Archive for patches

Permanently Grounded

Forgive me, dear readers, it has been three months since my last blog post. I don’t even necessarily want to talk about what I’m going to talk about here, but, well, I couldn’t help myself.

The Announcement

This week, Ion Hazzikostas, the lead designer of World of Warcraft, had an interview with Polygon, in which he stated “that outdoor gameplay in World of Warcraft is ultimately better without flying. We’re not going to be reintroducing the ability to fly in Draenor, and that’s kind of where we’re at going forward.”

Let me be clear, readers — I kind of didn’t mind the concept of not flying until the “first major patch for Warlords of Draenor”, which was how this was announced to players before the game even launched. One might assume that flight would have been reintroduced in 6.1. When that didn’t show up, I personally thought “oh, hey, I guess they’re waiting for the next tier when we get into Tanaan Jungle. That’s fine.”

Apparently, this won’t be the case.

Some Thinking & Some History

So, I’m not pleased. But I took some time to try to figure out why I’m not pleased. How does the prospect of continuing on just as I have really affect me? Does it affect me?

Having started in Vanilla, where you not only didn’t have flight, but you didn’t even get a ground mount (and a slow one at that!) until level 40, I wasn’t used to flight when I started playing the game. The world was vast. Immense. Boats, flight points, all of these helped out a great deal, but to this day, it’s still a pain to go from, say, Un’Goro Crater up to Winterspring. The old world is freaking huge.

The new continents in each expansion… well, they’re not that big. They’re landmasses that don’t really come close to the size of each old continent in Azeroth. Which, you know, that’s fine. It’s an expansion. You’re not going to spend the rest of your WoW career in Outlands or Northrend or Pandaria, right? The old world is going to see a lot more action, particularly since we revisited it in Cataclysm, than the other continents and areas, which are much more transient in nature.

They introduced flying in Burning Crusade, but what a lot of people either don’t know (because they weren’t there) or don’t remember (because it’s been a long while!), is that flying was still incredibly rare! Epic flying was stupidly expensive (5000g) and regular flight was, well, I think it was around 600 gold. Gold, in those days, was really difficult to get. The people in my guild basically pooled their money to help people get epic flying. I think there were six or seven people in this group with my brother, all of whom would kick in some cash to help someone get their flying, and that person would then pay people back over a (long) period of time.

So it wasn’t always easy for someone to get flying, much less epic flying. I spent a great deal of time on an alt on Proudmoore, post-raids, chatting with my RL Friend the Resto Druid who was raiding on Pacific hours. I’d be doing circles on a ground mount in Nagrand, mining adamantium and fel iron and using my engineering thingy to get motes of air. This was perfectly reasonable and fine. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not having flight on that character. This, despite the fact that there were several areas in Burning Crusade that required flight — various dungeon instance entrances (and this was before dungeon queues!), various farming spots… Back then, you couldn’t get to Elemental Plateau without flying (or being awesome friends with a warlock and some others who could fly!).

When Wrath of the Lich King launched, I grumbled a bit about not being able to fly, particularly after that Wintergarde Keep quest where you DO get to fly to save the various people from undead things, but when I hit 80, I threw my 1000 gold at the trainer and I COULD FLY AND IT WAS AMAZING. I didn’t even have the super-fast flying on Kurn then, it was only 280%. (I would later get 310% flying when I completed What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been in late 2009.) Various raid instances were either impossible or very difficult to get to without flight if you didn’t want to rely on a summon. Naxxramas and Ulduar come to mind.

Flight in Cataclysm was, and let’s be fair, totally expected. If they were going to blow up our old Azeroth, flying just made sense. (Ultimately, I would probably trade flight to not have lost Auberdine and Southshore, though…) But think about things like where the raid entrances were! Nefarian’s balcony up at Blackrock Mountain, the top of a spire in Twilight Highlands, the instance entrance for Throne of the Four Winds… I mean, we were clearly meant to be flying in Cataclysm content, the same way we were meant to fly in parts of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. What was different here is that, for the first time, we were permitted to start flying at the start of the expansion.

In Mists of Pandaria, I did the same as I usually done — levelled up, threw gold at the training and luxuriated in the glory of flight and its freedom. I wasn’t really bothered by the fact that I couldn’t fly until 90.

