Introducing Guild Chat

Last week, I was working to try to launch something frantically before Tuesday arrived. I had almost everything set for this project’s launch except this one tiny little feature I desperately wanted to include.

Alas, MySQL errors exploded on my screen and I said to hell with it and delayed the launch for a week. I haven’t been too outspoken about it bcause I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to finish all the little bits and pieces needed for a smooth launch, but hey! I did. (And I have this Thing about launching on Tuesdays when it comes to WoW stuff, because, you know, Tuesday is the start of the WoW week. I know. I’m weird.)

So what am I launching?

It’s called Guild Chat and it’s a forum where people can talk about various issues facing them and their guilds and get advice from the other members. It’s over at:

http://kurn.info/forum/

You do need to register in order to see most of the forum (and in order to participate!), but it’s free. You’ll need to verify your email address when registering, so be sure to use a real email address, too — and to check in various folders or tabs (Spam, Social, etc) for the registration confirmation mail. If you have problems while registering, comment here or email me and I’ll work with you to get you registered. :)

The “tiny little feature” has been redesigned. Originally, I was going to use a mod for the forum that would allow registered users only to post anonymously in a specific forum. (If I let just any anonymous user post, it would end up being 99.99999% spam.) So I decided to maintain the spirit of the idea and created a special user (with special permissions) that anyone should be able to use to end up posting somewhat anonymously, should they feel the need to do so. Sometimes it’s hard to obscure information and since anyone can register for the forum, there’s the possibility that the guildies you’re complaining about will read what you’re saying, so in order to get around that, this special user should allow you to post somewhat anonymously. (I say somewhat because I will still probably be able to tell which post is linked to which user just via IP addresses, but I’m the only one.)

This all stems from the fact that, about eighteen months ago, I wanted to put together a very closed group dedicated to GMs and officers to talk and where they could safely vent their frustrations, but that never took off and then I stopped playing. But writing my guide made me realize just how few resources there are for GMs and such out there. The forum is for anyone, whether or not you’re part of a guild’s leadership, and I welcome people from other games which have guids, but the goal is for people to really sit down and chat with each other about the problems they’re seeing in their guilds.

Whether you’re an officer or a new recruit, part of an RP social guild or a Top 100 raiding guild, all are welcome. Let’s try to find some solutions to people’s problems, shall we?

And though it probably goes without saying, considering this is me we’re talking about, Guild Chat is a respectful environment. Read the rules and policies, respect them and all will be well.

Hope to see you on the new forum! :)

(PS: There’s just 24 hours left on my $77 and $97 Specials over at my guide site, in case you wanted to take advantage before they vanish.)

Nerfs in Mists of Pandaria

I was reading a great post over at Alternative Chat today, about how if you don’t love World of Warcraft, you shouldn’t play, essentially. If, for example, the game makes you angry or frustrated, it’s probably time to step away.

As I’m human, I immediately started applying what The Godmother was saying to my own experience playing World of Warcraft.

If I had to pick a single thing about Cataclysm that frustrated me, over and over again, to the point of not even wanting to play, it was the constant nerfing of current content. My rage about Firelands’ 20% nerf is extremely well-documented.

When it was announced that Dragon Soul would also receive nerfs, despite the existence of Raid Finder (LFR), I was still angry but I was more resigned. That’s when I realized that my Firelands-era rant about not wanting to play was something that was continuing into the final tier of content.

So I stopped playing. I let my sub run out in November of 2012 and promptly took six months away from just about anything to do with the game. I barely blogged, was absent on Twitter for the most part. My guides are what drew me back and what keep me interested in the state of the game, plus it’s been fun to reconnect with members of the WoW community, too.

One of my fears regarding quitting when I did has to do with nerfs. I was scared that they wouldn’t nerf anything in Mists. I knew they would be implementing Cutting Edge and Ahead of the Curve achievements (for those who would get heroic and normal clears, respectively, prior to the release of a new tier), so that indicated to me that maybe they wouldn’t nerf things that were current. This concerned me a bit because if one of the major reasons I wasn’t playing Mists of Pandaria was because of Blizzard’s recent habit of nerfing the crap out of everything, why wouldn’t I be playing if they weren’t nerfing things?

