Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gearing Up For Gearscore

So I don't know who Professor Beej is, but Tobold said he's been having some trouble getting into PUGs because of his Gearscore.  I've heard this song and dance a thousand times -- "I can't get into ICC because of Gearscore, and I can't improve my Gearscore because I can't get into ICC" -- and I'm not buying it anymore.

I'm not buying it because I saw my friend,, who didn't even start playing until December and now easily gets into ICC 10 and 25 PUGs, go through this, and rather than whine about it on his blog, he just found his own ways to deal with it.

So to all of you other people whining about "Gearscore ruined the game," I present you to this 5-step plan on how to beat the system.

1) Get the upgrades you can get.  So you've been farming some emblems of Triumph and you've got some ilevel 232 gear.  Great, but there's a difference between "some ilevel 232 gear" and "a lot of ilevel 232 gear."  Maybe you're still using a necklace, off-hand, or trinket from your leveling days.  Well, for almost every item slot there's a decent item available from Triumph emblems, Trial of the Champion/Crusader, the ICC 5 man dungeons, or as a BOE on the Auction House.  Sometimes you still get idiots that want a 5200 GS for ToC 10, but for the most part the requirements are a lot more reasonable.

2) Get your hands on every frost emblem you can.  My friend couldn't get into an ICC run to save his life, but after a couple weeks he was still able to start picking up Tier 10 pieces.  He consistently did the daily heroic, raid weekly, and got into VoA 10 and 25 runs.  After a month he was able to buy Tier 10 shoulders and he won Tier 10 legs in VoA.

3) PUG with a friend.  When my friend got geared enough to be do respectable damage in ICC 10 and 25, I'd get us both into PUGs by sending the PUG organizer my own Gearscore and achievements, and then saying, "invite my friend too, he's a good priest."  And I'm pretty sure every single time my friend got an invite too without asking for him to do the same.

4) Use Underacheiver or equip some items you'd never actually use to pass inspection.  Sure, it can be considered underhanded and sneaky.  But is your goal to get into a PUG or take the moral high ground?

5) There are PUGs that exist that will take you, you just have to find them.  Hang around Sunday or Monday in Trade Chat, and you're likely to find a lot of, "LFM ICC 10, doing 4/12."  They're likely players like you, just trying to scrounge up some frost emblems before the raid week resets.
My friend did all of the above, and within a month he had enough gear to easily get into anY ICC PUG.  Blizzard has done a great job reducing the "ramp up" time it takes to get into endgame content, but the ramp is in fact longer than "do a handful of heroics, few some upgrades, then kill the Lich King."  So instead of complaining, be resourceful, get those frost emblems, and stop blaming Gearscore.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Why Gevlon Will Fail

Why Gevlon Will Fail

I wrote this several months ago when Gevlon announced his Ungeared projectSeeing as he's successfully killed Anub'arak, he's officially gone further than I expected.  So in the spirit of eating crow, here's the entry reposted on this blog.  I'll have a response to his accomplishments later this week.

There's been some buzz on the WoW blogosphere recently about Gevlon's attempt to clear all the Wrath of the Lich King content in nothing better than iLevel 200 blues.  It's probably the most ambitious project I've read about, and I'm incredibly curious to see if he can pull it off.  That said, I can't see it happening on the terms he's set out, and here's why:

Leveling Sucks

Last year I found out some of my co-workers played WoW and they kept trying to get me roll a character on their server and play with them.  They were Horde and these were the days before faction change, so all I could do was roll a Tauren Druid and start playing.

After about two weeks I was somewhere in the mid-20s, and I realized even if I gained 5 levels a week, it would take 3 months before I could even start playing with them.  5 levels a week for an alt is ridiculous (especially when you consider the level 60-80 grind) and 3 months is a long time, and by definition everyone involved in his project is rolling an alt.  So they have a main character they're invested in and probably with guild raiding commitments.  So on any given evening when they log on, they'll ask themselves,  "Do I really want to collect 8 wolf necks in the Barrens, or go smash Marrowgar's face in?"

