Monday, April 14, 2014

I'm Back...and Now with Stuff to Talk About!

Wow, I hate going this long between posts. The break began when there was just nothing to write about. End of expansion, no news, less people playing. I'll admit that I'm pretty burned on MoP right now, and maybe WoW in general. Been playing this game for nine years at this point. I even got back into Diablo recently because of how I feel about WoW at the moment. And then my vacation lined-up with the Alpha release. Just my luck. Considering the Alpha patch notes are a few weeks old at this point, I'm not going to summarize them here. But I am going to assume my readers have seen them. If you want great rundowns of the hunter changes go to The Brew Hall or Eyes of the Beast. Now that we have seen the very, very first iteration of the new hunter I'd say things look pretty good.

Button bloat: No real surprises regarding what abilities we lost. I am thrilled that traps are not only staying, but getting more powerful. Especially for survival hunters, proper trap usage is going to be really important. The change to Explosive Trap is so cool. Reminds me of the days of old. Also, survival is losing Kill Shot. While I actually advocated for all the specs to have it removed, I'm going to count that prediction as a win. I totally called that:) More importantly, I think it will really help SV. With Lock 'n Load and all the other cooldowns, our rotation is just chaotic enough to make a new shot that pops up at the end of a fight seem weird. I'll totally take being the sustained, dot based spec.

Differentiation: Blizz did a better job with this that I could have hoped. Only SV has Serpent Sting? Love it. Traps are better, and SV traps are better still? Hell yeah. A solid self heal once per minute? Now we actually live up to our spec's name! I do have to say I wish they had not changed how Serpent Sting is applied. There was some skill involved in keeping it up (especially on multiple targets) or remembering to reapply it after transition phases. But if the choice was between the new system and scrapping the ability altogether, I think Blizzard made the right choice. SV really sounds like THE dot and magic damage spec.

Draenor Perks: Such a cool idea. Some kind of power increase every level, in a random order. By max level everyone is the same, but how they got there will be a little different for everyone. As someone who really doesn't enjoy leveling, I think these could create some replayability for WoD. In any case, they sound totally fun.

Camouflage: Camo, in the alpha notes, is amazing. For a survival hunter camo becomes a nice self heal that one can use every minute without stopping the deeps. Sweet! Awesome! Killer! But here's the thing: we've been burned by camouflage before. In the Cataclysm development process, camo started out really cool and was slowly eroded into an almost worthless ability. I really hope we don't repeat that whole experience. I know it's the nature of game development and class balance, but I'm not sure I can go through that again with camouflage, considering how awesome it looks right now for survival.

I have heard people describe the changes as making Survival into the PvP spec. I can see why they feel that way. Our CC will be better, and the buffs to Camo will certainly help as well. On the other hand, it looks like we will have the lowest burst damage (although we can use some talent choices to mitigate that somewhat) and we won't have an execute button. It looks to me like SV will be a good choice for PvP, but I really hope Blizzard can get the balancing close enough that it is good for more than that. I feel like they did an amazing job balancing the hunter specs in MoP, so why not do it again?

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Veteran's Bonus is Fine as it Is

There have been a lot of complaints about the Veteran's Bonus in the last week since character boosts went live. For those unaware, the Veteran's Bonus raises your professions to 600 (max level) if you use a boost on a character levels 60-89. When this feature was announced I was cautiously excited about it, from the perspective of someone who plays the auction house. I'm really happy with the current state of it, but quite a few are not.

The big question I had when we first heard about the Veteran's Bonus was in regard to recipes. What would these new crafters know how to make? Everything? Some things? Nothing? Turns out, nothing. You have 600 skill level, but no recipes. And that is where the complaints are coming from. People on Twitter and forums have been raging about this, and they are flat-out wrong. Just about every angry post I found, the person expected to get EVERY recipe up through 600. Many pointed out that the cost of EVERY recipe vastly exceeds the 150g your boosted character receives. Are you fucking kidding me? Do you even know what I had to do to learn all those patterns? While I'm as surprised as anyone that the VB doesn't give you any recipes at all, I am relieved that people aren't getting stuff that requires discovery or rep grinding. Stuff we just buy from a trainer? I'm ok with that. But I would be just as pissed as the guys that want it all for free if people had so easily gotten the patterns I had to work hard for. Some of my stuff required raiding. Some stuff (enchants) cost me hours of my life doing daily quests. Many of my good and profitable JC cuts were borne from an agonizing combination of random discovery and world drops. Meta cuts in particular took me a long time to get, and I'm frankly happy that my new competitors don't just have them because they are cool giving Blizzard $60. And why do these people want every recipe anyway?

