Kil’Jaeden Is Dead; PvE Competition

I’m of course late on this news, but this is more of an outlet for opinion than news. For those of you who haven’t heard, SK Gaming brought down Kil’Jaeden on Monday. So far, nine guilds have managed the feat (not including those who have not been updated on WoWProgress). SK has already posted a video of their kill. Nihilum came in third, losing their crown as the top raiding guild. And some members of Nihilum are a little bitter about it. I suppose that’s to be expected when you’re trying to retain sponsorships.

Reading Grandeath’s opinion, I agree with some of it. But there are also some points of contention.

“Failing Sucks”

[Nihilum] as a guild aim for world firsts all the time. And this time we failed – and it sucks! Just like it sucked for Jesse to fail with his car project. And I for one would love to take a minigun and pump the Sunwell full of bullets until there’s nothing left but a burning corpse.

This is akin to my guild having lost the server first to Illidan after achieving server firsts on every single boss in SSC, TK, Hyjal and BT, except Lurker and Illidan. What was so disappointing was the fact that we were so far ahead on our Archimonde kill, too. Lurker was no big deal. You could do the bosses in SSC in any order, except for Vashj. So it’s no surprise someone beat us on at least one boss in there. However, Illidan was rather a big deal. But then we considered exactly how we killed Illidan. Basically, the story goes as follows:

We had a good amount of practice on Illidan and felt we could achieve a kill that very week. It was just a matter of when we would obtain it. The second-place guild was also close to a kill, so it had become a race. One of our warrior tanks had become burned out on tanking and WoW in general, so he was unavailable to tank for us. That left us with three possible tanks: a protection paladin, a protection warrior, and a feral druid. The fact that we decided not to recruit more tanks while we were still pushing attunements a couple months before left us in a problematic position when it came time to push Illidan.

What compounded the problem, however, was that our paladin had stated that he would be crittable in his FR gear. And we believed this would have been certain death for a flame tank (especially because paladins hadn’t received their stamina buff yet, at the time). So what did we do? We decided to have him tank Illidan. At this point, while a protection paladin had tanked an Illidan kill before, none had tanked a guild’s progression kill before.

So we had some frustration regarding tank death on transitions between demon and human form in phase 3/4/5 (the “human/demon” and then “human/demon/trap” phases). The most problematic transition was that at 30%, when everyone is put in a bubble and all HoTs on the tank drop. This caused Teckbot to die a few times, due to a lack of last stand, LoH being on CD, etc. So the result? We lost the server first. We were beaten by an hour. However, we did obtain a world first by achieving a progression kill with a paladin tanking.

That said, after the kill had been accomplished, we realized Teck forgot to factor resilience into his crit calculations. So he actually would have been uncrittable as a flame tank. And this would have allowed us to use a protection warrior as the optimal tank for Illidan. And I’m rather confident we could have obtained the server first on him had we done this. But we didn’t, so this error in judgment and caused us to become the server’s second best guild at the time.

The above was not the only mistake we made, however. We also allowed poor players to retain their position within our raid. And we made some errors in our approach to recruitment. We should have recruited more people before ceasing our attunement efforts, giving us more bodies to allow us to persist all the way through the end of the content. We should have immediately gone back to TK and SSC when one of our tanks expressed a declining interest in tanking, instead of waiting until after Illidan was dead.

However, when I look back on it in retrospect, this fact runs through my mind: We were the first known guild in the world to achieve our progression kill with a protection paladin tanking. And this was back when paladins didn’t have as much stamina as they do now. That’s a big fucking deal! So, yes, failing sucks. But you should be able to come out of an experience with at least some positive notes.

“Like Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread”

I see what you did there. A quote straight out of The Lord of the Rings.

From the first day Sunwell was released until Kil’jaeden was dead it took exactly 2 months. And how long did it take exactly to kill the bosses? It took 11 days total for all 6 bosses to go down for the first guild. 1 day to kill first three, 2 days to kill Twins, 4 days to kill M’uru and 4 days to kill Kil’jaeden. 11 days. 11 days of progress spread out over 2 months. A very dissapointing and boring experience. And as I’ve said before to the guild (and I know others feel the same): if the gate system or anything similar will be a part of future high end instances then I will go casual. It’s simply not worth it.