Throughout all of these expansions, there were places where flight wasn’t allowed.

In Burning Crusade, there was the Isle of Quel’Danas, plus the entire old world, even the new zones for draenei and blood elves.

In Wrath of the Lich King, there was Wintergrasp. I recall frequently clipping the edge of the zone and getting dismounting and cratering. Oh yeah, plus the old world.

In Cataclysm, there was Tol Barad, plus the draenei and blood elf zones and… that was about it, because you were in the old world and you could fly from the start.

Then in Mists of Pandaria, you had… well, the Timeless Isle and those old draenei and blood elf zones. You could fly pretty much everywhere else.

In Warlords of Draenor, you just can’t fly. Period. And now we have confirmation that we will not be able to do so.

So I find myself thinking about how this affects me. Does it affect me? Can I go back to just being on the ground? I mean, I played for over a year on the ground in Vanilla, plus lots of time in Burning Crusade, the levelling-up time in Wrath and Pandaria, plus my time in non-flight zones (Timeless Isle, most recently), as well as these first few months of Warlords of Draenor.

Managing My Own Expectations

I can, of course. I have done so for the last several months. And what the last several months has mostly meant is logging in, doing Garrison stuff and occasionally flying out to Nagrand (via flight point, obviously) to trap 21ish clefthoof bulls.

Will having the ability to fly change my in-game priorities?

No.

Does it actually change the quality of my in-game life to not have flying?

No, because I haven’t had flight since Pandaria anyhow.

So why am I displeased?

I’m displeased because it was heavily implied that we’d have it at some point, but while re-reading the phrase from Bashiok, it’s clear to me that they never planned to bring it back. Read it for yourselves:

We intend to disallow flying while leveling from 90 to 100, and have flying become available again in the first major patch for Warlords of Draenor.

 

Reading that initially, I read “We will disallow flying while leveling from 90-100” and then “but flying will be available again in the first major patch”.

They covered their asses well. Look at that. We intend. Just because they intend something doesn’t mean it will happen. Personally, I saw that and assumed because the first part was true, it would follow that the second part was true.

My fault for assuming, I guess. But I think a lot of other people made the same assumption.

The Loss of Trust

As such, a lot of people are talking about trust for Blizzard right now. Frankly, I don’t have any trust for them any longer. They lost me in Firelands. Up until then, no matter what nonsense they threw at us, I was pretty much okay with them, believing that there were things I didn’t know, believing that there were things I didn’t understand, other kinds of factors that led to their various decisions. I supported them, believing that they knew what was best, believing that they were doing good things for the game and for the community.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when, despite the introduction of LFR, content nerfs continued through Dragon Soul. And, as a result, I left WoW for about 13 months. (And then resubbed a few months after that, but I have not raided in any kind of serious fashion since then.)

Flying isn’t the end-all and be-all for me. It’s that we were led to believe flying would come back this expansion. It doesn’t affect my daily WoW life that I can’t fly, but I don’t take kindly to being led to believe something will occur that won’t. (Hey, where is the dance studio, anyhow?!)

There’s also the fact that some mounts are really meant to fly. My Violet Proto Drake is not meant to waddle on the ground.

Nor are my drakes from Dragon Soul (I have both the meta and the one from Heroic Madness), my bird from the Firelands meta or my Icebound Frostbrood Vanquisher.

It’s not as though I don’t have some nice ground mounts — I have Baron Rivendare’s mount, which is awesome. I have my paladin’s charger, also awesome. But using these huge flying drakes on the ground is pretty dumb-looking. I like using some of these fancy mounts. But not to see them waddle on the ground. To see things I worked really hard for get relegated to use in the old world… it’s disappointing. Someone on Twitter is even talking about false advertising in terms of buying mounts from the shop. (I don’t know that I’d go that far, but, to be fair, I’ve never bought a mount from the shop.)

Speaking of posts by people on Twitter, don’t miss Ross‘s post at Feckless Leader: “Yep, We’re Still Talking About Flying“, in which he talks about how maybe this is the beginning of the replacement of flight, not just the flat-out removal of flight. (I wish I had his hope and trust.)

And, of course, if you don’t regularly read Alternative Chat, shame on you. Go read her post about flying.

But What About THE GAMEPLAY?!?!

