Regarding the Major Game Systems in Cataclysm

With so much information regarding classes and systems being revealed by Blizzard, it seems Cataclysm is pretty far along in terms of conceptual development. So I just wanted to take some time to briefly address what has been announced so far. I also want to take the time to express my hopes and desires for things that haven’t been announced.

Regarding Class Changes

It’s difficult to criticize or evaluate the changes coming to every class without really seeing how they compare and play against each other. So I’m not going to comment until we actually see the changes. I realize I already commented on druids, but I have since changed my mind, because the healing mechanics are changing too much. That said, I’d still like a new utility spell, even if its impact is incredibly minor.

Regarding PvE Information

The first of the refinements being made is that we’re combining all raid sizes and difficulties into a single lockout. Unlike today, 10- and 25-player modes of a single raid will share the same lockout.

We’re designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve. That closeness in difficulty also means that we’ll have bosses dropping the same items in 10- and 25-player raids of each difficulty.

We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people, so while the loot quality will not change, 25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you’re able to gather the people. (Source)

The separation between twenty-five and ten-man raiding will still exist, though the disparity will be less severe and focused primarily around quantity of loot (which is important for any progression guild). This doesn’t give due credit to the fact that ten-man could be just as difficult, lest people have forgotten Sartharion already. Mobilizing a higher number of people is a challenge, but only if you’re comparing the effort of an individual trying to handle each version. Most twenty-five man guilds have multiple officers, however, so the difference is hardly striking.

If I were to consider TBC, Lunacy had between two and three people leading at any given time. From Karazan through the end of BT, we primarily had two people, though we did have a third person for a short while acting as a tie-breaker for loot decisions. During Sunwell, we definitively had three people leading the charge. I handled recruitment, interviews and keeping people focused. Silver handled strategies and keeping people calm. Siafu managed the guild bank, took interest in loot, and kept track of loot. All three tasks aren’t easy for a twenty-five man guild, but I do stress the work is spread out in this regard.

Now that Lunacy is merely a ten-man guild, it’s really just me leading things. I’ll admit it’s a lot less stressful than leading Lunacy’s old raid, but that’s not because of the smaller number we have to work with. The only reason it is less stressful is because our expectations are a lot lower and we don’t strategize to the same extent as we did when we were hardcore. If we were set on clearing heroic ICC10 with a fury, the work would be roughly the same. I’d be evaluating people more harshly and maintaining higher standards. I’d be promoting recruitment more actively. And I’d be pressuring people to improve more than I do. I’d also be keeping closer track of loot to ensure the distribution is more even.

There is a similar comparison with large and small businesses. At a small business, one person could handle business decisions, bookkeeping and ordering, while another person handles hiring, marketing and event planning. A larger company, meanwhile, would have a CFO overseeing all things monetary, a CEO to make major business decisions, a board to provide input, and then a bunch of individuals to handle tasks like hiring, marketing, and planning events. But in terms of the effort put out by an individual, it’s rather similar. That being said, I understand it also depends on the demands of an industry. So it’s considerably more accurate to compare a family-owned grocery store with the likes of Ralph’s, Safeway, or whatever major supermarket chain a given area has.

We do like how gating bosses over time allows the community to focus on individual encounters instead of just racing to the end boss, so we’re likely to keep that design moving forward.

I and the majority of my friends vehemently disagree. If the idea is to keep people from racing to the end boss, then simply put a gate before the end boss. Otherwise, the instance feels less epic when you’re forced to do it in small fragments. It’s like watching the first sequence of a movie repeatedly before finally moving on to a subsequent sequence, only to watch both of those sequences repetitiously until moving onto the third, etc. In the end, you’re left with an unsatisfying experience, which is why so many people will only watch a movie when they can view it in one sitting. Dungeons are experienced similarly, unless they are episodic in nature. And by episodic, I mean to say each gated wing would have a self-contained plot. That being said, I’m fine with gating the final boss for competitive reasons. But gating an instance to death bothers me for the reasons stated. And I’ve already made my argument a number of times.

Also, does it really matter if it’s gated if the ultimate goal for the hardcore guilds is clearing it on heroic?

Hero Points — Low-tier, easier-to-get PVE points. Maximum cap to how many you can own, but no cap to how quickly you can earn them. Earned from most dungeons. (most like the current Emblem of Triumph)

Valor Points — High-tier, harder-to-get PvE points. Maximum cap to how many you can own, as well as a cap to how many you can earn per week. Earned from Dungeon Finder daily Heroic and from raids. (most like the current Emblem of Frost)

This is basically the same as the current system, which I like. I would very much rather see the daily heroic ditched, however, if simply because there are some days I don’t have time to do a heroic. I’d much rather you be able to obtain valor points from seven heroics in a week, instead of a single heroic each and every day.

Regarding PvP Information

Honor Points — Low-tier, easier-to-get PVP points. There will be a maximum cap to how many you can own, but no cap to how quickly you can earn them. Earned from most PvP activities.

Conquest Points — High-tier, harder-to-get PvP points. There will be a maximum cap to how many you can own, and a cap to how many you can earn per week. Earned from winning Rated Battlegrounds or Arenas. (currently called Arena Points)

I like having a two-tier system that motivates people to continue competing. I also like how rated battlegrounds will be a secondary option to arenas, considering I much prefer battlegrounds.

That being said, I do have my hopes and reservations about how rated battlegrounds should be supported. Simply put, I hope to be able to run fully-organized groups once again. The excitement involved in organized play is simply too good to pass up, and it will be the thing that keeps me playing in Cataclysm, should other areas of the game falter.

Blizzcon 2009

The Opening Ceremony

There was one thing missing from Blizzcon in 2008: a major announcement. Diablo III was announced at the Worldwide Invitational. Starcraft II and Wrath of the Lich King were announced the prior year. Wrath, in fact, had already been in the midst of an extensive beta test. So the WoW panels were mostly full of information already covered by the likes of World of Raids and MMO Champion.

Blizzcon 2009 was completely different. Just like last year, there was a new Diablo III class announced: the monk. But then Cataclysm was also announced. It was nothing surprising, sure; MMO Champion had leaked a lot of the information about the new expansion. So Mike Morhaime didn’t shy away from obviously referencing the upcoming announcement by calling it “cataclysmic.” After a long lead-in by Chris Metzen, and the Diablo class announcement, the trailer was finally shown.

You can watch it outside the context of the convention at Cataclysm’s official site.

