Sunday, 31 May 2009

Poetry Corner

OK so I had an hour to kill on a train the other day, and jotted this down. It's trite bollocks naturally, so I apologise for that in advance.


Held aloft by malevolent force of will
Above the cowering northern town
Its battlements rimed with weeping ice
The dread citadel

Hallways o'ergrown with reeking slime
Patrolled by silent wights with iron eyes
The clank of mail and grind of bone on bone
Echo through endless empty rooms

Vast caverns where loathsome bloated shapes
Lurk brooding hid in ancient webs
And at its frozen heart a horror
Heeds once again its master's call

Thence I go

With sword gripped tight in shaking hand
To make young bones in the dark

Thursday, 28 May 2009

PvP rant

I believe that one of the reasons that many people actively dislike PvP is not the mechanics of the game (which are often rather fun, inventive and reward skill), but the superior, childish and aggressive attitude of many of the people who play it. The assertions that it is somehow "better" than PvE, or that it is not possible to post intelligently on the subject unless you have a full set of Gladiator epics, really seems to pervade that side of the game.

I think arena has made the problem much worse, because of the very personal head to head nature of the fights. Frankly the entire arena experience is incredibly intimidating and is made much worse by the macho posturing of many of the players, both in game and on the forums. I know several very good PvE players who don't arena at all for this very reason.

A personal tale (and the catalyst for this post). I "stepped into the arena" for the first time at 80 on Tuesday night (I used to play a little on my mage at 70). I was specced PvP arms, in my PvE gear. Zero resilience. I'd just remapped my action bars to put all the buttons I'd need for PvP in one small place, and made some macros. As it turned out, I was dreadful - with no muscle memory I needed to look before pressing a button (otherwise I ended up spamming rend...) which is fatal in PvP, and we lost nine of our first ten matches. One match was against a priest-warrior team from my server, which ended particularly badly. I then started receiving charmingly aggressive and insulting whispers from the warrior (who was, of course, a gnome). I reported him and introduced him to my ignore list, but that's not the point - it's this sort of behaviour which gives PvP its current awful reputation, and in my view it is part of the reason that arena participation is in decline.

I used to do old-school PvP on my mage at level 60 (before resilience, before arena and before the honour point system) which was a very different experience. I used to love the three hour AVs, and really regret the fact that the battleground and world PvP system has been overtaken by the arena.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


I was reading a post on the official forums about potential changes to the warrior class. The poster included the line that the rage system should be changed "because it's an outdated mechanic". Now I'm not sure that I buy into the "outdated" part - sure it's not as funky and cool as the rune system, but it's been around as long as the energy system, or the focus system, but not as long as the mana system.

Nevertheless, I think the rage system has some quirks all of its own that bear some thinking about.

1) Warriors (and bears, obv) are the only class which starts an encounter at zero resource.

Every other class starts at 100% resource, while we have to earn ours first before we can use it. This causes problems incredibly often - how many times can I (a new tank in 3.0) remember avoiding the first two incoming attacks, and so essentially being at zero resource for the first 6 or 7 seconds of a fight? With my avoidance (including miss) of say 40% (can't remember the number offhand, but it's above that) then 4/25 of the time I will avoid the first two boss attacks, or 16% of the time.

There are some things you can do - request an MD (but you may not have a hunter or rogue, or the daft dpser may MD the mob on the wrong target - this happened twice last night), pull with heroic throw, hit bloodrage, or charge - but these all have their own drawbacks or cooldowns, and are basically not optimal. Certainly a "body pull" is just asking for trouble, and a lazy tank on the pull is generally one who will wipe the group.

2) Rage starvation in easier content

Your dps' ability to generate threat scales with their gear. Yours declines with your gear. At some point the two graphs will cross, which is why you get stupid wipes in silly easy instances.

3) DPS is balanced around infinite rage

I can't do competitive (ie competitive for a non-DK tank) dps unless I have infinite rage and am able to HS on every swing. Apart from the obvious point that doing competitive dps requires me to press the buttons so fast I should basically bang my head repeatedly on the keyboard, it seems that Blizzard balance our dps around these horrific rotations which require constant heroic strikes.

In a normal raid environment I am concentrating on moving the boss around and not dying. I just don't have enough hands to hit 2 buttons a second, and therefore my dps falls off. I think if I bind HS to all my abilities this might help, and so I've begun this process.

Interestingly, in infinite rage scenarios we are at a significant advantage over DKs - we can use any of our abilities (cooldowns permitting) whenever we want - we don't have to have runes available of the right colour or sufficient runic power. While the DK resource system is fun and interesting, it is very hard to monitor effectively during a fight and seems to lead to some very technical rotations.

4) PvP

I hate PvP and am very bad at it. But when I do venture into the arena, the swine just ignore me and nuke my partner. I can charge/intercept once each, and then I am reduced to trudging dispiritedly towards the enemy doing white attacks to gain rage whenever I am fortunate enough to be in range. Perhaps this is a skill thing rather than a resource thing.

