Friday, April 29, 2011

Seven Bosses

Seven bosses. That is all Tier 12 raiding will consist of.

To be honest I'm a bit shocked, and judging from the forums there are a lot of people who share my surprise. Almost every tier of raiding has included ten or more bosses, and seemed to want to follow that trend judging from the comments they made prior to cataclysm about smaller but more numerous raid instances.

While I am surprised by the change of direction, I am not really disappointed. At this point, I'm not happy either, but it has potential. The question is can Blizzard pull it off. With this post I would like to talk about some of the issues and give my opinion on why this could be great and what pitfalls blizzard has to avoid.

The Reasons:

Bashiok has made several posts on the forums trying to explain the new direction and answer some questions. In the end he gave two reasons for the change.

  • "We're concentrating our efforts into a smaller number of fights so that each fight is bigger and better,"(src)

  • "I mean that's a tough situation because our feeling is simply that people shouldn't be forced to play the game more than a couple nights a week to keep up on progression."(src)

The Positive:

If I'm giving Blizzard the benefit of the doubt, I like both of those reasons.

I've played this game for a very long time. I still enjoy it, but I have to admit that I don't have the same level of interest I did three or four years ago. I still want to progress and see all of the content, but I can't spend 5 or more nights a week doing it. Even if I could I don't think I would want to. I like spending time with my family, watching movies, and reading books. Ultimately I would love to have a schedule like the elite guilds that raid a lot at the start of new content, but scale back to just one or two nights a week once they get everything on farm. With just seven bosses, that type of schedule might be possible for me in the near future.

Another impact of playing this game for as many years as I have is that some of the fights become a little repetitive. How many dragons have I killed with breath's and tail whips? How many puddles have I seen that I'm not supposed to stand it? While there are several new and unique mechanics in Cataclysm raiding, I don't think any of the fights are ground breakingly original. If cutting the number of raids by 5 or 5 allows Blizzard to focus it's attention on what's left and create something true new and unique I am more then willing to make that trade.

The Doubt - Defining Quality:

I would definitely prefer Quality over Quantity, but Quality is a very subjective term. Judging from some of the other comments made by Bashiok, I'm not sure we agree on what quality is, or at least what type of quality is most important. For example, take this quote:
We're also spending a lot of time making the Firelands bosses as awesome as possible - - creating unique models, animations, effects, sounds, etc. etc. Previously a lot of bosses were larger versions of existing models
I realize this is not an exhaustive list but it worries me that all of the attributes he talked about were superficial. Don't get me wrong I like looking at pretty pictures from time to time, but they get old quickly. Never once have I heard anyone say, "You know what? The Lich King looks awesome. Let's go clear ICC tonight." Pretty pictures are nice, but they don't draw people to the content over and over again. That responsibility is left to the Encounter Designers.

The good news is that the Encounter Designers and Graphic Artists are two different groups (I think). So if the artists have more time to work on the Graphics, then the Encounter Designers should have more time to work on the encounters. Everyone wins right?

I hope so, but I have my doubts. In my opinion Blizzard hasn't had a really innovative encounter in this tier of content. Some of you may disagree and point to the Sound meter on Atramedes or the Corruption meter on Cho'gall, but there really not that innovative. They are basically "Don't Fail" meters. If you figure out the mechanics and don't stand in the fire then they are a non-issue.

My worry is that this increased "Quality" Blizzard is trying to sell to us is just the same old fights with new graphics. If that's the case then in my opinion we are trading a lot of quantity for not that much Quality.

The Doubt - A ToC Example:

For the record, Trial of the Crusader is in my opinion the worst raid instance Blizzard has ever designed. The normal modes were way too easy. My guild one shot most of them and pugs were fairly successful fairly soon after its release. The hard modes on the other had were significantly harder, and may have been a little to hard. This created a huge gap in progression. On top of that, the hard modes were almost identical to the normal modes. In most cases the only difference was the boss hit harder and had more hit points.

In my experience this is a fairly common opinion, and some players are trying to draw a correlation between ToC and the Firelands since both have relatively few bosses. To be honest I think that is a ridiculous effort. The fact that ToC was bad doesn't have any direct impact on Firelands other then to provide an example of what not to do, but that doesn't mean ToC is irrelevant either.