Watching the trailer on a computer or TV screen holds no inkling of similarity to watching it at the con. While most people knew the announcement was coming, the booming woofers, blaring speakers, and the uproarious response to Deathwing at the end of the trailer really made the opening ceremony (and the convention). It’s difficult to tell just how loud it was in my video, because my camera has surprisingly good noise balancing capabilities. But the commentary at the end should give you an idea. (And for those wondering, I’m the one that says at the end, “No it couldn’t have!”)

Following the trailer was a preview panel for Cataclysm. Of course, the goblins and worgen were covered. Both race decisions generated a positive response from the people I know, including myself. I already suspected both would become new races at some point, and that was reinforced with MMOC’s investigations. While I have complained about the hack writing involved in the original presentation of the worgen origin story (the one referenced in quests involving Shadowfang Keep and Arugal), playing a wolf-like race that can transform between human and worgen out of combat is very, very enticing. Also, Gilneas seems to be based on 19th century London, which is just awesome!

And goblins? Well, let’s just say that I originally intended to play a goblin when WoW was released in 2001. But as time went on, the goblins never entered playable territory. So it’s great to see them finally cross that threshold. However, my dreams of playing a goblin sapper will likely never become reality.

I do not want to cover too much of Cataclysm in this post, however. That merits another entry entirely. So, to summarize:

  1. My opinions about the importance of renovating the old worlds seems to have been shared by the likes of Blizzard.
  2. Goblins and worgen are both awesome choices for new races.
  3. Rated battlegrounds will rock, and has long been something I have advocated.
  4. Guild achievements and progression are intriguing.
  5. I’m neutral about the removal of spell power, attack power, mp5, etc.
  6. The separation of talent trees into talents and masteries seems interesting and potentially necessary with the simplification of item stats.
  7. The introduction of “Paths of the Titans” as a new end-game progression system is interesting, but I am wary given my experience with “Master Levels” in DAoC.

These points will be covered in my entry about Cataclysm and the direction of the game in general. But this is a post about Blizzcon, so I’ll talk mainly about that.

The Panels, or: Art Panel FTW

My favorite panel from 2008 was the art panel. This year was no different. Last year, when it seemed every other panel was filled with subject matter already covered by WoR and MMOC, the art panel broke the mold and went over various iterations of Dalaran and showed concept pieces previously unreleased to the general public. They also went over the progress of spell effects, including those that weren’t yet in the game, and those that might not ever be implemented. This made the panel interesting.

While the other panels had new information to feed us this year, none were better presented than in the art panel. Perhaps this is because art encompasses virtually aspect of the game. You need models, textures, animations and effects to create and modify cities, zones, bosses, spells, and new races, afterall. Or perhaps it’s simply because the art team does an awesome job sneaking snippets of virtually everything into their panel, occasionally with some humor.

The art panel explicitly covered various topics: the new races and their animations, a bit about their starting areas, some of the new dungeons, the new water, etc. They even touched on the guild achievement system by showing us a brief preview of how it might work in the context of the current achievement system. There was also a live demo during the Q&A session.

Perhaps the most exciting thing was when they revealed the new water. While most other MMO developers would laugh at how far behind the curve WoW is on water effects, this really elevates WoW’s art beyond any level they have achieved (in my opinion). Simply put, I like WoW’s “concept art” style. Many other games try to create an artificial level of realism that just doesn’t work. The reason it doesn’t work is because PC Games have not yet achieved a graphical quality on par with pre-rendered cinematic CGI. So when I see lighting shimmering off a character, and an extremely dark shadow following the character, it feels like I’m looking at a moving representation of something created in 3D Studio Max circa 1999 by a high school student.

Not to knock on all other MMOs (or psuedo-MMOs), however. I love the art and graphics in Guild Wars, for example. And the water in Lord of the Rings Online and Everquest 2 is fantastic. But WoW’s new water fills a huge artistic gap in a game that already has some great art. The goblin starting area highlights this very well.

The Other Panels, and What Information They Had to Share

There was new information to be told at all the other panels, so I won’t be ignoring them. However, as the panels themselves were straightforward, I will simply summarize the information:

  • The new level cap will be 85.
    • They said something about the leveling being more meaningful, but I’m not sure specifically what they meant by this. A sense of accomplishment is, afterall, subjective. So who knows.
  • The reemergence of Deathwing has transformed the old world.
    • His entrance back into Azeroth has literally caused an “explosion” and sundered various parts of the world.
      • The Barrens, for example, will become two separate zones.
  • Blizzard is also going back to change the quest density and flow in older zones.
    • Hopefully like the Scarlet Enclave.
  • Some gear stats are being removed. Examples:
    • Spell power will now be lumped into INT.
    • AP will be lumped into AGI and/or STR.
    • mp5 will be lumped into SPI (for all healers).
  • The talent system is being splintered into two different concepts (talents and masteries), and a new end-game progression specific to Cataclysm is being added on top of this (called “paths”).
    • Talents will be more “fun,” “utility” and “use”-oriented. For example, as a resto druid, you’d likely see things like wild growth and swiftmend remaining as talents.
    • Masteries will be passive. For example, 10% additional healing will become a mastery, not five talent points.
    • There is a new type of end-game progression called Paths of the Titans. This system is tied to a new secondary profession: archaeology. It will essentially allow you to customize your masteries and talents further.
      • In its current form, you choose a titan “cult” which determines your “path.” Each path then has “ranks.” Once you earn a rank, you can then trade an artifact (obtained through archaeology) and choose between a few “ancient glyphs” for each rank.
      • An ancient glyph can provide a passive benefit or can be an activated ability.
      • You can “respec” your path.
      • Details still being worked on. Things may change, and I do have a lot to say about it, but I’ll save it for my detailed entry about Cataclysm.
  • Reforging will allow you to adjust stats on some pieces of gear.
    • Reforging will be tied to blacksmithing, leatherworking, tailoring, jewelcrafting and engineering. Essentially, you’ll be able to adjust one stat on a piece of gear and change it into something else, but not if the gear already has that stat (if I’m remembering correctly).
  • Four raids will be open at the beginning of the expansion.
    • I do not know the details of these raids, however. Some could be single-encounter, or they could all be multi-encounter. Each possibility evokes differing opinions.
  • There will be rated battlegrounds.
    • Rated BG’s will be an alternative for arena points and gear (not a replacement or sidegrade).
    • One battleground will be featured each week as the rated BG.
    • When you win, you’ll gain BG rating.
      • But how much depends on your rating and the ratings of people on the other team. You could end up gaining nothing if the people you play are far below your rating.
    • When you win, you’ll gain arena points.
    • If you lose, you won’t lose rating.
    • The old honor titles will return with this system.
  • Arena points will be gained in real-time, but capped.
    • To factor for the way arena points are earned with rated BG’s, they’ll also be earned in real time with arenas.
    • But the amount of points you can earn each week will be capped, most likely based on the rating you had at the beginning of the week.
  • Tol Barad will be the Cataclysm version of Wintergrasp.
    • When active, it’ll be like WG.
    • When not active, it’ll be a Quel’Danas-style daily hub for the victorious faction.
  • There will be guild experience and talents.
    • Guilds will be able to earn experience doing various activities, including:
      • Killing bosses.
      • Winning rated BG’s and arenas.
      • Gaining reputation.
      • Leveling.
      • Ranking up professions.
    • The current plan is to use the top 20 earners in the guild per day as the source of the guild’s experience level. This will allow people with busy lives to rely on people who have more time to devote to activities outside of the guild’s focus.
    • Guild talents will include things like mass resurrection, reduction of durability loss, removal of reagent requirements for raid buffs, etc.
  • There will be guild crafted items.
    • Essentially heirlooms that can be passed between guildmates.
      • People who leave a guild will have their heirlooms taken away and placed in the guild bank.

