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Stubborn (PvP) Principles

I have not been playing Wildstar for months, but I try and keep abreast of its various developments. The most recent was a disabling of the free realm transfers ahead of the incoming megaserver merge. It was later clarified on Reddit that the free realm transfers would be coming back once everything is stabilized… but only for PvP –> PvE transfers. Some player, clearly new to the MMO scene [Edit: or used to WoW] , asked the bright-eyed question of “Why?” InRustTrust helpfully explained the hitherto ironclad logic:

The restriction is, and always has been, purely because the people on PvP servers don’t want you to just level up your character in complete peace, obtain all the gear they competed over and free of the ganking they had to endure, and merely transfer past all that. I don’t know why this is ever shocking to anyone. It’s like this in practically every MMO and the reason is always the same.

I say “hitherto” because A) I like fancy words, and B) does that explanation strike anyone else as increasingly asinine?

It is certainly true that such a rule strikes a chord of fairness. But what are we really saying here? What are the developers committing to? There are precisely two megaservers in North America, with a one-way funnel between them; any server transfer is basically a permanent loss for the PvP megaserver. So anyone who originally joined their friends on a PvE server only to lose them, now has to sate their frustrated bloodthirst in battleground queues. Or anyone who wasn’t sure whether they could stand it, or anyone who didn’t originally know the difference, or anyone looking for a change in scenery, or for any number of reasons. Including, I’m sure, X amount who wanted to level in peace but are itching to gank lowbies.

Would it be unfair? I ask… who cares?

No, seriously, just think about it. Are we really regarding leveling up on a PvP server as some kind of rite of passage? That you cannot gank lowbies unless you yourself were a lowbie to be ganked? It spawns all sorts of interesting questions. For example, I leveled up on the PvP no-pop server of Auchindoun in WoW. There were a few ganks along the way, sure, but my experience had to be night-and-day different from someone who leveled up on a High-pop PvP server. Am I “worthy” of the same “respect” as those who had it worse?

I mean, principles are great and all, and I recommend everyone having a few. But on occasion I also recommend examining them and seeing if they are still relevant to your interests. Having a PvE –> PvP server restriction is 100% arbitrary and I can’t see what real benefit it brings, especially when PvP servers are historically the most empty to begin with. Can Wildstar really afford to turn away geared endgame players from possibly generating endgame shenanigans on PvP servers? “It’s not fair!” So add an achievement: Leveled On A PvP Server [+10].

It’s a PvP server, people, everyone should be falling over themselves getting more (carebear) targets to transfer. Right? The sanctity of the hazing ritual that is leveling on these servers is not sacrosanct. The PvP person who would quit over this clearly was not interested in a world PvP endgame. The only people you have to watch out for would be the lowbies who might see an increase in getting ganked… but then again that is precisely what they signed up for in the first place. Arguably those masochists would like it even more.

So come on, Carbine, be the first (?) next to put this sacred cow out to pasture.

And on the WoW Front

There were two rather important items I would absolutely have been talking about by now, if I was still playing WoW.

First, guild levels are being removed in Warlords.

Since the introduction of the guild system in Cataclysm, the nature of guild leveling and guild perks has shifted from being a reward for dedication and collective effort, to effectively being a penalty and barrier to entry for new guilds.

To be quite frank, there was never any shift; guild leveling has always been a penalty/barrier to new guild creation. You could trace the exact moment when my old guild (Invictus) was on its way out: the night when we no longer reached the daily Guild XP cap. Everyone knew people weren’t logging on as much anymore, but that shaded bar in its purple crassness had a way about it that pierced all illusions. Not only did we understood that the guild was dying, we became acutely aware that we were falling behind. And yet, in a cruel twist, you also didn’t want to leave either. Sure, you could join a more active, new guild… and lose all the bonus Honor/Justice Points/goodies in the meantime.

I am not entirely sure whether any particular MMO has gotten guilds “right.” By that I mean crafting a system that both encourages social activity and doesn’t encourage abuse of its own systems, e.g. in zerg guilds. The most we seem to be able to hope for is for guild systems to get out of the way. Anyone have examples of where guilds were done particularly well?

Second news items is the merging of Alliance/Horde AHs on each server.

