Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

There are times when I wish I wasn’t as accommodating.  Yet, I only have myself to blame for it.  I try to do things with the best intentions, but sometimes things just don’t work out.

In this case, it all has to do with my DPS specs.  A while back now, I decided to change from feral cat DPS to a boomkin because the guild needed more ranged people.  I volunteered, because I always wanted to try the spec out and see what it’s like.  One of the biggest problems is that I barely make it to the raids due to real life schedules, so in the end I didn’t really do much to help the guild out with getting a ranged class.

Finding that I was missing being feral DPS, I decided to change my second spec (feral tanking, which I had not used once since I got the spec set up and reforged all the gear) back to a kitty and tried it out in a heroic to see how I would do.  For comparison, as a boomkin I would average around 8-10k DPS – which is not very good at all – by any comparison for my gear level.

My first thought was: “Why in the world did I ever switch?”

After doing a heroic Zul’Aman, my average DPS for the entire instance was around 13.6k, and my highest was around 18k for Nalorakk.  At first I thought it was just that instance, but after thinking more I realized that it’s just something I’m so used to doing that it flows easier.

One thing I was really bad about as a boomkin was my DoT uptime.  There were some fights where I was below 30%, because I just forgot to reapply it with being so focused on my regular rotations.  Fortunately as a kitty, the DoTs that I use aer some of the most important parts of my rotation and come naturally.  That in itself is a great way to make sure I don’t slack.

Plus, I found I was getting bored with being a boomkin.  There were definitely fun parts about it, but altogether I was finding that I was just there and not being very excited to instance or raid at all.  Perhaps that’s how I got my priest to 85 so quickly, because I just wasn’t feeling it.

Whatever the case, I’m definitely back to being a feral DPS spec.  I had so much fun with it through my first instance, I don’t care how many rogues and other ferals I have to beat up to get my gear.  As well, if I needed any other reason, the staff that Fandral will drop from Firelands in 4.2 turns cat form into a fire cat form.  ‘Nuff said.  I’m back to a melee state of mind.

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Moving On Up

I have mentioned before that I was working on a goblin priest for an alt, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. That priest is finally level 85, and heroic ready… but the process was a little bit different from the expected.

Originally, my thought was to try to level through the dungeon finder to work on healing skills as I had never healed on a priest before. It worked out well for quite a while until level 41, when I got too frustrated at other people and then decided to just take the plunge and quest with a shadow spec. This ended up being a good plan, as I now have the basics of both specs down.

The thing that was scaring me was the idea of healing Cataclysm instances. On my druid, I have done all of them multiple times (excepting the new Zandalari ones), so it wasn’t that I didn’t know the fights. I had the simple fear of failing at something that I set out to accomplish. Many times I’ve been in a group where there’s been one member that was doing a very bad job at their role and I was afraid that one day I’d turn into them.

Once my item level was high enough – unfortunately heirlooms make this a bit difficult, as they’re an item level 1 – I decided to give it a try. From when I first made my priest, I decided to use discipline as my healing spec since it looked like fun, and so far it has been. Having the multiple methods of damage prevention and utilities make it so I have more tricks up my sleeve, and hopefully will make the run go smoother.

All in all the regular instances went fairly well. It didn’t stop me from being nervous through all of the runs, but at least we were able to make it through them. The hurdle now is the transition into healing heroics.

I’ve done a number of heroic runs with my shadow spec, getting drops and justice points to improve my gear before I try to heal them. As of last night, I am at the point where I think my gear is ready to go into a heroic. There are a few fights that I’m worried about that have high levels of damage, and whether I’d be able to cope with the stress.

Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of forgetting to use cooldowns at times. The biggest problems are two of the best cooldowns a discipline priest has: power infusion and pain suppression. Huge increase in healing throughput and huge damage reduction, and I forget to use them? I have to set up some power auras to help me remember, the same I did for my boomkin stuff.

My priest has yet to heal a heroic, but I think I’m ready for it. If not, that’s why there’s the option for a dual spec.

What is “Premium”?

This post is part of a Shared Topic on Blog Azeroth. Be sure to check out posts from other great blog authors!