As you can see, there was a lot of new information about the expansion given in these panels. And I may even be forgetting something. So while the non-art panels may have been straightforward, they were not boring and they were worth attending.

The Arena Tournament

The arena tournament wasn’t as good this year as it was last year. However, I did only catch the last few matches.

One of the reasons I didn’t find them as interesting was due to the disparity in skill between regions. The Taiwanese region was simply outclassed. Another reason I didn’t find them as interesting was because people did a poor job counter-comping. So many RMP (rogue, mage priest) teams continued to play RMP, even though it’s now pretty obvious they don’t perform well against cleave (DK, warrior, paladin) or HPD (hunter, paladin, DK). This trend continued during the tournament this past weekend in Dallas. eMg, the winner of the Dallas tournament, explicitly switched their comp to HPD whenever they came up against RMP. If the RMP teams learned how to play more than RMP, maybe they’d do well.

The final match at this Blizzcon was cleave (TSG) versus HPD. I think cleave is slightly favored on maps like Orgimmar and RoL for this matchup. Personally, for “grand finals,” I like mirror matches. It removes comp and map imbalance from the final result. So when I see different comps in the finals, I’m not quite as excited. You can watch all of the matches below:

TSG won 3-1. Hooray, America!

Now that there are five arena maps, I think tournament organizers need to consider allowing teams to alternate picking the maps they want to play on. The fifth can then be random if it’s winner’s vs. winner’s or loser’s vs. loser’s, and chosen by the winner’s bracket champion in the final. This would remove most RNG that can knock a team out simply because they get maps that leave them at a severe disadvantage facing specific comps on certain maps (and especially true if Blizzard adds another couple arenas in Cataclysm).

Another reason I didn’t like this tournament as much was because vhell wasn’t doing play-by-play. I realize most people think the WoW shoutcasters suck, but vhell is the best WoW shoutcaster, in my opinion.

One last thing: despite what any of the shoutcasters may say, I personally liked pre-Wrath 3v3. I would, however, be singing a different tune if we were watching 2v2. Hour-long rounds would be boring.

The Closing Ceremony

I didn’t go to the closing ceremony. My reasoning was because I thought Ozzy would mostly play his solo stuff, of which I’m not a huge fan. But someone told me after-the-fact that he actually played a lot of Sabbath. So I regret not going. I did, however, get in some good time demoing more of the worgen starting area.

Worgen and Goblin Demos

We did not get to test the entirety of the starting zones, only from level 5 onward. So I don’t actually have a very good grasp of what the starting areas are actually like. However, of what was available, I did I enjoy the goblin area much more than the worgen zone. This is mainly because the worgen area was extremely competitive for spawns–particularly with the quest that involved picking up barrels and throwing them on the heads of abominations. The barrels were sparse and took a while to respawn, and you could lose the tap on the abominations if someone’s barrel reached the mob before yours (which consumed your barrel, and gave you no credit). That quest created a bottleneck and took up a large chunk of your fifteen minutes of play time.

The goblin area, meanwhile, highlighted the new water effects, wasn’t nearly as competitive, and had a lot of fun quests.

Alas, for all I know, level one through five as a worgen could be much more awesome than one through five as a goblin. And Blizzard could also ease the competition in the worgen area before release. So I’m not going to conclude my opinion here.

What Else Was Better About 2009 over 2008

Last year, Blizzard rented out halls A, B and C in the Anaheim Convention Center. This year, they also rented out hall D. Hall D is gargantuan, about 42 percent larger than hall C (which was the main hall last year). Overall, the convention had 49% more floor space this year. The rise in attendance didn’t quite match that, so it felt less crowded, even though there was certainly more people.

Enough of Premonition was able to attend this year, so they put on a live raid. I skipped most of it, because I thought it’d just be Ulduar or Crusader’s Coliseum. However, when I was walking by with some guildies, I saw them raiding Patchwerk, Thaddius and Anub’Rekhan at the same time. I was calling out the strategy as soon as I saw it. Felt good being right about it, too. After they killed the trio on their second attempt, Blizzard spawned a beefed up Hogger and wiped them. Good times!

Last year, you pretty much had to hear how other panels went second hand if you missed them. This year, you could see other panels being broadcast on screens throughout the convention center. Also, between breaks and lulls in other halls, they’d broadcast other panels on the screens for that stage. As soon as an arena match was done, on came the raid and lore panels. Overall, it was much better than sitting through the same cinematic trailers between panels and arena matches. However, it did make getting seats more difficult, because people felt less compelled to leave and attend other panels or events.

Minor panels were also held in bigger halls this year. No more cramming into a tiny room upstairs half an hour before a panel starts just to get a back row seat.

What Could Be Better for Next Blizzcon?

There’s not much that could be done better at this point. One could argue Blizzard should look for a larger venue, considering the tickets sold out in 56 seconds. But the Anaheim Center is actually one of the larger centers in the country, now. The closest upgrade (over double in capacity) would be Vegas. But it would cost Blizzard a lot more, and I think there’s a certain threshold of attendees that becomes too large (imagine the view from the back of a 600,000 square-foot hall holding 40,000 people).

I’d suggest additional days, separating the tournaments from the panels and giving them their own closing ceremony. But I imagine the convention would bleed attendees at this point, especially as it drew into Sunday and Monday. Thus, it’s probably not a viable option.

So what could be reasonably done? Probably nothing. The only thing worth considering is holding Blizzcon overseas to give people outside the U.S. a chance to experience it, or at least a cheaper experience (for those that made the trip; /wave Argi).

Overall, A Great Experience This Year

Enough said.

Also, driving back home on 101 was the best decision I ever made. Fuck I-5.


