Ruminations about Raiding from the Retirement Home

Well, hello there, folks. Apologies for the dust, but that strange thing we call “Real Life” seems to have expanded significantly since I stopped playing. Plus, who wants to hear about WoW stuff from someone who hasn’t played it since November?

Of course, though, I have things to say. I always have things to say. As usual, whether you play or not is your choice. These are just my ruminations about raiding. I’m not calling on people to quit en masse, I’m not encouraging everyone who’s ever quit to go back. I’m just writing because I have stuff I want to write about.

I’ve kept up with some of changes that have happened in the game since I quit in November. A lot of the smaller changes have escaped my notice or interest. To be honest, I don’t care about most of the balance changes, I don’t care about VP upgrades, Elder Charms, dailies or anything of the sort. However, what has struck me as interesting has been some of the discussion between Blizzard reps and various players about a couple of subjects. Specifically, the 10% nerf to 5.0 raids that is coming up in 5.2 as well as some responses to a thread on the forums about raiding being too hard and time consuming.

In order to address these points, I want to talk about my own philosophy and what encouraged me to raid.

RAIDING WAS THE PVE END-GAME

We typically spent a lot of time getting our toons from 1-60 in Vanilla. It took me 30 days of /played time, one full, real-life month (!) to get Kurn to 60. It was a long slog. Part of it was that I had no idea what I was doing to start, part of it was because I was distracted by all the cool things I could do in the world. (I spent way too many hours on a run from Desolace down through Feralas to Tanaris in order to explore the neutral Auction House, for example. There were many deaths as I ran down there at level 28 or so, collecting flight points along the way. I still had a blast, because it was all new and exciting!) I eventually hit 60 and was getting the hang of the various 5-mans available to me. I soon learned the best ways to clear LBRS, that the Father Flame event in UBRS was SO not worth it, that unless a warlock needed shoulders you should probably avoid Jandice Barov in Scholo, memorized the pulls in Strat Undead, figured out how to summon the Postmaster in Strat Live, figured out how best to navigate around Dire Maul’s various wings and, possibly most importantly, knew every square inch of Blackrock Depths and how to get everyone through Molten Core and Onyxia attunement. (Damn you, Windsor, DAMN YOU!)

As I saw it, the 5-mans (and LBRS/UBRS 10-mans) were stepping stones to the REAL end-game, which was raiding. I also acknowledged that not everyone wanted to raid or even had to raid. But the max-level instances were there to help attune us to the raids and also challenged us to learn how to play, basically. That’s where I learned how to pull properly, but that took time. I still remember killing more than one group after the rat cage in Strat Live because I pulled the patrolling abomination at precisely the WRONG time, causing a group of undead to join in the fun. But I learned to time things better and got to be good at pulling, as well as CCing and controlling my pet. (We will not talk about how my cat, Whisper, once wiped us all in BRD because we jumped off the “high road” and Whisper took the long way ’round…)

As I understood progression within the game, it was very linear. You got to 60, did these instances, then started raiding. And you would start raiding with the 20-mans, Zul’Gurub or the Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj, if you didn’t have 39 friends to go raiding with. So we cleared ZG and half of AQ (always less popular than ZG with my guild). We recruited constantly and only ever twice had a full 40-man group to go tackle Molten Core. We would usually be around 32ish people or thereabouts, of varying levels of gear, skill and specs. We once walked into MC with something like nine warriors. Awkward. But no more awkward than 26-manning Gehennas one night.

MC would lead to Blackwing Lair, which lead to AQ40, which ultimately led to Naxxramas, the original level 60 instance. Somewhere in there, around the midpoint of MC, you could probably start working on Onyxia, which dropped T2 helms. (Insert moment of shock when you think that they’re about to release Tier 15…!)

Guilds were supposed to work their way through the content and eventually arrive at Naxx and Kel’Thuzad.

It didn’t really work out that way, though. Given the amount of people needed (at least 40 to have a full-powered raid) and the amount of time needed to prepare to raid (flasks, food, all the farming), many guilds just fizzled out, the guild I was part of at that time included. You have to know that in any guild, you have a lot of chances for things to go kablooie. The raid leader or GM quits? The chances to come back from that (if it’s unexpected, especially) were slim, back in those days. When you had 40 people, at a minimum, to manage, things got crazy hectic and there was even less of a chance of overall consensus or acceptance of various strats because there were even more people who could disagree with you. Maintaining order was challenging.

So, to me, it’s not at all surprising that so few people ever cleared the original Naxx. You weren’t expected to even SEE Naxx back in those days. It was accepted that most people, even raiders, would maybe get somewhere into Blackwing Lair, maybe early AQ40, and that’s where they’d basically fall apart. It was only the most dedicated and talented (and, in some cases, lucky) players who would get through Twin Emps and C’thun and get deep into Naxx.

There was, of course, a time limit. Naxxramas came out with Patch 1.11, June 20th, 2006 and Burning Crusade came out on January 16th, 2008. (Wow. Imagine less than ten months between the final instance of an expansion and the release of the new expansion…) So guilds only had 7 months to get to and clear Naxx.

It wasn’t really possible for people to catch up and get to Naxx. That’s why Naxx (much like Sunwell Plateau later) had so few guilds that ever even got to it. That’s why they could re-release an easier version of it as Tier 7 at the start of Wrath of the Lich King. So few people had seen it when it was current content, it was like a brand new instance.

BURNING CRUSADE MAINTAINED LINEAR PROGRESSION (MOSTLY)

Burning Crusade was more of the same game that we loved. We still had to go through and do the instances at level cap before we went off to raid, only they also introduced “heroic modes” and made those attunement quests rely heavily on mastery of level 70 heroic instances. I won’t talk about the rep requirements for heroics, nor will I talk about how some of the heroics were really quite difficult, even for people who knew their classes quite well. Entry into Karazhan didn’t require heroic dungeons to be completed, but Serpentshrine Cavern required time spent in Heroic Slave Pens and Tempest Keep’s The Eye required all the Trials of the Naaru to be completed — which included Heroic Shattered Halls, Heroic Shadow Labyrinth and Heroic Arcatraz to all be completed. (They were all considered to be some of the most challenging dungeons.) Once you cleared SSC and TK, you could get into Hyjal. Black Temple attunement required an extensive questline and for you to kill certain bosses in SSC, TK and Hyjal.

Long story short, progression here was extremely linear up until the point where they removed the SSC, TK, Hyjal and BT attunements and released Sunwell Plateau which was open to everyone without attunement (although the last three bosses were gated for two months).

Still, things were pretty linear because in order to participate in T6 content, you pretty much needed T5 gear. You couldn’t very well show up to a Tier 6 boss and do your part as a team member in gear you got way back in T4 out of Karazhan. It would be like doing some of Molten Core and then showing up to Naxx back in Vanilla. You couldn’t do it — your stats would not be high enough to justify giving you that spot, unless you were in an exceptional group who dragged you through farm content to gear you up.

So we went:

60-70
Normal level cap dungeons
Heroic dungeons
Karazhan (10 people)
Gruul/Magtheridon (this is when raids started requiring 25 people)
SSC/TK
Hyjal
BT
Sunwell

Somewhere in there, I think with the launch of Sunwell and the Shattered Sun Offensive, Blizzard gave us badge gear. We’d had Badges of Justice for quite some time, but now it could be used to purchase gear that was … interesting.

These badge-obtained items weren’t quite T5 (ilvl 133) but they weren’t quite T6 either (146). They were in the middle, leaning closer towards T6, with an ilvl of 141, for the armor. The weapons were ilvl 146, which was BETTER than what could be gotten out of BT, just from a stat perspective, with the exception of weapons off Illidan (151, except the Warglaives, which were 156).

All of a sudden, you could go from being all decked out in Kara gear to farming badges for this badge gear and you could move from being relegated to T4/T5 content (none of which most people touched in pugs except for Karazhan, at least on my server) to being able to join a guild progressing in Hyjal and Black Temple or even Sunwell.

This was the introduction of the catch-up mechanic. While the removal of the attunements was the preliminary step, the introduction of this badge gear was the thing that actually enabled people to move from T4 to T6 content without ever seeing T5 content. You could go from pugging Karazhan or even just doing heroic dungeons, to a Sunwell Plateau pug on your own.

It’s as though, midway through the expansion, Blizzard realized “dude, if guilds keep getting stuck at these entry requirements (attunements) for each tier, no one’s ever going to see Illidan,” and then once they lifted the attunements, they realized that the gear was the stumbling block. “Let there be gear!” they said, and there was.

Despite this, and despite the blanket 30% nerf at the 3.0 patch drop, about a month before Wrath came out, Sunwell Plateau was not seen by a ton of guilds. It was more popular than Naxxramas was for a variety of reasons (no attunement, the ability to pug trash for epic drops, etc), but I know hardly anyone back on my server went into Sunwell. Even very progressed raiders on other servers had a lot of difficulty with Sunwell and many guilds broke up while coming up against the second boss, Brutallus, who was well-known for being a “guild-breaker” and the sole reason many people picked up Leatherworking, for the Drums of Battle that could be used for a “permanent” haste buff, which stacked with Heroism/Bloodlust.

BURNING CRUSADE-LIKE BADGE GEAR BECOMES THE NORM

So off we go to Wrath of the Lich King.

In Wrath, tier gear was available from badge vendors right from the start. Sorry, I mean emblem vendors. Remember all those emblems? Emblems of Heroism, Valor, Conquest, Triumph and Frost. I still call them badges. :P

Anyhow, you could now get TIER gear from these vendors. Not all of your tier at first, but once the Trial of the Crusader raid (T9) came out, you could use your badges (which you got from basically any PVE content, including heroic dungeons and even a random normal one, once a day) to purchase your entire tier set from a vendor.

This continued with Tier 10 gear from Emblems of Frost, although your methods of gaining Emblems of Frost were a little less varied than Emblems of Triumph. Here, this page explains things pretty well.

So it was during this period, around Tier 9, that you suddenly not only had a “catch up” mechanic, or a mechanic to help you out in case your tier token is packed or to help with bad RNG. Suddenly, players had an alternate method, aside from raiding, to gear up entirely. What’s more, since the badges were EVERYWHERE, basically, people weren’t using the gear to “catch up” in order to go out and raid. It was more just to improve their own characters for the hell of it. And who could blame them? If you have the ability to upgrade your gear, especially with such ease, why wouldn’t you do it?

This is also the point where, in my never-remotely-humble opinion, raiding stopped being so much about the gear, which had been a huge incentive for people for years to this point. Until T9 came out, you were never able to get all of your tier gear without raiding. Gear was many people’s GOAL for raiding. (Not mine, mind you, although it was always nice to get upgrades.)

Gone was the linear progression, entirely. You could now level an alt to 80, do a ton of heroics, get the lowest tier of your tier 9 and then jump into PUGs without being a drag on the group due to your gear. (That’s not to say, of course, that you wouldn’t be a drag on your group at all, but that’s another story.) In theory, a knowledgeable player could get an alt to 80 and decently geared in an extremely short period of time. It was during this time that I actually levelled a bunch of alts. I had levelled my hunter and my paladin, but I levelled a druid to 80 as well as a priest, a shaman and even got my mage from 70 to 80. I healed pugs on all my healing-capable toons and did gold-DKP runs on my hunter. I knocked out dailies and weekly raid quests on most every character. Without a doubt, I was the most active I’d ever been in-game, with six characters at level cap and almost all of them had at least a full set of T9 and I was capable of doing just about any content I wanted to with them (barring heroic raids).