Hazzikostas talked about how it’s silly for people to fly to their mob, land on the hut, kill the mob and fly off again.

Okay, that’s fair. So stop having such simplistic quests. Add in “kill X number of mobs” to the quest. Or put the mob in a cave. Or underwater. Or something.

Frankly, I will say this — the terrain of Draenor sucks. It’s all hills and canyons and how in the actual fuck are you supposed to get up THAT hill and how do you get out of THAT canyon and seriously? This would be a lot less frustrating if I could fly!

Half the reason I don’t go out into Draenor is that I don’t really have a reason to do so, but when I do go out there, venturing out from my Garrison, I end up frustrated as all get out because there’s no obvious way to get to point B from my point A. The maps are not remotely detailed enough to take height into consideration. I see my objective on the minimap and, in the world, it’s like three stories over my head, dangling off a cliff. How do I get up on that cliff? The challenge should be in getting the objective, not in navigating the inhospitable terrain to get to the cliff, the way I see it. If the terrain weren’t crazy, I wouldn’t mind being without flight, really, when I’m out in the world.

But it is crazy. The ground is never just flat. This is not Vanilla. And I’m glad it’s not Vanilla. I remember walking into Hellfire Peninsula and being like “HOLY CRAP, THE GROUND IS SLANTED” when Burning Crusade launched. And I like that. I just don’t like being forced to travel around and over and up and down for the sake of absolutely nothing. There is no reason to make the terrain as treacherous as it is in some parts except to slow us down and annoy us.

That’s when I miss flight. It doesn’t make the gameplay any more enjoyable for me. It makes me feel as though I’m a rat in a maze. And that? That does not endear me to the designers of the game.

Want to hear more about this and other subjects? Don’t forget to tune in to the Kurncast — a (mostly) weekly podcast, (mostly) focused on World of Warcraft. Tune in today, on iTunes or Stitcher!

Old Habits Die Hard

With the news that Patch 5.4.8 would bring with it the ability to add two more upgrades (4 ilvls each) to 5.4 gear, I laughed to myself. Why? Well, because there are several instances of Blizzard saying they won’t nerf Siege of Orgrimmar (at least not in the blanket-nerf sense of the word). The most recent one was just a month ago, back in April.

And yet, they’re adding up to 8 more ilvls to every piece of SoO gear, every piece of Timeless Isle gear, every piece of SoO crafted gear… Granted, as Watcher states, it’s “nothing” compared to a zone-wide 30% aura:

But Valor upgrades are still a nerf. I went through that in this old post of mine from last September (wow, was I ever off on the timing of the expansion…) and I still maintain my opinion that it’s a nerf. That said, I am also still a fan of the fact that the onus is on the player to make their raids easier.

Anyhow, I laughed to myself at all of this and was, once again, pleased that I’m not raiding in any serious capacity at all.

That said, I had the intention to cap Valor so I could walk into 5.4.8 with 1000 or 2000 VP and upgrade the crap out of what I’m wearing. I figured we still had a week or two.

And then we were told on Monday that, OH HEY, PATCH DAY TOMORROW.

Wanna know how much Valor I had earned in the last, oh, two weeks?

Five.

That’s right. Five Valor. I did one quest for 5 Valor or something. That’s it.

So, forgetting for a while that I am no longer a progression raider, I got online and did my 200 VP Epoch Stone quest on Timeless Isle. In so doing, I also earned 50 VP from killing 20 elites on Timeless Isle.

Total VP: 255.

This was substantially less than 1000.

So I did the unthinkable. I queued up for the first couple of wings of Siege of Orgrimmar LFR. Late on a Monday night.

Wing 2 popped for me.

By some miracle, we didn’t wipe on Galakras, despite there being ZERO tower group organization.

Both tanks left shortly after that mess. And then we got some extremely talented players who were, and let’s be fair to them, total douchecanoes. One of them was the tank, the other was a DPS warrior. Both were very well-geared and knew their stuff, but oh my God. The language. The foul, foul, FOUL language, full of slurs and pejoratives!

I was going to leave, but I didn’t. I’d already put in 30 minutes of waiting for the queue, plus 20 minutes on Galakras, plus another 10 of waiting for two new tanks to show up.