So if Gevlon thinks he's going to have 25 hardcore raiders ready to roll in January, he's probably wrong.  It's easy to forget the grind from 60 to 70, and the even bigger grind from 70 to 80, but that's a lot of wolf necks.  Will he have 24 raiders ready to go anytime soon?  What if he has a handful ready the next month or so, will they be patient enough to wait for everyone else to hit 80?

Skill Trumps Gear, But Gear Still Helps

There's an adage in WoW that "skill trumps gear," and that's largely true.  If you stand in the fire you will die, no matter how many iLevel 277 purple pixels you have on your character.  But gear gives you a margin of error, usually a margin you're "supposed" to have because the designers at Blizzard didn't want the difference between success and defeat to come down to hitting obscure cooldowns in perfect sequence with a 0.001 second reaction time.

I remember banging my head so hard against Malygos months ago as a Holy paladin during the Vortex, basically getting one Holy Shock off, then an instant Flash of Light, and then basically praying it would be enough to keep everyone alive.  Every other vortex I could use Aura Mastery and Concentration Aura, and I respec'd to get Divine Guardian, but it wasn't enough to cover every Vortex.

Well Malygos was the raid weekly this week, and it was a piece of piss.  I still only had two mediocre heals I could cast during the Vortex, but it didn't matter because everyone had 22K health pools.  I didn't have to heal at all and everyone would hit the ground with at least a quarter of their life left.  Vortex was no longer an incredibly stressful test of skill where I had to juggle every cooldown available, but just another AoE damage attack that didn't actually jeopardize anyone.

So Gevlon's guild will basically be raiding in a completely different way than everyone else does, especially in ToC and ICC.  Let's take ToC.  Icehowl freezes some people and they take 3000 damage a second over 5 seconds.  This 15,000 total damage is never enough to kill someone, but with his guild, it probably will be.  They may have to blow cooldowns just to survive this part.  He is effectively making his own hard modes, which is asking for skill levels beyond what anyone is used to.

Is This Theoretically Possible?

This is related to my last point, but basically, there may be some encounters where the sheer tuning doesn't work.  Blizzard tuned the boss to hit for 27K health because he expects your tank to have at least 30K health, so if he doesn't, he's going to die.

Jarraxus summons Mistresses of Pain and Infernals roughly every minute.  If you haven't killed the Mistress of Pain by the time the Infernals come out, then the adds quickly become overwhelming and they'll wipe the raid.  Will 17 people in iLevel 200 blues pump out enough DPS?

Basically I anticipate this scenario coming up all over the place.  There may be a mathematical maximum where no amount of cooldowns, coordination, and theorycrafting will help.

Communication Is Everything

On top of the gear handicap, Gevlon says using vent is not even necessary.  Just set up some whisper macros for the tanks to taunt off each other and call it a day.

Man, I don't even know where to start.

When players raid old content, they are proactive.  They know what's coming and they know exactly what they need to do to counter it.  When I'm fighting Kel'Thuzad, I've got my fingers hovering over my Holy Shock hotkey, ready to slam it the second I see he's iceblocked someone.

But when they raid new content, they react.  They don't anticipate what's coming, because they haven't seen it before or only a handful of times.  They haven't figured out how to twist their mind and vision in the right configuration to see everything coming that they need to keep track of.  They just see stuff happening and react to it.

Really good players are almost as good as being reactive as proactive, but most players aren't.

And this is where vent comes in, because I'm not familiar enough with Marrowgar's bone spikes to get a sense of when it happens and what I need to do to handle it, I'm just reacting to whenever it happens.  And if I don't react fast enough, then that person dies and we're probably hosed.  And nothing can get someone to react better than someone shouting on vent, "HEALER IS SPIKED, BIG HEALS ON THE TANK."

You could just make macros for all communication necessary, but then that's forcing players to also look at their chat log in their peripheral vision, while they're also trying to keep track of aggro and debuffs and health bars and cooldowns and fire on the ground.  They may not see that "/w I have a snobold on me!" macro, but they will sure as hell hear "STOP FUCKING DPS'ING GORMOK AND KILL THE SNOBOLD ON THE HEALER."

