More Hearthstone Thoughts

So I got a Hearthstone beta key the other week and, while I haven’t been playing it as much as I would have liked to, I’m quite enjoying it.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Hearthstone is properly known as Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and it’s a digital CCG (collectible card game) that Blizzard is working on. It’s currently in closed beta. It is, in a word, fun.

There are nine decks, one for each of the original World of Warcraft classes, each represented by a different “hero” of that class.

Druid: Malfurion Stormrage
Hunter: Rexxar
Mage: Jaina Proudmoore
Paladin: Uther (the) Lightbringer
Priest: Anduin Wrynn
Rogue: Valeera Sanguinar
Shaman: Thrall
Warlock: Gul’dan
Warrior: Garrosh Hellscream (post-5.4 spoilers, perhaps!)

What’s interesting about this is that, basically, the decks don’t need a hero associated with them, but having them there means that you can use all kinds of lore and story affiliated with those characters. There’s a hunter card, for example, that will summon a random beast companion, and these beasts are well-known pets of Rexxar’s. It gives great flavour (and fun) to play as/against these “heroes”. (Although, let me just say that perhaps Garrosh wasn’t a great choice, given that the 5.4 raid is the Siege of Orgrimmar… But who else? Cairne or Baine Bloodhoof? Saurfang? Grom Hellscream? Lothar? VARIAN? Meh.)

So you have a deck of 30 cards and, using these cards, your goal is to bring down the opposing hero from 30 health to 0. In these decks, you have various cards that will do various things. You can basically break them down into two types of cards:

1) The ability card. This type of card will generally not leave a minion on the board. A prime example is the hunter’s Multi-Shot card. All this does is three damage to two random enemy minions.

2) The minion card. While minion cards will often also have an additional effect, this is the kind of card that just drops a minion on to the board for you to play (typically the next turn). Here’s an example of a plain, basic card.

Your job is to make sure your deck of 30 cards will be appropriately balanced between abilities and minions to get you to kill the opposing hero. What’s awesome is that how you go about doing this depends largely on your class.

For example (and this is my experience, so I could be very wrong), I find that Rogue decks are very much tuned for direct damage and they also have a lot of great defensive moves. By that, I mean that it feels as though they have a ton of ability cards. You could build an entire deck around just abilities, though it might not be very successful. There are 17 ability cards in a Rogue deck and you can have two of each in your 30-card deck. Among them are cards like Assassinate, Sap and Vanish.

By contrast, Hunter decks (again, my experience) seem to be a decks that work very well with lots of minions, specifically Beasts (which only makes sense), and there’s a lot of synergy with the hunter-specific cards. The Starving Buzzard lets you draw a card when you summon a beast, the Scavenging Hyena gains attack and health when a beast dies, while the Houndmaster gives a friendly Beast extra attack and health AND a taunt.

So one of the things I like best about the game is that each deck really feels like the class they’re named for. I feel like Rogues are a bit squishy, but can do great crowd control and fantastic damage. I feel like Hunters are at their best when taking advantage of all the synergy with various bonuses for beasts. I also feel as though the Paladins are slow to start, but have great staying power and will eventually overwhelm you.

It all just feels very “right”, if that makes sense.

So, as I said, your goal is to take a 30-card deck and kill the opposing hero. Each hero starts with 30 health and no one can have more than 30 health (although some characters have shielding abilities which means you’ll be required to hit them for more than 30 total damage for them to die).

The other part of the game that I very much enjoy is that it’s like a chess game. There are good times and bad times to use certain cards and a long-term strategy is likely required when you’re planning out your deck. However, that strategy isn’t always available and you will end up changing ideas as you progress through a match because your awesome opening cards could be at the very bottom of your deck! Every time you pick a card, things can drastically change. Every time your opponent plays a card, things can drastically change.

Then there are Taunt cards to deal with, Charge cards, cards that spawn MORE minions, Deathrattles and more mechanics, all of which can completely screw up your plan. So it’s a chess game, but with a few separate elements of surprise thrown in.

Here’s one of my earliest matches:

And you can find more on my YouTube channel (here’s the direct link to my Hearthstone Playlist!). Occasionally, I may also stream over at Twitch, so you can mock me. ;)

Next time I write about Hearthstone, I’m going to talk about going first, going second and The Coin, including some really interesting information about how it helps even the playing field, posted by one of the devs.

On Connected Realms

Back when I first started playing World of Warcraft, I, like everyone else, was faced with a choice. At the time, I was completely unaware of how important this one choice was. I doubt most other first-timers had any idea, either. That choice was, of course, selecting a realm.

The realm I chose was Eldre’Thalas. Why? There were two reasons. The first was that it was a “Normal” server, meaning it was PVE. I had (and still have) no desire to be ganked unexpectedly.

