Saturday, February 26, 2011

Conflict of Interest?

As anybody who has the ability to read the banner on this blog knows, my Horde side characters are members of the largest "guild" in the game: AIE.  We have nine co-guilds with countless raid teams and countless officers and countless great people.  But who is the man behind this community, the man who is the guild leader of every one of these co-guilds?  That would be Randy Jordan a.k.a. RandyDeluxe on the Instance a.k.a. Maui.  And because the hot tub Instance picture is too good to pass up, here he is in all his real life glory:

So our fearless guild leader has left the Instance as of two episodes ago because he is taking a dream job in the video game industry, and this creates a conflict of interest with his commentary on World of Warcraft on that podcast.  This is what his family needs him to do and I applaud him for both finding a way into his dream job industry and putting family first.  Also, as an attorney in my free time away from azeroth, I know all about conflict of interest.  You just have to avoid them for the betterment of all involved.

But there was a major question looming in the air, and that was whether his role as a guild leader would also be a conflict of interest.  Randy avoided dropping the name of his new employer, but the AIE community meeting last weekend dropped more than enough hints to indicate that Irvine might be where Randy was headed.  And that would make the most sense, since he is already friends or acquaintances with many Blizzard employees and has worked with Blizzard on many issues that unexpectedly come up when you run a guild as large as AIE.  Today it appears that the news is confirmed: Randy is a Blizzard employee.

So now the interesting conundrum all AIE guild members wondered about has come to pass.  Will Randy still be able to lead the guild if it is publicly known he works for Blizzard?  His characters in game will be badgered even more than they already are with whispers, and I don't know that this is a healthy situation for Blizzard.  Thus, I can only speculate that one of our fine longterm officers will be appointed to take over in Randy's stead if this is indeed as big a conflict as it appears on paper.  This is unfortunate as Randy is always fun to be around whether in green wall chat or in instances.  And those roles might be taken away.

However, the guild will be fine, as it always is.  We will just have a different voice of reason at the top to calm all the chicken littles down when something doesn't go our way like the guild cap.  But that doesn't change the fact that this would be a transfer of leadership, something that is tough for every guild to undertake.  I can't imagine what would happen to The Illuminati if Jeff (guild leader) left the game, but thankfully we are not dealing with that issue on Alliance side.  However, with many AIE guild members fleeing to Rift, Eve, and other games and the change in the air with The Instance and the guild leadership, it's hard to avoid wondering if the golden era of AIE has passed us by.

At the end of the day, change is always hard.  My law firm is considering moving from a building that was built 75 years ago and of which we are original tenants.  Despite the long history and the sweetheart lease deal, there are so many problems with the water and the HVAC and being spread out over six floors that we have been considering other spaces to settle.  It's kind of scary moving an office the size of ours, but if we do, I'm sure it will work out for the better.  And who knows, maybe these changes to the best podcast in the community and one of the best guilds in the game will end up for the better as well.  Dare to dream!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Brief Moment of Glory Atop The World

So it just happened that my first opportunity to run a heroic since the birth of my second daughter came this past weekend and I grabbed my favorite DK tank and mage DPS couple from the Illuminati along with one other guild member for a mostly guild run.  As I pressed the queue button, I of course only had healer clicked by habit. The death knight picks tank, and the druid picks healer/tank. Oops. I asked the druid what they would prefer to do and they wanted to heal, so I swapped over to my shadow for my first heroic in DPS form.  I warned the group that this was not my normal, but I've been soloing with shadow for a couple months and am confident that I can do fine without great hit cap gear.  I'd never walk into a raid like this as shadow, but it's OK for a one-off guild run.

We ended up with Lost City and as the dungeon wore on, I realized that my DPS was roughly keeping up with or exceeding the mage in the group.  This is unusual because this mage is a very good player on his main.  I'm not pulling great DPS by any stretch of the imagination, but it is ranking a close second to a rogue and sometimes even more than the rogue.  I couldn't figure it out because I was making silly mistakes like casting Mind Spike with damage over time spells active (which clears all DoT spells), and the gear was far form hit capped.  Nevertheless, Ekaterinae to the top of the charts.  And I'm not going to lie, it felt awesome.

Looking into this a bit further, it turns out that in the top 200 players in the world, the best DPS over the weekend was shadow priest.  This is probably the first time since I started playing warcraft that a shadow priest was overpowered to the point of leading all DPS potential.  Of course, this should not come as much of a surprise as shadow priests received three major buffs in Patch 4.0.6 without any corresponding nerfs.  Mind Blast damage was increased by around 50%, which again establishes that spell as a primary nuke cast on cooldown.  Mind Sear had damage increased by 15% and could now be channeled on friendly targets, which allows a shadow priest to actually AoE nuke all enemy mobs at once instead of all mobs not targeted by Mind Sear (a long overdue change to this spell). Shadow Orbs were also buffed about 16%, which affects most of the shadow priest's primary damage spells. 

All this with no nerfs pushed shadow DPS to the top of the charts, and for once, I got to experience how broken it could be to be the top DPS class.  With my gear and experience, I had no business beating two DPS only classes, one of which being played by a better geared and more experienced player.  But of course priests are not supposed to be top of the DPS heap, so the hotfix nerf came down swiftly: a 10% reduction of the Shadow Power passive damage buff from 25% to 15%, which theorycrafters have calculated as an 8% damage loss overall.  So the next time I walk into a DPS role in a heroic, overpowered will not be the order of the day.  It was fun while it lasted, all ten days of it.