This is certainly an interesting decision for Blizzard to make. Some of the detractors focus on their lost gold-making opportunities, while still others take offense on an almost RP angle. My own opinion on large AHs have shifted considerably over the years. While it is always fun to play the big fish in a small pond, small ponds tend to dry out and kill all the fish. There is perhaps nothing as discouraging as seeing a barren AH, as that wipes out entire swaths of gameplay: the AH baron, the farmer, the crafter, the guild selling BoE raid epics to fund guild repairs, and so on. In this sense, I believe it’s a good idea.

On the other hand, something I have found equally (if not moreso) discouraging is seeing the effect of a vendor+1c economy. Guild Wars 2 was my first experience with this phenomenon, but Wildstar has creeping elements of the same thing. The cause is rather simple: bot farmers dumping mats.¹ While even the tiny Auchindoun-US had its share of bots, it was clearly more profitable to peddle their vendor-for-a-profit wares on the bigger servers. In a centralized marketplace, all it takes is one bot to ruin everyone’s day.

In any case, what is somewhat amusing is remembering back to my WoW days and how I very nearly kept a second account running purely for the cross-faction arbitrage possibilities (even on Auchendoun-US!). I have to assume things like the faction-specific mounts will remain faction-specific, but I imagine those hedge market items like green-colored Winter Clothes and such will tank. Meanwhile, I wonder what they intend to do with the goblin AHs…

¹ In fairness, there are likely several other things going on simultaneously. For example, making mats too plentiful, not having enough sinks, having crafting systems that encourage the pumping out of hundreds of identical goods, and so on. Bots will still ruin your day though.

Server Merges Are Coming

Blizzard is calling them “Connected Realms,” but it occurs to me that in the future, any MMO dev can simply call their server merges “connected realms” to bypass the negative stigma surrounding the term. “We’re not merging, we’re connecting! Which is like merging, except with a hashtag!”

On a different note, this quote from the Connected Realms FAQ is a nice follow-up to yesterday’s post (emphasis mine):

Connected Realms also allow us to link populations in a way that’s not disruptive to players, and that doesn’t negatively impact players’ sense of identity and character. Other alternatives such as merging realms would require us to force character name changes if there were conflicts, and could lead to confusion for returning players who’d log in to find their realm missing from the realm list. Some players also feel strong ties to their realm’s name or history, and we don’t want to erase that.

Let me ask you something, and get ready to have your mind blown. What is a realm’s name or history if not the collection of people in it? What is the difference between Auchindoun-US, the shit-hole I played on for 4+ years, and something like Stormrage-US, one of the highest-populated servers in WoW?

The people. That’s it. Auchindoun’s Lower City looks exactly the same as Stormrage’s Lower City. Arthas looks the same, the mobs look the same, the resource spawns are the same, the quests are the same, every single thing is the same.

While the speed of opening the AQ Gates or whether there was a server first heroic Lich King kill before the expansion comes out differs depending on the server, that is simply due to – again – the people. The AQ gates are open everywhere. Deathwing is dead everywhere. Garrosh will be a raid boss everywhere soon. Remove the people, and every single MMO server is the same.

This is why I cock an eyebrow at “dynamic” and “emergent” anything. EQN is going to have StoryBrick AI in there somewhere. Cool… but is that going to mean Server A has a completely different ecology than Server B? If not, we must have radically different definitions of what those words mean. Player ecologies differ between servers of course, sometimes radically, and make the server distinctions worthwhile. But servers differing on the development side? As far as I know, that hasn’t happened yet.

Anyway: server merges in WoW. Given how my friends bailed out of Auchindoun and to a PvE server during the half-price sale a while back, there is literally nothing to go back to. Should I ever desire to. For Press™ reasons. That $25 a pop price though… jesus. The suits over there sure like making the decision easy.

Gold-Making in MoP

I had a guild member ask me what I have been up to so far on the AH side of things, and I figured I may as well share here too.

