Monday, August 8, 2011

The End (My Friend)

Well, I thought this blog deserved a send-off of some kind--I really did have a lot of fun with it when I started it now over two years ago. That statement is shocking to me, in and of itself. It's kind of hard to believe that it's been that long just since then, and even moreso, that my time playing WoW spanned nearly six and a half years (!).

I admit, I will miss the old game--the one that began to die slowly with the release of Burning Crusade. Although it had its faults, BC was a fun and expansive addition to the original game. My excitement for Wrath of the Lich King, while still a rather manic excitement for the new features being released, was somewhat muted in comparison to the upcoming release of BC and refocused on somewhat different priorities. In retrospect, beginning with the announcement of WOTLK, my excitement for the new expansion was more towards the hope that it would "bring the magic back," so to speak, rather than the incredible number of new features, additions, tweaks, and so on that so excited me about BC's release.

Then, when Cataclysm was announced and the PR campaign began to ramp up to feverish intensity, I followed it all--but more and more, I began to feel reservations and doubts about the ability of the game to really deliver an epic, original-WoW style experience.

Sadly, it was overall a huge disappointment, at least for me. In their attempt to please every kind of player, Blizzard bit themselves in the ass with a mish-mash of annoyances, blatant attempts at harnessing addictive design elements simply to secure a daily time investment from all players (not just the "hardcore" elements), as well as increasing amounts of "social integration" that fueled the natural tendencies of habitual players to spend time on the game simply socializing, rather than actually playing the game itself. This meta-game style design path was the final nail in the coffin for me, I think.

The amount of drama, elitism, ego, shameless trolling and constant peer pressure to follow the crowd, rather than pursuing whatever personal goals and gameplay styles that each individual player preferred grew and thrived under the guise of "accessibility," "social gaming," "new gameplay mechanics," "guild management features" and a host of other new design decisions that grabbed the game by the hand and took it to corporate-themepark territory. You can literally almost pick out at random any of the major features added between the time just before the launch of WOTLK and early Cataclysm as an example linked to this trend. Over time, that growing trend simply pushed me away from the game (well, again). This time, however, it pushed me away for good.

I liked the unabashedly nerdy, "come as you are," skill-based meritocracy of the original game, with its nearly unlimited avenues of play and options for creative gameplay that it had for each and every kind of player, with the occasional "incredibly grindy but epicly rewarding quest or achievement," that appealed to the gamers with more time on their hands. The original game lacked polish, it's true--but I think that's what made so many people love it. It did the important things well, and focused on the minor issues only if they presented serious problems for the important ones. This is a good way to allocate development resources, and it was incredibly successful, both for the game's developers, subscription numbers, revenue and growth--but also for the players.

However, in Blizzard's rush to meet what I am sure were top-level management-set metrics and standards for subscriptions and revenue, WoW's development focus gradually, but surely, shifted to one based on popular opinion first and foremost. Get enough players to complain about one thing and (appear to) threaten subscriber numbers, and you could always expect an irresistible push from upper level management to appease the masses rather than risk corporate revenue streams. I believe the primary reason that was, and is, driving this top-down micro-designing (micromanagement of game design) was the marketing campaign that WoW was driven on. Subscriber numbers and revenue were largely the basis of that marketing campaign: "Most popular MMO ever!" "The only MMO to reach 10 million subscribers!" "WoW now more popular than ever!" This was surely because the game had little else to promote itself with, having already started to stagnate several years ago, and lacking the innovation that made it so compelling and unique among other games on the market--as I said, shortly after the release of Burning Crusade.

Perhaps you can see how this demagogue approach to development fits in to the more blatant social integration features that gradually became a core component of WoW's development towards the end of WOTLK.

These design decisions and development paths based on social media and blurring the line between "real life" and "in game" ended up killing WoW utterly. By now, that's apparent to most of the general public. It's only a matter of time now. The game I knew is dead and buried; its current incarnation is the walking dead. And yet, despite all that I said here, I am still a little sad to see it go. Despite how much of my time the game sucked up while I was in college and after I graduated, I really did enjoy it immensely for the majority of the time I was playing it. The game, as it was then, I could easily call one of the best games ever created. That is my opinion, but I feel pretty strongly about it.

Thus--this is my formal farewell to WoW. Drums and fanfare. I had stopped playing entirely around early February of this year, but I made the decision to cancel my account for good this past April, and it expired shortly after, only a month later. It is entirely too much to hope for, but I have to hope that at least a few development houses and game designers take some note and words of warning from the path Blizzard took--large game publishing conglomerates and corporate "suits" have been, and will be, threatening every "AAA" title that will be developed from now and into the near future. There is an axiom of game development that states, paraphrased, that you can either create a good game, or you can make a lot of money. There is some middle ground between the two, but in my simplistic terms, it comes down to either luck, or an extremely long design-development cycle (throughout which you will be harangued endlessly by all manner of people who have a stake in the game's release--financiers, fans, investors, and a host of others as well). Money will always be a strong lure for successful products, but once you walk that path, it's extremely difficult, if at all possible, to leave it.

