When I started in Warlords of Draenor, the first toon I leveled was my mage Romy, who has professions of Tailoring and Enchanting.

Right off I noticed that Blizzard seemed to have done the bare minimum with those professions. Let’s have a look at Tailoring. It’s true that you can make some nice gear that can remain viable in endgame content via upgrades, but the problem is that’s pretty much all you can make.

It used to be that you’d start off with being able to make some items that were decent upgrades, provided your toon wasn’t already decked out in gear from heroic raids. Then there’d be a few more items you could make along the way, and finally several pieces equivalent to entry-level endgame raid drops. Most of that would be bind on pickup gear you could only make for yourself. To make sellable bind on equip gear, you needed patterns which were fairly rare raid drops. Along the way you’d also have a chance to make some decent PvP gear.

With WoD, Blizzard has basically said “screw all that, just make a basic set of decent gear they can use right away at level 91.”

Gathering Professions

If you’re a miner or herbalist, by the time you reach level 100, you may as well drop them for something else. The mine and garden you get with your garrison will keep you adequately supplied for anything you might want to make, since there is a bottleneck imposed by how often you can transform crafting materials.

I’m not entirely sure how skinners are impacted by the garrison. Leatherworkers can get materials via the barn or their profession shack. I am leveling my skinner/leatherworker now so I guess I’ll find out soon.

July 22nd, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

This past week or so has been pretty exciting for Alfred, my paladin. It’s essentially been his coming of age as a tank.

First was a Firelands run to kill trash mobs for Avengers of Hyjal reputation.  I was doing daily quests on Alfred when the guild leader starts organizing the night’s raid.  He’s asking if there are any tanks available, because they only had 1 tank for the raid so far.  I whispered him and said that I wasn’t sure if Alfred was geared up enough for that yet, but if he couldn’t find anybody else I was willing to give it a try.

I think Alfred’s item level at the time, in his tank set, was maybe about 340 or so.  Not quite so epic as one would like for a raid like this, but a moment later the guild leader whispered me back and said “OK let’s try it”.

The run went quite well, and in fact Alfred got some gear upgrades from drops and also from hitting “friendly” status and being able to buy stuff from the faction vendors.  A few days later we did it again, and once more things went pretty well.

Alfred Goes A’ Raidin’

About a week ago, a night or two after the previous Firelands run, Alfred was invited to another raid.  At first I thought it was going to be another Firelands trash mob run, but then it turned out we were going to Blackwing Descent.  Also in the raid was one of the guild’s über paladin tanks, so I figured I was there just as backup.  So imagine my surprise when I’m told that I’m gonna be the main tank for the Magmaw fight!

It took us two tries to get Magmaw down, which is better than most of the times I’d done that fight with Romy.  We did the next four bosses in one fight each, with Alfred as main tank each time.  We saved Nefarion for another night because it was getting late and some of the East Coast people had to go.

We went back the next evening for Nefarion and although we didn’t get him down, we came awfully close.  We’re pretty confident that the next trip into BWD will do it.

Last night was Bastion of Twilight, and Alfred was once again asked to tank.  I’d done this instance once before on Alfred, as a healer, but this raid was farther into the run than I’d been before, even on Romy.  First up was the Twilight Ascendant Council.  We one-shot them.  Next stop, the final boss in the run, Cho’Gall.

We had a good long explanation of the fight before we started, and at first I was a little concerned about remembering all the details.  However, it turned out that tanking it was somewhat easier than it sounded at first.  Cho’Gall took us a few tries, but about 90 minutes after the raid started, he was dead.  They were dead… er… whatever.

I didn’t know this in advance, but apparently this was the guild’s first Cho’Gall kill.  It’s probably just as well I didn’t know that until afterwards… no need for extra pressure.

The Transition To Tank

When I changed one of Alfred’s talent specs from retribution to protection awhile back, the main reason was that I figured he would have a better chance at getting into runs. I still considered his main specification to be healing, but this way I’d be able to go on runs when another healer was already in the group.

The results were not what I expected. I knew the game was currently somewhat understaffed with regards to tanks, despite the fact that it’s a viable option for more classes than ever before. But I didn’t fully understand how bad the problem really was until I realized that over the course of the first few weeks after changing talents, I’d taken Alfred into a group as tank at least a dozen times, but only healed once.

After awhile I decided maybe I should just go with the flow and cultivate Alfred’s tanking side and concentrate more on building up his set of tanking gear.  I’m enjoying it so far, but I’m wondering if this move might not ultimately leave Sunny, my L85 warrior who is also a tank, out in the cold.  Yah, yah, yah, I could play Sunny as a DPS toon, but melee DPS has simply never appealed to me that much.

Tanking Is A Hard Knock Life

Why is there such a shortage of tanks? I have some ideas about that.

First of all, tanking is not easy.  The tank is generally expected to also be the leader of the run, in most respects.  They’re expected to know all of the fight mechanics and the proper tactics.  They’re expected to know which mobs to mark, which mobs need to be (and CAN be) crowd-controlled, and so forth.

Healers have an important job that isn’t always easy to execute, but in principle it’s pretty straightforward.  Heal and/or cleanse the tank and other players as needed.  Maybe fear or shackle something.  Don’t stand in the swirly, fiery, gooey crap on the floor.

DPS toons are also generally pretty straightforward.  Damage the mobs.  Don’t stand in the swirly, fiery, gooey crap on the floor.  Maybe once in awhile you polymorph, trap, or banish something.  Try not to pull aggro from the tank.  And frankly, we all know that most DPS toons don’t pay much attention to that last one.

Tanks are the most complicated job all.  They have to pull the mobs, making sure they don’t accidentally get other mobs patrolling nearby.  They have to aggro the mobs, maybe as many as 5 or 6 at a time, sometimes even more, depending on the fight and the options you have for crowd control.  They have to keep an eye out for the silly DPS players who are shooting at the wrong target at the wrong time, so they can pull back the mobs that go after them.  They have to avoid the same crap on the floor everybody else does.  Sometimes they have to position the mob in a certain place, even when it doesn’t always want to move.

Another issue is that tanking is very gear dependant, and with Paladins, Warriors, and Death Knights all competing for plate armor, it can take awhile to get yourself properly equipped. Until then, your lower health and defensive stats make you into a bigger drain on your healer’s mana, which in turn impacts their ability to keep up the rest of the group as well.

Another problem with tanks and gear is the fact that many players are either unaware of what gear they should be looking for, or they simply don’t care if an item makes more sense for a different player. Often a DPS toon will roll on a tank item just because it’s a higher item level than whatever they already have. And there’s plenty of gear which works equally well for a tank or for a DPS toon where it’s reasonable for either to roll.

Tanks also frequently have to worry about player aggro as well as mobs.  In Alfred’s first runs as an L85 tank, when grouped with people I didn’t know, I found that they tended to be incredibly unforgiving about any mistakes or shortcomings.  This can be very discouraging to a newbie tank just starting out.

Even worse, many of these players will essentially blame the tank for failing to compenstate for THEIR mistakes. I can’t tell you how many times I have marked targets with a Skull or an “X” to indicate the kill order, and then have the DPS ignore the marks and attack whatever mob they want.   When I’d remind them they should be attacking the skull first, I’d hear some variation of “STFU and tank the mobs” more often than I’d hear, “Oh yeah, sorry about that.”

Case In Point: General Umbriss in Grim Batol

Tanks almost always get the blame when things go bad because people don’t know the fight, or when they fail to execute their part correctly. My favorite variation on that idea is the General Umbriss fight in Grim Batol, on heroic mode. This is not an extremely complicated fight, really. The main thing the tank really has to do is move Umbriss to the front of the area, off to one side, in order to give the group room to deal with his Blitz attack and with the adds.

When Umbriss targets someone for his Blitz attack, that person and anybody standing next to them have to move about 10-15 yards out of the way or they’ll take some major damage.  The other thing is that Umbriss will periodically summon a group of non-elite Troggs from the back of the room.  These need to be burned down by ranged DPS as soon as they appear, especially the purple-tinged one(s), or they’ll kill everybody in the group fairly quickly, starting with the healer.

Simple fight, really, but I’ve seen group after group where people didn’t move for the Blitz attack and where the DPS ignored the Troggs until the healer was dead and they were under attack themselves.  And at the end of it, after the group wipes… who gets the blame?  That’s right, it’s the tank’s fault.

Crowd Control?  We don’t need no stinkin’ crowd control!

And then there’s those people who think they know better than the tank about when crowd control is needed. I could never understand this, because if a newbie tank suggests it might be a good idea to have only three mobs pounding on him at once instead of five, it seems like people ought to listen. Yet, on several occasions I’ve had people insist that crowd control was unnecessary even AFTER the group has wiped on trash mobs.  Or even worse, your hunter does throw down an ice trap, or your mage polymorphs, or whatever, and there’s some other DPS toon that simply doesn’t care, or notice, and breaks the crowd control three seconds into the fight.

Job Training

Another thing to consider is that the tank really has no option other than on the job training.   Soloing mobs on a tank is much easier than tanking in a group because you’re generally not worried about what other players might be doing, and if you lose aggro on a mob it’s usually a GOOD thing in that context.

DPS toons don’t do things much differently in a group situation than when they’re soloing.  In fact in most respects they have it easier than when soloing, because they generally don’t have to worry about being attacked.

Healers can practice their spell rotations on any friendly toons.  The main thing being in a group does is add some randomness and pressure to succeed.

In Conclusion

I haven’t given up on Alfred as a healer.  One advantage of the various tanking activities is the opportunity to pick up pieces of healing gear that isn’t needed by anybody else in the run.  Alfred’s healing set is coming along nicely, even if not as fast as his tanking set or DPS set.  And it helps that the various Firelands vendors usually have items for all three of Alfred’s gear sets.

Well, that’s all for now… gotta go do my daily quests before it’s time for tonight’s raid!  Nefarion WILL die!

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May 19th, 2011 by admin
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It’s been several months since I hit level 85 on my main character, mage Romy, but until the last few weeks I really hadn’t worked on other characters that much since Cataclysm had been released.  But a few days ago, I finally hit level 85 on my paladin, Alfred.

Decision Time

Back in the vanilla days when we only had one talent specification per toon, Alfred was always retribution-spec while leveling up, and holy-spec the rest of the time.  Since we’ve been allowed to have dual talent specifications, I’ve had one set up for retribution and one for holy.

However, now that he’s gotten to 85, I am considering changing from retribution to protection.  Alfred’s primary role at level 85 is being a healer, but I’m sure there will be times when I’ll want to run something and someone else will already have the healer’s role covered.  I don’t have any great interest in trying to make Alfred into a DPS toon, so I’m thinking maybe tank is the way to go with the secondary spec.  That would give me a lot of options, and it will be interesting to tank on a paladin again.  I’ve done it before, but it was a long time ago…

Paladins in the Early Days

Back in the very early days before any expansion packs had been released, paladins as a class were generally something of a hybrid role.  They had great buffs, so they were very desired in raids, but they didn’t ideally fit any of the other roles.

Paladins weren’t usually the best healers, compared to Priests or Druids.  They would generally do OK in a regular dungeon instance, but in raids paladins would not be main tank healers, for the most part.  They might be assigned to an off-tank or as backup, but mainly they’d be keeping an eye out on the rests of the group.

Unless they were insanely geared, Paladins didn’t have great DPS, so they would normally get a DPS slot in a raid only if the group was otherwise good on DPS or if it was understood that they’d be healing people occasionally as well.

As tanks, Paladins were sort of unfinished back in those days.  It seemed clear that tanking had been somewhere in the original plan for paladins, but many of the basic tools that a tank requires were simply missing.  There wasn’t even a Taunt equivalent in the earliest days!  This meant that paladins were suitable for tanking only in very specific situations.  In a raid, a pally might off-tank a mob until another mob was killed.  This would usually build up enough aggro that when the rest of the group attacked the pally’s target, it would still stay focused on the pally.  And if it didn’t, then it was likely the main tank could take over since the first mob was now dead.

In 5-man instances, pally tanking was generally not a good idea unless the DPS players were fairly disciplined about target selection and careful to give the paladin time to establish aggro.

Alfred was my second toon to hit level 60.  My warrior, Sunny, would ultimately be the tank in the family, but until she hit level 60, Alfred was pressed into tanking every now and then.  It was always an interesting run, but given the shortcomings it was clear that this wasn’t going to be an everyday thing.  By the time later patches would give Paladins better tools for tanking, Sunny had hit level 60 and was the go-to toon for tanking.

Alfred’s First Level 85 Instance Run

I hadn’t really played him much during the Wrath Of The Lich King days, so Alfred was still just level 71 when Cataclysm was released.  I hadn’t done any instance runs or raiding with him since level 70 and Karazhan or Gruul’s Lair.

When I did start playing on Alfred again, I tried to get in at least a couple of instances per level as a healer.  However, I generally avoided the Random Dungeon Finder tool.  I either queued for specific dungeons that I needed for quests, or went on runs with at least a couple of guildies.  I had been a fairly decent healer in the past, and after a couple of runs to get back in the groove, I seemed to be doing OK.

I didn’t immediately jump into an instance run upon hitting level 85, but a day or two later, I decided to queue up.  I first asked if anybody in guild chat was interested in doing a run, but everybody was busy with something else so I switched over to my healing gear and talent spec and queued up solo.

I wasn’t really worried too much about that first run in most respects.  Alfred’s gear was fairly decent for a brand new level 85 toon, with an average item level of 326, just a few points off the minimum requirement for doing heroic dungeons.  It was better than Romy’s gear had been right after hitting 85.

However, things did not go as I hoped they would.  The instance we got was Halls Of Origination, which is not one of the easier ones out there.  I’d hoped for something easier my first time out, but didn’t want to queue for specific dungeons.

The very first group of mobs, I noticed two things.  First, the tank was taking bigger chunks of damage than seemed reasonable.  Then all three of the DPS toons started taking damage too, and it got harder to keep everybody up.  Nobody died, but by the end of the fight I was down to under 20% on mana.

I sat down to drink, but I’d only gotten back to about 60% when the tank and the rest of the group ran up and attacked another group.  This fight went a little better at first, mainly in that the DPS didn’t take quite as much damage, but at the end I was coming up empty on mana and one of the DPS started taking damage again and died.

At this point, I noticed that the tank was at the top of the damage meters, so I took a look and discovered he was wearing DPS gear instead of tanking gear.  The DPS toons weren’t doing anything great damage-wise, but it was more than sufficient for a normal difficulty dungeon, so there was no reason at all for the tank to think he needed to compensate.  And this was right at the very beginning of the instance anyway!

No doubt his gear choice was contributing to the tank taking bigger chunks of damage than he should, but the bigger problem was that the DPS was taking too much damage.  Even the ranged guys were getting knocked down below 50% in just a few seconds sometimes.  Sure, a lot of fights have a bit of incidental damage you simply can’t avoid.  But I wasn’t taking any great amount of damage and I was right there next to everybody else, so that doesn’t explain it.  I said something in party chat to the effect of “DPS is taking unnecessary damage… watch your targets” and one guy said something about the tank needing to hold the mobs better.

The next group of mobs went a little better, but I was still drinking to recover mana and was only at about 50% when the tank rushed up and attacked the first boss, Temple Guardian Anhuur.  I had to run up just to get in range to heal.  Despite this, the fight started out relatively OK and we got through the first time the boss did the Shield Of Light thing OK, except that the DPS weren’t really taking out the Pit Viper adds and for the first time I had to worry about keeping myself alive as well as everybody else.

At that point, I was coming up empty on mana, so I took a Runic Mana Potion, even though it doesn’t give me enough mana back for even one healing spell.  That raises a question: Why did Blizzard decide not to add new high-level mana and health potions in Cataclysm?

Anyway, as a result of my mana situation, two of the DPS died at this point.  This actually made it a bit better for me, because I was able to get ahead of the mana situation.  However, the second time that the boss did the Shield Of Light thing, the remaining DPS totally ignored the Pit Viper adds and I got swarmed and died myself.  Fortunately, the boss was close to dead and the tank and remaining DPS finished him off.

I was really not a happy camper by the end of the fight.  The big problem is, if you’re not paying enough attention to know your healer’s not ready when you start the fight, then you’re just going to blame them when things go wrong.

I’m not giving up… but I think Alfred’s next few dungeon runs will be be with guildies if that’s at all possible.

May 9th, 2011 by admin
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Activision held their annual earnings conference call today, and one of the more significant tidbits of news was that the World Of Warcraft subscription base was down about 600k, from 12 million just before the Cataclysm expansion was released down to about 11.4 million this past March.

Now, the subscription base tends to fluctuate in general, and this is a drop of about only about 2%, so it’s not really a huge problem for Blizzard/Activision. On the other hand, it’s also not to be ignored.

Blizzard’s president, Michael Morhaime, had this to say: “As our players have become more experienced playing World of Warcraft over many years, they have become much better and much faster at consuming content. And so I think with Cataclysm they were able to consume the content faster than with previous expansions, but that is why we are working on developing more content. We need to be faster at delivering content to players. And so that’s one of the reasons that we’re looking to decrease the amount of time in-between expansions.

Why Have Some People Left the Game?

Blizzard didn’t really address the idea that competing games might be a factor in the loss of subscribers.  While new MMO games like Aion or The Rift may not have caught on like wildfire, they still have a respectible following and it’s not unreasonable to think that a certain small percentage of WoW players may have decided to give something new a try.

It’s also possible that some people have gotten rid of secondary or tertiary accounts. I don’t use my own secondary account any more.

If new content is really the problem, then the return of Zul’Gurub & Zul’Amun in the 4.1 patch will probably bump up the numbers a bit. However, while it’s undoubtedly a factor, I’m not completely convinced that new content is really the only issue.

First of all, if new content were the primary factor, we should have seen an increase in the subscription base once Cataclysm was released, followed by a decline back to where things were before.   Blizzard hasn’t released numbers for January or February, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

Aside from people finishing the available content, there are a variety of other factors in the 4.0 version of the game that could have also affected the subscription base.

WTB: Portal To Stormwind City

In some ways, with the Cataclysm expansion, the game took a step backwards towards being tedious. I refer specifically to the removal of the transportation portals in Shattrath and Dalaran. The motivation seems to have been to nudge players back towards using Stormwind City or Orgrimmar as their central hubs.  It’s true that those cities have portals to the various zones in the Cataclysm expansion, but anybody playing in other zones has gotten screwed by the change.  It’s added long travel times back into the equation for anybody playing in Outland or Northrend.

Since a big feature of the Cataclysm expansion was the introduction of the Worgen and Goblin races, many players were leveling up toons from scratch.  Blizzard added a variety of things to speed up that process, including lowering the cost and level requirements for mounts.  This really does help the 1-60 leveling, but once you hit level 60 it was essentially not that different than it used to be, except now there was no longer any quick way to get from Shattrath or Dalaran back to Stormwind or Orgrimmar.

It’s been great for mages, who are once again making money selling portals, but not so great for everybody else.

Long travel times contribute to player burnout, which in turn contributes to a drop in the subscription base.

Guilds Aren’t What They Used To Be

The new guild advancement features have been something of a mixed bag. It’s harder to get a new guild off the ground now than it used to be, since a new level 1 guild will have a much harder time recruiting than a level 25 guild which has all the various guild rewards. It’s also more painful for players to leave a guild now, since they will lose their guild reputation in the process. It seems to me that this has to have SOME impact on player burnout, although it’s hard to quantify.

WTB: Tank or Healer

It’s historically always been the case that it can be hard getting a tank or healer for a run, but in Cataclysm it’s just gotten worse.  Solo-queuing up for a dungeon as a DPS toon typically means a wait time of at least a half hour, even during hours when there’s a lot of people online.  Tanks and healers, on the other hand, rarely have to wait more than a few minutes even during late night hours.

I really do think the random dungeon finder is a good thing overall, but it really also emphasizes the problem here.  Blizzard is certainly aware of the problem, and the new reward system in the 4.1 patch shows that they’re trying to address it, but I think they’re treating the symptoms instead of the underlying cause.

In my opinion, the core of the problem is that for most people, playing a tank or a healer just isn’t as fun as playing a DPS toon. You just don’t get the same sense of accomplishment from healing the tank as you do from scoring a 60k Arcane Blast hit on a raid boss.  I don’t know what sort of changes would make healing or tanking more fun, but I think that’s where Blizzard should really be concentrating its creative effort.

Out With The Old?  Oh, Hell No!

One of the biggest problems in the game has always been that many players are effectively left out of experiencing the high-end raid content.  I’ve done a fair amount of raiding, but there’s a lot of content that I never saw.  I think it’s a huge mistake on Blizzard’s part not to make a bigger attempt to integrate the game’s historic content into the present.  However, there’s evidence to suggest that they’re working on improving this.

The Cataclysm expansion featured a new heroic, high-level version of the Deadmines instance, and a new heroic version of the Shadowfang Keep instance, which are steps in the right direction.  And patch 4.1 features new level 85 heroic 5-man versions of the old Zul’Amun and Zul’Gurub raid instances.

I say, this is a big step in the right direction… keep going!

Seriously, we should be seeing new 5-man heroic Blackwing Lair, Black Temple, Serpentshrine Caverns, etc., or maybe new 10-man raid versions, scaled for level 85.  And while the other retro dungeons were re-tuned for their new debut, I’m not convinced that’s absolutely necessary for all of the old content.  Certainly, there are particular fights in some of those old raids that would need to be updated to work with a smaller party, but I think much of the old content would be fine if you simply scaled up everything to the appropriate level.

This would be good for players who’ve never seen that old content… my first run on the new Zul’Gurub included a player who’d never done the original version.  And it would be good for Blizzard, because it would allow them to get a lot of new content out the door with much less effort than creating a new raid/instance from scratch.

April 26th, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

Historically, new patches for World Of Warcraft have always come out on Tuesday morning, following the weekly system maintenance period. Today, Blizzard released the patch for version 4.1.0.13914 of the game client. In addition to a variety of bug fixes and balance tweaks, there are four big additions to the game with this version.

The Guild Finder Tool

There’s a new GUILD FINDER tool, designed to help match up people looking for a new guild with guilds looking for new people. It’s sort of like a little guild application where players can specify what they’re looking for in a guild and provide some idea of what they have to offer.

Once you specify a few attributes like your class role and availability, you can browse through a list of guilds that match your criteria. If you find one you like, you can submit a request to join. The guild leader will receive your request and act on it as they deem appropriate. They may want to interview you, or visit their own guild website to fill out an extended application, or they may just shoot you an invitation directly.

Dungeon Finder: Call To Arms

The Dungeon Finder tool was a great addition to the game, but it help demonstrate the fact that most players are playing DPS-oriented characters, and relatively fewer play healers or tanks.  A single DPS player who queues up for a random dungeon can easily wait for half an hour or more, because there aren’t enough tanks or healers in the queue to form complete groups.

The new Call To Arms feature is designed to lower those long queue times by offering rewards to players to join the queue and complete the assigned instance.  Strictly speaking, the rewards might be offered to any class, but as a practical matter it’s going to be healers and tanks in most cases.

Upon completing the instance, players who were so enticed will receive a goodie bag that contains some combination of gold, gems, potions, pets, and even mounts.

This sounds like a great idea, but I do note that it seems to depend on the idea that the required players are actually available, but just not queuing up for dungeons.  I’m sure that’s true to a certain degree, but it remains to be seen if it’s true enough that this new feature will really make a difference.  In fact, I’m thinking that some players may hold off on entering the queue until they are offered the reward, which would really negate the purpose of the feature to a large degree.

Guild Challenges

The next new feature is Guild Challenges.  This is basically a sort of random guild achievement for completing a particular dungeon, raid, or PvP battleground with a guild group.  Completing one of the current challenges will result in a gold reward to the guild vault.

Anything that puts gold into the coffers isn’t really a bad feature, but I can’t see most guilds getting too excited about this.

The Return Of Zul’Gurub & Zul’Aman

One of the big changes in the initial release of the Cataclysm expansion was that the Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman raid instances both went away.   With patch 4.1 they return as high-end, heroic only, 5-player dungeons.  Both require a minimum average item level of 346 and they contain a wide variety of new epic gear, mounts, pets and other goodies.

Things start off with a new series of level 85 solo quests in Stranglethorn Vale that give you a preview of the various Zul’Gurub bosses.  Once you complete the solo quests, you’ll be ready to hit the instances.  The new version of Zul’Gurub has 5 bosses that you’ll encounter every time, plus one more from a choice of 4 additional bosses that you’ll see only if your group includes someone whose Archaeology skill is high enough.

In the far-away Ghostlands, the Zul’Aman instance makes its return as well.  Compared to the major overhaul of Zul’Gurub, there are fewer changes here from the original, but the mechanics of the fights have been updated to make sense for a 5-player group instead of a 10-player raid.

Both of these new and improved instances require a minimum average item level of 346 and offer rewards that are item level 353.  So they fit right in between the original Cataclysm heroic instances and the original Cataclysm raids.  There are also a variety of mounts available.

Happy Hunting!

Here’s the official Blizzard video for the new patch:


 

April 13th, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

I haven’t yet done a lot of raiding on Romy at level 85. She’s geared well enough for it but my play hours just haven’t lined up with my guild’s raid times that often. Today, however, I did not one but two raids with the guild.

First up was Baradin Hold. Shortly after I had logged in on my paladin Alfred, the GM whispered me to say that “BH is up, switch to Romy“. So I did.

Baradin Hold is a relatively simple raid instance that currently has just one boss, Argaloth. One might think of it as the level 85 version of the Burning Crusade raid Magtheridon’s Lair, or the original version of Onyxia’s Lair. Unlike those older raids, BH has room built-in for future expansion.

I had done a few BH runs before but hadn’t gotten any gear as yet. Tonight was no different. We got Argaloth down, finally after a few tries including two where he was down to like 0.0001%, but I got no love on the loot side of things. I didn’t really mind though, because along the way I had figured out something very important regarding my primary talent tree.

Like most toons these days, Romy has dual talent specifications. One for Arcane and the other for Frost. The Arcane spec was nominally intended for raiding while frost was for instances and soloing. However, I’d never really been able to figure out how to maximize my DPS with the Arcane spec, so I was using frost for everything MOST of the time.  I was occasionally trying out the Arcane spec, but like I said I hadn’t quite figured it out yet. Until tonight.

The Mastery aspect to the Arcane spec is known as Mana Mastery, and it provides a mana boost to the mage’s damage output that is proportional to the amount of remaining mana. The more mana you have, the more damage is done.  However, Romy was not really benefitting from this much because in a big boss fight, I seemed to always be running low on mana.  I would use mana gems and Evocation to try to stay topped-off, but that didn’t quite do the trick and it took time away from doing damage.

It turned out the trick was to use Mage Armor instead of Molten Armor, as I had been doing before. I hadn’t really used Mage Armor for quite awhile but I was looking over the tooltips and noticed that Mage Armor includes really nice mana regeneration.  That’s something that Blizzard has added at some point since the last time I had used Mage Armor, and I hadn’t ever noticed it before. 

By switching from Molten Armor, you give up 3% crit chance, but the mana regeneration keeps your mana nearly full throughout an entire raid boss fight, thus maximizing your Mana Mastery damage bonus, and that more than makes up for the loss in crit chance.

I know it will seem obvious to many, but the choice of Mage Armor was never mentioned any of the times I discussed the arcane tree with other mages. And if it was ever mentioned on any of the various websites I’ve looked at, they must not have explained WHY they were using Mage Armor. After I figured this out, I noticed a noticeable boost in my DPS. I still have a ways to go, but I think I can now manage to be at least in the upper portion of the damage meter most of the time.

Later that evening I was back on Alfred again when the GM whispered me again, this time about killing trash mobs in a Bastion of Twilight raid.

As with Baradin Hold, I had done Bastion of Twilight a few times but had won no upgrades. However, this time around my luck was better and one of the first mobs dropped a lovely pair of bracers that found their way onto Romy’s wrists.

April 12th, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

The first character I created in WoW was my warrior, Sunny. Normally when playing fantasy role playing games before WoW came around, I tended towards magic users of various types, but I decided to try something different. I enjoyed Sunny just fine, but after investing several hours and getting her up to level 10 or so, I decided it was time to revert to my old habits and so I created my second toon Romy, a mage.

I’m not sure if it was because I was back in familiar territory with a magic user or if it was because I was hitting the point where I more or less understood the basics of the game, but Romy quickly became my “main” character. It was weeks before I switched back to pay Sunny again.

When the Christmas after launch rolled around, I was sufficiently into the game that I had installed it on my laptop so I could play while visiting at my mom & sister’s house. I also wanted to show the game to my sister, as she had always enjoyed computer games. In fact, that year’s gift from me to her was a copy of Doom 3, which had recently hit stores.

After she ripped through Doom 3 in record time, she needed something new to play and so she picked up WoW. Romy was already almost level 40 and Sunny was around level 20, so I created a new paladin, Alfred, to use when playing together with my sister’s new toon. My sister and I played the game together often enough that before long, Alfred was my secondary toon and Sunny got stuck in third place.

Things stayed that way until all three toons had hit level 60. After that, I wasn’t sure which direction to go with Alfred. At that time, the Paladin class was much different than today. Paladin DPS was horrible, they were the least effective healing class, and they could only tank if the damage classes were VERY careful about their aggro. They were somewhat in demand but in most cases, their raiding role was to be a utility healer, group buffer, and maybe occasional off-tank. The real problem for Alfred was that there were usually plenty of main-character paladins waiting to take a raid slot.

Tanks, on the other hand, were always in demand and in those days a damage-oriented Warrior was the exception. I discovered that Sunny was often in demand to tank guild instance runs, and when other sufficient DPS classes were available, to serve as backup tank on raids. Before long she had jumped back into being my second place toon. Ok, maybe tied for second.

At least through the Burning Crusade content, I was reasonably diligent about keeping Sunny and Alfred reasonably close to Romy’s level. Romy always reached the level cap first and started raiding, but Alfred and Sunny would hit the same point reasonably soon afterwards and then would do instance runs and do whatever raid content was open to them.

When the Wrath Of The Lich King expansion came out, things were different. My long-time guild Cry Havoc had more or less started to implode, and many of the more hardcore players had left, and many others had either stopped playing altogether or had moved to the Horde side or even to other servers. When the expansion hit, there was no concerted guild-wide effort to level up and start working on the new raid content together as there had been for the Burning Crusade expansion. Those of us still playing mostly did it solo.

Romy was level 75 and I was still playing through the new content when other things going on in my life demanded my attention and I cut back on how much I was playing. For roughly 6 months or so, I played the game much, much less than I had been. I played for perhaps just a hour or two every 2 or 3 weeks instead of a few hours almost every day. Also, when I did play, I often worked at leveling some of my lower-level toons instead of working on getting Romy up to level 80.

When I started playing more regularly again, months later, Romy was still at level 75 and my main focus was hitting level 80. At that point, Sunny and Alfred were both still at level 70 and hadn’t been played for more than a few minutes since WOTLK had come out.

Almost immediately after getting Romy to level 80, I was asked to join a new guild called Overcome, by the GM, a former member of Cry Havoc. At that point, I was in catch-up mode since most players had hit 80 months earlier. As a result, it was quite awhile before I worried about any other toon besides Romy.

Eventually, I did work on Sunny and Alfred a bit, getting them to level 72 and 73, respectively, but then I more or less just concentrated on Romy and didn’t play the other toons at all.

Until a few weeks ago, that is. Romy had been at level 85 for a few months and was reasonably geared, so I decided to get Sunny and Alfred up to speed as well.

First to get some attention was Sunny, then at level 72. After getting her up to level 81 and started on Cataclysm content, I realized Sunny was a bit undergeared. She had only done a few instances since level 72 and had never done any raiding at level 80 so she was still in a mix of green and blue items, along with a few level 70 epics that still hadn’t been replaced. The obvious solution would normally be to do some dungeon grinding for better gear, but Sunny’s gear wasn’t even good enough to allow her to queue for random dungeons!

A trip to the auction house helped upgrade a few slots, but as I was contemplating how much I would have to spend to make further upgrades, I decided that I would work on Alfred for awhile. Alfred is a blacksmith and the thought was that he could make some gear that Sunny could use until she started getting some dungeon upgrades. But first i had to level him up enough to get some useful blacksmithing patterns. Like Sunny, I had not really played Alfred since the first month or two of the WOTLK era and at level 73 his blacksmithing had a ways to go.

Currently the plan is to take Alfred up to 80 or 81 and then go back to Sunny. From that point I’ll alternate between them every level or so in order to take best advantage of their “Rested” status. After that, who knows? I may work on my hunter, Starchaser, or maybe on my baby Worgen warlock Ailsandre.

April 7th, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

Recently i’ve been working on leveling my paladin, Alfred. As I was reaching the end of the various quests in Borean Tundra, I got a few for the Nexus instance. Alfred was now level 74 and close to leveling again. This would be my first instance run as a healer in quite awhile, and I was going to do it as a solo queue.

Getting into the dungeon, the first thing I noticed was that everybody else was level 71, the minimum allowed to queue for the Nexus, and that they all had less health than I did. We had a Druid tank, my paladin as healer, a rogue, a hunter, and a mage for DPS.

As is often the case with a random pug, this group had some issues. The first thing I noticed was that the druid tank was a bit impatient and was getting out of range and chain pulling while I was OOM and just sitting down to drink. He also went around corners a few times giving me line-of-sight problems.

Another problem was that our two ranged DPS players, a mage and a hunter, both had problems with stealing aggro from the tank, mainly because they weren’t on the right kill target. To some degree this was caused by the tank failing to mark targets, but it meant they were both taking a lot of unnecessary damage, sucking my mana down trying to heal them and distracting me from keeping the tank alive. Not to mention that it meant the tank had to chase mobs all over the place.

Stealing aggro wasn’t a huge deal for the hunter since he could Feign Death when it happened. But on the other hand he was standing WAY too close and usually got whacked once or twice before the mob turned back to the tank.

The mage kept a more reasonable range so the tank was often able to chase down whichever mob went after him, but when he did get hit he went down faster.

As you might not be surprised to hear, we had a variety of deaths. The first boss fight went ok but then we had a few complete wipes on trash mobs. I was mostly quiet to that point but then the mage started mouthing off to the tank about not holding aggro, and about how it was the healer’s fault if the tank dies, etc. Then the tank went off on the mage… it was like watching Simon and Paula go at each other on American Idol in the good old days.

I was surprised nobody had left the group yet at that point because I was considering it myself. I figured the mage was a lost cause but the tank seemed like he’d be ok if he just slowed down a bit. You don’t see too many Druid tanks these days so I wanted to encourage him to improve rather than just bitch and make him think twice about tanking. I told him what was needed and he actually listened! He started waiting for me when I needed mana, and started marking kill-order targets in each group.

Once the tank started marking targets, The hunter more or less settled down and stopped regularly stealing aggro.

Even though he twice stole aggro on the X-marked mob while the skull-marked mob was still alive, the mage kept insisting that he was on the right target. He was sure because he “had a macro to assist the tank”. He didn’t seem to understand that the tank may sometimes hop from target to target when trying to hold several mobs. Doing an assist might work most of the time when there’s only one or two mobs, but when there are four or even five, you can’t be sure that the tank really got a strong aggro hold on his target when you do the assist. You may be attacking a mob which the tank has only hit once.

About halfway to the second boss, we had another full wipe when the hunter got out in front of everybody as one fight was over and then let a patrol walk right up and slap him silly. The hunter didn’t seem to grasp that it had been his fault and he left the group at that point as everybody was running back in.

After getting a replacement for the hunter, another few groups of trash later, we somehow managed to pull an extra group and had another wipe. The main reason this happened was that everybody ran up to the mobs instead of letting the tank pull them back to a place safely away from the neighboring groups. Someone got too close to another group and pulled them into the fight.

After that happened, the mage starts mouthing off again about everything except what actually caused the problem. Just as I was about to initiate a kick vote, he left the group on his own. Then the guy who had just replaced the original hunter quits too, and I don’t even remember what class he was because he wasn’t there long enough.

I told the tank at that point that I would give things one more try, but at that point enough was enough. He agreed and we get two new replacements, a warrior and a new hunter, both level 72.

From that point everything was as smooth as you could possibly want. No more deaths or bad pulls, or DPS stealing aggro. Most of the remaining fights barely skimmed the surface of my mana pool.

Next time I take Alfred in to heal an instance run, I’m going to try hard to make it a guild run.

March 30th, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

World of Warcraft is not, overall, one of the more hardcore games out there when it comes to system hardware requirements.  After all, the game originally came out in 2004 and had to be playable on the hardware available at the time.  While there have been three expansion packs over the years, the basic system requirements for the game really haven’t changed much. 

The performance of most games tends to rely mostly on the video card’s GPU and your motherboard’s CPU, but WoW’s performance is also strongly tied to the amount of memory in your system and the speed of your hard drive.  This means we have more options for improving performance.

Obviously the best way to improve performance is to get a new computer with state-of-the-art everything in it, but that option is out of range for many people.  I have a few tips and tricks for improving game performance that should be within most budgets.  Some of these will work on either Windows or Mac systems while others are only Windows.

New Video Card

This one is pretty obvious. If your current video card is more than 2 years old or so, chances are pretty good you would experience a significant boost in performance by upgrading.  And you don’t have to spend $500 or $600 on the latest and greatest monster cards in order to see a big performance boost in WoW.

At around $150, I would personally recommend something like the GeForce 550 Ti.  Most of the models at this price point include 1gb of on-board memory, which is probably at least 2-4 times as much as your old card, and full DirectX 11 compatibility.  If that price is still a bit high, you might find GTS 450 models hovering around the $100 mark, also with 1gb onboard RAM.

The extra memory on the video card will allow WoW to download more texture data to the card, which means the game will not be accessing the hard drive quite as often, and also that main menory will be available for other data.

A disclaimer: I’ve used NVIDIA-based video cards almost exclusively for over a decade so I am not really all that familiar with ATI’s offerings.  Also, I have done a variety of contract jobs for NVIDIA including working in-house on the GEFORCE.COM website.  So, yah, I am definitely biased towards their products.  However, there is no paid endorsement involved with respect to this article.

Bump Up Your RAM

This applies to all systems.  If your computer has anything less than 4gb of RAM, the first thing you should do to improve performance is upgrade your memory.  While WoW will work with 1gb or 2gb, there are significant performance improvements when you jump up to 4gb.  WoW is constantly loading information from its data files on your hard drive.   As you move around the world and see new terrain, new mobs, and new people, the information for things you haven’t seen lately is dropped to make room for the new information.  Which, of course, means it has to reload it when you see those things again.  The more memory you have, the more it’s able to keep that information loaded all the time instead.

If you’re running a 64-bit operating system, I would recommend you take your machine up to 6gb or 8gb if your budget will support it.  This will give WoW all the memory it wants right now and leave some room for future expansion.  It will also give you enough memory to keep a few other programs open in the background, like a web browser so you can jump out of the game to look up things on websites like WoW Head or WowWiki.

If you’re not running a 64-bit operating system, you really should consider an upgrade if your system can handle it.  Most systems made in the last few years will have no problems running 64-bit.  There’s really only one reason to stick with a 32-bit OS if your system supports 64-bit, and that would be the very rare situation where you have some piece of hardware for which there is no 64-bit driver available, and you can’t upgrade that hardware.

If you’re still running on an old 32-bit Windows XP system, it’s probably way past the point where you’d like to get a new system and most likely your budget just doesn’t allow it.  While it’s hard to recommend making much of an investment in an old system like this, you may still find some improvement in performance by maxing out your memory at 4gb.

Throw Out Your Hard Drive!

Well, don’t REALLY throw it out.  However, we’re going to show you a trick where you can improve performance on a desktop machine using a new Solid-State Drive (SSD) but without doing a complete hard drive swap. 

As we mentioned earlier, as you move around in WoW, the game is constantly loading information from your hard drive.  Actually you don’t need to move around… even if you’re just standing around doing nothing, in some areas you’ll still have a steady stream of new players coming into close proximity.  Every time something or someone new comes into range, the game has to go out to the hard drive and load up the 3D model data and texture information required to show them on screen, not to mention other information like gear attributes and so forth.  This means that WoW’s performance is at least somewhat dependent on how quickly that information can be retrieved from your storage device.

These days, the fastest hard drives are the new solid-state models which use flash memory instead of a spinning magnetic platter.  These are usually called “SSD” instead of “HD”.  Because there are no moving parts, an SSD is rugged and as fast as the electronics can be.  They are also immune to issues like fragmentation that can cause slowdowns on old-style drives.

The big downside is that SSDs are quite expensive compared to traditional hard drives.  While you can easily find a 2-terabyte HD for as little as $80, that same cash will only buy a 32 or 40 gigabyte SSD. Getting up to a 256gb SSD drive will cost you $450-$500.

These days, most modern desktop computers have a primary hard drive that is at least 320gb and many are larger.  That means for most people, replacing their primary hard drive with an SSD would be fairly expensive.  No doubt the price of SSD drives will come down eventually, but in the meantime doing a complete replacement is probably not an option for most people.

Fortunately, there’s another option.  Two, actually.  Either one starts with installing a new SSD into your system as an additional drive.  I would recommend a 40gb SSD. My WoW folder currently is about 24.5 gb, so a smaller size might work, but a 40gb drive will give you room for future expansion.

If you don’t know how to install an additional drive in your system, find a more technically inclined friend to help you out.

Using Your New SSD For WoW: Option 1

Once you’ve got the new SSD installed, boot into Windows.  You may see a message telling you that a new drive has been detected and asking if you want to initialize it.  Here’s where you have a choice of two options.

First, you can initialize the drive and assign a drive letter, after which you can copy over your World Of Warcraft folder.  You’ll have to reset any shortcuts on your desktop or in your start menu to point at the new location, but otherwise you should be good to go.

The potential downside to doing it this way is that the SSD will be very easily accessible for other purposes.  This may not be a problem, but there is the possibility that you will use up the extra space on the drive, run out of room, and then have problems with WoW as a result.

Using Your New SSD For WoW: Option 2

The second option is more complicated to do, but it essentially assigns the SSD to the exclusive purpose of speeding up WoW.  Note that this will only work if your primary drive uses the NTFS file system.  This is probably the case if you’re on Windows Vista or Windows 7, but if you’re on Windows XP there is a greater possibility that you are using FAT32.

Make sure you read through these directions a couple of times before you actually start doing anything.

Say “no” when the system asks to initialize the new drive. 

Once your system is finished booting, open up Windows Explorer (Not INTERNET Explorer) and browse to your program files directory.  (Most likely this will be “C:\Program Files“.  You may also have “C:\Program Files (x86)” but that’s for 64-bit programs and WoW is a 32-bit program.)  Verify that this contains the existing World Of Warcraft program folder.  

Create a new folder in the Program Files directory named WoW.  Move over all the files inside the World Of Warcraft folder to the new WoW folder. Make sure this includes any hidden files.  When you’re done, the original World Of Warcraft folder should be empty.

Locate the “My Computer” icon on your desktop, or the “Computer” item in your start-menu.  Right-click and choose “Manage” from the popup menu.  This will bring up the Computer Management console.  Along the left side, locate the “Storage” item and expand it if needed to reveal the “Disk Management” option.  Click that.

Note:  Be VERY careful with what you click on in this window.  This is one of those very, very rare situations where clicking the wrong thing quite literally COULD erase your hard drive.  However, you’d have to click several wrong things in a row, so don’t worry too much.  Once again, if you’re not comfortable doing this, find a technically inclined friend.  We do have to say, however, that you should proceed at your own risk… the author is not responsible for any problems you may incur.

After clicking “Disk Management” the main part of the window will change to a split display that looks much like this:

Look for the drive that contains your “C:” partition and verify that it says “NTFS”.  If it says “FAT32″ then you cannot proceed with this option.

Your system will probably show only two drives, your original primary drive and the new SSD. In the bottom section, look for the drive that is marked  “uninitialized.  It will probably be “Disk 1″ but not necessarily so also verify that the size shown matches the size of your SSD. 

Right click and choose the “Initialize” option.  Once it’s done initializing, the display should change to say “Unallocated”.  Right-click this area and select “New Simple Volume” as shown below.

You should now see the “New Simple Volume Wizard” on screen.  Click “Next” and you’ll be given the option to specify the volume size.  We want to use the entire drive for the volume so leave the default alone and click “Next” again.  The next step allows you to “Assign Drive Letter Or Path“.  You need to select the option for Mount in the following empty NTFS folder: as shown below.

Click “Browse” and then locate the same program files directory as before and select the World Of Warcraft folder.  Click “OK” to return to the wizard, then click “Next”.

If the OK button is disabled after you’ve selected the folder, it’s because the folder isn’t really empty… you must have missed something earlier.  Go back and make sure you’ve moved everything over to the WoW folder.

The next step of the wizard will ask you to format the partition.  Select the options shown below:

Click “Next” and then “Finish” on the next step.  The system will take a moment or two to do everything, and then you should see the drive description change to something like this:

Now if you open up the Program Files directory in Windows Explorer, you should see a new World Of Warcraft folder. This is actually a link to the new partition on the SSD that we just created. Anything that tries to access C:\Program Files\World Of Warcraft will actually be redirected to the SSD.

There’s one last step before you’re ready to play.  Move over the contents of the WoW folder (but not the folder itself) into the new World Of Warcraft folder.  This will move everything for the game onto the SSD drive.  Since you’re actually accessing two different drives this will take a few minutes.  Once everything has finished copying over, you can delete the WoW folder.

Now you should be ready to play!

How Much Of A Performance Boost?

The SSD upgrade we’ve discussed may make a big difference in performance, or it may be more subtle.  It all depends on how fast your regular hard drive was in the first place.  It will definitely speed up your load times, but it’s hard to say how big a difference you’ll see while playing.  If you were used to seeing lag spikes caused by the game loading new data from the hard drive, those should pretty much go away, or at least be greatly diminished.

Maintenance

Because you probably have less extra free space on the SSD than you did when the game was on the regular hard drive, there are a couple of things you may want to do occasionally.

  • Move the contents of your Screenshots folder somewhere else.  This folder contains all the images saved when you hit the PRINT SCREEN button while in the game.  If you take a lot of screenshots this could quickly use a lot of space.  You should create a folder elsewhere and occasionally move things over.
  • Delete old patch files.  These can sometimes take a few gigabytes and once your system has been patched they serve no purpose.

For Mac Users

Sorry, but most Mac users are going to be left out in the cold here.  The biggest problem is that most Mac models do not allow the addition of a second internal hard drive and there is no eSATA port for connecting an external hard drive.

Yes, you can connect external drives via USB or Firewire, but neither interface is capable of the transfer rates necessary to really take advantage of an SSD’s speed.  There are add-ons for connecting with eSATA drives through USB, but they won’t provide the speed of a native eSATA connection.

The new Thunderbolt interface available on the latest Mac computers will theoretically allow you to connect an SSD and use it at full-speed, but as of the time I’m writing this, we’re still waiting for peripherals using this interface.  You’ll need either a complete pre-built external SSD, or a drive enclosure which allows you to drop in your own SSD.   If you have a new Mac that includes this technology, your options will probably open up soon.