I agree that the gate system was unnecessary. The only fathomable reason I can devise for the gates’ existence was because Blizzard wanted to reduce the impact RNG mechanics of loot can have on a raid’s performance. Imagine a guild obtaining nothing but DPS gear for every single kill in their first weeks of Sunwell raiding. No doubt, if the guild was skilled and driven enough, they would have had the best shot at killing M’uru first. However, even with the gate system, the effects of RNG will still play their part.

The only way Blizzard could absolutely eliminate the effects of RNG is if bosses dropped the same loot every single time they died. This would likely mean a full-out token system in every regard. But reducing the looting system to nothing but tokens would likely cause the metagame factor of loot to be diminished. I know all of my healers get excited every time Memento of Tyrande drops. But, at the same time, it would likely cause the highlight of PvE to become the content itself, instead of loot. Blizzard seems to have compromised on this issue, and I’m not really sure which is better than the other.

Regardless, I think the gate system was unnecessary. RNG mechanics will factor in regardless, whether it’s loot, lag, or simply players having bad nights.

“The Hardest Instance So Far”

Even though they are hard and they have new mechanics or elements not seen before, how challenging were they really? While bosses get harder, guilds get better as well. Kil’jaeden went down in 4 days for the first guild, 6 days for Nihilum. Even though it’s a hard boss I can’t say I’m impressed. Also I’m dissapointed since I was hoping the fight would be more complicated, but even though it has multiple phases, it’s a pretty simple encounter. There’s only one phase in the fight that is really hard. Trust me, that phase is hard. :) But if you ace it, you basically win. Just as with other Sunwell fights like M’uru and Twins, everyone in the raid needs to ace his performance. One death most likely means a wipe. To sum it up, Sunwell is indeed a hard instance, but still a very dissapointing experience.

My opinion is the exact opposite. Not that I have fully experienced M’uru, and I certainly haven’t experienced Kil’Jaeden at all. But I’m speaking as someone who considers himself to be a good player in a great guild, however not as someone in a guild that spends nearly as much time as SK Gaming or Nihilum does on progression. I don’t raid sixteen hours a day until something is dead. Rather, I raid five hours for four days a week. That’s twenty hours a week total. We did add one Tuesday to our schedule in the first week of Sunwell’s release, but that’s been it so far. We might do that again when Kil’Jaeden is close to dying, but it’s too much to ask for certain key members of the guild to do it more often.

So, basically, my guild raids each week for about as much time as SK Gaming and Nihilum does in less than two days of progress. The equivalent of the four days spent for SK Gaming is about three and one-fifth weeks for my guild. And that doesn’t include the fact that we have to kill the first four bosses of Sunwell three more times to do that. Nor does it factor in the skill difference between SK Gaming and my own guild, which is more than likely very large. So that four days for SK Gaming actually turns into several weeks and several repeat kills of earlier bosses for us. So while it’s butter scraped over too much bread for a small handful of guilds, it’s certainly not for us. And that leaves me with an actual feeling of satisfaction, rather than disappointment. While Nihilum waited nine months for a short amount of content and the loss of their number one spot, my guild waited six for what has been, thus far, an extremely exciting and rewarding experience.

And regarding the difficulty, let’s consider insanely difficult console games. A small handful of players will play and play and play until that final boss is finally defeated. But most others will likely give up and simply obtain satisfaction merely in having tried. But the key point is that the decision is made to give up and move on. The root problem is that WoW isn’t a console game, and Blizzard can’t treat it like one. When a player gives up in WoW, it’s very bad news for Blizzard. It means a loss in revenue for server upkeep. It means Blizzard will have to eventually utilize manpower and resources to merge servers and downsize the operation of WoW, as players give up and leave. And you have to consider the fact that there are already guilds falling apart merely over the Eredar Twins. And while I don’t think they should be nerfed, I think it would be a mistake making encounters absolutely impossible for all but, say 0.01% of the population. At least Blizzard shouldn’t do so until they consciously decide the game is reaching the end of its life cycle. Not all guilds can ace encounters as well as those that have now killed Kil’Jaeden.

The only justification I can then see for making insanely difficult 25-man fights is the fact that the raid content will also have 10-man versions in Wrath of the Lich King. Instead of the 10-man instances being entirely different and separate from 25-man, there will be both versions for each raid dungeon. Defeating such content and experiencing the story is much more manageable, as it’s considerably easier to put in extra time on 10-man content for a 25-man guild. And Blizzard can choose to simply make the 10-man versions easier. But the 25-man content could still potentially frustrate some guilds, so you have to question whether or not its worth it. But I do think Arthas should be slightly more difficult than the avatar of Kil’Jaeden.