First, of all it shows that Blizzard is capable of laying an egg. They can say that Firelands is going to be "EPIC" and "AWESOME" all they want, but that doesn't make it true. They have to do the work, and ToC shows that they aren't always successful.

The second lesson from ToC is that a small raid instance doesn't necessarily mean a short raid week. The heroic version of ToC was hard. My guild at the time could clear normal ToC very quickly but we would spend months working on the Heroic mode. We didn't clear it after a couple months and have short raids until ICC was released. We worked our butt off right up until ICC was released.

This leads to another possibility. If Blizzard feels the pressure to make these fights last then they may be significantly harder then what we are used to. In the end that means more wipes, fewer kills, and the same amount of time spent raiding as we would have if there were 12 bosses instead of 7.

Hoping for a Real Difference:

What I hope this change will lead to is a real difference between normal modes and hard modes. Early on in the hard mode experiment the hard modes were quite a bit different then normal modes. For Example the Iron Council was a completely different fight depending on how you did it. Bosses like Freya gained a lot of new abilities as you tried the harder modes. Not all of the early hard modes were a hit, but on average they showed a lot more imagination then the hard modes that have been released since Ulduar.

Maybe there is some change on the horizon. In an interview with Cory Stockton said "The raid culminates in a fight against Ragnaros. That fight specifically is pretty hardcore. The heroic version of the fight is actually completely different from the normal version. We really wanted to go all out on that and make sure Ragnaros had a really awesome cool unique feel." (src)

Hopefully this attitude goes beyond just he final boss in the instance. If having fewer bosses means that Blizzard can get farther away from the "hits harder and has more HP" model of Hard modes that they've been favoring this could be a real success.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Patch 4.1 Review

Patch 4.1 has been on the PTR quite a long time and all indication point to it being released tomorrow. A lot of the various news sites are posting broad reviews of the changes and additions, but I thought you guys might prefer a more focused Moonkin point of view along with my thoughts on some of the more general topics I've seen discussed.

Moonkin DPS Nerfs:
  • Starsurge damage has been reduced by 20%.
  • Dark Intent: The friendly target of this ability now receives 1% (stacking 3 times to 3%) periodic spell damage and healing bonus instead of 3% (stacking 3 times to 9%). The casting Warlock still receives 3% (stacking 3 times to 9%).

The Starsurge nerf caught me a little by surprise when it was first released, but that was because I don't PvP. A lot of people pointed out right a way that this was primarily a PvP Burst nerf. While this change is about a 3% nerf to our overall DPS, I fully expected Blizzard to make up for this nerf somewhere else. Moonkin are doing quite well on DPS, but with the exception of a couple of fights we are not blowing other classes out of the water. As a result I don't see the need or an argument for a general nerf. However, my assumptions were wrong.
  • Starlight Wrath now Reduces the cast time of your Wrath and Starfire spells by 0.15/0.25 sec, up from 0.1/0.2 sec.
  • Sunfire base damage has been increased by 50%, from 372 to 558.

The two datamined changes above did give us some hope at first, but a closer look showed that they were just tooltip corrections rather then ability buffs.

On top of these changes the Warlock ability Dark Intent is getting nerfed for the target of the buff. This isn't as big of a deal as the Starsurge nerf, since not all of us got Dark Intent, and it isn't resulting in a 3% nerf on most fights even if we did, but it's fair to say that moonkin got smacked around a little in this patch for the first time in a very long time.

All that said there isn't any point to despair and rage-quit if these changes upset you. Our DPS will be smaller then it was before, but it is still very good. It's also important to remember that Blizzard has been much more prompt about making adjustments after a patch recently. The fact that they didn't make a change in the patch could be an indication that they want to see how it will play out on the live server before they make changes. Blizzard could easily buff Moonfury, if moonkin DPS is below where Blizzard thinks it should be after the patch.

Troll 5mans - Recycled Content?

With patch 4.1 the old troll raid instances Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurb are being re-released as super-heroic 5man instances. With this comes the inevitable flood of complaints about how lazy Blizzard is because they are recycling old content. I don't think I've commented on this argument yet, and I want to take a few minutes to try and put some perspective on the argument.

