Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Comes Early

This week's buffs to Survival and Beast Mastery mean all three specs are close enough in DPS to allow player choice. Obviously, certain specs will still shine on certain fights, which has and always will be the case. The important thing here is play the spec you want (and hopefully excel at). If people give you crap for playing with a pet (or without one depending on their level of hunter ignorance) they are wrong-not you. Get good at your two favorite specs, grab some pets, and go be a hunter again.

And there was much rejoicing from the hunters.

For about 5 minutes.

I have already seen a TON of comments and tweets about Survival needing more. Some mention the rotation's feel, the lack of on demand burst damage, and no execute ability. These are all valid points. I've said myself (before the buffs) that there is plenty of room for Kill Shot in Survival's toolbox. So I share the feelings of these other hunters. But now that we have decent spec parity, CAN WE JUST NOT FUCK WITH IT FOR A WHILE PLEASE? Clearly balancing hunter specs is pretty hard. Blizzard couldn't get it done before releasing WoD, even with months of beta evidence to guide them. Now that we're in a decent place, adding Kill Shot back into SV is just going to lead to more months of adjustments.

Ok, that said SV does need something. As much as love the spec's flavor and utility ability pruning has left it feeling just a little empty, especially compared to BM. I would propose giving SV better interrupt options than the other two hunter specs. SV seems to be the utility/PvP flavor of hunters these days. On top of that, Counter Shot's cooldown feels long a lot of the time. I mean looooong. I would love to trade Enhanced Entrapment for a perk that gives us a 12 or 15 second Counter Shot. Even an SV only glyph that reduces the CD would work. Or hell, give SV Scatter Shot back and remove the damage part of it.. When you have those fights where you can be the interrupt person, throw on the glyph and go. Managing your dots and procs AND interrupting every 12 seconds or so would certainly add some complexity to SV that so many hunters are asking for. I dare say it would be much more interesting than just adding Kill Shot back into the last 20% of the fight. And it wouldn't effect DPS balance at all.

Final thoughts: Personally, after the last month I'm happier about hunters than I have been in a while. I'm willing to just sit tight until we have to do this all over again due to set bonuses and gear scaling. But if you really want to muck around more with Survival, maybe damage dealing isn't the place to do it. Obviously Blizzard isn't as good at balance as they used to be.

I want to acknowledge the work that Bendak and Delirium are doing these days. Bendak has been really vocal on his blog and the Hunting Party Podcast about this ridiculous spec situation. And Delirium supports the community with amazing theorycrafting I could never hope to accomplish. I owe both of these guys a beer or five.

My last thing: A lot of hunters will be picking up Beast Mastery this week. There is a ton of conflicting information out there about secondary stats and when to use Focus Fire. This post by Delirium convinced me of when to use it, but my point is be a critical consumer of information. Know WHY you believe one side or the other. Also know that we as a community have a lot more testing to do, especially with all these adjustments over that last few months.

Hey Blizzard, I predicted this bullshit months ago.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Impressions of WoD While Leveling

Well, I've been doing pretty much what everyone has been doing for the last week-leveling. I've never been a speedy leveler as I don't really see the point. I'm currently 98 and into Nagrand. I did not complete any of the previous zones, so there may be some back tracking after 100. Here is just a bit of a ramble about my WoD experience so far.

For all the deservedly bad press the Survival spec gets, I've loved it for leveling. The heal you get from every kill is really nice, and combined with better traps and multi dots, you can take on quite a few mobs at the same time. I'm still trying to hit Kill Shot pretty often, but I'll be going to BM here shortly anyway. If you have a hunter yet to level I stongly recommend trying SV. It may be the last time you get to use for a while. Also, the new version of A Murder of Crows is BRILLIANT for leveling. Regular mobs always die before it's done, keeping the CD available constantly. And, you get to really enjoy the graphic on a single mob up close. It really gives me a "Death From Above!" feeling when I use it. Using a flock of birds to kill bird men? Even more win. Use AMoC for leveling! Trust me.

Took me about a minute to get used to the number squish. Wish it had happened sooner. Loved no flying the first time around. Not sure how I'll feel about it after two more characters get to 100. But if we never get flying in Draenor it won't be a big deal. They have designed for it pretty well. Still don't have enough bank or stable space. I probably never will.