“Blizzard vs Raiders”

9 months of nothing after Black Temple and Sunwell is what you deliver… Very dissapointing from the endgame raider’s point of view. 6 bosses. Compare that to when MH/BT were released – 5 bosses in Mount Hyjal, 9 bosses in Black Temple, 14 bosses in total, more than twice the amount of Sunwell.

The quality of the encounters in Hyjal and BT was relatively diminished compared to Sunwell. For Sunwell, it seems to me that five of the six encounters are top notch (I don’t like the Twins, so I’m not going to include it; though K’J is just a guess). For Hyjal and BT, I think only Archimonde, Teron, Gurtogg, Shahraz, and Illidan come close to being high in quality. But in terms of difficulty? They don’t come close to Sunwell. I think Brutallus is more difficult than Illidan. Hell, I think the first killable version of Kael’thas was more difficult, even. So Sunwell, as a whole, is of much higher quality, in my opinion. Better I wait nine months for that than six months for another Hyjal and BT.

I think the fact of the matter remains that raiders are going to defeat content faster than Blizzard can simply produce it. And faster production lowers the quality. It would be similar to asking Nintendo to put out a new Zelda game every six months, because players beat each in the first week or two. It’s just simply not going to happen. And I’d rather have a quality experience every nine months than a terrible experience every few. I know some people will disagree, but it’s funny considering people complained how BT was relatively easy and called for something more difficult. And now that something more difficult and higher in quality has been produced, people are complaining about the time it took to produce it. It’s a huge cliché, but: “You can’t please everyone.”

Some people might say that this is QQ from elitist raiders, that Blizzard is right about caring more for the majority of players that don’t raid Sunwell and spending time on developing for them instead.

Damn straight.

But in my opinion the top raiders are needed in many ways. There’s a strong culture around it. There are a lot of players out there who might only do low end instances but are interested in top guilds, look up to them and hope that one day they can join a top guild.

The keyword is hope. There’s how many spots for how many people? Very few spots for tons and tons of people. No matter how easy or difficult the content is, people will always look up to the top guilds, regardless of who they are and who quits. When Death and Taxes ceased to be number one, people started looking up to Nihilum. And just as Nihilum is no longer number one, people now look up to SK Gaming. When and if SK Gaming falls apart, people will find a new top guild to look up to, regardless of who at the top quits or becomes frustrated.

If Blizzard destroys the competitive high end PVE culture in WoW, they will destroy more than they think and indirectly they will lose more players than the minority that does high end PvE, trust me.

I don’t think there’s anything they can do to destroy it other than to make every single instance as easy and boring as, say, Molten Core. As long as the content is at least somewhat decent in quality and there’s a guild willing to go the distance to be number one, it will never die. People might note their surprise and disappointment about how quickly the content was defeated, but the fact of the matter is that people will still follow whoever the top guild is through that content.

A GM’s Perspective: The Hardcore-Casual Paradox

“We are a casual raiding guild recruiting for Sunwell.” “You can’t be casual if you’re planning to raid Sunwell.” “We only raid two days a week. That makes us casual.” “But you’re raiding Sunwell, that makes you hardcore.”

Some people believe there is a paradoxal relationship between the concepts of hardcore and casual. People argue you can only be one or the other. But what these people fail to realize is that there is a subjective view of the topic centered around the relation of specific guilds to each other. To give a personal example, compared to all of the guilds on my server just venturing into the recently opened Hyjal, my guild Lunacy is definitely hardcore. However, if you were to compare us to Nihilum, we’re absolutely casual. This example highlights how the hardcore-casual spectrum itself is subjective based on relativity.

The concept of casual and hardcore is such a gray area that even sarcastic terms like “hardcore casual” have developed as a direct result. If you spend hours a week doing heroics to farm badges to pick up all of the gear you need from the Sunwell Isle badge vendor, but you’ve never stepped foot into a 25-man dungeon, you’re hardcore casual. If you raid only two days a week, but you’ve killed Kalecgos in Sunwell, you’re hardcore casual. If you have the skill to top 2K in rating, but you plateau around 2100 because you don’t practice enough, you’re hardcore casual. And if you’ve killed the Eredar Twins, but you don’t raid nearly as often as Nihilum, fear not… you’re hardcore casual!

