Furry Healing

Saturday, August 26, 2006

1.12 World PvP Objectives

The towers in Eastern Plagelans (EPL) remind me of the old Tarren Mill v. Southshore (TM/SS) days when the honor system was first implemented.

I can't see myself ever having a reason to go and try to capture the towers, just like I never had a reason to attack or defend Tarren Mill. After a while though, I started going to Tarren Mill because I knew even if something wasn't going on now, by killing a few guarsd at Southshore I could stir up some shit.

I believe the EPL towers will function the same way. If this world objectives design is to be successful it will not be because controlling them gives a minor buff; it will be because the towers give players looking for World PvP someplace to look for members of the opposite who are also looking for World PvP. Really, giving the players some place to go and look for a fight is what the towers and the sand (lolsand) are all about. I expect the buffs will be simply a perk for doing well, not the catalyst for action and conflict.

Raid Data Exchange v6 - Update

As I mentioned before, I joined the RDX website in order to get at and help test the earliest releases of this add on. For better or worse, I took the plunge today without really reading anything on the RDX website about how to get started.

For those of you considering becoming charter members this means when you open up RDX for the first time it looks like this:

Rather than be discouraged (or look for documentation!) I spent the next two hours or so creating Filter, Sort, MouseBinding, UnitFrame, and Window Objects, organizing them into Packages until eventually my Object Browser looked like this:

The end product of all this tinkering you may be wondering? Nothing spectacular really, in fact it ended up being something I'd done in about twenty minutes using RDX5. Of course AFTER I had created windows in order to display Tanks, Druids, Healers, DPS..

I went and looked at the RDX website in an attempt to find an answer to one of the many questions which had arisen in my mind (which I did find by the way), I found this quote from Veni regarding the user friendliness of RDX6 as well..

I do sympathize with the user friendliness issues, a lot of people find the new RDX intimidating.

I will be working to address those issues as we move on through the alpha.

One thing I will be doing is adding "Wizards" like a Window Wizard that will let you set up a window in a few easy steps. The wizard will generate all of the sets/sorts/features for you so that you don't have to mess with them.

I didn't find this terribly surprising. You may notice the listing in the above screenshots under Packages which says Builtin, I fully expect this to be well populated by the time a release version rolls around.

Usability concerns aside, the flexibility of Veni's approach is what really amazed me. I'm no stranger to Object Oriented Programming, in fact its what they pay me for, but Object Orientation like this in a language which, to my knowledge, is not particularly designed for an Object Oriented approach is pretty amazing.

In the end I could have saved myself a lot of time by reading the documentation provided and downloading the pre-constructed objects, but I'm really glad I didn't. Not having Builtin objects forced me to understand the relationships between the objects and allowed me to appreciate the power of Veni's approach.

My biggest concern for RDX6 at this point is how much of a resource hog is it going to be. It may have been because of the refresh events I chose in the Window configuration, but I was getting some client side lag which I will attribute pretty completely to my addition of RDX6 and I wasn't even in a raid environment.

In response to resource consumption concerns Veni says,

Well, we're still in alpha, I'm always looking for ways to make things more efficient, and I'll keep reducing consumption when I can. That Kb/s figure in battle sounds a little high and I'll look into reducing it.

However, my focus with RDX is not to make a minimalistic addon, but rather a fully featured one. You can expect RDX to take up a good chunk of memory.

I personally completely understand his interest in developing a fully featured raiding utility. However, I think it will certainly be necessary to balance utility and performance. An addon developed to be used in what is generally the laggiest of environments certainly needs to keep a somewhat smaller footprint.

So far this mod gets a thumbs up from me.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Grand Widow Faerlina Terminated!

After work I signed on and was told to make my way to Naxxramas, which was surprising because I didn't really expect there to be a spot for me since I was arriving about two and a half hours into the raid. As it turns out they were going balls to the wall on Faerlina, we had several casters flasked up plus Greater Fire Protection Potions and Greater Nature Protection Potions were being handed out like cheap candy.

To make a semi-long story short; after a couple of wipes we dropped her just before an enrage we couldn't counter.

Loot was: Widow's Remorse, Splinter of Atiesh, Desecratd Bracers

Unfortunately, I had to leave soon after the kill but it was awesome to be there for it. I love the feeling of killing a boss for the first time, its an amazing rush. I'm pretty interested to see whats coming up next as well!

