Archive for MoP

Dot Removal – an early view

Posted in News, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , , on June 29, 2012 by Natarumah

One of the things that seems to be the newest hit in Shadowpriest design land is the “dot removal”. For one reason or another, after the relative faillure (read: very situational use) of Mind Spike, the addition of Shadow Word: Insanity seems to solidify the juxtaposed phasing of Shadowpriest abilities in a “Dotting up – Explode dots”  model.

How it is today

Mind Spike as a spell hits as hard as Mind Blast, but removes all dots on the target. Properly talented, it is buffed by Shadow Orbs and itself will reduce the cast time of Mind Blast, effectively making the next one instant. The basic idea is that this spell will only be used when its Shadow Orb-buffed damage exceeds the damage your Dots do in that time plus the time it takes to reapply them all.

Currently, the only time when this happens is when you have small, easily killed adds that you cannot AoE down, or on Spine of Deathwing (once you have 4piece T13). The latter is because you will use all cooldowns on the Tendon phase, meaning Shadowfiend will give you a lot of Orbs, causing practically all your Mind Spikes and Mind Blasts to benefit from a full three Shadow Orbs.

In Mists of Pandaria

You won’t have the tier 13 bonus, unless they choose to roll it into a talent or glyph, which is highly unlikely. This removes the benefit of using Shadowfiend as a buff for Mind Spike. This means that Mind Spike will once again struggle to overcome the barrier of (Damage Done)>(Dots DPS + DPS loss from recasting dots).

Shadow Word: Insanity has a similar model, except that it will extinguish your dots and then increase its damage done by up to 100% per dot removed. The bolded part is important, because it is dependent upon how long your dots were ticking when they were removed. This means that the SW:I will deal the most damage at the last second of each dot.

The picture above is a basic model of how this would work (click it for a larger view); base damage of the spell is rather low (arbitrary “half a DoT’) but is boosted by the consumed DoTs. It has a break-even point, after which the SW:I will deal more damage that the DoT itself, but you’d want to wait a bit more to ensure you also “cover” the time lost recasting the DoT.

This is split-second timing over 3 dots (SW:Pain, Vampiric Touch and the currently languishing Devouring Plague) and their respective durations. Fortunately it’s instant-cast, so it only has to overcome the barrier of lost recasting the dots, which you would have to anyway considering you cast this spell close to the end of a dot duration. There are a few scenarios to think of as to the use of (and reason to introduce) this spell:

SW:Insanity as a cycle ender

Basically, using SW:Insanity as close as possible to the end of the dots, using it to clean the slate and reapply all dots. This comes down to casting this spell every 12 seconds or so, after which you spend 3-4 seconds reapplying them. This could be a DPS gain or loss – but it would take quite some maths to figure it out since the break-even point of SW:I is highly dependent on gear and scaling. It is, without a doubt, hideously mana inefficient if not used at the split second before a dot would expire needlessly – and with three dots this is likely the case.

SW:Insanity as Burst

If the target is going to die before the dots will do their job (a problem we Shadowpriests are well familiar with) then you can use SW:I to “explode” the dots, allowing you to at least get some damage in before the target dies. This will be mostly useful in 5mans, where dot classes suffer noticeably under more bursty classes. If a mob has 1 million HP, and your party members burst more than you, you end up at the bottom of the meters. It may not be important, but neither is it fun – so this is probably the best use for this spell.

New mechanic is new

A last scenario is not a scenario for the uses of the spell, but the reason for its introduction: innovation. In order to distinguish us from the (arguably superior, more fun and better presented) Affliction Warlock, the developers tried to diverge our methods. We both rely on dots, but where the Affliction Locks use Malefic Grasp to “supercharge” their Dots, we “explode”  them.

This is of course a valid option, although I find my nose rankling at the thought of being a dot class that removes its dots willingly. Mind Spike at least was only marginally useful, so it was safe to ignore this spell all through Cataclysm until the Spine of Deathwing encounter. Shadow Word: Insanity is liable to become one of those spells the entire spec is going to be balanced around.

