Saturday, 4 July 2009

Blog closing - for good this time!

I've decided to consolidate my blogs into something more general. In future anything I write about WoW will be in my new blog, Stabbed Up.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Mudflation and the 3.2 badge changes

Escape Hatch, always a great read got me thinking tonight and I'm putting one of the posts up here as I think it is of general interest.

I think Blizzard has dug itself into a pit with its policies on mudflation.

Mudflation is used in these games as a way of keeping people interested. If the gear had never got better after Lucifron then by now everyone would have every sidegrade they could possibly want and there would be no reason to run raids for loot for 99% of players.

That's all well and good and fair enough.

However the way gear works in a raid is that each different attribute multiplies all the others. For instance if your tanks' armour goes up 1% then your raid is about 1% better. However if every stat goes up 1% then the tanks are avoiding more, mitigating more, defending a larger health pool and being healed by a healer team with faster casting, more mana, bigger heals and more crit heals. And of course they don't need to keep the tanks alive as long since the dps finishes off the boss faster.

Because of this 1% would have been a reasonable step up from tier to tier. At most 2%. Because 1% on all your stats for each raider is about 10% on the raid as a whole.

Because this isn't intuitive to non-mathematical players Blizzard implemented its mudflation by giving large boosts to the quality of gear. Each Tier is about 10% better than the last tier in every stat.

This means that a raid going up a Tier becomes much more powerful. The same player with the same rotation goes from 1k dps to 5k dps. Purely as a function of gear upgrades.

This means they couldn't possibly bring in a new tier of content without making a large swathe of top raid loot available to fresh dinged 80s. Because otherwise they would be so far behind there would be no point taking them or people would be angry about "boosting" "slackers".

I can see why Blizzard likes bug solid upgrades that make people says "wow". But the price of them is that they escalate mudflation.

I recently gave up raiding seriously but have started pootling about on a shaman alt on Kazzak EU server. It's one of the more conpetitive servers around. There is a wierd gap opened up between fresh-dinged 80s and raiders. The raiders run Ulduar with their guilds. They pug Naxx. There are no Naxx guilds. There are guilds that have level 70-fresh 80 players which are about to start naxx. But as soon as people get the achievement they leave their guilds and pug. Since the pugs are all people with the achievement (and sometimes with the Epic achievement required too) the pug can clear Naxx in 3 hours.

If new raid content was brought in without opening things up then all the players who are stuck in the can't get a raid without achievement, can't get achievement without raid trap are locked out of the entire pve end-game.

It's very much an unforeseen consequence that making Naxx so face-rollable allows people to be so selective. It's also an unforeseen consequence that making gear progression so steep means people without the gear really are useless. No one will want my 1k spellpower shammy on a Naxx raid, even if they are short of healers.

I think the solution is a shorter gear curve but I hope that explains why they have had to take drastic action to stop fresh 80s being locked out of raiding.

My other response to Hatch was more specific and of less general interest. It's here if you want to read it.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Reports of my demise...

I think I'm interested enough in WOW to play it very casually and occasionally post here.

So reports of the demise of Death Knight Spree may have been exaggerated. However it's more of a Level 1 Zombie Snotling than a Death Knight just now.

"We could pug raids without linking achievements before"


You didn't

Stop making stuff up

I've raided since Onyxia was the top raid instance and the history of pug raiding is something like this:

Mar 2005 - Jan 2006 No one pugged raids. Very few people raided at all.

Feb 2006 - Jun 2006 semi pugs of MC and ZG started. Almost invariably people from more progressed guilds who had either left or didn't need their lockout would organise a raid by inviting as many people from notably successful raid guilds as possible adding a few hardcore pvpers (who were great raid dps) and rounding out with a few complete strangers.

Jul 2006-Dec 2006 widespread pugging of MC and ZG. Very little pugging of anything higher because those instances were considered too hard for people who didn't know what a rotation was and didn't know tactics (standard pug back then).

Jan 2007-May 2007 raids were the hardest ever. Karazhan was brutal. Attumen trash respawned every 15 minutes meaning if you were slow clearing it spawned on your casters and wiped you. Moroes extremely hard with the mortal striking add able to two shot a clothy and the garotte lasting 5 minutes. Even if you killed him garrotted people would bleed to death. No one pugged raids. Hell, no one even pugged heroics. The top guilds in the world were unable to finish TK- The Eye.

Jun 2007-Mar 2008 Karazhan successively nerfed to the point where people started to try pugs there. Usually depended on over-geared people with T5 or T6 loot leading. All higher content still too hard to pug.

Apr 2008 - Aug 2008 Kara pugs become common. Pugs becoming available for ZA and SSC but gear is carefully checked by the raid leader. Basically you have to have killed the content to get into the pug.

Sep 2008-Nov 2008. Sunwell Radiance removed. All raid bosses hit points lowered by 30%. Most content up to and including early SW25 is pugged. Kara through BT raids simply zerg down the bosses with a raid full of people not listening or knowing tactics, gameplay is more like Diablo 2 than traditional WOW raiding.

Dec 2008 to Feb 2008. Naxx is discovered and found to be easy. People still generally go with guilds though.

Mar 2008 to present. Widespread raid pugging usually with requests to Link Achievement.

Conclusion. Please do not spread the LIE that everyone pugged raids happily until achievements were introduced. Before achievements were introduced you would not be asked to link one because YOU WOULD NOT BE ASKED TO RAID.

Got it?

(Reposted from the WoW EU R&D forums)

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Signing off for now

I'm taking a break from WoW. Real life combines badly with raid leading if you become unexpectedly busy so I'm going to play a game where it matters less if I don't show up.

Thank you for reading I'll be making a new blog about Eve Online soon.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

CPP: when the store stops extending credit

Gevlon tore into the notion of the Consumer Producer Paradigm recently based on a flawed notion that it is identical to his own paradigm that WoW has two types of players: competent players on the one hand and morons and slackers on the other.

There are several reasons why CPP is a more robust model for raiding than tolerating underachievers and the most significant is that you are able to set a minimum standard. (For other reasons I refer you to my response over on Gevlon's site).

The minimum standard varies from guild to guild and changes over time. As far as Might of Kalimdor is concerned we're still finding our level. However we start from this single basic principle:

1) However good or bad you are currently you must be set up to improve. We want people who are paying attention, interested and enthusiastic. Our best dpsers I can remember being under 1k dps on some early heroics when we were all in blues and greens. Our highest throughput healer is completely new to WoW with this character that he rolled in January.

Effectively attention is the currency in which we producers expect to be paid and improvement is the verification that you are paying.

Some things which show as positive in this regard are:

- meter performance
- performance of an assigned task (eg if you're a healer did you let your tank die?)
- coping with raid boss gimmicks (eg safety dance, not standing in fires, not faceplanting etc)
- listening on Vent
- participating in chat, jokes are a great sign people are awake and alert (we have very light-hearted raids)
- supportiveness. We need you to be in our side and not out for yourself at other people's expense. We recently removed two players who complained about not getting more loot.

Over time the guild will be raising the bar. At the moment we get 20-25 people logging on for each 25 man raid which is not really viable. We just need to push a little past that and then the management can focus more on helping people to meet the standards needed to push us through Ulduar.

So I'd welcome feedback on this: where do you set the minimum bar and what in particular shows that someone is failing to meet the minimum?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Death Knight specs

I'm now going to review the specs I've used since patch 3.1 hit and talk about the way I use them.

Blood tanking

This spec double dips Frost for Frigid Dreadplate while taking many of the survivability and self-heal Blood talents. I think it is the strongest possible DK survivability spec. It has fantastic cooldown uptime, great mitigation and outputs in 25 man raids about 1/4 to 1/3 as much healing as a full-on healing specced raid-buffed healer. I use this spec when I'm tanking a boss that might kill me and aoe threat is not an issue.

Rotation is diseases + Heart Strike, Death Strike, Rune Strike. Excess rp is dumped into Death Coil self-heals (using Lichborne) or Death Coil attacks.

Cooldowns are:
Mark of Blood (20 secs every 3 mins)
Icebound Fortitude (12 secs every minute)
Anti-magic shell (5 secs every 45 secs)
Vampiric Blood (30 secs every 2 mins)
Rune Tap (instant every 30 secs)
Lichborne (15 secs every 3 mins)
Trinket: Defender's Code (20 secs every 2 mins)

I aim to keep most of these on cooldown while tanking in this spec. Vampiric Blood is the most powerful cooldown so it's the one to plan the others around if you know the boss damage will spike or the one to use first otherwise.

Threat tanking build (Unholy)

This is significantly lighter on survivability but gets a number of area effect threat abilities as well as a well-developed Scourge Strike. Scourge Strike and Death and Decay are especially important in a high threat build because they have an extra threat multiplier in addition to the multiplier gained from Frost Presence. (Source: Tankspot).

Rotation for AoE threat is:
Death and Decay, diseases, Pestilence, Unholy Blight (as soon as runic power permits), Blood Tap, Blood Boil. Then Scourge strike, Rune Strike + Bloodboil the skull, adding Corpse Explosion and Unholy Blight when available.

Rotation for single target threat is:
Death and Decay, diseases, then mash the Scourge Strike, Blood Strike, Death Coil keys with Rune Strike macroed.

Note that there are no pet talents in this build. Pets do not give you threat, they have their own separately tracked level of threat.

DPS build

Single target rotation: diseases > scourge strike, blood strike, death coil

AOE rotation: death and decay, diseases > pestilence, and as many unholy blights, corpse explosions and blood boils as you can squeeze off.