It dawned on me that Blizzard has been nerfing things, and not just after each new tier comes out (although there’s that, too — apparently the T14 raids on normal and heroic have been nerfed by 10% and Throne of Thunder has been nerfed by 20% since 5.4 was released).

Kurn, what the hell are you talking about? There weren’t any current nerfs to the content in T14 or T15.

Sorry to say it, but there were nerfs to the content. You know them as the 5.1 and 5.3 Valor Upgrades.

Admittedly, it took me a while to realize it myself and to realize why I had initially viewed the Valor Upgrades as something other than a nerf.

One of my biggest problems with the nerfs in Cataclysm was that the nerfs were to the base encounter: “The boss has 20% less health, does 20% less damage.” That’s a nerf to the encounter.

While I wasn’t altogether a fan of the ICC buff, where people did increasingly more damage and healing, at least, I reasoned, the onus was on the player to perform better with these buffs. A 30% buff still wouldn’t make up for an idiot hunter who just auto-shotted throughout the encounter and didn’t use a pet. A 30% buff (even to health) wasn’t guaranteed to keep you alive if you stood in the fire. (Obviously, it bought you time to move out of the fire, but it didn’t really save you from Heroic Sindragosa’s Frost Bombs and stuff.)

The Firelands nerfs came in after the instance had been open for four months (June 28th-September 19th = 12 weeks).

The Dragon Soul nerfs began being applied after the instance had been open for 9 weeks (November 29th-January 31st).

In the case of the Valor Upgrades, these appeared with the mid-tier patches of 5.1 and 5.3.

5.1 came out on November 27th (about 8 weeks after the expansion’s launch) and 5.3 came out on May 21st, 11 weeks after Patch 5.2 (and thus, Throne of Thunder) came out. Valor Upgrades mean that you can upgrade Epic-quality gear twice for four item levels each, using Valor Points. So the Shattered Tortoiseshell Longbow from Tortos in the Throne of Thunder starts out as ilvl 522. If you upgrade it once (for 250 VP), it goes to ilvl 526. You then gain 60 agility, 89 stamina, 40 expertise, 38 hit and 216.2 ranged DPS.

If you upgrade it again, for another 250 VP, it turns into a 530 item level bow and you gain an additional 61 agility, 92 stamina, 43 expertise, 39 hit and 224.2 ranged DPS.

That’s a total increase of:

121 agility
181 stamina
83 expertise
77 hit
440.6 ranged DPS

The basic difference between one level of gear and another is about 13 item levels. The normal T16 chest for a holy paladin, for example, is Breastplate of Winged Triumph and is ilvl 553 and the heroic version is 566.

So getting an 8 item level boost is more than halfway to the next step of gear. 8 item levels is more than the difference between normal and thunder/warforged, which is 6 item levels. It’s more than the difference between heroic and heroic thunder/warforged, which is also 6 item levels.

If you upgrade the vast majority of your gear (as, I believe, is expected for most heroic raiders), if your whole raid team does that, guess what? You’ve just nerfed the instance. By about 7-8%.

One of the major problems Blizzard had with the ICC buff (as a nerfing mechanic) is that they didn’t like that people felt “less powerful” outside of the instance. It’s true — people who went merrily roflstomping their way through ICC at, say, the 30% buff, got their asses handed to them on Halion in the Ruby Sanctum.

So what they did here, and I really do have to take my hat off to them for this, is they elected to nerf things through the players. The responsibility to upgrade your gear is on YOU. The responsibility of earning enough VP to do so is on YOU. As a reward, you get to be more powerful, not just in a single raid instance, but everywhere. They only introduced this in the 5.1 and 5.3 patches, which meant that they waited until the tier was about halfway over before allowing players to nerf it by outgearing things.