I like socializing on vent as much as anyone, but the real reason I like using it in raids where everyone isn't familiar with the fights is for that reason.  Gevlon is going to require basically flawless execution for some of these fights, and is limiting how they can communicate.  In my opinion this is the biggest handicap he's giving himself.

Why Gevlon Will Succeed

I don't think Gevlon will completely fail.  I do think he'll have to make some compromises though, which may defeat the purpose of his experiment, depending on what his goals are.

A social competent is going to have to evolve, just because leveling is a grind and people don't like boring things unless they're doing it with people they like.

His guild is going to have to use vent.  Flawless execution is lot easier with good communication, and verbal communication is superior to a chat log.  This will probably mean someone will step up and act as de facto raid leader, someone with some sort of leadership personality traits that Gevlon thinks are pointless, but he will get everyone to stop fucking DPS'ing Gormok when there's a snobold on a healer.

And depending on the tuning, he may have to make compromises on gear.  Maybe he'll allow enchants that require abyss crystals, or let the tanks wear some epics so they have the minimum health necessary.

If he pulls it off I still think he'll be making an incredible statement for the over-reliance of the excuse of gear, and doing a lot for WoW culture that increasingly is devolving into "LF2M heroic farming min 5200 GS required, need tank and healz."  But his terms are set up for failure.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lich King 371, Justisraiser 0

I don't know how many attempts I've put in with this guy and I'm sure it's not 371, but I've spent probably a combined 20 hours worth of attempts and at this point I just feel like throwing in the towel.

A week ago I blasted the Sindragosa fight for being 8 minutes of boredom followed by 2 minutes of insanity.  Well, I got what I wished for, because the Lich King fight is 12-15 minutes of insanity, and me and my ICC 10 groups just can't seem to put it together to consistently get into phase 3.

Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal.  I generally finish content a full tier behind whenever it's relevant, and if you look up my achievements you'll see what I mean:

Naxx 10 -- May 2009
Naxx 25 -- June 2009
Malygos 10 -- July 2009
Ulduar 10 -- September 2009
ToC 10 -- December 2009
ToC 25 -- January 2009
ToGC 10 -- February 2010

Generally I hit a brick wall at every raid tier, when I just can't seem to progress in any sort of group.  At that point I take a break from raiding -- level alts, mess around with PvP, go for some achievements, that sort of thing.  Eventually some buffs or nerfs come in and I'll jump back into it later.  I'd love to kill the Lich King now, but I would have been okay with getting that Kingslayer title in July (or August, or September...), because I'm not as good as those groups killing the Lich King now.

The difference this time is... well, I primarily play with my two friends in real life, and while we've been friends for almost 15 years now, we all live thousands of miles apart.  World of Warcraft has always provided us a common thread to hang out and, well, do stuff.  But starting this weekend one of them isn't going to be able to play consistently for a long time (for good reasons, of course) and even if he finds his way back to the game, our weekly raiding was probably going to be a thing of the past.  So I thought killing the Lich King together, the ultimate boss in this expansion (and arguably the ultimate boss of the whole series) would have been a poetic way to go, the proverbial blaze of glory.

Unfortunately it's looking like that's not going to happen.  I know at the end of the day this is just a videogame, and the failure to kill the Lich King now is basically meaningless.  I also know that even if you reduce our friendship to the past couple years purely to World of Warcraft (which of course it's been much more than that), we've had lots of good times and great accomplishments.  Not killing the Lich King doesn't devalue any of that, and in the grand scheme of things it's pretty trivial.

But I still would've liked that kill.  At this point it's not impossible, but we only have a handful of days, and our ICC 10 group is only likely to be able to meet for an hour or two.  Given how hard it is to just jump into the fight, we're looking at 5-10 attempts.

No king rules forever.  But unfortunately, it looks like this one is going to rule past May 9th.