Keep Empower Rune Weapon, Gargoyle, Blood Tap and Ghoul Frenzy on cooldown.

Pretty straightforward nuke build, the pets are important and pet uptime is a big factor. Even without especially good dps gear I was around 6th-7th in our 25 man raids with this spec.

Spec switching

My main interest is playing dual tank spec and I constantly spec switch. My Blood tanking spec is much better on dangerous pulls or if we are doing a fast paced raid and the healers are struggling to keep up with us. The threat tank spec is essential for collecting adds on fights like Sarth with drakes. Always judge from pull to pull which spec works best. It's great fun to drop in and out of the two different specs to handle different challenges and I'm having a blast with dual tanking specs.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Sandboxes and little girls

Tobold is a blogger I very much admire. Not only does he have the ability to see key issues and summarise them but he is great at starting interesting discussions.

This was very much the case this time when Tobold reported on Dr Richard Bartle's keynote speech at the Game Designer's Conference.

Dr Bartle is a provocative and controversial figure in the games design blogosphere. He ran MUD1 back in the prehistory of the MMO genre and has been an academic and writer on the subject ever since.

Here are some Bartle links

Career summary
His site
I've already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft.
The torture controversy

Two things are undeniable about this games design commentator - he is one of the most accessible people on the internet, enthusiastically jumping in to discuss issues with players, and he is one of the most original and controversial thinkers on the subject.

On to my recent discussion with him over at Tobold's site.

In his Games Developer Conference keynote Bartle laid out a blueprint for future MMO game design that pigeonholes WoW as a linear game. You follow the yellow brick road of questing until you hit 80 then follow the now purple-lined new yellow brick road of raiding.

My take on this is that WoW is not like some simple linear game where you can only do one set thing after another. By misrepresenting WoW his blueprint is built upon faulty foundations.

We discussed sandboxes. I remember first seeing the term "sandbox" applied to computer games in the mid-90s. You had games like Planescape: Torment where you clicked the dialogue to be told where to go next. There would be some options for variety but those mostly returned you to the main plot path. And there were games like Daggerfall where you could wander anywhere and start up something interesting.

In Daggerfall you could do the obvious main quest from your starter area or you could travel somewhere else and do some different quest chain or just explore or do something else.

Just like WoW.

Now the term sandbox has evolved. Essentially what people mean by sandbox is its no longer sandbox if you can do anything you want. Its sandbox if you are denied a single obvious route to take. The word has changed its meaning.

So while in WoW you can roll a Human and go off to the night elf zone or try to singlehandedly attack Orgrimmar or go day-trade on the auction house or gain a handful of levels then become a permanent battleground twink WoW is characterised by game analysts as not actually presenting any other option than the yellow brick road, ie questing your way to 80.

Raph Koster summaries Dr Bartle's presentation as
It basically makes the case that freeform play (and even user-created content) should be the elder game on top of a more directed and guided play experience

Key word is more, the problem with the presentation that I have is that everything is clear-cut and black and white which naturally leads to revolution being the solution not evolution.

The truth is far more blurred.

One interesting example is the history of pvp in WoW. Originally there were no battlegrounds, arenas or honour. The value of doing pvp was simply the thrill for its own sake. This led to three main manifestations of pvp.

- A constant large multiplayer zerg between Southshore and Tarren Mill that occasionally died down but was at least daily on every pvp server.
- Spontaneous raids on targets mainly aimed as Ashenvale (Horde aggressors) or Crossroads (Alliance aggressors)
- low level skirmishing usually 1 v 1 in places like Stranglethorn Vale where people were basically doing their quests with the camera panning 360 degrees all the time and a very nervous atmosphere.

All of this was player-generated content, emergent and an environment so rich that interesting things just happened. True sandbox pvp.

And it mostly died when battlegrounds were introduced. The incentives given for theme park pvp trumped the thrill of sandbox pvp.

But the sandbox is still there.

Southshore was still just south of Tarren Mill last time I looked, Stranglethorn Vale is still populated with 35-40s sneaking through to do their quests.

So sandbox has ceased to become a term that refers to what players CAN do in the world, it now refers to what they DO do. In other words it's a game-defining quality which is incentive led .

Not only is the sandbox there in pvp (although virtually unused) it is very much there at end-game. WoW end-game simply cannot be characterised as purely raiding. I am entertaining myself now writing a blog post with WoW closed but this is still part of WoW's complex and diverse meta-endgame. In fact there are more things that people are actually doing in WoW endgame considering the range of machinima movie-making, mathematical theorycrafting, add-on writing all of which are forms of entertainment arising from WoW's end-game which will generally keep players subscribed to WoW.

Another thing to consider is that sandbox has now become a gaming word like casual. Everyone knows what they think it means, no one actually thinks it means the same thing as everyone else.

Raiding with CPP

I am an officer in Might of Kalimdor, a guild on a re-roll server, Saurfang, a server that celebrates its three month anniversary today. This means that while most of the WoW playerbase is entering Ulduar most of my server is approaching or has just dinged 80. We're doing Naxx.

We're very much a casual guild with no enforced attendance or consumable requirements. People come if they feel like it we don't do progression wipe nights (yet). Every raid we do should leave people happy, enthusiastic and wanting more.

As a raid leader one of the important aspects of this is pace. Our healers are used to us rolling pretty fast and replenishment buff is a priority in putting our raids together. We summarise bosses pretty briefly. Generally if people can't kill a boss with the brief explanation then the long explanation which most people won't listen to won't really help. Wiping is a better learning tool than lecturing.

We're pretty open to afking. If people want to afk it's not a problem, we'll usually push on without them. Most of our players are very brief if they afk simply because they're very enthusiastic and want to stay involved.

As raid leaders we try to be complimentary. We look at how the raid is functioning and actively seek to tell people who are performing well that they're doing great.

We try to keep Vent chatter going. Conversations on Vent tend to be at times light-hearted, even silly, but range to game mechanics and the old days of raiding. Anyone can speak up, the customer service principles of educate, entertain and empower very much apply.

This week saw our first 25 in partnership with two other guilds: Qui Vive and Dark something (sorry guys!) as well as a Priest called Kiraous. We killed everything except Kel'Thuzad with no drama and a genuine feeling that everyone left happy. Not bad for a first look over two raid nights!

From my perspective as one of the raid leaders it's simply much easier to raid with CPP principles. Instead of worrying about whether I'm being the dogsbody I am taking my work skillset and applying it to my gaming and watching it flourish.

CPP: On the nature of the relationship

I'm delighted to see other bloggers have started to discuss this:
Spinks: 3 ways to encourage or discourage active players
Larissa: Once a leader, not always a leader

In response to their initial comments I'd now like to discuss the most important and ground-breaking aspect of CPP.

Both roles are positive.

Let me introduce myself a little more. I am a lbrarian working for the public library service of a London borough. It is a customer service job. It is a wonderful and highly fulfilling job that varies from customer to customer. My role is to educate, entertain and empower.

In a queue of people I might have to help a homeless person figure out how to google a charity he wants to contact, to find a copy of a Horrid Henry dvd for a seven year old, and then to help someone whose roof is leaking find emergency help as well as an idea of where to start legal process for damages.

These are my customers. I don't shout at them, I don't deduct fifty dkp, I don't make them sit through long boring explanations, I don't in fact behave anything at all like a traditional WoW raid leader.

The customers in turn have a profound enthusiasm for the library service. Each library has a network of local volunteers called Friends of ____ Library who actively arrange events, perform fundraising and agitate if there is any threat of closure.

That relationship is something that is central to CPP. You are, if a producer, trying to produce a service you are proud of, if a consumer you hope to be educated, entertained and empowered.

This is already happening in many raid guilds.

However in some there is an us and them attitude. Cliquiness. Elitism.

Gevlon famously views underperforming raid members as morons and slackers who are carried by soft-hearted guilds. This is a self-defeating attitude, the opposite of CPP.

Spinks views raid members as either active or passive with a neutral slant. It's descriptive and doesn't relate to whether they are a good player.

With CPP what I'm trying for is a paradigm that is win-win. Both roles are positive. Each role help the other role. It's not fun to be a chief without indians.

CPP is a broad brush approach, a piece of game sociology. There will be many individuals who don't really fit into either category. But that's true of any sociological generalisation and doesn't devalue it.

It's possible to make an observation that eighty-year olds generally don't have mobile phones and twenty-year olds generally do. Someone will then generally point to someone they know who is twenty or eighty who doesn't fit the generalisation.

But that misses the point. Such a generalisation isn't an attempt to label every person in the world. It's a method of being able to tell whether you should stick your phone ad in Mature Times or Face.

If you apply CPP principles to your raid it creates a win-win resonance. People can simply turn up to raids shoot stuff then leave without having to feel guilty about not helping enough. People can energetically research and organise raids without feeling like they're being put upon.

The generally accepted paradigm is we're all players we're all equal which is why seeing a handful of players work much harder than most others for a common goal feels wrong at quite a basic level to many people. CPP's main function is to provide an alternative model that lets people look at the raid process without feeling either guilty or resentful.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

[Player Choice] Changing from one to the other

If you are P and you want to be C

1) First and foremost develop your capacity to enjoy the game solo. This may involve starting to listen to music while you play, switching to a more solo-capable alt, developing an addiction to battlegrounds, discovering fishing or whatever. The key to being a Consumer is not having to rely on group content.