If you're a completionist and you HAVE to have every purchasable pattern for your new professions, it's only going to cost you a few thousand gold. Really not much considering you're buying the potential to make hundreds of thousands back with a little discipline. The complainers posit that they are starting out on a new realm and only have the 150g the boost brings to work with. I suspect a lot of these complaints are false rationalizations for wanting patterns for nothing (you leveled to 60 and didn't make any gold?) but let's take them at their word. To start out, you only need to learn one or two current recipes for each of your professions to get going on your new realm. I'm going to give you a few examples from the professions I do.

Boosted an alchemist? Well, the stuff you want to learn is discovered. You can't buy it even if you have the gold. You can buy Master Healing Potion for only 20g, and each one you make gives you a chance to learn profitable transmutes. The mats for the potions are cheap. I think I discovered all the good stuff in about an hour. Let's talk leatherworking. You can get started for 5g. That will allow you to make Magnificent Hide, which sell consistently. You'll want to use them to make armor kits, but to do that you'll need to grind out some Golden Lotus rep like the rest of us had to. But you can start making profit for only 5g. Hard to complain about that. Jewelcrafters can get started even cheaper than that! The MoP cuts that sell are all discovered or dropped. You can learn the recipe to start discovering cuts for only 4.5g. It's going to take you a while to learn all the patterns that way, but the rest of us did it and we survived. You're on your own for the meta cuts. It took me months to get the ones that sell. But really guys, a 4.5g and reasonable time investment for a profession that makes quite a few WoW millionaires? Stop your bitching. Just to hammer my point home, you can get started in enchanting for 2.28g. Buy the pattern for Glorious Stats. They sell all day every day, and mats on quite a few servers are stupid cheap. I mean 80s for dust cheap. You can start cranking out enchants for the cost of a potion.

I don't know why people want a bunch of old recipes that don't really sell, but they do. OK fine, well you are going to have to go out and get them like the rest of us did. Farm some mobs and grind some rep. Solo super-old content for weeks while you wait for patterns to drop. Do totally repetitive daily quests. You're my competition now, so don't expect any sympathy. And I have clearly proven that you can get started making gold with your new professions for well under the 150g the boost gives you. So stop complaining. Asking for every recipe to be included with the Veteran's Bonus is lunacy.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Playing With Transmog

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I have been having fun putting some new transmog sets together. This first one is based around the Chillwind Staff. It's a killer model and as you can see, it gently drops rose petals. It's hard sometimes to put an outfit together for a shadow priest, because we're pretty much always in shadowform. So I went with a bunch of purple and blue stuff.

This set is all about the Dragonstrike pieces. I like them both for how they look, and the fact that you have to be a leatherworker to wear them. Still looking for the perfect gun for this set..

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lone Wolf is a Terrible Idea


I'm getting old. There is grey in my beard. Depending on where you live and which data you trust I've already hit middle age. And I'm catching myself thinking and saying the things older people do when they are struggling to understand changes in the world. Lately I’ve been saying crazy shit like, “There hasn’t been a really good Hip Hop album since 2000” and “Yeah, we sagged our pants. But not like the kids do today.” Yep, I’m getting to be a close-minded old fart. And I wonder if that is why I feel the way I do about the Lone Wolf talent.

I’ve been playing a hunter since Vanilla. I’ve actually been playing the same hunter since then (with quite a few race changes mixed-in). I’ve seen a lot of changes: mana to focus, ammo, the dead zone, pet happiness. While I can’t say I’ve embraced every major change to our class, I’ve never had a reaction as strong as how I feel about the idea of Lone Wolf. I hate it. I’m just praying it was a placeholder. I think it’s contrary to what it means to be a hunter, and it has serious potential to be a balance nightmare.