Release of the Lich King, Expansion Transitioning, and Changes

(Edit on 9/24: I have a quick disclaimer about this post to add. You can read it here. Essentially, this post is not meant to be a “review” of Wrath of the Lich King. There’s still a month and a half to go.)

Wrath\'s release date up on Wowhead.

Over a week ago, anyone surfing Wowhead would have noticed this curiosity on their splash page. I was almost in disbelief, myself. Then I asked why Wowhead would ruin its reputation and relationship with Blizzard by fabricating a release date. Obviously, they wouldn’t. So I realized Wrath of the Lich King would be hitting shelves on November 13th. And with the launch of this ship, the landscape of WoW will change both literally and figuratively.

The Transition from 1.x to The Burning Crusade Serves to Remind

Many WoW players have already experienced the release of one expansion and how it can reshape the general atmosphere of WoW dramatically. The Burning Crusade was game changing in many regards. One need only consider what concepts TBC introduced to understand how dramatic the changes were. These include:

Tack on new spells and abilities, new talents, improvements to some existing spells and abilities, and people’s roles suddenly shifted. Shamans were the premiere raid healers come TBC, whereas in 1.x they were probably the weakest of the healing classes. Druids suddenly switched from spamming healing touch on the tank to spamming HoTs on the tanks and all around. Shadow priests were suddenly useful as mana batteries. And so on.

So too will Wrath of the Lich King provide these shifts. But to what degree? And for better or worse?

What Will Wrath of the Lich King Change?

Typically when a company commits to a release date they feel confident in the underlying concepts and ideas behind the product. It also indicates a point of no return, where most of the concepts and content in the beta will reach or at least affect the live version of the game in some manner. That doesn’t mean they won’t be tweaked or changed post-release, however.

With that in mind, let’s consider what we know is coming:

  • Death knights,
  • 10-man versions of all 25-man dungeons,
  • Inscription and glyphs,
  • A new vehicle system,
  • Destructible buildings,
  • Combined +heal and +dmg into “spell power,”
  • Combined physical and spell versions of crit, haste and hit,
  • Homogenized and redundant buffs and abilities,
  • New server architecture allowing Blizzard to individualize experiences (called “phasing”),
  • And a slew of minor changes.

Wrath of the Lich King will also introduce new abilities and talents, as well as reinvented ones. The idea of redundant buffs falls into this category, but they deserve special mention because of the concept’s unique effects on game balance.

The Minor and “Flavorful” Changes

There are some changes people will note I have not explicitly listed. This is because these new systems or features have only a superficial impact on the game.

Barbershops will allow people to change their characters’ hair, facial hair, earrings, etc. They are nice additions to the game, but they will not directly impact PvE or PvP game play.


The achievement system will record and allow people to view their random accomplishments in the game. It is an interesting addition, but ultimately superficial. I feel Blizzard could have done more with the system, but I suppose there is a limit to just how much people should be required to invest in their characters. So the rewards do not extend beyond tabards, titles and viewable achievement records.

Passenger mounts are also a flavorful change, though they have the potential to become much more. But that potential is perhaps realized with the vehicle system.

Death Knights, and New and Changing Abilities

The Burning Crusade introduced momentous shifts in raid and PvP balance with new and changed talents and abilities. Wrath of the Lich King will also feature new and reinvented class design elements, while further complicating the matter by introducing an entirely new class: the death knight. Already, I can imagine what anti-magic zone, hysteria, and improved icy talons may bring to raid design and balance. Meanwhile, there are a myriad of abilities and talents that will have a major impact on PvP and where other classes stand in general. Death grip, for example, brings in a new concept: the ability to literally pull someone off your teammates in PvP. It is especially powerful when you can use chains of ice immediately following a death grip.

Anti-Magic Zone

Racial abilities are also changing. For example, shadowmeld will be usable in combat. However, it will also be receiving a two-minute cooldown, and from a PvE-standpoint it will result only in a temporary drop in threat. Hardiness, one of the orc racials, will only reduce the duration of stuns. Previously, it increased the chance to resist them entirely.

Considering the other new and changing abilities and talents, people’s roles and placement on the scales of balance will change for both PvE and PvP.

10- and 25-Mans for Every Raid Dungeon

One exciting new feature in Wrath of the Lich King is that all raid content will be available as either a 10- or 25-person dungeon with completely independent progression paths. Both the 10- and 25-person versions will be the same dungeon; the look, layout, and design of the dungeon will remain the same. However, each will be adjusted, tuned, and balanced for its respective player size.

This is a major concept coming in Wrath. If the same feature was included in TBC, there would be 10-man versions of Gruul’s and Magtheridon’s Lairs, Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep, Mount Hyjal, Black Temple and the Sunwell, and they would have their own progression path independent of the 25-man versions.

However, the 10-mans will be lower in difficulty and offer gear lesser in quality than the 25-man counterparts. So I doubt this will affect the most die-hard of raiders in any way other than providing them with new options for supplemental gear.

The Chamber of Aspects

The prospect of experiencing content with the same storylines is probably exciting for many who find 25-man raiding too stressful or time-consuming compared to 10-man raiding. For this reason, I imagine there will be more 10-man raiding guilds than there are now, especially because Karazhan and Zul’Aman provide a rather shallow experience with a broken progress line. Certainly, I think some 25-man guilds will fall apart over this change. Already there are rumors of a major guild on my server failing because a couple of their leaders are leaving and some people are considering 10-mans to be preferable.

I think the dissolution of some 25-man guilds is a small price to pay for an increase in accessibility to the game in general. Furthermore, it means I will see less players of poorer quality applying to my guild simply to see Illidan or Kil’jaeden and satiate their lore-driven desires. It’s not a bad thing people are into lore and want to see some of the most storied characters in the game, but I always have a difficult time explaining to a friend why I can’t take them to Kil’jaeden. 10-mans will offer them this opportunity without requiring them to endure the heightened raid difficulty of 25-mans.

Inscriptions and Glyphs

GlyphsWrath offers a new craft called inscription. The impact inscription will have on the game far exceeds that of what jewelcrafting had in TBC. This is because the glyphs produced by inscription change many core abilities dramatically. For example, glyph of regrowth increases the spell’s front-end heal by 50% on anyone who already has the heal-over-time portion of the spell. If I had this glyph right now, my regrowths would be landing for over 5K on anyone already with my regrowth HoT. This is particularly interesting when I consider how tanks in many situations are never without it.