Loved every zone except Spires of Araak. Partly didn't like it because the previous two were so damn beautiful. But mostly it was the crazy dark part. Maybe people with high end graphics or better monitors had a different experience, but that shit was way too dark for my tastes. I can tolerate Duskwood, but I'm probably skipping whatever I can the next time I level there. Which is too bad because..

The random quest reward upgrades happen a lot more than I expected. Even before I put a Dwarven Bunker up it felt like I was getting upgrades quite a bit. I went into Draenor with a 573 item level and started getting sidegrades as early as Talador when rewards were upgraded. Dwarven Bunker for the win.

The garrison rocks harder than I expected. It's fun to be there, and a 20 minute Hearthstone is perfect for keeping it from feeling like a chore to get there and back. Love the follower system so much. Great to feel like when I need a break to sleep, work, or watch a football game, I'm still progressing in these early weeks of the content. And I'm not usually a "take it to mobile and consoles!" person, but the follower missions system has mobile written all over it. That needs to happen yesterday. Needs to.

This is probably the most fun I've ever had leveling. That may explain whay I'm not quite ready to be done doing it on my favorite character.

Monday, November 3, 2014

It's Time To Fix The Stable

Having to go to town to switch hunter pets has annoyed me for a while. Now that I'm playing Beast Mastery as my main spec, it seems downright out of date. I'm going to stop you before you tell me how bad it used to be, and how I shouldn't be complaining at all. I was there for 3 total slots and having to learn pet abilities. And at this point in WoWs life, going to a stable master located only in major cities is just as outdated as seeking out a pet just to learn Growl (level 3). Or having only one spec.

The hunter stable hasn't been updated in any meaningful way since October of 1010. 49 months. That's almost as long as SoO has been out! Sure, we have gotten more slots. That is great. Personally, I would rather have a smaller stable work better than one where I can put all 600 pet skins in a window. The way our stable works now is inconvenient, outdated, and seemingly arbitrary.

What is the thinking behind being able to "carry around" five pets? Why five? There are 10 buffs/debuffs in the game, and there used to be more.  OK, so it's not about buffs. Special abilities (Ancient Hysteria, etc.)? Maybe. There will be at least five of those in WoD depending on what you count. But the limit has been five since before Direhorns were in the game so..Frankly, there is no good reason I can think of to limit us to five pets out in the wild. It is just an arbitrary limit that will be forcing many, many hunters back to town in the next expansion. And it will force the rest of our group to wait while we do it.

Personally, I think we need a way to summon at least 25 pets these days. Why 25? I think a way for hunters to distinguish themselves is by having a complete stable of pet buffs and special abilities. I really enjoy checking the composition of a 5-man group, seeing what we need, and bringing that buff. Even if nobody notices, I get some small satisfaction out of "min/maxing" my pet. And if it makes the run a little quicker, all the better. So, to cover all the buffs, debuffs, and most special pet abilities we would need 15 slots. I say we need 25 because of a different quality of life change that we have had for years now: Dual Specs.

Remember, this whole idea of fixing the stable came out of my preparing to play BM for the first time since Burning Crusade. I'm actually pretty excited about it. That said, I know there will be times I will want or need to play another spec. Under the current stable, I'm going to have a strange mix of exotic and non-exotic pets, or go to the stable master every time I swap specs. When I'm BM, I'm going to want exotics. If I carry around 5 exotics, any time I switch specs I have no pet! Factor in not knowing which buffs I'm going to need until I zone into the group finder, and the whole thing becomes a mess. All the convenience of a second spec is negated if I still have to hit the stable master in town to use it. Some of the convenience of a flexible raid size is also lost if hunters need to keep porting in and out to get specific pets.

The hunter stable system is a relic of a game we don't play anymore. Regular trips to town used to be part of the WoW experience. All classes had to go there for reagents, repairs, to change talents, and of course good old ammunition. The only one of those systems that even still exists is repairs, and they remain more for economic reasons than anything else. Thanks to pets and expensive mounts, we don't need a town to repair, get and send mail, or even transmogrify.  Hell, we don't even need to go to the bank anymore to use crafting materials that are stored there. But we still need a stable master? I don't think any other class still needs to go to town for basic game play.