Hunters are the pet class. Pets are one of the most important aspects of our class’ identity. Some of us collect them. Some of us use them to tank current raid content. Some of us (me) forget to dismiss them, jump off a ledge, and pull all of UBRS to our group. A big part of being a decent hunter is having the right pet for your situation and properly controlling it. The fact that Blizzard is considering allowing hunters to bypass that part of the hunter experience is just baffling to me. I don’t get it. We’re not the only ranged DPS class in the game. If someone wants to play ranged but can’t handle a pet they have at least three other options. But there is more going on here than me being an old curmudgeon.

There are two prevalent arguments in favor of Lone Wolf. The first is simply, “A lot of hunters want to play without their pets.” I don’t think it’s really that many. I don’t think someone would roll a hunter if they don’t like pets. I don’t like melee, so I know better than to roll a DK. Furthermore, a lot of hunters want quite a few different things. They haven’t given us pistols or a dedicated tanking spec yet.  The second argument for it is more interesting, but it still falls short. There are a number of situations where our pets struggle. Some fights just don’t play well with pet pathing, etc. My pet despawns all the time during Immersius, for example. Don't get me started on the Hagara encounter. There is one of these fights pretty much every tier. Some say Lone Wolf is an option for fights where pets don’t function as they should. The problem with that argument is our pets not working is simply unacceptable. Frankly, we hunters have been too forgiving when it comes to these situations. I mean really, can you imagine Blizzard releasing a fight where pally tanks’ shields didn’t work? Or telling rogues that stealth doesn’t work as intended in the new BG? That just wouldn’t happen. It should be just as unacceptable for hunter pets to be borked. Lone Wolf could create a fairly dangerous situation where Blizzard can justify even more of these fights and we are required to get rid of our pets for them. All of a sudden for some fights we are essentially required to ditch a defining aspect of our class. That would be a fucking debacle.

I also worry about balance. Spec balance for hunters has been relatively good as of late. Such a fundamental change, especially one intended to be optional, could really screw things up. If Blizzard goes ahead with this experiment, they are going to have to be spot on with the balancing. I’d actually go a step further. Choosing Lone Wolf should cost a hunter a little dps. We should be rewarded for the added complexity of managing a pet. If I feel compelled to get rid of my pet, even for one fight each tier, I’ll be pissed. Beware the wrath of the angry old man.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Improving Professions

WoW Insider's blog topic this week asks how we would improve professions. Perhaps because I have been pretty successful on the AH lately (profiting 3k per day for the last month), or because I'm only in four professions, I'm not sure they need that much improvement. That said, there are some things I would like to see improved. Some of these are the tools used around professions as opposed to the skills themselves. Also, most of these ideas are not original. I get a lot of my ideas from gold podcasts such as Late Night with Stede and the now retired Call to Auction. On to how professions could be improved.

  • Either get rid of all the combat bonuses or truly balance them. It's lame that raiders feel forced to take the same specific professions for the sake of an extra gem, etc. Professions should be totally optional regardless of what you do in the game, and players should feel free to chose whichever ones, if any, they want to do. I have to think if they could be balanced exactly, they would have been by now. They should probably just go away. Utility stuff like drums and rocket boots should stay.  Edit: Apparently getting rid of combat bonuses has already been announced for Warlords. I totally missed that, but glad to hear about the change.
  • Every profession should be able to make a mount, and they should all require that trade skill. The current situation is inconsistent and convoluted. 
  • New armor and weapons should have unique models. There should be exactly ONE way to get some awesome looking models, wether it's for transmog or not, and that is a craftsperson.
  • Multiple recipes on a shared daily cooldown. Right now, my alchemist makes Living Steel every day regardless. That isn't exactly interesting.
  • Maybe make those cooldowns weekly so we don't feel compelled to log in every day. Want to make 7 Living Steel on Tuesday and be done with it for the week? No problem.
  • The ability to repair things you can craft at a nice discount. Maybe put it on a 2-5 hour cooldown.
  • Extra storage if you have two professions at max. Perhaps an extra bank slot gets unlocked.
  • Improve the AH. Make the default interface more like the mobile version or just like Auctionator. More importantly, implement buy orders. Buy orders would allow crafters to see real demand and margins for products before they have committed to making them. They would also make it easier to purchase hard to find materials. If I see that I can instantly sell Clefthoof leather at a great price, I might just go farm some up.
So that's what I have. How would YOU improve professions?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Your Character Boost is NOT Free

