Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tanks, but no Tanks

I was clearing out the Tatooine bonus series quests on my Jedi Sentinel when the call came through on Gen Chat.

"LFM for World Boss."

It's not like I haven't seen that before.  Even WoW got back into the World Boss business with Mists, so you'll occasionally see recruitment messages in Trade Chat in much the same way you'd see pug raids in the old days.*  Still, I used to eschew World Boss runs in much the same way that I passed on raids:  I simply didn't have the time to invest in the gear grind and then the raids themselves.  Perhaps I'm not being entirely fair about raids these days, with LFR and all, but watching guildies smash themselves against ICC day in and day out for 3+ hours at a time kind of turned me off of raiding as anything more than an occasional diversion into AQ40 or Sunwell.

Still, one nice thing that the World Bosses in TOR have going for them are that they're level appropriate for the world you're in.  If you're at the right level for being on a specific world, you can assist in taking on that planet's World Boss.  No gear grind needed.**

Before I could talk myself out of it, I whispered the player rounding up the WB attempt and promptly received an invite.  I took a speeder out to the Dune Sea and scanned the list of people who joined up; I recognized a few people from Heroics I'd run, and one other person I'd run a Flashpoint with.  The slots were quickly filling up to the max of 16, and by the time I arrived people were splitting themselves off into the three parts of the trinity.  There was only one thing...

"Do we have a tank?" someone asked.

"Um," I replied, scanning the lists, "I don't think we have a tank spec at all.  But we've got a LOT of healers."

Indeed we did.  I counted seven Commandos alone, and three Jedi Sages.  There were a couple of Gunslingers, and one other Sentinel besides myself.  One person piped up, "I'm the only Scoundrel here? :-("

"Yeah," I replied, "but you're OUR Scoundrel."

The player organizing the run quickly spammed Gen Chat with "LF tank for World Boss" until our fifteenth slot was taken.  "Hi!" the tank said.  "Who's the main tank?"

"You are," someone said.  "You're our only tank."

One of the Commandos added, "Yeah, but you've got about 10 healers backing you up."

"Okay, cool.  I'll get there and we'll do this."

Playing toons whose damage can really spike --a Mage (WoW), a Barbarian (AoC), or a Gunslinger (TOR)-- taught me the value of waiting before joining in an attack.***  So I had a ringside seat of watching about a half dozen glowing green lines on that tank when he started in on the WB.  I'd have laughed if I wasn't so intent on getting into position, because it looked like the old Chain Heal spell run amok.

But what I really had in mind was this Order of the Stick comic.

We DPSed down the World Boss without losing a single toon.  In fact, I don't think that either myself or the tank dropped below 75% health for the entire fight.  Hell, it's entirely possible that I could have tanked the WB with that much healing available; not that I'd want to have tried, mind you, but it does illustrate the value of having excess healing to go around.


To piggyback on that WB adventure, I can make the conjecture that in a battleground a healer is far more important than a tank.

While having tanks and/or melee DPS is nice to have, BGs are won or lost by the number of healers a side has.  My completely unscientific observation has been borne out by months upon months of grinding through Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin, where you can make a reasonable assertion which side will win purely based on which side has more healers.  

A good healer can turn a squishy Mage into a tank.  No healer can turn a Warrior into a sitting duck.

And while a Ret/Prot Pally has a very limited number of heals before they run out of mana, the Feral Druid and Shadow Priest can hang around, dropping far more heals, even though they are technically a DPS spec. I've recently been in an Arathi Basin battleground where a Shadow Priest, a Mage, and a Feral Druid kept six players busy at the Stables.  Sure, they eventually lost, but the corresponding loss in time to taking them out meant 1/5 of one side kept 1/3 of another side from impacting the game. Spreading 9 people across four nodes meant that nodes were shorthanded, and the other side could (and did) take over at least one other node.

A good healer, just like the Demonology Warlock with their Wild Imps, can swing the battle by being a force multiplier.  Sure, you've got others with pets, such as the Hunter and Frost Mage, but a healer is a force multiplier without needing a pet at all.  By keeping teammates upright, the healer has an oversized impact on the game.  And if that healer can drop AoEs like the Druid can....

Well, you get the point.  A healer is a prized commodity in the BG world.

*Old days = pre patch 4.3.  Not to make you feel ancient or anything.

**Imagine a Knucklerot on steroids in every region of WoW, and you get the idea.

***Well, that and being a smudge on the floor when the boss smacks you good.

EtA:  Corrected a logic issue in the last paragraph.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Curse of Redbeard Strikes Again!

