Cataclysm is well on the way, with the class change previews showing up around the internet last week. From complete class overhauls to little design tweaks; every class has had something to fill their time with. Yet there is a pattern showing, a pattern that has been forming through out every expansion. Blizzards ‘Flavour of the Expansion’.

During The Burning Crusade, Blizzard showed off their skill at making everything sparkle, glow or float. It was pretty cool to start, but wore thin when every armour set had something crackling off of it or little rocks orbiting it. When Wrath of the Lich King hit our game we were barraged with vehicles. Battlegrounds using siege vehicles, dailies on annoying ponies (damn those ponies) and even raid encounters using this technique. It’s like the designers found something new and wanted to see just how many times they could plug it into the expansion. Sure did get old quick didn’t it?

And now what is on the horizon? Water, water, water. It appears that the developers found a box containing ‘New Water Effects’ and want to show off their shiny sparkly new toy. Flooding Thousand Needles, opening up zones to the coast and making a whole underwater zone. What better way to flaunt the new look of…. water. But wait, there’s more!

Hunters; along with a complete overhaul, get an interesting new ability. Camouflage! Making the caster immune to ranged attack and giving them a ‘predator style’ cloaked look using the… wait for it… new water ripple effects! Ok Blizzard we get it, you have learned how to make water look cool. Do you have to see just how many places you can put it to show off your skill?

Not only is the suffocation on the new water look a bit overwhelming already, but they seem to have found a new way to do spells. Shaman’s get a new AoE heal, expect unlike current AoE heals, it works more like Blizzard or Rain of Fire do. Drop the spell on an area and anyone who is in the area, or walks through the area gets healed. Cool a new mechanic, but will we see an influx of this new spell type? Only time will tell.

Why do we game?

April 18, 2010

Gaming; a part of the lives of just about everyone in some way, shape or form. Whether it be playing MMORPGs for years, or Farmville on Facebook; gaming takes up a huge portion of the world’s time. But what is our obsession with the virtual world? With billions of dollars being funneled into this form of entertainment, it would pay to understand just why we play.

The gaming craze has swept the world; more so in the last decade. It has affected everybody in someway. Myself; I have played video games since around the time I could walk and played MMORPGs for roughly half my life (Ultima Online, Everquest and World of Warcraft). But why do we immerse ourselves in these make believe worlds?

I have gone through many stages during this time, using different reasons to try and find purpose to the hours and hours per week that have been devoted to pixels in a virtual world. A release from the real world, a way to de-stress (although this doesn’t always work out), a way to socialise with people around the globe and even just something to kill time. Yet it all boils down to the main reason I see behind it all. You can be whoever, whatever you want to be. No longer held back by the constraints of the ‘real you'; it becomes possible to take up any persona you wish. Want to feel powerful and important?  Start a guild, clan or whatever it may be called in the specific game you’re playing. Take a position of power and flex those pixel muscles of yours. Always wanted to be female? Well instead of getting a sex change you can just play a female character online, no one will ever know!

The ability to be as anonymous as you wish to be whilst playing brings in people from all walks of life. Who cares if in real life you are 32 and living with your Mother? In-game you’re the main tank who is never late for a raid! Think of that next time you invite someone into your group, try and see if you can pick who they really are.

So it’s been a few days since patch 3.3 went live, along with the cross-realm Dungeon Finder tool. With this there has been much chatter, both positive and negative in regards to the way groups are now formed.

Dungeon Finder Pros

There are many pro’s to the new system and personally this is the side of the fence I’m sitting on.

  • Cross-realm means there is a much larger pool of players looking for a dungeon at any one time, so filling groups should be much quicker than if you were attempting to group just within your server.
  • Random Heroic gives the ability to complete each heroic as many times as you can each day, and giving an additional 2 Emblem of Triumph (after the first random heroic which gives 2 Emblem of Frost), allowing gearing up to Tier 9 (and getting reputation gains through Emblem bought Commendations) to happen much quicker.
  • Groups are filled fairly well, with gear requirements being put in place by Blizzard to stop players attempting content much higher than they can do.
  • As a healer or tank the Dungeon Finder queue is almost instantaneous.