2) Lose the sense that group content matters. This is simply a decision you take. If you join a pug and it falls apart, so what? just carry on fishing. Believing that the group must succeed is what entraps people in producer behaviour when they'd rather not behave that way.

3) Stop helping people. If someone asks a simple question don't answer. It starts with Manrik's wife then rapidly becomes a slippery slope that leaves you as raid leader being b*tched at because someone's dagger didn't drop. Manrik who?

4) Sit in LFG queue while you're doing your solo activity. If possible only queue for instances reasonably far away, ie don't queue for Heroic Nexus if you're fishing in Borean Tundra.

5) Learn to love the auction house. It's a great solo activity and it can keep you happily absorbed while the rest of the group argues about who should go to the meeting stone.

6) Talk less. No response is usually the best answer to any question. Particularly avoid talking on voice comms as people will often expect players who talk on voice comms to take the initiative and lead raids etc. If you find it difficult to stick to this physically unplug your mike from your PC.

7) Download the following addons: AtlasLoot, Bejewelled. These will give you entertainment while waiting for the boring bits during group content.

8) Always remember becoming a consumer isn't about becoming selfish. It's about playing the game in a different, more individualistic style.

If you are C and you want to be P

1) You have to visualise the player you want to become. Helpful, popular, competent, inspirational, commanding. This is a package and some of the individual elements that go towards making up that package will suck. The destination is worth the journey.

2) Always move to the meeting stone as soon as you join a group. This will sometimes suck when it takes 20 minutes+ for any of the others to come. See 1). Tip: Bejewelled addon will help in this situation.

3) Learn and practice the instances. Learn your class Use the class and raids & dungeons forums here as well as
for background and theorycraft.

4) Try to always be polite. You are a leader and motivator, don't let people drag you down to a lower level where you start bickering with them.

5) Help others but as far as verbal advice is concerned limit the amount of information you give to others. One play changing tip per raid or dungeon run is about the maximum that people will take in. If you try to give more advice than this you will usually aggravate people. You can always give people potions and elixirs if you want to help them and motivate them without seeming too controlling.

6) Get voice comms and a mike. become comfortable with chatting to other players while you play. Don't underestimate the in-game voice facility. It's not brilliant but it will give a minimum level of voice comm functionality. It may be the best option if you pug raid.

7) Plan where you want to go and try to organise the people for it. If you want to go to, say, Sartharion, research the fight first and understand what everyone's role will be. Run through the conversations with each player in your head first so you can pare down the instructions to a minimal "stand there, do that" type format.

8) Remember that being a producer is a play-style. It's a very fun play-style but it's not an equal play-style. It's frustrating to be a producer without CPP because you sit there thinking the others should be putting in the same effort as you. CPP explains why they won't. So roll with that and enjoy the game the way you want to play it and become the great player you want to become.

Friday, 24 April 2009

[Guilds] How CPP will make your guild better

Identifying your producers and consumers is vital in a guild that wants to tackle Player-Enhanced Content like raids.

It's ok to have some consumers. You do however require a minimum number of producers.

The minimum number varies from guild to guild but can be quantified as follows:

The minimum number of producers you need is the amount required to satisfy the requirements of the guild's members for Player-Enhanced Content without any of them feeling over-worked.

If you don't have enough producers investigate the following:
- do you have unrecognised producers? ie people who are comfortable helping out but simply have not yet been asked to

- can you recruit producers? are any of the people applying to your guild former officers elsewhere?

- can you reduce workload? for instance some guilds provide flasks for their members. If your producers are doing this but are also overworked stop providing this service.

CPP can be used to analyse applicants to your guild. Consider taking some of the questions from the Questionnaire below for your standard guild application template. By asking if people like crafting, if they like the AH, you can identify producers and consumers and choose who to recruit. A guild where too many people always want input on decisions might be best recruiting mainly consumers to balance out their Chiefs:Indians ratio. A guild where raids get cancelled if the GM isn't online to lead it needs more producers.

Some guilds mainly or entirely recruit producers. Top US guild Fusion says:
"Our roster is composed of a majority of people who have been former officers, raid leaders, and GMs." (Check out the rest of a fascinating article on their organisation here: ).

While that is a strong model for most raid guilds our recruitment pools won't support that kind of approach so our goal is to maximise the enthusiasm within the guild by satisfying people according to their CPP types. Consumers want to feel welcomed and rewarded without being guilt-tripped about not organising stuff. Producers want the opportunity to be seen to be contributing, want their play and their input valued and want to be given opportunities to contribute. Understanding your players is key to keeping them happy and enthusiastic. Enthusiasm breeds success which in turn breeds enthusiasm.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

What is CPP?

CPP is the Consumer-Producer Paradigm.

A paradigm is a collection of rules about how to think about a certain subject. In terms of MMO games the paradigms have been player v developer, hardcore v casual, pve-er v pvp-er, ganker v carebear and so on.

CPP (the Consumer-Producer Paradigm) is a new paradigm that views participants in a MMO as consumers or producers. It is actually more relevant and useful to see players in terms of whether they are consumers or producers than almost any of the preceding paradigms.

First let's look at what is meant by production in the context of MMOs.

The game designers produce content that is accessible to varying degrees. Some content like Kill Ten Boars quests are available to anyone. All players are consumers of such content.

Other content like raids, arena teams, battleground pre-mades and instance groups requires producer players to organise this content for the benefit of themselves and additional players. This is called Player-Enabled Content in the CPP system.

Are you the type of player who is a guild officer, raid leader, invites people to pugs and so on? If so you are a producer. You unlock Player-Enabled Content for yourself and other players.

Are you the type of player who solo grinds dailies or bgs until a raid or a group invite comes along? If so you are a consumer. You don't unlock Player-Enabled Content, you wait for producer players to unlock it for you so you can participate.

At this stage it should be said CPP is not about judging people. It's not bad to be a consumer - we're all consumers in some areas of our lives. CPP is about analyzing people and behaviour patterns so you can take control of your interactions with other players because you understand them better.

Let us look first at how the two types interract using the example of a 5 man pug group. The producers in our group are a tank and his mage friend. They recruit others from their guilds, their friends lists, from the lfg tool and as a last resort by sending tells to many players of appropriate level asking them to join the pug.

Once the group is formed the producers travel to the meeting stone to summon the others. They are reasonably well-geared for the instance and competent players so even if the others suck they can probably get them through. The tank is the group leader and marks mobs if needed. The mage coordinates cc requirements with his tank friend and discusses any tactical issues over their private voice comms.

The tank and the mage are creating what is basically a package tour whereby customers join up, get transported to the instance, follow the tank around tapping some very obvious button and collecting loot.

This becomes even more pronounced at the raid level where the producers may spend many long hours refining theory and researching strats but some of their customers simply log on for raids, spam fireball, collect loot, then log off till next time.

Producers make player-enhanced content happen. They start groups, form guilds, lead raids, invite other to battleground pre-mades. Consumers join these activities once they have been initiated by someone else.

Meetings stones are viewed by both parties as something producers use to assist consumers. Consumers who have to travel to a meeting stone to facilitate a raid or instance run will feel put upon, will feel that maybe this is going to be a bad group.

Consumers love buying things from the auction house. They like to shop. Producers like crafting their equipment or earning it from pve and pvp.

Producers are drawn towards tank and healer roles. Consumers are drawn towards dps.

Producers are very careful to let everyone know if they afk. They assume the group is depending on them. Consumers aren't bothered about going afk. They assume the group can cope regardless of whether they do anything to help or not.

Consumers love vanity items. The more expensive and pointless the better. Motorbikes, titles, Siamese cats, picnic umbrellas - all great stuff. Producers are generally uninterested in vanity items although they may collect them as a secondary occupation if the game does not provide enough group content to keep them busy.

Consumers like soloing as well as group play. To a producer group play is the main purpose of playing a MMO.

Producers see problems as an issue for the whole group to address. Consumers think producers should solve problems. I had an example of this in a former guild. We were short of healers one night. We asked if anyone knew a healer who could come and help out. No response. We announced we would have to cancel the raid because not enough healers turned up.

From my perspective as an officer this simply goes with the territory of being casual and relaxed about attendance. If you have 6 healers in the guild and need 3 to raid and they sometimes log in sometimes don't you will get nights when the number turning up is under 3. This is simply standard deviation mathematics.

One player was furious. "This is rubbish," he cried. "I specifically arranged to be free tonight and now you're telling me I wasted my time?? Ridiculous!" From our perspective as producers we have accepted that we would provide an unreliable service as a trade-off for not requiring people to turn up as dutifully as if it were a job. We had offered the whole group the opportunity to solve the problem and none of them had been able to do so. We were no more to blame than anyone else who failed to conjure a healer out of a magic hat.

From his perspective as a consumer we've failed him by failing to provide the service he expected us to.

OK, now you know what I mean by producers and consumers among MMO players. You may be thinking of some players who are clearly in one category or another. You may be thinking that you yourself or others you know don't fall neatly into one category or the other.

Most people probably will not be ticking all the boxes and saying I'm 100% one category or the other. Most people will however tick 80%+ of the boxes on one side. Very very few people will be 50% producer 50% consumer.

In fact the vast majority of players are identifiably either producer or consumer in the way they play MMOs and react to the Player-Enhanced Content.

Understanding the Paradigm opens a tremendous amount of possibilities to us, options to change the way we play and the way people around us play.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

[Questionnaire] Are you C or P?