Not only will Blizzard have to balance classes’ talents and abilities, but also their glyphs. Consider how a balance druid with both the starfire and moonfire glyphs will see quite a large increase to their overall DPS potential. Without recasting moonfire every 12 to 15 seconds, a druid can work in several extra moonfires during a six-minute fight while doing more damage with moonfire overall. For example, our balance druid on the last Brutallus he DPS’d for did an average of 3077 damage with his starfire and an average of 473 damage for every tick of his moonfire’s DoT. The fight took 5 minutes and 25 seconds to defeat. If he were to have the starfire and moonfire glyphs, I estimate he could cast at least seven more starfires and do 75% more damage on his 95 ticks of moonfire. That’s approximately 55240 more damage, or 170 more DPS, bringing him up to 2090 DPS from 1920.

The New Vehicle System

The vehicle system is not really a new idea. There have been mobs used in the pet system a character “possesses” while the actual character is banished or stationary. Some examples of this include:

The difference between this existing system and the new vehicle system is simply that a vehicle carries the character with it. That said, Blizzard has taken the vehicle system seriously and made some major refinements to the concepts of controlling something other than a traditional class. They have implemented new UI elements to compliment the system. And they have implemented targeting systems specifically designed to work with the vehicle’s different weapons and abilities. For example, area-targeting with cannons, catapults, etc. show the parabolic route your projectile will travel, instead of the typical circular area involved in targetting with spells like hurricane, blizzard and rain of fire.

Furthermore, some vehicles have different controlling mechanics. Some can’t strafe. And some can’t move backwards. This further separates vehicular movement from traditional character control.

The reason this system will have a major impact on the game is because Blizzard plans to use it in a lot of new content. Already, it plays a major role in the world PvP zone Lake Wintergrasp, and the new battleground Strand of the Ancients. Blizzard has also stated it intends to use the system in raid and instanced PvE content, as well.

Destructible Buildings, Siege Engines, Wintergrasp, Strand of the Ancients, and PvP in General

I’ve waited four years for siege engines and destructible buildings to make their way into WoW. Prior to WoW, I played Dark Age of Camelot, where siege engines and destructible doors have been a part of the game since its release in 2001, and where destructible buildings have been a part of it since New Frontiers was released in 2004. There was nothing more epic than battling for a good hour or two trying to break down a door and storm a keep or pummel it into the ground with trebuchets and catapults.

Personally, I thought Blizzard did its customers a disservice by not taking our desire to have siege engines and destructible buildings in Alterac Valley seriously. It was not a new concept amongst MMO’s, afterall. And I think by failing to seize the opportunity early, Blizzard has delayed the refinement of such a system. I doubt the system will reach full maturity before 2009, because of this. Blizzard could have had the system introduced in 2005 and refined by 2006. This would have come over two years before the release of Warhammer and established the feature as one of WoW’s strong points well before the impending competition. Furthermore, I also think an earlier development of the system would have given Blizzard a better idea of just how popular siege warfare really is amongst the MMO crowd.

That said, siege warfare will provide people with new opportunities beyond the usual fare of standing next to or clicking on flags and nodes. Halaa took one step towards unique concepts, but failed to deliver given that it did not reset nor provide ample end-game rewards beyond a unique resilience gem.

A skirmish in Wintergrasp.

However, the changes coming to PvP in general, beyond the arena and honor systems, is extremely limited. Arenas still dominate PvP in terms of offering rewards, because the gear you obtain requires you to increase your arena rating. Essentially, this means everyone is forced to play one style of PvP to get the best rewards. To crowds like the one I am a part of, this is extremely disappointing. I hate arenas. They foster an atmosphere of composition and counter-composition to succeed in long-term settings like seasonal ladders (tournaments are a different matter, since they are short-term). And the strategies involved are limited based on team compositions and what is typically successful against each. For this reason, I prefer Warsong Gulch, Lake Wintergrasp and Strand of the Ancients by far. And I would prefer rated battlegrounds over arenas any day. And I know over half of my guild is in the same boat. OVER HALF! And, of course, there are also people who prefer arenas over battlegrounds who would rather not have to step foot into any of them to obtain their belts, bracers, necks, etc. So it goes both ways.

So while Wrath offers us a new option for arena point farming in Wintergrasp, a new battleground in which to farm honor points, and siege warfare to increase our enjoyment of such tasks, the arena and honor systems remain fundamentally the same. Siege warfare will excite a lot of people, but the lack of changes to the PvP rewards system will disappoint a lot of people unless something changes before November 13th.

The Homogenization and Redundancy of Some Buffs and Abilities

The homogenization and redundancy of buffs really should be an issue to discuss in its own entry. I have a lot of negative things to say about this change. But I will try to keep it short and sweet in this entry to give you an idea of how it will reshape the landscape of raiding for Wrath.

As it currently stands, most classes and specs provide unique buffs no others have. Blizzard plans to change this. Unfortunately, it will also have dire consequences on certain classes and specs based on what they provide in comparison to others. Quite simply, there will be certain combinations of class specs that provide all of the necessary raid buffs while taking the least amount of space in the raid or producing the most cumulative DPS

Shadow priests have been hit rather hard with this concept. Misery has been changed to provide 3% hit, but it will fail to stack with improved faerie fire. Shadow weaving has been removed as a debuff and affects only the shadow priest’s personal DPS. And vampiric touch is changing to put a buff on the raid which produces a flat amount of mana regeneration, regardless of the damage done. This buff will be shared by survival hunters and retribution paladins. This means the only raid buffing shadow priests provide is 3% hit and mana regen, both already provided by other class specs. So unless shadow priests do more personal DPS or provide more utility in many fights than do moonkins, survival hunters and retribution paladins, I doubt you will see them in raids that have an extreme min-maxing mindset. Regardless of how skilled the shadow priest is, because most guilds look only for specific classes and then trial players to find talented players in those roles.

Of interesting note, our current shadow priest is a draenei, meaning he also loses symbol of hope to gain hymn of hope. Previously, he would just expend a global cooldown to cast it and then provide a good 900+ mana to his group. But after 3.0 he will have to drop shadow form, stop DPSing, and channel holy hymn for 8 seconds to return a smaller amount of mana to his group than did symbol of hope.

To generalize my point: for classes and/or specs that do not retain some or enough of their unique buffs, if their general performance does not compare to other classes, or if they don’t bring the tools you need to succeed given specific combinations of classes and specs, they will be tossed aside in favor of what’s best for min-maxing.

I say this as a raid leader who plans to do this. While I will not just toss aside people I know to be talented players, you can bet I will discuss with them the possibility of rerolling or respeccing when the expansion comes out if we perceive their current spec to be weak in terms of raid synergy or potential performance. And you can guarantee that when I recruit new people I will have my preferences for which class specs to recruit. I have further opinions on this, but I will abstain from relating them in this entry. I merely seek to provide some perspective on the huge impact the homogenization of buffs will have on the game.