So, to sum up, I quite like the rage system, but it has many drawbacks. The possibility of zero rage on a pull is the most important I think, because this does cause deaths in a raid environment and is a really unpleasant sinking feeling when it happens.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Always check your answers...

Confession time - I have a maths degree.

It's been ten years since I did any statistics, but still I am very embarrassed about my RNG rant in an earlier post. Mainly because the probabilities are complete bollocks.

So let's try again. Ten man bosses drop two items chosen from a list of ten. Suppose you want a particular item to drop - the chance of that item being the first epic that drops is 1 in 10. The chance that the item is the second one that drops is 1 in 9 (because the same item can't drop twice). Thus the chance of not getting that item 9/10 * 8/9 = 80%. So you have a 20% chance of the item dropping.

Where the boss drops two items, the probability of neither appearing is 8/10 * 7/9 = 62%. Your chance of seeing either or both of them is therefore 38%.

Finally, for three items, the probability of seeing at least one of the three is therefore 1 - [7/10 * 6/9] = 53%. I apologise to all three of my readers for mucking up the maths.

But then of course if the RNG hates you then unless you have some good friends with 25 man BoE gear to give away, then you have no hope. I still see the posts of the people who had to wait weeks and weeks for their Red Sword of Courage from UP heroic and feel grateful it only took me 7 or 8 tries.

Friday, 22 May 2009

He shouldn't have been so... headstrong

Who needs the RNG?

Logged on this evening to find an epic BoE shield from 25 man Ulduar in my mailbox. A gift from the 25 man raid team who nabbed it the previous night. This clearly proves that mates beat random loot any time, and I was genuinely touched that they'd thought of me.

With that great start I had a brilliant Ulduar raid. An amusing wipe on Leviathan, followed by a kill, then one-shots of Razor, XT and Kologarn, a single wipe on Council before a first kill, then some messing about on Auriaya before we got her too. Here's a screenshot of us post Kologarn. He'll never be head of a major corporation now...

I then (gasp) got my first Ulduar tanking drop - some shoulders from Kologarn. Really fun raid.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The RNG hates me

I have now achieved nine boss kills in Ulduar. I have yet to see any tanking gear drop - note that this does not mean that I've seen it drop and lost the roll, it has not dropped full stop. I have the following kills:

Leviathan (twice - drops one tanking item)
XT-002 (twice - drops no tanking items)
Razorscale (twice - drops one tanking item)
Ignis (twice - drops two tanking items)
Auriaya (once - drops two tanking items)

Since each boss has a ten item loot table, the probability of not seeing any items drop is (9/10)^4*(8/10)^3 = 33.6%. Interestingly, on the raid I couldn't make on Friday night they killed Kologarn who has three tanking items on his loot table. No tanking items dropped then either, which reduces the probability to around 22%.

It's official - the random number generator hates me.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Work is hell

Work is hell at the moment. We have had the end of the financial year here in the UK, and since I work in finance there's been a huge amount to deal with in terms of advice to clients and new rules to learn. On top of this, our annual conference (which I arrange, run, and at which I deliver technical presentations) is this week.

On top of that, my daughter is starting nursery school and my wife is back at work.

I'm tired all the time (getting up at 5.30am and getting home from work at 8pm) and have very little time off at all, let alone to play warcraft. There is an outside chance that I'll be able to make our Ulduar 10 raid tomorrow night, for a second Ignis kill and then some good tries at Kologarn. I am desperate to go.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Siege of Ulduar clear!

Two hours of wipes on Ignis produced a first kill and the first wing of Ulduar cleared!
We initially tried the "cheese it" strategy of tanking him in the water, offtanking the adds, and burning him down. Eventually however the offtank (me) would get killed, or the damage to the raid would get too high. We then experimented with tanking him partly in the water and partly out of it, but we still had problems - sometimes there wouldn't be a scorch patch up so we would get two adds, or sometimes I had to run so far to get to the flame patch I was out of range of the healers. Eventually we laid down patches in a big circle, and he went down first try.
Stuff to remember:
- Once you get two adds up, unless you have a third tank up to help with the melting, you may be better to just burn him. We killed I think 5 or 6 adds with me and a mage (dps DK backup nuker when the mage was potted), but then when one of the brittle golems wasn't killed in time, I just offtanked all the remaining golems at that stage (he was at about 45% then I think).
- Oh yeah - designate a backup nuker in advance - my mage nuker keept getting potted...
- Don't bother with scorching the water - although it sounds better it generally isn't because it messes with your flame patch placement.
- Watch the aggro wipe with the golems melt. Save concussion blow to grab aggro and run away for the water. Follow up with heroic throw if you need a little more threat. Yelp into vent in panic to get your nuker to come help you.
Also - that's my 7th boss kill in Ulduar, and I am yet to get a tanking drop. Bah. Picked up a dps epic for my offspec set though - some gun or other...
Huge rush when we got him as ever. That's what raiding is all about...