1) After each question jot down either C or P

2) Do you have voice comms and a mike? Yes = P, No = C

3) Have you bought a bargain on the Auction House that you felt really satisfied with in the last month? Yes = C, No = P

4) Do you think crafted items should be just as good as raid/arena rewards? Yes = P, No = C

5) Do you go to the meeting stone in a pug? Yes = P, No = C

6) Are you dps? Yes = C, No = P

7) Do you have hotkeys set up to raid mark mobs? Yes = P, No = C

8) Do you always type brb or afk when you bio break? Yes = P, No = C

9) Someone asks a simple question in General Chat, eg "Where is Manrik's wife?" Do you answer? Yes = P, No = C

10) Are you or have you been an officer, raid leader or GM in a raiding guild? Yes = P, No = C

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CPP will let you
- find a better guild
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- recruit and befriend better players
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- (game designers only) design a better game

CPP is absolutely free. What's more CPP is guaranteed to work. Anyone taking advantage of this special introductory offer who is not 100% satisfied will be able to claim a full refund.

CPP will be unveiled in this thread. Each day one of the reserved posts immediately following will be completed until after six days the full product will be available here. On the seventh day we're planning to rest as is standard procedure when great works are created.

Hope you enjoy the mystery and in any event stay tuned for a game-changing, even a life-changing, new product!

(Note to moderators: CPP is not at this time a commercial product in any way. It is a free service aimed at increasing the amount of enjoyment players and designers get from participating in MMOs).

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Coming soon: CPP

This next week will see a radical series of blog posts which I will post here and also to the WoW official forums.

The subject? CPP

What's CPP? Well it's currently a mystery. One that will slowly be revealed over the course of the next week. I think if you read this blog you'll absolutely love it.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Threat build

With 3.1 coming this week it's dual spec time and I'll be taking two tank builds. I've analysed the various survival options in previous posts.

Now it's time to look at threat. I suspect that this may become my default tanking spec since already I'm having some problems keeping aggro.

After looking at Tankspot's excellent DK threat summary I decided I'd like to do an Unholy threat spec. Scourge Strike has added threat, Unholy Blight is great AOE threat.

The build is 23/0/48

Single target rotation is Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Scourge Strike, Blood strike, Blood strike, Scourge strike, Scourge strike, Scourge strike
RP dumps are Rune Strike and Death Coil

Multi-target rotation is Death and Decay, Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Pestilence, Unholy Blight, Blood Tap, Blood Boil

Friday, 10 April 2009

To the power of ten

To the power of ten: why ten man raids are inherently a more powerful form of raid than 25s.

Much has been said recently about the apparent anomaly that ten man raids offer comparable difficulty but worse loot than 25 man raids.

Ghostcrawler has commented on this issue extensively on the US WoW forums. His basic line is that 25s are desireable, hard to organise, and would die if the reward was obtainable elsewhere more easily.

Green Armadillo feels that balancing normal mode 10 man, normal mode 25 man, hard/achievement mode 10 man and hard/achievement mode 10 man is simply too much. It's too early to say this - one of the huge imponderables here is that players have not unanimously accepted achievement/hard mode content as a desireable progression path yet and they might do so in future.

Hatch thinks Ghostcrawler is floundering in defence of an untenable position. That loot should be the same in both versions, possibly with greater quantity of loot dropping in 25s.

The key point, which Ghostcrawler isn't really in a position to stress because it means insulting his customers is that most of us can find 10 good players relatively easily. So a 10 man raid is you plus nine friends whereas a 25 man raid is you plus 9 mates plus 15 people who are tagging along for the loot.

OK that will vary of course - if you're not very social it may just be you plus 24 random strangers if you're highly social or are imposing and checking standards it may be you plus 24 excellent players.

They key point is that social connection is a huge factor in performance. Crappy pugs are crappy not because people are incompetent but because they are 5 strangers and no one is digging deep to find their best game.

There are two requisites to playing at the top of your abilities for most people:

1) Trust. If you feel that you are playing with a bunch of clueless noobs you will probably stop trying or try to hard and overcompensate for them to the point it impairs your best game. This is human nature, group psychology. We see it in the difference between small businesses where people feel individually recognised and acclaimed for their contributions and large businesses where people feel marginalised. Of course there may be economy of scale factors that make large businesses more profitable but generally speaking the commitment of employees is much higher in small businesses.

2) Security. You need to feel free to take risks, say what you think, test things. If you get jumped on for being a clueless noob or think you might when you try something different or simply if your exasperated raid leader demands you all to shut up on bosses then you're marginalised and won't concentrate as well.

Both of these requisites are likely to be present in a close-knit 10 man group and absent in a bigger raid.

The problem and challenge of 25 man raiding is getting the best out of people by making them feel valued and important. This happens naturally in a 10 man built primarily on real life or in-game friends, after all you can make a group just by contacting people you value. It's much harder to do for 25s.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

3.1 tanking part 3: glyph analysis

This is the last post in the series. I will now look at glyphs purely from a survival perspective.

1) threat is not a problem
2) you need to do everything you can to maximise survival

MMO-champion's talent calculator

The big three

In a previous post I stated that a DK tank can be defined by which 36 point talent he takes. In addition to being very strong tanking talents these cooldown abilities also each have an excellent glyph associated with them.

To evaluate these bear this in mind: duration is the most important aspect of a cooldown after the length of the cooldown itself. Generally speaking you will survive a spike if your cooldown is up in time and making a cooldown 20% better won't change this. Duration on the other hand means that your cooldown can cover more big hits, for example more of Sartharion's Flame Breaths.

Glyph of Vampiric Blood: increases duration by 10 secs.
The best glyph for one of these abilities by quite a long way. It moves VB to an uptime of 30 secs in every 120 second cycle. In other words even after the 3.1 DK cooldown nerf this ability alone covers you for 25% of the fight. With Anti-Magic Shell, Icebound Fortitude and cooldowns from Priests and Paladins you can be under a cooldown continually.

Glyph of Unbreakable Armour: increases the amount of damage absorbed by Unbreakable Armour by 20%
I honestly think that if the base 5% damage absorbtion from the skill won't save you then 6% absorbtion won't either. It's mathematically possible of course but in practice it will be very rare that the extra tiny amount of absorb makes the difference.

Glyph of Bone Shield: adds 2 charges to your Bone Shield
This is a buff to Bone Shield's duration. How strong this is depends on your evasion. For most tanks 6 charges of Bone Shield will not last 30 seconds against most bosses. A boss usually has an autoattack at about 2.5 speed, will get extra attacks when it parries (mitigated by your expertise), will have special attacks/breaths. In addition if an add hits you it will reduce Bone Shield.

Winner: Blood

Other Blood glyphs

(minor) Glyph of Blood Tap: Your Blood Tap no longer causes damage to you.
I Blood Tap a lot. According to the MMO Champion skills list Blood Tap does 6% of base health. My orc, naked, is 10 061 so this is 604 health. However the tool tip says 487 health and when I use it my health goes to 9 574, a cost of 487. So it's 487 health per minute saved by using this minor glyph, averaging 8.1 health per sec.

Glyph of Rune Tap: Your Rune Tap heals yourself for an additional 10% of the effect, and also heals your party for 10% of their maximum health.
The effect is 20% every 30 seconds with 4 talent points spent so this glyph gives 600 health per 30 seconds to a 30K life tank. 20 health per second seems pretty small but that is the average amount this glyph will give you if you can Rune Tap on cooldown without overhealing. The group heal is a nice extra.

Other Frost glyphs

Glyph of Icebound Fortitude: IBF always gives at least 30% damage reduction regardless of your defence skill.
Normally your defence skill will give over 30% so this is pointless to tanks wearing + defence gear. The one exception is Thorim, a boss in Ulduar who reduces defence. You may wish to swap this glyph in for that fight.

Other Unholy glyphs

Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell: increases duration by 2 seconds.
As I've said above duration is the best way in which cooldown abilities can be improved by glyphs after cooldown reduction. This glyph takes this cooldown from an uptime of 5 secs every 45 secs to 7 secs every 45 secs. It's a significant improvement to a very good ability.

(minor) Glyph of Death's Embrace: Your Death Coil refunds 20 runic power when used to heal.
This is only useful in conjunction with Lichborne. By turning yourself undead you can dump RP into self-healing Death Coils and this glyph almost doubles the effectiveness of this. If you want to survive tough situations as a tank and are taking Lichborne this is probably the best minor glyph.

Glyph of Death Strike: increases your Death Strike's damage by 2% for every 2 runic power you have to a max of 25%. The runic power is not consumed.
Death Strike should be your main 2 glyph attack on a survival fight. Damage directly boosts the size of the heals making this a very useful survival tank glyph. Death Strike is presumably a reasonable threat ability because both the damage part of the attack and the heal add threat. So possibly you should use glyphed Death Strike over unglyphed Obliterate not just in survival situations but also in threat situations. (Needs testing).

Glyph of Raise Dead: your Raise Dead no longer requires a reagent.
Being able to cannibalise your ghoul for life with Death Pact is a significantly useful survival tank move. If you're so well organised that you never forget corpse dust then this Minor may be redundant. For the rest of us this is a potential life-saver.


The glyphs I recommend to survival tanks are as follows:
Major: one from Glyph of Vampiric Blood, Unbreakable Armour, Bone Shield
Glyph of Death Strike
Glyph of Anti-magic Shell

Minor: Blood Tap, Death's Embrace (if you have Lichborne), Raise Dead (if you're occasionally disorganised).

