Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Call To Arms: Will This Ever Benefit Healers?

An interesting development tonight was enough to bring me out of hiding right away again!  Blizzard has finally announced an attempt to fix the ridiculously long DPS queues in heroic dungeons at maximum level.  Playing nothing but healers, I personally never have a queue of more than 12-13 minutes, but some DPS I know have reported waiting up to 45-50 minutes or worse.  And they also suffer from rage-quitting tanks that make them drop group and wait for a long time once more.  Just when it seemed like this was just the way it was going to be, Patch 4.1 will now include a new feature called Call to Arms Tanks and Healers. Here's the important part of the announcement:

In patch 4.1 we'll be introducing Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms, a new system intended to lower queue times. Call to Arms will automatically detect which class role is currently the least represented in the queue, and offer them additional rewards for entering the Dungeon Finder queue and completing a random level-85 Heroic dungeon.

Any time the Dungeon Finder queue is longer than a few minutes for level-85 Heroics, the Call to Arms system kicks in and determines which role is the least represented. In the case of tanking being the least represented role, the "Call to Arms: Tanks" icon will display in the Dungeon Finder UI menu where class roles are selected, and will also display on the UI when the queue pops and you are selected to enter a dungeon. Regardless of your role, you'll always be able to see which role currently has been Called to Arms, if any.

Call to Arms is meant to lower wait times by offering additional rewards for queuing as the currently least represented role. To be eligible for the additional rewards you must solo queue for a random level-85 Heroic in the role that is currently being Called to Arms, and complete the dungeon by killing the final boss. Every time you hit these requirements (there is no daily limit) you'll receive a goodie bag that will contain some gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask/elixir (determined by spec), a good chance of receiving a non-combat pet (including cross faction pets), and a very rare chance at receiving a mount. The pets offered come from a wide variety of sources, and include companions like the Razzashi Hatchling, Cockatiel, and Tiny Sporebat, but the mounts are those specifically only available through dungeons (not raids), like the Reins of the Raven Lord from Sethekk Halls, Swift White Hawkstrider from Magister's Terrace, and Deathcharger's Reins from Stratholme.

Did you see that...rare mounts only available from dungeons will now rarely drop when your role is needed in the Looking For Group queues!  The gold and gems and such are nice, but the cross-faction pets and the rare dungeon mounts are the real story here.  Blizzard has found something that is not terribly easy or even possible to get, and something that DPS players will not cry too much foul on missing out on.  But the real question is, as much as Blizzard says this applies to healers and tanks, will this ever pop for healers on your realm?

In the entire lifetime of the Looking For Group system (now pushing 2 years old), I have received an instant queue 3 times.  The wait sometimes is relatively short and lasts 2-4 minutes, but there are always fewer tanks in the queue. Will that change with extra benefits offered potentially to both healers and tanks?  I highly doubt it.  The sheer fact of the matter is that playing a tank is a huge responsibility and takes a lot of skill.  Jumping into tanking at the heroics level is not a recipe for success and even these rewards may not be enough if other players are not patient and courteous with new tanks.  Not to completely sell into the internet anonymity jerk theory, but patience is a virtue lacking in LFG and that will not change, thereby running more potential tanks away.  At the same time more healer hybrids will queue up as well and will still outnumber tanks.  If there were 2 healer slots in a group to every tank, this Call to Arms may work for healers.  But on most realms, expect this to be as empty a promise for healers as it is for DPS.  Cross your fingers folks, let's hope this works for the DPS sake.

Here's a sinister thought: will this make the LFG system even worse than before because of a high influx of poor tanks and healers?  It's common knowledge in Cataclysm that success in LFG is far less certain than just putting together a group in trade chat or in your guild.  Bad tanks and healers will likely become better with practice, but the problem of low quality groups may be exacerbated by this change as an unintended side effect.  Once again, healers keep your fingers crossed.

Congratulations tank classes on your new bounty.  Perhaps someday it will be shared with the other type of group members taking on added responsibility in a dungeon run.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hiatus, or how I learned to cheat on wow

Hello everyone, and my apologies to all my followers on the lengthy delay between posting.  However, anybody who has followed this blog for a long time knows this happens from time to time as life gets busy and wow and/or wow blogging goes to the background.  There has actually been a fair bit of news and patch notes regarding big news for healers in the past month, but today I just want to say hello and let everyone know what's going on. 

Three things other than the birth of daughter number two have contributed to my lack of playing time in world of warcraft and therefore my blogging about world of warcraft.  The first thing is...well it's kind of hard to do this to you Blizzard...but I've been cheating on you.

Yes indeed, I've finally decided to use my Playstation 3 for something other than sports games and music rhythm games!  Literally the only game I owned for PS3 in the first 2 years outside those categories was Lost Via Domus.  That game S-U-C-K-S.  I finished it, but it was terrible like many TV and movie games.  I decided to make the console more than a blu-ray player and bought a couple games of the year in Little Big Planet, which I play with Kelley, and Bioshock 2, which I play late at night after the two year old heads to bed.  First person shooters have not been my thing outside of an obsession with Goldeneye and then Halo 1 and 2, but Bioshock 2 has really captured me in the first few levels.  The story is compelling and I certainly want to save all the little girls I can find in the underwater Atlantis-esque environment.  The game is a bit dark like most modern FPS, but that does not dissuade me as I continue to shoot my way to victory.  That and the platforming in Little Big Planet have been a nice change of pace.