There are lots of potential solutions to this situation. I want the stable fixed so desperately as I move forward as a BM hunter that I would be thrilled to get any of them. We could:
  • Simply be able to access the whole stable anywhere. OK, maybe not inside arenas.
  • Gain a slot every 10 levels, which would at least get us to 10. 5 for each of your two chosen specs.
  • Sacrifice a garrison spot to get some kind of "magical" stable.
  • A huge quest. This is hunters' green fire.
  • Rare companion pet who can access the stable remotely, kind of like the Argent Squire.
  • A crafted (expensive) item that can access the stable. Engineering, perhaps?
  • A stupid expensive mount that has a stable master on it. I'd pay 200k for that convenience.
Playing my hunter in Warlords gets me really excited. Constantly going back to town to switch pets does not.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

9 Years, 10 Questions

A little late, but I'm jumping on the "10 Years, 10 Questions" bandwagon. This fantastic community project originated over at Alt;ernative Chat.

1. When did you start playing World of Warcraft?

November of 2005. I had been hearing about it since it launched, but it took a year and an eavesdropping Apple Store employee for me to be convinced it could run alright on my G3 MacBook. Wherever that dude is, he rocks. Hence "9 Years" in the title of this post.

2. What is the first character you ever rolled?

JC Sway, the hunter I still play as my main. He has since been 4 races and both factions, and is about to go full circle back to his original night elf self. I now also have a max priest and a cadre of other classes forgotten along the leveling trail, but no other class has come close to how I enjoy the hunter. I got lucky with my first choice.

3. What factors determined your choice of faction?

I grew up on the paper and dice RPGs of the 1980s, so going with the gang of Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes was a no-brainer. I honestly gave it very little thought.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in WoW and why?

Ok, gotta do two here. The first was when my server opened the Gates of AQ. I was just out by myself leveling along and got a /w from a friend. "Get down to Silithus ASAP! Hope you're not too attached to your laptop's video chip.." Concerns about my hardware aside, I decided to see what was happening. When I got there I had never seen so many player characters in one place before. It would have been even more impressive if they were not all just standing around. After about an hour of waiting/wondering what the heck was up, all hell broke loose. At about 5fps for me. But even as my MacBook was taking a good, long, look at itself, my mind was blown. Huge enemies everywhere and the whole server fighting them off together. For the first time I got to experience the power of the MMO format and WoW's popularity. It was simply incredible and I was hooked. Getting a couple of blue drops just added to the fun.

My second favorite WoW moment was my guild's first Gruul kill. We had been working on him for a few weeks. For many of us it was our first raid bigger than 10 people. For me, it was the first fight I would now describe as "progression." The idea that it was normal for us to need weeks to learn a boss fight was foreign to me. People that had played other MMOs or raided Vanilla assured me we were working as intended, so I kept at it. When we finally got the kill, I showed my raiding inexperience one more time by yelling into my headset. The elation of finally getting 25 players to execute a fight strategy hooked me on raiding instantly. I have had a ton of fun raiding with many different teams since then, but not even finally getting Heroic Spine felt like that first Gruul kill.

5. What is your favorite aspect of the game and why?

Raiding. I love the teamwork it requires. I have often compared it to running a play in football when trying to explain it to non players. Being the "trap guy" on the Moroes pull, for example, was really fun. I so don't miss traps being out of combat, however.

6. Do you have an area in the game you always return to?

It's not exciting, but Stormwind. That's where the AH is, so I have to go there pretty much every day. I don't understand why we never get an AH in expansion areas. I also enjoy returning to the farm I developed in Pandaria, so I imagine my garrison will be a regular hangout.

7. How long have you /played, and has it been continuous?

Nope. No way. Never. The notion of looking at my /played is terrifying. I have never looked at it and never will. My therapist and I agree that /played is a bug and needs to be removed from the game.
I have taken breaks, but I've never missed an expansion. I also take breaks from raiding, usually during the summer.

8. Admit it, do you read the quest text or not?

More often than not, I don't. Especially if I'm just trying to level quickly. If a zone or quest chain starts to interest me, than I read the text. Any time I catch myself wondering what I'm doing or why, I will open my quest log and take a look.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

I wish I had just bought WoW when it first launched. I regret my "Summer of Horde" when some friends and I faction changed temporarily just for a change of pace. In and of itself it was fun, but it reset my Argent Tournament rep before I had all the mounts. I'm not doing all that jousting again. Totally regret the 1,000 times I jumped off the ledge in UBRS without dismissing my pet. Except that one time. That one was on purpose. Why I didn't think to screenshot an entire dungeon chasing my gorilla is beyond me. If you've never seen it, picture the opening scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside of gaming?

