Starcraft Beta Marmot

I don’t play RTS. Despite trying again and again with Total War, I epic failed every time – there’s too much going on, especially for someone used to the sedate pace of Civilization. But Starcraft II is sorely tempting, mostly due to the Blizzard polish, the hype, and the beta raves. Lore has a great video review of the beta on Tankspot (of all places) if you’re tempted too.

Gear Checks

It’s interesting reading about hitting a hard limit on progress. Righteous Orbs has a lovely public service announcement for people complaining that fights are easy when they require 7k DPS average. 7k! Awesome. Our guild DPS tops out at 3.5k, so we’re a long way off. For we casuals, it’s handy to remember the fact that only the very minority of players are clearing ICC raids, but they are a vocal (blogging!) minority. We need more average mode bloggers 🙂

Even with 3.5k, we still have fun cranking through the 5 mans. We did sequential clears of normal PoS & FoS on the way to HoR the other night, the first time for a few of us. Hall of Reflection is just genius design. It was great hearing the reactions from the others who hadn’t seen it: Whoaaa, there’s Frostmourne! Epic…wait…ZOMG THE LICH KING!!!! It brings all that lore & story that we’ve been exposed to home to roost.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to actually ‘fight’ him, as we hit a healing gear limit. Our resident Shaman, having only recently specced Resto after a career as Enhancement, showed champion skills through the first two ‘wings’ but HoR stopped us . We could get to the first boss after 5 waves, but kept wiping on his Defiling Horror fear (when everyone takes damage whilst being unable to do anything about it). It was a hard mana/healing limit, so we only gave it a couple of tries before calling it a night. Though I’m pretty sure we could get through it with everyone on top of their game – it was late, and it was hard to muster the requisite focus.

I struggled mightily with my tanking too, being squashed in that tight corner in order to LoS the casters is counter to my normal Charge-Thunderstomp-Shockwave launch sequence. I kept forgetting to Bloodrage, leaving me rage starved at the beginning, or I’d leave one of the ranged mobs out in the middle of the room meaning we had to go chase it down out there. Confined fighting is not something I’ve had to do much, so practice-practice-practice is required.

So even normal modes have a gear check, and you’ll struggle to progress if you don’t have the right amount of stuff. Not necessarily purples, as Gevlon keeps proving, but at least the right blue drops.

They’re all smarter than you out there

After last week’s tank-parison, this week it’s tank-pug-hell:

And Devo are back! Fantastic Mark Mothersbaugh interview from 2008 on Phawker too, for those that want to dig deeper. Which is everyone, right?

    Achievement metagaming

    I’m plodding around Azeroth on Kodo in pursuit of my Elder title, visiting all sorts of far flung places with nary a soul around. Other than other Achievement seekers, of course. Which is kind of sad – Ashzara for example is a beautiful zone, populated by precisely no-one, all the lonely NPCs in tears waiting for someone to kill or appreciate them. Thankfully Cataclysm brings the Bilgewater Cartel goblins to Ashzara, who make their home there.

    In any case, the Lunar Festival is a nice leisurely journey, and it certainly brings home the ginormous size of the world. It also illustrates one of the fundamentals of playing: the metagame. The idea of attempting the Lunar or any other festival without resources like wow.com or Wowhead is frankly unimaginable:

    Bane: Hey there, guy-with-a-great-huge-halo-shooting-up-in-the-sky, how you doing?

    GWAGHHSUITS: *spinning around with enthusiasm* Hail oh great PC! Thanks for visiting me. In fact, you know what – have this artfully crafted coin!

    Bane: Whoa, thanks old guy! Hey – are there more of you ‘Elders’ around?

    GWAGHHSUITS: Sure are – and they’ll give you free stuff too!

    Bane: Great! I should go visit them. Um, where are they?

    GWAGHHSUITS: There’s one somewhere in a dungeon somewhere. And another in a place you’ve never heard of. Just nearby. Kind of. *looks shiftily around while scuffing the ground with his worn leather boots*

    Bane: Ummm, can you be more specific?

    GWAGHHSUITS: Nope! Good luck! /ignore*quickly turns his back on the annoying PC*

    Bane: …

    Of course it would be possible to find all the Elders, but it would be a royal pain too.  I guess someone once did it da solo, and more power to them, but players with that much perseverance are few and far between.

    Whilst you could argue this means the game isn’t complete somehow, it seems more likely that this enormous community pool of knowledge that has formed around Warcraft is one of the things that makes the game, as BigBearButt observed. It’s social networking, and it’s been around since before that term became the property of Big Business™.

    The amount of free info and time that people have committed to Wowhead and Wowwiki is phenomenal. It’s created a community of contributers, bloggers, editors, Auctioneers and passionate players. I barely move in game before referring to LightHeaded, zooming off as directed via TomTom, or using the Lunar Festival pack for TourGuide.

    In many other games this would be cheating. And maybe the boss encounters suffer a bit from needing guides rather than teaching. But I’d argue that overall, the metagame makes WoW miles more fun – it doesn’t reduce the challenge, just the frustration.

    The truth is out there

    Read it and weep:

    And today’s offtopic, Music Machinery works out who the real drummers are.

      Oo-oo, baby you’re a fool for love

      Banehammer is now officially a Fool for Love, having cleared the final two hurdles last night.