The only people who don’t fit into this ambivalent category are those on each extreme of the spectrum. These are the only areas which are not easily disputed. Joe Schmoe, who’s taken a year and a few months to get to 70 is definitely casual. And guilds like SK Gaming, Exodus and Nihilum are definitely hardcore. Anyone attempting to argue otherwise would probably be met with responses of outright laughter, which is indicative of a concept commonly agreed upon.

So the important thing to understand as a GM is that people will find their own definition for your guild, regardless of where you stand. Don’t try to define yourself as either hardcore or casual, as someone is always going dispute whichever you choose to attribute to your guild. Only do so if you’re a guild that barely raids Karazhan or a guild that has achieved or come close to achieving world or regional firsts.

WotLK Video and Information

This past week, it appears Blizzard invited specific web sites to preview Wrath of the Lich King, meaning new footage and information is being released in abundance. I’m hesitant to say fan sites because GameSpy and Eurogamer are the epitome of all things corporate, though GameSpy has definitely professed its collective love for WoW before. In any case, I would suggest beginning with the 10-minute trailer Blizzard has released to go along with this press event. (Thanks to Boubouille from MMO Champion for posting it.)

The video shows more of Blizzard’s uncanny visual mastery. While they are indeed taking chances by including areas that aren’t either desolate or entirely covered in snow, it’s probably a good risk to take. Most MMO players have what I like to call Gamer Attention Deficit Disorder. I can’t imagine players would enjoy seeing nothing but snow, tundra and gray wastelands, even if it fits with the expected atmosphere.

Northrend is going to be larger in scale than Outland itself. That’s somewhat surprising to me, as I expected Northrend to be about the same size, considering Outland and Northrend each encompass ten levels of content. In fact, it’s so large that many of the zones include sub-zone like content, similar to that of Terokkar’s main forest and the Bone Wastes. I hope this means there will be more end-game 80 outdoor content, with a couple designed in the same grain as Quel’Danas.

The short clip of vehicle warfare was interesting. Essentially, it’s taking bombing runs to new heights, figuratively and probably literally.

As far as information goes, there is too much for me to address each and every interview and preview individually. So, instead, I will point everyone in the direction of World of Raids for a full summarization, as this is where I will be drawing quotes from in my commentary.

Story & Factions

Players will interact with Arthas for the first time at a relatively low level, around 71-74 in Dragonblight – the final encounter with him won’t be until the final patch of the Lich King cycle, some time after release.

If Blizzard can expand this concept and include more of it in WotLK, this next expansion will be more engrossing in terms of story than vanilla WoW and TBC. I definitely hunger for more Akama-style questlines with voiceovers.

They’re also advancing the Forsaken storyline, adding in uniquely Forsaken building architecture and giving the player more chances to help in their Wile E. Coyote-like quest to kill every living thing on Azeroth.

I actually dislike this story arc. Sure, they’re “secretly” sinister, but the questlines include Horde in this endeavor. So it’s very difficult to suspend disbelief when you’re a tauren helping some Forsaken agent brew a volatile cocktail of pestilence. If anything, I’d hope the primary Forsaken storyline involves their struggles with the Lich King’s control over the undead.

In Sholazar Basin, players will take part in a faction-reputation war between the Wolvar (sentient wolves) and Oracles (“the next evolution of the Murlocs”). A much lighter take on reputation gaming is promised here, with players actively encouraged to defect to the other side at will.

I’m curious to know exactly what they mean by “actively encouraged to defect to the other side at will.” As in player allegiance should be fickle and it will be easy to switch sides?

Inscription

• Every player will get a new spell book page to which they can add six glyphs – currently, four major and two minor.
• Major glyphs will be effective in combat – adding damage over time or stun to a physical attack, for example – while minor glyphs will give convenient or cosmetic improvements, removing the need for some spell reagents.

Sounds like an interesting concept. However, more proc CC sounds annoying. PvP is already somewhat of an RNG crapshoot as it is, with mace stuns, blackout, etc. So how about, when heals land, it has a chance to proc a PBAOE fear on the people surrounding the target of the heal. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Well, I guess it’s subjective, but I don’t think most people would find such mechanics too thrilling. I’d rather a priest run up and fear instead, as it is a controlled mechanic that requires skill. But if they want to make the game more about RNG mechanics, Blizzard might as well go for the gold.