The other reason why was because I thought it “looked cool” by virtue of having an apostrophe. That’s it. That is the entire reason I chose my home server, among 45 other PVE realms. Subsequently, that is why I met a bunch of awesome people in the guild of Fated Heroes, why I stuck with them to form Apotheosis (BC-era) and why I came back, post-Wrath, to bring Apotheosis v2.0 to life.

Because the server name looked cool.

When I look back on things, I recognize how huge a choice that was. At the time, there were no character transfers. Even now, character transfers cost $25 to pop from server to server (and believe me, I have spent a fair amount of money on transfers!), so the choice of a server is still a fairly important one. True, it no longer takes 20-30 days played to get a single character up to level 90, much less level 60, but server choice is still important, though it’s becoming less so.

With the release of Patch 5.4, Connected Realms (previously known as Virtual Realms) are being tested and implemented. Nethaera informed us on Wednesday evening that the first two realms that will be connected in this fashion are the US realms Bloodscalp and Boulderfist.

According to the US WoW RealmPop site, here are the statistics for both of those servers.

Bloodscalp:
Server type: PVP/Normal
Server timezone: MST
Alliance population: 13,581
Horde population: 32,167
Total population: 45,819

Boulderfist:
Server type: PVP/Normal
Server timezone: PST
Alliance population: 21,887
Horde population: 44,472
Total population: 66,459

I admit, this first connected realm confuses me a little bit. The Connected Realms FAQ explains that they wanted players from two (or more) lower-pop realms to play together. So why Bloodscalp and Boulderfist first? Looking at the list at RealmPop, Chromaggus has less than 16,000 characters in total. Garithos isn’t much better off, sitting at 17k. Balnazzar and Gul’dan are around the 18k mark. All four of those realms are PVP/CST realms. It seems to me as though the logical thing to do would be to group those four up pretty quickly, no?

Then again, maybe they want to start slowly, in the sense that they might want to try out this technology with just two (instead of four) realms to begin. And just two of those servers connected together would only be a total of about 32-33 thousand characters, which isn’t ideal. (Hell, all four of them merged isn’t a great population, either!) So I can understand that.

The other reason I’m confused is that they’re looking to create such a LARGE connected realm. ~46k + ~66k = ~112k characters. Either I missed a conversation/blue post out there, or I was extremely wrong in thinking that Eldre’Thalas, with its estimated population of ~74,000 characters, would remain a standalone realm. I was very surprised to see Boulderfist included, with just about eight thousand fewer characters on it than my original, home server.

The idea of Connected Realms was really interesting to me, on a community level (which I’ll get to in a moment), but it was all academic to me, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that I haven’t actively played since November of 2012. However, the idea that Eldre’Thalas may be included in this, at some point, brings it home. It’s not that good ol’ Eldre’Thalas can’t use more people (I’m sure that the Horde of ET, the few of them that remain, would agree with that sentiment), but the instant that you connect two or more realms together, the community changes.

Let’s talk a bit about community.

Back when I started playing, in October of 2005, my server (and I can’t speak to other servers because I only had characters on Eldre’Thalas, at that time) had a bunch of personalities. As you levelled, you knew of pretty much anyone who was a good player, bad player, moron, genius, scammer, you name it.

There was Atlas, the rather infamous leader of The Final Sanctum, who was, by all accounts, a jackass.

There was Suttles, who you could always count on to be yelling inappropriate things.

There was Warninja, who was always happy to open your lockboxes on the Ironforge bridge.

There was Joejoemco, who was pretty much always responsible for insane feats of kiting. Like, if Borelgore (from Eastern Plaguelands) was sitting dead in Ironforge? Yeah, that was Joejoe’s fault.

There was Rastlin, the Horde shaman, who was awesome about creating flasks and rare-ish alchemy items for people, back when you needed to go to Scholomance or Blackwing Lair to find an alchemy lab to make flasks, even arranging things with Alliance folks via the neutral AH, if I’m remembering right.

There was Thack, the main tank of Eternal Force, who was That Guy standing in Ironforge in full Tier 3, on his black scarab mount, having been the guy to ring the gong on the server back when the gates to Ahn’Qiraj were opened.

Since, at the time, battlegrounds weren’t split between battlegroups, you also got to know cross-faction folks pretty well — or, at least, you recognized who murdered you brutally in Warsong Gulch. (Dar, the orc hunter, is who taught me what the hell Scattershot was by using it on me, causing me to exclaim “what in the fuck was that?!”. Elu, the tauren druid, showed me what a bear could do for flag carrying.)

Once you connect realms, the community changes.

However, since the peak of WoW’s population, back in late Wrath of the Lich King, since the introduction of Looking for Group and, later, Looking for Raid, plus the fact that battlegrounds and arenas are battlegroup-wide, there’s very little community remaining on many servers. Larger servers, such as Proudmoore (where I raided for nine months), had enough Alliance-side population to actually have personality. With pugs running constantly, plus gold DKP runs and pre-made groups, Proudmoore was a thriving community (disclaimer: I haven’t had a regularly-played character there since May of 2010). It was so different compared to Eldre’Thalas and its relative silence.

I came back to Eldre’Thalas after about an 18 month break during Wrath. I barely recognized anyone. People applied to Apotheosis, saying they’d been life-long ETers and I was like “who the hell ARE these people?”, although I did recognize the names of guilds they’d previously been in.

Even during Cataclysm, I didn’t recognize a lot of people. I still feel as though there wasn’t a ton of real community on the server. My guildies mostly stuck to in-guild activities, as did I. I tried a normal 10m pug of Dragon Soul on my hunter at one point. I was pulled in on Blackhorn (I was obviously replacing someone who had given up in frustration) and spent two hours working on that fight with these people and we couldn’t get it down. That and Baradin Hold pugs were pretty much the extent of my forays into server activities.

So, if  connected realms change the community of realms where there’s not a lot of community to start with, then this should be a good change, no? I kind of think so.

The other strange thing about Bloodscalp and Boulderfist’s imminent connection is that these are two Horde-dominant servers. Once connected, the total approximate Alliance population will be 35,468 characters compared to the Horde’s 76,639. And these are PVP servers. True, it’s not as though the Alliance aren’t already used to being completely outnumbered by the Horde on these servers, but good Lord, that’s more than twice the amount of Horde as Alliance. One would have thought that Connected Realms would not only bring up overall populations but seek to perhaps even out the faction imbalances, no? Well, I guess not.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Connected Realms are a good idea, even if the idea is not quite unfolding the way I had thought it would. Ultimately, linking realms in this fashion does not make life difficult for anyone (except auction house fiends) and, in fact, helps to build community (where there might not have been much) between separate servers that are now linked.

There are still some unanswered questions I have, in addition to the ones I posed in my last post on the subject:

Old questions:
1) How many realms will be in a Virtual Realm?
2) With which realms will others be connected? Are they going to tack Chromaggus on to Tichondrius, for instance? Or will they do it by lumping together five to ten low-pop realms to be one large Virtual Realm?
3) Will Virtual Realms have names?
4) Will players be able to transfer to a Virtual Realm (and then get randomly dropped on a server within that VR) or will they continue to transfer to individual servers?

New questions:
5) What is the ideal population size of a Connected Realm?
6) When will the actual lower-population realms start to be connected to others?
7) What’s the approximate cutoff that makes a realm “too big” to be connected, if such a number exists?
8) Is there any interest in making sure factions are better balanced?

Oh, and while I was poking around the official forums, looking for people’s reactions, I found this post in the Bloodscalp forums about Connected Realms and had a good laugh, so I absolutely have to share it! :)

Also, don’t forget to check out Kurn’s Recruitment Checklist, to better aid you in your 5.4 recruitment push, and if you need a bit more help, there’s always Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Guild Master! In particular, Module 2: How to Recruit is full of great recruitment info (as you may have already gleaned).

Finally, I’m starting work on my second Kick-Ass Guide! This one is targetted at raiders and will be a lot shorter than the guild master guide. I hope. Well, at 358 pages, the guild master guide is kind of massive, so hopefully it won’t be too difficult to release a shorter guide in a shorter period of time. The GM guide took me close to four months, so I’m aiming for half of that time before the Raider guide is out. Keep yourself up to date here or follow me on Twitter (@kurnmogh) or sign up for my mailing list over at Kurn’s Guides! :)

Round Up

One thing that I’ve always enjoyed about my blog is that it’s Kurn’s Corner. That’s to say that I feel free to talk about whatever it is I want to talk about. I usually try to relate it to gaming (generally World of Warcraft and other Blizzard games, because most of my audience knows me from WoW), but if I wanted to, I could branch out and talk about other things entirely. I really enjoy that freedom.

(Having said that, this particular blog post will still be about gaming. :) I just thought I’d share with you that I enjoy the freedom my blog allows me, which probably explains why, even 10 months after I stopped playing, I’m still writing at least occasionally.)

There are a couple of things going on in the Blizzard Entertainment world these days that are interesting to me. Tuesday brings us Patch 5.4 in the World of Warcraft and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is in closed beta.

First up, 5.4!