In other community news, the Instance podcast is entering a new era with Willy Gregory "Dils" from the AIE Podcast and Mark Turpin "Turpster" joining Scott Johnson.  Their first episode was a good one, and I'm happy they kept the theme song opening even though all the segment bumpers have changed.  That opening intro music is the best podcast opening music in the community.  It looks like the future remains bright for the premiere wow podcast.

It looks like there will be opportunities for me to raid this weekend both nights, so hopefully I can get in to see at least one of Bastion of Twilight or Blackwing Descent.  Both have more beatable bosses overall than Throne, so I'm happy this is our weekend off the Winds.  Anyway, I hope to report back a bit more about the content of Cataclysm and the health of discipline healing post 4.0.6 next week.  As always, leave questions or comments!  Cheers.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Will Hotfix Bring Patience?

If you have been a frequent visitor of the Looking For Group LFG system, then you may be familiar with the above image. Sure, normally little dead bird is smaller on your screen, but the 30 minute debuff is something that is very hard to ignore. Now that Blizzard has taken the big revision pen to Cataclysm and fixed everything for the time being, some minor hotfixes have trickled through to further correct issues remaining with the content currently available. Although one set of hotfixes this week dealt primarily with healer balance (discussed below), the more interesting change was for the LFG system. Here's the rundown:

1. Players who are outside a dungeon for more than a few minutes are now immediately able to be kicked.
2. If queuing as a group with a tank or healer, and the tank or healer drops group (or is kicked) soon after joining, those that queued with them will also be removed from the dungeon.
3. If three or more players group queue, it will require an additional vote for them to kick anyone they did not group queue with.
4. If a group queue of 4 players kicks the one person that they did not group queue with, they will each receive a more severe penalty to their ability to initiate future kicks.
5. If someone initiates a vote kick for someone they group queued with, they will not incur a penalty to their ability to initiate future kicks.

On the whole, Blizzard is hoping these changes will reduce the annoying behaviors that currently plague the LFG system.  Although the biggest problems are encountered by DPS players that must wait 30-60 minutes per queue, healers also lose significant time on some servers re-queuing and waiting for tanks. There's nothing more annoying than what I currently call "the one wipe LFG tank."  You know, the tank that is too good to wipe more than once with you because he can immediately find another group. 

If you jump into a heroic LFG queue and are not ready to struggle a bit, you are missing the entire point of why Blizzard made this game challenging and fun. Although the challenge level is dropping significantly as players become more geared and dungeons receive their 4.0.6 fixes, heroics are still not at the facerolling point.  Healers and DPS and tanks must do their jobs and do it reasonably well to pass through the 5-man content.  And if there's one thing LFG players seem to's P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E.

So will these changes make a difference? Number two makes me worry a slight bit.  Every once in a while, my real life will have an emergency within the first five minutes of starting a LFG group with a couple of guild members.  Although in AIE I am usually with 4 other guild members, in The Illuminati that is simply not the case. So since I always heal, now I must feel even worse if real life kicks me out.  Despite this minor and rare possible annoyance for me, this will possibly cut down on the drama king/queen "one wipe LFG tanks" and "one wipe LFG healers". However, in my experience, the best tanks always queue with their guild members and having a guild member makes them way more patient. So this new rule probably will not make much of a difference.

Numbers three and four are changes that are likely overdue. Nobody seems to know for sure the exact formula for the penalty inflicted that prevents you from chain kicking group members, but it is clearly increases with that behavior.  I have only been kicked a couple of times since LFG entered the game over a year ago, but both times it was hugely annoying. The one time in Cataclysm it was when a group refused to use CC and just expected their rent a healer to be overgeared enough to heal through the damage.  That's not how Cataclysm was designed, and so they probably kicked numerous healers that night. This needs to be nipped in the bud, and hopefully this will help.

Number one does not make much sense, as I believe that the wait time for a disconnected player is only 10 minutes already.  So that change is pretty meaningless.  As is the number five.  I suppose in the scenario I laid out above I could get my guild mate to kick me out and nobody would be worse for wear.  Although here's a paradox...if I get kicked in the first five minutes of the dungeon by a guild mate, do they automatically kick themselves too? Well at least there would be no penalty, except for a requeue.  Which is probably a worse penalty than the kick initiation penalty.  Go figure.

Pro tip: you need to have way more patience if you are running into that penalty.

For the healer changes, the Patch 4.0.6 changes did not quite do the trick so one week later, restoration shamans are getting a 25% bonus to healing effects from Purification instead of 10%.  Meanwhile, discipline priests were shield spamming too much with the better Power Word Shield and so the mana cost is up nearly 40%.  Kudos to healing shamans as this extra buff should bring them back in line with the other three healing classes.  It is also comforting to know that Blizzard wants all four healing classes to be truly viable.  I also think they are making interesting changes which will keep priest heads spinning as we try to catch up with whether we should be casting PWS, Renew, or Heal to any great extent.  So far, I believe after Patch 4.0.6 Blizzard has been incredibly fair to the healing classes, if nothing else.


Sorry for my delay, but I have good reason. A deer came into the picture and decided that my car is not going to commute me to work anymore. 

So car shopping the week before our second baby arrived, and then my recent sleep deprived state while trying to stay caught up at work.  Yeah real life.  But I hope to see some more questions from the readers and I will get back on the writing horse now that I'm in game more.  Well at least fishing with baby on board if nothing else!  Cheers!

And here's my beautiful daughters...woot!