The concept of minor glyphs is intriguing, because I don’t think I’ve seen a game where spell effects are customizable. Then again, I haven’t exactly paid close attention to every single MMO after 2004, since WoW has had me far too engrossed. I guess I can make my heals orange if there’s a glyph for it. Not that it’s majorly impactful. But the trivial amusement factor is one of WoW’s nice touches.

PvE, Dungeons & Raids

• During some of the boss encounters, players will actually free drakes to fly around the ring. Using the game’s new vehicle technology, players will be able to engage in free flight around the dungeon and use some of the drake’s abilities to take on some of the dungeon’s challenges.
• The new “vehicle” system will enable characters to “drive” an object around. One example Blizzard gave them: Players will fly over a human settlement being overrun with the Scourge, lowering a ladder down to pull up and rescue civilians. In one dungeon instance, players will be able to “liberate” some blue dragons that they can mount up and fly around, fighting their way up a massive tower.

Sometimes the class system gives WoW a myriad of limitations. We’ve seen the possibilities Blizzard can implement, given encounters like Vashj (orb tossing) and Teron (constructs). So more encounters that utilize mechanics outside of class restrictions will be key in designing refreshing and innovative PvE content.

Zero raid bosses have been designed at this point.

This is surprising. I thought they’d at least have one raid dungeon done by now. I think they should adjust their desired release cycle to two years, if this is truly the case.

All raid dungeons in Wrath of the Lich King will have both 25-person and 10-person versions.

Interesting. With the release of 2.4, I continually praised Magister’s Terrace for its ability to give casual players a taste of content relevant to the primary story being told through raid dungeons (namely The Eye). It was rather ironic that people would kill this second version of Kael’thas without potentially having seen the first, however. So I suppose this takes it a step further and fixes that issue at the same time.

I imagine many of my guildies are going to annoy me to no end when they start making statements about how “it’s really World of Casualcraft, now!” The 10-mans have their own separate progression path, in terms of gear and difficulty, so I don’t see what the problem is. It won’t cheapen the content in terms of the story. If anything, it makes it more accessible. And it’s amusing, because many MMO companies have considered this sort of move risky. However, I think it’s only risky if you’re trying to cater to anal MMO veteran who thinks MMO’s are only for the hardcore. And, if you do that, you simply aren’t going to make as much money as you potentially could. And I don’t see why it would diminish the overall enjoyment of the game, unless you have some sort of entitlement complex. Pardon me if you suddenly can’t enjoy the game at all when your life gets too busy that you have to quit raiding 25-mans.

25-person raiding progression is not dependent on 10-person raiding; players will not have to obtain keys or attunements in 10-person raids to participate in 25-person raids.

One of the biggest mistakes Blizzard made was in implementing attunement for Serpentshrine that required a person to kill Nightbane. It forced guilds minded on running 25-man dungeons to split their raid into two and progress through Karazhan. Or, otherwise, suffer setbacks. However, ironically, this is what caused my own guild to jump ahead in progression on our server. While we took Karazhan and attunement to SSC very seriously, a lot of guilds didn’t run two successful raids as often as we did. And they fell behind on attunement, as a result. And a server first on Hydross was the result of such efforts.

• 10- and 25-person raids both have their own, independent progression paths
• Players will receive more, higher level rewards for completing the 25-person raid dungeons over the 10-person version

Just quoting this for reiteration. I think it’s an important counter-argument to the hardcore whiners who will inevitably lament the increasing accessibility of the game.

Death Knights

Death knights will be available to all players with level 55 characters.

I’m wondering if they’ve scrapped the idea that a player could unlock the death knight class with a questline.

Players can create one death knight per realm, per account.

I wondering why it’s necessary to restrict people to one per realm.