I personally haven't had a big problem with the content they've recycled so far, and I think a lot of the angry players are overlooking what has been recycled and how it was recycled. Let's take a quick look at the history of the recycled content.

  • Kael'thas - This is the first example that I can think of and it set off all of the "setback" jokes. In case you didn't know a "dead" Kael'thas was taken from Tempest Keep and added to Magisters' Terrace. Kael had very similar abilities in the two different versions which makes the change seem lazy to hardcore raiders, but there is different perspective as well. First, the quest event that happens after you "kill" Kael'thas it's clear that he's not dead and still interested in doing bad things. Second, he was one of the hardest bossed in TBC. Very few guilds had killed him and even fewer farmed him since you could move on to Hyjal and Black Temple once you got him down. Therefore, most players weren't tired of him because few had even seen him.

  • Naxxramas - This probably where Blizzard did the worst job of recycling content. I didn't run Naxx in Vanilla but from what I understand they didn't change the instance much other then to adjust the HP and strength of the boss mechanics. I do think Blizzard did a poor job of balancing this instance, but that doesn't mean it was a bad choice to recycle it. Very few players from vanilla WoW got to see this instance, and it fit very well into the theme of WotLK. I can understand why the hard core raiders from vanilla might be upset, but they represent a small fraction of the player base. There are many other players that were excited to see the content.

  • Five-Man Bosses - In WotLK, Blizzard took several 5man bosses and turned them into raid bosses for ToC and ICC. The complaints about these fights are particularly strange to me. First of all, the entire expansion was focused on the Lich King. It's kind his MO to raise dead allies and enemies, make them stronger, and have them fight for him. He was doing that before the original WoW was even released. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that Blizzard had him raise some of the 5man bosses and turned them into raid bosses. On top of that, the 5man fights were very different from the raid fights they became. In my opinion this is a clear example that some players just wanted to complain regardless of the reason.

  • Onyxia - From what I understand the Onyxia fight was virtually unchanged from Vanilla WoW to when it was re-released in WotLK. If it was a progression target then I would have been pissed at Blizzard's laziness as well, but it was made pretty clear that she wasn't a progression target. He was re-released as a part of WoW's anniversary, and was completely simple. The progression target was clearly still ToC, and no one spent a lot of time on Onyxia. Again, this one feels like some people just wanted to complain.

  • Cata 5mans - Yes, Blizzard re-released Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep as heroic instances, but they also completely revamped the fights. The only thing these two instances have in common with the older versions is the map. Not to mention that these were great instances that I am glad to be able to run again.

  • Cata Raid Bosses - Since I didn't play Vanilla WoW I didn't kill Nefarian or Ragnaros. I don't know how similar these fights are to their original versions, but I haven't heard of any obvious similarities either. Once again, new fights are new fights no matter the name of the Boss.

I haven't been on the PTR to run the new instances. I don't know how they compare to the original versions, but I'm looking forward to trying them out. ZA was a great raid and it should be fun to get back there and do it again. I never got to do ZG at level 60 so it should be more fun for me as a level 85 dungeon. If they rework them as they did Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep, I don't see how anyone will be disappointed.

Other Changes:

  • Gear List Update - With the new five mans comes new gear. I've updated the gear list to reflect these additions. I made some other changes by deleting the blue gear and updating the stat rating.

  • Weekly VP for Randoms - Love this change. I typically don't have a lot of time to run randoms during the week. I love the flexibility this provides.

  • New Archy Rewards - I'm a little surprised by the amount of attention I've put into Archaeology. None of the new rewards are of any interest to Moonkin, but I'm glad to have a few more projects to get while trying to farm some specific items.

  • Bind on Account - Since I have changed guilds servers several times lately it's great that we will now be able to send BoA items across servers. I hate that I have toons on my original server that I can't send BoA gear to because I don't have a guild on that server anymore. This is a bit quality of life improvement in my opinion. Apparently I'm confused. A couple of commentors have corrected me to say that the BoAs still will not be transferable across server, which sucks.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Second Look at Call to Arms

As I said in my last post when I first read about the Call to Arms incentive I loved it. My educational background is in Economics and Business so this solution makes a lot of sense to me. In business if you need a particular type of employee and there is a shortage of them you raise the salary offered to attract one. Therefore it makes sense to me that Blizzard would offer additional rewards to players willing to fill a role that is in short supply. This is basic economics.