Combining +Heal and +Dmg into Spell Power

When 3.0 is released, people will discover that +healing and +dmg is no more. Instead, there will be one universal stat called spell power. I suppose this is meant to homogenize the gear of damage casters and healers. And, personally, I think it’s a great change as sometimes there is some crossover to be had. With that said, however, I worry it has affected the design concepts of the itemization team. Already, I’m seeing the first tier of the druid healing set include crit.

Despite the inclusion of living seed, crit is a stat restoration druids won’t need. We rarely use healing touch, and we will rarely use it even in Wrath simply because it takes to long to cast and causes us to become “out of step” with typical incoming damage. What I mean by this is that if a mob hit for 8K every two seconds and has the capability of also doing a 10K spell between swings on occasion, our 3-second heal might not land before our assigned target is dead. So only swiftmend, regrowth and nourish are spells we might use that benefit from crit.  But swiftmend is on a 15-second cooldown, and nourish is highly inefficient, so they will be infrequent. This means regrowth becomes the standard for our crittable heals. But specced restoration, regrowth already has a high crit-rate. So I’m certain druids will want to stack spell power, spirit and haste instead.

That said, there are some items designed perfectly. And these work well as both healing and damage gear in some cases. So the homogenization is welcome. But I think this change will also cause early item sets to be poorly designed.

Caster and Physical Crit, Haste and Hit Combined, While AP Affects Spells for Some Hybrids

Wrath will be combining crit, haste and hit into the same stats for both casters and physical DPS. This will have no affect on pure physical and pure damage casters beyond the refinement of the general mechanics for how spells resist and abilities miss. However, it will have a rather large affect on hybrids that do both physical and spell DPS. Enhancement shamans, retribution paladins and death knights are the major players in this change. Furthermore, attack power will also begin to affect the damage some classes do with spells. This is a concept that already existed for retribution paladins, but the concept is being expanded beyond them such that different levels of attack power will supersede spell damage and vice versa.

New Server Architecture: Phasing

Blizzard has been working on new server architecture that allows individual characters to view the world differently from others based on what they have and have not done in the game. For example, if you have done a quest that charges you with capturing an enemy town, you would see this town in your own faction’s hands after completing the quest. Other characters would still view it as under the control of the enemy. And to prevent any breaking of immersion, characters in this area who have not completed the quest will be invisible, or “phased out” to those earlier or further in progression of the questline. This technology did not fully exist in TBC and the original version of WoW.

An example of phasing.

This new architecture has a high potential for changing the way the game is played, especially in outdoor zones. Already, Icecrown borrows elements from the system and allows you to do quests which progress the advancement of the armies fighting against the Scourge. One quest has you acting on behalf of the Knights of the Ebon Blade to capture a Scourge stronghold within the zone, turning it into a quest hub complete with a flight point after you have completed the task. It is, however, a little more limited in Icecrown than I’d like, but that might be because it is unfinished. But it is there and somewhat interesting.

The architecture is best used in the death knight tutorial zone. And one can read my prior report of the experience to get an idea of just how impactful it can be for Wrath and in future expansions.

Is Wrath a “New Game”?

Blizzard has stated in the past they wish to approach the development of each expansion as a new game building upon the underlying concepts of the old. I think Wrath certainly achieves this to some degree with the introduction of new zones, new instances, a new battleground and a new outdoor PvP zone. But in terms of offering a new game with new or changed fundamental systems, Wrath primarily offers:

  1. Siege warfare,
  2. Death knights and the rune system,
  3. 10-man parallels to 25-mans, and
  4. New server architecture that allows changes to the game’s setting for individuals.

However, I think three of these changes need refinement. Furthermore, I believe Blizzard isn’t taking the same risks it took in TBC that provided the game with sweeping changes to its fundamentals.

  • Yes, they are adding a new class, but it is something they already technically did in giving the Alliance shamans and the Horde paladins.
  • Yes, they are adding siege warfare, but they are not supporting the new style of PvP to the same extent that they have supported arenas all throughout TBC.
  • Yes, they are adding new server architecture that allows individualized experiences, but general improvements to the playability of the game is something I expect.

Offering 10-man parallels to every 25-man is a very solid paradigm shift, however. When doing the 5-man version of Kael’thas in Magister’s Terrace, I realized how cool it probably would be for those who were unable to see or kill him in Tempest Keep. So to make such characters and lore accessible to more casual players is a great change.

But there are issues Wrath does not address. These include:

  • The imbalance between the Horde and Alliance on some servers.
    • Proudmoore has an estimated 3:1 ratio of active Alliance to Horde, and it is only increasing now that people can transfer from PvE to the PvP ruleset. The buff for an outnumbered faction in Wintergrasp will help, but I doubt it will be the turning point if a faction is overwhelmed three to one. It dissuades them from even trying. Something fundamental needs to change for such content to be entirely successful in the future. Be it a third faction to foster temporary alliances between overwhelmed factions or something more than just a buff.
  • The desire for a large amount of the playerbase to have better supporting systems for a variety of PvP.
    • The honor system provides top-end rewards, yes. But it’s the plain and simple fact that you have to do both arena and battlegrounds to get all of the best PvP rewards that is concerning. Some people loathe arenas. And some hate battlegrounds. But both have their difficulties and limitations separate from each other. There’s no reason different PvP systems can’t offer the same level of rewards, so people can choose to participate in the style of PvP they prefer.
  • The spell-casting and melee systems are generally the same as they were in 1.0, with some minor tweaks made to rage normalization and spell pushback.
    • Death knights offer an entirely new system underlying their spells and abilities. I think it is perhaps time to consider new systems for existing classes. The mana, energy and rage systems have proven to be limiting for some classes in raid and PvP balance, afterall.

I don’t have answers to these problems, currently. They are incredibly complex and it is not the intention of this entry to provide suggestions for them. But I felt it is important to note what Wrath of the Lich King will not change, in addition to what it will.

Wrath does offer some exciting new content and systems, despite the outstanding issues. And I do not want to ignore any positives:

  • The inscription system is intriguing.
  • Death knights are fun, even though they still need balance and polish.
  • Some class specs have great new talents and abilities, even though others still need work and improvements.
  • Having 10-man versions of 25-man dungeons is a great concept in general and will help even raiders fill their time.
  • Lake Wintergrasp and Strand of the Ancients are enjoyable on a basic level, even though I think we could use better faction balancing and rated battlegrounds.
  • The daily system has been expanded and there are plenty to choose from.
  • The lore in general surrounding death knights, the Argent Crusade, Icecrown and Storm Peaks is top notch.
  • A lot of the new zones are great fun, especially Icecrown and Storm Peaks.