The character boost to level 90 you will get when you buy Warlords is not free. Not in any way. People keep calling it free and for whatever reason that bothers the hell out of me. Perhaps it's because part of my job is teaching economics and personal finance, I don't know. But the more I hear the boost referred to as free the more it bugs me, hence this rant. The character boost is a feature of Warlords. One of many. When you pay $50 or whatever the expansion ends-up costing, you are purchasing the boost alongside garrisons, new zones, and an increased level cap. It is in no way free. It's a cool part of a cool game that anyone reading this blog will almost certainly buy. But if it were in any way free, wer would get it regardless of buying Warlords or not. It's really that simple. When I try to explain this to people, the common response is, "I was going to buy WoD anyway, so this is a free bonus." A bonus? Sure. Free? Not at all. You buy and pay for the whole game regardless of which parts you want or use. I would have bought MoP without pet battles, but that doesn't mean they were free for me. I leveled a character without going to Dread Wastes. Was that zone "free" for me? Hell no. If you never PvP, you still pay for new battlegrounds and the availability of PvP gear. The cost of developing and supporting the entire game is passed along to all of us, and this includes the level 90 boost. Let me explain it with a non-WoW example. You order a pizza. You never, ever eat the crust. It's just not your thing. If you pay the same price for the pizza as someone who loves the crust, you didn't get it for free, even if you were going to get that pizza anyway. Blizzard is a corporation. They shouldn't give us things for free, and they rightly never have. We purchase, and subscribe to, their wonderful game. Many times over the years they have added value to our subscriptions to keep us paying month after month.But let's be informed consumers and stop calling the boost free. It is not. /rant over

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Very Basics of Hunters

We will be getting the ability to instantly level a character to 90 sometime "soon." I thought I might throw together a super basic guide for any brand-new level 90 hunters. If you've been playing a hunter for a while, you're not going to find anything in here you (hopefully) don't already know.

Before I dive into these basics, a cautionary tale for anyone who is going to create a hunter alt just for some fun. I grew-up skiing. I LOVED to ski as a kid and I knew I would ski for the rest of my life. In college I got a snowboard just to try it out. I said more than once I would always continue to ski. I went snowboarding for the first time and absolutely loved it. There was just something about boarding that had been missing from skiing, even though I didn't know it was missing until I got a snowboard. My skis stayed in the garage for the rest of that season, but I knew I'd use them again. The following season they didn't make it out of the garage once. After five more seasons where I never even considered skiing, I sold them. It turns out I would be a snowboarder for the rest of my life. Hunters are snowboards, and other classes are skis. I enjoy the other classes. They are fun, but my hunter will always be my main and the toon I want to raid with. So be careful getting a hunter alt. There is a very good chance it will become you main. With that said, hunter basics in 60 seconds or so:

  • Your pet isn't decoration. It provides a BIG portion of your damage regardless of your spec. Learn how to control it.
  • Always, always, always have Aspect of the Hawk up. Always.
  • Currently, all three specs are good. Try them all out and find one you like.
  • Agility is king. The correct amount is more. Virtually any way you can increase your agility is something you should do. Beware of mail armor without agility on it-that's not for you.
  • There is no best pet for dps. Different pets bring different buffs, however, which can help in a group setting.
  • If you're going to do group content in any spec, have the Glyph of Animal Bond.
  • Your weapon is really important. Use bonus rolls on bosses that drop weapons. Put a scope on any blue or better ranged weapon.
  • If you know nothing about your shot priority, this add-on can help you learn it. Use the shot on the far left of the bar, and your regen shot to get focus back. Your regen shot is either Cobra or Steady Shot.
  • Traps are fun. Spend a little time learning how to use them.
  • Feign Death and Deterrence can and will save your bacon.
  • Our class has an anthem. You can hear it here.
Now get out there and shoot stuff!