superior to them and will come to the conclusion that you should be treated with the utmost respect and in future raids are bound to insist to the raid leader that you are taken over them.