Archive for category Raid Leading

Stopping to Smell the Roses

I was browsing MMO Champion this morning and they had a link to Method’s Dragon Soul movie. It is a little bit more narrative based look at the fights and an approach I heartily approve of. Here it is, if you haven’t seen it:-

Now as much as I don’t particularly like Dragon Soul, watching this movie made me realise something. I’ve paid absolutely zero attention to the dialogue of bosses and NPC past the Morchok trash. A huge part of this is due to the fact that Immortalis mowed through the Normal Modes and that I was Raid Leading all that time so my focus was elsewhere but it’s also down to the fact that because Dragon Soul doesn’t resonate with me, I pretty much don’t care about the dialogue or story.  Yeah, I watched the RP at the top of Wyrmrest on night 1 and rolled my eyes at Kalecgos’ hilarious technobabble justification for Blizzard re-cycling the Eye of Eternity zone and tuned out after that – ‘The focusing iris within the Eye of Eternity may allow us to converge the magical matrix contained within the Dragon Soul!’

Riiiight. 😀

All joking aside, it was quite illuminating to listen to some of the dialogue as presented in the movie but my favorite part is the Ultraxion segment. When we’re doing the fight on Normal or Heroic (downed last night \o/), I’m paying far more attention to timers and calling things out than watching Ultraxion. I’ve never noticed how epic it actually looks, nor how Ultraxion’s Hour of Twilight is actually a Kamehameha attack! 😀

I also realised that I’ve never watched the ingame cinematics for Dragon Soul at all – I’ve always hit Escape because they happen at such inconvenient times – the first happens while I’m sorting Ultraxion loot. The second while we’re engaging a boss. Okay, fine I have no excuse for the last cinematic other than I didn’t really care by the time we killed Deathwing. I must admit, watching the final cinematic makes me cringe at the dialogue – anytime a character has to solemnly tell you that ‘Everything is okay, the <insert story name here> is over’ is just a narrative fail.

Excuse the last bits of negativity, I did really enjoy watching the movie and you should too! For those that have never seen it, you should check out Ulduar: The Movie too – a far superior effort than this one for a far superior raid:-

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My Thoughts on Tier 13 Tuning and What Led Us Here

In my last post, I explained my lack of motivation, partly due to raiding woes, and a couple of people took issue with a throwaway comment I made about Dragon Soul Normal Mode being undertuned.

 

It was pointed out to me that while my raid team steamrolled through Dragon Soul Normal Mode and complained about how easy it was, I should bear in mind that not everyone had the benefit of full Firelands Heroic gear to speed them along.

 

It’s actually a fair point and one that I’d like to respond to and expand upon. Yes, the majority of our raid team being in full 391 gear meant that we overgeared the early bosses and thus managed to outheal and nuke through fights that would otherwise have given us trouble. Doing these fights in 378 gear would have definitely made this harder for us.

 

The thing is… that’s not my point really. Having done the fights with my alts, with people in a mix of 378 and 397 gear, I know for a fact that past Morchok, it’s well tuned in terms of boss damage output and DPS / Healing requirements. However, what I feel is missing is anything new or complicated. All the bosses have nothing new to show us and are all extremely straightforward. I don’t believe that any of those bosses take much learning or have anything difficult to overcome.

 

Even if you’re new to raiding and haven’t done much up until Dragon Soul, there simply isn’t much new to learn about the fights, there isn’t much to keep you wiping until you get to Ultraxion, which is just a gear check – can your raid put out 27k per person and outheal the damage in a tank and spank fight? If not, farm the first four bosses until it can.

 

Can you kill Ultraxion? If so, then proceed to the next bosses. Dragon Soul is undertuned in terms of mechanics. Most of those bosses would benefit from having a few more mechanics thrown in or having existing mechanics made more difficult (I’m looking at you, Hagara Ice Phase).

 

It very much feels to me that Dragon Soul is an afterthought of a raid instance, something Blizzard put together very fast because they wanted to commit their resources elsewhere, namely Mists of Pandaria.

 

I guess what it seems like to me is that Blizzard have decided that Cataclysm has been a failure and just want to move on.

 

At the end of WotLK, Blizzard listened to a very vocal minority – people who contended that content should be challenging, difficult and grindy, like it was in Vanilla and TBC. So, that’s how Cataclysm was built. Heroics were released that were far tougher than WotLK, required CC, smart pulling and people generally knowing how to play their class.

 

Raids were harder and completely unPuGgable, killing the thriving community of players that had arisen during WotLK who were either unguilded, ‘casual’ or just unable to cut it in raiding guilds.