Requiescat in Pace, WoW. And thanks to the few that have, or ever did, read my blog--I miss the days when reading the latest theorycrafting posts or role play stories were a fun daily activity for me. You all made the game much more special than any " friend updates" could ever do, and it made me feel like part of the community to maintain my own slice of it here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Two steps closer to a 10 man drake...

... one more step to go.

Downed Heroic Sindragosa in my mage's 10-man last night, and we went on to pick up Been Waiting a Long Time For This as well, which for many people finished off their meta-achievement and stuffed a dead dragon mount in their mailbox. Woo hoo!

Just one more to go for me. All You Can Eat, which I picked up on my paladin instead of my mage when we went for it due to lack of a second healer, seems like a total cake-walk now after having dealt with Heroic Sindragosa.

My wife swears she will never again suffer through that fight, and I can't say I blame her. What an awful combination of unforgiving, irritating mechanics, glitchy code and at times frustrating RNG elements.

Blistering Cold is a perfect example. Several times we had people die from 30k-40k+ hits while standing at the bottom of the stairs. That's a frustrating headscratcher. Then, there's having one healer get blocked and another one get Unchained Magic during phase 3, leaving one last healer to somehow manage to keep the raid alive through relentless AoE damage, chain cooldowns on the tanks at the appropriate moments, and not to mention, keeping those tanks alive and topped off as well.


Then, you have the stupid boneheaded things that people normally do on Sindragosa for some reason, like when I miscounted Frost Bombs during the air phase and got one-shot by the fourth one. I'm surprised my combat log didn't list that damage source as "stupidity."

Fortunately, we had one hell of a healing squad on point tonight, and we managed to get her taken care of within a mere hour and a half, including one horrifying wipe with the boss at 20,000 hp left. Hooray for awesome healers, and a 30% buff! I'm positive that Heroic Sindragosa is the only fight in which a halfway-competent raid could use the help provided by Strength of Wrynn. Had the buff been only 15%, we may have struggled for twice that amount of time.

Been Waiting a Long Time For This was a relaxing walk in the park after that, taking only two attempts, and that only because of an unfortunate incident involving an out-of-control Shambler while waiting for the plague stacks to build up.

Next week - time to get a dead dragon mount of my own!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On healing and addons

MoarHPS! had a post today where Codi defended her reasons for not using healing addons. Today's post was in response to a previous post where she merely noted how long it had been since she had started healing raids without the use of addons, and was attacked for it repeatedly.

Utter rubbish, that.

Why anyone would insult or demean another person or player just because he or she chooses to play differently is baffling to me. And the silliest part is that, when you distill any such arguments down to the basics, you find that ultimately the insulter is arguing from a principled standpoint. Which in this case means that the results of addon-less healing don't matter at all. It doesn't matter if the whole raid survives, the boss dies, everyone is competitive on the healing meter, etc. -- if you didn't use add-ons and others did, you're a worse player and everyone else only succeeded because they were able to carry you.

Now keep in mind here, we're speaking about running no add-ons, period. None. No Deadly Boss Mods, no Decursive, and certainly no Grid.

I don't have a horse in this race, but I do have two different perspectives. My wife, who's currently working on Heroic Lich King 25 and Heroic Ruby Sanctum 25 in her guild, uses a few add-ons, primarily DBM and Decursive, but heals totally with the default raid UI. She's very successful at it, and obviously the default UI gives a player enough information and flexibility to support the statement that "add-ons aren't required to achieve a high level of performance."

That being said, I do use add-ons myself -- the aforementioned DBM and Decursive, as well as Grid -- but not only do I have to honestly admit that they really provide a minimal additional benefit, but I've also occasionally found that using add-ons can actually impede one's ability to perform as a healer. For instance, when pugging a raid, seeing all of these unfamiliar names in an unfamiliar configuration on Grid, a healer could find themselves delayed in finding a specific one to start healing. This is because by default, Grid covers names on the unitframes when the unit starts taking damage, replacing them with health deficits or incoming healing. Jaraxxus, a frequent target of the weekly raid quests, is a good example. Can a healer using Grid with default options find the target of Incinerate Flesh before the affected raider blows up?

It could be difficult, going only by class colors in Grid or by checking tooltips. Could it be much easier to simply use the default UI, trade Grid's compact design for a wider, more expansive display, and find your healing targets quickly without fighting your addons?

I think that's not a far-fetched assumption.

Now on the flip side of the coin, I think it's far easier for most people to think of ways that not using add-ons can be a serious detriment to raid performance. The problem is that this is a very short-term viewpoint. And this only on bosses that the specific person has some lesser amount of experience attempting compared to the rest of the raid.

On brand new, never attempted bosses, everyone is on equal footing. A raider used to the default UI for buffs and debuffs will not have any less of an ability to see when a crucial debuff is applied, for instance, and being used to interpreting this method of displaying information, will not have any unnatural lag in reaction time or in processing new information.