• Death knights utilize a rune system as their resource mechanic
– Three different rune types are available: Unholy, Frost, and Blood
– These runes allow death knights to cast spells and abilities; spells can cost any combination of these runes
– Spent runes automatically refresh after a set period of time, similar to a rogue’s energy bar
– The death knight will have the ability to customize which array of six runes is currently available
• As rune abilities are used, the death knight also generates another resource called Runic Power
– The death knight will have several abilities that cost all available Runic Power, with varying levels of effectiveness based on total Runic Power spent
– Runic Power decays over time if it’s not spent, similar to a warrior’s rage bar
• The death knight has three different presences to use: Blood, Frost, and Unholy; each presence grants the death knight a unique buff that will allow him or her to fulfill different roles in combat

Given the complexity of ability cost-and-expenditure, it is going to create an intricate dance for Blizzard in terms of balance. In vanilla WoW, the sensitivity of the subject was seen in regards to rage generation, forcing Blizzard to normalize it. I can imagine similar problems will arise with this system, especially when you consider just how powerful their spells are on the surface. Take a look:

Death Coil — Depletes all Runic Power, dealing 600 damage to a non-Undead target, or healing 900 damage on a friendly target.
Death Grip — This is the Death Knight’s “taunt” ability. It also pulls the target to the Death Knight, forcing them to attack the Death Knight for a short amount of time. Yes, I said pulls the target; Blizzard is going to allow players to move mobs in the expansion both with Death Grip, and other knockback/pull abilities. This works on players too, so PvP balance ahoy!
Chains of Ice — Roots the target in place. When the spell fades, it places a snare on the target that reduces in potency as the duration runs out.
Raise Dead — Raises a nearby corpse to fight for the Death Knight for 2 minutes. If used on a player corpse, the player has the option to play as the ghoul for the duration — gaining access to the ghoul’s abilities.
– The ghoul has the ability to do the following:
— Leap to the target
— Rend for decent damage-over-time
— Stun target, and of course more
Death Pact — Sacrifices the raised ghouls to heal the Death Knight.
Death and Decay — Targeted, AoE Damage-over-time which pulses similar to the Paladin spell Consecration. Anyone affected by Death and Decay has a chance to be feared.
Frost Presence — Increases Armor by 45% and allows the Death Knight to generate 25% more threat. Only one presence can be active at any time.
Unholy Presence — Increases Attack Speed and Movement speed by 15%. Only one presence can be active at any time. This was described by Tom Chilton as the “PvP” presence.
Anti-magic Shield — Reduces the damage of the next magical spell cast on the Death Knight by 75%. It also converts the damage reduced into Runic Power.
Strangulate — Depletes all Runic Power, dealing minor damage and silencing the target for up to 5 seconds.
Summon Deathcharger — Allows the Death Knight to summon a Deathcharger mount. This mount is acquired through quests, similar to the Paladin and Warlock land mounts.

It’s interesting to note that many abilities deplete all runic power. Meaning management of this power will be unique compared to other ability cost-and-expenditure systems (mana, rage and energy, presently). However, I worry because the balance over these abilities largely relies on the rate at which runic power is generated, in addition to how long it takes for each rune to refresh. Certainly, the most powerful spells will need to have a high rune cost.

The concept of Raise Dead is absolutely, positively intriguing. So much so that you can potentially design an encounter entirely around ghouls and their abilities.

Frost Presence worries me. It borrows the armor modifier concept somewhat directly from druids themselves. However, the fact that they are not receiving a hit point bonus makes me wonder if feral druids will still have their place. And it is left to be seen what sort of avoidance they will be able to stack, as well. But it is certainly going to be difficult for Blizzard to balance this, given you have three tanking classes as it is.

Game Mechanics

Blizzard is going to allow players to move mobs in the expansion both with Death Grip, and other knockback/pull abilities. This works on players too, so PvP balance ahoy!

I can imagine this creating a whole world of pain for healers, unless people are given something to counteract it. The defensive mechanics most people utilize, afterall, is movement and escaping DPS, either by range or LOS. This type of mechanic will further complicate this issue, as it deals directly with people’s abilities to outrange and LOS various types of DPS.

Then consider the issues between healer and DPS balance as it is. In season one, healers were absolutely, positively overpowered. Why? Because our naked heals far outdid naked DPS. So, on the low-end scale of gear, it was easy as hell to survive a double DPS team. However, season three has shown that a CC-oriented team like a rogue/mage can compete on at a 2200 or 2300ish level of arenas. This would have been unthinkable in season one. So my concern is what this new type of CC will do to the later seasons in WotLK, if healers or the vulnerable classes are not given a basic defense against such mechanics.