While the content of 5.4 is of less actual interest to me than it is to people who, you know, actually play the game, it’s still an interesting time for me because I’ve spent several months attempting to do my part to help solve (or at least alleviate) The Recruitment Problem. What IS The Recruitment Problem? It’s that guilds are constantly struggling to recruit. Recruitment has always been one of the most difficult things to handle in a guild. If you over-recruit, you may lose people who feel they’re not getting their fair time in guild events. If you under-recruit, you may not have guild events in the first place! It’s a difficult balance to strike. Plus there’s the turnover that causes you to almost always be searching for new players. So while I was writing my guide, Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Guild Master, I decided to start spotlighting guilds to help guilds get a bit more attention. While I had a ton of submissions up front, I’ve exhausted all of those and now need NEW submissions, so if your guild is recruiting, I will happily craft you a Guild Spotlight. Just go fill out the form. Did I mention it’s free?

Speaking of free, there’s also a brand-new addition to my guide site, over at Kurn.info! It’s called Kurn’s Recruitment Checklist and you can find it in the new Free Stuff section of the site. It’s a basic list of all the tasks you should be doing on a daily basis to maximize your chances as you attempt to recruit. They’re all tried-and-true methods — it’s what I did when I was recruiting for my own guild. (Speaking of Apotheosis of Eldre’Thalas, they’re currently ranked #1 on the server at 11/13 HM – they’ve been frantically working on H Lei-Shen to down him before the patch and still have a raid night to do it! – and they’re seeking rogues, windwalkers, warriors and a talented resto druid, though they’re open to other melee classes. Raid nights are Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday from 9pm ET until 12am. Check them out for quality 25m heroic raiding!)

And in not-so-free-but-still-discounted news… In honour of 5.4’s imminent release, this past week has seen Module 2 (How to Recruit) of my aforementioned Guild Master guide at 25% off! The sale ends Monday night at 11:59pm ET, so make sure you’re prepped for the recruitment rush at the start of this new patch! Check out Module 2 here!

In other guide-related news, my next project is not going to be Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Raid Leader. It’s going to be Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Raider. (The Raid Leader one will come eventually.) I just started writing it and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you all Soon(tm)! (Probably a couple of months, although it’s going to be much shorter than the Guild Master guide. I hope.)

And now… Hearthstone!

I was extremely fortunate and won a Hearthstone Beta Key from Sas148 at Wowhead! Again, my thanks to Sas!

I’ve really been enjoying it. Hilariously, it plays well on my laptop, too, although a bit laggier (unsurprising), but considering this laptop is the one that granted me a blazing 3-6fps in raids in WoW, that it plays this game pretty well is impressive. They’re really casting a wide net in terms of system requirements, it seems.

I’ve got a couple of videos up (Uther vs. Uther and then opening up 15 packs), which you can watch over at this YouTube playlist. I’ve also streamed a bit here and there over at Twitch and really need to go through the streams I’ve done to pull out some highlights.

Overall, I’ve been enjoying the hunter (I know, it’s a shocker) and the paladin (also shocking). I really enjoy how the different decks really “feel” like the classes they’re supposed to represent. Paladins feel like they’re in plate, with lots of defenses. I feel as though they play a long game with buffs to their many potential minions and defensive moves. I feel as though hunters are very dependent on their beasts — lots of hunter cards for buffs to beasts in particular. On the flipside, you have Jaina (the mage, obviously) and she feels like she can deal an insane amount of damage, but has very little to help her last terribly long. Playing the mage deck makes me actually feel like a fire mage/glass cannon.

I haven’t spent a lot of time playing the other decks as of yet (although I’ve unlocked them all), but rogues seem very direct-damagey, while shaman seem interesting in the sense that you can kind of borrow against mana from the next turn (certain abilities will “overload” you and remove some mana crystals from use in the next turn). Warlocks are, typically, self-destructive, which cracks me up, but they’re very potent, from what I’ve seen. They seem almost OP the way the class was in Burning Crusade. Ah, memories! ;)

Something I really enjoy about Hearthstone is that so many things are familiar. There’s a card that’ll play a minion, the Acidic Swamp Ooze, which has a battlecry effect of breaking your opponent’s weapon (if they have one). I laughed out loud at that because there’s a mob by the same name in WoW, who drops a grey junk item called… Broken Weapon! Plus there are legendary cards like Gruul, whose special ability is that he gains one attack and one health after each turn, which basically mimics his actual, in-game mechanics. (Although gaining health in WoW would have been kind of counter-intuituve, it’s a great addition to his Growth ability in Hearthstone!)

So I’m enjoying it. It’s reminiscent of WoW without actually BEING WoW. I enjoy the ranked play (Platinum 2-star at this point) as well as the arena. (I am SO BAD AT ARENA, ahahahaha!) Overall, I can’t wait ’till the game actually comes out. I think it’ll be a lot of fun, especially with more players.

Okay, I guess that’s it for this post. Remember, Module 2’s sale ends Monday at 11:59pm ET and that there’s a new, free recruitment tool for you to download at my site. Not to mention that I’m still seeking submissions for my free guild spotlights!