This is so obvious to me that I am a bit surprised when others weren't as supportive as I am. Gevlon made a quick comment on my last post basically saying that the rude behavior of other players would still keep new tanks. However, I want to address the posts made by Allison Robert at WoW Insider.

Allison's Posts:

In Allison’s first post, she argues that the current DPS queue issues are a result of design philosopies from TBC and WotLK clashing in Cataclysm.
In TBC heroic dungeons were hard through out the expansion. They required large trash pulls with crowd control. Groups were hard to find unless you built a network of competent players.

In WotLK, heroics became simple due to several factors. They started out a bit easier then they were in TBC due to simpler design, gear inflation, and general tank and DPS buffs. When, the LFD tool was released half way through the expansion it players overgeared the content dramatically. As a result, player mistakes were hidden. Groups were so easy to find, and mistakes so weakly punished that players no longer had a need to build a network.

In Cataclysm, these two systems converged to create the current issue in Allison's opinion. Harder instances mean that more organization is needed to complete them successfully and that player mistakes are punished more severely. This has caused tanks to leave the LFD tool in mass resulting in 45 minute queue times for DPS trying to use the tool.

In her second post, Allison breaks down the different types of tanks and talks about who would be attracted by the Call to Arms. She divided the tanks into five groups: “Raid Professionals,” “Professionals,” “Apprentice,” “Mercenaries,” and “Opportunist.”

The “Professionals” are experienced tanks who tank as their primary function when instancing. “Apprentices” are players who treat tanking as their primary role, but are somewhat inexperienced with the role. “Mercenaries” are mains that tank as an off spec and have a wide range of ability at tanking. “Opportunists” are tanks that are not interested in the role but give it a try for the potential rewards.

Allison then goes on to argue that the Satchel of Exotic Mysteries is unlikely to attract the “professional” tanks because the rewards aren’t significant enough and it would require them to ignore their friends. Therefore the Call to Arms is more likely to attract new tanks rather then get the existing tanks to queue more frequently.

I don’t think Allison and I disagree as much as I thought I did at first. She out lines the situation pretty well actually, but I do have a couple of problems with her arguments.

Yes, There is a Tanking Shortage:

Probably the most outrageous comment I saw in Allison’s post was in her second post when she quoted “There isn't a shortage of tanks. There is a shortage of tanks willing to tank PuGs.” This is an absolutely absurd comment and anyone who believes it is an idiot.

Edit: Since the entire post is about the Call to Arms, I thought it was clear that I was talking about 5mans, NOT RAIDS. Judging from the comments some people aren't getting that.

Maybe I misinterpreted Allison's quote and when what she really meant was "There isn't a shortage of (raid) tanks. There is a shortage of tanks willing to tank (5-man) PuGs." That may be the case. I haven't looked into the raid tanking situation because it's irrelevant to this post. However, even if there is an abundance of raid tanks out there that doesn't mean there are an abundance of tanks out there willing to tank 5mans.

A lot of prima donna tanks like to argue that the shortage is due to tanks leaving the queue because some DPS are asshats and do stupid things that make their job harder. Tanking is a high pressure position and I know that there are people out there that make life more difficult then it needs to be, but in my experience they are the exception rather then the rule. I’ve done a lot of random groups in all three roles, and I’ve rarely seen someone so bad that they need to be kicked. The real reason tanks don’t pug is because they don’t have to. They can easily fill a group from their guild when ever they want. At worse they have to fill a couple of spots from the LFD tool. If there wasn’t a tank shortage this wouldn’t be possible.

Also, if the shortage was only related to pugs, then it shouldn’t be hard for a DPS to find a tank when they are not pugging. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. As a DPSer, I won’t always find a tank quickly when query the guild or my friends looking for a tank.