 

Blizzard were happy with this model and continued with it, through the troll heroics of Patch 4.1 and Firelands. Additionally, as part of this model, Blizzard nerfed the Tier 11 Normal Modes, opening them up to people who had so far not been able to access them, allowing them to be PuG’d. There was a plan in place and it was a good one – content is released, guilds have a few months to clear the content on Normal Mode before it’s nerfed for everyone to experience, while Hard Modes are left untouched – after all, chances are your guild’s still progressing on them and if you’re doing Hard Modes, it’s for the challenge factor.

 

Now, sure, Firelands difficulty was tuned to be somewhat less difficult than Tier 11 as Blizzard realised that the difficulty tuning of Tier 11 wasn’t great but nonetheless, it was still challenging enough once you got to the Heroic level.

The vast majority of competent guilds could get to 6/7 in Firelands with time and effort though they’d hit a wall at Heroic Ragnaros, which is, by all accounts, the hardest encounter Blizzard have ever implemented in the game – originally, Phase 4 required pixel perfect movement from all raid members and this can become soul-crushing and guild breaking.

 

However, But by around the halfway mark of Patch 4.2, something was brutally clear: Blizzard were haemorrhaging subscribers. My guess is that Blizzard decided at that point that listening to the vocal minority, while delivering a tougher game, had not been good for business. The vast majority of players were cancelling their subscriptions because they had nothing to do in the game or that raiding was inaccessible to them.  At that point, I believe that Blizzard decided that Cataclysm was a failure and that it was best to try and return the game to how it was in WotLK – content accessible to everyone with heroics designed to be cleared with 20 – 30 minutes and not 1 – 2 hours.

 

I believe that originally Blizzard intended to Nerf Firelands Normal Modes but leave Heroic Modes untouched, like they did with Tier 11. However, with the loss of subscribers and the struggle that most guilds were having with fielding lineups for Firelands, Blizzard nerfed Firelands across the board, their opening salvo in having the game become more accessible.

 

Cataclysm is a failure and Blizzard decided it’s best not to sink too much in the way of resources into creating Dragon Soul, the last raid of a failed expansion.

 

And while I’m not particularly enthused about the fact that Mists of Pandaria will return to the model of WotLK, in terms of 5 Man Heroics (fast, easier heroics, meant to finished within 20 – 30 minutes and no, I don’t believe that ‘challenge’ modes are the answer – I want difficult 5 man content just because it’s hard, not because you have to stress yourself by nuking through it as fast as possible) and the raiding model (experience all the fights in LFR on day 1 and continue to burn yourself out by raiding the content twice a week, just to stay competitive), I am hoping that Tier 14 will be solid, imaginative and epic. After all, following through on my theory outlined above, if Blizzard are committing so many resources to MoP, surely it’s going to be great? 😉

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Updates

Hi guys,

it’s been a while since I posted anything but frankly, I’ve been equal parts busy and unmotivated recently. Raiding’s not been all that fulfilling for various reasons as Patch 4.3 hasn’t really resonated with me – the fights in Dragon Soul normal mode have become sleep inducing of late. On top of that, having lost our mage and warlock due to burnout and boredom with the game, as well as being melee heavy means that we have some severe raid comp issues and slow progression on Hard Modes. As Hard Modes are the only content that any of us are interested in (and credit where credit is due to Blizz, while we’ve found the Normal Modes to be undertuned and boring, the Hard Modes so far have been quite fun and challenging), I’ve been unmotivated to raid or blog about raiding.

I’ll be attempting to continue my Positioning series over the next few days or weeks, while also posting a bunch of other articles I’ve had percolating in various stages of completion.

On top of that, I think I’m going to try and make this blog a little more focused on the three areas that I’m actually interested in writing about:-

1) Tanking

2) Speculation about past and future Blizzard content and design decisions

3) Being positive!

Hopefully I’ll have a proper article up in a couple of days!

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Dragon Soul: Night One

Morchok, the first boss of Dragon Soul, playfully explains his feelings about how raids will find him

ZELCANDOR: Really?!

MAGE: Really?!

HUNTER: Really?!

PALADIN: Really?!

A collective expression of surprise from half our raid team after killing Morchok, the first boss of Dragon Soul. Little did we know, this wasn’t going to be first time this happened all night.

While we weren’t really burned out on Firelands, we were ready for a change of scenery after farming Tier 12 for so long. We’d all prepared for the bosses. Some of us had been on the PTR and killed the bosses via the LFR. Some of us had read up on various sites and blogs about tips and tricks. All of us had watched the videos. We. Were. Ready.

However, as had happened in the last few weeks, we had some issues. Not all of our players were available and due to some connection issues, one of our healers couldn’t log on at all.