Monday, 6 April 2009

The future of the MMO industry

One of the astonishing successes of WoW and to some extent other games has been their ability to harness players to code add-ons to extensively test add-ons at no risk to the parent company and then to complacently accept when the developer decides to incorporate the add-on into their own UI. All of these stages could have been stumbling blocks. If you had outlined this scheme ten years ago people would have said amateurs won't want to write your program for you without being paid, won't do it well, players won't test code written by random non-professional members of the public, and even if they do you'll never get away with taking amateur copyright code and incorporating it into a product you charge for.

But of course it's worked and Blizzard's UI is not only superior to anyone else's but has been written, and will be written in future by amateurs, tested for months and years by thousands of players and co-opted into the game by Blizzard once they know it's a sure-fire bet.

This will broaden as it's such excellent business for the game company.

I expect to see in future raids dungeons and classes written and tested by players then "lifted" by Blizzard. Perhaps they'll even name an NPC after whichever unpaid genius makes them the most millions.

This, not RMT, is the future of the MMO industry.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The cycle of drama: response

I posted a lengthy response over at World Of Matticus which I've decided to repeat here. As usual Matticus is at his most thought-provoking on the subject of guild management and 5 phases in the cycle of drama is an excellent read.

If it’s any consolation Matt, these things are cyclical and drama will become less of a problem once the toy cupboard is stocked with new Ulduar-flavoured toys.

I think you’re correct in your analysis that silence leads to explosions but I think that the inference that communication is the answer is less sure.

There are a lot of people on the internet in general and playing WoW in particular who don’t bother to be polite. Historically, politeness evolved in violent cultures where if you annoyed someone you could be killed. In medieval Japan the practice of “cutting and going away” whereby an offended member of the samurai class had the legal right to kill an offensive commoner has left a legacy of extraordinary civility amongst Japanese people to this day. In medieval Europe chivalry evolved as a series of polite forms to stop strangers from killing each other.

In WoW if you want a smoother ride encourage politeness. If people feel free to trash-talk guildies your guild will probably suffer unless there is a specific reason why it thrives on edginess (perhaps a pvp guild or an aggressively competitive server first type guild).

To some extent politeness means that the officers need to reign in those who feel entitled to be rude to whoever disagrees with them.

It’s a fact of life that you can’t build a team of 30+ players without some of them disliking at least one other person. Politeness is a way of keeping the conflict from escalating.

This is why people in offices are generally polite. They don’t necessarily like their co-workers, they may even detest someone, but because everyone is expected to be polite they co-exist without exploding into drama that might damage the organisation.

In other words it’s healthy to have a general expectation that adult players should be responsible for managing their own frictions rather than expecting them to require paternalistic management of their relationships with other players.

If players in a guild don’t get on it’s usually one of the following:
1) pecking order (ie “don’t give me advice on how to play and be right damn you - you’ve only been here a month and I’m one of the main healers since Kara”).

2) misunderstanding

3) cultural differences (”what’s wrong with calling people slags? we all called each other slags in my old guild?”)

4) rivalry for raid spots or loot

Pecking order disputes are hard to identify since the participants won’t see them as pecking order disputes. Generally once we’ve identified that this is the problem the best approach seems to be to tell them to leave each other alone. (”I was only being helpful!” “Yes I know but just stop, ok?”). You won’t solve this type of problem by getting them to talk to each other.

Misunderstandings are usually exposed and put to bed by openness about what was said and what the intentions were.

Cultural differences are best nipped in the bud early. These can be identified during trials when the individuals are at their most receptive, change them then if possible.

Rivalry issues are best defused by having clearly stated sign-ups and loot systems that allow people to know where they stand. Sometimes they arise because guild leadership has been pretty thoughtless. My last guild believed in having 5 mages and 2 mage spots, one of which was given to the 99% active assistant raid leader. They should have simply let the numbers go down or taken more mages to raids but they did neither. Playing a mage in that guild meant being benched more than raiding but that only applied to mages not to other classes.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The legalities of add-ons

Gaming site ZAM has a great interview with Connie Mableson here. Among her other interesting points she argues that Blizzard may well be forcing add-ons to not charge and make their code public because they intend to develop add-ons in-house and charge for them.

She links the ability to charge with the ability to keep the code secret and I'm sure she's right about that. After all not many people would pay $14.99 a year for code they could cut and paste off the internet.

What I don't agree with though is that Blizzard want to develop add-ons in-house.

The add-on community currently does most of Blizzard's UI code-writing and has done for years. There's barely been anything beyond the most simple of toggles that has changed in Blizzard's UI since 2004 without the add-on community testing it first. The notable exception is voice comms which they had the chance to see in LOTR before they copied the idea.

These are the advantages to Blizzard with the current set-up:
- the programming is written free
- extensive QA is done by the modding community and the players who download the add-on. Many of these have had several versions refining them to perfection
- there's no risk to Blizzard if an add-on sucks or if people don't like it

If Blizzard produce their own add-ons it's expensive, it may not be successful, it may discourage people who feel they now need to pay surcharges to be competitive in a form of RMT and of course there will be loads of free competition from existing free add-ons unless they ban those.

What they want is the code.

By stopping Carbonite keeping its code secret they can continue their rather exploitative practice of cherry-picking the highlights of the add-ons after players have put it through extensive QA.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

3.1 tanking part 2: talent analysis

First let me explain my assumptions

1) Content is challenging. As a tank your job is primarily not dying.
2) Threat is sufficient with just about any spec. To be fair you probably need 3/3 Morbidity for AOE threat for this to be true but since some of the survival options will be able to generate aoe threat in other ways (eg tab targetting with Heart Strike or using Unholy Blight) we'll disregard this for now

A general note about self-heals and life leech attacks. The important thing to remember with these abilities is that they are balanced around the game as a whole and generally don't scale well for raiding. Consider an ability that heals 60 health per second. This will give 60 whether you're being nibbled by a grey mob for 10 dps, if you're fighting an open world elite doing 200 dps, if you're taking 500 dps in a 5 man or if you're being hit by a raid boss for 20K. While these abilities are very strong in solo or small group content they don't generally scale up well. They're not negligable, they may be worth about half an extra healer in raid situations. They are better in 10 man raids than in 25 man raids because of this scaling factor. They are better when you are offtanking with one healer on you than when you are main tanking with 5 healers on you. Damage reduction however does scale with content.

Now let's consider the structure of the talent trees.

The defining talent

Each tree has a defining tanking-oriented talent and they are deliberately designed to be mutually exclusive. This is because with 71 talent points you can go 36/35 but you can't pick up two 36 point talents.

The defining talents are Vampiric Blood (Blood), Unbreakable Armour (Frost) and Bone Shield (Unholy).

Which defining talent you will get is a major consideration in choosing your main tree because all they are very strong.

Vampiric Blood is more of a panic button than the other two. If you are simply popping a cooldown to make yourself more survivable but are not low on health then Icebound Fortitude is a better option. If you are low on health Vampiric Blood is a superb skill for surviving the spike and allowing the healers to bring you back up to full quickly. It doesn't scale with gear, that is you may become better with gear but your Vampiric Blood talent won't.

Unbreakable Armour is solid damage reduction that works in any situation. It has a slight bias towards physical mitigation because it boosts parry as well as giving flat damage reduction. Parry of course may reduce damage from direct spells if you have Spell Deflection. It scales with armour but even an entry level tank will have a decent amount of armour in a raid situation, especially if Inspiration from certain types of healers is on you.

Bone Shield has certain advantages over the other two talents as well as a fundamental disadvantage. The advantages are 1) it can be pre-cast 2 minutes before the boss is pulled and thus be both active and available so you can have it twice right at the start of a fight and 2) it has a very good glyph. The disadvantage is that bosses hit pretty often and even glyphed with great gear it may well not last as long as the other two cooldowns. You lose a bone when an attack hits so the bosses base auto-attack, his special abilities and his parry-hasted attacks will all cause this shield to wear off. Unless you have very high avoidance and expertise you probably won't be keeping Bone Shield up for the 20 seconds you get with the rival talents. Unlike the talents its usefulness will vary a great deal from boss to boss with a boss like Patchwerk who hits fast stripping it off you quick, a boss with adds like Maexxna will see it wear off very quick if you aggro some of the adds.

Note however on very short fights Bone Armour may have more uptime than the other talents. In a three minute fight you can use Bone Armour three times but one of the other defining talents only twice. If a fight is both short and very forgiving with regard to bone attrition then it may win out. It's hard to see a progession fight meeting both of those criteria, however.

The basic talents

Death Knight tanks are designed around the idea that you will spend 5 points in maxxing a first Tier talent from each tree. These talents are Blade Barrier (Blood), Toughness (Frost) and Anticipation (Unholy). These talents are really good so it will be very unusual to design a tank without taking them. So 5/5/5 is the standard starting point for any DK tank.

In addition you may wish to reduce Death and Decay cooldown by taking 3/3 in Morbidity (Unholy). This is the only threat talent I will discuss here. The reason this is good is because unless you pick up some other AOE threat from your later talent choices your AOE tanking will really suffer if you're limited to 30 secs cooldown D&D, Pestilence and Blood Boil. In 3.1 Pestilence will be ineffective without pre-loaded diseases and Blood Boil will be reduced in effectiveness without pre-loaded diseases. So you kinda need Death and Decay to not be on a long cooldown if you don't have Howling Blast or Unholy Blight. Possibly Heart Strike with adept tab targetting will suffice for threat. So for many builds Morbidity will be part of your basic starting selection.