MMOs Have Social Value

In a relatively recent piece of published research (Where Everybody Knows Your (Screen) Name: Online Games as "Third Places"), two researchers have concluded MMOs are filling a Cheers like niche in social interaction. They do this

By providing spaces for social interaction and relationships beyond the workplace and home, MMOs have the capacity to function as one form of a new "third place" for informal sociability much like the pubs, coffee shops, and other hangouts of old. Moreover, participation in such virtual "third places" appears particularly well suited to the formation of bridging social capital (Putnam, 2000), social relationships that, while not providing deep emotional support per se, typically function to expose the individual to a diversity of worldviews.

Reactions to this article have been varied, and initial reactions by gamers tend towards Nicodemus of Kill Ten Rats (KTR), though in the comments he admits being misled slightly by the GameDaily Biz article. On the other hand Raph Koster seems to believe the study has a good bit of value despite the "well thats obvious" gut reaction of many MMO players, particularly because

the common sense of game players has no validity in, say, a Congressional hearing. Common sense and anecdotal impressions aren’t worth much in science in general, and having concrete data to present to game detractors is an incredibly valuable thing.

I find this particularly interesting because the more government attempts to influence what type of and the content of games available the more significant studies of this sort will be in allowing game companies to continue doing what they're doing.

Something else I found particularly interesting from the study;

In his seminal text, Oldenburg (1999) documents the decline in brick-and-mortar "third places" in America where individuals can gather to socialize informally beyond the workplace and home. The effects are negative for both individuals and communities: "The essential group experience is being replaced by the exaggerated self-consciousness of individuals. American lifestyles, for all the material acquisition and the seeking after comforts and pleasures, are plagued by boredom, loneliness, alienation" (Oldenburg, 1999, p. 13). Recent national survey data appear to corroborate this assertion, with census data indicating that television claims more than half of American leisure time, while only three-quarters of an hour per day is spent socializing in or outside of the home (Longley, 2004).

Essentially, MMOs are being used in lieu of face to face meeting places rather than in addition too. People are increasingly (myself included) staying in, playing, and socializing rather than going out and socializing. I find this particularly interesting in light of the assertions made by Constance Steinkuehler and Dmitri Williams about MMOs being "third places". After achieving a better understanding of what is meant by a "third place" I am beginning to believe MMOs are a better setting than many of the bars and hang-outs I've found where I live. My reasoning for this is simply this, there are no places allowing you to meet people without registering their ethnicity, income levels, etc. MMOs provide this as a unique feature of meeting new people, as well as bridging the gap of oceans and nationalities.

I recently had the pleasure of getting together with number of guildmates whom I did not know in real life prior to the get together. World of Warcraft has allowed me to meet and get to know people from all over the United States not to mention the rest of the globe. An additional benefit to meeting people through an MMO versus randomly in a bar or coffee shop is you will immediately have something to discuss, it establishes a common interest effortlessly.

By no means would I advocate forgoing face to face meetings in order to establish relationships and make acquaintances because I believe the face to face interaction is far more conducive to continued development of a relationship. As a vehicle for metting large quantities of diverse people I'm not sure anything can promote interaction of widely varying groups of people as well as online gaming.

RDX6 Update

Charter memberships are available and the core alpha package is available for download. I gave in and got my membership immediately, I should get a chance to play around with it later this evening and certainly will over the weekend.

Edit: Play time with RDX6 was extremely limited due to immediately being pulled into Grand Widow Faerlina attempts. There were no pre-constructed templates to try and use so I can't even give an honest first impression of the interface itself.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hardware Upgrade You Say?

The server I play on the vast majority of the time was slated to be upgraded during the extended maintenance yesterday and today. While the hardware quite possibly has changed the performance of the server seems to have degraded more than anything else. The last two day's raids have been delayed and botched as a result of Blizzard's shaky servers. I'm not one to condemn them for this, after all I can only imagine the number of variables involved in migrating a complex system onto new hardware. I am, however, surprised by the frequency of server issues which always seem to come up around patch time not to mention the number of significant bugs which are introduced in them. Working in software development makes the bugs being pushed out in each patch really curious about their development process.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blackwing Lair or Bust

On to today's raid! Actually, not much to report on that front. Today is Blackwing Lair, and I chose to step out so some of the lesser geared and newer Druids could get some of the set pieces should they drop. I've been fortunate to get a number of the really off-set pieces from the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj and so would rather see some of the other folks get the loot in order to help us progress. The pieces I'm really interested in, Stormrage Chestguard and Stormrage Pauldrons, would be great because they would get me some more regen as well as the three-piece Stormrage bonus in my more +healing focused gear, but other Druids which have been around longer also need those pieces.

Edit: Added links to Stormrage pieces, and because the shoulder armor is Pauldrons not Spaulders.

Patch 1.12 is Live...

...and my server isn't. Well it is now, but it was kind of sketchy there for a while.

Cross-Realm Battlegrounds
- For the first time in the history of World of Warcraft, you will be
able to face off against players from other realms in the
Battlegrounds. PvP Battlegrounds link Alterac Valley, Warsong Gulch,
and Arathi Basin so that players from several realms will be
combined into one huge matchmaking pool. Replenish your mana,
sharpen your blades, and get ready for some brand-new challengers!

The cross server battlegrounds are finally here, and as predicted there are a ton of old and new PvPers queing up again. Hopefully this means the couple of times I get to PvP with my old crew we'll actually have some matches now rather than simply rolling all over everyone. I really truely do hope this cross-realm battlegrounds will re-invigorate the PvP scene as it has been dead on my server for quite some time.

The other thing of note related to PvP in this patch..

World PvP
- The stage is set for intense, objective-based land battles as Horde
and Alliance vie for control over important strategic positions and
resources around Azeroth. Head out for Silithus and Eastern
Plaguelands to engage the enemy on the field!

I have spoken to a number of people who are less than enthusiastic about this change, particularly because it looks to just be another free buff for the dominant faction on PvE servers. This could quite possibly turn out to be the case, but personally I'm hopeful this will mean when some friends and I go looking for some world PvP we won't have to kill guards for 30 minutes in order to find it.

C'Thun, How I Love/Loathe Thee!

Another exciting night spent learning C'Thun. I really find this encounter fascinating because it relies so much on individual effort. I was remarkably late for the start of this raid due to work. Logging in to Teamspeak (TS) I hear them working on the transition from Phase One to Phase Two and then working on Phase Two, and getting the first vulnerability prior to wiping.

By the time I was needed to fill a spot in the raid (45 minutes or so after I first logged in to TS) quite a few people from the group which had started had been rotated out (mostly because they had to leave for various reasons). The effect this had on the raid was quite interesting from a people watching™ perspective and somewhat frustrating from a raiding perspective.

I'll talk about the people watching™ since its more interesting to everyone, or so I believe. The substitutes (myself included) zone in, presumably get comfortable with their groups and where they are to be positioned within it and generally get ready for the attempt just like everyone else. On the first attempt I was there for we didn't do particularly well as I recall, though we did make it to the end of Phase One we had far to few people on their feet to properly continue the fight and we were quickly over come. This I imagine was a fairly large hit to the morale of those who had already been there wiping trying to clean up Phase Two. Well now those folks were back to cleaning up Phase One with the substitutes. The next attempt went slightly better as I recall, but a poorly timed vulnerability further frustrated the people who had been there for a couple of hours already.

As is bound to happen the 'fresh' faces are now feeding on the frustration of those who have been there and no one is particularly happy with how we are doing. In summary, the vulnerability phase we got on the second attempt was the only one I saw throughout the night. I'm sure the fact is even more irritating for the people who were there from the start than it was for myself. Watching the degradation of the focus of the raid was interesting though. The third attempt I was there for went poorly in general and we were wiped without getting through Phase One. From this point forward things never really turned around for the better and it seemed as though the raid in general was simply going through the motions.

I can't imagine a more troubling thing for a raid leader to be encountered with than a situation like the one we faced tonight. From what I heard when I logged in to TS things were going reasonably well, then people have to go and the raid turns for the worse. Everyone knows the raid as a whole is capable of better, particularly the leadership, but the group can't pull it together and there isn't really anything leadership can do about it. Eventually they did what was, in my opinion, the best thing they could; we went to beat the snot out of Onyxia, and then the raid was over.

I really feel for the people who were there from the start and working on perfecting Phase Two, only to have their work reduced to rubble due to having to sub people out.

Monday, August 21, 2006

25 Person Raids Inc.

The hot topic around the interweb about the future of World of Warcraft is most certainly Blizzard's decision to lower the raiding cap for upcoming content. This combined with the inclusion of the previously restricted faction classes will make for some interesting decisions facing raid guild leaders in The Burning Crusade (TBC).

GSH, the author of Blessing of Kings lays out four likely possibilities in the article linked by the title. The most interesting to me (making the assumption the majority of a guild's playerbase will stay when TBC is released or enough players will return to cover the loses) is,

Instead of each person raiding 5 nights a week, each person raids 4 nights, allowing everyone to raid, though at a lesser rate than previous. The advantage is that everyone remains together. Some people may dislike sitting out, though. Progression will also be much slower, as it will take longer to gear everyone up and for everyone to learn the encounters.

I realize this would not be an option for the people in the particularly hardcore guilds focused almost completely on progression which, to me, seem more likely to cut people (option 2 in GSH's article). However, I feel a rotation may well provide the most amicable option until newer guilds shake themselves out. I can't fool myself into believing a major guild restructuring will not occur on most servers, but I do believe a rotation is a quite amicable option for guilds prior to the inevitable fallout.

Another interesting option from GSH was the suggestion of a guild sponsored Arena team..

Take 4-10 people who like PvP and set them up as an Arena team. While the rest of the guild raids, the Arena team goes out and PvPs. Then when a PvP season ends, the Arena team takes their new toys and is folded back into the raiding team, and a new PvP team is set up.

The appeal I see to this is there are a number of people for whom raiding is not the most interesting part of the game. However, I don't see the Arena team as a rotating group as GSH suggests, but rather a consistent guild sponsored group. To me this will also promote interaction between the rest of the server community and the large raiding guilds. It may even turn out factions split over favorite teams, I can envision the Arena teams becoming quite the hot topic of inter and intrafaction discussion and rivalry and to be quite honest I'm really looking forward to it.

Anyway, back to the 25 person limit. Another suggestion was..

3. Recruit more and run two raids.

If you recruit a few more people, you will have enough to run two raids.

The largest problem I see with this is the potential for drama. Inevitably one group will be considered the good group or the 'A-Team' while the other group will be labeled 'JV Squad'. Its unfortunate, but I think its part of the mob mentality combined with Grass is Always Greener syndrome. Hell its even possible both groups would see the other as the 'A-Team', imagine that! The fractured mentality of the guild would likely eventually lead to simply a fractured guild which would, in most cases, be a real shame.

The other possibility (as pointed out by someone in a topic on the EJ forums) is one raid group 'locking out' a large number of people in such a way that there would not be enough of a balanced group in order to create an effective second raid at all. A guild which wanted to run two raid groups would I think have to have an incredibly bloated roster in order to allow for substitutions. For example, assume a core raid force of 36 (four of each class for simplicity), 25 of these are the regular raiders, with the other 11 rotating in as needed (either because people left early or real life [RL] came up). In order to ensure always being able to field a raid, judging from personal experience, a guild would need at the very least 1 person for each of the substitutes. So each raid, in my estimation, would require a force of 47 people in order to consistently maintain, where 11 or so of those people can be more casual and possibly cross over between the raids, though that would re-introduce the problem we're trying to get around so lets ignore it. Therefore in order to maintain two raids consistently a guild is going to need, judging from my biased experiences, between 80 and 95 raiders. Again looking at my current guild, this means keeping track of the same number of people as we do now, but it places the additional requirement of tracking another raid group. I can see the stress coming out the raid leaders collective ears already.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

So far so good on the big raid day. We got formed up a little bit late, but not too late. Everyone headed down to the Emperors room, we got buffed up pulled the first Anubisath, had a bad combo call from the raid leader and wiped. So we picked ourselves up, pulled again, and one-shotted them all the way to the Emperors.

We had one wipe on the Emperors due to healing aggro mid-phase (we use two Warrior tanks) but after we got up we blew them away in pretty good time. Due to current raid make-up we're headed to try and take out Rasuvious and then its likely back to Ahn'Qiraj for C'thun trash clearing and attempts.

Clean raid so far so I'm looking forward to a quick downing of Rasuvious so we can get back to C'thun. I really enjoy seeing Old Gods die for some reason...

We ended up getting Rasuvious down after taking a short break for people to repair and stretch. In fact I wouldn't say we just 'got him' I'd say we beat the snot out of him. I think there were only two or three deaths and he was toast.

With Rasuvious down it was time to work towards C'Thun, so we headed back to clear the absurd amount of trash between the Twin Emperors and C'Thun. I have to say, I think we spent almost as much time clearing the trash as we did attempting Rasuvious, which is just frustrating. Not because we wiped and did stupid things, but just because there is sooooooo much of it. I think the most irritating part about the trash before C'Thun is it doesn't really seem to serve any purpose besides delaying the raid getting to C'Thun. The only reson for it I do see (besides the aformentioned delay) is possibly helping us learn to deal with a lot of things going on and a lot of people taking damage at once. However, we don't deal with the trash in anywhere near the way you approach C'Thun. We don't split the raid into groups and we don't spread the DPS.

I'm really looking forward to the C'Thun attempts tomorrow and I hope we get the folks we need to get some good tries. We've got the idea of the first phase down pretty well I think, though we could certainly get through it more cleanly. What we really need to work on is the chaos that ensues in phase two which we can only do by practice, practice, practice. The one thing I think would really help us a lot in learning C'Thun is reducing the time between attempts. Its currently taking us between fifteen and twenty minutes to regather and rebuff between attempts and if we could reduce this even by five minutes we'd probably be able to get at least one more attempt in every four attempts which could help a whole lot.