Dungeon Finder Cons

As much as I am fond of the new system, I am aware of the problems and disadvantages of the system.

  • Although the system is now cross-realm, finding a group as a damage role takes upwards of 15 minutes. This is because there are so many damage classes trying to find groups, that the ‘pool of players’ is saturated by damage dealers.
  • Despite Blizzard’s efforts to ‘gear match’ groups to an extent, there are occasions where a lower geared character is placed in your group, this can be problematic if they are the tank or healer in a difficult run.
  • You have no say over who you are grouped with, one run it may be 3 Death Knights, and the next run it may be all Shamans. This can cause wipes on some runs which require certain amounts of AoE or ranged damage.

All in all, I love the new system, having put on my tanking boots and took up the role of the tank in many heroics because of the quicker queue. So if you are having trouble getting groups and play a hybrid, try switching to tank of healing, it’ll only take a few runs to start gearing up.

Patch 3.3 went live today, I patched my client (which took 4 attempts) last night and awoke this morning to find the unanticipated, but much expected connection problems. With a patch this big and this awaited for, did we really think that there would be a smooth problem free patch day? That’s beyond optimistic if you ask me.

What do we expect with Patch 3.3?

Now that it has hit, and as I am typing this; the realms are coming back online, what will we see when we log in? The patch notes give it all in a nice list form, but I’ll do a run down of some of the big additions and changes.

Icecrown Citadel: The Frozen Halls

The new 5 man dungeons and heroic dungeons, containing 3 ‘wings’ in which you fight along side either Jaina (Alliance) or Sylvanas (Horde) in order to gain access to the Lich King himself. Items from these instances come at iLevel 219 for the normal, and 232 for the Heroic versions.

Icecrown Citadel: The Frozen Throne

The new raid instance for both 10 and 25 man groups, with heroic tuning for both also. Fighting along side the Ashen Verdict and the champions of your faction you will push through the citadel until facing off against the Lich King himself (when he is no longer hiding behind his gating methods). Many months will pass by whilst taking on the armies of the Lich King, so the Ashen Verdict must keep their supplies rationed, meaning you will only get limited attempts on some bosses before they must retreat out for the week.

Cross-Realm Dungeon Finder

The new Dungeon Finder tool, which allows grouping cross realm and give many rewards, including a new non combat pet to players who use it.

Getting Started and Quest Tracking

New changes to the beginning experience and to the map (now including quest tracking within the game UI) to improve the experience of players.

This is just some of the stuff, the rest is viewable in the patch notes. Please enjoy patch 3.3!

Find-A-Dungeon

December 3, 2009

With patch 3.3 set to release next week on the 8th of December, I thought it would be a good time to go deeper into one of the new features coming in said patch. This to me is the reason I have been looking forward to patch 3.3 so much.

The Dungeon Finder

The Dungeon Finder

The old ‘LFG Tool’ which was added into the game in patch 2.0.1 a whopping 3 years ago is finally getting the fix it has needed since the start. This new tool, named the Dungeon Finder, allows players to queue up for any instance or raid that they would like to run, or queue up for a random instance (the default when you open up the finder). From there; after you have selected what role you would like to play in the group, the Dungeon Finder puts together the group from a pool of players across your battlegroup. Hopefully this will remove the problem that every server seems to face, waiting longer than the instance itself just for a tank or a healer.

Not only does this new tool bring with it the cross server (battlegroup) groups and better group making on Blizzard’s part, but also it has been said that through the ‘random dungeon’ selection within the Dungeon Finder, you will not get a raid lockout on heroic dungeons, meaning it will be possible to run random heroics all day, everyday; which will now drop Emblem of Triumph. Gearing up alts never looked so easy did it?

With all these good points, there has to be some bad right? What about running a complete random group and being stuck with people who just hit 80, and are wearing greens? Supposedly there is a match making system, that will ‘help to group you with people around your gear level’. I have not found any written information on this, but it was said on Episode 118 of the WoW Insider Show.

Other little perks of the new Dungeon Finder are:

Every day the first random dungeon you complete awards you with two Emblem of Frost (the new gear badge) and then everyone one after that give you an additional two Emblem of Triumph.

Achievements are awarded based on the amount of random people you have grouped with through the new tool, giving a title when you group with 50 random people.

And finally, a pet ‘Perky Pug’ which is a new non combat pet.

With all of these additions coming from the one thing, I sure am looking forward to the Dungeon Finder!

Today we have something a bit special, a guest post by Matt “Matticus” Low on the difference in healing between Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown Citadel.

I should underscore the fact that my only experience in Icecrown Citadel has largely been on the PTR. As such, the healing numbers and damage numbers could be different by the time the patch is pushed through live. I do not know if any changes or tuning will be made to the various encounters to ease or harden the bosses.

Suffice it to say, there is a marked difference between healing in normal or heroic Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown Citadel.

For one thing, it’s not spiky. Gone are the days when the tank can get rocked in half a second or less where the only thing that would save him was a clairvoyant Power Word: Shield. As it stands right now, it’s possible for current tanks to get 1 or 2 shot depending on the encounter in ToGC. This is largely due to the amount of avoidance that most tanks have. Chill of the Throne is a blessing for healers in disguise.

Consistency vs Inconsistency

The damage is manageable. Heals can be timed to the point where you can land them right after a hit on tanks.

“Weapon swing, heal, weapon swing, heal, weapon swing, heal, we- Oh, special nuke, Power Word: Shield”.

The incoming damage is fairly consistent and you’re not going to experience any spikes from 20k to 45k on the same tank or anything like that (with the exception of boss abilities).

AoE is… well, AoE

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the whole heal the raid mechanic isn’t going to leave any time soon. Expect several auras or boss abilities that will hurt the entire raid. The environment is reminiscent of Sunwell when Resto Shamans and Holy Priests were the leaders of healing. Don’t expect this to be super avoidable stuff either. It’s no longer a question of avoiding the fire. It’s a question of who do I heal first so that they don’t die?

No dozing off on trash

You could get away with sleeping while clearing trash in Naxxramas and Ulduar (to an extent). But the trash mobs contained therein will be a test on their own. I don’t say this to try to scare you or build up hype. I’m doing this so that you can be prepared and gain an idea of what to expect. Our buddy Gluth has been converted into several trash packs complete with zombie chow and 90% health chomps. You’ll be fighting other Val’kyr who are related to the Val’kyr Twins in some fashion.

First ever healing oriented raid boss

There has never been an encounter like it. For once, we healers get to play a central role. Instead of killing a raid boss we get to heal a raid boss. I’ve already instructed my guild to keep a stockpile of bandages on them in case they haven’t. In the past, healers would chip in with DoTs or instant cast damage spells on the boss whenever they had time. Now it’s time for DPS to return the favour and squeeze off bandages during periods of no combat.

Again, I want to mention that this is the PTR and it’s used primarily to determine bugs in mechanics and the zone. Numbers can always be tweaked and adjusted later. It’s possible that damage dealt by bosses could be amplified.

Icecrown can’t come quick enough. I’ll be waiting.

Matt writes for a number of blogs such as his own World of Matticus and WoW.com, be sure to check him out

What’s with the gate?

November 24, 2009

With patch 3.3 coming soon and information being released on how Icecrown citadel will be gated in terms of progression, I thought I’d write a post about instance gating through out the history of World of Warcraft.

Within the game there has always been some way that content has been ‘limited’. Whether it be because of a long tedious attunement chain; such as the Onyxia Attunement in Vanilla WoW, or through server wide collection, such as the gates of Ahn’Qiraj or Sunwell. Blizzard has always had some way to ensure that content isn’t destroyed within the first day of it being released.

Now with Wrath of the Lich King, the new system seems to be staggered boss releases and limited attempts. This way allows casual and hardcore guilds alike to have the same amount of attempts and the same amount of bosses no matter the time that is given to the instance. Seems like a good idea right? The problem arises when rewards are given for clearing entire instances with no wipes, or even no deaths. This has caused a backlash from every facet of the WoW community, as one disconnect or wrong move can destroy a guilds chances at progression for the entire week.

Although, it seems Blizzard learnt from their mistakes in Trial of the Grand Crusader; as it has been said that there will be no loot incentive based on the number of attempts the raid has left on the bosses in Icecrown.

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