Furthermore, my time for raiding has been pretty much cut to nil thanks to work busyness (hooray to being an attorney at a busy law firm, but I've got excellent job security so I'll take it) and taking care of the kids when I can.  Raiding is the only way Ekaterinae can really progress, as she's grabbed one or two pieces of gear in her one-off runs of Blackwing Depths and Bastion of Twilight to go with heroic and reputation epics in all other slots.  I'm geared enough to raid when I have the time, which is exactly where I want the main character to be.  I also made it through Vashjir questing and am mostly through Deepholm, so the Cataclysm loremaster achievement will be done eventually on her.

However, if I want to quest sometimes I've been going back to the three leveling characters to make it more meaningful than just experiencing all the content Blizzard has to offer.  The shaman blitzed to nearly level 40 as a result of these urges and dual wielding is some fun.  The druid (Horde main) also dinged 83 this week and is beginning to be my main focus to get her to 85 and have two good mains at 85.  However, my time with Big Daddy inevitably cuts down on the leveling.  Furthermore, this week I got some interesting news that further dampens my wow spirit for the moment.  More on that later.


As many of you know from my linked blogs, I am a writer in all aspects of my life.  I am a patent attorney by day, drafting legal arguments and patent applications to win the day for our clients.  Then my favorite hobbies are sportswriting (mostly about college football) and gaming, including this blog about my number one gaming habit WoW.  Well I have been sportswriting for a little independent website called Southern College Sports for 6 years and decided to test the waters of moving forward with this hobby to something a bit more serious.  I was accepted on as a writer for Bleacher Report and received well over 3000 reads for a throw away article about March Madness.  I am terribly excited about the possibilities and the editors I am working with there are giving me a lot of positive feedback for moving into a featured columnist role there.  It's a start up the ladder of sportswriting, and so that has grabbed my attention despite college football being in the off season.

At the same time I approached B/R, I also decided to maybe change my sportswriting to a different hobby of game review writing.  I have been following for over a year thanks to knowing the editor in chief personally and given my writing itch, I want to try that type of critical writing out.  So I sent in a writing sample to that editor and he also approved me to do some more work for Gameshark to see if I have what it takes to be a regular contributor there.  All of a sudden, I went from one hobby at a non-serious website to two relatively serious hobby writing gigs.  Both may not work out, but the possibilities for either is highly exciting.  If you have any interest in following me on those websites, I would appreciate any feedback you have on either subject going forward.

The last and only time I linked this photograph in this blog, I was talking about how bittersweet it was when I got knighted as a long-term quality member of The Illuminati on the same night I found out about my grandfather's cancer, which quickly finished him.  And just like that sad event, I have been hit with a double-whammy of two out of three of my close friends who brought me into wow leaving the game and letting their subscriptions lapse the first week of April, perhaps permanently.  When I was brought into the game, all 5 of us on the daily e-mail string (former Magic players, blowing time on work breaks) were in Wrath of the Lich King at the same time.  The closest of those friends leveled with me and it was a real bummer when he quickly got back out of the game.  However, the other three friends had persisted for the 2.5 years I had played the game.

Now it will be down to two of us, and the other friend left The Illuminati ages ago for his own reasons. One of the primary reasons for me to log into WoW night after night (even if I was not actively playing) was to use it as a chat channel with all four of these guys, as the one who quit wow plays Starcraft 2.  The guild friends I have made in AIE and in the Illuminati are great people and I value those friendships, but they are digital.  I know none of them outside the context of the game or guild planning, and so it is just different.  I re-upped my 6 month subscription in March so it's not like I'm ready to move on, but this troublesome development takes some of the joy and some of the reason I play this particular game away.

That being said, I understand that people come and go in this game and life moves on just like in real life.  But just like our Magic playing days, it feels like a golden era in Azeroth for me has passed.  It was a great 2.5 years, and I hope whatever our next hobby is, we can continue our close friendship among the five of us while also gaming together.

So that explains why I've been a bit more hesitant to say much around these parts, but I know I'll get this particular writing bug again and will be back in stride.  It just may take a while.  To end on a good note, I'd like to welcome Rawrcast back as hosts Stumpalina and Hafrot have obtained new jobs and are back to a steady podcasting schedule.  Their first regular episode back showed they will not miss a beat as some of the jokes and interplay between spouses who play wow is spectacular.  In a week where the Instance took their first week off since Dils and Turpster joined the crew, it was a welcome sight to see Rawrcast back in the weekly podcast rotation.  Also big props to Scott Johnson for The Morning Stream, which is getting national and international attention as a great general morning show.  Give it a listen if you have not already, and see how well you can do against the Stump a Trek Nerd questions!

Until next time, may your quivers be full of arrows and your bags be full of gold.