Sunday, February 8, 2015

How are the Other Classes Playing?

It's like Hollywood Squares, only cool.

I've spent so much time with Merinna this expansion so far, but there have been alts. For better or for worse, I almost never put much research into the alts. I do have fun with them, of course, but there's jus not really space in my head to min/max multiple classes.

As such, I don't really have much idea of an idea of what everybody else thinks about their classes and can only go with my own limited observations. That sounds good and scientific, right? Of course, right! So, let's look in on:

Ephaena the Hunter
Ephie has long been a gatherer character and was the first alt to get moving after Merinna due to the need to animal skins in Mer's leartherworking.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Shaman Healing v.6.0

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death, I will fear no evil: For Merinna art with me.

Merinna got to go on her first real raid in a long time. And you know what? She sucked.

The problem was that HPS was in the dumps. The raid itself, a normal jaunt into Highmaul, wasn't altogether unsuccessful, but I don't feel that I contributed a great deal towards it. Blizzard has acknowledged that "shaman" as a class is having trouble in their metrics, and that deserves some examination. The bigger problem is that I didn't know how to heal very well anymore.

In my defense, it's been four years since I did any raid healing. Long-time readers will know why that was. Raiding in Warcraft was one of the first things to go, and as the Cataclysm unwound and it became clear that LFRs and LFDs were awful places to try and make friends...or even just be civil... I gave up healing and have been casually blasting things with lightning ever since.

But here I am, four years later, hoping to restart my raid career and it's not starting well. One can moan and complain about the bad balance that Blizzard has created, or one can expect that to be addressed sooner or later and try to come to terms with the new mechanics.

Which do you think I should do?

Healing: Back Then
Shamans were designated raid healers as recently as Wrath of the Lich King. Chain Heal was the tool for topping up large batches of raid members. Shamans almost completely lacked any heal over time mechanic and had a big, slow heal and a small, fast heal to use on individuals. There were healing totems, but back then, you were more likely to place your mana stream totem instead and bolster the entire raid's mana regeneration. Earth Shield is the one shaman healing spell that hasn't changed significantly in all that time, and tanks would remark on how special they felt to get to wear it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

And Now, "Blizzard Watch"

And a First Look
Yesterday, I finally posted my goodbye to WoW Insider, reading into the fact that Editor Alex Ziebart was strongly hinting at a new project.

And sure enough, bright and early on the morning of Wednesday, February 4, Here is Blizzard Watch.

It's important to note that this site is being supported by a Patreon readers fund, so if you have any interest in such things, now is a good time to get your support on. There are a number of different benchmarks about what they hope to do if/when they reach certain funding levels-- all of which are things that I think most WoW players will be up for. As a "backer" of the site, you may well get some input on how they will build their coverage!

Ziebart has an excellent introductory note about what he hopes Blizzard Watch to be and the key is that he hopes the writers of the new site will have more freedom than they had at WoW Insider, which is something I look forward to seeing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Winter of Our Discontent

All grey and lonely. Image by Arowhena

All the Warcraft news has shifted to Patch 6.1 which is on the PTR now.

And let's be really clear up front: This is not a "content" patch. This is a "fixing-things" patch. This is a "roll-out-the-stuff-we-should-have-had-ready-at-launch" patch. Fixing things is always welcome, but I would have expected that in a 6.0.X patch, not disguised as a content patch. I can't begin to explain why things weren't ready at launch except to guess that a lot of the things (like how they've aggressively expanded the garrison missions) feel like they realized somewhere in the past three months that the basic content they rolled with wasn't nearly enough.

Warcraft subscriptions bounced back from continuing declines as Warlords of Draenor came out to levels that we hadn't seen since... well, the last time we left Draenor, in the Burning Crusade. I'm not sure if that's because the playerbase was jazzed about seeing proto-Outlands, or if that line-up of smug looking orcs on the box cover was just so exciting, but it's something worth considering.  Unfortunately, Blizzard cannot expect that subscription trend to continue. Endgame hasn't delivered, and Patch 6.1, which, again, is not a content patch, is not going to deliver either.

What's the problem? Always an easier question to ask than to answer, but here's a few observations.

This expansion has already had significant systems overhauls and that's just continuing.
Some of this, like the garrison, has been a remarkable achievement. Some of this, like reagents tabs and toy tabs and heirloom tabs are large quality of life changes and probably required intense amounts of coding but don't feel revolutionary.  Now, Blizzard correctly points out that the guys who figure out how to hang our heirloom items in their own tab are not the same guys who design five-man dungeons, but there has still been an historical tendency for Blizzard to largely focus on systems or content but not really both at the same time. They don't release one without the other, but one is always dominant when they push code out. I think the systems overhaul, and the many serious problems that arose and had to be dealt with has taken priority over "content" to a certain extent. It may have had to be that way, however.

Farewell, WoW Insider

A Last Look
In a post on Saturday, Alex Ziebart, editor-in-chief of the popular WoW Blog, announced that the site would be closing as of Tuesday Feb. 3. Reasons were not given, though Ziebart expressed that the closure was not expected.

Scanning other parts of the Interwebs, we can find that WoW Insider is a victim of corporate culling that has also taken down Massively, a news site that covered MMOs in general as well as a titan of gaming press, Joystiq.  We have good ol' America Online to thank for this! One has to worry about a world in which media conglomerates buy up titles like these, only to,throw them away two years later. It makes you think they should have kept their hands off in the first place. According to most reports, there are 150 out looking for work today.

It could be observed that poor WoW Insider had contracted in the past few years at the same time Curse-sites and ZAM were aggressively expanding both news coverage and features on their sites about Warcraft. 

One might have observed last fall that WoW Insider did not hold its own meet-up at Blizzcon. They did "join" Wowhead's meet, but didn't really promote it. One might have said to oneself, " favorite WoW news site is not getting the support they've had from corporate in the past."

Furthermore, you could see that Blizzard had built significant partnerships into several business relationships, but not WoW Insider. Presumably, the corporate synergies could not align there. Unlike the ZAM or Curse, AOL is too large to necessarily be able to play nice with another big boy like Blizzard/EA. but this is only speculation about things we'll never learn for sure.