Enjoy Patch 5.4 and good luck getting into the Hearthstone beta if it’s something that interests you!

Recruitment Woes

Well hello there, all you fine people! How are you doing? I hope you’re doing well. :)

As for myself, since I have yet to get a Hearthstone beta key, I’ve been busying myself with more content for my guide site over at Kurn.info! One of the most-asked questions I get is “Kurn, how do I recruit people?!”

While I do give a ton of great information over in Module 2 of Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Guild Master, that module is between 60 and 71 pages long. It dawned on me that, in addition to all the information in that module, I can give out something that’s more basic, more bare-bones and, thankfully for you, much shorter.

For the last few days, I’ve been working on Kurn’s Recruitment Checklist. It’s a simple list detailing all the tasks that one should do to recruit for their World of Warcraft guild (particularly raiding guilds, but others will find value in it). It’s everything you need to do to maximize your chances of snagging that ever-elusive warlock or resto shaman, all in a simple checklist format. This is everything that I have done in the past, particularly when I was feeling desperate to bolster our roster to try to get anyone who was even remotely qualified to apply.

Back when I was recruiting, I would often wonder why the “simple” task of recruitment felt so overwhelming. Now I know. In writing down everything I would do on a daily basis, I realized… holy crap, that’s a lot of stuff to do! I’m not finished yet and it’s already three pages long. And those are daily tasks. Eesh.

Anyhow, with various schools starting their semesters and as we stand on the cusp of Patch 5.4, I thought I’d release this free checklist for you all so that you can maximize your chances of helping out your guild with a couple of solid additions to your team. It comes out on Tuesday, September 3 over at Kurn.info. :)

In the meantime, if you’d like a recruitment bump, check out the Guild Spotlight page and submit your guild info so that I can craft you a magnificent guild spotlight of your very own. :)

#AskKurn Twitter Q&A Archive

We had a lot of fun on Monday, August 19th, with a whole bunch of guild-related questions coming in from around the Twitterverse. Some of the questions were submitted in advance and some were asked right on the spot. My primary concern was making sure I got through the majority of the questions within an hour and, you know, not getting myself flagged for Twitter timeout. All went well! So here, then, is the archive of the event. I’d like to do another one down the road, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*** Note: I spoke a little generally here and was a bit sloppy in my response, given the 140 character Twitter limit. In very general terms, it’s easier to recover from an error on 25-man (normals/farm) than on 10s, but in terms of pushing heroic progression for both sizes, you’re not going to get the boss down if you’re down someone, regardless of the raid size. Thanks to Anafielle, Kaleri and Antigen for the conversation and keeping me honest! ;) ***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Launch Day!

Well, folks, I have to say that I’m pretty excited. Today, Tuesday, August 20th, is the launch day for the first in what is almost certainly going to be a full series of guides. Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Guild Master launches today over at Kurn.info, at 10am ET (GMT -4).

I’ve been working on this guide since early May, so I’m pretty excited for it to go live! And, you know, since I’ve been working on it since May, it may not be too surprising that the full, legendary version of the guide is, uh… 358 pages. That’s the whole thing, all the bonuses and stuff. (Even just the basic full guide is 271 pages!)

Don’t look at me like that, I had things to say! :)

The guide comes in separate modules (there are six of them) or, for a 25%+ discount, you can get the full guide in one shot.

The modules are:

Module 1: Starting Up: How to start running a guild, including pesky details that you might not have thought about.

Module 2: How to Recruit: This module is, uh, long. But it focuses on ALL KINDS of recruitment stuff. Applications, application processes, recruitment posts, recruitment methods, some of my personal experiences with various services… It’s long, but it’s comprehensive.

Module 3: Officers: All you need to know about promoting officers, demoting officers, rebuking officers and the like.

Module 4: Community Management: Dear Lord, 102 pages with all the bonuses (and even a BONUS bonus!) makes this insanely long. But there are case studies, practical advice, personal stories and more.

Module 5: Expansion Planning: Everything you need to know about how to prep a guild for the next World of Warcraft expansion, including a schedule and my best guess at both an announcement date and a release date. Even better: I’ll update the schedule for free if things change substantially between now and, well, any of the dates I’m looking at on my schedule.

Module 6: How to Quit (Gracefully): This covers transitions of power, how to deal with fallout, how to ease yourself out of GM and even how to deal with things if you want to go to another guild! It also talks about how best to quit (and stay that way).

So, yeah, that’s happening! And, honestly, it wouldn’t have happened without you. You guys chimed in and said it would be something you’d be interested in, so I’d like to thank you all for your support. Your tweets (and retweets), your emails, your comments, your questions, everything — it’s been hugely appreciated and has done a lot to keep me motivated during this 3.5 month haul. So thank you very, very much. I hope that what I ended up with is something you guys find somewhat useful. :)

Finally, last night, we had an #AskKurn Twitter Q&A. It was good stuff, had a bunch of questions and (most shockingly) I didn’t end up in Twitter timeout! ;) In the next couple of days, I’ll put up an archive of everything here for future reference. :)

Again, thanks for all your support and don’t forget to go check out Kurn.info after 10am ET (GMT-4)!

#AskKurn Twitter Q&A

Geez, it does get pretty dusty around here when I slack off, doesn’t it? ;)

Well, it’s been for good reason. My GM guide (officially called Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Guild Mastershould be coming out on Tuesday, August 20th, around 10am ET. I am almost finished with the writing process, then need to edit and format a bit, but assuming all goes well, you’ll be able to snag my guide next Tuesday! I’m pretty excited. :)

As such, I’m going to host a Twitter-based Q&A on Monday, August 19th at 9pm ET (6pm PT). I’ll spend an hour answering your questions. As long as it’s related to guilds, I’ll be happy to answer just about anything you ask to the best of my ability! :)

I recognize that the hour is, perhaps, not optimal for various people considering that some people raid at that hour or considering that it’s the middle of the night in Europe and such, so you can submit your questions in advance! Just head on over to http://bit.ly/askkurn to do so. Alternatively, if you’re actually around on Twitter at that time, just tweet at me (@kurnmogh) with your question and do tag it with #AskKurn so I can make sure to get to your question. :)

All right, with that said, I probably ought to get back to prepping the kurn.info website. What’s been up there for the last couple months is just a placeholder and I’ve spent the last few days frantically trying to get things together in preparation for the launch. It’s really coming together and I think all I really have left to do is populate the pages with content, meaning most of the difficult stuff is already taken care of. (Note to self: build more than one website a year to prevent HTML/CSS atrophy!)

Looking forward to answering your questions on Monday!

Tech and the Devaluation of Gear

When I first walked through the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands and ended up in Hellfire Peninsula, I was astounded at how quickly I replaced my gear. My hard-fought T0.5 gear meant nothing. My Rhok’delar? Nada. Even my Tier 1 gear, what little of it I had, was laughable. The stats on the gear that was dropping, even the greens, just far outweighed anything I’d ever even seen before. Just the stamina on the gear alone was astonishing. This was my introduction to gear resets.

Every expansion, it’s the same thing — wander around in the new zones for a while, replace everything. It’s always been a little sad for me, because it seems to devalue anything “tangible” (as tangible as anything is in this game, anyhow) you’ve earned over the last couple of years. Even mounts aren’t immune, since there’s no stopping people from getting Ashes of A’lar or whatever spiffy mounts are out there, thereby (in my opinion) devaluing them. I was truly saddened when I had to replace my heroic ICC gear in Cataclysm and am still somewhat miffed that my Reins of the Icebound Frostbrood Vanquisher can be earned by any yahoo who puts in two or maybe three weeks of effort (as opposed to my, oh, six months of effort), but no, I’m not bitter, nope… Okay, where was I? Right. Expansions.

For me, the worst part of a new expansion (aside from needing to relearn everything, of course) is how quickly the previous expansion is washed away. When we got to Northrend, who cared about Outlands? No one, that’s who. We dropped that continent and its endless demons like a hot potato and charged to the frozen depths of Northrend. And when Cataclysm came out, who went BACK to Northrend? Basically no one. Everything from previous expansions just vanishes so quickly when a new expansion comes out and gear is no exception. Not only that, but your gear is generally outdated in an insultingly short period of time. Of course, this makes sense, from a developer’s point of view: you can’t have someone who’s been playing for six years have an in-game advantage over the person who picked up the game three days ago. Gear resets make sense from a design standpoint because it allows new players (or returning players who had previously quit) to jump right in with everyone else in levelling content and early raid content.

It’s still kind of sad to see the gear go by the wayside. Maybe I’m just sentimental like that, though.

I was reading about the 5.4 upcoming feature, the Proving Grounds. It sounds great, to be honest. I love the idea of being able to test my skills, solo. And hopefully people will view it as a learning opportunity, too. Maybe now PUG tanks won’t be morons! Maybe PUG DPS won’t stand in bad! Maybe PUG healers will understand what COOLDOWNS are!

(Somehow, I remain pessimistic about the reality of the situation, but the possibility of those things will exist, at least, thanks to Proving Grounds… maybe.)

However, one of the phrases in the Blizzard post about it caught my eye.

“Upon entering the Proving Grounds, your gear will be scaled down much like it is in Challenge Modes.”

For some reason, reading this phrase just solidified a thought I’d had for months, maybe even a year. At some point, around last summer, something about the “scaling down” system they’d talked about for Challenge Modes bugged me. It irked me. When I thought about it, I couldn’t put my finger on why it bothered me. I couldn’t understand why I was moderately frowny about “upgrading” items via Valor Points. But now? Now, I GET IT. I understand why this bothers me! And, lucky you, I am going to share my thought with you.

My thought is this: Gear pretty much no longer matters in the game.

Blizzard has eradicated the need for gear because their “tech” has rendered it useless. I’ve seen this happen before, mind you. On various PTRs testing heroic modes, you would often get a shirt to wear that would augment your current gear by X amount, allowing you to participate in and test the heroic encounters.

I remember it striking me as odd, at the time, that they could just give us a shirt that augmented everything by a certain percent or amount and bam, even while wearing our same gear, we were suddenly that much more powerful. But I never really thought too much about it. Suddenly, over the last couple of days, my thoughts have finally gathered together and it’s made me realize that Blizzard has done so much with its “tech” that gear has lost meaning.

More than any expansion has ever done, Blizzard has made gear not matter. That’s not to say that you can expect to go to a heroic raid in the Twill set, mind you (although that would be hilarious), but in Challenge Modes, as long as you’re ilvl 463 or higher, you’ll be scaled down. I’m unsure about Proving Grounds ilvls, but you’ll similarly be scaled down, so people are on even ground with each other, much as they are with Challenge Modes.

But gear isn’t obsolete, Kurn, geez! you may say, scoffing at my thought.

True. But I didn’t say it was obsolete. I said it doesn’t matter. There’s a slight difference. The major difference, to me, is that Blizzard’s scaling “tech” has made obtaining better gear (for Challenge Modes and Proving Grounds) mostly worthless. In the same, upcoming patch, WoW players will also see Flex Raids, which will allow a raid to form for a group that is sized anywhere between 10 and 25 people and the raid will dynamically shift difficulties. They’ll also likely see Virtual Realms, grouping low-population realms together to act as though they’re all on one larger server. The “tech” they keep coming up with is changing things so that some core distinctions are being thrown out the window. This whole “upgrading” items? What is up with that? I first looked at it as another way to enhance items, like gems or enchants, but it still didn’t sit well with me. (As an aside, it’s suddenly clear to me why I never really liked reforging.)

Now, despite all this, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing (shockingly. Are you surprised?), just that it’s a significant departure from where WoW began.

Gear is always on everyone’s mind, regardless of what activity they enjoy pursuing in the game, basically. I loved getting new gear, but I didn’t raid for gear. I recognized that my raid group’s gear was how my raid group would advance, so I took my own upgrades (or lack thereof) in stride. Still, to this day, I remember that Halion never dropped his boots for me, that Heroic Saurfang never dropped that mail (!) belt for me, that I didn’t get EITHER Vashj’s OR Illidan’s maces… Gear should matter, even if it’s not the major reason we play. It’s the main way in which players interact with their opponents in WoW, so of course players want to improve themselves. By the end of Wrath of the Lich King, my brother (Fog), Majik and I could clear Heroic Gundrak (with the extra boss) in something like 11 minutes, on non-raiding alts, with Maj tanking, me healing and my brother DPSing, even if the other two DPS did less damage than I did as a resto druid. That’s a huge improvement on the time it used to take players, in crappy level 80 blues, when Wrath began. Gear made the difference, even if it was from ilvl 178/200 to ilvl 232/245.

All this “tinkering” with items and gear, well, it feels to me as though Blizzard has pulled the curtain aside by demonstrating that they can adjust item levels so easily, so arbitrarily. It’s as though I was in awe of the Wizard of Oz and then the curtain got pulled aside and there was the Wizard, just this old guy working smoke and fire machines with a microphone. The magic was gone.

WoW has always been a math-based game, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this has finally happened, but some of the allure of new gear was knowing that it would make a difference in what choices you made with your gear. And now… there are circumstances where new gear isn’t really going to make much of (if any) a difference.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For one, Challenge Modes and Proving Grounds are both skill-based challenges. It’s about how well you play as a player, not what kind of gear you got while some guild you paid carried you. It’s about knowing your class abilities, even the ones you rarely use. It’s about knowing what each different talent does and figuring out which would work best in those circumstances. (And I say all this without having DONE either Challenge Modes or Proving Grounds, so you can take that with a grain of salt, since I know people buy gold runs and such.) Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of rewarding skill versus luck.