So yes, there is a tank shortage and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. However, it is important to note that the shortage is exaggerated at the moment due to where we are in the expansion cycle. Main tanks have little reason to run 5mans because most of them don’t need the Valor Points or gear any more, because the expansion is 4 months old. Alt tanks also rare because alts are still being leveled up, content is still pretty hard, and there isn’t an abundance of easy gear to be gained because we are still early in the expansion.

Reputations are still Present:

The big theme of Allison’s first post was “Cataclysm returned players to the difficulty of The Burning Crusade instancing model without the benefits that tanks gained from building a reputation as a competent player.” This is completely incorrect. Reputations and social networks are still used to create a majority of the dungeon groups that form. It’s just done a little differently then it was before.

The base of these reputations and social networks has always been the guild. Even in TBC players would ask the guild first if they wanted to do a five man. If a tank was available these groups would fill quickly. If there was a shortage of DPS it was easily filled by making a post in Trade chat. This is almost exactly what still happens today. The only difference is that the premade groups now use LFD instead of Trade chat to fill open spots.

The unknown players that were found through Trade chat in TBC are no different then the unknown players that are currently found with the LFD. They were just as likely to suck in TBC as they are now. The only real difference is that you can’t filter out know asshats, but that isn’t a big problem either. While the vote kick feature is a little clumsy it’s not ineffective. On top of that, there is nothing stopping a tank from trying to form a group in Trade chat Cataclysm. If you want to build a stable of competent DPS from your own server, you still can.

The reality is that the Reputations and networks we formed in TBC haven’t gone any where. They’ve just gotten smaller, because people choose not to form them since the LFD tool is easier to use.

A Change in Perception:

What’s really changed from TBC to WotLK to Cataclysm is our perception of the issue. In TBC, 5-mans were much more important of gearing up a toon. For most of the expansion Heroics were the only source of Badges that were needed to by epic gear for raiders. As a DPSer in TBC it could easily take more then an hour to find a group.

That all changed when WotLK was released. In WotLK, 5-mans were completely unimportant. The gear rewards were fairly weak when compared to the leveling gear and even the level 70 raid gear players picked up in TBC. On top of that the early raids weren’t that difficult so players could easily skip the heroic and still progress. The lack of demand meant that no one really cared how hard it was to form a group.

When the LFD tool was introduced, it came with a reason for all players to do five mans. Badges were now needed to gain tier gear and if you wanted to get your tier as quickly as possible you had to do 5mans. However, many of the players overgeared the content dramatically. As a result new tanks could enter system with little risk. Most of the time overgeared DPS would hide the issues and they would gain gear quickly. As a result the queue times for DPS were relatively low. This is the heart of our current queue problem.

When Cataclysm was released, DPS players are used to 10-15 minute queue times. As a result, 40-45 minute queue times feel huge even though they are significantly less then the time it took to form a group in TBC. The problem we have right now really boils down to unrealistic expectations.

An Incentive to Ignore your Friends?

Another common criticism I’ve heard of the Call to Arms is that’s just an incentive for tanks to ignore their friends. I have a problem with this notion. To me this just sounds like sour grapes from DPS that might lose their pocket tanks. The more appropriate way to think about it is that Blizzard is rewarding players for performing a service needed by the community.

Think about it from a real world perspective. Let’s say a group of friends work in the same company, but friend X has a skill that is in higher demand then the skills of the other friends. If another company comes and offers friend X more money to change companies are they incenting friend X to ignore his friends? No, they are being given an opportunity to provide as service that is in greater demand for greater reward. I think most people would prefer to work with friends if possible, and some times that is worth a pay cut, but I doubt most people would criticize friend X for taking the job with more money.

Will Call to Arms the Desired Impact?

As you know my first reaction was a definite yes, but the more I think about it I’m not so sure, for two reasons.

First, the LFD queue times are going to get better until the next expansion with or without the Call to Arms. As time goes on a couple of things are going to happen. People are going to level more and more alts, and supply more tanks. Yes, there will be more DPS alts as well, but tank alts will be more prevalent because of the better queue times. Another thing that will help, is that better gear will be easier to obtain helping to mask the mistakes of new tanks, which means more people will be willing to give tanking a try. Since these things are going to happen with or without Call to Arms, it’s impossible to tell what kind of impact Call to Arms is going to have.