This expansion’s story will also offer revelations to surprise people. And perhaps some that are to be expected. Tirion will wield a weapon of great power and continue to increase in his role as a leader of the mortal races against the Scourge. More Scourge will break free from the Lich King’s control, but we will also discover why. Someone thought to be dead will actually be alive, and he will turn up in an odd location. And there will be some major struggles amongst the oldest races of Azeroth.

Wrath of the Lich King takes the style of lore seen on Quel’Danas and expand upon its principles. And with it Blizzard creates a more involving experience. Admittedly, it is one that still sometimes fails the ideal of self-containment, but it better presented than the Sunwell.

It’s Time to Prepare

With all these changes in mind, people can now begin preparing for the impending release of 3.0 and Wrath of the Lich King. How you prepare will be dependent on the research you do and what you plan to do with your time once 3.0 and Wrath go live. I do have some advice, however:

  • Level your alts, if you want options for leveling to 80.
  • Reserve your death knight’s name with a level 1 character.
  • Stockpile low level herbs for leveling inscription or profiting off the mad rush to 375 when 3.0 comes out.
  • Sell all of your mats and items that will become defunct.
    • Spend all your heroic badges on epic gems and sell them before they are worthless.
    • Sell all your scryer signets and your aldor marks.
    • Sell all your excess primals and enchanting materials.
  • Get your epic flying mounts, because you don’t want to be doing Storm Peaks or Icecrown with 60% flight.
  • Don’t stockpile honor or arena points, because they are going to reset when Wrath is released.
  • Start making plans for rerolling or respeccing if your class or spec has major weaknesses.
  • Start making plans for your guild if you are an officer or a leader. The last thing you want is to be caught with your pants around your ankles.

And, lastly, prepare to enjoy yourself, but don’t forget you might meet some frustration along the way.

PvE to PvP Server Transfers an Overdue Policy Change

Providing a smooth and enjoyable experience for all players is always a priority for us, and we are continually re-evaluating our policies and programs to do so. As the state of the game has matured substantially since the inception of Paid Character Transfers, we will now be allowing PvE-to-PvP transfers on a full-time basis to provide players with more mobility and freedom to easily play with their friends.

The ability to transfer unrestricted from a PvE to PvP ruleset is a welcome change to Blizzard’s character transfer policy. It took a few years of near continuous argument against the elitists in the PvP community to force a shift in Blizzard’s stance. It was the tiresome rebuttals against the few problematic circumstances that had long become obsolete as the game has progressed in its design that encouraged a change I feel is best for the community as a whole.

Consider the situation in its entirety.

  1. Anyone who had originally rolled on a PvE server and misjudged the ruleset’s potential had to re-roll if they wanted to switch to a PvP server.
  2. Anyone on a PvP ruleset had to decide whether or not it was worth the one-way ticket to a PvE ruleset if they wanted to trial for a raiding guild on a PvE server.
  3. Any guild that wanted to switch from a PvE to PvP ruleset had to convince many of their members to ditch their old characters and re-roll entirely.
  4. Anyone on a PvE server couldn’t transfer their existing characters to play with friends on PvP realms. And anyone on a PvP server had to decide whether or not locking themselves to PvE was a good sacrifice to make with the risk that their friends could quit WoW or find no time to play with them.

On #1: People’s Original Expectations for Optional PvP on the PvE Ruleset Were Not Fully Met

Proudmoore is one of the original servers of WoW. Many people who rolled there did so in a time when the atmosphere of the game and its design were much different. When the game was released, it was fresh and people focused on envisioning its potential moreso than considering its reality, choosing rulesets based on Blizzard’s plans, rather than WoW’s actuality.

When battlegrounds were finally released, people like me discovered they weren’t what they had imagined or expected. Considering my experiences with Dark Age of Camelot, I had high expectations for PvP systems. I hoped Alterac Valley would include things like siege warfare, doors to break down, players having range bonuses on top of buildings and towers, etc. But I was disappointed with the final outcome, even though I found its first couple incarnations enjoyable.

Also, once battlegrounds had become the best place to farm honor, I realized world PvP on a PvE server would become non-existent. So I was disappointed in the realization of Blizzard’s plans, and I began to second-guess my original choice of rolling on a PvE server. This drove me to re-roll a druid on Azgalor so I could PvP and raid with my friends on Horde. When that didn’t work out how I planned, however, I came back to Proudmoore, finding a niche in raiding.

I serve as an example of someone who originally rolled on a PvE server hoping for an optional PvP experience that was better than what I actually received. And when it came time to consider a change of setting, I had to re-roll and set aside my previous investment. In talking with friends and other players, I know I am not the only person who suffered such a dilemma. And had not I found joy in raiding on Proudmoore, my overall experience would have only resulted in frustration.

By opening these transfers, anyone acting on a change of mind can do so knowing they won’t have to endure the pain of trying to re-establish an entirely new character for the sake of swapping out the scenery.

On #2: Raiders on PvP Servers Were Dissuaded from Transferring to Raiding Guilds on PvE Servers

I saw several guilds fall apart during the progression push on Sunwell. Each time, I tried to capitalize on the opportunity of recruitment by offering these people a trial with my guild. However, my offer was often declined with the stated reason being they didn’t want to leave the PvP ruleset, as they would be unable to return should they ever decide to.

The real issue is that raiding guilds on PvP servers are generally just as good at raiding as those on PvE servers, if not better. The top five guilds in the world are all on PvP realms. So there’s no incentive to transfer to a PvE server just to join a raiding guild, because it’s nothing PvP servers don’t already offer.

By allowing paid transfers to PvP servers, people no longer have to fear getting locked to the PvE ruleset. Should they fail their trial, the guild disband, or they decide the guild isn’t a good fit for them, they can transfer back to a PvP realm to try their hand at a guild there or to simply enjoy a different ruleset.

On #3: Switching Rulesets for Entire Guilds Was Complicated and Risky

There have been very few guilds which have re-rolled entirely from PvE to PvP. Juggernaut perhaps serves as the best example of this accomplishment. However, most guilds don’t survive this transition, and I suspect Juggernaut would not have if it had not been a top 20 U.S. guild prior to its decision to re-roll. This is because a portion of the players in guilds on PvE servers usually have minimal interest in PvP, and some people actually dislike the risk of getting ganked while trying to farm for raids.

So the only positive some people saw in re-rolling to a PvP realm with their guild was to retain membership. This was then weighed against the negatives to be had in the requirement of ditching past character investment, past friendships on the old server, on top of sacrificing the conditions for farming these people might actually prefer. By allowing paid transfers, ditching prior investment no longer plays a factor, meaning there are fewer negatives to dissuade people from making the change.