So there, we were, 9 manning it with 1 healer short while one of our Holy Paladins rushed home to step in. No worries, not the first time we’d done it. The Morchok trash went down fast enough and soon enough, we were there in front of the boss. Morchok had seemed so easy in all the raid videos we’d seen and some of us had even killed him using the LFR tool. But I had figured, there was something different about the fight on Normal Mode. This is the last raid of this expansion, there’s got to be something raid wipey here – the boss must hit insanely hard, or raid damage must be so high that we’ll probably wipe a few times before we get it down.

3 minutes later:

ZELCANDOR: Really?!

MAGE: Really?!

HUNTER: Really?!

PALADIN: Really?!

And so began the first night of raiding in Dragon Soul. Morchok and Yor’sahj were one-shotted. The mechanics were ridiculously straightforward and something any experienced raider wouldn’t have any trouble with.

We wiped a few times on Zon’ozz but not because the boss was hard, just through regular learning of the fight as we figured out how many stacks we could push and what the best positioning was. There was also one nubwipe because our dumbass tank * because he’s too used to turning the boss away from the raid on the pull – the Void spawned far away from the raid and hit the wall, bam, raid wipe.

By the time we got to Hagara, we had started to relax and lose our ‘edge’ – that frame of mind you need for progression raiding as we had stopped taking the instance seriously. We had one wipe due to learning the speed we needed to move in the ice phase and me forgetting to run out of Hagara’s Focused Assault while healers were Ice Tombed. After that, we brought her down, somewhat messily but clean enough for a first kill.

And by that point, I kinda lost heart.

2 of the 3 hours we’d allotted to raiding had passed and we’d pretty much face-rolled 4 bosses. We still had time for Ultraxion and beyond (though I’ll cover that later). I look back at the fights and apart from Hagara, I can’t say that they were messy kills or that people didn’t quite know what they were doing, which is par for the course while you learn a fight.

We smoothly killed Morchok because it’s a simple fight, with very little raid damage, predictable damage on tanks and a second phase where damage is completely and easily avoidable. The fight does not feel like it belongs in a raid, it feels like something that should be found in a 5 man.

Yor’sahj has an interesting and fun mechanic but it’s a little undertuned. The slime adds could do with more HP, raid damage could be a little higher than it was. Having said that, a lot of this is about what combination of slimes you get and we never really had a ‘nasty’ combination.

Warlord Zon’ozz has a good central gimmick and it does take a little bit of getting used to but again, there’s not much more to the fight than figuring out how many stacks you can take and working out how best to position yourselves.

And Hagara… man, what a waste. It’s a good fight! But so completely undertuned! I really figured we’d spend time wiping on this due to the high damage of Phase 1, learning the dance of Phase 2, having tank deaths due to Focused Assault but… none of that. Damage was trivial. The Focused Assault thing… all I had to do was watch the DBM timer and run out a couple of seconds before she cast it. I don’t know if  it’s a bug or intended but I figured out that if you run out a couple of seconds early, she’ll cast Focused Assault and then immediately cancel the cast. A major attack and source of tank damage just never went off just because I can watch a timer.

After we killed Morchok I felt something I hadn’t felt for a long time. I don’t know how to describe the feeling but back in WotLK, after we killed Lord Marrowgar for the first time, I had this feeling, like I knew I was going to utterly hate every fight in that place.

The feeling disturbed me and it disturbs me still. The thing is, I really hated Icecrown Citadel. Even to this day, when we go back there to do achievements or finish up, feelings of hatred, rage and frustration well up within me.

I hate that shithole.

Having said all that, that feeling of dread dissipated as we got to Ultraxion and we started learning the fight. Ultraxion’s a great fight, high DPS requirements, full focus and attention needed with some fun mechanics. Really enjoyed the fight and I look forward to doing it again next reset.

But that feeling… I’m afraid of spending another chunk of my life raiding an instance I despise. Two days later and I can take a step back and I realize that while I did find these fights easy, I didn’t actually hate them… they just didn’t do anything for me. And flying around Wyrmrest Temple, being on a gunship… all these things just remind me of WotLK, an expansion I’m totally done with. Dragon Soul feels like a Wrath raid. It lacks the depth of design and difficulty that I enjoyed in Tier 11 and 12 in normal mode. There was no sense of challenge or accomplishment with those first few kills. I felt nothing. I can only hope that the Heroic Modes are tuned better and are even more fun.

We didn’t down Ultraxion that night, mainly due to UI issues from one of our healers but we did get our kill the next night, as well as Blackhorn. I’ll cover them in another post.

* That tank was me, in case there’s any doubt 😛

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