The backbone of my routine is/was the Saronite Elementium Ghost Iron Shuffle. Basically, you buy stacks of Ghost Iron Ore at X gold, then through Prospecting/Alchemy/Enchanting/etc you turn it into a product worth X+Y gold. Every realm/faction market is different, so individual research will be needed to find the values for X and Y. Right now, for example, I buy Ghost Iron Ore at 4g apiece (and below). This ore ends up being:

  • Smelted into Ghost Iron Bars –> Transmuted into Trillium Bars –> Transmuted into Living Steel
  • Prospected –> Rare gems cut for >60g minimum
  • Prospected –> Uncommon gems turned into necks/rings –> Rare necks/rings procs sold for 300g, uncommon necks/rings Disenchanted for Dust
  • Disenchanted Dust –> Enchanting scrolls and/or sold for mats

After a while, I started getting exceedingly lazy and stopped prospecting altogether. Instead, I keep an eye on the Golden Lotus market and snatch any up that are 50g or less. From there, I keep ~5 of each flask up on the AH and then Transmute the rest into Rare gems which I cut and sell for a minimum of 60g, but generally 100g+. This probably lowers my margins significantly, but once I made it back up to my 300k starting gold reserves (even after gambling ~100k on Darkmoon trinkets), relisting hundreds of auctions a day becomes less and less interesting.

One market I was surprised to find was the Ghost Iron Dragonling. While most Engineers will be dumping a bunch on their way up to 600, what I have found is that in 99% of the cases they list them without bothering to fill in the Cog sockets. Considering the item is damn near useless without them – and taking a cue from someone spamming trade chat for an Engineer to make some – I started selling mine with a variety of useful Cogs already slotted in; configurations like Haste/Mastery/Spirit, Haste/Crit/Mastery, Hit/Expertise/Dodge, and so on. Remarkably, they continue to sell at an absurd mark-up: 750g apiece compared to the empty ~200g models.

Presently, I am buying up a bunch of Ghost Iron Ore again, in preparation for the new Blacksmith changes coming in 5.2, and the whole Lightning Steel Ingot deal. I am somewhat doubtful that the price of ore will jump up in the long-term on my particular backwater server, but I figure I may as well start stockpiling now. In fact, it is far more likely that my server will experience a lack of availability than a lack of affordable goods. Until a week ago, you could not find Blood Spirits at any price, for example.

Raid Finder: Day One

I used the Raid Finder for the very first time on Monday night. It was an… instructive experience.

Dogpile.

Dogpile.

One thing that I learned about myself is the fact that I felt compelled to seek out raid videos/strategies even for LFR difficulty. It is not (just) about insulating myself from group embarrassment, it is about mitigating that awful feeling of not knowing what I am doing. I hate that feeling. At first I believed the feeling to be unique to multiplayer games, as I certainly do not hit up GameFAQs or Wikis the moment I get to a boss fight in a single-player game. Indeed, wouldn’t that be cheating? Or, at least, cheating myself from the actual game.

But you know what? I hate that feeling even in single-player games. If I am dying to a boss repeatedly and have no idea why, or there does not seem to be any clues as to different strategies I could try, I most certainly hit up Wikis. I enjoy logic puzzles as much as (or more than) the next guy, but I must feel certain that logic is applicable to the situation. With videogames, that is not always a given: quests that you cannot turn in because you didn’t trip a programming “flag” by walking down a certain alleyway or whatever. There was a Borderlands 2 quest that I simply looked up on Youtube because I’ll be damned if I walk across every inch of a cell-shaded junkyard for an “X” mark after already spending 10 minutes looking it over. Playing “Where’s Waldo” can be entertaining, but not when you have to hold the book sideways and upside down before Waldo spawns… assuming you are even looking at the right page.

I digress.

Hey, it could happen to anyone!

Hey, it could happen to anyone!

Things got off to a nice start in LFR when the dog fight consisted of just tanking all three dogs in a cleave pile the entire time. The second boss seemed to have an inordinate amount of health, but he too dropped without doing much of note. I died twice to some insidious trash on the way to the troll boss; those bombs are simply stupid in a 25m setting, as I found it difficult to even see them among all the clashing colors and spell effects. Final boss dropped pretty quickly as well, although I almost died a few times towards the end once people stopped coming into the spirit world with me.

By the way, the queue for the 1st raid finder was 15 minutes for DPS. Might have been a “Monday before the reset” thing.