Double dipping

So if we now know we will be starting with 5/5/5 and heading into one tree as far as the 36 point talent which defines us as a tank of X spec the next thing to consider is how much mitigation we can get from outside our 36+5+5 by taking high tier talents from other trees. Let's now look at the 1-35 talent point options in each tree.


In addition to small strength buffs and self-heals (which are somewhat marginalised against raid bosses) the talent that really stands out is Veteran of the Third War. If we double-dip into our core build is now 23/36/5 or 23/5/36. I honestly can't see any point dipping into Blood and not getting this talent if you are trying for survival.


Frost offers Lichborne and Frigid Dreadplate. Lichborne is now situational but Frigid Dreadplate is an outstandingly good option. This means that dipping into Frost gives you a core build of 36/23/5 or 5/23/36.

There is also the option to dip deep for Improved Frost Presence. However you would have to give up everything deeper than 36 in your main tree and 2 points of the Tier 1 talent. So getting 2% damage reduction in exchange for 2% dodge. It's not practical to do this.


The notable talents here are Magic Suppression which requires you to dip to 28 and Anti-Magic Zone which requires you to dip to 31. If you're frost dipping Blood for Veteran of the Third War and Spell Deflection is just plain better and cheaper even if you are going into a magic-heavy fight. If you are Blood it may be worth dipping for a magic-heavy fight. You can get 3/3 Magic Suppression and 3/3 Will of the Necropolis in a 43/0/28 build. It's a gimmick build that gives up 15% armour from Toughness and gives up Heart Strike, the main Blood tree attack. But with dual spec available this may be useful against a boss that does entirely magic damage, particularly if Spell Deflection also works against him. So you could have this anti-magic spec just to tank one fight while you have your usual tanking spec as something more conventional


I recommend 23/36/5 or 36/23/5 as the basis for Death Knight survival-oriented tanking in 3.1. I don't recommend Unholy because it has much fewer survival talents than other builds. Possibly it has value in a gimmick magic heavy fight or if there is some situation where uptime on Bone Armour is going to be better than uptime on one of the other defining talents. If you want a high aoe tank for farming easy heroics then by all means go Unholy. But if you are tanking hard bosses that your guild will wipe on then Unholy probably won't cut it.

The unassigned points are for going deeper into your main tree. So a final spec something like 23/40/8 or 43/23/5 would be about as strong as you can get for sheer survival.

It may look odd to see Frost spec without Howling Blast or Blood spec without Heart Strike but bear in mind the new Dual Spec system. You can tank to the boss in your dps/high threat spec then switch to your mitigation spec to tank the boss.

Raiding, hard modes and achievements

A lot has been said recently about hard modes and how unsatisfying some raiders find them. Axiom talks about them as a victory for casuals. Vads is frustrated that progression means more gameplay in the same damned instance.

I won't rehearse the pros of hard modes, just let's say it's a model that very much suits Blizzard and it's unlikely they will relent.

To enjoy the game you need to move on I think from boss kill-centred raiding to hard mode focussed raiding. If you're in a very strong raid guild then boss kills will be interesting only for about 3 weeks after each patch, you will then have them on farm.

Hard modes are interesting because they add complexity. Sarth 3D is every bit as absorbing and taxing as Vashj was. In fact in some ways it's more demanding because you have to multi-task a lot of different things all the way through as opposed to Vashj where for each person your job was simple at each phase (eg phase 5: heal tank, don't stand in green crap).

In terms of the actual gameplay there is nothing worse about hardmodes. Here is my to do list on our Sarth 3d kill as a Holy Paladin:
- heal drake tank. My healing is a blend of Flash of Light and Holy Light, while keeping Sacred Shield up all the time and using Divine Plea whenever it feels safe to do so.
- don't stand in front of drake and get breathed on
- beacon adds tank
- off-heal second drake tank
- dodge lava walls
- move out of void zones
- get beat up by adds a little
- keep Sarth in a focus window and track his flame breath casts so I can identify the third cast after Vesperon lands.
- HoSac the main tank in time for that 3rd breath

That's a very very complex raid encounter. By contrast Vashj, which is cited by Vads as a complex fight had 5 distinct phases which almost all broke down to
- stand in the right place (ie by the post during the volleyball phase, not in the green shit during the dont die in green shit phase)
- heal

There were raid encounters as constantly demanding as Sarth 3D before Lich King of course, Kil Jaeden is a good example. But most weren't.

What I'm saying, and this is part of the reason why this particular Pandora's Box will never get closed again is that you can't point to gameplay reasons why doing a hardmode is a worse playing experience than doing a harder instance. You can say you don't like being in the same instance which is a cosmetic objection, you can complain that everyone else has purples which is a status reason but I don't think you can say your gameplay is worse simply because of hard modes.

I'm looking forward to Ulduar hard modes. I think this concept is still a work in progress and will get a lot better quite quickly. The hard modes of 3.3 will be a lot more interesting and sophisticated than Sarth 3 D no doubt.

Achievements however I'm less sold on.

Most raid achievements involve doing a raid fight in some kind of sub-optimal way. Undermanning, not bothering with your Frost Resist gear, missing out key tricks that are supposed to be part of the fight (eg dispelling enrages at Faerlina). The raid leader in me says "argggh, I spent 4 years teaching people to raid and now they get encouraged to screw up fights on purpose????? arggggh!"

The only raid achievements I like are the Do The Fight Better achievements like You Don't Have an Eternity which requires you to kill Malygos in under 6 minutes. Being rewarded for doing the fight better is great. But there are far too many reward people for Doing the Fight Badly or perhaps worse of all the Bench Some of Your Friends for the Night, Sorry! achievements which are extremely badly thought out.

Friday, 27 March 2009

3.1 tanking part 1: survival talents

I'm going to have a look at tanking talents in the new patch over a series of blog posts. This one is a look at which DK talents reduce the amount of damage a tank will take from a raid boss or offer self-heals or increase stamina or simply make you live longer in some other way.

I've included expertise although this is only a mitigation talent if you would not be at the parry cap without it. However to quote the DK thread at Elitist Jerks: Bosses have a lot of parry if they can parry at all, so it’s just not worth gimping everything else to avoid it. But just for reference, boss parry is around 15%.


Blade Barrier 5/5 Whenever your Blood runes are on cooldown, you gain the Blade Barrier effect, which decreases damage taken by 5% for the next 10 seconds.
Still a core tanking talent

Improved Rune Tap 1/1 + 3/3 Converts one Blood Rune into 20% of your maximum health. 30 sec cooldown.
About 6K on a raid buffed and geared tank at our progression level. Our healers are outputting about 1800 hps on boss fights so this is equivalent to just over 3 secs of healer time and of course will usually be timed for a critical moment.

Spell Deflection 3/3 You have a chance equal to your Parry chance of taking 45% less damage from a direct damage spell.
Quite situational. Many boss attacks are not spells or if they are spells are not direct damage but are area effect. This wouldn't cover Sartharion's Flame Breath for instance. However where it does work it's a solid ability. My raid buffed parry is just under 20% so this averages out to a 9% reduction. Very useful if the boss has a dd spell.

Veteran of the Third War 3/3 Increases your Strength and Stamina by 6% and your Expertise by 6.
Strength gives additional Parry chance, Stamina is just plain priceless and Expertise in addition to being a great threat stat is one of the strongest mitigation stats because it reduces the chance of parry hasted attacks from the boss. (Sped up attacks caused by the boss getting a parry on one of your attacks). This is an exceptionally good talent.

Mark of Blood 1/1 Place a mark of blood on an enemy. Whenever a marked enemy deals damage to a target, that target is healed for 4% of its maximum health. Lasts for 20 secs or 20 hits.
4% of a tank's life is about 1,200 health at our stage. It's basically a mix of hot and cooldown in raid tanking situations. Typical boss attack speed is 2.5 so this can be viewed as 480 hps which is about a quarter of a healer. It gets better if boss attacks are faster, including parry haste. I don't know whether it works with damage reflection and that would be interesting to test. A solid investment for the survival-minded tank.

Abomination's Might 2/2 Raid AP buff that also increases Strength by 2%.
More strength is more parry.

Improved Blood Presence 2/2 While in Frost Presence you retain 4% healing from Blood Presence.
Another HoT effect. Tank dps is about 1500 for us so this is 60 hps.

Bloodworms 3/3 Your weapon hits have a 9% chance to cause the target to spawn 2-4 bloodworms. Bloodworms attack your enemies, healing you as they do damage for 20 secs or until killed.
A small HoT effect but in addition these things occasionally get targetted. If a worm soaks a 10K boss hit that would otherwise have been aimed at me that's extremely useful. A very random but powerful tank survival talent.

Improved Death Strike 2/2 Death Strike damage +30% and crit +6%.
For survival fights Death Strike is a good choice of attack over Obliterate and the other options. Sure those other attacks do more threat but are you going to beat the boss because the tank lives or because the tank achieves a high threat cap? It will vary from boss to boss. With my current Frost spec it heals for about 1700. Healing is based on the damage done and the diseases on the target. Bigger Death Strikes mean bigger heals in situations where you are going for the maximum self-healing.

Vampiric Blood 1/1 Temporarily grants the Death Knight 15% of maximum health and increases the amount of health generated through spells and effects by 35% for 20 secs. 2 min cooldown.
Combination of last stand, a buff to self heals and I think, will have to test to be sure, that it increases other people's heals on you too. All told pretty strong.