Someone ninja-pulled on Iron Juggernaut and we wiped. Then we actually had a good pull and killed that. Killed Dark Shaman. Then wiped on Nazgrim because people still apparently don’t know how to kill adds… Finally got Nazgrim down, adding 90 VP to my pathetic collection, bringing me to 345 total. (Also, no Secrets through those bosses.)

My other queue popped for the first wing and I was going to take it, except I was still annoyed and I was tired and…

… and I’m not a raider.

It’s as though a lightbulb went off. Who the eff cares if I don’t max out my VP? I certainly didn’t care until faced with the fact that I could do more stuff with my VP today. Guess what? I haven’t even fully upgraded most of the gear that I’m wearing. (Part of this is because I want to get better gear before upgrading.) So, really, what the heck is the point in trying desperately to cap to get to 1000 VP before servers go down? There’s no one relying on me to “do my part”, there’s nothing driving me to do it, except my own expectations.

I declined the queue and thought about this.

Even though I haven’t raided seriously (as in, not LFR) since the end of Dragon Soul, I am still wired to try to maximize my potential. It took a lot of effort in the first place to stop VP capping even when I didn’t want to any longer. For so long, it’s just been part of my WoW life to do unpleasant tasks “because I have to!”

But I don’t “have to” any longer. (And true, strictly speaking, I never “had to”, but I felt I had a responsibility to my raid teams to do whatever I could.)

It’s going to take some time to adjust to this whole “I can do whatever I want” thing. Breaking such a long-standing old habit is definitely not as easy as one might think. Even now, I’m filled with residual “dammit, why didn’t I cap VP for three weeks prior to today?!” thoughts and I even have a bit of guilt resulting from it.

You’d think that not having played for ~17 months would have cured that right quick, but no. It’s as though my “decompression” from being a raider was just on pause until I got back into the game and NOW I’m dealing with what it’s like to not be a raider.

It’s still so very, very strange.

Thought I’d share. :)

On Connected Realms

Back when I first started playing World of Warcraft, I, like everyone else, was faced with a choice. At the time, I was completely unaware of how important this one choice was. I doubt most other first-timers had any idea, either. That choice was, of course, selecting a realm.

The realm I chose was Eldre’Thalas. Why? There were two reasons. The first was that it was a “Normal” server, meaning it was PVE. I had (and still have) no desire to be ganked unexpectedly.

The other reason why was because I thought it “looked cool” by virtue of having an apostrophe. That’s it. That is the entire reason I chose my home server, among 45 other PVE realms. Subsequently, that is why I met a bunch of awesome people in the guild of Fated Heroes, why I stuck with them to form Apotheosis (BC-era) and why I came back, post-Wrath, to bring Apotheosis v2.0 to life.

Because the server name looked cool.

When I look back on things, I recognize how huge a choice that was. At the time, there were no character transfers. Even now, character transfers cost $25 to pop from server to server (and believe me, I have spent a fair amount of money on transfers!), so the choice of a server is still a fairly important one. True, it no longer takes 20-30 days played to get a single character up to level 90, much less level 60, but server choice is still important, though it’s becoming less so.

With the release of Patch 5.4, Connected Realms (previously known as Virtual Realms) are being tested and implemented. Nethaera informed us on Wednesday evening that the first two realms that will be connected in this fashion are the US realms Bloodscalp and Boulderfist.

According to the US WoW RealmPop site, here are the statistics for both of those servers.

Bloodscalp:
Server type: PVP/Normal
Server timezone: MST
Alliance population: 13,581
Horde population: 32,167
Total population: 45,819

Boulderfist:
Server type: PVP/Normal
Server timezone: PST
Alliance population: 21,887
Horde population: 44,472
Total population: 66,459

I admit, this first connected realm confuses me a little bit. The Connected Realms FAQ explains that they wanted players from two (or more) lower-pop realms to play together. So why Bloodscalp and Boulderfist first? Looking at the list at RealmPop, Chromaggus has less than 16,000 characters in total. Garithos isn’t much better off, sitting at 17k. Balnazzar and Gul’dan are around the 18k mark. All four of those realms are PVP/CST realms. It seems to me as though the logical thing to do would be to group those four up pretty quickly, no?