Conclusion

Maybe this is a gesture towards the Shadowpriests who clamored for maths and complexity, or maybe it’s an unintended complicated mechanism – this is its second incarnation, with a more clear description.

Personally, I think  the spell has potential in the margins. With superior gear, it’s possible an advanced Dot-Explode-Dot cycle becomes a bursty and viable way of dealing with bosses. It’s also a good way to ensure that your dots will not go to waste, as any lost potential is pumped into its instant damage. With proper development it might have use, but it will require more information and a truckload of maths to figure out when it’s useful and when it’s a loss.

Expanding our Minds

Posted in Fun, News with tags , , , , on March 22, 2012 by Natarumah

Well, pun intended of course. With the release of the NDA and the cataclysmic flood of information on what we (might/will/could) see in Mists of Pandaria you will see blogs all over the blogosphere light up as people try to make sense of it all. Some predict the end of the game because of “Casuals” while others see it as the new hope in gaming. I for one do welcome a lot of the preview material, if only because it makes the game more cohesive and enjoyable.

Pandaren

Well, the debate is reasonably settled on the Pandaren Female form, but the nice thing here is that Blizzard did not decide to go for the Black Panda – Red Panda disconnect. Rather, both will be part of the customization options for the race. This means that rather than picking “sides”, Blizzard decided to allow both the Black and Red Panda concepts to co-exist. I applaud this, since now basically everyone gets what they want.

And besides, how many black-and-white Panda combos can you make, anyway?

Things to do in Azeroth before we die

Thanks to the addition of the 11th Character Slot (Oh yeah!) I would be able to make a Panda of my own (Monk of course) and play it as a fat epicurean. With the sneak peeks on pet battles, exploration, improvements to archaeology and cooking specializations it means we will have plenty to do that isn’t dungeons or raids. And it was about time.

Archaeology improvements include the addition of mob spawns in dig sites which drop goodies, including a convenient teleportation option to the next dig site. This cuts down on the immense travel time involved, and also means that your level starts making a difference while braving through dark jungles into abandoned temples and explorer’s tents.

The various cooking specializations will each benefit a primary stat – other than offering a bit of diversity, it also makes having cooking on multiple characters worthwhile, and dovetails nicely with the Pandaren’s reputation as epicureans. My fun and fat friend in slot 11 is going to be a lot of fun!

AoE Looting

Shamelessly mentioned as an upgrade for the game after it has been included in RIFT and Star Wars. After all, looting individual creatures is quite a waste of time for some of us mass-murderers (Paladin Tanks, I look at thee!). Sure it’s a nice-to-have and not a necessity, but it will certainly make life a lot easier.

Graphics Upgrade

Yes, upgraded character models are on the table, but probably won’t be finished in time (other than what is needed to make Monks). This might be sad news, but it shows that upgrading old content to more modern standards is definitely in the pipeline. I hope this also includes eventually a pixel-upgrade on some of the old sets, especially now that they are being used for Transmogrification. Some pieces can’t match each other simply because their quality diverges between 8-bit pixel style to rendered goodness.

What I was especially impressed with were the videos released with the new models, such as the Sha and the Celestial dragon. I have to say that the quality (while somewhat cartoonish) is very good and I am looking forward to seeing it live. Many people decry the cartoony style of WoW, but so far most games haven’t stood up to the test of time quite that well, and the same goes for WoW’s movement style. For some reason to me it seems a lot more fluid, and this will help a lot once the Monk comes into play.

The Beta and Annual Pass

One of the main topics now is the Beta – everyone wants to see the new graphics, class, game and direction. Many of those bought an annual pass in the hopes of just that, and now that the first invites are sent to people who opted in, they fell entitled to join as well. Of course, the devil is in the fine print. Yes, you will be in the Beta, but Blizzard decides when. This will most likely be in the large Open-Beta push towards the end a month maybe two before release, where only the last bugs need ironing out.