Second, tanks aren’t the only players avoiding the LFG tool. There are lot of players that don’t use the LFG tool because the queue times are two long. If Call to Arms works and increases the number of tanks entering the queue, this will reduce the queue time for DPS. However, it will also mean that more DPS will enter the queue because of the better queue times and push those queue times back up. They won’t back up to the original level, but it will take a ton of new tanks to significantly change the queue times.

Call to Arms Needs Significant Rewards

After writing all of this I can’t help but agree with Allison’s conclusion. “Call to Arms, at least in its present form, doesn't convince existing tanks to pug as much as it attempts to add tanks to the population.” I don’t see how flasks, pets, and mounts are going to convince tanks to solo queue for a random. Big Bear Butt suggests that Blizzard should offer the very rare pets only obtainable from buy collectors editions and the card game, but he admits that would only work until he obtained the pets he wanted. So the question, is what is significant enough to get tanks to frequently solo queue for in LFG?

My suggestion is gold. The good news is Blizzard has already said that gold will be in the Satchel of Exotic Mysteries. The bad news is if history is any indication I would be surprised if it had more then 50 gold, and I doubt that is enough to attract tanks to the LFG.

The truth is gold/money can be a powerful motivator if enough is offered as a reward. Gevlon has been offering large sums for Guild Achievements and as a result guild is ranked 124th in the world in terms of guild achievements, but for gold to work you have to offer more gold then can be gained by easier methods. You can easily earn several hundred gold per hour by doing daily quests, gathering herbs or leveling a high level alt. Therefore, the solo queuing for a random needs to provide several hundred gold as well for experienced tanks to look at it as a gold making opportunity. If this is done, then I think Call to Arms might have an impact.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rumination on Gear and other Things

With Blizzard's recent blog post and Q&A on gear I've started to think about the role of gear in this game once again. In my four years of playing the game I've had several thoughts on the importance of gear. When I first started raiding gear was very important to me, but over time I've started to think that gear is over valued and in some cases almost irrelevant.

The Role of Gear in DPS:

Let me ask you this. How many times have you looked at a tier set and thought it was poorly itemized? How many times have you wished it had more of stat X and less of stat Y? I think those types of reactions are common and normal, but I've come to realize that they are useless when looked at from a different perspective. There are really two distinct perspectives that have different goals.

For the player, making gear choices is all about maximizing DPS. How individual pieces of gear are itemized is very important in that context for comparing the options. The itemization determines which piece of gear is better, but as players we are making those choices with in a set framework. Those choices are distinct and very limited.

Blizzard on the other hand is making choices to balance DPS. Their options are almost unlimited. How gear is itemized is just one component of the framework they create. As a result they are not looking to perfect the itemization, they are looking to balance it against other components of the framework.

In short, Blizzard determines the DPS potential of each class, and gear is one of the ways we try and reach that potential as players. This is one of the ways we as players can show our skill. We can show that we know how to pick the best gear even if it isn't itemized with the best stats. As long as the Moonkin DPS potential is similar to that of other DPS specs it doesn't matter if we take gear loaded with Crit or loaded with Haste to get there. We as players just have to know what is the best available option and choose it.

Is Gear Fun?

At the end of the Dev Watercooler post Ghostcrawler asked "Would more universal gear be more fun or less fun?" I want to broaden the question a little bit and ask something simpler. Is gear fun?

In some cases the answer is obviously yes. I've never had a legendary item, but I have a hard time believing that they wouldn't be fun at least at first. There are also some items like Nibelung and Deathbringer's Will that have some built in flavor that I know some people think is fun. These are definitely examples of where gear is or could be fun, but I believe this type of fun to be fleeting. Legendary's are eventually made obsolete, and then are only brought out to brag or for the occasional kill screenshot and flavor items eventually lose their novelty.