I just find it a bit of a shame that Blizzard’s “tech” has enabled them to show us exactly how meaningless gear is. To me, it reinforces the utter futility in caring about gear so much, except we’re not just being shown that at the start of an expansion or on a PTR — we’re being shown that constantly throughout this expansion. When I was actively playing, I cared about my job in the game, not my gear, except as to how my gear would help with my job. (Stupid Halion boots. Grump.) But now that it’s just so easy for Blizzard to arbitrarily scale gear, raid difficulty and even actual realms… doesn’t it seem as though we’ve gone through the looking glass? I feel as though I can now see, with clearer eyes, the sheer pointlessness of the gearing aspect of the game. Raiders gear up for heroic dungeons as they level up. They ding max level and then start gearing out of heroics for raids, supplemented by crafted and rep gear. Then they gear up for heroic raids through a combination of LFR and normal raids. Then the raiding gear-up happens all over again for the next tier. And the next. And then, it really doesn’t matter because it’s the last raid patch of the expansion and in like, two months, all that gear you’re working for is just going to be worthless anyway.

If something as basic and integrated as gear can be arbitrarily changed in the blink of an eye, if something as solid as a raid’s difficulty can be dynamically adjusted based on the number of people in the zone or raid, if a realm can suddenly be grouped with other realms to the point of removing pretty much any distinguishing details between them aside from a name… is there nothing untouchable any longer? I guess I’m just wondering if the malleability of the game has gone a touch too far. If a piece of gear isn’t unchangeable at its core, isn’t as solid as something can be in this game, is there anything that is?

As my final word on the matter: Yes, I know, enchants, sockets, gems, reforging, upgrading and scaling are all different points on the same continuum. I realize that everyone’s limits will be different. Personally, I think my limit is up there after gems and before reforging, because I think as soon as you make things TOO malleable, you lose something in the process. My two cents. :)

Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list about my Guide site over at Kurn.info!



Guide Update, New Sneak Peek & Guild Spotlights

Ladies and gentlemen, happy Friday to you!

I’m getting ready to head on up to my parents’ cottage for a weekend of reading, taking in some sun, canoeing, kayaking and, doubtlessly, writing.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ve been slacking while I’ve been in town this week. Since my last update, I have very nearly finished Module 4: Community Management and even started in on Module 5: Expansion Planning. (By the way, my best guess for the launch of the new expansion is June 10th, 2014, give or take two weeks.) I’ve written almost 14,000 words in the last week! Things seem to be going pretty well on that front, so I’m hoping to tentatively launch my guide on Tuesday, August 6th. There’s still a lot of writing (and editing!) to do, plus website stuff, but hey, August 6th is not totally out of the realm of possibility!

Anyhow, I released a new Sneak Peek yesterday evening. It’s Starting Up, Sneak Peek 2 and even includes a small portion of a bonus section of the guide. You should definitely head over to my guide site over at http://kurn.info and download it! Plus, you should sign up so you always stay up to date with the happenings over at Kurn.info.

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In other news, due to the rather unfortunate fact that I will be housesitting for a chunk of next week, I’m taking the upcoming week off of doing Guild Spotlights every weekday. They’ll return on Monday, July 22nd. Having said that, you should still submit your guild details to be spotlighted! I’m enjoying learning about so many different guilds and servers. Like, I had no idea that Sargeras (US) was a PVP server where there are 141,000 Alliance characters compared to, oh, 25,000 Horde, and where there’s 270+ raiding guilds, but only ONE of them are Horde. (Similarly, I never thought I could feel BADLY for the Horde, but then I came across Sargeras and was like “Wow. That really sucks. Poor Horde!”) If you’re seeking a new guild, check out my YouTube channel and take a look at some of the guilds I’ve been spotlighting!

Okay, I need to go pack. Have an excellent weekend, everyone!

PS: About damn time Divine Plea scales with spirit!

Community Management: Part 2

Well, it’s Thursday.

Thursday means that I write another blog post and let you know that my Community Management module is still unfinished. I’m writing up the bonus sections now, though, so next week, I really ought to have the Expansion Planning sneak peek out. Or perhaps I’ll just throw in another Starting Up sneak peek. Either way, there will be more new content next Thursday.

And hey, there’s new content TODAY, too! Today, over at kurn.info, I put up Sneak Peek 2 for Community Management. It’s a lot longer than most of the previous Sneak Peeks, but hopefully you’ll find it interesting. The section I included was all about Community Moderation which is distinctly different from Community Management. Moderation deals with problems: whether it’s problematic language during a raid or forum posts that blast others or something else entirely, moderation is how you deal with it. I even wrote up a mock social media policy! So definitely check out Sneak Peek 2 of Community Management, focusing on Community Moderation, over at kurn.info!

What else… Oh, yeah, if your guild is currently recruiting, head on over to this form to submit your guild information so that I can do a guild spotlight on you! Here’s my latest spotlight, on the guild Ruined (A) on the Proudmoore (US) server.

Okay, back to writing. Hope everyone had an awesome Canada Day and a good July 4th!