Then again, maybe they want to start slowly, in the sense that they might want to try out this technology with just two (instead of four) realms to begin. And just two of those servers connected together would only be a total of about 32-33 thousand characters, which isn’t ideal. (Hell, all four of them merged isn’t a great population, either!) So I can understand that.

The other reason I’m confused is that they’re looking to create such a LARGE connected realm. ~46k + ~66k = ~112k characters. Either I missed a conversation/blue post out there, or I was extremely wrong in thinking that Eldre’Thalas, with its estimated population of ~74,000 characters, would remain a standalone realm. I was very surprised to see Boulderfist included, with just about eight thousand fewer characters on it than my original, home server.

The idea of Connected Realms was really interesting to me, on a community level (which I’ll get to in a moment), but it was all academic to me, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that I haven’t actively played since November of 2012. However, the idea that Eldre’Thalas may be included in this, at some point, brings it home. It’s not that good ol’ Eldre’Thalas can’t use more people (I’m sure that the Horde of ET, the few of them that remain, would agree with that sentiment), but the instant that you connect two or more realms together, the community changes.

Let’s talk a bit about community.

Back when I started playing, in October of 2005, my server (and I can’t speak to other servers because I only had characters on Eldre’Thalas, at that time) had a bunch of personalities. As you levelled, you knew of pretty much anyone who was a good player, bad player, moron, genius, scammer, you name it.

There was Atlas, the rather infamous leader of The Final Sanctum, who was, by all accounts, a jackass.

There was Suttles, who you could always count on to be yelling inappropriate things.

There was Warninja, who was always happy to open your lockboxes on the Ironforge bridge.

There was Joejoemco, who was pretty much always responsible for insane feats of kiting. Like, if Borelgore (from Eastern Plaguelands) was sitting dead in Ironforge? Yeah, that was Joejoe’s fault.

There was Rastlin, the Horde shaman, who was awesome about creating flasks and rare-ish alchemy items for people, back when you needed to go to Scholomance or Blackwing Lair to find an alchemy lab to make flasks, even arranging things with Alliance folks via the neutral AH, if I’m remembering right.

There was Thack, the main tank of Eternal Force, who was That Guy standing in Ironforge in full Tier 3, on his black scarab mount, having been the guy to ring the gong on the server back when the gates to Ahn’Qiraj were opened.

Since, at the time, battlegrounds weren’t split between battlegroups, you also got to know cross-faction folks pretty well — or, at least, you recognized who murdered you brutally in Warsong Gulch. (Dar, the orc hunter, is who taught me what the hell Scattershot was by using it on me, causing me to exclaim “what in the fuck was that?!”. Elu, the tauren druid, showed me what a bear could do for flag carrying.)

Once you connect realms, the community changes.

However, since the peak of WoW’s population, back in late Wrath of the Lich King, since the introduction of Looking for Group and, later, Looking for Raid, plus the fact that battlegrounds and arenas are battlegroup-wide, there’s very little community remaining on many servers. Larger servers, such as Proudmoore (where I raided for nine months), had enough Alliance-side population to actually have personality. With pugs running constantly, plus gold DKP runs and pre-made groups, Proudmoore was a thriving community (disclaimer: I haven’t had a regularly-played character there since May of 2010). It was so different compared to Eldre’Thalas and its relative silence.

I came back to Eldre’Thalas after about an 18 month break during Wrath. I barely recognized anyone. People applied to Apotheosis, saying they’d been life-long ETers and I was like “who the hell ARE these people?”, although I did recognize the names of guilds they’d previously been in.

Even during Cataclysm, I didn’t recognize a lot of people. I still feel as though there wasn’t a ton of real community on the server. My guildies mostly stuck to in-guild activities, as did I. I tried a normal 10m pug of Dragon Soul on my hunter at one point. I was pulled in on Blackhorn (I was obviously replacing someone who had given up in frustration) and spent two hours working on that fight with these people and we couldn’t get it down. That and Baradin Hold pugs were pretty much the extent of my forays into server activities.

So, if  connected realms change the community of realms where there’s not a lot of community to start with, then this should be a good change, no? I kind of think so.