Of course, these valor upgrade NPCs are still around now that 5.4 has hit. That means that you can upgrade all your shiny new LFR/Flex/Normal/Heroic gear ASAP. And since Valor Points weren’t converted to Justice Points either, well, hey. That means that a lot of people can get their upgrades going super-quickly to help them mow down the first several Siege bosses much more easily than they would have been able to otherwise.

In other words… Instead of waiting for a 5.5 patch to nerf things via Valor Upgrades, you can just start out with a nerf to the instance right off the bat.

This leaves me wondering… will they do a blanket nerf midway through the tier? Will 5.5 bring with it another nonsensical nerf? Will there even be a 5.5? Will they just nerf stuff halfway through without a mid-tier patch?

For the last four tiers in a row, Blizzard has introduced a nerf mechanic to the current raid instance while about halfway through the tier. Firelands was the 20% flat nerf. Dragon Soul was the 5% nerf, gaining every 4 weeks or so. Tier 14 was in the form of 5.1’s Valor Upgrades. Tier 15 was in the form of 5.3’s Valor Upgrades.

Does the fact that Valor Upgrades are possible in 5.4 mean that there will be no nerfs in Tier 16? Or does it mean that an even bigger nerf is looming? Well, it’s common knowledge that this is the last raid encounter of the expansion. At the change from BC to Wrath, there was a 30% nerf that went into effect for ALL RAIDS and ALL BOSSES. In the last six months of ICC, we had a stacking 5% buff-type nerf. It seems to me that the question isn’t will there be an additional nerf to Siege of Orgrimmar, it’s just what form will that additional nerf take?

Remember, we’re probably looking at Siege of Orgrimmar being the instance until June, 2014, which is when I anticipate the new expansion will drop. I would think, therefore, that a nerf effect might be applied sometime in December at the earliest and February at the latest.

I could be wrong, mind you. This is all conjecture. But another nerf mechanic in this, the last raid tier of the expansion, only seems logical when you look at how Blizzard has consistently nerfed current content (and, specifically, final tier content) over the last several years. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

(Remember, my Limited-Time Specials at Kurn.info are ending this Tuesday, so be sure to check them out! Also, don’t hesitate to sign up for the affiliate program and earn 50% commission on every sale you’re responsible for!)

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)!

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!



Sneak Peek 4 — Starting a Guild

It seems a little strange, I guess, to have my fourth sneak peek be from the first module of my guide, but it’s still likely more useful to you guys now than something about expansion planning (which is what Module 5 is all about). Plus, I haven’t actually, you know, written Module 5. The Community Management section I’m currently writing rivals the Recruitment section in terms of length, I swear to God. Anyhow, here’s Sneak Peek 4:

Picking a Server/Faction, Setting Goals & Timetables and Schedules
http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/startingaguild-sneakpeek.pdf

Other topics to be covered include: Naming the guild, guild rules, guild structure, loot, community, fighting for your guild members and more.

If you still haven’t read my other three sneak peeks, do check them out!

Building Community, In and Out of Game
http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/communitymanagement-sneakpeek.pdf

Rebuking Officers
http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/officers-sneakpeek.pdf

Posting your Recruitment Post
http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/howtorecruit-sneakpeek.pdf

And don’t forget to tune in to YouTube every weekday for another edition of Kurn’s Guild Spotlight!

Them New-Fangled Virtual Realm Things

Late last night, the 5.4 Public Test Realm patch notes were released. In amongst all the typical class changes was this little bit of information.

New Feature: Virtual Realms

  • Virtual Realms are sets of realms that are fused together, and will behave exactly as if they were one cohesive realm. Players on the same Virtual Realm will be able to join guilds, access a single Auction House, join arena teams and raids, as well run dungeons or group up to complete quests.
  • Players belonging to the same Virtual Realm will have a (#) symbol next to their name.

