Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Woo-hoo! Thank You, Blizzard! Down to Three Lockouts!

Accordingly, while loot will be awarded more frequently, Raid Finder in Warlords will have different loot tables than the Normal, Heroic, or Mythic versions of the raids, along with different item art. The gear will fall in between dungeon loot and Normal mode raid loot in terms of power, as it does today, but without the set bonuses and specific trinkets that tend to make raiders feel like they need to run Raid Finder alongside their weekly guild raids today.

I'm still not happy about the first tier of WoD because we'll be having to clear Normal, Heroic, AND Mythic (and possibly even LFR depending on how it compares to Heroic Dungeon loot) but this is a step in the right direction, at least.

Blizzard's also claiming we'll be able to skip a lot of bosses with less linear layouts -- if this includes being able to skip to the final few bosses on Heroic that'll help (because we'll have Mythic gear from the beginning bosses) but I worry we'll still have the "have to kill all previous bosses for the final one" traditional layout.

If Normal gear manages to stay under Mythic gear from the previous tier that'll also be good but I'm not sure I see that happening.  And, of course, set bonuses/trinkets may mean we'll have to run it anyway, at least initially.

I suppose the "good" news is that farming Heroic plus part of Mythic will hopefully leave people without needing to do Normal in month or two -- but that's till 4-8 extra weekly clears that we shouldn't have to be doing.

Would it be too much to ask to only need to do one lockout per week?  Yes?  How about two?  Could we please limit it to two?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

No, Sorry, LFR is Not Raiding

The universe seems to have a sense of irony at times.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am the guild leader of a 14/14H guild that raids two days a week.  My stance is that LFR as it currently exists is terrible and presents an awful experience for people looking to get into actual raiding who unfortunately don't know any better.  As a result, someone who has done LFR hasn't actually experienced the bosses in any meaningful sense and all too often LFR gives the wrong impression of raiding since new players assume raiding is generally the same as LFR (people running around like chickens with their heads cut off, no communication/coordination, people AFK on boss fights, toxic environments, etc).

It's not.

On the flip side, Flex (and by extension normal) is meaningful -- it's easier than heroic, sure, but that's a difference of degree rather than a difference of kind.  You still need to coordinate.  You can't have half the raid AFK.  There's social accountability for performance and behavior.  It's simply far more relaxed in terms of requirements.  Easy raid content in the form of Flex is great.  It's what LFR should have been in the first place.

Now, LFR as a pure tourist mode for people who can't guarantee being online for more than an hour at a time or for people who are truly bad is fine -- and this will apparently be the case in WoD where it will be abundantly clear that LFR is purely cinematic tourist mode.  If you want to experience the actual raid you'll need to do normal (which is currently called Flex).  Then Heroic and Mythic will offer steps up in difficulty if desired.

So where does the irony come in?

You see, I was recently involved in a series of comments at the blog of The Ancient Gaming Noob.  He was talking about being bored and having nothing to do in WoW after having run LFR a few times (and some other non-raid things) and I suggested he try Flex raiding as new stuff to do.  Mentioned that even if he didn't want to commit to an organized group he could still do most or all of Flex in PUGs at his convenience.  He claimed he had already done the raids. I pointed out how it was an entirely different experience than LFR due to social atmosphere, teamwork, and other factors.  I said he hadn't really experienced the content in LFR due to LFR's very nature.

I used the terminology "series of comments" specifically because, quite frankly, it wasn't a discussion -- it turned into him throwing a hissy fit, accusing me of insulting him, and ignoring my responses pointing out how I did no such thing.  He is incapable of distinguishing between "LFR is bad" and "People who run LFR are bad."  Disparaging the system was equivalent to insulting him from his perspective -- despite the fact I was even offering my time to help him get into Flex if he wanted the assistance.

I'd link to the exchange for those curious except he then decided to delete the whole thing claiming "Given that his comments were nothing beyond elitist 'LFR is shit,' they will not be missed."

Net result?  Added his blog to my blacklist, which brings my total up to three (the other two being Kurn's Corner and Big Bear Butt for anyone wondering).

"Yes, yes," you're thinking, "but where's this irony you mentioned?"  Glad you asked!