You'd think that I'd have learned by now.

I start a toon, and that toon's class and/or spec gets nerfed.

It happened with Ret (although it took Cata dropping for it to finally get there).  It happened with Frost (again, Cata's release was the kicker).  It happened with Locks, too.

And now it's happened with Rogues.

You don't notice that Rogues got nerfed a bit in Mists until you get higher up in level, around the 30s.  That's when a lot of other toons start to get new abilities.  Or their existing abilities take a big leap in utility.

Like, say, those damn Wild Imps.

Back in my day, when I leveled Adelwulf, we didn't have no stinking Wild Imps.  We Warlocks took our lumps from every other class, and we LIKED it!  And we walked to school barefoot, too!  Uphill!  Both ways!!

It's more than a bit disconcerting that in the L30s BGs you can suddenly find yourself fighting 4-5 on 1 due to those Wild Imps.  Couple that with some improved AI on the succubus and the Lock is no longer the butt end of the BG spectrum like it was in Cata.  In fact, if you put two Demonology Locks together and add one healer, you can pin an entire bunch of people down at the entrance in Arathi Basin.

A Rogue's ability is designed for maximum damage close in, sacrificing armor for speed.  If the Rogue fails to kill the enemy quickly, then they're a sitting duck.  In the L30s in Mists, what ends up happening is that those other classes take a big leap forward in survivability, whereas the Rogue's corresponding damage output levels off.  This results in the Rogue being unable to pick on even the stragglers in a BG if they're of comparable level to the Rogue.

And you can forget about a healer.  A Rogue simply doesn't have enough stuns to take out a healer of comparable level in the L30s.


From where I stand watching BGs in the mid-30s, the Feral Druid still rules the roost.  The Disco Priest has fallen back a bit, and has been replaced by the Mistweaver Monk and Demonology Warlock.  Warriors have gotten their mojo back a bit, and two warriors together can handle a group of 4-5 DPS.  What I've found surprising is that Frost Mages have made a comeback of sorts.  Back in Cata you had Fire and Arcane making inroads into BGs based upon their higher damage output, but it seems that in Mists that Frost has reasserted itself as the Mage PvP spec once more.  As a (retired) Frost Mage player, it's nice to see the spec doing well.  As a (current) Rogue player, however, they're harder to take down than before.

Paladins seem to have made a bit of a recovery from their easy pickings of the L20s, but they still trail Warriors in survivability.  Ret still has the aftereffect from Cata's overhaul; the lack of decent emergency healing seems to hamper Ret more than anything else.  Being a (retired) Ret player, I've noticed that the major Paladin failing in L30s Mists has nothing to do with the class, but with the player type.  Pallies are more prone to charging in alone than any other class, save perhaps the Warrior, but without the Warrior's survivability.  I call it the Sir Lancelot Syndrome*, which is an offshoot of how Pallies can simply plow through mobs in most other circumstances.  It feeds a belief in invincibility, and encourages the "Follow me!  Chaaaarge!" sort of behavior.

I was guilty of SLS as much as anyone else.  I'm sure the gleaming armor and "Servant of the Light" didn't help, but I knew that even the Holy Spec wasn't as squishy as most classes, so it only made sense to wade into the thick of the fight.  Additionally, in a game like AB where one player can gum up the works and divert 4-5 people away from trying to take another base, it's only natural that a class that can take a beating would be the one to storm the beachhead.  In my hubris, I also figured that if I led by example, others would follow.  Naturally, a few years of playing BGs has beaten that idea out of me, but I still backslide from time to time.


Warsong Gulch is one of those BGs where your opinion of it is entirely shaped upon how well your side does in it.  You can top the meters day after day, but if your side doesn't win, you start to get bitter.**  I recognized that in myself in the most recent losing streak I've been in, as it was an echo of my time leveling Adelwulf.  There was this long period from L20 through L40 where my Lock could count on one paw the number of victories in WSG.  My Rogue found the BG much better --winning about half of the time will do that to a person-- but this current losing streak can wear on a psyche.

When you port in and you see half of the other side is a healer of some sort, you know you're in trouble.  The backbiting starts before even the first flag is captured, and the cries of "we ALWAYS suck!" fill the air.  Players drop like flies, and people who replace them look around, declare "What a fail group!" and drop themselves.

It's enough to make a body back up, go out into a zone, and work on a gathering skill for a while.

Or maybe visit the Darkmoon Faire.

But WSG is still lurking there, like Lucy and her football, hoping to get the Charlie Brown of BG players back in for another go.  "Surely it can't be that bad," you say to yourself.