Now, lacking timers and countdowns, like those provided by DBM, can introduce a bit of decision making lag or user input lag as the player becomes used to expecting these abilities or phase changes, but once the player is there and ready to expect these mechanics of the fight, not having DBM can actually be beneficial as a way to reduce to incidence of "tunneling," or simply staring at your screen not processing and changes in scenery going on around you because you're hyper-focused on irrelevant information. Every healer has experienced tunneling at some point, and I firmly believe that an over-abundance of information on the screen, of which DBM is a prime offender, serious decreases a player's ability to remain alert and ready for changes on screen. This is just a natural consequence of seeing all of this constantly changing information displayed in front of a person. That person will become deadened to some degree to the other changes going on in the encounter, especially those not displayed by an add-on -- e.g., boss movement, raid movement, etc.

All this back and forth basically amounts to the following: healing with or without mods and add-ons is ultimately a question of style. If you choose to use them, great. If you choose not to use them, also great. Just make sure that, whichever path you choose to follow, that you are getting the essential information that you need as a player at your current level of difficulty. Perform as required, and nobody even has to know which of these kinds of healer you are in the first place.

Enough said, now?

Friday, April 2, 2010

And, I'm back.

I figured this was an appropriate reason to make the first post in the better part of a year. A full week behind the rest of my guild, due to me being on the bench for the guild first kill. But still -- Hail to the Kingslayer, baby!

Disclaimer: This was on my mage, not my priest. Actually, for maximum ironic potential, my priest has since become a full-time healer in the past six or so months, with a primary spec of Holy and Disc remaining the offspec. Not a shred of Shadow anywhere. It actually makes me a bit sad -- for so long he was never, ever intended to even off-heal. I was a committed Shadow Priest player. And now look at him! It almost feels like he's a traitor to all of Shadow Priest-kind.

I may as well start blogging in my new persona as a mage, but it feels really awkward to do so in a blog essentially dedicated to being a Shadow Priest.

Wat do?

Start a new blog... or rename and redesign this one?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I just had to share this.

This is so ridiculous, and yet, so amazingly awesome.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Explanations, and a New Main

I've been absent from Shadow Priest blogging for a while not because I got bored, or quit WoW (although I've come close a few times, I think). I just switched my main to my mage, located back on Zul'jin where my wife and I were playing last year before transferring to KT in the final months of BC.

Posting about mage theorycrafting doesn't seem to fit in a blog titled "A Shadow Priest," hence the lack of activity. I appreciate that some of my older posts are still getting comments -- I like seeing that I wasn't just talking to thin air (but I wouldn't necessarily care if that was the case, either!).

In the past couple months, I've been dedicated to my mage and finally got back into 25-mans about mid-August. He's about as geared out as one can get without dipping into Heroic 25-mans, pretty much. I also transferred my priest back to ZJ as well. I suppose I should update my bio on the right sometime.

I'm starting to get bored as getting gear is way too easy when you clear 10 and 25 man ToC and 10 and 25 Onyxia every week. Hell, it was easy before I was doing that. After a couple weeks I finally got enough people to get interested in going back to Ulduar, and finally saw Thorim, Vezax, and Yogg for the first time -- sadly enough. We're wiping on Yogg's second phase, but that encounter is everything I was hoping it would be. It beats ToC hands down.

I especially like and enjoy encounters designed not to be brute-forced through gear. They show thought and effort on the part of the design team, and other than Ulduar, that sort of effort isn't really apparent in the raids so far implemented in this expansion. 80s are perfectly capable of wiping even in BWL these days. I've been in quite a few pugs myself who didn't bother listening to warning to avoid standing in front of Ebonroc, for instance, or to avoid Nef's shadowflame.

We're not likely to ever do much in H-ToC25, due to too much dead weight on the roster, but H-ToC10 is still a possibility. This is an unfortunate truth, but given the direction raiding has been going since WoTLK launched, and Blizzard's stance towards universal content delivery, it's kind of to be expected, although I'm not a fan of it. Lackluster performance and minimal drive to succeed are simply a natural consequence of the level of (gear) quality being so high these days, compared to what's actually required for the current content. Improving skills and performance in order to push progression content is simply not necessary when your gear is already compensating for so much in the regular runs, but not enough to bridge the gap to the hardmodes/Heroic modes. Many people in the guild who might be interested in Heroic modes for the rewards in doing so aren't interested in putting up with the weaker links that we would have to bring in in order to make those attempts.

Blizzard really, really fucked up with ToC, in so many ways. It's a mistake in every way.

This is turning into a much larger post, so I'll cut it here. Hope to write more in the future. May be mage-related more than priest-related, so fair warning.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blizzcon 2009

Watching the live feed on the net right now.

DirectTV's feed is terrible, but I'm loving this coverage.

The CEO definitely said we could look forward to some "cataclysmic" news this weekend. (ooooOOOOOoooo) :)

edit: It was all true. All of it. Boubouille is the f***ing man.

edit2: Worgen have the sickest looking zone I've seen in WoW yet. Very Ravenloft-esque!