      The first was to get a nice bouquet of roses from the first boss in UK, Prince Keleseth. Because the roses only drop off the Prince and only for one person, doing it via LFD was fated to be a ‘ninja/drop’ disaster.

      So we guild ran it with our Rogue, our Hunter, and me. No heals, but I guess not surprisingly it was challenge on normal mode, given the mobs are ~70 elites and the boss not much more. We even two manned it for a second run, just me and the Hunter. We employed ice traps, misdirects, and much hilarity ensued.

      The last achievement was to set off 10 Love Rockets in 20 seconds. I’d already burned through 25 of the @#$@# things and not got the ding, so this time I disabled all my add-ons, turned the graphics down to Vic-20 level, and went to an isolated pocked of Mulgore. Success!

      The next festival on the list is the Lunar Festival. I’m really enjoying doing each one that comes up, having previously had no real interest. Planning what you’ve got to do, working out the most efficient way, and just the general design of the various quests is all good fun. I’m don’t even mind the PVP quests, I always intend to just zone in and do the Achievement, but tend to get caught up in the fight despite my appalling PVP noobness. For the Horde!

      Normality

      Last night a group of Guildies attempted the SFK VD Bosses (with many a double entendre in trade chat trying to find a VD healer…). We failed pretty decisively, not quite having the HP nor healing gear to get through the perfumed chaos. Having both the green & purple debuffs on seemed a killer – I’d pugged it the night before with an offtank which meant you could keep the one Neutralizer up depending on who was targetting you. An OT for a 5 man! Not something our guild has quite yet, so no Love Rocket for us.

      Refusing to learn our lesson, we thought we’d make our Forge of Souls debut – on normal mode. I was properly tanking for the first time in a long time on Banehammer, and my muscle memory was all for my Druid tank. So I was pretty rusty on the key mappings and priority rotation (where’s Heroic Throw gone? Where’s taunt!?). Luckily I’d mapped  abilities pretty consistently across toons, so I unrusted relatively quickly.

      We wiped on the second trash pull, mainly due to me not grabbing agro on all five quickly enough, and not being able to resist the AoE power of our much better geared ‘lock ‘n’ Mage combo. But there was an inkling of success there – our Rogue suggested we changed strategy to a mark-up/burn-down single target approach, which worked a treat and we proceeded to march all the way to the first boss, James Brown (the trash even dropped a 1% chance waist upgrade for me).

      I hadn’t tanked this before, and our off spec Shaman Healer hadn’t healed it. But after quick debrief from the experts, we managed to one shot the Hardest Working Man in Showbiz, and I picked up a stonking big mace (and a New Bag).

      The Devourer of Souls awaited, and having experienced this from a Rogue melee DPS vantage point, I didn’t like my chances of moving him around correctly, and living through the various don’t-argues this guy delivers.

      We wiped on our first attempt, but weren’t discouraged. I found that the tanking vantage point was actually a bit easier than DPS – at least I knew when the guy was facing me, something I found confusing when slice ‘n’ dicing him due his multi-faceted face.

      Our second attempt went much better, and we managed to down him (but barely!). I’d blown every single cooldown, and our Shaman was down to 4% mana when our foe dropped. The hoots could be heard all the way to the Halls of Relection, two instances hence.

      It’s fair to say that this was thrilling stuff. It felt great to be working as a Guild team, on the edge of our ability/gear.

      What was really interesting to me was that this was all in normal 5-man mode. There’s obviously recognition and challenge for world firsts (both alleged and legit) and 25 man hard modes, but for the  ‘hard core casuals’ (otherwise known as the majority), I’d suggest that taking on the normal mode progression is just as rewarding. You still see all the content, still get epic upgrades, still have a huge challenge and still have to work hard on your tactics and awareness. Plus if you clear all the normal modes, there’s no doubt you’ll be ready for 10 man’s next.

      There’s a tendancy to think that if you’re not running at least Heroics, you’re not really playing. Which is just plain wrong – if normal mode is hard for your group, normal mode is the right level to be playing at and more importantly, enjoying. Throw yourself into the deep end of normal mode ICC. It may not be Ensidia depth, but it’s still pretty deep!

      Indestructible

      Playing Bane (my Warrior) today made me appreciate how easy farming is with a plate class, particularly one with some kind of self heal.

      Love is in the Air requires you to collect Lovely Charms this year, from mobs that would earn you XP. So I set out to find a good farming spot, and found a great location at The Lost Lands in Sholazar where Bonescythe Ravagers spawn every 10 seconds or so in an infinite procession.

      I plonked Bane down in mid pond and proceeded to destroy everything that spawned, with Miks scrolling an endless stream of ‘misses’ for the mobs. I kept this up, non stop, for about 45mins, popping Enraged Regeneration when required. This netted the 120 Charms required for the Achievement and sundry other goods in the process. I could barely loot fast enough to keep up.

      On my leather wearing Rogue this would have required pulling one or two out of the way, dropping them, eating, repeat. Slow work.

      Since then I’ve read of some better spots to farm – BBB seems to have found the pick so far – but it was a good reminder of the virtual unstoppability of a plate clad Tauren.

      Be careful out there

      Time for another round of weekly reading goodness:

      Offtopic post of the week: the Sports Guys on supporting officially tortured teams. Anyone in Sydney will empathise when I say the North Sydney Bears are my team, and they more than qualify. Sigh.