The other strange thing about Bloodscalp and Boulderfist’s imminent connection is that these are two Horde-dominant servers. Once connected, the total approximate Alliance population will be 35,468 characters compared to the Horde’s 76,639. And these are PVP servers. True, it’s not as though the Alliance aren’t already used to being completely outnumbered by the Horde on these servers, but good Lord, that’s more than twice the amount of Horde as Alliance. One would have thought that Connected Realms would not only bring up overall populations but seek to perhaps even out the faction imbalances, no? Well, I guess not.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Connected Realms are a good idea, even if the idea is not quite unfolding the way I had thought it would. Ultimately, linking realms in this fashion does not make life difficult for anyone (except auction house fiends) and, in fact, helps to build community (where there might not have been much) between separate servers that are now linked.

There are still some unanswered questions I have, in addition to the ones I posed in my last post on the subject:

Old questions:
1) How many realms will be in a Virtual Realm?
2) With which realms will others be connected? Are they going to tack Chromaggus on to Tichondrius, for instance? Or will they do it by lumping together five to ten low-pop realms to be one large Virtual Realm?
3) Will Virtual Realms have names?
4) Will players be able to transfer to a Virtual Realm (and then get randomly dropped on a server within that VR) or will they continue to transfer to individual servers?

New questions:
5) What is the ideal population size of a Connected Realm?
6) When will the actual lower-population realms start to be connected to others?
7) What’s the approximate cutoff that makes a realm “too big” to be connected, if such a number exists?
8) Is there any interest in making sure factions are better balanced?

Oh, and while I was poking around the official forums, looking for people’s reactions, I found this post in the Bloodscalp forums about Connected Realms and had a good laugh, so I absolutely have to share it! :)

Also, don’t forget to check out Kurn’s Recruitment Checklist, to better aid you in your 5.4 recruitment push, and if you need a bit more help, there’s always Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Guild Master! In particular, Module 2: How to Recruit is full of great recruitment info (as you may have already gleaned).

Finally, I’m starting work on my second Kick-Ass Guide! This one is targetted at raiders and will be a lot shorter than the guild master guide. I hope. Well, at 358 pages, the guild master guide is kind of massive, so hopefully it won’t be too difficult to release a shorter guide in a shorter period of time. The GM guide took me close to four months, so I’m aiming for half of that time before the Raider guide is out. Keep yourself up to date here or follow me on Twitter (@kurnmogh) or sign up for my mailing list over at Kurn’s Guides! :)

5.4 PTR Holy Paladin Changes

Admittedly, I haven’t kept up on all kinds of patch notes in the last several months, but several of the changes noticed in the 5.4 PTR struck me as really interesting.

My instinct is to cringe and brace for impact whenever I see “Paladin” in the patch notes or the noted datamined changes. Rarely when you see a class name are they actually buffing the class. It’s usually some form of nerf.

So what are these changes that I strongly suspected would be nerfs?

1) Eternal Flame initial healing has been reduced by 30%. Boom. Nerf.

2) Sacred Shield stuff that is unlikely to actually be implemented on live. Would have been potentially interesting but probably still would feel like a nerf compared to current Sacred Shield.

3) Sanctified Wrath: Holy: now also increases the critical strike chance of Holy Shock by 20%. Buff!

4) Selfless Healer stacks now also work on Divine Light in addition to Flash of Light. Buff to this talent, no question.

5) Mastery: Illuminated Healing no longer activates from periodic healing effects. HUGE, HUGE NERF. (They’ve mentioned that this really is aimed at Eternal Flame and level 90 talents won’t be punished by this.)

6) Divine Plea no longer reduces the amount of healing done by 50%. A long-overdue change, in my opinion.

After reading the post by Rygarius in the official forums, you can better understand what on earth the devs are thinking here. What you can glean from the post is that too many Holy paladins were taking Eternal Flame, so they nerfed it (directly and then indirectly due to the fact that mastery shields will no longer proc off periodic healing effects) in the hopes of people taking some of the other talents at the level 45 mark in the tree. They admit that they don’t like the new version of Sacred Shield and that they will likely revert it. But they buffed Selfless Healer to give people what they think is a viable choice at that talent level. I’m also certain that they’ll screw more with Sacred Shield to ensure that prot paladins don’t ALL take the shield.