Overall Conclusion

Overall, there are some great concepts here. However, many of them are risky, given the impact they can have on balance. I think Blizzard really needs to take its time testing and considering these new abilities and game mechanics. In my opinion, it was a mistake for Blizzard to claim their intention to adhere to a yearly release cycle. Creating a new class is too sensitive an issue for them to even consider the possibility. And while they did a relatively good job balancing new abilities in TBC, there were only one to a few abilities per class that could really break the game. And we’ve seen what a single ability can do to balance in the game. Heroism/bloodlust has almost single-handedly changed the game in general.

So Blizzard has to walk a fine line with death knights, as they are doing more than introducing a whole slew of abilities with a new class. That said, I await more information on destructible buildings, “vehicle” mechanics and the game in general. It looks like things are going in the right direction, other than my anxiety over balance-breaking possibilities.

Also, I’m guessing there will be even more information coming out in the next few weeks.

My Favorite Machinima

I’m honestly not a big fan of machinima. Most of it is dry and uninteresting. And for those that do stand out, it’s typically for the wrong reasons. For example, The Internet Is for Porn is considered one of the staples of WoW machinima by a lot of players. But the primary feature of the video, it’s song, was neither written nor performed by the people who made the video. And the video itself doesn’t have anything to add over the musical.

But there are diamonds in the rough. Unfortunately, however, they are few and far between. You’ll note that all of my top five are parodical or musical in nature. That’s because I dislike most of the fan-made dramatic machinima, or don’t like it enough to put in my top five. I really, really, liked the editing in Tales of the Past III. However, I disliked the story arc concerning Blazer. And while I like the Black Temple trailer, it’s not machinima, since it’s canon produced by Blizzard. Otherwise, it’d be in my top five.

5. Switcher: Deity

Consider the time when this came out. Only the alliance had paladins, and only the Horde had shamans. And, yes, troll racials actually sucked. But if you’re wondering about the origin of “FROSTSHOOOOCK!” This is it.

4. Jimmy: The World of Warcraft Story

The moral of this story, kids, is you better damn well be careful about which faction you pick when you head up to Shattrath. Level 63… 62… it doesn’t matter. You better be careful! Because Everquest sucks!

I’m sure a lot of people find the veiled criticism of WoW offensive. But criticism is a necessary part of game commentary, especially in parody.

3. Frame of Mind

Most WoW music videos simply feature a bunch of characters singing the song. This one actually tells a story that fits the song well. The editing is also some of the best I’ve seen in any machinima.

2. Big Blue Dress

The song is original. That’s all that really needs to be said. Cranius did some awesome work.

1. Billy Maclure

In order to fully realize what makes this parody so good, you have to watch the original: Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean. Obviously, I’m a sucker for parodies. I just personally find them more amusing and interesting than most of the serious dramatic machinima out there.

Special Mentions

Sure Enough, They’re Dead

Thank fuck!

As predicted, the Eredar Twins died “relatively soon.” Meaning the very next day, on only our fifth attempt. I can’t say how frustrating I think the fight is. I really dislike some of the RNG mechanics involved regarding damage.

To elaborate on a simplistic level, the bosses have abilities that do a substantial amount of fire or shadow damage. This damage comes in bursts and the strategies surrounding this damage are extremely complex. What complicates the issue are the stacking debuffs that proc with this damage. Each time you take fire damage, you get a stacking fire DoT. Each stack does 300 damage every 2 seconds, and it can stack up to 20 times. A stack of over 10 typically means death. Meanwhile, shadow damage procs a debuff that reduces the healing done to a person by 5% per stack. It, too, can stack up to 20 times, meaning someone can be 100% unhealable. But taking damage opposite to the debuff you have, meaning fire if you have stacks of the shadow debuff, clears the debuff. So, in order to counter the debuff mechanics, you essentially want to take the opposite damage of whatever debuff you have. But the pure damage that is done is, in and of itself, dangerous. Two successive flame sears followed immediately by a shadow nova can kill someone easily if the healers aren’t careful. And sometimes you have to move to reset your debuff, and this creates issues for the healers who have to make sure they’re all not running to clear their shadow or fire debuffs at the same time.

Complicated? You bet! So imagine the relief I felt when they finally hit the floor!

We also worked on M’uru for the last few hours of the raid, a boss we’d attempted on the PTR before. I can’t say how surreal it is to work on a boss no one has killed before. He’s a lot more difficult than the Twins, seemingly, but much more predictable. However, that said, I haven’t seen the second phase. In any case, fun times are ahead!