I've made some great friends that I have gotten to meet in the real world. Even more importantly, I am staying connected with some of the childhood friends I used to roll a d20 with. Now we can continue our adventures as adults, without being in someone's basement until 3am. Also, carpal tunnel.

This is the most fun I've had writing a blog piece in a while. Thanks to Alt;ernative chat for the amazing idea!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Survival Beta Analysis

I can't give you any first hand analysis of the beta, but others can! Delirium at Thrill of the Wild has several great posts about SV. One on PvE and another on PvP. You should really check them both out. He also has some analysis on Lock and Load in WoD.

Speaking of Survival PvP, Bendak at Eyes of the Beast has an opinion on how the WoD changes will impact SV PvP. It's incredibly well thought out and worth a read.

One of these days I'll get in there..

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

You Can't Measure Much With a Target Dummy

I'm not in the beta. It's fine. I'm getting my fix as best I can through the amazing hunter community's blogs and podcasts. With all of the ability pruning and whatnot, I'm paying most of my attention to how hunters are experiencing the new versions of our specs, with my obvious bias toward Survival. While there are a lot of different interpretations of how the individual specs feel in their new incarnations, there does seem to be an overall theme that things are "missing" or a certain spec feels "simple and hollow." This may be true. The hunters I'm paying attention to generally have a much better understanding of the class than I do, and again I can't get any firsthand experience myself, but I have to say these opinions seem like they were formed prematurely.

I have to assume a lot of people are judging the specs as they level. Most of us level as fast as we can  for obvious reasons, but is leveling a good way to experience the depth of a class and spec? I usually use very few of the tools available to me when leveling. Maybe some testers are running 5-mans, which is a  much better gauge of the state of a class, but they are still just regular 5-mans. Even at the beginning of Cataclysm I don't remember needing Deterrence or Gift of the Naaru in regular dungeons. Maybe once I got to max level and into heroics. Maybe. And everything I have read analyzing the new state of  hunters was written before ANY raid testing had begun. I don't know about you, but a raid environment is what I care about. That is where you will learn if your newly-pruned spec really is boring. Many beta testers are deciding how the specs feel by going to the worst place on Azeroth to gauge such a thing : A target dummy.

Target dummies are great. I love them. They are an amazing way to practice and compare rotations. But a target dummy can never tell you how fun a spec or class is. There is no strategic use of AoE on a dummy. You don't use traps on a dummy. You don't use utility abilities like Distracting Shot, Misdirection, or Deterrence on a dummy. I think it's safe to assume most testers are not working a regular Camouflage into their target dummy practice, but you can be damn sure you'll be doing it in a raid environment as Survival just for the heal.  One of the most fun encounters for me was Spiderling duty on Bethilac, and I wasn't doing anything close to my target dummy rotation until the last 20% of her health. Running around the lair flinging traps and then burning down spiders with Multi Shot was a ton of fun, but it was absolutely nothing like hitting a dummy for 5 minutes. When you factor encounter mechanics and the new healing model, a hunter's single-target rotation may be a much lower priority than positioning and damage avoidance/mitigation.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe ability pruning has gone too far and hunters need to get something more to feel fun again. But until I get to play WoD myself I'm going to keep the faith. And I'm going to be skeptical of anyone who went to a target dummy to determine if a spec or class is fun to play.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Blog Is Not Dead!

I just don't have anything hunter related to write about right now. I'm not in the beta, and I'm not very comfortable writing about things I have no first hand experience with. For beta hunter info Bendak, Darkbrew, Delirium, and Solar are all doing amazing work. I'm reading them every day. Should I get a beta invite, posts will start rolling out. Until then, I'm just trying to get better at PvP and learning BM so I have some flexibility in WoD. I'm also using the lull to enjoy summer here in the Pacific Northwest.
I may do a few gold related posts in the meantime, but if you only want hunter and WoD info, I got nothing until I can play it in some form. Please stay tuned and read the blogs linked in the margin.