I understand some people feel “meh” about this, but also realize that this was already quite clear before. Yes, it’s a bit misleading, but certainly not a breach of contract or anything else that is cried about on forums. You can still get an invite (if lucky) through the opt-in before the grand public opening, so be sure to have those boxes ticked in your battle.net account!

Conclusion

This expansion will be in part about Pandaria and part about the titanic struggle of Horde versus Alliance. Exploration and hobbies become as important as raiding. All in all I think Mists of Pandaria will be an expansion where we slow down from our daily lives, rather than stay in our modern-24h-per-day speed. Raiding will be big, as ever, as will be PvP.

But the focus will be more on it being a game, and on enjoying ourselves. So that those who call themselves truly casual, or those who are not but relaxing on an alt, can have as rich a gaming life in WoW as anyone else. And I applaud a little R&R before we save the galaxy again…

Stay tuned as I take a fine-tooth comb through the changes and announcements, and see how we as Shades can gain a benefit!

Why I am looking forward to Mists of Pandaria

Posted in Diary, Roleplaying, Theory with tags , , on January 26, 2012 by Natarumah

Currently, I am debating the game more than I am actually playing it. The current content is sparse, to say the least, and the economist in me speaks. I am currently raiding 25mans with Unity, we have a 10man Alts run going on as well and I gear up whatever alt I favor at the moment through LFR. This seems sound, but for some reason I cannot escape the feeling that I am bogged down somehow.

That sinking feeling

It probably is safe to say that the success of an expansion hinges not on how much content is released, but how much is perceived to still be “up Blizzard’s sleeve”. By that token, Cataclysm was a short and ironically uneventful expansion. It shouldn’t be that you hit the final raid of the expansion to find the bosses quite easy on Normal mode and then proceed to beat around the bush with hard modes because that’s all you have left. Hard modes are awesome, but once we clear them, the expansion’s just about over.

Over – with no sign in sight for Mists of Pandaria.

Yes, there will be a beta where 90% of the WoW population will join (mind you, when you signed for that annual pass they didn’t promise you what stage beta you’d be joining) and daily snippets of Blizzcon footage are wound off their reels again to keep people interested. Logical, in the light of quite a few contenders in the MMO territory for the more casual player – which is exactly what MoP seems to be targetting.

Taking it easy for a change

After a plethora of world-shattering bosses (Illidan, Kil’jaeden, the Lich King, Deathwing) it will be a breath of fresh air to enter an expansion where we aren’t immediately rushed into doom and gloom. After all, that’s what it felt like and it echoed through every sliver of Cataclysm. Deathwing’s coming, hit 85 quickly, assist the Molten Front with post-haste, quickly defeat Ragnaros and then face Deathwing. Time for a change of pace.

Exploration, discovery and lore matter quite a bit in any story. Finding Pandaria and its mysterious inhabitants, magic and monsters will give us a new insight into Azeroth and its secrets. This way, Blizzard can slowly up the tension to the level of mid-TBC and prepare for another expansion or two before another world-shattering incident.

The joy is in the eating

One of the greatest changes in WoW currently is a shift in focus from the hardcore players from Classic to the people in Cataclysm who are, effectively, playing a lifestyle. It’s a lot less about the cutting edge gear, split-second tactics and perseverance. World-first raiders and upper-echelon PvP masters are now part of the e-sports celebrity community and thereby elevated far above even the UNcommon player.

This means that aside of raiding, PvP and collection games (Archeology, achievements, reputations, mounts, pets, Transmog gear) more needs to be done to capture and entertain the audience. A few of these things are announced for MoP and while derided as childish by some, I am quite looking forward to it.