"Yes it can," the pessimistic side of you retorts, "and don't call me Shirley."

"But maybe it's different this time."

"You said that the last time.  And the time before that.  And...."

"You know, when you talk to yourself, that's when you realize you're a bit off your rocker."

"So you're coming around to my way of thinking.  Good job!"

Maybe I ought to give WSG another try.  This streak has got to end sometime.  After all, even Manchester City won the Premier League last year.

*SLS makes a catchy acronym, you know.

**And your XP moves forward at a snail's pace.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You Don't Think He's Overcompensating for Something, Do You?

You know Illidan's favorite line?

Yeah, that was me when I hooked up the new desktop late last week.  I was so not prepared.

I work on a 14 inch laptop (81 in2).  Our old desktop had a 19 inch (160 in2) monitor.  The school laptop is 15.6 inches (120 in2).

The new desktop, by comparison, has a 23 inch HD monitor (230 in2).  I felt like it was the first day at a previous job back in the 90s, going from working on a 14 inch terminal to a 21 inch SGI workstation.  The only difference was that this new machine required a bunch of patches right off the bat (new OS, you know), but once that and the security software were in place I was off to downloading some MMOs.*

The first one was WoW, because I could play in a limited basis while the client itself was downloading.

I'd played so long on extremely low graphics settings that I was unprepared for how the game would look with current equipment (with a bit better than average graphics card).  For one thing, the 1080 resolution on a properly sized monitor is positively HUGE.  There was all this freaking space around where I was used to having to shoehorn in my mods; I'd grown so accustomed to having to mentally keep track of where enemies were located just off my viewing area that actually seeing them on-screen was unnerving.  And I'll be honest:  I thought I was playing an upgraded version of WoW because I could actually see the detail in both the background and the toons.**

If I thought that WoW was good, LOTRO and Age of Conan were better.  AoC seemed to have a bit of an issue with getting the toons at distance filled in, but it was still light years better than what I'd seen before.  Aion, on the other hand, seemed to be similar enough in graphics quality, but just moved better.***

Then I tried out TOR.

The details that I'd missed playing the game at extremely low graphics settings were stunning.  There I was --in Tatooine of all places-- staring at the sand on the screen.  The cutscenes didn't look all that different, but the actual worlds...

"Amazing," I said in Guild Chat when I was exploring The Wetlands on my Rogue.  "Everything is so huge."

"Yeah," said a guildie.  "Running on a smaller screen really takes out a lot of the details."

"And this is with a machine that you'd kind of classify as only a borderline gaming machine too.  Not one of the high powered $2k+ machines."

"Borderline gaming?"

"Yeah.  No $400 graphics card or solid state drive.  About the only splurge I did was to get the i7 CPU and 12 GB RAM."

Now, I'd be lying if I said that the fancy new machine suddenly improved my gaming, because it didn't.  Actually, my gaming got worse, because I was so used to being able to move around the smaller screen so quickly with a short flick of the wrist that having everything spread out so much made it more of a chore to use.  I also spent a lot more time looking down at where things were rather than where the enemy was when I was out and about.

And I have to confess that I spent way too much time just looking around rather than paying attention to the mobs around me.  You know, the ones that might actually kill me.

I can easily see why some game houses spend so much money on artwork in their attempt to take advantage of modern computer graphics, but I can now also see how that can be a money pit.  While I can stare at the visuals now, after a while it'll become old hat.  Once that happens, all the visuals in the world won't save a game without a deep and engrossing story, good gameplay, and replayability.

But in the meantime I'm going to grok some sand and swampland for a while.****

*Okay, perusing some clips on YouTube came first.  And setting up my family's accounts.  And setting up my wife's e-mail.  And setting up the network drive so I could listen to music/edit family videos.  And....

**And the pets.  With the higher resolution graphics, the Shivarra was a bit more PG-13 than I was comfortable with having my kids around.  But then again, I'd already covered that a while back.

***Aion still feels too.... Nintendo for my taste.  When I read the quest text, the language style isn't what I would use, and it just feels more like a translation from another culture.  It seems strange saying that, especially since AoC was developed by Funcom, but whereas the AoC NPCs talk like they came out of a Robert E. Howard short story, Aion's is decidedly different.

****My sister-in-law once said that professional golf broadcasts on television were tailor made for HDTV.  Now having seen the details in games with HD graphics, I can understand her argument a bit better.  And yes, for the record, we don't have a HD television in our house.  Our old 25 inch RCA is still chugging along, and there's been no need to replace it.  (Yet.)