Now, admittedly, we don’t have much information about Virtual Realms at this point in time, nor do we even know if this will make it through the PTR process to make it to live. But why let a silly thing like logic stop my speculation? ;)

It seems to me, at first glance, that Blizzard has managed to come up with technology to essentially merge low-population realms without actually merging them. Merging realms would, after all, be like admitting defeat, that some realms are ridiculously unpopulated. Currently, on US realms, the most popular is Tichondrius, a PVP/PST realm with over 222,000 characters (as per realmpop.com). According to the same source, the least-populated US-based realm is Chromaggus, a PVP/CST realm with about 17,000 characters. Do you see a difference? ;)

TIME FOR MATH. (Crap.)

Assuming the numbers provided by realmpop are correct, there are approximately 17.5 million characters on 246 US-based realms. The average is, then, around 71,100 characters per realm. Now, of course, that’s just characters and not players, but you can see that if the average (the mean, of course) is around 71,100 characters, realms like poor Chromaggus are woefully underpopulated.

So why not actually merge realms? Why come up with Virtual Realms which, to quote Blizzard, “will behave exactly as if they were one cohesive realm”? Well, there were some problems with the idea of realm merging. Such as what? Such as names. If you’re on one realm with the name, oh, I don’t know, Kurn, but someone on another realm has the same name, which one of you is Kurn and which one of you is forced to use something like Kurnmogh? (Yes, when I first made my toon, Kurn was taken and so I became Kurnmogh.)

Guild names are similarly problematic.

Further, does merging realms actually solve any problems? Temporarily, yes, but maybe not in the long term. Say that the bottom 20 realms are merged into two realms. Apart from all that craziness going on with names and such, say you were on the server Auchindoun, which, in my example, would be merged with Blackwing Lair, Haomarush, Blood Furnace, Detheroc, Jaedenar, Dethecus, Ursin, Rivendare and Coilfang. So say you’re on Auchindoun and get merged with those other 9 servers. That’s up to 10 different Kurns or 10 different Apotheosises (Apotheoses?) that would have to be organized in terms of names alone. Then, what if this NEW merged server starts losing people? What if others go elsewhere or quit or whatever? Would THAT server be merged? If so, you’re now looking at a second merge upheaval, basically. Merging realms is just not a solid, long-term solution for low-pop servers.

Virtual Realms, however, has solved all of that problematic “upheaval” crap. No need to shut down a server when you can stick people together anyhow. And everyone can keep their own names! I could be Kurn of Eldre’Thalas and have another Kurn on Skywall and if those two realms were part of the same Virtual Realm, there’d be no conflict. Bam. There goes the biggest single headache that comes with the idea of consolidating servers. People can have the same name on the same Virtual Realm and what will distinguish them is the server they’re on and a little # symbol.

Further, Virtual Realms will mean you can join a guild on any of those servers, raid with anyone from those servers, basically do anything with that group of servers the same way you currently do server-only activities. This is kind of interesting. Multi-realm guilds? “Hey, we’re Apotheosis of Eldre’Thalas (and Skywall and Ursin and etc)…”? How’s that going to work, exactly? I’m not against this at all, just wondering how a realm-based thing like a guild is going to be accessible from other realms. Actually, in terms of recruitment, you’ll suddenly have access to something like five or ten times the population you normally do. And all those people could join your guild without paying transfer fees. Good Lord, could advertising your guild in Trade chat actually be worth it???

Virtual Realms will also mean sharing one Auction House. As someone who was quite enjoying the gold-making aspect of the game at the launch of Mists of Pandaria, that’s interesting. A more active Auction House almost certainly means the prices for everything are cheaper, because there’s more of whatever it is you’re trying to buy. For low-pop realms, this may have the repercussion that someone who makes gold reliably by farming hard-to-find materials (like past-expansion herbs and ore — Goldthorn and Fel Iron Ore, I’m looking at you!) may be out of luck because supply will rise and demand will drop. Similarly, if you have the market cornered on a certain kind of item, chances are that you will no longer be the dominant person on the AH with that item. Even if you are, you may be forced to cut your prices significantly to remain competitive.

I think Virtual Realms will be huge for improving the game experience for thousands of people out there, but there are still a lot of unanswered 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?

We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess, but this is certainly one of the more interesting things I think Blizzard has ever done.

The Flexible Raiding Conundrum

Given that I’ve been writing furiously about WoW for the last month or so, it only makes sense that I’m getting back into the swing of things in terms of keeping up with new information that’s coming out, so naturally, I have things to say about Flexible Raiding.

It was announced yesterday that Flexible Raids are being developed for the next major content update. In essence, they are bringing in a new level of raiding that fits snugly between LFR and normal raids, both in terms of people required and gear received. You can queue up for LFR solo or with 24 others or any number in between and the matchmaking system will put a full group together. Flex raids will require a minimum of 10 people (and a maximum of 25) and… will not matchmake for you. You’ll be able to walk into a raid with 10, 14, 17, 23 or 25 players or any number between 10 and 25 and the difficulty will scale.

Well, this is an interesting concept, but I have to say that my first thought was “thank God I’m no longer playing, because the idea of doing LFR, Flex Raids AND normal/heroic raiding might just kill me”. I’ll get to why that was my first thought in a minute, but let’s examine some of the other issues.

Rho and I were tweeting about this last night. In the case where, for example, on 10-man you have to kill two adds and on 25-man, you have to kill three adds, at what point does the third add show up? Wouldn’t it be smart to just have one person below that level to, as Rho put it, “game the system”? Doesn’t that go against the whole inclusionary idea behind flex raids? They clearly want you to be able to walk into raids with all the people you want to bring (up to 25 people), so say the cut-off between two or three adds is 18 people. Say you have 21 people coming in to raid and you’re having trouble making sure the third add dies. Where is the incentive NOT to drop to 17 people to overpower the two adds?

Of course, they may just remove extraneous mechanics that are difficult to scale. This isn’t normal raiding, after all. I strongly suspect we’ll see the change or removal of many normal-mode mechanics in flex raids the way we do in LFR today.

Still, the auto scaling itself is an interesting conundrum. Since there’s no matchmaking provided, you need to make sure the basic group configuration works. That means you can’t zone in with 8 DPS, 2 healers and no tanks. But can you zone in with 3 tanks, 2 healers and 12 DPS? What will the baseline numbers be for a decent ratio of tanks, healers and DPS? LFR gives you two tanks, six healers and 17 DPS. Will there be requirements in flex raids for a proper ratio of tanks to healers to DPS? I imagine that there must be, because you won’t be able to get anything done with 25 DPS. The fact that Blizzard hasn’t announced what these ratios are doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. It just wouldn’t make any logical sense. The way WoW works is based on the holy trinity of tanks + healers + DPS. I imagine we’ll see something like the following:

10-14 people: 2 tanks, 3 healers, 5-9 DPS

15-19 people: 2 tanks, 4 healers, 9-13 DPS

20-25 people: 2-3 tanks, 5-6 healers, 13-17 DPS

Unless they have technology that is going to look at the specs of people as they zone in and then tailor encounters to the group (which I think is not only doubtful, but laughably so, due to it being far too dynamic), there’s going to have to be breakpoints. And what’s sad about those ratios is that it’ll still almost certainly be only two tanks required. I’ve mentioned this before, back in 4.1 with the introduction of satchels for in-demand roles in LFG, but there is a serious issue with only needing two tanks for 10 and most of 25-man raid content and I don’t see flex raiding changing that at all.

Anyhow, group composition will likely be less flexible than what the initial post led us to believe. By not mentioning anything about group composition, without adding any caveats, one can easily assume that flex raids aren’t going to have any issues with group comp. That’s reinforced by this little line: “so you won’t need to worry about bringing the “wrong” person and having them win that piece of gear you’ve long been waiting for.” Of course, they’re talking about using the LFR loot system, not group composition here. My point is, there are going to have to be group composition-related restrictions and I’m interested to see what, exactly, they will look like.

And now, for something completely different: I actually like something about this flex raids thing.

I’ll let those of you who have fainted dead away in shock regain consciousness before I continue. You guys all right? Yeah? Okay, good. ;)

This is the part I like about the flex raids:

You’ll also be able to complete portions of your “Glory of the Orgrimmar Raider” raid meta- achievement in Flexible mode as well as in Normal or Heroic to earn cosmetic rewards such as an epic mount. This will allow Raid groups the opportunity to switch off nights between raids to complete achievements.

You know what that means? That likely means no more skipping heroic bosses for a reset or two in order to go back and do achievements for the meta. Of course, it means taking extra time outside of one’s raiding week, so you might not enjoy that terribly much, but if you want the meta achievement, you’ll do it. Further, if it’s guild-organized, you’ll probably be able to do it fairly painlessly. If I were organizing a guild through Glory of the Orgrimmar Raider (and let’s be clear — I’m not!), here’s what I would do:

1) Work through normal modes as usual, maybe snagging an achievement or two on repeat normal kills, depending on how easy they are to incorporate into the strategy we use to kill the bosses anyway.

2) Clear normal modes, start working on heroic modes. Repeat any easy-to-do achievements, but focus on getting the heroic kills. (Which are, incidentally, usually part of the meta achievement.)

3) Once all heroic bosses are down (or at the very least, all the heroic bosses required for the meta), do a weekend flex run once a week to clear out all the achievements people might be missing from those bosses until everyone in the raid group has their meta.

We took two weeks in Firelands to work on the meta and two weeks in Dragon Soul to work on the meta. While Dragon Soul was the end of the expansion and all the loot would literally be reset just a couple of months later, it might have been beneficial for us to have another two resets of heroic gear from Firelands. If flex raids continue beyond the Orgrimmar raid into the next expansion (assuming there is one, and I’m guessing there will be), this will be really helpful in allowing heroic raiders to NOT miss out on any gear due to having to do bosses on normal. Not wasting 1-2 lockouts will be great.

That said, it will also suck for lots of players, because the gear will be better than LFR and, presumably, will share tier bonuses with drops in LFR and drops in normal/heroic. That means that flex raids will have a great number of heroic raiders seeking elusive tier pieces. And since flex raids are on a separate lockout from LFR, it means that these same heroic raiders will still be doing LFR to get those tier pieces. And even some trinkets, I’m sure. Even if the item level on these are 20 levels below the normal Tier 16 gear, sometimes the bonuses make it worth it.

So you have a subsection of raiders who will likely be doing the same content three times a week: once on LFR, once on flex and once on normal/heroic.

Know what that reminds me of? Trial of the Crusader 10, Trial of the Crusader 25, Trial of the Grand Crusader 10 and Trial of the Grand Crusader 25 in Wrath of the Lich King. I joined a new guild when I had completed TOC25 and was shocked and appalled to see how many people in my new guild were doing all four lockouts every week. I was like “are you guys freaking crazy???” Luckily, we were only “required” to participate in the guild-run TOC25 and TOGC25, but I know people looked down on me for not maximizing my drops and stuff from TOC 10/TOGC 10.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who sees it this way.

I know that a big concern for raiders has been “min-maxing” their gear and, for some people, that’s their game. I wasn’t always diligent about capping VP, but I am that kind of person who capped VP on alts to buy BOE epics from the VP vendor to give to my raiding character. I would do Dragon Soul’s LFR to VP cap, although not necessarily to get my tier bonuses quickly.

In order to help prevent raider burnout, I see three solutions:

1) Don’t have LFR drop tier gear/gear that would be useful to heroic raiders. This removes the need for heroic raiders to even look at LFR, but then all the casual raiders will get pissy that they have no access to tier gear. (To which, frankly, I say that’s how it was in my day!)

2) Have LFR/flex tier work together for bonuses and have normal/heroic tier work together for bonuses, but none of the normal/heroic tier work for bonuses with LFR/flex tier. But the problem there is that all these non-organized raiders have 4pc bonuses while the heroic raiders who need those bonuses are sitting there with 1 or 3 pieces, weeping every week when their missing pieces don’t drop. (Seriously, one of our ret pallies in Apotheosis had 23 heroic Ultraxion kills and never got the heroic T13 chest.)

3) Get rid of tier bonuses altogether. I’m not a fan of this because, well, that’s kind of the point of tier, no? Even from Tier 0, the original dungeon sets, we had set bonuses. They were craptastic, mind you. (Why does a hunter need +200 armor? Really?) But they were there. All through every bit of raid content, the reward for getting your tier was the set bonuses, some of which were fantastic and some of which were awful, but many of them were at least desireable.

I also agree 100% with Anafielle that, for many people, capping VP/maxing their gear is not a “choice”. They see the obstacles Blizzard puts in front of them and feel compelled to go through it to better aid their team. I wasn’t as hardcore as she is and Apotheosis (4/13 HM) isn’t as hardcore as Something Wicked (10/13) is. The game has a huge, diverse player base, from those who don’t know how to cast a spell on someone else (no, really, people like that exist!) to people in Method, Paragon and Blood Legion. Anafielle is on the higher end, where something like new tier bonuses are going to be very desirable, in addition to VP capping. I would VP cap (reluctantly, but I would do so until I was done buying what I needed). Others don’t VP cap and still others have LFR as their only exposure to raiding. There’s a lot of disparity and with that comes a lot of lack of understanding in terms of how other people approach things. For raiders at certain levels, there’s no choice if you want to play at your highest capabilities and, honestly, these people need to know that Blizzard isn’t going to throw them under the bus by adding something that is ostensibly for non-heroic raiders, but in which a lot of value is found for heroic raiders. (Like, you know, tier bonuses on LFR and flex gear, not to mention trinkets with amazing procs and such, even if the base stats aren’t fantastic.)

Obviously, flex raiding doesn’t affect me personally at the moment, which is great, but I still find myself thinking about how I would use (or not use) flex raiding if I were still playing at my previous level. I would probably run it for achievements for the meta so as to not waste my real raid lockouts, but that’s probably it. I have my own limits and, as I learned way back during T9 of Wrath of the Lich King, doing two (or more) lockouts a week of the same content is too much for me. Doing three a week would probably offset any satisfaction I’d get from anything I’d gain by doing so, so that’s my personal limit. It’s also why I only have one realm first to my name, it’s why I’ve only ever cleared a single full, heroic tier of raid content. If you want the extras, the realm firsts, to be in the race for world firsts, you have to put in more time and more energy, and if Blizzard still doesn’t recognize that, after all this time, then raider burnout is going to hit hard during the Orgrimmar raid.

What's New with Kurn

Hi, folks! I have had a heck of a weekend, first watching my brother (aka Fog) get married and then skipping his reception to fly to Toronto where I stayed overnight before grabbing a flight to Newark, whereupon Daey and Toga picked me up and then I got dropped off at the lovely golf club where Majik was going to get married — and I was a bridesmaid.

I’ll write up a post later, I’m sure, about meeting Daey, Toga, Dar, Kam and all the others, but I’m still exhausted from my 4 airports, 3 flights and two weddings in the span of 72 hours. (Add 11 hours of sleep in that time span to get a really good idea of how tired I still am.) Short version: Everyone was awesome and excellent and the 21 hours I spent in NY were not enough.

Also, I have a short recording from the post-reception afterparty that I will be using in a super special BONUS episode of Blessing of Frost! It is hilarious and I can’t wait for you guys to hear it.

In the meantime, I’m still writing up that how to be a kick-ass GM guide. Not done yet and I’m at nearly 27,000 words for the whole thing. The first module (about actually starting a guild and getting things in place) is just over 5,000 words and I think most modules average 5,000-7,000 words, although the How to Recruit module is almost 11,000 words and I am still adding to it, because recruitment sucks a LOT.

Anyhow, this is really going to be a complex, in-depth, modular guide and I hope you guys will enjoy reading it and learning from it as much as I’m enjoying writing it.

Oh, speaking of the guide… From this weekend’s post-reception afterparty: Dar told me that Daey was telling her that the only thing I need to include in my guide section about loot is “/roll”. Oh, Football. Never change.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this game called Healer that Megs pointed me to. Dar and I were talking about how we missed healing and I said that this game was really the solution to healing without playing WoW. It’s very, very similar to WoW healing and there’s even an Onyxia-type encounter. Dar ended up playing the game on my iPad post-afterparty for like, 20+ minutes and this game is the sole reason she actually wants a tablet now. (I think the game is only available for iPad, not iPhone or any other platform.) Time to start up a Tabletfordar fund. ;) The game is really neat and I quite enjoy it. Check it out if you have a healing itch. (Note, it’s $4.99, but I think it’s pretty well worth it.)

Okay, I should wrap this up as I have some errands to run and, clearly, lots of guide-related and Blessing of Frost-related work to do! Enjoy your 5.3 patch day, folks. :)

Answer…

My previous post asked you guys if you might be interested in a guild master’s guide. The results are in — I got dozens of responses and the majority of them said yes, they would be interested in such a guide, and most of THOSE said they’d pay something for it (although prices varied wildly).

As such, I wanted to let you know that I am now officially working on a guild master’s guide. It will be modular, so you can buy whatever it is you need help with most. There will be samples available before you buy and the cost for each module will be very reasonable, with a bit of a discount if you buy the entire guide at once.

What I’m looking at, as of right now:

– Module 1: Starting (or reorganizing) a guild: goals/timetable of events, rules, structure, policies, loot (if applicable), community.
– Module 2: How to recruit: the entire recruitment process, from A to Z (that’s “zed”, Americans), including a sample application and sample recruitment posts, plus where to recruit AND how (and when) to go that extra mile. (Turnover is also included here.)
– Module 3: Officers: how to choose officers, avoiding drama, what to do with underperformers, how much impact officers should have on the guild’s direction.
– Module 4: Community Management: Troublemakers and dealing with them, cliques, morale, fun events, real-life circumstances, guild alliances/mergers, social media, exposure.
– Module 5: Expansions: How to successfully plan for an expansion (this mostly already exist on the blog, but I’d refine it somewhat).
– Module 6: Passing over leadership without killing your guild: How to quit but let your guild live on.

My NEW question to you guys is if there’s something that’s not covered above, what would you most want covered and in which section would you want it? Or does the topic deserve its own section entirely? Similarly, if there’s anything you think I’ve listed that REALLY doesn’t need to be in the guide, chime in.

(Bear in mind that I’m trying to leave raiding out of it entirely for the moment. I have another idea about maybe writing a raid leader’s guide, even a role officer’s guide, but let’s see how this goes, first. ;))

Feel free to let me know in the comments or via email (kurn [at] apotheosis-now [dot] com) if you want to remain more or less anonymous. With any luck, I’ll have a first draft for all modules done in the next two weeks and then sometime after Majik’s wedding (Blessing of Frost listeners, I WILL TRY TO GET HIM TO SING!), I hope to start releasing stuff. So now’s the time to let me know what you really want to see included!

Question…

I’ve spent the last couple of days reading a great book called $100 Startup and it’s gotten me to start thinking about stuff I know that I can share with others — for a price. ;)

One of the things I know how to do is how to start and run a pretty successful guild. I may no longer really know how to heal or go through WoL (since there have been so many changes I haven’t kept up with) and since I don’t play anymore, I wouldn’t feel as though my advice for actually PLAYING WoW would be worth much, if anything.

But I’m pretty sure my experience at being an officer, a raid leader, a healing lead and a GM is still useful. So, for the next week, I’m going to run this survey, asking you fine folks what you think about the possibility of me putting out a guide for GMs. It’ll close just after midnight on Monday, May 6th, 2013 (EDT).

Here’s the link:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1i5p9180oT8GnK8rzn-UmvkYshbTYaJFFhIzSivk9czw/viewform

It’s anonymous. I’m just looking for info from a group of people who might be interested in what I have to say in a more organized fashion than on my blog. ;) If there’s interest, sweet. If not, no worries. Just putting out some feelers, and I’d appreciate your feedback. :)

As usual, haters need not apply. ;)