Blizzard has recently been posting a history of raiding (part one here) -- and today they posted part two of three which completely vindicates the point I was making to TAGN.  Some key segments...
We learned a lot from Dragon Soul about how to design content for Raid Finder. We endeavored to preserve encounter mechanics where possible, but had to significantly adjust unforgiving abilities—especially those that allowed a single player’s mistake to result in the entire group’s failure. In traditional organized raiding, a group of players generally learns from mistakes and masters content together, and they bring that collective knowledge with them in subsequent weeks.  In Raid Finder, which put players in random groups each week, there was a clean slate with regard to mastery of the encounters. Having to essentially redo progression each week is few players’ idea of fun, so we had to significantly accelerate the Raid Finder learning curve.


We knew that the Cataclysm changes had effectively removed a difficulty level from our game by raising the challenge of 10-player Normal to match 25-player, and that this change had left a group of players without suitable raid content. By adding Raid Finder, we had returned to three effective difficulties, and given the popularity of the feature, we assumed that this largely solved the problem. We were mistaken.


For the player who just wants to play with his or her friends in a tight-knit environment, solo-queuing was not a satisfying experience; even queuing for Raid Finder as a group wasn’t much better, since the presence of a dozen or more strangers transformed the nature of the activity. Besides, Raid Finder was tuned for randomly matched groups and generally lacked sufficient challenge for even the most casual of organized raid groups.


We’re tremendously happy with how players have received the new Flexible Raid mode, and we wish we’d implemented something like this sooner. We’re now back to three tiers of difficulty that cover all of the different kinds of organized raiders, while preserving Raid Finder for those who just want to experience the content on their own schedule.
So...yeah.  Even Blizzard has officially acknowledged that LFR is not a tier of difficulty and is a completely different experience from Flex/Normal/Heroic (soon to be Normal/Heroic/Mythic).  In fact, as they mention in that first paragraph, they have to design LFR in an entirely different manner than raiding.  They've said in the past they design normal first.  So then they'd increase the tuning requirements and add some mechanics for heroic.  And then relax some of the tuning requirements for Flex.

And then have to gut the encounter and redesign abilities entirely for LFR.

Completely different environment. Needing teamwork to beat the boss versus designing the boss so that a lack of teamwork isn't a problem.

Ultimately I wish TAGN wasn't so blind and would have listened to reason, but it's nice to feel officially vindicated by Blizzard.

P.S. Below is one of the comments I left if you're curious, only one I actually had saved as a draft (didn't expect him to decide to delete the whole exchange).
"Did you really come here to perpetuate the raider elitism thing? Because hearing that, in addition to whatever else, people are going to look down their noses at me because I ran LFR isn’t exactly selling your case."

I don't recall saying anything like "Unless you're 14/14H like me then you're a scrub."  Did I do so and forget about it?

And most people won't look down at you for running LFR, they'll approve that you're trying to go *beyond* LFR.  Tons of people will be willing to help you get into runs or learn things if you express interest, they WANT to see more people step into raiding.  I don't know a single heroic raider who would belittle someone doing Flex despite the fact it is zounds easier than heroic.  Why?  Because it's still raiding, just at a more forgiving difficulty level.

That isn't to say there aren't some trolls, of course, but there's always a certain percentage of assholes on the internet, unfortunately.

"That was the tourism part to which I referred. But now you are telling me I haven’t actually seen the raids"

Let's say there's a golf course with an average of par 4 and the usual sand traps/ponds/etc.

Heroic Raiding: you have average 4 shots per hole (par for the course) and all the standard rules apply.

Normal Raiding: you can average 6 shots per hole and you get 1 mulligan per hole for shots that go into a hazard or off the course.

Flex Raiding: you can average 9 shots per hole and you get 2 mulligans per hole for shots that go into a hazard or off the course.

LFR: you can average 30 shots per hole with 10 mulligans per hole.  Doable only using a putter.

Think of it this way: how many people look down on a person for having a golf handicap?  Not many.  That's normal and Flex.

How many people would look down on a person for playing a golf course using only a putter?  Quite a few.  That's LFR.
 Now, in retrospect, I could have rephrased those last two sections to be something like...
Think of it this way: how many people would agree that using a handicap in golf means you're not actually playing golf?  Basically no one -- all the same basic rules still apply and it's simply a relaxation of the requirements.  You're still trying to play the game correctly and doing your best.

How many people would agree that using only a putter on a golf course and establishing a par of 30 per hole means you're not actually playing golf?  Basically everyone -- you're ignoring the essence of the game.
But especially given the preceding 75%+ of that comment (and previous comments) it's pretty clear what my intent is -- which is that the problem is the rules/environment of LFR.  Was never saying everyone who does LFR is terrible or something -- if I thought that then I wouldn't be pointing out how plenty of people are willing to help others get into Flex or above (including myself).