JUSTICE POINTS, VALOR POINTS AND CATACLYSM

Once Cataclysm launched, not all tier was available from the vendors. Clearly, Blizzard had realized “hey, we should probably keep SOME of the tier to raids only…”. Still, players had all kinds of options from their Justice/Valor point vendors. While there were a couple of slots that were notoriously hard to upgrade (helm and shoulders in particular) in early content, but there were several off-set pieces available to people, such that it was also pretty easy to gear up an alt or a new level 85 character. Combined with Darkmoon Faire trinkets, plus crafted gear from various professions, someone could level a toon to 85 and then get geared and hop into a raid pretty quickly. Even while running a guild, raiding with that guild, raid leading with that guild, I levelled a second holy paladin from level 1 to level 85 and geared her appropriately for T11 content in less than two months. If I’d had all the free time I wanted, that would have dropped to maybe three weeks, total.

It only got easier once Dragon Soul was out and the Heroic Hour of Twilight instances were out. Plus LFR joined the fray.

It was clear that LFR (in conjunction with the nerfs we saw in T11 and T12) was brought out to push people back into raids. However, given the precedents set in Wrath of the Lich King (where people were able to get good gear just by virtue of doing daily dungeon runs over a period of time), the challenging aspects of the LFR raids were toned down, if not eliminated.

Blizzard claims this is due to LFRs being a group of 25 people who don’t communicate and don’t plan things out. That’s fine, I get that. But there were very few, if any, negative consequences for screwing things up in Dragon Soul’s LFR. People didn’t have to soak on Morchok, bounce the ball back on Zon’ozz, even switch to the “proper” slime on Yor’sahj. People could eat Ice Waves on Hagara and manage to live. People could easily ignore the twilight realm on Ultraxion while healers didn’t pick up the healing buffs and still live. LFR Blackhorn wasn’t anywhere near as challenging as its normal version and was a pale imitation of the heroic version of the fight. LFR Spine saw healers twiddling their thumbs throughout while DPS mindlessly did damage and countless abominations died before they were pulled into the proper position. Thrall kept dropping people on Madness.

So LFR Dragon Soul was laughably easy to get through, with most of the issues stemming from griefers: those who would start the fight before people were ready or the group was even full, those who would deliberately kill abominations before they were in place and the like.

At the same time, normal Dragon Soul wasn’t terribly difficult. My own guild stomped the first four encounters on Normal on the first night we were in there. Two weeks later, Deathwing was dead and we could start in on heroics.

Meanwhile, non-raiders could “catch up” through LFR and get very similar gear to normals, albeit slightly less powerful versions. Again, though, these people weren’t trying to “catch up”, they were trying to progress. And that’s fine, that’s what LFR is for, IMHO. It’s for the casual raider who wants to see the content and do the encounters but doesn’t have the time or desire to raid in an organized, progressive fashion.

But then, they nerfed the crap out of Dragon Soul, both normal and heroic, despite having LFR available.

WHAT IS THE ACTUAL PURPOSE OF LFR, NORMAL AND HEROIC DIFFICULTIES?

After they had nerfed T11’s normal modes after T12 came out (by ~30%), I know I assumed they would go forward and nerf T12 by the same amount (normals only) once T12 was done and T13 came out. But just three months into T12, they nerfed everything in Firelands, pretty much, on normal and heroic. Why? So that people could progress and see the content.

Once LFR came out with T13, I know I assumed that normals and heroics would remain untouched in terms of being nerfed. After all, anyone with ilvl 372 could get into LFR and see the content.

But no. They started nerfing Dragon Soul normals AND heroics just 9 weeks into the release of the instance, and that’s with an active LFR.

It was no longer about allowing people to “see the content”, as they had previously claimed. If all they wanted to do was to expand the number of people who see instances, they’d done that with LFR. No longer would instances mostly go unseen, as had happened with AQ40, Naxxramas and Sunwell Plateau. The trouble is that, due to the ability to catch up even more quickly, fewer people were seeing the earlier instances, although likely not as few people saw the early raids as the late raids back in Vanilla and BC. Anyhow…

Here’s what Blizzard said about the nerfs to Dragon Soul.

For any number of reasons a group may be having difficulty on a specific encounter each week, and our intent in adjusting the content is to ensure the ability to keep progressing, enjoying the content, and gearing up. […] Very few players are willing to suit up, buff up, do all the necessary requirements to raid, jump in, and then do no better than they did last week for hours and hours, only to return next week and do the same.

So it became clear: Blizzard wanted people to eventually see any difficulty level without always putting in the required time and energy. Right?

MISTS OF PANDARIA AND A RETURN TO DAYS OF YORE. KINDA.

Well, not really. Nethaera recently replied to a poster on the official forums, who had complained about being in normals for three months and wiping for 8 hours a week and she suggests some things that may be causing issues in the person’s normal raids.

You’ve found a bug or an imbalance in an encounter that’s causing you issues.

Your Raid team may not be using solid achievable tactics to approach the encounters and may need to refine them more.

Members of your Raid team may not have the most appropriate gear for the encounters. which can cause additional burden on other members who do have appropriate gear.

Members of the Raid team may need to change spell rotations or even talent options for specific encounters

So Nethaera is telling people to basically gear up, learn how to play their class, examine tactics and to submit a bug report if they think they’ve hit a bug.

This sounds like a perfectly reasonable response to me. This is what people used to do! This is how I’ve always approached the game. Make sure you have the gear, the skill, the knowledge and a strategy (or two… or three…) and note any weird behaviour that could be a bug. But Neth is telling this person who is stuck on normals to basically learn how to play the game. Good! It’s said a lot more diplomatically than, say, I would put it, but this is a case where the person who is complaining is basically saying “give me my loot with very little effort required”. And Neth says “no”. Yay!

However, at the same time this exchange is going on, the news comes out that they are nerfing T14 by 10% when 5.2 (and thus, T15) comes out. Bashiok says that they went “too far” in Cataclysm, meaning that they allowed people to skip all previous content, later on in the game and that fresh 85s could just hop into Dragon Soul. So now they’re going to try to force people to go through T14 content before hitting T15, and in order to make it a little more palatable to pug it, they’re going to nerf both normals and heroics by 10%.

But hey, if you killed various bosses in those instances PRE-NERF, you get a “Cutting Edge” (for heroic) or “Ahead of the Curve” (for normal” feat of strength! Snazzy. I guess…

SO WHAT’S THE POINT OF THIS POST, KURN?

I guess my point is that Blizzard is being inconsistent.

In the beginning, raiding was basically reserved for those who had the time to dedicate to it, but this was unacceptable.

They wanted more people to raid, so they lifted attunements in BC and implemented badge gear.

This presumably grew the game and so they continued with that trend in Wrath, with the game reaching

They feel that they did too good a job in allowing people to “catch up” in Cataclysm, so in Mists, they’re going to go back to the linear model, but make it easier to complete than it was before (10% nerf).

At the same time, by virtue of what Neth is saying on the forums, they are seemingly okay with someone in a sub-par raid group because there appears to be a limit to what Blizzard will do to allow people to progress without those people doing “the right things”, like gearing up, figuring out how to play and the like.

REALLY? NEARLY 4000 WORDS AND THAT’S YOUR POINT?

Well, there’s more to it than that. WoW is down to 9.6 million subscribers in Q4 (October, November, December) of 2012, down from “over 10 million” in Q3 (July, August, September). The Annual Pass ended, for many people, in November. Is the reason Blizzard is forcing people to go through raid content in a linear fashion because they’re hoping to get back to Wrath basics, where the game population grew substantially and everyone had alts? Is it because their early instances are being completely abandoned even by newer raiders in the more recent expansions? At the end of Wrath of the Lich King (reporting for Q3 2010), there were over 12 million concurrent WoW subscribers.

There are now 9.6 million.

I don’t think WoW is dying, I don’t think 9.6 million subscribers is bad. It’s leaps and bounds more than most MMOs have these days.

However, if I worked for Blizzard, I’d be looking back at Wrath and trying to figure out ways to entice people to keep playing. What could I lift from the extremely popular WotLK expansion and drop into Mists? At the same time, I’d have to balance how to keep the better/smarter/more talented players around.

I think the problem is that WotLK is when Blizzard got an influx of “the masses”. Not gamers, not people who understand what an MMO is or how things like aggro work. We’re talking people who don’t bother to train their skills, who don’t understand the game and they’re inflicting themselves on other players. So as game population went WAY up (and it clearly did), the overall ability of a random group dropped down into the basement.

I think that Blizzard needs to ask if they want 12 million bad players running around, making life miserable for everyone else on every single random dungeon or battleground or LFR they run OR if they want to keep the game interesting for the more talented players, even at the risk of alienating some of the bad players (and thus, their subscriptions).

I think a lot of this is tied in with how they approach gear and available PVE/raid content.

I don’t claim to have the answers. All I can say is that, if I were in Blizzard’s shoes, I would have wanted to keep people like me (GM, raid leader, blogger, podcaster) interested in the game. Since I am not interested in the game any longer (okay, not interested in PLAYING the game, since I’m obviously keeping up to date on some of the happenings), I can only imagine that people like myself (and Majik, for example) are being replaced by the people Nethaera responded to on the forums, who complain about 8 hours of wipes a week on normals for three months.

Which type of player is better for the game? Which approach is best from a financial standpoint? How can in-game changes to gear, gear acquisition, raid content and nerfs be used to maintain and grow this population? How can Blizzard balance the game population? Do they even want to?

Like I said, I don’t have the answers. I can only guess that we’ll learn more as Mists of Pandaria matures. Where will WoW’s population be for Q1 2013? We’ll find out in early May and that, combined with in-game changes, may give us an idea of where Blizzard is heading and what its true intentions are with regards to the type of players it wants playing World of Warcraft.

(PS: The final episode of Blessing of Frost is out. Enjoy!)

Retirement Reasons and Reminiscing Part 5

Welcome to my last post in a series in which I’ve been discussing my reasons for my retirement from raiding and the game as a whole. As usual, I’m not trying to tell anyone else to quit. If you enjoy the game, please, keep playing. I’m just trying to share my reasons and help myself (and anyone else, I guess) gain a better understanding of why, exactly, after seven years of playing this game, I’m pretty much done. And yes, my series here will also serve as reminders to myself why I quit when, six months down the road, perhaps I get that itch again.

As always, please do respect the comment policy! Thank you. :)

Reason 5: A sense of accomplishment.

I started out in this game, as I’ve already said, without knowing a lot. I was a scrubby, scrubby n00b like many new players, but I got my act together, learned how to play the game with its fairly steep learning curve and did what I had wanted to do before I even hit that very first level cap of 60 — I became a raider.

I have been a raider, for better or for worse, since early April of 2006. I have been a casual raider, I have been a much more hardcore raider and I have been a raider who has spent most of that time somewhere in the middle. My ideal raid schedule is about 12 hours a week, or 4 nights of 3 hours apiece. I’ve raided as much as 20 hours a week (wayyyyyy too much), as little as 9 hours a week (not quite enough for me) and spent most of Cataclysm raiding with two guilds (Apotheosis and Choice) for about 15 hours a week (just a bit much, but since 6 of those hours were spent as a regular raider and not a leader of any kind, it worked out okay).

I have dissolved guilds (RIP, Fated Heroes), I have created guilds (hello, Apotheosis), I have left guilds, I have joined guilds. I have raided with seven guilds over my career. I have killed … oh man, this might take a minute… 155 raid bosses while content was current (including all the beast bosses in Karazhan and including all the opera event types there, too, but not including heroic versions of fights).

I have earned three raid achievement mounts (25-man ICC, Firelands, Dragon Soul). I have cleared one single heroic tier since they came out with that infernal change (Dragon Soul). I have earned a server-first kill (Heroic Hagara the Stormbinder).

I have satisfied my curiosity.

I’ve also shown myself I can make gold, recently, by starting out at the end of Cataclysm with 20,000g and (with Majik’s help via cooldowns and supplying me with raw materials) turned it into 444,000g (and change) in just over a month (since I got back from Italy on October 5). I’m sure with another few weeks, I could have hit the gold cap, but I didn’t really care that much, although everyone should open their mailbox to 30k gold or more at some point in their lives.

Given the fact that I wasn’t terribly impressed with the expansion (although they did do a lot of neat things that I’m sure I’ll talk about at some point), I had no new goals. I had very little to motivate me to keep playing. Instead, my sense of accomplishment over the history of my play has continually nagged at me saying “Kurn, you can hang it up. You’ve done everything you’ve ever set out to do and more.”

And it’s true.

I didn’t just become a raider. I became a raid leader. I became a healing lead. I became a guild master. I became a WoW blogger. I became a WoW podcaster.

World of Warcraft has been a great place for me to hang out for seven years. It’s great bang for its buck. $15 a month has allowed me to spend countless hours (okay, not countless, we’re talking 400+ days /played) lost in Azeroth. When you think about how much a movie costs, for two hours of entertainment, you can pay about the same amount for unlimited hours of entertainment in a month.

I was happy to spend all the time that I did playing. I got involved, I became really active. I did it all for the love of a game and enjoyment of a game that, these days, no longer inspires me, about which I am no longer passionate.

I accomplished what I wanted to do and more. I satisfied my curiosity. And mostly due to the changes I’ve seen over the last couple of years to the game I once was very passionate about, I can’t get excited about it any longer.

One of the changes I haven’t talked about much isn’t something Blizzard did to the game, though. One of the changes is the people.

Players often say “if it weren’t for my guild, I would have quit long ago” and that’s true for me, as well. Were it not for Apotheosis, I would have probably quit during the Firelands nerf and if not then, certainly the Dragon Soul nerfs. But I had made a committment and I stayed on.

Others did not.

Shadowcry, Osephala, Euphie, Terex, Tia, Kam, Toga, Dar and Daey are all people who raided with us for at least a short time in Cataclysm but are all people I’d known for years, dating back to Burning Crusade. These people are among those I considered the core of Apotheosis in Burning Crusade. And one by one, all of them stopped raiding with us in Cataclysm, mostly due to time considerations or a lack of interest in the game.

There is a single person on the Mists of Pandaria raiding roster of Apotheosis who was in Apotheosis during Burning Crusade and that’s Dayden — and even he took a break for a few months in there.

Without most of my old friends and especially without Majik playing seriously, there’s no reason for me to continue. No in-game reason and no social reason. It’s not to say that I don’t think the current Apotheosis roster is awesome, because they’re pretty great people, but they’re not Shadowcry, who reflected caster spells back at them on Hyjal trash. They’re not Euphie, who was our Divine Spirit priest. They’re not Kam, who was our warlock tank. They’re not Toga, who usually forgot to unequip his fishing pole after fishing up Lurker. They’re not Daey, who snubs his nose at 99% of addons and still destroys things with ease.

Those were the days, for me. I kept playing for in-game reasons beyond Burning Crusade. And I continued through Cataclysm due to having made a committment to my guild.

But the game holds no more for me at this time. And all of my long-time friends, save Dayden, the Last Naked Man Standing, have stopped raiding.

So it’s time.

Here’s to three 45-minute Baron runs: one where Whisper or Volloz bugged it out for us, a successful run with me, Tia, Tan, Crypt and Daey and one in 39 minutes without a tank (Tia, Tan, Crypt, Maj and me).

Here’s to “HE’S GOT A REALLY BIG SWORD” and the Dire Maul arena and the NPA crew.

Here’s to soulstoning Daey on Hakkar so he could die and drop aggro, then rez.

Here’s to Toga and I never missing Tranq shot on Magmadar.

Here’s to 27-manning Gehennas.

Here’s to pony kegs after Maulgar and Majik blinking into Gruul.

Here’s to WEST SIDE, STRONG SIDE on Vashj.

Here’s to Lay on Hands critting Dayden with Vashj at 5%.

Here’s to me forgetting to heal Kam on Kael and her never living through Leotheras.

Here’s to Daey running to the corner of Void Reaver’s room for a timeout.

Here’s to Daey and I being mistaken for each other on that fight at least once.

Here’s to Dayden healing and Daey tanking on our Illidan kill.

Here’s to “WARTHON STOP NOT TANKING SHIT PLZ” on our first, and only, night in Sunwell Plateau.

And here’s to the current Apotheosis — best of luck to you all in this expansion and thanks to all of you for the unprecedented (for me) levels of raiding success.

This ends my series of retirement posts, but I’m sure I still have some things to say about the game. My subscription officially runs out today, but the blog isn’t quite done yet.

Thanks for reading.

Retirement Reasons and Reminiscing Part 4

Over the last week or so, I’ve been discussing my reasons for my retirement from raiding and, thus, my departure from World of Warcraft. I’m not trying to tell anyone else to quit as that remains a very personal decision and it’s not one anyone can make for you. I’m just trying to share my reasons and help myself (and anyone else, I guess) gain a better understanding of why, exactly, after seven years of playing this game, I’m pretty much done.

As always, please do respect the comment policy. :)

Reason 4: Not being excited by the new expansion and new changes.

I wasn’t thrilled when, while watching the live Blizzcon stream, I discovered that the new expansion was Mists of Pandaria. PANDAS? Really? I wasn’t thrilled. Nor was I thrilled with the new talent system. Nor did I particularly like the idea of not really having one “big bad”. I didn’t like that it was “only” another five-level expansion (although I had expected it). So my initial impression was disappointment and that certainly coloured my views going forward.

So let’s talk a little bit about each of those things.

1) The Pandaren (and monks). Wasn’t thrilled. Still am not thrilled. I think the Pandaren seem fairly goofy. I do, however, love that they can be either Horde OR Alliance. That is pretty great. As to monks, I gave monks a lot of thought. I compared them to death knights in my head, remembering the introduction of the DKs in Wrath of the Lich King. DKs were completely overpowered and unbalanced in virtually every single encounter, including Sartharion with three drakes. Hell, DKs were still OP even in heroic Dragon Soul content, if you ask me — both DPS and tanks, but particularly tanks. So I knew that, come this expansion, monks were going to be pretty powerful. I haven’t done a lot of reading about monks in general for Mists, but I had an idea that we’d see similarities between the power of DKs and the power of monks. What I’ve ascertained through reading various blogs is that mistweaver monks, the healers, are very OP. I think the tanks are doing well also. The issue appears to be with the windwalkers, the DPS spec, as apparently there’s a learning curve that many people are not quite grasping and, even if you’re great at it, they’re kind of middle of the pack in terms of damage. All of which is fine except that monk healers are dominating pretty much every other healer out there, which is problematic for a variety of reasons.

Having a new race is fine. New continent, new race, okay, I can deal with that.

Why did we need a new class? Did we really need a sixth healing spec and a fifth tanking spec and what is technically a 23rd DPS spec? Seriously, 11 classes, all with 3 (except druids who got guardian to separate it from feral which makes sense, I think) specs + guardian = 34 specs in the game, spread out over a total of 13 races? Good God. The combinations are getting pretty nuts, too, especially after old classes were able to be new races in Cataclysm (night elf mages, for example, or dwarf warlocks).

I don’t know why this bugs me, which is partly why I’m writing about it. I guess the monks are integral to Pandaria and the Pandaren or something, but with the dilution of 25-man raiding, is there really a huge need for a 5th tank, 6th healer and yet another DPS? I mean, even in 25-man raiding, you can’t support all five tank specs and it would be rare to support all six healing specs.

Maybe the introduction of a new class of healer and tank was in order to help reduce queue times for all random group content? It never hurts to have more tanks or more healers in the population. But if that’s the case, that hasn’t really worked out particularly well. My hunter still faces queue times anywhere from 20-30 minutes for any random heroic dungeon, just like in Cata.

Anyhow. I wasn’t thrilled with the Pandaren and the monks. I still remain unimpressed, although the fluid animation of the Pandaren models make me jealous as all get out.

2) The new talent system. The big complaint everyone had was “oh, it’s dumbed down” because we went from 41 points to spend to a grand total of… six. One every 15 levels. Which is a far cry from Vanilla. But no, it’s not dumbed down so much, because you are now expected to change your spec frequently. As well as your glyphs.

I admit that it was challenging for me to remember to change my glyphs around in Cataclysm. I would occasionally forget to swap glyphs and would inadvertently take more damage than I needed to for glyphing/not glyphing Divine Protection and the like. The glyphs didn’t seem to matter too much for me in 5-man content, but in raiding, I did have to occasionally change out glyphs and even had a second holy spec for pretty much the whole expansion so I could have a “standard” spec for most fights and whatever progression fight I was on would have its own custom spec, basically. (Like Chimaeron and Yor’sahj, for instance.)

But there was always so much going on in my raids, particularly for me as the raid leader, that it was really easy for me to forget to swap glyphs/specs/etc. So the idea of doing that but also with talents is, in a word, daunting. I’m very used to a “set it and forget it” type mentality when it comes to my talents. The game has taught me that over the last seven years. It’s a hard habit to break and while I’m sure I could do so, that’s not particularly engaging gameplay for me. “Oh, hold on, I need to swap that and that and dammit, hold on, let me reload my UI. And crap, does anyone have any Tomes?” The actual process of swapping things out is not engaging to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing something and going “man, this talent/glyph would be GREAT for that fight!” and I enjoy tailoring my abilities to a specific fight. I’ve been doing this on Kurn as I swap between dungeons, dailies, rares and such. But in a raid situation? When you can’t do the swaps in combat? When it’s just one other thing you have to remember to do in addition to your food buff, watching your flask timer, listening for or reading your assignments, trying to remember when to best use various cooldowns on this fight…? Ugh. If I could plan out a “by fight” plan for my toon, like “as soon as I see Morchok, unglyph Divine Protection” and “as soon as I see Yor’sahj or Zon’ozz, reglyph it” and it would DO it for me, that would be great. That would take the busywork out of the equation and just leave the planning in place. Which I really enjoy. But at the same time, pre-programming your spec and glyphs sort of automates stuff in the game and I know the devs don’t like that. Still, there must be a better way than manually opening your talents up and doing all that in the midst of prepping for a pull.

So while I don’t think the talent system is particularly dumb compared to the talent trees of old, I don’t think it’s particularly efficient, nor do I find it engaging at the mechanical level. A small complaint, perhaps, but that’s my two cents.

3) No “big bad”. The last time I raided without a “big bad” was in Vanilla. The big villain in Burning Crusade was Illidan and then, later, Kil’jaeden. In Wrath, it was Arthas — he was everywhere. He taunted you. Youwanted to kick his frozen ass. In Cata, it was Deathwing — this is the jackass who obliterated Auberdine, who fried us as we were out in the world, innocently doing our thing. Vengeance would be ours!

I don’t always need a reason to kill things. I’m not big into the lore. But it helps to engage with “the big bad” as you level up to encourage you to do what you can to get to That Fight, you know? Vanilla raiding, for me, was trying to clear ZG (done!), AQ20 (3/6), kill Onyxia (guild never did it) and Ragnaros (we spawned Domo, never got him or Rag down, as a guild). Why? BECAUSE IT WAS THERE.

It’s likely the same kind of attitude today (I haven’t read anything about the raids), but I feel a big bad sort of ties things together in a way that made things more cohesive and coherent in BC, Wrath and Cata than in Vanilla.

4) Five levels. Again. I hated the five level part of Cataclysm. I really did. Levelling was clumsy, gearing was awkward and the levels were insanely long with very little reward, it felt like. And it feels exactly the same way to me in Mists. I’ve got two 90s now, my hunter and my shaman, and while I used to really enjoy the levelling process in previous expansions, it felt like such a chore to do it this time around. Some of the quests are great. Some of the zones are amazing. But the levels are so long and again, there’s little to no reward for dinging. Grats on 86! You get… nothing. Grats on 87! You get one new skill. Grats on 88! 89! And you get nothing for that. At 90, you get your level 90 talent and the ability to fly and that’s great, but it’s like, what is the point of 86, 88 and 89? Now, more than ever, to me, the levelling process has felt like an artificial barrier before dinging max level.

Now, a 10-level jump would have brought us to 95, so I can understand why it was another 5-level expansion, but the levelling process in, say, BC, meant abilities every couple of levels and talents every other level and it was spread out over 10 levels with only the last one before max level was really particularly bad. Same for Wrath. But I felt it was a chore in Cata and even moreso in Mists. Which makes me sad. It took me 30 days (THIRTY DAYS) of /played time to get Kurn from 1-60. I took my time, I enjoyed things, I explored the world and I eventually got to 60. It was an accomplishment on its own. Now, max level is a pesky pre-requirement for all the “content” they’re putting out, I find.

So those were all things I was concerned about before the game even launched. Since the game has been out, there’s one more thing that has caused me to think that I’m making the right decision in quitting.

5) The devaluation of organized raiding. (While I’m a proponent of 25-man raids, I think what I’ll be discussing also affects 10-man raiders, for once!)

Mists of Pandara has a crapton of PVE things you can do at max level. I mean, a crapton.

– Dailies
– Scenarios (still haven’t done one since Theramore and I’m pretty pleased about that, to be honest)
– Dungeons
– Challenge mode dungeons
– LFR
– Organized raiding

There are more things, of course, but all those things give you Valor Points, which is basically the upper-tier PVE currency. The current VP cap is 1000 VP, with a hard cap of 3000 VP.

The ways in which you can get Valor Points is pretty crazy, with all kinds of “bonus” VP for the first time you do a certain task. Here, Wowhead has you covered.

It says that the first LFR of the week that is completed gives you 90 VP. Assuming that’s, say, the first half of Mogu’shan Vaults (3 bosses), that’s approximately 30 VP per boss.

That is more VP than in 10/25 normal/heroic modes, which only garners you 25 VP per boss.

That is only the first LFR of the week, though, true, but a daily Challenge mode is 60 VP, plus other amounts if it’s your first gold/silver/bronze of the week.

Scenarios net you 60 for the first, 20 for the second every day.

And don’t forget the dailies where you get 5 VP for each daily, up to 48 dailies a day.

Valor Points are needed (along with reputation with various factions) to gain some of the top PVE gear available, particularly in the early stages of the expansion. Previously, you could cap (or come close to it, at least) by doing dungeons or raiding or a combination of the two.

Now, you cannot VP cap by killing 18 bosses at 25 VP apiece. That’s only 450. In order for raiders to get another 550 VP, what should they be doing? Well, that’s where we run into problems with time and effort and the like. Right now, there are “only” three LFRs open, as I understand it: Mogu’shan Vaults 1 and 2 and HoF 1. So, if you full-clear MV and HoF, which is the entirety of the raid content right now, that’s 12 bosses at 25 VP per for 300 VP. Then if you do all three LFRs successfully, you get 90 + 45 + 45 = 180, so that’s a total of 480.

But what if you kill all 18 raid bosses and then all FIVE LFRs?

18 raid bosses = 450 VP
LFR x5 = 90 + 45×4 = 270

Total Valor Points available through only raiding: 720.

Well, gone are the days when you could even come close to capping out VP by solely doing raid content.

In Blizzard’s desire to make things accessible and give people choices, they have (perhaps inadvertently) forced people to do content they don’t want to do in order to get the rewards they want to better equip themselves.

Let’s say you want something pretty from, oh, the Shado-Pan. Let’s say you want a helm, like Six Pool’s Open Helm. It requires Revered with Shado-Pan and 2250 VP.

In order to get Shado-Pan rep, you have to open up their faction and I believe that means first getting to Revered with the Golden Lotus.

So you have to do the Golden Lotus dailies until you’ve gotten all the way through honored (which is, frankly, when I gave up). Then you have to do Shado-Pan dailies until you get to revered with these guys. And then, you have to make sure you have 2250 VP. If you’re capping, that won’t take too long, but in order to cap, you will probably default to doing the dailies which you have to do ANYWAY in order to get the rep. (Plus, DPS players don’t have to wait 30 minutes in queue for dailies, so it’s something you can do more quickly and perhaps more efficiently than waiting in queue for a dungeon, unless you do dailies while you queue. Anyhow.)

And then when you’re exalted with everything and a new bunch of VP gear comes out with the next tier, then what? Are you still going to be unable to cap while solely raiding?

Sure looks like it judging by this tier.

Let’s be clear, Valor Points are the successors to “badges”. Back in Burning Crusade, the developers realized among other things that there existed a huge gap in gear. You often had a bunch of people who were geared from Karazhan (T4 gear) and a bunch of people who were geared from Mount Hyjal, Black Temple and, later, Sunwell (T6 gear) with few people in between. Many guilds and raiders who tried T5 content simply broke up or gave up. This led to a major problem for guilds in T6 content — they couldn’t recruit anyone and expect them to keep up with healing or DPS or even threat/survivability for tanks.

I’m not saying this was the sole reason for the introduction of badge gear, but that’s when badge gear was introduced. You could take your Badges of Justice and go purchase gear with this currency that dropped in ALL the raids. You could farm the crap out of Kara with its 12 bosses or whatever and use that to buy near-T6 equivalent gear. Voila, people pushing T6 content could now recruit people with halfway decent gear without keeping T5 instances on their raid schedule specifically to gear up the recruits.

That’s the start of the Valor Points we use today. It was used to allow raiders — raiders! — an opportunity to gear up for the current content without having gone through the previous tier. That was new, it was ground-breaking and it was probably a really good thing.

But nowadays, everyone can get VP gear and raiders no longer can get capped exclusively through raiding.

For me, this is indicative that there is less value being placed on raiding. The way I’ve always seen raiding has been the pinnacle of PVE content, where you see the most challenging encounters, requiring the most people. It’s changed, obviously, because now you can raid in LFR with 24 people you don’t know OR you can spend 10 hours a day raiding heroic modes trying to get world firsts. Either way, however, by trying to make sure raiding is accessible and trying to give people “more things to do”, they have, perhaps mistakenly, removed some of the incentive to raid in an organized group.

If you want to see the content, do LFR.

If you want to cap VP and get VP gear, do LFR and dailies and dungeons and scenarios, whatever.

If you want to raid, you can pick your kind of group (10 or 25) and difficulty (normals or normals and THEN heroics) and raid.

People used to raid for a lot of reasons — to see the content, because normal raids were the only way to do it (pre-heroic raids, of course) or to get gear (because you didn’t used to get badges from dungeons or anything except raiding) or to work together as a team.

Now, you can see the content elsewhere, you can get gear/VP elsewhere… and all that’s left is the “working together as a team to defeat encounters” aspect. Don’t get me wrong — that’s why I raided. But I was always aware that people raided for other reasons as well.

By giving us so many choices, did Blizzard shoot themselves in the foot? Did they give us too many methods to cap out VP without thinking about how that will affect raiding populations?

I guess my point here is that, due to the variety of issues I’ve already outlined, I don’t trust that Blizzard has thought this stuff through adequately. I don’t trust them. At all. They’ve eroded it over the years and now it’s just gone. While I don’t know that people will stop organized raiding, I think it’s a possibility. I think the amount of stuff to do out there devalues what I always felt was the pinnacle of PVE content, was always the end goal of any PVE-oriented person.

Along with the nerfs, this kind of lack of respect for raiding and raiders really underlines why my decision to quit is the right decision for me.

The next, and likely last, post in this series will discuss the fact that I feel fairly well-accomplished and how I feel as though I’ve met most of my goals that I set out to achieve in this game, leading to an overall lack of incentive to continue playing.

Retirement Reasons and Reminiscing Part 3

My subscription runs out on Saturday, November 10th, just a few short days away. So I’ve been writing this series about the reasons why I’m retiring. Part 1 talked about raiding nerfs and how I feel the developers and I don’t see eye to eye on a number of issues to do with raiding content. Part 2 talked about how I don’t feel as though I have many of the same views as the majority of the playerbase, in terms of researching my classes and basically learning how to play. My last post, while not a full-fledged part of this series, demonstrates pretty clearly that not only do the vast majority of players of the game and I have little in common in terms of how we approach our play, but in terms of their social skills and abilities to not be total jackasses, we also tend to differ. As always, I’m not trying to convince anyone to quit. Play or don’t play, that’s your choice. It’s your $15 a month. I’m merely documenting my reasons why. And please do note that there is a comment policy in effect. Thanks. :)

Reason 3: The Bugs, oh God, the Bugs

Okay. I get it. I really do. World of Warcraft is an enormous game. I’m not a programmer of any kind, but I’ve done website coding for a living, so I understand how finicky even basic HTML/CSS code can be. I can only imagine how insanely complex the code within World of Warcraft is. As such, I am generally really, really forgiving of in-game bugs and issues. Not only that, but the devs are usually really good at hotfixing things once they recognize something is wrong.

Having said that, Cataclysm was the buggiest expansion I have ever seen. We’re talking brutally buggy in some cases. Let us examine some of the worst cases I experienced.

Tier 11 – Blackwing Descent, Bastion of Twilight, Throne of the Four Winds

The biggest issue we found in this tier of raiding was the “flexible raid lockout” system. We had a brutal night fighting with the raid lockout system last April when myself, Hestiah and Tikari were all saved to a different heroic ID than the other 25 people in the raid, despite no one killing any heroic bosses. Go ahead and read it. It’s a fun blog post. But it meant we were insanely careful about raid lockouts for the rest of the expansion, even going so far as to not swap specific people just so that we wouldn’t have to change who had the title of “raid leader” in the raid group, just in case another screw up like that happened.

In terms of specific fights where we encountered issues…

a) Heroic Magmaw: I have a video of this SOMEWHERE, but you’ll have to take my word for it because I can’t find it anywhere. On one of our progression attempts, Magmaw, instead of slumping FORWARD for a burn phase, instead bent over BACKWARDS. I wish I were kidding.

b) Conclave of Wind (both difficulties): Okay, this is less of a “bug” but is perhaps a technical limitation… We had to have people logging on every single platform in order to ensure we had a complete view of what the hell happened on this fight. Terrible design, that the combat log from one platform didn’t reach to the others.

c) Heroic Valiona & Theralion: Similarly, and we saw these issues through ICC and Ruby Sanctum as well, combat logs don’t work from one realm to another. This is still happening in current raid content with Gara’jal.

Okay, that’s not so bad, despite the raid lockout weirdness.

Tier 12 – Firelands

a) Rhyolith: I can’t point to a specific moment, but there were times when he was not moving the way he should have been. Honestly.

b) Alysrazor: Do not get me started on bugs with flying, bugs with tornadoes and other environmental stuff. People would fall out of the air despite having gotten their rings, people would die to a tornado and not actually be anywhere near one… The words “look at where I did! Just look!” were said in our raid more than once.

c) Heroic Baleroc: Touching people was always, well, touchy. Sometimes to pass on your debuff, you had to stand on top of someone, sometimes you only had to be a few yards away. Latency? Possibly, but unlikely when most people are standing still during these times…

Actually, again, not so bad, although adding this persistent issues to the Tier 11 frustrations.

Tier 13 – Dragon Soul

Here’s where the “fun” starts.

a) Zon’ozz (all difficulties): The Void of the Unmaking is buggy as fuck.

b) Hagara the Stormbinder: Two major issues here, but the first has to do with chaining the lightning. The second is that, and yes, I opened tickets about this and posted bug reports about this, if you cast Hand of Sacrifice on the person about to take the Focused Assault BEFORE the Focused Assault starts, then it fades prematurely, before transferring 100% of your maximum health or lasting the full 12 seconds. This happened to me on two separate holy paladins, in two separate raid groups, on a variety of different tanks.

c) Warmaster Blackhorn (heroic): Deck Fire. Do I REALLY need to say more?

d) Spine of Deathwing (all difficulties): Cut scene disconnects, getting stuck on the boat and having to relog, Grasping Tendrils not actually holding you in place.

e) Madness of Deathwing (all difficulties): Thrall drops people. This From Draenor with Love comic is perfect.

All of these bugs from Dragon Soul are either commonly experienced (Madness, Spine) or are easily visible in some videos I posted in this post about bugs in Dragon Soul or in this first Heroic Blackhorn kill video of ours: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwllU3Kqce8. Look at all that delicious Deck Fire when Goriona is on the ship. Terrible.

There are, doubtlessly, other bugs, including things like previously-mentioned logging issues (figuring out who pre-potted on Ultraxion when you ditched into the twilight realm to do a healer-only heroism? Nightmarish.). As an example, there’s a “bug” (or perhaps it’s working as intended, I have no confirmation) where right now, the Holy Avenger talent doesn’t work right for holy paladins, where it grants 3 holy power when you drop a Flash of Light or Divine Light on a beacon target, but those heals aren’t boosted by the 30%. It’s like, it listens to the tooltip for some of the spells, but not all the spells. And I’ve opened tickets, posted bug reports, even tweeted Ghostcrawler, all to no avail.

Anyhow, the game is immensely complex. I get that. But many of these issues are repeatable. They are problematic. They are broken. The broken Hagara chaining mechanic was ludicrous. Why not fix problems in current raid content when it’s current? Those fights were out from November 29th, 2011 until the launch of Mists of Pandaria on September 25th, 2012. That’s 10 months. Are you seriously telling me they couldn’t fix Deck Fire issues, lightning issues, Thrall DROPPING people in ten months?

The lack of quality control has been problematic for a while. All you really need to do is ask rogues about vanish, right? ;) But it really made its mark on me during Dragon Soul. I’d previously seen things that weren’t that dire or were eventually fixed. They even fixed the old demon, Klinfran the Crazed, in the Burning Steppes, to work with the “new” Scorpid Sting not too long after they revamped Scorpid Sting entirely.

But you don’t really see that kind of attention anymore. Yes, you see hotfixes, bug fixes, tooltip fixes, but not a single one of my Dragon Soul issues were fixed. Why not? It’s just gotten worse, from my perspective. I hear there are some painful phasing issues to do with some dailies these days too. These issues are ongoing, so that’s one more reason I’m not interested in renewing my subscription.

The next part of the series will address my lack of enthusiasm for the Mists of Pandaria expansion.

Retirement Reasons and Reminiscing Part 2

The other day, I wrote part one of this series in which I discussed how raiding has evolved over the years and how the devs’ ideas had similarly evolved. The major issue is that my own ideas don’t match up with what the devs are doing and planning and, as such, throughout Cataclysm’s many, varied nerfs to raid content, I became less and less excited about Mists of Pandaria.

I ended with a segue into how other people’s thinking is different from my own and how that’s another reason that I’m choosing to quit.

Again, play or don’t play, that’s your choice. I’m merely documenting my choices here and you’re free to read it or not. As always, please recall that there is a comment policy. Thanks.

Reason 2: I don’t think the same way as most of the players do.

What, exactly, do I mean by that?

Here. Let me show you.

 I don’t know why I’m still surprised…

OMG

Yet another fail “tank”

My blog is RESPLENDENT with examples of players being dumb, stupid, lazy and overall bad.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I was once terrible. Seven years ago, when I started this game, I didn’t understand the concept of filling out one entire spec of the talent tree to get the 31 point talent first. It had to be explained to me. I didn’t get the idea of ranks of spells for my pet, gained, back then, by taming other pets, learning those skills, then training my older pet with those new skills. I used to dual-wield daggers as my melee weapons, and at least one of them had an on-hit proc.

By the time I was 60, I had learned how not to be a total scrub. That doesn’t mean I didn’t keep learning, but it does mean that I continued to put in all the efforts I could into learning how to play appropriately.

I don’t bring Kurn into content that my hunter is incapable of helping out with. I make sure I’m hit-capped. I make sure I’m buffed appropriately. I even often ask what pet my group would prefer I use.

On my paladin, not that she has done ANYTHING in Mists, it’s about making the most of my character so I’m not a drag on the group. In 5-man content, that means keeping people alive, although not necessarily through their own stupidity.

These are standards I hold myself to.

Part of the reason I have them is because I started out, as I mentioned in my previous post, as someone who wanted to be a raider. I knew that I’d have to play better and learn more and work for my gear in order to get to be a raider.

People no longer have that reason to improve, because anyone can be a “raider”. There’s LFR, there’s 10-man normals, there’s 25-man normals, then there’s 10 and 25-man heroics. That about covers the entire spectrum of raiding, no? LFR people who can’t hit a button on Ultraxion and who (I am told) fall through the floor on Elegon. Normal raid teams who spend a night a week progressing until the nerf catches up to them. Heroic raid teams who power through normals and clear heroic modes before the nerfs or the next tier show up.

And all you really need to be a “raider” is to be at level cap and have a certain item level of gear.

You don’t need any of the dedication or knowledge to be a LFR-type “raider”.

You don’t need a huge time commitment to be a normal-mode raider and, let’s face it, normal-mode raiders can afford to be poorer players than heroic mode players, because the mechanics generally are nowhere near as punishing as on heroic mode.

You do need knowledge and some form of time commitment to do some of the “necessary” things as a heroic raider, but then again, I have been a heroic raider. This is the category in which I would place myself over Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm. So my beef isn’t really with my peers, exactly, it’s with the people like those I wrote those earlier blog posts about. People who don’t put in the effort. People who don’t take the time to learn. People who flat-out don’t want to learn.

Apotheosis has been fortunate in that many, many of our applicants have been of a high quality, but we’ve had our fair share of /facepalm apps. It’s those people I don’t want to play with any longer. And with the number of 25-man guilds continuing to decline, it’s getting hard to recruit for 25-man content. It was downright brutal at the end of Firelands last expansion. Sometimes, you have to trial someone just to give them a chance IN CASE they are secretly a great player and their logs or application didn’t show it, just because having a body in the raid, or available to raid, is better than calling a raid. Sometimes you have to try to teach the applicants rather than decline them off the bat because, well, it MIGHT turn out.

Oftentimes, it doesn’t work, which is why we generally only took “iffy” apps who were already on our server, so no one was wasting money if they were declined, as they were likely to be. But the sheer number of questionable applicants is downright overwhelming at times.

I don’t want to raid with people like that and I would be not only naïve but downright stupid if I thought that a raid roster was going to remain exactly the same throughout an entire expansion. Out of the 24 people I had listed in my very first Apotheosis 2.0 roster (created September 23, 2010) a grand total of THREE of those people (Majik, Dayden and myself) were still around at the end of Dragon Soul. And Dayden had taken a long hiatus. Of those 24, ten of them didn’t even complete a trial period.

In short, the one thing you can count on in a raiding guild is turnover. Looking around, there don’t seem to be a lot of quality, like-minded individuals out there: people who do their research, read strats, watch videos, understand how to play their classes at a high level. We’ve seen applicants fail to respond to our feedback in raids over and over again. “Dot all the things,” I remember telling a shadow priest app, in the hopes of helping them get their DPS up. Open up World of Logs, look at the uptimes, all the dot uptimes are below 60%.

“Always be casting,” you tell a random DPS, and you look at the logs and over and over again, the active time is reflective of their damage, which is below the tanks.

I can’t deal with it anymore. The changing approach to raiding and raids and all this “accessibility” by the developers has led, in my mind, to lazy players. Lazy players who are just, quite honestly, bad players. If that’s the kind of player that Blizzard is creating these days (and while there are certainly exceptions, it seems, more and more, as though these are the players that Wrath and Cata have spawned), I don’t want to have anything to do with them, nor do I want to be hunting high and low for quality replacements for those in my own guild. Searching for replacements is common for any guild, but I suspect it’s just going to get even more difficult given the overall quality of players out there.

So I choose to remove myself from Blizzard’s environment. I don’t agree with their raid philosophies any longer and I certainly don’t have much, if anything, in common with the average WoW player.

The next part of this series will focus on the quality control (or lack thereof) with regards to World of Warcraft.

(As always, please remember there is a comment policy in place. Thanks!)

(Edited to add: Here’s a sort of follow-up post, based on a comment I received but did not approve.)

Retirement Reasons and Reminiscing Part 1

It’s official. In eleven days, my World of Warcraft account subscription will expire and, for the first time in years, I will not be renewing it. This, I imagine, is not news to anyone who’s read this blog more than a couple of times in the last several months, or listened to Blessing of Frost since, oh, Firelands was nerfed.

I haven’t actually clicked the “cancel” button yet, but the last time I renewed my sub, I used a game time card so that even if I forgot to cancel, they couldn’t bill me again. Once I do hit that button, I plan to use these forthcoming posts to help describe my reasons for leaving the game. (There’s no way 500 characters or something like that would ever even put a dent into my reasons and feelings about the game.)

Anyhow, I’m not out to convince anyone to quit or that the game sucks or anything of the sort. Play or don’t play, that’s your choice and your choice alone. I feel compelled to document my decision and my reasons to better understand it all myself. I also want to blog about it because I’ve become more interested in the decision to game/raid/etc than the actual content of the game and so exploring my own reasons seems like a good place to start.

Reason 1: The Evolution of Raids/Accessibility of Raiding Content

Since I discovered what “raiding” was, back in Vanilla, I have wanted to raid. I wanted to be like that guy from my server, Thack (no, not Theck, Thack) who was in 9/9 Dreadnaught Armor (warrior T3) and who was a Scarab Lord. He would stand around Lagforge Ironforge on his bug mount, in his gear and would basically just look awesome.

I was fascinated by the idea of a team, a real team, of 40 people working together in concert to do stuff. So when I discovered what raiding was, courtesy of my brother who was killing Ragnaros with another guild, I went into research mode. I found out everything I needed to know about attunements and questlines and then I shared that info with my guildies. The old Fated Heroes guild had a significant problem in that people would join the guild, we’d work hard to help them get to 60 and then they’d hop over to a raiding guild on the server. So I approached the GM and asked him if he WANTED to raid. All the officers did, they just didn’t know how to retain the players. That’s where I came in. I helped to educate the players and helped to put into action these plans about raiding. I did attunement runs out the wazoo. I helped recruit people. It was a great team effort just to start raiding ZG, then AQ20 (to an extent) before finally hitting up MC and trying to down Onyxia.

Then, the guild kind of fell apart and we kind of went our own ways for the start of Burning Crusade, only we all regrouped in May and then formed Apotheosis on June 1st, 2007.

Here, I thought, was my chance to raid with some people whose company I really enjoyed and we’d do it better than we ever did back in Fated Heroes. We formed with the goal to kill Illidan. And, eventually, we did.

While we fell apart in Wrath of the Lich King, we reformed for “Apotheosis 2.0” for Cataclysm and we put the old Apotheosis to shame by doing 7/13 HM in T11, 6/7 HM and Glory of the Firelands raider in T12 and following it up with 8/8 HM in T13 Soul along with Glory of the Dragon Soul Raider. These were unprecedented levels of raiding success for our guild. So many people had grown with the guild and had come back to play with us and it was really amazing to see this mix of old and new together, working as a team and succeeding.

Having said all of that, I play the game to raid. I LOVED learning Lucifron in Molten Core. It was such an epic fight to me back then. I remember this one moment where I realized I was about to die, because I had Impending Doom on me. I had used my healthstone. My health potion was on cooldown. My bandages were on cooldown. In fact, here… Since I knew I was going to die, I took a screenshot of it. This was taken on July 22nd, 2006.

So I did die after that Impending Doom. And yet, that ended up being the winning attempt. Lucifron down! And I got the Tome of Tranquilizing Shot. Then we played with Gehennas a bit (Magmadar with just 1 Tranq Shot? HAH.) and called it a night.

I loved the teamwork we showed in this instance. I loved setting up my hunter rotations for Tranq Shot — there was me, Toga, Kaiu, Sharpbow and a few others over the course of the next few months. We never missed a single rotation. We nailed it. Because we worked together as a team.

Now, you may be wondering, Kurn, don’t you still have to work as a team to defeat raid encounters?

Yes. But only to an extent. Why only to an extent? Well, dear reader, if you wait long enough, Blizzard will nerf the encounters.

In their ongoing goal to make raid content “accessible”, their design choices have changed drastically from what they did in Vanilla to what they do now.

TO ENTER MOLTEN CORE IN VANILLA:

– Attunement quest at Level 55, requiring you to defeat most of the bosses in Blackrock Depths in order to get your core fragment. This often required you actually knowing how to play your class well enough to be part of a successful core attunement run. (Or for you to be carried by friends/guildies/etc. Or summoned by a warlock.)

TO ENTER DRAGON SOUL IN CATACLYSM:

– Ding 85.

It’s not exactly even. And don’t get me started on Onyxia attunement. (Dammit, Maj, I still cannot believe YOU DIED on Jailbreak, dude. ;))

Now, and this is where I think a lot of people misunderstand me, I want to make it clear that I don’t much like jumping through arbitrary hoops, despite my admiration of attunements. I think a lot of things they’ve changed about raiding through the years have been quality of life changes.

In Burning Crusade, they introduced the “1 flask or 1 Guardian elixir and 1 Battle elixir” rule. They also changed food buffs so you could only have one on you at a time.

Lots of people cried “NERF OMG” but I was one of many others who were like “oh thank God, I don’t need to have a flask, plus another 5 elixirs on me.” I mean, look up at that screenshot again — I don’t even have an Elixir of the Mongoose on. (Bad Kurn.)

The change made sense. It allowed the devs to assume everyone would have one flask OR two elixirs and one food buff and they would build the encounters with that in mind and it allowed people who wanted to raid to not, you know, farm for the 20 hours a day they didn’t raid. ;) I was a fan of this. (Less of a fan of them nerfing holy paladins and Illumination, but ANYWAY.)

Later in BC, Blizz lifted the attunement requirements to Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep, The Battle for Mount Hyjal and Black Temple. While we didn’t do the attunements for SSC and TK in Apotheosis back then, we did do the Hyjal and BT attunements just by virtue of progressing through T5 and we also wanted the shadow resist necks for the Mother fight in BT, so we got just about everyone that attunement.

While I wasn’t, shall we say, thrilled by the change, my guild benefitted from it. So I can’t really complain too much. And we did the “important” attunements anyhow, getting most everyone Hand of A’dal and their BT necks.

One month before Wrath of the Lich King was to be released, Patch 3.0 dropped. With new talents and abilities and such came a 30% nerf to all raid bosses. Unchangeable, couldn’t turn it on or off. If you were raiding, you were dealing with a 30% nerf to everything. More, it was initially undocumented.

This was the first really big nerf that Blizzard implemented.

Again, my guild benefitted from it. We were 4/5 Hyjal and 5/9 BT at that point. We knew we would get Archimonde down without the nerf, but didn’t have the opportunity to prove it. Then again, without the nerf, we probably wouldn’t have gotten through the rest of BT and wouldn’t have achieved our goal of killing Illidan.

I never thought this would become a trend.

The next time we saw huge buffs/nerfs like that was in Icecrown Citadel, with a stacking “buff” to make players more powerful in increments of 5% all the way up to 30%. I first killed Heroic 25-man Sindragosa at the 15% buff and later, repeated 11/12 HM progression on 25-man mode (with another guild) at the 25-30% buff level. It was still difficult, because fights like Heroic Putricide and Heroic Sindragosa were more about coordination than raw power.

I was okay with the buff, for the most part. It got pretty silly by the 30% point, but I told myself it was just because the instance was going to be the last major one (please, who counts Ruby Sanctum? Screw you and your boots, Halion!) of the expansion and it was going to last a while. And it did last a while. It lasted a year. A YEAR.

Then Tier 11 showed up in Cataclysm and, well, chunks of it were really difficult. Apotheosis went 7/13 HM before Firelands came out and we were like “SEEYA” to Blackwing Descent, Bastion of Twilight and Throne of the Four Winds.

They nerfed T11 normal modes when Firelands came out. They did not touch the heroic modes.

I felt that nerfing T11 normals was a bad plan. My guild’s alt run carried me through T11 normals on my hunter post-nerf and it was ridiculous. In a single night, Kurn got Defender of a Shattered World, a title that had taken Madrana several weeks (three months?) to earn.

Still, they hadn’t nerfed the heroics and we weren’t touching T11 content anyhow, so I thought, well, that’s fine. I guess.

And then came the Firelands nerf. This is where I became acutely aware that Blizzard’s ideas on raiding were now significantly different from mine.

What had previously been end-of-expansion nerfs or buffs, what had previously been “last tier of content” stuff, was now hitting my CURRENT normal and heroic raid content.

That’s when it stopped being okay for me.

“We want raids to be more accessible,” Blizzard told us.

Fine, okay, I get it. And then we got LFR. And I thought “hey, there might be a bright side here. ANYONE can see raids through LFR. Now they’ll leave our normals and heroics alone!”

But I was wrong. They continued to nerf the crap out of both normal and heroic Dragon Soul, ultimately reaching a 35% blanket nerf on all encounters.

This was basically my breaking point.

I had started raiding back when it was a pretty punishing hobby. I enjoy many of the quality of life changes we’ve seen since then (don’t get me started on how they’ve now removed cauldrons and made feasts inferior to 300 stat food) and have enjoyed how raiding has absolutely gotten more accessible. However, when I started, people worked and worked to get bosses down. There was nothing on the horizon that was coming soon to help you get over that hump. All you had to work with was your raid team and all you could do was keep bashing your head against the boss, until you suddenly had a breakthrough and got the boss down.

These are the epic moments I remember best. People didn’t rely on just waiting until they became more powerful or the boss became weaker due to some developer tweaks, they worked hard to improve themselves — farming gear, using consumables appropriately, researching their class. Gruul did not just fall over for us one day, he finally died because we realized we needed this thing called “hit rating”. Lady Vashj was over 100 pulls of over 35 different raiders and a variety of strats before we got her down.

That’s the challenge I like, knowing that I am stuck on this boss until I down it, knowing that the boss will behave in exactly the same fashion time and time again until such time as I work out what it is we’re doing wrong.

When Blizzard buffs the players or nerfs the encounters, that changes and it infuriates me. I feel like they’re saying “oh, you aren’t progressing fast enough, so here, let us help” and then they drag that finish line closer to us by about 10 meters. That ruins the kill for me.

Let’s look at when Apotheosis first killed Heroic Ultraxion, shall we?

It was Tuesday, February 28th. We had had a crushing 0% wipe on Heroic Ultraxion on Sunday, the 26th. We had spent pretty much all night on Ultraxion by that point, but because we wanted to clear the rest of the instance that night, we had decided that our last pull on Ultraxion would be around 11pm, leaving us an hour to finish up the rest of the instance on normal. The date is important. Why? Because on Tuesday, February 28th, the 10% nerf to Dragon Soul went into effect. This made a huge impact on our decision for Sunday’s raid. “Well,” we said to ourselves, “if we don’t get it tonight, at least we’ll get it on Tuesday with the nerf.”

That’s my problem. Even though I have serious issues with Blizzard nerfing the instances, I had to take it into account. What was more important to us? To kill Heroic Ultraxion and maybe miss out on Madness loot (which was still a bit new to us) or to ensure a full clear and know, with total certainty, that we would kill Ultraxion on the next reset?

Logistically, it made more sense for our raiders to get new trinkets and weapons from Spine and Madness, so that’s what we did. Had we not had the nerf incoming, I think I would have continued to work on Ultraxion until he died, because that kind of “he will die next reset” certainty wouldn’t have been there.

The very presence of the nerfs altered the way I ran my raid. That isn’t a concession I’m happy to make. I do miss the old days where if you were stuck on a boss, you were stuck on the boss and all you could do was farm previous bosses and improve your own performance to get through it. Now, you just wait for the nerf. Even my raid group did it, although I’m not pleased about it, because it made sense for us at the time.

Of course, not everyone misses those old days of being stuck on a boss for weeks, months at a time. That’s a great segue to my next point. My next post will discuss the disconnect between other people’s thinking and my own as a reason for my deciding to quit.

(As always, please remember there is a comment policy in place. Thanks!)