After my last post was linked on WoW Insider, I saw a couple of comments on the page that made me think.  Firstly, I realized I didn’t do that great of a job explaining my position on the Premium Dungeon Finder. Secondly, I realized that there’s a lot more to this “premium” thing that should be discussed. Through the ensuing blog posts as well as Twitter conversations, I thought I’d expand my thoughts.

To begin with, it was a new and controversial move when MMOs first started charging a monthly subscription for games. Up until then, you paid your money for the game, and played as much as you want for the initial cost. Games that had vast multiplayer services like other Blizzard games (Warcraft III, StarCraft) or first-person shooter games (Counter-strike, Quake) operated on the one-time payment and provided the rest free of charge. I don’t know the economics behind this all, but I’m pretty sure that these games would have to sell a lot to be able to provide free multiplayer services.

Even to register a domain name for a website, there’s a fee. Heck, in many major cities in Canada and the US, it’s hard to find free parking at times. Behind everything, there is some sort of cost – whether it’s seen or not is the big thing.

Warcraft II: BNE & Warcraft III, Diablo and Diablo II, StarCraft and StarCraft II all offer free multiplayer through Blizzard’s Battle.net service. At any given time there are millions of people playing games on their servers, using the bandwidth they have to pay for, and ultimately costing the company. Someone has to maintain the servers to make sure they are at peak performance. Someone has to administer the people working on said servers, and the data centres that house them. Even though people playing those games only pay up front, there are real costs that Blizzard has to deal with on an ongoing basis.

Thus we have the reasoning for a monthly subscription fee for MMOs, as they are a whole new ball of wax. Rather than being separate instances of a game, they are a persistent world that also has instances within them. They must allow thousands of people to log on to a server and play the game as the company has designed and have fun doing it. If the servers crash repeatedly, nobody is having fun. The monthly fee goes to offset the likely astronomical costs of being able to maintain the server networks.

We already pay a monthly fee, why do we need to pay more for extra services?

I forget who exactly, but someone on Twitter gave this example: “I already pay for my cable, why should I pay more for the HD package?”  Similarly, it’s the same as going to a Starbucks and asking for a coffee with an extra shot of espresso but not wanting to be charged for it.  Both examples are extra services or products that are offered, but not essential.

Currently, the WoW remote package is the only Premium offering that is available.  This gives people the ability to do things outside of the game which can enhance their WoW experience, namely being able to use the Auction Houses and chat with guild members who are in-game.  Both of these services require an extra charge, likely because a lot of work went into them, and I know for a fact that it wasn’t free to create. Blizzard employees put their time and effort into these things that are not even required – not even remotely! (Yes, the pun was intended)

The Premium Dungeon Finder is something that will require Blizzard to change their network infrastructure. The servers right now are physically located at various points around the world in clusters. The Battlegroups are set up as such, and the people who group together in the Random Dungeon Finder (LFD) or battlegrounds are pulled from these server groups. Blizzard is working on making it so eventually it will be region-wide, with no extra cost for the player. By changing the LFD system to be able to pull people from your Real ID friends list specifically from servers around the region, it is a major change that was likely not planned for when things were first set up.

Finally, even though the game has been out for six and a half years, the subscription rates have not changed once. Inflation has brought many prices higher across many different industries, but we pay the exact same to log on to WoW as we did when the game first started. I’m pretty sure that there is a lot of money lost by keeping these rates the same.

In the end, I highly doubt that Blizzard will introduce something that is so game changing that it is a requirement to pay for it. If they did, they would most definitely lose a lot of subscribers, and likely myself included. I believe in getting a fair deal, and I think Blizzard has given us a good one so far.

If you want these extra features, you can pay for them. They are not necessary, but they’re helpful and useful. I personally will not be getting the WoW remote subscription or the Premium Dungeon Finder when it comes out, as both of them are not worth it for me. Everyone can choose for themselves to see if they think it’s worth the extra money for the services received.

Premium Dungeon Finder

Today there was some news released about something Blizzard is working on that will be quite game changing.  No, it’s not the dance studio.  A “premium” service which will allow someone to use the Random Dungeon Finder (LFD) tool to group with friends on Real ID.

At first glance, I think this is an excellent idea.  With WoW being so big across so many servers, there are people who want to group together but don’t want to take the time or money to level an alt on another realm or transfer a character over.  By being able to bypass the tedius or expensive effort that these entail, it will allow friends to do dungeons together and have fun much easier.