Blizzard has said, time and again, that if a talent is “mandatory”, the choice in the situation has been removed. As such, all three choices should be viable and should be able to be swapped around. That’s likely why Sanctified Wrath got a boost to Holy Shock’s crit, so that it would be better represented next to Holy Avenger and Divine Purpose. It seems as though Holy Avenger is getting a lot of use in fights with high-damage phases. Pop Holy Avenger, throw out a Holy Shock, gaining 3 Holy Power, then Light of Dawn, then Holy Radiance, gaining 3 HP, then Light of Dawn, etc, while Divine Purpose is better for fights without a ton of incoming damage… or for those who aren’t so good at remembering to hit a cooldown but still want a benefit. It seems that Blizzard devs felt that Sanctified Wrath could use a bit more incentive for holy paladins.

So I’m unsure that Sacred Shield will remain the way it is on live realms today. As to Eternal Flame, they said that because they’re nerfing it to no longer work with mastery, they’ll probably bump the initial healing back up, but that there are no plans to revert the change in how it works with the mastery, because it’s just too dominant for the holy population. They said, though, that if it’s needed, they’ll compensate by buffing healing elsewhere, because they think holy healing is at a good level, even with all the healing people were doing through Eternal Flame and the mastery shields it created. They’re not nerfing it because holy paladins are too good — they’re nerfing the talent to make it less attractive because there’s basically not another compelling choice for holy paladins on that tier.

I’m really glad we got a blue post about it, to be honest. It sucks to try to guess why something’s happened, so props to Blizzard for being so open about what they feel is a holy paladin problem. I strongly suspect we’ll see even more information about the level 45 talents in the coming weeks.

Them New-Fangled Virtual Realm Things

Late last night, the 5.4 Public Test Realm patch notes were released. In amongst all the typical class changes was this little bit of information.

New Feature: Virtual Realms

  • Virtual Realms are sets of realms that are fused together, and will behave exactly as if they were one cohesive realm. Players on the same Virtual Realm will be able to join guilds, access a single Auction House, join arena teams and raids, as well run dungeons or group up to complete quests.
  • Players belonging to the same Virtual Realm will have a (#) symbol next to their name.

Now, admittedly, we don’t have much information about Virtual Realms at this point in time, nor do we even know if this will make it through the PTR process to make it to live. But why let a silly thing like logic stop my speculation? ;)

It seems to me, at first glance, that Blizzard has managed to come up with technology to essentially merge low-population realms without actually merging them. Merging realms would, after all, be like admitting defeat, that some realms are ridiculously unpopulated. Currently, on US realms, the most popular is Tichondrius, a PVP/PST realm with over 222,000 characters (as per realmpop.com). According to the same source, the least-populated US-based realm is Chromaggus, a PVP/CST realm with about 17,000 characters. Do you see a difference? ;)

TIME FOR MATH. (Crap.)

Assuming the numbers provided by realmpop are correct, there are approximately 17.5 million characters on 246 US-based realms. The average is, then, around 71,100 characters per realm. Now, of course, that’s just characters and not players, but you can see that if the average (the mean, of course) is around 71,100 characters, realms like poor Chromaggus are woefully underpopulated.

So why not actually merge realms? Why come up with Virtual Realms which, to quote Blizzard, “will behave exactly as if they were one cohesive realm”? Well, there were some problems with the idea of realm merging. Such as what? Such as names. If you’re on one realm with the name, oh, I don’t know, Kurn, but someone on another realm has the same name, which one of you is Kurn and which one of you is forced to use something like Kurnmogh? (Yes, when I first made my toon, Kurn was taken and so I became Kurnmogh.)

Guild names are similarly problematic.

Further, does merging realms actually solve any problems? Temporarily, yes, but maybe not in the long term. Say that the bottom 20 realms are merged into two realms. Apart from all that craziness going on with names and such, say you were on the server Auchindoun, which, in my example, would be merged with Blackwing Lair, Haomarush, Blood Furnace, Detheroc, Jaedenar, Dethecus, Ursin, Rivendare and Coilfang. So say you’re on Auchindoun and get merged with those other 9 servers. That’s up to 10 different Kurns or 10 different Apotheosises (Apotheoses?) that would have to be organized in terms of names alone. Then, what if this NEW merged server starts losing people? What if others go elsewhere or quit or whatever? Would THAT server be merged? If so, you’re now looking at a second merge upheaval, basically. Merging realms is just not a solid, long-term solution for low-pop servers.