How to Prepare a Raiding Guild for Mists of Pandaria: Steps 5 & 6

I know, I’ve been slack with these posts, for which I truly apologize. Hopefully we’re not too late with this final post. Please do read Steps 1 & 2 and Steps 3 & 4 before you move on. :)

STEP 5: Roster Confirmation

My last post shared this spreadsheet with you. Here’s an updated version.

As you can see, we’ve lost a couple of other people from the current roster. Cinder, Majik and myself, but also Innerbite (which is a whole other story on its own) and Miurne, along with confirmation from Hitoku that he will not be raiding in Mists. We never did hear from Delandruss (and we hope he’s okay!). Walks decided to go monk, while Dayden elected to remain an enhancement shaman, not wanting to add to the glut of tanks. Kripptic went from being a hunter to being a DPS warrior in our raids and that’s what he’ll be playing in Mists.

We also added:

Ghostlore, Ilumi, Mabriam, Reax, Smmoke and Sturm (of which, Mabs and Sturm had previously raided with us)

We also went recruiting specifically for Mists! So we have the following who will be starting (mostly) their trials in MoP:

Grumdy and Zazii (zomg warlocks!), Leenewton (moonkin), Jacii (holy paladin), Poz (will be a windwalker monk) and Stariian (rogue who had maybe two raids with us before we stopped raiding for the expansion).

Current count:

23 DPS (10 melee, 13 ranged)
3 tanks (brewmaster, guardian, prot pally)
8 healers (2 resto druids, 2 mistweaver monks, 2 healing priests, 1 resto shaman, 1 holy paladin)

Honestly, I’m pretty happy with that. 34 people confirmed, although one must always prepare for the unexpected. The officers anticipate somewhere in the realm of 20% attrition, but some of that has already happened, so we were at 37 people before Inner bailed and Miurne and Hitoku wouldn’t be continuing. and 20% of 37 is 7.4. That means I estimate another 4 people will either bail, won’t be ready for raiding on October 9th or won’t pass their trials.

So Apotheosis is pretty set moving into Mists, although we could still use a shadow priest to keep Srsbusiness company, would consider another elemental shaman, another hunter and even another moonkin.

At this point in time, your roster should be more or less set. You should have confirmed everyone’s role with everyone and given them a bit of time to change their minds or even make up their minds. You should have a good idea of what you need to recruit and you should be exploring those options.

What’s left?

STEP 6: Paperwork & Policies

If you follow me on Twitter, you have doubtlessly seen tweets of mine wherein I complain about “paperwork”. Welcome to running a guild. Even if it’s virtual paperwork, you still have a crapton of it to do if you want to be organized about stuff.

Apotheosis is a guild where 100% of our information that is important to the running of the guild is found on our guild forums. There are two major reasons for this.

1) To share the information with our players. As a raider in Apotheosis, you are expected to check the forums regularly. All policies, strategies and announcements are posted on the forums, all feedback is done back and forth on the forums via private message and all guild bank requests are done on the forums. It means there is a central place for information and if the officers have posted the appropriate information, the onus is then on the players to make sure they’ve done their reading. This is also important for the sake of transparency. If it’s on the forums, we stick to it. There are no surprises.

2) So we don’t have to remember it all. Human memory is a funny thing in that sometimes, we don’t remember things. Or we remember them wrong. Having it all written down in a centralized location means not only that I don’t need to remember that, for example, normal-version shoulders cost 750 GP, but the person in charge of loot isn’t completely irreplaceable in case of emergency. Having all our EPGP values posted on the forums means that any officer can do loot (in theory). It means that anyone can read or re-read our various policies or strats. I know I referred to our H DS strats even going into our last couple of raids. It’s just not viable to expect everyone to remember everything with perfect clarity. Writing it down saves you the trouble.

Of course, the downside here is that we need to keep these various posts and documents updated.

Jasyla, who is the incoming GM of Apotheosis, spent several hours updating and re-writing and re-organizing several of our policy posts, many of which hadn’t been updated since, oh, the start of Cataclysm… Oops. ;) With feedback from the officers, Jasyla meticulously updated these posts and started posting them to our new guild forums. We elected to move to a new set of forums to have a fresh start without thousands of posts already. We took the opportunity to change how permissions worked on the new forums so it’s a lot easier to keep track of who can see what on the forums, plus it’s easier to know which permissions to give to which members. We also asked people to register for the forums using their new names, so Kaleri (our disc priest who’s going to be a guardian druid for us) changed her name to Kalbeari, which is her druid’s name. This makes things a million times easier for people to know who is who and avoid the dreaded “user not found” error when you try to write to someone only to remember, belatedly, that their toon name is not their forum name.

Essentially, assuming your roster is set, you’ll want to update your policies and expectations, start getting raid strats out there and then you’ll want to tackle something else that can be pretty overwhelming: the guild bank.

Tikari, in addition to being our melee lead again, will be handling the guild bank stuff. By “stuff”, I mean, he’s basically in charge of cleaning out the bank of stuff that won’t be useful and managing our 678,000 gold. This is not the time to be a packrat. This is the time to get rid of 90% of the crap in your guild bank and save your gold.

Right now, Apotheosis has 8 bank tabs and we require anyone who is a Raider or above to have an authenticator on their account. Here’s how we used the tabs in Cata and I expect they’ll be used similarly going forward.

1) Guild Trade: Anyone can deposit/withdraw junk here. We get a lot of AQ idols and scarabs, a lot of DMF quest items and other junk.

2) Glyphs/Enchants: Anyone can deposit/withdraw some glyphs here (as well as some enchants on scrolls).

3) Enchanting/Tailoring/LW/Vol: This was a tab for all our enchanting mats as well as cloth, raid drops (Essences of Destruction), leatherworking stuff and volatile storage. Anyone could deposit, only officers could withdraw.

4) Gems/Ore: This was where, not surprisingly, we kept all our gems and ore during the expansion. Anyone could deposit, only officers could withdraw.

5) Food: This was where we stored fish for the fish feasts. Anyone could deposit, only officers could withdraw.

6) Flasks: Also unsurprisingly, this was where we stored all our flasks that we used for raids. Anyone could deposit, only officers could withdraw.

7) Herbs: We had a small store of herbs once we moved to a system where people would donate flasks for cauldrons, but kept using it for various potions and elixirs and the like. Anyone could deposit, only officers could withdraw.

8) Secured: Patterns and BOEs made their way here. No one but officers could deposit and only the bank admin or GM could withdraw.

So what you need to do is clean out your bank and organize your tabs for efficient use.

Yet another thing to check out is guild ranks.

Apotheosis currently makes use of all 10 guild ranks.

Guild Leader is the rank for the GM, obviously. Bank Officer is the rank for the main character of the bank administrator as well as our “Apothbank” toon. Officer is for the other officers, Officer Alt is for the alts of officers, so they don’t have to swap over to throw out invites to the guild and such. Veteran is a new rank we brought in as a test (which has worked very nicely) that currently is for any non-officer who joined us before Cata dropped without pausing in their raiding with us. Going forward, this will be anyone who has raided with us for a full year without a break. Officers and Veterans are considered “Raiders” for loot purposes, but get slightly more repair ability and can invite people to the guild. Raiders are those who raid with the guild and have passed their trials. We’ll come back to Member in a minute, but Initiates are for our trialists, which typically lasts 3 weeks (9 full raids), or if content’s on farm and we’re doing 1 night a week clears, 4 weeks is the duration. Friends are friends of raiding-ranked people (or Members) and Alt is for everyone’s alt, except the officers.

Members are a little strange — they’re basically retired raiders from any point in time in Apotheosis’ history and, yes, I’ll be there soon enough. But a lot of our members who raided with us in BC are in this spot. You only ever get DEMOTED to Member after you’ve stopped raiding. They are important people to us who made it possible for us to get to where we are today and we like to recognize that by giving them their own rank and privileges that are more than what Initiates get but not quite what Raiders get. We are, after all, a raiding guild.

Speaking of being a raiding guild, one other thing our officers have hammered out is a good feedback system. Time and again, the biggest complaint we had as an officer group was a lack of feedback for the raiders, but to be honest, we didn’t have a group that had the time to give a lot of feedback. Our unofficial policy was “no news is good news”. We worked to change that in the last few months of Dragon Soul and the officers will be doing much more extensive feedback going forward. That was a major problem area for us and we worked to fix it, so raiders (and initiates) in Apotheosis will have a better idea of various expectations and will have more communication with their officers. We’ve added that to their roles as officers and, due to the fact that there are four people doing my jobs (GM, RL, recruitment, guild bank), we’ve had to specify what each role is responsible for.

Finally, THE LEGENDARY. Or legendaries.

Chances are, the moment you kill a boss in a raid instance in T14, something associated with the various legendaries out there will drop. What you need to do WELL before you walk into a raid instance is figure out who’s getting a legendary and in which order. Apotheosis is not prepared for this (yet), but I’m sure the officers will get that organized soon enough. (That said, I am selfishly REALLY GLAD I don’t have to make decisions about this.) Still, this is something any raiding guild will need to deal with and so you need to be clear about it before you start raiding.

CONCLUSION

Obviously, the most challenging thing is making sure your roster is settled, but once that’s done, it’s time to deal with the administrative side of things.

– policy updating/rewriting
– website/forum cleanup
– guild bank cleanup
– ranks/roster cleanup
– role duties for officers
– legendary

Once you’ve taken care of that stuff, you are pretty much good to go and ready to embark upon a new adventure in Pandaria! Don’t forget to keep your policies and such updated; review your policies every couple of months and make sure you’re still adhering to them or that they’re still reflective of what you’re actually doing.

Best of luck to you all in Pandaria! And feel free to let me know what other things you’ve done to help prepare your guild!

Raiding in 5.0.4

Apotheosis raids on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Lately, we’ve been clearing in about 2.5 hours, at most, on Tuesday nights. I stopped putting signups up for Sunday AGES ago and stopped putting up signups for Thursdays weeks ago.

This week, I knew there would be issues, so I put up signups for both Tuesday AND Thursday.

As such, Tuesday’s raid, post-5.0.4, was probably one of the longest three hours of the entire expansion, to be honest.

– UI issues
– Addon problems
– Connection issues
– Latency/frame rate issues
– Mechanic issues

All of these plagued us in one form or another.

Yet, we actually got through Spine. YAY!

Morchok was okay.

Yor’sahj was okay.

Zon’ozz was craptastic, issues with soaking.

Hagara was fine.

Ultraxion was craptastic, until everyone made sure their DBM was working so that they could appropriately hit Heroic Will when they had Fading Light.

Blackhorn was okay.

Spine was okay, even though someone fat-fingered Heroism randomly early on and even though we had a different tank configuration.

Madness was rough — issues with impales and then P2 bloods.

But I feel good about walking in there, pwning 7 bosses and leaving just one left with another 3 hours scheduled this week.

The most hilarious thing of the night quickly turned sour when we wiped on Madness and were ported to the top of Wyrmrest, then had to take the portal back DOWN to the bottom of Wyrmrest, then had to take a portal to the Skyfire, then a portal to the Maelstrom. I mean, really? Portal boss, hello! We got REAL tired of that.

I don’t have a lot to say about being a holy paladin during 5.0.4 yet, but I’m sure I’ll post soon. I really am loving Clemency and Eternal Flame, though. After running a couple of fights in the back half of LFR, I also removed my 3×67 int gems and put in 3×67 spirit gems and switched to Heartsong. I still felt the crunch here and there, particularly on H Spine and H Madness.

I expect a lot of things to fix themselves in the next couple of days, though, so I’ll post more comprehensively later on.

Overall, a long, but successful raid night for Apotheosis. Still seeking various classes for Mists of Pandaria, so check us out!

Change and Leadership

I remarked on Twitter tonight that it’s awfully strange to go from raiding around 15 hours a week throughout the majority of the expansion to raiding for just over 2 hours a week. It really is strange.

The reason I’m only raiding 2 hours a week is because of two reasons:

1) I’m no longer raiding with Choice
2) Apotheosis is full-clearing 8/8 HM in about two hours

Let’s talk about the first point.

I left Choice just after 4.0 hit.

They struggled a bit in T11 content, mostly due to healing issues.

So I did a stupid thing. I rolled another paladin. It actually came from Matt’s idea to clone myself so I could heal for him and I was like “BUT WAIT. CHOICE NEEDS A HEALER.” So I applied and I started raiding with them in early June.

For over a year, I raided three times a week with Apotheosis and twice a week with Choice. I got a little burnt towards the end, but that’s due to other factors, not playing “so much”. While 15 hours a week for me is probably a bit much, 12 hours a week would have been nice. Anyhow, I don’t regret it. I do not recommend doing what I did (raiding with two progression guilds simultaneously, in essence), but damn me, did I ever get GOOD at fights in Firelands and Dragon Soul! Double the chance each week to refine and better my performances, double the chance to learn how to do something. I got REAL good at Heroic Alysrazor, I was reliable on Heroic Majordomo and basically just knew what I was doing all throughout both those tiers. It felt really good.

Like I said, though, I can’t recommend it. It’s tiring, it can be frustrating and sometimes it’s nice to have a real night off. But I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t do it again, mind you, but it worked well for me.

So why am I no longer raiding with them? Well, after some weeks of being stuck on Heroic Spine and such, combined with weeks of fighting the attendance boss, Choice decided to go to a 10-man format. Fugara knows I loathe 10s, so she basically wrote me off the list. That’s right, I was cut! ;) But I let them know I wasn’t interested in continuing in a 10-man format anyhow, but that I’d stick around for two resets on Wednesdays and Mondays for them, in case of attendance issues/etc.

I did a few solid hours of H Spine and H Madness progression (both on 10m, of course) and good gravy, it totally reinforced how I hate 10s…

That said, I stopped raiding with them last week — and they promptly got H Madness, so grats to them. :)

And now to address the second point: Apotheosis is clearing 8/8 HM in about two hours a week. That doesn’t mean that I’m not still spending a LOT of time with this whole transition thing, though. With me stepping down as GM, Raid Leader and basically the recruitment person, plus Majik stepping down as caster lead… yeah.

We’ve decided that Jasyla will be the new guild master of Apotheosis. Sara will be the recruitment officer. Slout will be the new caster lead. And we’ve gotten Chronis to be the new tank lead (a position left unfilled since Dayden stopped tanking for us back in Firelands).

Sara, Slout and Chronis got promoted on Tuesday before the raid and the raid basically proceeded normally. We’ve got a meeting on Thursday for the role officers and we’ve got some new lootmaster shenanigans to handle on Sunday evening, so I have stuff going on.

But all I’m thinking, now that we have a solid launch date and an equally-solid end-of-raiding date, is that “hey, there’s one more lockout done. Just five to go.” We’re going to stop raiding for the expansion after the reset of September 4th is finished. Since we’re clearing in two hours or so, that means just five more Apotheosis raids.

It’s sad. I mean, it’s good, but it’s sad, too. Not exactly bittersweet, but I’m making a huge change in my life by not being a GM and not raiding in the expansion. It’ll be a good thing for me, personally. This job… well, this hobby, really, has become a more-than-full-time job over the last couple of years. Two years ago, I was psyched and excited about rebuilding my guild and bringing my people back home to Eldre’Thalas.

Now, I’m kind of sad that I won’t be a part of the guild’s future success. I’m kind of wistful that I’ve already accomplished most of the game-related things of which I’ll be proudest. There aren’t any real new adventures awaiting me in Mists of Pandaria. I’ll level Kurn to 90 (may not even bother with the paladin, to be honest!) and see what fun can be had, but no more raiding seriously and, most dramatically, no more leading.

Dramatic? Yes, it’s a big change. I’ve been leading stuff since April of 2006, with a short break while in Choice and a shorter break in a guild with my RL Friend the Resto Druid. What the eff am I going to do with myself with no one to lead? With no goals to strive for?

I’ve always called myself a reluctant leader. I’ve always said that if a group is being led well, I’m more than happy to follow. I used to mean that, but I’m realizing, more and more, that people are usually, in my opinion, doing it wrong. And that means that I feel obliged to step up. I strongly feel that even if I wanted to continue raiding in Mists (which I don’t), I wouldn’t be able to stay in Apotheosis, because my mouth would get me in trouble. (ETA: Not that I think that the new leadership team is going to do badly — quite the opposite — but because I was ALWAYS biting my tongue in Choice, even when things worked out well for them and I’m not sure I could bite my tongue if I disagreed with the leadership in Apotheosis. Which I don’t even know would happen.)

I need to let go. I need to let the new leaders of the guild do things the way they want to do it and be thankful that anyone is crazy dedicated enough to take up the job that I’m leaving. I’m sure I’ll be able to do that, in the coming weeks. With just five more lockouts, it’s inevitable that more and more responsibility will shift from me to the other officers. (ETA: And so far, things have been pretty smooth. I don’t anticipate much in the way of drama or issues.)

And soon, it’ll be time for me to be demoted to the dreaded Member rank, which people are only ever demoted to (or grandfathered into).

Yet, there’s so much to do between now and then. And lots of blog posts to write. :) Stay tuned!

PS: I’m doing a Holy Paladin Roundtable with Megacode, Joe Ego, Ophelie and Chase Christian this Saturday! Email Mega your questions at: healingspec (at) gmail.com!

Bugs in Dragon Soul

Something that has contributed in my decision to stop playing World of Warcraft after Mists of Pandaria comes out is the buggy nature of the fights in current content. It seems to me (and I could be wrong) that Dragon Soul was released with a ridiculous amount of bugs, many of which mean that if such a bug occurs, it will be nearly impossible for most raid groups to complete the encounter. The bugs do not, of course, have a 100% chance to occur, but if they do…

Warlord Zon’ozz

The Void of the Unmaking’s bouncing mechanic is totally screwy, at least on heroic mode. Ignoring the fact that it often caroms off unpredictably (which, I will grant, may be part of the challenge), sometimes it just never moves at all after a bounce.

Seriously. What is up with that?

Hagara the Stormbinder

Not only is Focused Assault screwy as hell (it will eat a Hand of Sacrifice in the span of 2 seconds if you place it on the tank before Focused Assault starts casting, despite Hand of Sacrifice not absorbing the amount of damage it should) but the lightning mechanic is effed up. Seriously. It chains to pets and totems and is generally spazzy. While you may not notice it normally, that shit is buggy when you try to do the achievement. We tried to do the achievement on 25-man normal (no pets or totems!) and failed something like four or five times. This was the defining reason why: the lightning was selectively jumping to people.

In this clip, you see lightning going through and not going from the bear (Jaymz) to the shadow priest (Srsbusiness). It’s as though the lightning is sentient and is thinking “Pfft, I don’t FEEL like connecting with that individual.” On the PREVIOUS attempt, we’d had them in opposite spots and Jay had to run up to Srs to “pick up” the lightning, but not even that worked here. You also see the lightning stay on a death knight (Division/Chronis) even after he backs out of the 10y range where it was skipping to him directly. We ended up doing the achievement on 10-man, which is ridiculous when you’re a 25-man raiding guild.

Warmaster Blackhorn

On Heroic Warmaster Blackhorn, you have a new mechanic. It’s called Deck Fire. Deck Fire is everywhere. Except, that’s not exactly how the encounter is supposed to go. The fire is not supposed to continue to spawn into Phase 2 and it’s not supposed to cover the entire deck of the ship. While we were learning this fight, we didn’t know that. We thought it was just RNG that determined fire mechanics and crap like that. But no.

If you launch the ship from the top of Wyrmrest, then swap it to normal, then wait five minutes, then swap it back to heroic (there is a 5m timer on difficulty changes), you no longer have insane amounts of fire. Fire acts the way it is supposed to. It despawns when it gets water poured on it. It doesn’t spawn into phase 2. It actually makes the transition to phase 2 really, really easy if you don’t have to deal with crazy fire.

The important part of the “fix” is to make sure you launch the boat FIRST. Do not reset the difficulty before launching the boat. You’ll end up with fire all over the damn deck again. You do only need to do this once per night of attempts (and not before every attempt) at least. And at least there’s a way to fix this fire! But it’s ridiculous that one has to do this “reset” in the first place in order to make sure the encounter goes as it should.

Spine of Deathwing

There are three issues with the Spine encounter that I’ve seen. The first two have to do with the cut scene at the start.

1) Sometimes while the cut scene is loading, people will disconnect. This is similar to the cut scene in Throne of the Tides where people will sometimes randomly disconnect. Usually, the Spine one is limited to the first attempt (so basically, the game will crash while the cut scene is loading). I believe that your toon will parachute down on to Spine as normal and you will be there when you log back in.

2) Also related to the cut scene, if you hit Escape to skip the cut scene too quickly (before it actually has begun to load), guess what? You’re stuck on the boat, unable to move. How do you solve this? You relog. Once you relog, you will land on Spine and will be able to continue the fight as normal.

3) The other major issue I’ve seen on Spine is people not being secured to the spine via Grasping Tendrils and flying off Deathwing’s back. DBM will usually tell you if someone’s missing their Grasping Tendrils buff, but I’ve seen many people get flung off the back while their name is not in that list. This could be a problem with DBM and other mods or it could be a problem with fitting 25 people + various pets in one teeny, tiny spot on Deathwing’s back. I’ve never been unexpectedly thrown off (except that time when we killed a Corruption and a new one popped up in the hole in which we were standing) so I’m unsure, but the number of people I’ve seen thrown off who don’t NORMALLY get thrown off indicates to me that there’s a potential problem with the mechanic.

If you could battle rez people who were thrown off, this wouldn’t be as huge of an issue, but to my knowledge, you can’t.

Madness of Deathwing

Do I even really need to say it?

Thrall, stop dropping people. This has happened to damn near everyone I know, in LFR, on normal and, yes, on heroic. (And no, they can’t get battle-rezzed, either.)

The From Draenor with Love comic kind of says it all: http://fromdraenor.com/?p=233

Surprisingly, I can’t think of any major issues I’ve encountered on Morchok, Yor’sahj or Ultraxion, but five of the eight encounters in Dragon Soul have some awfully buggy mechanics. Lose someone because Thrall dropped them? Yeah, too bad, you’re going to 24-man (or 9-man) Madness. ENJOY! Did the lightning skitter awkwardly through your raid group and kill someone because of an errant pet? There goes a battle rez. Hey, did that Void of the Unmaking carom strangely or, better, not at all? BOOM.

While bugs do happen to even the best coders, the fact that these bugs have not yet been addressed in the seven months since Dragon Soul has been out is, frankly, a shame, and it has absolutely contributed to my fatigue and frustration with the game.

How have these bugs affected you? Have you even seen them? Have you seen any others?