Oh well.  Apparently I'm just an elitist jerk.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why We Need Resolve (And Goodbye Vengeance)

Sorry about the lack of posting.  Crazy busy in real life, working on a NWN module, and trying to build up my guild to Mythic.  We've been 14/14H for a while now on just two nights a week (raid Sun/Mon from 7:30 to 11:30-12:00 CST) so if that interests you we'd love to see you apply.  Planning on switching to 25 man in a month or two in preparation.

Given all that, I'm going to highlight some comments I posted elsewhere since it's a question I've seen more than once, most prominently at Blessing of Kings:
Rohan wrote...
However, as I understand it, Resolve means that a tank who is not taking damage is squishier than a tank who is taking damage.

But if the tank is not taking damage, does it really matter that she is squishier?

Or to put it another way, there's an equation that should balance in a successful fight:

Incoming Damage = Healing from Others + Self Healing/Mitigation + Healing/Mitigation from Resolve

Why not just remove the Resolve term?  You could directly boost the self healing/mitigation or lower the incoming damage, and the equation would still balance. Removing Resolve would simplify things, and not create weird situations like a successful parry/dodge streak that causes Resolve to drop off.
It's an interesting question -- but the answer lies in the active mitigation category.
Balkoth wrote...

Here's the problem: you're not considering things like Shield Block versus Shield Barrier.  Let's say Shield Block reduces damage by 30% for 6 seconds and the boss hits every 2 seconds for 100 damage.  Now let's say Shield Barrier absorbs 90 damage.Both of these mitigate the same damage every 6 seconds.

But what if the boss only hits for 50 damage? Now Shield Barrier is twice as strong. Or what if the boss hits for 300 damage? Now Shield Block is three times as strong.

Resolve exists to scale the flat absorbs/heals (like Shield Barrier, Frenzied Regeneration, etc) at the same rate as the percent reductions (like Shield Block, Savage Defense, etc)
Rohan then gave a response...
Rohan wrote...

Balkoth, if the problem is a mix of percents and flat amounts, wouldn't it better to change abilities to all use percents or all use flat amounts? 

To which I responded...
Balkoth wrote...


Let's say it's all percents and thus Shield Block reduces damage by 30% for 6 seconds and Shield Barrier reduces damage by 90% for 2 seconds (same deal, right?).

But now imagine the boss has an special attack which applies a debuff that makes the next special attack do more (like a breath that deals fire damage and increases fire damage taken by 100%) and this fires every 10 seconds and the debuff lasts 30 seconds.

So you'd swap every 3 stacks, right?

Nope! Because you could use Shield Barrier to reduce that hit which should deal like twice your HP down to 20% of your HP. Even an attack which hit you for eight times your maximum health could be reduced to 80% hit -- which would be a hell of a lot of stacks. In fact, you'd never need to swap. Any hard hit of damage which occurs less often than you can Shield Barrier is irrelevant.

So let's go to the reverse and say we go to flat absorbs. How would that even work for Shield Block?

Absorb a flat amount per second? Then that's less effective against slow attacking bosses which might only hit every 2 seconds and more effective versus fast attacks.

Absorb a flat amount per hit? Then that's less effective against hard hitting bosses and more effective against fast attacks.

Absorb a flat amount? Then that's Shield Barrier.

The best case scenario would be something like using Shield Block builds an absorb shell every second that stacks with itself -- which would mean it becomes TOO powerful if you happen to dodge/parry a few attacks because then it applies that absorption to a single attack.

So then you'd have to do stuff like remove the absorb on a dodge or parry -- except then what if you parry a weak add's attack and then eat a hard boss hit to the face?

Then on top of that you have stuff like Savage Defense which gives a Dodge increase so that's a whole new bag of worms.


...we could just make Shield Barrier absorb more against harder hitting mobs so it stays roughly equal to Shield Block.

The main idea, actually, is that Shield Block is better at mitigating overall damage but Shield Barrier can be used to deal with known spike damage or in case your HP dips low. It's meant to be a tradeoff.
TL;DR version: tanks typically have one active mitigation that reduces damage by a percent and another that heals or absorbs a flat amount of damage and Resolve is needed to keep these at roughly equal power.  The heal/absorb still mitigates LESS overall but it's used to mitigate spikes of damage which are dangerous.