I joined a guild healer for the 2nd raid finder immediately afterwards, although the average wait time of 43 seconds was a bit off. Was killed by a combination of friendly fire and damage reflection during the first boss, but he otherwise went down quickly. I managed to avoid falling to my death during Elegon (thanks Icy-Veins!), but was killed by an add the 2nd tank never picked up; that will teach me to do something other than tunnel the boss. The third boss… made little sense. I spent a lot of time killing adds, as I could not quite understand what was up with the Devastating Combo thing other than I must have been doing it wrong. Eons later, the bosses died.

It is becoming somewhat of a running joke for my guildies since coming back on how much random loot I pull in. The prior week I got ~8 drops from my first 5 random dungeons, for example. This time around I got three epics from my first two LFR forays, all three of which came from the bonus rolls. I was not around for the Cata LFR days, but suffice it to say, I would not have likely came away with that much loot in a more traditional PuG.

Overall, LFR was a pleasant experience. While I can certainly empathize with the criticism of LFR – it was pretty ridiculously easy – I can definitely see the logic behind Blizzard’s moves here. Some raid is better than no raid, low-pop realms like Auchindoun-US wouldn’t support a robust raid PuG community, and to an extent even the “nothing ever drops!” LFR sentiment encourages organized guild raiding in a roundabout manner. Whether this remains satisfying in any sort of long-term manner remains to be seen, but honestly, it is better than the alternative of… what else, exactly? Running dungeons ad infinitum?

MoP Thus Far

It has been weeks, and I just hit level 88 on the paladin.

I have established a pretty stable routine based on daily profession cooldowns, which is a good sign to anyone that wishes me to continue logging in everyday. Scribe, Tailor, and then JC/Alchemy. I mentioned before that the AH on Auchindoun-US is pretty garbage, and things have not especially improved since that first impression. Instead, I have adapted. Glyphs, for example, were a market I avoided previously because the value for my time just was not there with the botting and the undercut wars. Now? The competition is basically one baron with a 699g fallback that I undercut by 100-200g depending on my mood. In fact, since I’m just using Auctionator instead of a more robust addon, I simply order all glyphs by highest price and use that as my guide for production.

By the way, many virtual tears were shed when I realized how utterly useless my 50 stacks of banked Twilight Jasmine and hundreds of other Cataclysm herbs became. The two dozen stacks of Pyrite Ore got prospected into gems which turned into rings which turned into nicely priced Enchanting materials. Blackfallow Ink, though? Good for only a single glyph… and Mysterious Fortune Cards. Better than vendoring the herbs, I suppose. I hope.

Something I always find interesting is how much Blizzard changes the paradigms with each expansion. After two straight expansions of alt-friendliness, Mists is the most alt-unfriendly expansion I have ever seen. The whole Spirit of Harmony thing in particular is maddening as someone with alts of every profession. Specialized crafting components being BoP is nothing new (Frozen Orbs say hi), but what is somewhat new is how early in the process they are required for goods. Level 85 blue Blacksmithing weapons requiring 2 Spirits at skill level 545? Why?

Speaking of crafting, I don’t know how I feel about its present trajectory. Blizzard has been simplifying the process for years, of course, but my return after a 1.5-year break makes the culmination stand out. Specifically: do people really like random-stat crafted gear? Or how Ghost Iron is basically the de facto resource for all Blacksmithing? Or completely interchangeable Enchanting ingredients? Some historical aspects of crafting were becoming increasingly obtuse as the game aged – Enchanting rods come to mind – but there is something to be said about requiring more than two moving parts and/or working towards a specific item. Hell, I was immensely relieved when I saw the level 90 crafted JC rings/necklaces were specific things with concrete stats.

Anyway, my immediate goal is to get the paladin to 90 so that I can unlock the farm. While that sentence was a bit depressing to type, it is more painful to me knowing that while I make it a point to log in daily for the profession cooldowns, I am continuously missing all the easy Spirits of Harmony (etc) that I could be gaining while I putz around looking for a new main. I have not tanked on the paladin yet – part of me rebels against the necessity of memorizing yet more mob/boss abilities – but I am definitely not a real fan of the Retribution rotation/kit anymore. At least compared to how fun/fast I was mowing down mobs as the warrior anyway.

Although… well, I did have a bit of a giggle Bubble-Hearthing away from two separate gank attempts. Just like old (TBC)  times.