The biggest thing that will cause most people to call foul is the fact that it’s a premium service, which is an extra fee on top of the monthly fee we already pay.  To be honest, that was the first thing that caught my attention as well, but I’m going to wait for all the information.  We don’t know any pricing or how exactly it is going to work, apart from the fact that only one person needs to have the service – that being the person initiating the group.

If this feature will be included in the current premium package which allows remote auction house and remote guild chat and keeping the price the same, I can see a fair amout of people using this.  I could even see myself possibly signing up for this feature.

One big question I know a lot of people will have is whether this will support cross-faction groups along with cross-realm.  Many of my friends are not only scattered across different servers, but between the Horde and Alliance.  As much as the Alliance are scum (as far as my characters think), I’d like to group up with the people behind them.  To me, I think this will be the selling point: if I’m able to do cross-faction groups, I’ll pretty much be sold.

Since this is still very early in the cycle of the feature, we’ll definitely be given more information later on.  I’ll be very curious to see what the final version of this product will be.

Power Auras for Boomkins

This post will be about two versions of Power Auras – the one that is built in-game from Blizzard, and the addon that inspired it: Power Auras Classic.

A while back, I had installed the Power Auras mod and played around with it.  My raid leader had told me about it, and at the time my DPS as a feral cat druid was lacking, so I wanted to try whatever I could.  I loaded it up, and very quickly became confused with it and didn’t bother trying it again.  Not too long after, Blizzard decided to incorporate their own version of the system into the game itself, with not nearly as much customization.

Basically, Power Auras is an alert system that can tell you a number of things.  Things like a spell alert which is being cast on your target, when a cooldown is available to be used, or if a certain debuff is not on your target are some small examples.  By using these alerts, it can make you that much of a better player by being able to focus on what you’re doing without having to look at too many different places.

Click for full size

I personally use a combination of the spell alerts from Blizzard supplemented by Power Auras.  I know many people who use one or the other, but out of sheer laziness I decided to go with what was given by Blizzard since it would be less work for me to set up.  To set up the in-game spell alerts, simply go to Interface Options, the Combat screen, and enable “Show Spell Alerts” (see graphic at right).  The opacity slider simply decides how transparent or not the alerts are.

There will be a number of pre-loaded things that will happen for certain events, such as Shooting Stars which procs and instant cast Starsurge.  If you haven’t used these before, it would probably be a good idea to use them for a bit so you know where they are on your screen and what they look like.  If you don’t like them then you can customize those events into Power Auras, and if you don’t mind them like me you can leave them.

The spells that are covered by the Blizzard spell alerts are:

  • achieving Solar Eclipse
  • achieving Lunar Eclipse
  • proccing Shooting Stars for an instant cast Starsurge
  • proccing Clearcasting for the next ablility to cost no mana

In my opinion, why fix what isn’t broken?

Power Auras - Boomkin setup

This is my Power Auras setup, which is nothing too fancy.  I’m a big fan of doing as little as possible to clutter up my UI.  Starting from the top middle and working clockwise, this is what the different elements mean:

  • Starsurge off cooldown and available to use
  • Insect Swarm is not on target
  • Force of Nature (treants) off cooldown and available to use
  • Starfall off cooldown and available to use
  • Moonfire or Sunfire (depending on which Eclipse phase I’m in) not on target.

Between the base spell alerts and Power Auras extra information, I rarely ever have to look at my action bar to see if things are off cooldown, unless I want to see how much longer until I need to use it.  I have other mods which tell me specific times on cooldowns that I have as well as duration left on the target, so between these different things I’m pretty much set.

If anyone has any suggestions on ways that I can improve my setup or things that I have missed, please let me know in the comments.  I’m always looking to improve, and would love to hear from you.

Objective Complete

The past two weeks have been an interesting time for me. Three different long-time goals that I have had have been achieved, and I’m a little bit lost. These are not just small things, but goals that I have been working on for years.

Four months into a new expansion, and I’m already bored. I’m a Loremaster of Cataclysm, I got exalted with the factions that give me the best gear upgrades that I need, and I do my daily heroic when I have the time. I’ve become exalted with Hellscream’s Reach in Tol Barad and have my awesome dragon from them, and I dread having to grind the daily quests again to get another item.