  • Pandaren represent a first option for a race in both factions, and I am interested how they build on the sparse lore from before (which states nothing more than them being fun-loving ale-guzzling martial artists).
  • The Monk class will, if it resembles the form it was announced in at Blizzcon, a new avenue in class design. More active abilities, requiring a different set of skills and with no one who has mastered it opening it up as a new choice for many. Like DKs, many will fail before it will be embraced by the community.
  • Pandaren and its evil spirits are dear to me because of the imagery, use of color and having an area that deviates from the more traditional heavy-handed High Fantasy. While you could taste this in an Asian MMO, it’s nice to have a change-over on the scenery.
  • Pet Battles may resemble a certain collection game a lot, but in the end it’s just a fun little diversion while you wait for your other raid members to arrive (or your LFR/LFG queue to pop). With Blizzard’s intent to lessen our desire to all cramp together in one city and lazily wait for our next adventure-on-demand window to pop up, this can only improve.
  • A new expansion means a new chance to give our opinions and influence the way the game will be. A game can only be a success if everyone’s desires are met in one way or the other. And as much as people have been moping about it (hah!) fact remains that this is still a wildly popular game – and probably will remain (one of) the largest until the release of Titan.

Right now it feels like we, as players, carefully ration ourselves with the current content. Likely we will have to wai thalf a year at least before the new expansion hits our welcome mat, and we will have to make do with the content we have. Currently the lore has “run dry”. There might be a few more big bads to run on (At least two old gods, C’thun is still not dead again I believe, and at the end of the road is Sargeras) but as sad a state as Deathwing has been reduced to in terms of a fight, having him be topped in his own expansion a la Kil’jaeden topping Illidan would be even more of a slap in the face.

What I hope to see

There’s a few more checks-in-the-box for things I’d love to see in Mists of Pandaria. Things that would make me happy and (among them) continue blogging about. It’s no secret that one of the reasons I am writing less is because there simply is less to write about – and I’d like to see that changed.

  • An epic opening cinematic for MoP, and preferably a half-time moment of jaw-dropping awesomeness (a la Wrath Gate)
  • The Monk class being exciting, dynamic and difficult – but with corresponding rewards in visual displays and feel-good moves
  • Pet battles becoming secretly embraced by people who detract it currently, leading to a new brand of e-sports
  • A storyline that slowly ramps up in scope, not breaking out of its box in the first 30 minutes of play
  • Monk/Martial Art training tools that actually work and allow you to show off your WoW-Fu – danger room, please
  • Emphasis on quality raids with doable LFR, challenging normal modes and fiendish hard modes
  • Loot that does not look like it was taken out of a Slaine comic book
  • Lore revealed which meshes with existing lore, yet gives us inrigueing insight into an isolated culture
  • Classes which have a stronger theme as foundation, meaning less stepping on other’s toes in terms of lore, looks and feel
  • Content being paced properly, allowing us to not have “expansion left at the end of the content”

All in all I have a good feeling about MoP – but the risk remains that watering down the game for the benefit of too large a group will cause it to go stale. I mean, look at a very successful family game like Wizard 101 which is very fun for kids – but not challenging at all for (most) adults.

Warhammer fell into the trap of catering to a single group (PvPers), Age of Conan offered too little content and meandered all over the place, RIFT simply was too complex and its shiny exterior hid a multiple-personality syndrome, D&D Online simply didn’t live up anywhere to its legendary tabletop origins and the various superhero MMOs (Champions Online, DC Universe, City of Heroes/Villains) coped with a serious image problem when it came to more mainstream gamers.

Currently the main contender for my personal attention is Star Wars: The Old Republic. It features strong lore, clever storytelling and class-personalized quest lines. Sure it will be old hat after the second time or so, but for now it feels very clever and well-made. Endgame is still a question, as a lot of bugs have been removed only recently. It does feature reasonably balanced classes with a strong theme – which is one of the things WoW is in danger of losing.

My hope is that in the run towards Mists of Pandaria classes will have a stronger theme, balanced visuals and a unique selling point. Without it, people may burn out on frustration.

