Sunday, 25 October 2009

The view from the other side

It's sort of grey and black and glowy...? No - not that side, I mean team blue - Alliance.

The starkest difference between the two factions for me is that, while I'm on Horde, I'm in one of the biggest and best guilds on my server. When Alliance, I'm guildless. I'll have to fix that, but I don't want to join just any old guild, so I need to find a decent guild that will take an unknown level 71 priest.

Aside from that, the difference is very subjective. In some ways, playing a fantasy staple feels much more "right". I've just done the quest where you end up riding Thassarian's Deathcharger, and the atmosphere was the exact antidote to that mish-mash feeling I get when Grulnak is in some instance with three blood elves and a tauren.

The same fantasy genre baggage colours the many other aspects of the game as well. For example, although Grulnak, an orc shaman, is probably one of the most benevolent non-Tauren Horde in the game (at least, the way I play him) his motivation for some quests is tenuous at best. But even his motivation fits the game a lot better than, say, a Forsaken warlock. Although I reject the "Alliance good, Horde bad" view that some players have (there's the whole Defias thing, for a start), overall Blizzard's (perhaps understandably) lazy approach of having essentially one set of quests for two factions does Horde far more of a dis-service than it does the Alliance. A lot of the Horde settlements in Northrend are really well done, and the Wrathgate chain has its moments, but the last time I really felt the game cateered to the Horde was during the Mag'har chain.

That being said I'm probably heading for trouble as an Alliance clothie as well. If my priest ever reaches level 80 why would he (or say a mage) enter the tournament and not attempt to roast his opponent inside his armour, but instead take up a lance and try and fight him at his own game? Of course everyone does (except perhaps on RP servers?), because that's where the game progression takes you.

Perhaps I just need to lighten up a bit. The thing that keeps me playing is the MMO part of the game - if I want to focus on the RPG part then a single player game would fit my prejudices far better.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Was once a (non-raiding) tank

I'm slowly laying to rest my idea of levelling a tank alt, partially because common sense tells me that I just don't have time for an alt to fulfill the most gear-dependant role in the game, but also because I'm coming to realise that the tanking I remember fondly from vanilla WoW just doesn't exist any more.

Vanilla WoW was a less egalitarian, but somehow more PUG-friendly place, than its WotLK incarnation, almost because it lacked all the improvements we have come to take for granted.

Back then there were raiders and non-raiders. Raiders were either raiding or preparing for their next raid - with no limits on consumables, no daily quests and with the trash in Molten Core not dropping money or nice vendor-junk to help offset the cost of repairs raiding was a serious business. Tanks and healers either had to pay for regular respecs to allow them to farm, or had a farming alt.

Non-raiders were who you found in PUGs. Probably they were gearing up and getting their attunements - Molten Core, Onyxia and Black Wing Lair - prior to applying to a raiding guild, or possibly they'd weren't planning to raid but just wanted to gear themselves up as best they could, but either way they were generally more accepting of their fellow PUGers.

Except of course that, unless you were a mage, rogue or one of the few reputable hunters, you'd struggle to find a DPS slot.

But once grouped, players knew they had to work together to overcome the instance, especially the tricker mob pulls in the harder instances.

Nowadays everyone is a raider, to some degree, and with the fantastic emblem gear available everyone runs heroics - while being much more demanding of who they will deign to group with. A leading DK tanking blogger is seen wondering if 31.5k unbuffed health will be enough to get an invite to a group. It's common to see people assembling PUGs and demanding not only the "Epic" gear achievement but also the achievement for completing the instance or raid that the PUG is planning to visit.

And once in an instance, now that all tank classes have AoE threat abilities, the burden of crowd control is placed firmly on the tank's shoulders. If the tank has the ability to get aggro from the entire pull, but not the gear to withstand it, then they are blamed for the group failure. Unless it's the healer who's deemed to be undergeared, in which case they are blamed.

Once they join a PUG, all players seem to forget any crowd control abilities they may have, presumably only to remember them once they step outside again.

I'm not sure if part of the problem is that tanks are afraid to ask for help with crowd control, for fear of being derided. Whatever the cause it seems to be that now, the group mindset that was once quite common even in the worst PUGs of yesteryear, is absent.

And, while adding good emblem loot to heroics may have made them far more popular, it's made them a far less friendly place to be for the tanks and healers they were originally aimed at - those who can beat the normal level 80 instances but aren't yet geared enough for Naxxramas.

Hence I'm tempted to stick solely to my massively overgeared healer, and leave my tank alts firmly parked in the level 67 - 73 range. And try to remember that I have a spell called Hex.

Monday, 12 October 2009

For the Alliance! (sort of)

Tukkillen is now a dwarf - I decided that a troll alt really is of no interest to me, and even when same-faction race transfers become available there's really no point in having two healer / caster dps hybrids on the same faction.

He's only sporting the heirloom shoulders - Conquest emblems are too valuable for me to trade down, and Grulnak is unlikely to ever get the Crusader title so the Seals route for the chest piece is out. With Cold Weather Flying, the heirloom shoulders and a change of scene and quests Northrend is looking pretty good for levelling at the moment.

I'd really like to get into some groups to see the Northrend instances from a dwarven perspective, so currently I'm trying out a Discipline "damage" build to give me both grinding and healing options. So far, so good.

I'm not at all sure how much he'll get into the end game though - it'd be nice to be able to heal heroics at least, but I can barely keep one character raid-geared to my satisfaction so two really isn't an option.

Meanwhile Grulnak is back to raiding, at least as much as real life allows. He now has two Valorous Worldbreaker pieces and one Conquorer's, so will get the four-piece bonus once I've saved up enough emblems for the helm. He's still not seen TotC, although I'm hoping to fix that once the raid schedule and mine find some common ground.