My long-time goals that I have completed are not even from Cataclysm, but actually from Burning Crusade. I was able to get exalted with the Sha’tari Skyguard and get the Nether Ray flying mounts, and as a result of that also getting exalted with Ogri’la (again for both – I got this on my Paladin back during BC). Shortly afterwards, I finished up the grind to get exalted with Netherwing and get all the awesome dragons.

Finally, this past Sunday I completed a goal that has eluded me for quite a while. Every day for a long time, I would venture into the lair of this foul beast and slay it in hopes that it would drop itself for me to ride upon as a trophy. At long last, it finally happened. I was excited, had a bit of a gasp as I motioned for my wife to see the loot window, and learned the Raven Lord mount.

But… now what?

I do stuff in-game as mentioned before, but it’s not really keeping me entertained. Lately I’ve been working on my goblin shadow priest alt and have been enjoying it greatly, but it’s only a matter of time before I run into the same problem as I have now. I get the priest to 85, run dungeons until I’m raid ready, raid until I have all the gear, but then will I want to do all the extra stuff I’ve done already on my druid? I highly doubt it.

This is the classic symptoms of burnout. The game isn’t as enjoyable as it was and I’m trying to find things to keep me occupied. At the moment, the priest is doing the job of keeping me busy and getting a sense of accomplishment. My main character is sitting in Orgrimmar building up cobwebs, which is dusted off once a week to raid.

I’ve definitely been cutting down on my playtime lately, and trying other games. I recently bought Magicka on Steam and have been enjoying it greatly. It frustrates me many times as I find new and exciting ways to get my character killed, but still lots of fun. Portal 2 just came out, and I’m hoping I can find a way to get it soon.

Looks like I’ll be scaling back on my WoW time. This isn’t a bad thing, as when 4.1 comes out and there’s new features to the game I’ll be rested and ready for them.

4.1 and Call to Arms

It’s time for me to add to the growing group of voices in the blogosphere in regards to the upcoming change to the Looking for Dungeon group tool in 4.1 and the addition of the “Call to Arms” feature.  There has been a number of posts regarding this issue, and a number of different opinions about it.  From all the posts I’ve read and podcasts listened to, it seems people are pretty much split down the middle.

When the announcement first came out from Blizzard that they were adding in the “Call to Arms” feature for the LFD tool in 4.1, I have to admit I was a bit surprised that they would make such a move.  Since the tool first came out in Wrath, there have been average wait times depending on your class.  DPS players have long queues, healers are medium to short, and tanks are extremely short or instant.  People (mainly DPS – including myself) have complained about the wait times, but nobody has had any ideas of how to fix it.

Enter Call to Arms.  Basically, this feature adds an incentive for a player to queue as one of the roles that is lacking in the LFD tool at the time to help speed things up.  Lots of healers and DPS in the queue but lacking tanks?  The system will add CtA for tanks, and give that person an extra reward after a successful dungeon run.  Basically, it’s a new version of the grab bag added at the end of The Oculus from Wrath to convince people to do something.  It’s not a bribe, it’s incentive.

To break it down in a simple format, here’s what I think:

Good things about Call to Arms

  • Gives people a reason to want to tank – for example: making it a dual spec, rolling an alt.
  • Extra rewards are bind to Battle.net account, so the rewards aren’t just for that character.
  • (Hopefully) fills roles which are needed in the queue at the time, reducing wait times all around.

Bad things about Call to Arms

  • Throws money at the problem without fixing the overall issues – the tank is the expected leader of the group, whether they know the instance or not giving extra pressure.
  • Increases chances of getting tanks who aren’t ready for heroics – their item level might be high from other gear, no clue how to tank.
  • DPS will never get the extra reward – likely it will be tanks most of the time, healers rarely.
  • Encourages people to queue solo, as there are no rewards for queuing as a needed class with a group.

I personally have my second spec set up for tanking as a bear.  I tanked through Burning Crusade and Wrath, and enjoyed it.  The changes that came through in Cataclysm made things different, and I wasn’t comfortable with doing it again, but I would like to try.  4.1 has some good changes for bears, which will hopefully make keeping aggro easier for AoE groups.

Altogether, I think the Call to Arms system is a good one.  I just hope it works as Blizzard intended.