Without epic class quests (Paladin and Warlock Mount, Anathema/Benediction, Warlock Doomguard and Infernal, the epic quest line for Hunters, and so on) and the continued attempts and balance through homogenization we currently have a situation where classes are in some cases cardboard cutouts for each other, where you can practically see the “cut along the lines” indications on abilities.

Conclusion

Even though WoW is a old workhorse of an MMO, it is by far the most popular and has shown much innovation in its time. Now it will have to make a great metamorphosis, evolving to endure the coming onslaught of next-gen MMOs. Mists of Pandaria might be the chance the game developers need to show that they can cater to the newer, more casual gamer while still honoring the time-old veteran’s tradition of elbow grease and theorycraft.

Sneak preview: Shadows in MoP

Posted in News, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , on November 23, 2011 by Natarumah

Blizzard just released a new talent calculator, showing us quite a bit of the new design philosophy and changes to be expected for the various classes. As could be expeected, this will cause quite some hubub as there will undoubtedly be some controversial or unloved choices. Check it out for yourself here, while I try and highlight some of the big changes for ourselves, as Shadowpriests.

Almost no healing – cause we don’t heal

As I have talked about before when discussing the philosophy of class design, an easy way to distinguish the Shadowpriest is to remove some or all healing spells. And it looks like this is indeed what is happening. Greater Heal, Binding Heal and Prayer of Mending have been relegated to “spec-specific spells”  for Holy and Discipline. We will also lose Divine Hymn and Hymn of Hope to Holy and Discipline respectively, meaning that we also will lose our raid utility cooldowns. Hot damn.

So – do we get something in return?

For losing all healing spells except Flash Heal, we get Silence and Psychic Horror baseline. It also looks like Holy and Discipline will still keep access to SW:Pain, SW:Death and Mind Sear. As the Mind Blast spell will require Shadow Orbs, it is now Shadow-specific and can’t be used by the healing specs.

But…it’s pre-beta right, so perhaps some changes in the talents?

Nope, unchanged since the unveiling as far as I can see, but I will go over them with a comb today.

Edit: yeah, it’s nowhere near complete, or even fully thought out.

The following spells were not listed even though they are critical: Devouring Plague, Mana Burn.
Twisted Faith wasn’t in there, nor was there any mention of the Spirit > Hit conversion. This could indicate we are supposed to grab Hit gear now, or they decided to drop the healer to DPS conversion.

While leveling, a Shadowpriest cannot heal him/herself except through Flash Heal. This becomes especially bad because Vampiric Embrace seems missing, and the last-tier talent that makes a mockery out of it isn’t cutting it, sorry. It seems more than ever that the concept of the specs is simply missing, and needs to be rethought from scratch. We used to be the DPS that drained enemies and empowered allies, I’d suggest working with that.

If the planned removal of Replenishment goes through, and Vampiric Embrace is watered down to an ability all specs can get, Shadowpriests are effectively a homeless spec. Out abilities are like those of an Affliction Warlock (Dots, Fear, Dispel Protection) but without the pet and the additional raid utility (Soulstone, Healthstone, Summons) or even the self-healing.

Conclusions

It’s still very early, and the warning that all is subject to change is printed in big letters at the bottom. That is sound judgement, because so far we Shadows only lose out on it. We lose 75% of our healing ability, all raid utility except for PW:Fortitude and Leap of Faith (which is still Holy) and the healers lose nothing except Mind Blast. Unlike some of the cooler classes (warlock and death knight, I am looking at you) there are also no new spells listed.

I can only say that this is the perfect time to brainstorm about what would be needed to fill the gap in our spells and talents, and see if the beta allows us to be part of the cool crew.

Edit: This post is one of those evil quic-update things where you see new things every five minutes. The next post, I am going over the the abilities we have currently (as planned for MoP so far) and see where things could be designed to fill existing gaps.

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