Will of the Necropolis 3/3 Damage that would take you below 35% health is reduced by 15%. Cannot occur more than once every 15 secs.
Very strong

Might of Mograine 3/3 Increases the critical strike damage bonus of Death Strike (and others) by 45%
Bigger Death Strikes mean bigger self-heals.

Dancing Rune Weapon 1/1 A minion that does the same attacks you do.
What I don't know is if the Death Strikes it does heal you for a double whammy. Needs testing.


Toughness 5/5 +15% armour.
Standard on all DK tanks.

Runic Power Mastery 2/2 +30 max Runic Power.
Lets you do 3 Death Coil self heals when you activate Lichborne. With 130 Runic Power and the minor glyph of Death's Embrace you can do 5 Death Coil self heals. Testing unbuffed in tank gear my Death Coil self heals do 1492.

Improved Icy Touch 3/3 your Frost Fever reduces melee and ranged attack speed by an additional 6%
The other tanks can do similar debuffs, notably Thunderclap. With the 14% from the base skill this is a 20% slow.

Lichborne 1/1 Undead for 15 seconds. Immune to sleep, charm and fear and can self-heal with Death Coils. 3 min cooldown.
Nerfed but still very useful for a tank. If they ever introduce a raid boss that can use Exorcism or Turn Evil you'll have to take care though!

Frigid Dreadplate 3/3 Reduces the chance that melee attacks will hit you by 3%.
I believe that what this actually does is add 3% miss at the top of the attack table. Let's say a boss has 10% chance to miss, 20% to be parried, 20% to be dodged and 50% to hit you. This talent would make that 13/20/20/47 in other words his chance to hit would go from 50% to 47% meaning you get hit 6% less. I need to double check that theorycraft.

Improved Frost Presence 2/2 2% damage reduction.

Unbreakable Armour 1/1 Reinforces your armour with a thick coat of ice, reducing damage from all attacks by 0.05 and increasing your Strength by 25% for 20 secs. The amount of damage reduced increases as your armour increases. 2 min cooldown.
This has always been a very strong cooldown and the changes in 3.1 extend it to magic damage and make it scale with armour.

Acclimation 3/3 When you are hit by a spell, you have a 30% chance to boost your resistance to that type of magic for 18 secs. Stacks up to 3 times.
The boost is +50 so total of +150 when stacked.

Guile of Gorefiend 3/3 Increases damage and also increases Icebound Fortitude duration by 6 secs.
In the 3.1 environment when we have less cooldowns uptime this talent will be correspondingly more useful. Still good but not as exceptional as it is now.

Tundra stalker 5/5 +5 expertise.


Anticipation 5/5 +5% dodge.
Core talent.

Ravenous Dead 3/3 +3% Strength
More Parry.

Night of the Dead 2/2 Reduces cooldown on ghoul
More Death Pact self-heals.

Magic Supression 3/3 6% less magic damage, in addition your anti-magic shell absorbs 25% more damage.

Anti-magic zone 1/1 Places a large, stationary Anti-Magic Zone that reduces spell damage done to party or raid members inside it by 75%. The Anti-Magic Zone lasts for 10 secs or until it absorbs [200% of AP + 10 000] spell damage. 2 min cooldown.

Improved Unholy Presence 2/2 +15% movement in Frost Presence
The importance of mobility can't be underestimated as many boss fights require re-positioning.

Bone Shield 1/1 20% less damage while the bones last. 4 bones. Each damaging attack consumes one bone. 2 min cooldown.
This can be pre-cast, scales with avoidance and the glyph adds 2 extra bones. On the other hand a fast-attacking boss like Patchwerk can strip this off very quickly.

Rage of Rivendare 5/5 +5 expertise.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Ding 80!

I levelled to 80 today. 5 days 7 hours /played. I am 659 gold away from epic flier. 4541 gold on me, basic flying, wyvern mount and cold weather flying purchased.

I'm going to discuss 2 aspects: which zones I choose and how I made money.

At 68 my first zone was Howling Fjord. I was tempted to continue in Outlands and possibly level in Netherstorm or Shadowmoon Valley. The advantage of doing that would have been more long-term gold because by getting my levels from quests that would be grey at 80 I would have more non-grey quests to do at 80 which are highly lucrative.

I choose to go to Northrend though because as a miner/skinner I felt I would make more fast cash collecting those resources and selling them than I would collecting the comparitively redundant Outlands resources.

I knew I would be looking for instance groups as my highest priority for any instances where I had quests available to do. There are several reasons I value instancing while questing even though it is usually a minor hit to your exp/hour. First it teaches you how to play your character in the way you will need to at end game. I got a lot of tanking practice as well as several opportunities to dps while levelling. Next it gives you blue items, especially from quest rewards that are better than the solo quest rewards. Experience point rewards are solid too. And perhaps most importantly it allows you to meet other players so you can build a network of people who you want to play with and who want to play with you.

I did enough quests in the first Horde Howling Fjord town to unlock A Score to Settle which meant I could to Utgarde Keep and complete all the quests there.

I did a few more eventually reaching the walrus people town of Kamagua where a rather lethergic turtle took me over to Borean Tundra. I went to Amber Lodge, did a few quests to activate the flight point there, flew over to Coldarra and did most of the solo quests there. This allowed me to progress to the point where I had all 4 dungeon quests for The Nexus. Then it was back to the Fjord for my soloing. In the hours I spent there I picked up dungeon groups and completed both WotLK starter dungeons with competent groups for a nice hit of experience points and gear.

My next zone was Borean Tundra. I am very familiar with it and I expected the group quests to be more possible to beat solo than in a higher level zone. I didn't queue for any instances until I hit 72 at which point quests in Azjol-Nerub became available. These are simply picked up right outside the instance without requiring any chain. The group I cleared that instance with wanted to carry on and do Old Kingdom so we cleared both instances and had a very enjoyable time.

My next zone would be a choice between Dragonblight, Zul Drak or Grizzly Hills. I choose Grizzly Hills for 3 reasons. 1) it has an arena which is unlocked after a chain of quests there. Arena quest chains are by far the best way to level in WoW when they are available. 2) to do the instance quests in Drak'Tharon Keep you have to complete a long chain in Grizzly Hills first, Cleansing Drak'Tharon. No chain in Dragonblight unlocks any instance quests. (Although for those who have never seen it The Battle for the Undercity is an amazing solo quest experience, highly recommended). 3) I expected to be able to cope with the group quests. In the event I did them with a Warrior I met and what's more he even decided to join our guild and is now our main tank. I was very happy with our performance in the group quests including 3 manning the arena without a healer and beating Arugal as Warrior and DK. The extreme survivability of a tank specced Death Knight buys enough time for dps to beat these fights and our cooldowns are great for these fights because you can chain all of them.

I finished Grizzly Hills, Drak Tharon Keep and went back to Old Kingdom, this time at a level high enough to do the quest there (you have to be 73).

Next zone I choose Zul'Drak. I wasn't quite high enough to unlock Sholazar basin (you have to be 76). I wanted to mine Saronite as my blacksmith guild leader was promising to make me items if I sent him some. There is also a dungeon quest you unlock in Gundrak after a very long quest chain in Zul'Drak. A final factor was the availability of Argent Crusade and Ebon Hand reputation from quests in Zul'Drak.

I didn't get very far before instance runs to Gundrak and Violet Hold saw me pass 76. I immediately switched zones to do Sholazar Basin because it is by far the best zone for Saronite Ore at this stage. Starting Frenzyheart reputation was also a factor because I want the Frenzyheart Insignia of Fury.

I did Sholazar Basin until I unlocked the Frenzyheart dailies (including soloing the group quest which was great fun even if at one stage I died and had to run back while my new Frenzyheart friend tanked the boss for me!)

With an increasingly messy quest log I decided to head for the Storm Peaks next. I now was part-way through both Sholazar Basin and Zul'Drak but I wanted to include unlocking Sons of Hodir rep with my exp and gold revenue. This rep allows you a shoulder enchant, particularly important on this character as he lacks any Burning Crusade shoulder enchant. The chain also unlocks 2 dungeon quests in the Halls of Lightning.

With the help of instance runs in Halls of Lightning (2 quests), Caverns of Time:Stratholme (1 quest) I hit 80 and several hours after managed to get my epic flying mount.

I got money by being a miner/skinner and by logging on my alt every couple of days to sell everything. I bought very little from the auction house - glyphs were my main expenditure. My auction house strategy was simple. I undercut by a copper, listed for 48 hours and if it failed to sell unless it was a staple like ore or leather I just vendored the item that didn't sell. Vendoring unsuccessful auctions is a strong strategy for a low pop server that has just launched. There are so few players around who might buy a level 75 boe blue that it's not worth the time and AH fees to keep re-listing them.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

How to build a raid, post 3.1

Here are some thoughts on how to build a raid, including some personal preferences. These are listed in priority order.

1) Raid leader. This is not necessarily just one person. For example, my current guild master has an amazing raid background but doesn't know WotLK bosses very well. It makes sense for us to have two leaders, him for his great raiding experience and me or some other officers who knows the WotLK bosses. Also make sure you have a reliable person to collect loot. You can't lead a raid very well if you're hunting through vast piles of dead bodies for junk greens and occasional BOE epics.

2) Main tank. Some people doubt that there is a main tank but Veneratio explains the concept of the main tank in the modern raid setting wonderfully well in his recent podcast
The gist is twofold: in a tank "adequate" or even "fine" is an unacceptably low standard to aspire to and the main tank is the tank everyone else wants to see up the front tanking the big boss. This will change almost certainly as your guild grows and changes and it's the job of a good raid builder to have his or her finger on the guild's pulse in terms of who everyone wants to see up front tanking. If this person has dual spec they may well be double tank specs.