Mac-based WoW players with a Mac Pro can easily install additional drives including an SSD.  This is pretty simple, so I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on a step-by-step description.  Just open the case, mount the drive, and connect the cables.  If you really do need it, here’s a link to an excellent step-by-step on the process.  If you still don’t feel comfortable doing it, check with your  local Apple store or Mac dealer and I’m sure they can help.

I would recommend at least a 40gb SSD.  My current WoW game folder comes in at about 24.5 gb, but I would hate to run out of room the next time another expansion pack or patch comes along.  A 40gb drive will give you a bit of breathing room for future expansion.

Once you have installed an SSD on your Mac, all you really have to do to take advantage of it is move over the World Of Warcraft game folder.  You  may have to update the Dock with the new location but otherwise you should be good to go.

Not Just For WoW

The SSD upgrade idea is more specifically aimed at improving WoW performance, but the other options will improve your system performance across the board.  Obviously a new video card will make a difference in all games you play, not just WoW, and more RAM is pretty much always a good thing. 

Happy Gaming!

March 23rd, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

Recently there was a post in the Blizzard Battle.NET Website forums where somebody, let’s change the names and call him “Bob“, was lamenting the fact that his guild reputation was reset after he had been kicked out of the guild he had been in. Aside from the original post, many of the other messages in the thread raised a variety of questions, complaints, and suggestions about the way guild reputation works. It became a popular message thread featured at the top page of the Battle.NET website. It quickly hit the post limit and was locked so no more responses could be posted.

Basically, Bob got into an argument with the guild leader and took it to the point that the guild leader finally got tired of the whole mess and kicked him out of the guild.

Bob said he was given the choice of either shutting up or having his guild reputation reset (being kicked out).  It’s not clear if the guild leader actually presented those options or if that was simply Bob’s description of the situation.  Bob had just hit Revered status, so obviously he didn’t want his reputation to be reset, but for whatever reason he continued to argue and eventually the guild leader kicked him.

His main complaint is that one guy should have the power to “erase all the time and work that I put into this game“.  

Guilds Are Absolute Dictatorships

In the World of Warcraft, guilds are not democracies, they are dictatorships, pure and simple.  Fortunately, most of them are fairly benign.  There is often some degree of democratic process involved in dealing with day to day matters and usually at least some powers are delegated to the officers.  However, at the end of the day there’s ONE guy at the top who really has all the power, and it’s a good idea that you not forget this.

In this situation, Bob was ultimately given the option of shutting his mouth or being kicked out. To me it sounds like the usual set of choices for the situation.  Maybe what Bob really wanted is the option to argue with the guild leader as much as he wants without fear of repercussion.

Not gonna happen.

I wish I could generate some sympathy for Bob, but I really am not feeling it.  We don’t know what the argument was all about or what the guild leader’s side of things might be, but the bottom line is that unless you’re brand new to the game, which Bob is not, you ought to know that getting into a big argument with your guild leader can result in getting kicked out.  However, while I may not have any sympathy for Bob, I think his post does raise some interesting questions.

Alternate Forms Of Government

While he didn’t actually say it in so many words, I believe Bob’s point was that something like kicking a player out of a guild is something that should be put to a vote of some kind, rather than it being the perogative of a single player.  This sounds fairly simple at first, but such a mechanism would be fundamentally different from the way things are currently done and adding it would require some big changes to the game.

For the moment, let’s forget about how much development time would be required and concentrate on the actual mechanics of doing things a different way.  Suppose the game offered a second choice for guild organization where instead of an all-powerful guild leader at the top, there was a council of officers instead.

The first question is, how many council members should there be?  Should it vary depending on guild size?  Having 3 council members might work fine for a small guild of 20 members, but how many do you want if the guild has 300 members? 

For now, let’s say that we have a council of 3 officers and that a simple majority is required to make decisions. How would that work with managing the tasks usually done by a guild leader?  Do the council members have to vote on EVERYTHING? Or might we give them all some of the powers a single guild leader currently enjoys?  Oh, and just so we’re clear, here are the powers of a guild leader in the current system:

  • Inviting players
  • Kick players
  • Control the guild bank
  • Setup guild ranks
  • Control access to certain powers for each guild rank
  • Design the guild tabard

In order to deal with a voting system, the game would have to have some mechanism of queueing up actions so that things can get done without requiring all council members (or even a majority) to be online at the same time.   Let’s say that they add a new Guild Government window to the game for this purpose.

I debated the idea of going into Photoshop and creating a dummy graphic for this idea, or maybe creating a little dummy addon, but that would have taken way too much time.

Suppose Councilman-A decided to initiate a vote to invite a new player.  Councilman-B and Councilman-C would get a notification, either immediately if they were online, or the next time they came online, telling them that there were new items in the Guild Government window awaiting their attention.  Opening the Guild Government window would then allow them to register their votes on the matter.

Likewise a vote to kick someone out of the guild would do much the same.  However, the situation with Bob notwithstanding, keep in mind that there’s often an immediate and important reason for kicking someone out of a guild.  In order to ensure that no malicious actions are taken by the targetted player, you’d probably want them placed into a sort of “limbo” where they cannot interact with the guild bank or guild chat until the kick-vote has been resolved.

But are we going to extend that same degree of democracy to everything?  Will the council members have to vote for things like changing the guild tabard?  Or for changing the name of a guild rank?  Or changing which guild ranks can access which bank tabs?

Maybe it would work.  More likely it would take forever for things to get done.  What if you wanted to invite some new player, but he ends up going to another guild because it took 3 days for enough council members to register their votes?

What happens when council members become inactive?   If the council is only 3 guys and one guy goes away, it will seriously affect the balance of the decision making.  If two guys go away for awhile then nothing at all gets done.  Increasing the number of council members doesn’t really change the problem, either, unless you move away from requiring a majority vote.

How do people become council members in the first place?  Does this require a majority vote of those already on the council?  Right now if a guild leader becomes inactive, you can petition Blizzard to give the role to someone else.  Would we need to do the same thing for council members who become inactive?  How do you get rid of a BAD council member?  Does the guild at large get to vote on anything, like maybe new council members? And how would you prevent a single player from taking more than one slot on the council?  Many people have multiple accounts, so you can’t absolutely prevent it.  Do you WANT to prevent it?

Obviously, with any change of this nature, there are a lot of How and What If questions to be considered.  Like the current system, this new idea would probably work well for some groups of people, and not so much for others.  And this is just ONE idea for an alternative form of government.  There are many other possibilities.  Like what about mirroring the US government, where there is a guild leader that has executive power over most things, but there’s also a parlimentary body of some kind that can overrule him if needed?  Frankly I’m not sure how you would apply that idea to the sort of powers a guild leader currently has, but that’s not to say it couldn’t be done.

My guess is that if Blizzard considered anything of this nature when the game was first created, or at any time since, they probably dismissed it as too complicated. The dictatorship method of government is ultimately much easier to manage, and unlike the real world, anybody who decides their guild leader is an asshat can easily leave. And in most cases, this is something that should be obvious long before you have acquired enough guild reputation for it to be a painful decision.


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