So, lets take a look at normal gear. A year and a half ago, I wrote a post on why I thought Hit Rating was a sexy stat. In that post I argued for the choice that the Hit Cap created. I like evaluating the options and making a choice. As I said before, the choices we make are one of the things that can separate the good players from the bad players, but I'm not a big fan of the choices currently being offered by Blizzard.
In some cases our choices are very limited like in the case of Bracers and Boots. For other slots we are overflowing with choices like in the Ring and Trinket slots. On top of that we have reforging which makes the choices we do have even more complicated, and the random loot from Throne of the Four Winds is very frustrating in my opinion. I think the gear decision can be fun, but I find Blizzard's current model to not be a lot of fun because it's imbalanced and overwhelming at times.

Can gear be fun enough to support the game?

As I said above, I think gear can be fun, but I don't think gear can be fun enough to drive the game. Personally, when I look back on my past as a raider, I never think about the night that I got a nice new piece of gear. I think back to the first kills and the achievements we gained.

Ultimately gear is a means to an end. Gear may be fun to some extent, but its real value is that it helps us achieve the things that are really the core of this game's fun. No one who has raided for an extended period of time raids for gear alone. The people who do raid for gear alone get bored or flame out because some gear choice didn't go their way. So, while I believe gear has the potential to provide some fun in this game, I think it’s fleeting. The real fun of this game comes from other sources like the encounters that are provided and the interaction we have with other players.

The Gear Conclusion:

So, to circle back to Ghostcrawler's questions, would more universal gear be more fun? My answer to that question is yes, if you can maintain a health level of choice. The problem with moonkin gearing at the point is that Blizzard has made only a halfway conversion to universal stats. As moonkin we are interested in both Spirit items and Hit items and that overly complicates the choice. It also puts us in a bit of a tug of war between the Cloth DPS and the healers. The Clothies say "don't take our Hit items because you can use Spirit," and the healers say "don't take our Spirit items because you can use Hit."

I think competition for gear as a consideration is a little irrelevant as well. Yes, it sucks when 8 people want the same item, but in the long run it doesn't matter. In most cases we will be killing these bosses for weeks if not months or we moving on to content with better gear. Eventually you will get all the gear you want or better in the long run. More specialized gear on the other hand means more sharding which is never good for the guild.

There were a couple of other things that popped up over the past week that I wanted to talk about quickly.

Call to Arms

I have to say I love this idea. I've heard a couple of people discounting it as "lets give free loot to tanks" or that it's just going to cause an influx of bad tanks like this joke from the Daily Blink. I find these predictions to be a bit pessimistic and callous.

The problem with the current system is that there are two many ways to manage the system. Guilded tanks usually ask in guild if anyone wants a run before entering the queue to help guildies and to work with known players. Some tanks will also sell their time and instant queue in trade chat for extra gain. This means that when a DPSer enters the queue, he has a lot of people jumping ahead of him in line because the tanks rarely enter the queue alone. Giving tanks a reason to queue alone should cause the line to move faster for those people who don't queue with a tank.

And yes, the Call to Arms will attract a lot of new and bad tanks. It may be painful in the short run but it will be good in the long run. Some of the new tanks will learn to be effective tanks. Not only will this shorten queue times, but it will also make raiding easier since raider leaders should have more tanking and possibly healing options when roster options are low.


I'm sure some of you saw this change in the MMO-Champion data mining:
Sunfire base damage has been increased by 50%, from 372 to 558.
I don't like to comment to heavily on data mined info since it rarely gives a completely accurate view of what the real change is. However, like most of you I have been waiting on some sort of buff to make up for the nerf to Starsurge.

I find this change to be a bit strange. If we assume that this is a real change, and that the spell coefficient is similarly increased by 50%, then this is a decent buff. I looked at a couple of logs with single targets and Sunfire made for about 6% to 7% of the damage in most of the cases. A 50% increase should make up for the 3% to 3.5% DPS we are losing from the Starsurge nerf. When you consider multi-DoT fights like the twin dragons then it should be even more.

That said I don't like the fact that it makes Sunfire better then an Eclipsed Moonfire. If Sunfire is better then Moonfire it will obviously have some rotation impacts. It will renew questions of when should we renew our DoTs and should we refresh them early during Solar Eclipse. I would prefer if both Moonfire and Sunfire were buffed the same way or that Blizzard would do a more global buff like increasing Moonfury.