On #4: Allowing PvE to PvP Transfers Lifts the Limitation on Playing with Friends

I have a friend who plays on a PvP server. Before PvE to PvP transfers were allowed, he always hesitated to transfer to mine or his other friends’ servers. This is because of a combination of two conditions:

  1. He would prefer to play on a PvP ruleset if he couldn’t play with his friends.
  2. There was a risk of his friends quitting WoW and moving on to different games, or not having the time to game with him.

While I asserted I would not be quitting the game anytime soon, I did warn him my obligations as a guildleader could prevent me from PvPing or gaming with him frequently. And as his other friends were fickle about the games they played, he decided not to transfer to any of their servers. So he stuck with his old PvP realm, so as not to risk the inability to return should I rarely have the time to play with him, or his friends quit the game (which is exactly what most of them did, by the way).

Then consider the problem where people playing on PvE servers couldn’t transfer to play with their friends on PvP servers at all. Playing with your friends was the only incentive to counter the negatives of sacrificing an established character.

Are There Problems with This New Feature? And Do They Outweight the Benefits?

The PvP elite is correct in asserting the change allowing PvE to PvP transfers will create a few problems.

Certainly, people playing for the first time on PvP realms won’t be entirely familiar with the social dynamics that occur in the upper echelon of each server. And the difference here is that they can potentially be fully geared before they understand the social complexities.

Also, people will be able to farm heaps of gold and mats without fear of being ganked before they transfer and flood their targetted PvP realm with a pile of wealth, causing shifts in the server’s economy.

However, the question is whether or not these problems outweigh the benefits of allowing PvE to PvP transfers. Personally, I think the economic impact is the biggest concern and I believe the assumed impact of fresh faces unfamiliar with common PvP trends is overblown or grossly erroneous. Regardless, these potential problems don’t outweight the following benefits:

  1. It will increase the recruitment pool for all guilds, on both PvE and PvP realms.
  2. It will allow people to transfer and play with their friends without limitations beyond the normal transfer cooldown.
  3. It will allow people and guilds to switch from PvE to PvP realms without sacrificing prior investment.

The Impact on the Economy Won’t Be As Large as People Think

Talking to the friends I have on PvP realms, they say they make most of their money by running Karazhan, ZA and heroics. In doing so, they purchase epic gems and make their money this way. And typically they find enough lulls in PvP spats on Sunstrider Isle to get their dailies done. So while there is a difference in the amount of money they can earn over time, it is not nearly as large as most people assume.

Most People Have Misguided Concepts of Who “PvPers” Are on PvE Realms

There are some people who generalize the PvP playerbase of PvE servers based on their experiences with world PvP. Rohan of Blessing of Kings cites incidents involving players who feel the need to kill people accidentally flagged or AFK outside of instances.

Having played on a PvE realm primarily for nearly four years, I can condidently say most of the people who randomly gank flagged people do so purely for the sake of seizing an opportunity that comes maybe once every few weeks. And those who boast? They are no different than any jackass who likes to corpse camp lowbies in Stanglethorn (or Hillsbrad, back when that was the hotspot for world PvP).

Pretty much half of the best PvPers on Proudmoore are in my guild. Yes, they sometimes kill people flagged outside of instances. Again, however, it’s because they see it as a rare opportunity to be seized and enjoyed. Particularly when the Horde fights back. And I rarely see anyone boast about any accomplishments related to such acticities, regardless of guild or faction. Furthermore, all of the decent PvPers in my guild already have alts on PvP realms. So many of the best PvPers on PvE realms aren’t actually new to the ruleset. So I view the concern as a result of gross generalization.

In the end, this is a great change all-around and one I think people will realize when they see the results. And many people’s fears will go unsubstantiated.

PvP vs. PvE

There’s an age old debate that goes on amongst PvPers and PvEers: which is more difficult? For some reason, people think this comparison is pivotal. But, really, it’s not. However, each can affect the other. For example, Archimonde is made easier if everyone in your raid has a Medallion of the Alliance. And rogues are far more potent if they’re using warglaives over s3 weapons. So discussing each in relation to the other is an important point of contention.

However, on a general level, comparing PvP and PvE is like contrasting Zelda and TF2. They have entirely different dynamics. They are almost entirely different games, even. PvE has mechanics you simply don’t see in PvP. And it’s a simple reason why: bosses have abilities players don’t. So when you come up against a boss with an ability you’ve never seen before (which is almost always the case), you’re forced to figure out exactly what it does, when the boss uses it and how to cope with it given the context of your class and raid composition. It’s similar to the approach necessary to beat any boss in a Zelda game, except there’s only one class and one person in the “raid.”

Here’s the thing. If Blizzard wants to go the route of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out or Battletoads, they can make Kil’jaeden nearly impossible and leave him that way. But everyone knows frustrating your PvE playerbase is likely to lose you customers. The playability value of the PvE game in an MMO comes primarily with experiencing new content, rather than its difficulty. So they don’t make them impossible. And thus the difficulty lies primarily in mustering up a force of players built for beating each specific boss, and maintaining this group of players. This is something even Ming understands.

Likewise, the difficulty in PvP is entirely different from that of PvE. Hell, difficulty in various types of PvP are not entirely comparable. For example, with BG’s, you have different tools that add to the dynamic of gameplay. When these tools exist, the degree of difficulty changes based on the complexity of the systems involved. But arenas are the basis for discussing PvP these days, and its difficulty is based entirely on class composition, player skill and what each team matches up against with high frequency. But one thing is certain: you’re not going to waltz into an arena match and suddenly discover that someone on the other team has Doomfire or Flame Wreath. But that has nothing to do with PvP vs PvE. Rather, it’s an example of why they are too different compare.

The dialog should focus on how each affects the other, not whether PvP or PvE is more difficult. And it’s imperative to hold this discussion, because there are players who dislike participating in one or the other. At the same time, however, it’s important for Blizzard to maximize people’s enjoyment of one side of the game without stepping on the toes of others. And I mean this in the sense that there are players who enjoy both sides of the game, myself included. It’s not like you can just disallow warglaives in arena, because it would force these rogues to go out and get a new set of weapons. And good luck to them staying on top of the ladder using some blue or S1 maces! So some of these problems need to be fixed either with the new season or with WotLK. Design concepts need to be adjusted with the addition of new PvE content, new arena seasons, new types of PvP, etc.

That said, however, bickering over whether or not PvP is harder than PvE and vice versa is pointless. And anyone who tries to generalize a specific demographic of players is simply a douchebag. No matter what side of the fence they stand on.