Friday, January 23, 2009

Un-Heroic Dungeons

There’s a lot of talk about how Raiding is “easy” in Wrath and as I wrote previously, I think the main cause of that impression is that people are generally more experienced with 25-man content they have already done in 10-man.

However, what’s been really bugging me is that Heroic Dungeons are anything but Heroic.

No Crowd Control Needed
Unlike Burning Crusade where most Heroics required one or two mobs to be CC’d on most pulls, crowd control is a rarity in the current Heroics. In fact, in the last 10 or 12 runs I have made, I think crowd control was only every used one time during one pull out of all dozen or so runs.

Tanks and Healers just don’t need the crowd control anymore. In fact, a single Tank seemingly has no problem keeping aggro on more than a dozen mobs and most Healers have no trouble keeping a single target up against that many mobs.

Wrath of the AoE Spam
Everyone spams AoE during trash pulls. The Tank spams his AoE aggro, the DPS spam the big AoE damage spells like Blizzard and Rain of Fire. But mass chaos doesn’t ensue – the mobs all just die.

A great example of this is the Gauntlet run in Heroic Utgarde Pinnacle. The encounter is intended for you to fight your way through groups of 2-4 mobs until you reach the end and can harpoon the boss. However, one of the more popular strategies is to get an early run and fight ALL the mobs from the very start right next to the harpoon. The tank picks up maybe 16 mobs and then the whole group just gets AoE’d down.

And you see the same thing on the smaller 4 and 5 mob pulls. And you see the same thing in Raids during trash pulls.

Where’s the Skill?
I think what really bothers me about this trend is that whatever skill was actually required to play the game has dropped even more significantly. This game has always had a “gear > skill” equation, but with all the changes in Wrath, whatever “skill” was needed is almost non-existant.

Consider this: Is any Heroic dungeon in Wrath as difficult as Heroic Magister’s Terrace? Or Heroic Mana Tombs? Even the easiest of the Burning Crusade Heroics, the Slave Pens, could use a bit of Crowd Control.

It’s a bit ironic actually. One of the Wrath changes I was most excited about on my Rogue were the changes to Sap that allowed it to work on mobs other than Humanoids.

Woot!, I thought. A “real” CC that will actually be almost as useful as Polymorph. Of course, it turns out that its actually less useful because it’s not needed. The net effect is that, in PvP, Druids can now be sapped in Cat Form. That’s the only advantage to the new Sap.

But why?
Perhaps it was intentional. The new class, the Death Knight, has no CC effect to speak of and giving them one would have severely imbalanced PvP.

And yet, Blizzard must have known that the DK population would be so large that those players would want to do instance runs. Particularly between levels 58-70 where they might outnumber other classes pretty significantly.

Traditionally, DPS classes with no form of Crowd Control had difficulty gaining entry to groups. Ask any Fury Warrior, Ret Paladin, Enhancement/Elemental Shaman how easy it was for the to find a PuG in Burning Crusade. Certainly compared to a classes like a Mage, Hunter or even Warlock/Rogue they were not nearly as desirable.

Alternately, it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Blizzard didn’t realize that people would stop using CC effects in instances. The lack of foresight they have historically shown certainly leads me to believe that this might be the likely reason for the net effect.

It’s what comes of listening to people whine on forums. Tanks have been complaining and asking for better AoE threat for years. Well, now they have it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Warcraft Endame

In my last post, I wrote that I had temporarily left WAR and started playing Wrath of the Lich King.

That was almost two months ago.

I've put some thought into my lack of blogging and the only conclusion I can draw is that WoW just isn't all that inspiring to write about anymore.

While I've enjoyed Wrath and many of the changes, it's still pretty much the same game. That's nothing new, but on this blog I've always liked writing about exciting ideas and while Wrath is *new* it's not exactly a fresh breath of air.

Anyway... what I wanted to write about today is...

Wrath "Raiding" or "Endgame"
Whether or not Raiding is EZ-Mode in Wrath is a hot topic in the blogosphere at the moment. Or rather, most people believe it to be easy and the debate is whether or not it SHOULD be easy.

The debate seems to funnel down into the age old "hardcore vs. Casual" debate that's become MMO's greatest cliche.

However, what I don't read much about is WHY it appears to be easier.

10-man vs. 25-man
I have currently seen all 10/25 man content except Malygos. That's a stark contrast to Burning Crusade in which there are still several 25-man raids I have never entered.

Two versions of the same content really makes a big difference on raiding. Not because it allows people to gear up, but because it provides people knowledge of the fights.

If you have done the 10-man version and know the fights well, then it's not much of a leap to do the same fight on 25-man.

Pre-Wrath, the biggest challenges for a raiding guild were a) maintaining a 25-man roster and b) getting everyone to learn the fight. However, in Wrath, someone can do the 10-man version with the guild and then easily transition to the 25-man.

The net result is that MORE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE FIGHT. Two version means you can practice each fight twice a week. Two versions means you can learn with a small group before attempting with a bigger group.

It's not so much about the fight being "easier" as it is about more people possessing knowledge about the encounter.

Pugging 25-man Naxx
Pre-BC, very few people would ever have attempted to PUG a 25-man raid like SSC or Tempest Keep. But in Wrath, a small guild that has mastered 10-man Naxx can pick up 15 other players with Naxx experience and easily do three wings in 25-man.

An elitist would argue that is exactly why raiding is easier. You shouldn't be able to PUG it they would argue. However, what they neglect to understand is that the only reason such a thing is possible is because both the small guild and the PUG had previous experience in the 10-man version.

It's that knowledge of the fights that makes the content easier.

Gearing up a fresh 80 is faster, too
If you were like me going into Wrath, you had some nice epics at 70. I had a nice combination of badge loot and PvP epics that lasted me well into my high-70s before I started replacing it.

The simple fact is that the delta between a level 70 epic and a level 80 blue is not nearly as significant as it was from 60 to 70. Heck, I didn't even find a replacement for my level 70 badge pants until Naxx.

What this means is that players can enter Heroics as a fresh 80. Even tanks who kept themselves defense capped can do some of the easier heroics right away.

Do a bit of research on the right Heroics and with a relatively small amount of effort, you can be geared well enough to participate in 10-man Sarth (a short raid) or even two of the 10-man Naxx wings.

However, this doesn't really make the raid content easier -- just more easily accessible.

Heroic Dugeons
One impact of the quicker gear-up and the easier access to raiding is that Heroic dungeons quickly become irrelevant.

I started playing Wrath two months ago. I am now level 80 and Heroic Dungeons offer me no upgrades.

Ironically, I enjoy running Heroics but the Emblem rewards from the bosses don't even provide me with anything worthwhile (except for Alts).

Sadly, this means that anything outside of a raid is a "waste of time" if you are measuring success by in-game rewards.

They really need some way of converting Heroism Emblems to Valor Emblems. Maybe 10 Heroism = 1 Valor or something. No one would every try to get 600 Heroic Emblems for a shoulder piece, but they would farm 10 or 20 to get those 1 or 2 last badges before the weekly reset.