3) Additional tanks. Depending whether it's a 25 or a 10 man raid and depending which bosses you expect to try you will probably need more tanks who won't tank all the time. These tanks should be capable of doing good dps either because they have a dual spec of tank and dps specs or because they are tank classes that can hit hard even when tank specced (death knight and feral druid). You may be able to get away with dps specced death knights or ferals in these spots if you lack players who want to tank.

4) Full-time healers. For a 10 man you need 1-2 full-time healers and for a 25 man you need about 3 full-time healers. This is low and the reason it's low is because of dual spec. You really don't need to cart 8 bored healers through trash when they have little to do. For the most effective raiding don't have people healing when there's not enough for them to heal. It's boring and you are wasting slots that could be used for dps.

5) Dual spec healer/dps. For a 10 man you're looking to bring your total number of potential healers to 3. For a 25 man you're looking to bring your total number of healers to about 8, possibly 9 for some Ulduar bosses, I honestly don't know. The modern raid game is pretty unforgiving of the tactic of healer stacking. It won't help you kill Sartharion 3 drakes, it won't help you kill Malygos because you give up too many dps spots.

6) Stack buffs. The next stage is to stack raid-wide buffs. It's important to remember that your team so far includes some dual speccers so only count their buffs if they bring their buff in each of their spec. (You don't want the raid to lose Windfury when your dual spec shaman has to heal). Use this tool to calculate:
Also you may want more than one source of Replenishment. This buff is so important that uptime needs to be close to 100%.

7) Fill the raid. Your guild will have its own policies on how to fill a raid. For progress-minded guilds any remaining spots should always go to your-hardest hitting dpsers. Even on farm content these players should get first refusal on raid spots because improving them helps your raid more than improving a guy who'll be benched for tough content. You want a combination of great dps meter placement and great survival skills from these players.

8) Finally, note any recruitment issues. If you were short of players at any of these stages evaluate whether this is a temporary aberration or an ongoing problem. Perhaps none of your usual high attending tanks showed up for a night. Perhaps you forgot it was Valentine's Night and have now discovered the hard way that all your Druids are smooth-talking slickers who have opted to forego raiding in pursuit of more stimulating games. If however you are regularly short of some role or buff you need then recruit.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Are hybrids cheating dps out of raid spots?

Some pure dps players feel cheated by the general trend towards buffing hybrids. This is an issue that has surfaced in the recent spate of complaints about dual spec which actually are masking a deeper dissatisfaction.

The problem really stems back to fundamental game design issues that were not fully anticipated by Blizzard.

The specialists were promised excellence in a role and the hybrids were promised flexibility and this initally worked well in 2005 in 5 mans and 10-15 man groups. The tank would die so the shaman would take over. The healer would die so the balance druid would start healing. All fine and fun in Scarlet Monastery and UBRS.

It didn't really work in Molten Core. Firstly just about every person with a healing spell was required to heal. We were no longer hybrids we were healbots. Secondly if the tank died a Resto Druid couldn't just go Bear and take over, the demands on gear and talents were too great.

Because the hybrids were "cheated" out of their hybridicity at that stage the game has seen a steady drift towards making hybrids more viable in all their roles, gradually attaining specialist levels of competence. (They weren't really intentionally cheated of course, it was simply the way the game developed).

Now there are two directions for the game designers to go in:
1) specialists are better. This will cause people to lose interest in playing hybrids for fear of being forced to heal. At level 70 the least popular 4 classes were paladin, shaman, priest and druid - the four classes that are capable of healing. This system is unfair on hybrids because they are increasingly forced to heal when they rolled their character to be hybrids.

2) hybrids are comparable. This means that dps spots are shared between 10 classes that can dps with the other 40% or so of raid spots being reserved for hybrids. So hybrids get their own special spots plus some of the dpsers's spots. This is unfair on dpsers because there are less raid spots per person playing the class

So what's the solution? There isn't a simple one. There isn't a fair one.

The picture is further muddled by other factors. Feral Druids are a great pick for a dps spot because they bring combat ress and innervate and, as one of the game's already existing dual specs, on the fly tanking. Boomkins, Enhancement Shamans and Ret Pallies still bring way more raid-affecting buffs that any dps class despite doing excellent individual dps. You'd be crazy to bench your only boomkin for a second mage if the boomkin will lift your whole raid's damage with unique buffs. In fact you could have 2 druid tanks 2 druid healers and still be in the position where a boomkin is a better dps pick than a second mage because of those unique buffs.

At the end of the day someone has to lose out. Giving healers a better deal than dps makes sense because healer numbers are the choke point in terms of how many raid groups a server can support. A server will usually have plenty of surplus level 80 dps and not enough healers to allow them to raid. If you make dps a better option relative to healing or hybriding more people play their dps characters and the problem becomes more acute. When people at 80 spend too long with no raid, no chance of getting a raid, no chance of competing in arena because it's too hard they will leave.

I think that is Blizzard's main motivator here: it is better for the business (and arguably for the game too) to allow more people to raid by giving healers a good package deal than boost dps and see half the server bored with nothing to do (like all the surplus Rogues and Hunters back in the 60 days).

Monday, 2 March 2009

Dual specs

There's an interesting controversy on the blogsphere regarding dual specs.
are both strong rants opposing dual specs.

In general WoW plays a balancing act where any act of making something better for one class makes things worse for others. If one class is given harder hitting dps that impacts rival classes who compete for raid spots. That's a given in a MMO.

Sometimes though it's hard to see where opposition can be justified. For instance, Rogues' poisons were made vendor bought rather than crafted. Since prior to the change Rogues bought ingredients from a vendor clicked Create all then went afk or alt tabbed the only real impact of this change is to cut out some drudgery involved in playing the class.

Changes like this I find hard to argue with. Nobody thinks it's fun to be dismounted when you ride across a stream. It's not challenging or difficult to deal with, it's simply tedious.

Dual spec is very much a change of this type.

The introduction of dual spec makes it easier to

1) Find something interesting to do when not raiding if you’re a healer
2) Get Raids started rather than cancelled
3) Get Heroic groups
4) and if sub-80 dual speccing comes in, easier to get instances while levelling

What exactly is wrong with any of that?

The game IS indeed too easy now but not because of hybrids - it’s simply that the content is entry level. With Ulduar the game will get harder because there is moderately hard raid content to play while getting easier because of dual speccing (and because of buffs to Rogue dps too but I don’t see you objecting to them).

WoW has always been short of healers. It was short of them at 60 when every raiding Priest Druid Paladin or Shammy was a healer (just about). It was short of them in TBC when the numbers in those classes remained low while the percentage who healed shrunk. It’s low now while those classes have become amongst the most populated.

Healing is a crummy job that people do because either a) they love it and don’t see it as a crummy job (maybe 1% of WoW players) b) they want a raid spot or c) they are high achievers who see healing as a key part of group success and want it done perfectly.

If Blizzard decide to cancel dual spec based on the feedback of players such as yourself many many people, especially pure dps are going to struggle to find raid and 5 man groups. Because if you think there’s a healer shortage now then wait till the healers get promised dual spec then have it snatched away from them.

I’m an ex-healer. I’m not playing a tank-specced DK and I already have dual spec to all intents and purposes. When not tanking I click a button and I’m dps. It’s as simple as moving from Frost Presence to Blood Presence. Dual spec is already in the game. Feral Druids go from tank to kitty with equal ease.

Both bloggers claim that dictatorial raid leaders will be ordering people into roles they don’t want to do. If someone is in this situation they should just change guilds. And in any event isn’t that what healbotting is for many people? Matticus described how his guild will handle it, ( people will have a main spec, same as before. No question of dragooning people into roles they don’t want to play. And if you don’t want a role just don’t collect gear for it, simple. A tiny amount of players will genuinely be upset that they have to role-switch. In a typical situation a raid leader might ask for one volunteer to go healer for a fight. If it’s a fight you just wiped on many tanks or dps would be happy to help out rather than wipe again or see the raid cancelled.

The next point people make against dual speccing is that it dumbs down the game. Consider Sarth + 3. That’s a very hard fight and it makes little difference which class you play. You need to do your class functions AND dodge lava walls AND move out of void zones AND not wander in front of a drake. Screw up on any one of those and you probably cause a wipe. It’s the same for every class, every spec. The difficulty of content has very little to do with the flexibility of hybrids. The flexibility of hybrids make it easier to kill raid bosses but only in the sense it would be easier to kill raid bosses if you have a pool of 20 tanks 50 healers and 100 dpsers to pick 25 from. You won’t cancel raids because one of your tanks didn’t log on. It makes it organisationally easier, it means that some offtanks will be able to heal or nuke on fights where they would otherwise be useless but it doesn’t affect hard wipefest content. In a Naxx farm run you can have surplus tanks go dps for a boss like Sartharion but on a boss you expect to wipe on all night the raid will always be tuned to have the right amount of tanks, healers and dps. because it’s a wipe fight and your raid is all about beating that one boss to the exclusion of everything else. Dual spec doesn’t affect the way such a fight plays in the slightest. It just means that you don’t have to cancel the raids if you’re short of certain roles but once you engage the fight you will be wiping over and over with the same set-up until people manage the multi-tasking and the little fight gimmicks (eg lava walls). Dual spec doesn’t make hard raid content easier to play, it just makes it easier to organise a raid for.

A more positive view is found here: