(She Says) Where’s the Challenge?

This expansion is starting to get old. Our ex-guild who used to raid everyday has been farming the same instances for the past 4 months. I think it’s probably the same story for many raiding guilds: farming bosses for loot ad nauseum, getting full T7.5 and then having so much excess gear that they bring alts to gear up. Wash, rinse, repeat.

In fact the content is so unchallenging, our current casual guild can kill most of the bosses in the first 3-4 tries, once we actually got enough people to come on at the same time.  Having cleared Naxx and done all but the last bosses a couple of times, I’m actually fairly bored of it. The instances only get challenging when people insist on doing things the wrong way like pulling when your healers have no mana/still rezzing, gathering everything at once, pulling when you are not the tank and the tank is not ready. Honestly, I could probably do without “challenges” like that. Esp dealing with prima donnas sulking about not getting their way.

Apart from challenges, the other possible pull would be gear, but both my resto shaman and warlock seems to have geared up enough (from instances, PUG 25OS/VOA, crafted/BOE epics) to have much use of the eq from the runs.  While I’m not pulling the 5k dps that I see top guilds can do from wws logs, I’m comfortably doing 3k+ dps without flasking, the best enchants, food buffs or the highest dps spec. Even if I do more dps, I can make up for other people’s mistakes and stupidity. The things that won’t die still won’t and those that would die will probably just die a few seconds faster. 

Without sufficient challenges, the game feels somewhat shallow. People are likely to play less but on the other hand, more people are able to enjoy the content. It’s Blizzard’s ploy to go (even more) mass market. It’s a very Walmart like strategy, going for volume (of subscribers) and slimmer margins (in terms of shorter subscription period per subscriber) rather than catering to a smaller market of more hardcore players. It’s so easy that anyone can play it with relative success.  You could say that I’m disappointed that being good at dps/healing takes so little, I’m by no means a very skillful player with lightning reflexes. I didn’t bother researching on my warlock dot rotation and the like – I just put up whichever dots I feel like and try to keep them up; for a while I was putting the wrong spellstone on. And even then my dps was good. The only reason I can think of is that the game is too easy.

In the old days when RPGs was something you play by yourself, the successful ones are those with an interesting story or engaging gameplay that doesn’t just involve mashing buttons. In those games, you are competing against yourself. Those stories always start off with the protaganist being this weak mewling level one and gradually building up after much effort to an overpowered hero/heroine. And it always feels great to finally not be so destitute and have to spend 1 minute running back to the inn to rest rather than to use a measly potion.  In fact, the harder the challenge was, the more satisfaction you feel in overcoming it.

And then you come to MMORPGs where you are competing against other people, rather than yourself. Your individual achievements cannot satisfy you unless you know you are better than someone else. Let’s say you have WoW on a private server, and you are happy coz you do 100 dps.  Then say you have the same character but on the world server instead and you find that other people are doing 200 dps rather than 100. Suddenly you feel so much worse about yourself. In the original reincarnation of WoW, the classic version, the 100 dps guy probably wouldn’t get very far – he’d probably be stuck at MC while the 200 dps would be clearing Naxx 40. At the same time, the honor ladder made it such that few people will get good gear through pvp. This creates a big gap between the haves and have-nots and people were unhappy.

So what Blizzard essentially did with from TBC up till Wotlk expansion is to make it such that everybody can get through all the content even if you are only a 100 dpser. And so everybody has similar levels of gear as long as you are willing to put in some time. But because the encounters are so easy, the fun in playing WoW is no longer about the challenge of the fights and it’s all about ilevels on that purple gear, which honestly is not a good motivator for me. So unless Blizzard comes up with more interesting content, I’m probably not going to be in Azeroth for long.

(She Says) Random Ramblings Regarding Rethreth

rethreth lvl 80I’ve been playing my warlock exclusively since Pockie is not around to play with me. She is my little wander lust character. Randomly exploring, getting lost, doing quests when I feel like it, joining pugs.

I can finally understand why people enjoy playing dps. The goal is clear – to do as much damage as possible. The performance is easily measurable – use a dps meter. Granted there is such a thing as not killing the right things but the pressure is much less as there are many dps to spread your burden. Due to the way healers are assigned, you may end up being solely responsible for one person and getting distracted for a split second could sometimes mean that the tank dies and the raid wipes. For dps, every piece of upgrade directly impacts your damage output; for a healer, getting an additional 20 healing may not mean anything if you are consistently overhealing more than that.

I’ve been level 80 for a week now and has been very lucky with drops in the instances  went to. I got Staff of Restraint in my first heroic Obsidium Sanctum, Azure Cloth Bindings from my first heroic dungeon. Of course, I’ve also bought/crafted some BOE epics like Ebonweave Gloves, Titanium Spellshock Ring and Chain of Latent Energies. But even before I got all those, I went to a heroic VOA and was doing 2k+ dps. I outdpsed all the mages in the group, some of whom I know are at least Naxx geared.

While I’m proud that little Rethreth can do respectable dps from the outstart, I’m not silly enough to think it’s because of my leet skills.  In fact, I’m more amazed by what people are unable to achieve. If I can do it, with my odd levelling spec which I still have yet to spec out of, I don’t see why others can’t. Age, internet connection, gear — these are all excuses that people use so that they don’t have to say ” Hey, I’m really bad at this. How can I improve?” It’s not the poor players that we scorn, those can improve if they have the right attitude.  We’ve seen in our previous guild, people who’ve done just that. Even when they did poor dps, I still take kindly to them because you can tell that they try harder than anyone else.

Most people in the game however would rather just kick someone out of raid than spend time to train them up. This is the reality of an anonymous virtual reality – an even greater disconnect with others. Sometimes, I feel like my characters are treated more like a statistic or a bot than an avatar of someone sitting behind the screen.

In TBC, there was a lot of bad blood from those who are better at some encounters like Teron Gorefied and all they could contribute to the rest of the raid are insults. Maybe it’s a female thing to dislike conflict but I’d rather work on improving the situation than just telling people off which does nothing except create discontent. Raiding was honestly starting to feel like work, which is why we stopped during wotlk.

Anyway, I’ll continue with my adventures with Rethreth, continuing to mull on how we could have met so many people who weren’t even able to do 1k dp, half of what this little warlock did on turning 80, in quested gear.

P.S: Also got Heroes Plagueheart Robe and Deadly Gladiator’s Felweave Trousers today. In contrast, my shaman went to so many pugs but never came away with more than badges… think my warlock is going to outgear my shaman and in less than a week too…

(She Says) Pengu goes to Voilet Hold

penguMy  warlock made yet another excursion into PUG normal instances.

The first attempt was when she was 75 and was with 3 DKs (level 78, 75 and 73 respectively. Gonna call them by their levels) and a level 73 resto shaman. When I armoried the resto shaman, I saw that he had logged out with a “of the eagle” weapon. Yes, purely Stamina and Int and a grand total of 500 spell damage. Warning bells right there.

Before Mr 75 joined, we were looking for a tank. There was a dps warrior in the Looking For Group (think he was level 80) and they were contemplating asking him to tank.  Mr 78 rightly said it’s a matter of whether the healer can keep him up. Mr Shaman retorted that he was more worried that the tank can’t keep the mobs off him but as far as WotLK is concerned, that has never been a problem.  So anyway, we picked up Mr 75 as a tank later on and headed in.

The first portal was up. Mr 75 stood where the NPCs were. 10 seconds. He’s still standing there. “Hey go tank the mobs”, we said. And still he stood. I prodded my felguard and made him go tank instead. Along the way, Mr78 became the tank by default since he did the most dps. (He had the heirloom shoulders). Mr75 was a useless mass of hps that did only 600 dps and was worst than my felguard as a tank.  Mr73 claimed he was lagging badly and decided “to stand where there’s no one to reduce the lag”. Hmm standing where no one else is, gee no wonder he does no dps. We had the two easy bosses so that arrangement went ok, even though I was the only one with dps higher than the “tank” aka Mr78. And then we met the final boss. Technically the easiest boss around. And guess what, the shaman stood in Blizzard and died. Tired of the prospect a long slow road to the end, we called it and that ends Round 1.

Yesterday night, I decided to go another run. We had a level 80 tank and 80 ele shaman healing – not that much healing was needed. It went smoothly and I was very pleased with my damage. Little pengu was doing up to 1500 dps (with heroism)! Normal dps probably around 13xx-1400?  I’m still amazed at how much dps she can put out at level 76 esp compared to the many weak dps we’ve met in pugs so far. Come on, I’m wearing quest items for crying out loud and my connection isn’t exactly blazing fast. So what were those people doing?

Anyway I got a new pair of pants from the dungeon quest. With the ghetto spellthread I make with 1 eternium thread, I’m now at 1400 sp! Yippee!

(She Says) A Run-Through of Obsidium Sanctum (10-man)

And here I was, about to post about my healing experience at Obsidium Sanctum and Pockie already beat me to it.  As he described it, we had some difficulties with a few wipes on an instance we were familiar with and have in fact pugged many times.

I’ve mentioned previously,  when tanks drop dead, the immediate thoughts that come to mind are that it’s either the healer or the tank’s fault. But sometimes, it can also be a problem of DPS with poor situational awareness. Standing in big exploding circles, rain of fire, Sartharion’s lava waves can create big distractions for healers as they try to keep the DPS alive. Heals on DPS = less heals on tanks. I’ve seen enough deaths in Archimonde to know that to be true. 

But back to OS, I’ve always thought that 10 man OS was harder than 25 man. Not because of the the boss but the trash. The first trash pull consists of 4-5 dragons. Collectively, their abilities include mortal strike (-50% healing), rain of fire (aoe 2k per tick) and some ball of fire thing that shoots lazer (~1k), the combination of which can be deadly to a tank. At the same time, it is also likely that healing is spread thin on dps who enjoys a bath in the rain of fire. The other potentially fatal mistake is to pull all the mobs together for AOE when the two tanks should really pull them apart. Aoeing may work if the group’s dps is high but in the case of our friends in the new guild, we probably should do it the safe way.

After another few trash packs, you will face the subbosses. They are fairly straightforward, dps boss, enter portal, kill adds, dps boss. For healers, one will need to stay outside the portal healing the MT while another enter the portal to heal the AOE damage inside. I was surprised by the amount of damage the maintank was taking on the first one (can’t remember the name, first one counterclock-wise from the door). Noork has about 28k hp but the damage was coming in very big jumps and in quick succession. Just a quick summary of my gear: I have close to 2.1k healing, 300 haste, 480 mp5 self-buffed. Earthshield was up on the tank though no riptide.  There I was spamming healing wave on the not so fat bear butt but he still dropped like a fly. It was surprising to me as we didn’t seem to have this problem previously. Does the boss get a secret buff while everyone else gets in the portal? Or was it because Noork was a druid tank? The subsequent subbosses were somehow not a problem. But that was also with a lot of overhealing on my part and we switched to a warrior tank.

Then came Sartharion himself. It’s a really easy fight once you get the hang of dancing around his lava waves. There are two safezones, depending on which direction the lava waves are coming from. The main tank tanks him at the front safe zone. There is a big fat alert on your screen when he is about to cast lava waves, at which point you should look around to see which safe zone it is. We had many many dps (and the other resto shaman) who repeatedly washed themselves in the lava. A very clean wash down to the bones, I’m sure. The number of adds that spawned seems to have increased as well. At this point, I was really starting to wonder if Blizzard quietly buffed the instance. At any rate, it ended ok on the second try but it was a somewhat draining experience. Then again, still marginally better than joining a pug with whiny healers who demand that you pay their repair bills when we wiped and somehow their shadowmeld was broken.

My Warlock is a Pengu ^_^

So I’ve been levelling my warlock lately insetad of the druid which was the original plan.  She finally hit 70 today in Borean Tundra. The first weapon from a quest reward doubled the spellpower on my Nagrad ring of blood reward… So there I was, happily wearing my new found loots, only to find that I’m starting to resemble Pengu!!! Just need to find myself a plain white/black robe to complete the costume…

This is pengu….

penguAnd this is my warlock…

(She Says) Paying for Skillups = Paying for Torture

Jerks and idiots make me really dislike the human interaction aspect of WoW. So when I see people advertising in trade that they would pay 50g if an enchant gives them a skill up, I can only imagine it to be equivalent to paying someone to give me a slap on the face.

The trauma of levelling up enchanting previously to 375 via trade/ guild mates makes me very reluctant to provide such services. That was before inscription was in the game and enchants cannot be saved onto scrolls, so to skill up, you’d have to find people to put the enchants on or burn your mats enchanting your own armor over and over again. I’ve enchanted for people who doesn’t have the correct mats even though I explicitly said I have none; people who asks me “so what hunter enchants do you have”; people who make me travel to Stormwind or Ironforge and burn my hearthstone; people who make me wait 10 minutes while they log on/off their alts to get the mats after they finally decide what enchants they want. Best of all, these are the people who go “lol, i spent da money on da mats. now i’m broke” and do not even tip even when I’ve gone through the hassle of traveling, waiting and have to use a 1-hr CD to hearthback. So after that, I have lost my appetite to talk to random people. Business is best left impersonal.

Whereas enchanting was previouly a synchronous trade process, i.e both parties have to be present at the same time, the new changes that allow enchants to be put on armor and weapon scrolls have finally enabled asynchronous trading via the AH i.e I can create an enchant scroll and list on the Auction House at noon, and you can buy it at 3pm even when I’m logged off. The tips and crafting fee are included in the price so you won’t have to go through the awkward social dance of “how much should I tip you” and “how much should I ask for” and if it costs too much you can walk away without feeling like you wasted each other’s time.

The other misconception that people have is that levelling trade skills will cost gold, which is the main idea that leads to paying others to get your skillup. On the contrary, I’ve actually made decent profit skilling up blacksmithing and enchanting by doing some research, making useful items and listing the crafted items on the AH.

I’m just really, really glad I don’t have to go hawk my wares in trade ever again.

(She Says) Deflation in Wow

Many bloggers have noticed that deflation is depressing prices in the WoW Economy and they have offered several theories of why it is so.

Tobold thinks that easy access to raid gear means fewer people bother to spend on items to improve their current gear. A low demand theory.

The WOWEconomist theorizes that while the producers of the goods are level 80 and supplying, the consumers (i.e levelling alts) are not in the market for shinies yet. High supply and low demand = lower prices. He expects inflation to kick in Jan09 when people gets into the thick of levelling alts.

The Greedy Goblin believes it has to do with how the rich is swimming in money while the majority of players are poor and are unable to pay for crafted items/ repairs/ consumables.

Indeed, prices of many items on our server has fallen as well. Eternals, ores, cloth and herbs have come down from its prime. While supply has increased, demand has not caught up with the rate of increase. Let’s start by looking at the supply factors.

Firstly, more players are now level 80 and are farming raw materials.

Secondly, players are getting more efficient at farming as they find the best spots to maximize their farming. Wintergrasp for example is packed with ore, herbs and gas clouds. I’ve found much more titanium ore there than I’ve ever seen in Icecrown and Stormpeaks combined. Players can also use their flying mounts to swoop up all the mats. Essentially, this means they get more raw materials per hour of “labor” compared to at the beginning of the expansion.

With lower material costs, profit margin on value-added goods such as BOE gear, flasks and gems should have increased. However, competition is stiff so the fierce undercutting forces prices to fall back and reduces profit margins. Let’s take trollwoven spaulders for example. Last week, material cost used to be 520g and sells for 1200g. Last week’s profit margin = (1200-520)/520 = 131%. This week with lower mat prices, the same item costs 410g and sells for 900g. The profit margin is 120%. As in real life, profit margin will continue to fall as cheap raw materials means professions are cheaper to level (low barrier to entry) and high profit items lure them to enter the market.

On the supply side, BOE gear also have new competiters — Blizzard vendors. In the Burning Crusade expansion, rep vendors did not sell much gear that was worth buying. Even the rare pvp set was added much later in the game. Rep was also very difficult to obtain. In Wotlk, this has changed. Vendors now sell varying levels of gear – rare to epic. And the tabards make it easy for you to reach exalted with the faction of your choice. I’ve personally seen many new players garbed in mainly reputation gear. So that’s money taken out of the system instead of circulating in the economy

On the demand side, I believe players are still buying items. Enchants, gems and leg armor will still sell as prople upgrade their gear. However, WotLK crafted items appear to require less materials compared to TBC. Take the spellthreads for example, Shining spellthread costs 3 Eternium Thread, 2 Crystallized Life and 1 Iceweb Spider Silk. The cost of the vendor item of 3 Eternium spellthread is already 9g(i think?) which is half the cost of the spellthread itself; In comparison, old TBC runic spellthreads were 5 Primal Life and 1 Rune Thread. By reducing the number of mats, demand for raw materials decline even if demand for the end product remains the same.

For BOE gear, it is as WoWEconomist points out, the main consumers of such items, alts, are not there yet. Alts are usually geared up faster in order to close the gap with mains. Getting rep from each faction is a significantly slower process.

The impact of deflation is that things get cheaper and cheaper which increase the value of gold. It also encourages people to save and spend later since they can get more value out of their gold at a later date. Why buy Titansteel bars for 220g now when you can buy it for 180 tomorrow? This may result in a deflationary spiral as players spend less, resulting in furthur decreases in prices. I wonder if real life recessions in many countries have any impact on people’s spending mentality as well. Do they save more in game because they are in conservation mode in real life? Or perhaps lacking the cash to pay for real life excesses, people may be more likely to splurge on some virtual luxuries instead?