Virtual Realms, however, has solved all of that problematic “upheaval” crap. No need to shut down a server when you can stick people together anyhow. And everyone can keep their own names! I could be Kurn of Eldre’Thalas and have another Kurn on Skywall and if those two realms were part of the same Virtual Realm, there’d be no conflict. Bam. There goes the biggest single headache that comes with the idea of consolidating servers. People can have the same name on the same Virtual Realm and what will distinguish them is the server they’re on and a little # symbol.

Further, Virtual Realms will mean you can join a guild on any of those servers, raid with anyone from those servers, basically do anything with that group of servers the same way you currently do server-only activities. This is kind of interesting. Multi-realm guilds? “Hey, we’re Apotheosis of Eldre’Thalas (and Skywall and Ursin and etc)…”? How’s that going to work, exactly? I’m not against this at all, just wondering how a realm-based thing like a guild is going to be accessible from other realms. Actually, in terms of recruitment, you’ll suddenly have access to something like five or ten times the population you normally do. And all those people could join your guild without paying transfer fees. Good Lord, could advertising your guild in Trade chat actually be worth it???

Virtual Realms will also mean sharing one Auction House. As someone who was quite enjoying the gold-making aspect of the game at the launch of Mists of Pandaria, that’s interesting. A more active Auction House almost certainly means the prices for everything are cheaper, because there’s more of whatever it is you’re trying to buy. For low-pop realms, this may have the repercussion that someone who makes gold reliably by farming hard-to-find materials (like past-expansion herbs and ore — Goldthorn and Fel Iron Ore, I’m looking at you!) may be out of luck because supply will rise and demand will drop. Similarly, if you have the market cornered on a certain kind of item, chances are that you will no longer be the dominant person on the AH with that item. Even if you are, you may be forced to cut your prices significantly to remain competitive.

I think Virtual Realms will be huge for improving the game experience for thousands of people out there, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions:

1) How many realms will be in a Virtual Realm?
2) With which realms will others be connected? Are they going to tack Chromaggus on to Tichondrius, for instance? Or will they do it by lumping together five to ten low-pop realms to be one large Virtual Realm?
3) Will Virtual Realms have names?
4) Will players be able to transfer to a Virtual Realm (and then get randomly dropped on a server within that VR) or will they continue to transfer to individual servers?

We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess, but this is certainly one of the more interesting things I think Blizzard has ever done.

First 5.0.4 Raid as a Holy Paladin

All right, I’ve had a night in Heroic 25-man Dragon Soul. I’ve also redone some of my testing and updated some numbers and such in my 5.0.4 guide.

The first thing I did after I recovered from the addon explosion in my UI was try to do an LFR. I zoned in and died on Ultraxion trash because, oh look, my addons were still exploding. (TipTac seems to have been my primary culprit, your mileage may vary.)

Once I got that sorted, I went back into LFR and zoned in for Spine and Madness. Apart from a wee bit of lag whenever the Burning Tendons popped up, things went fairly well. However, I realized two things:

1) Holy crap, I was burning mana FAST.

2) My UI was still insanely unhelpful.

So I did the following before my real raid:

– swapped to Heartsong on my Heroic Maw
– took out my 3x 67 intellect JC-only gems, replaced them with epic reds
– since I wasn’t getting the socket bonus on my pants anyhow, I gemmed all three sockets in my pants with the 67 spirit gems

Without Heartsong active and without any external buffs, that’s 4006 mp5 in combat, according to my character sheet.

With 10 stacks of Heart of Unliving and Heartsong active, that goes up to 4698 mp5 in combat.

I figured I was good to go.

Wrong. I still felt the pinch when I healed a bit too aggressively on Heroic Hagara (frost phase) and Heroic Blackhorn, not to mention Heroic Spine. We didn’t actually kill Heroic Madness last night, although we’ll be finishing that up tomorrow, but on our longest attempt, I felt the pinch on the fourth platform and into P2.

Part of it, at least on Madness, may have been our comp. We didn’t have a disc priest in the raid, so no barrier means more overall damage done since we had fewer people with damage-reduction CDs. (We could have bothered our rets or our prot to use more Aura Mastery Devotion Aura, but I know I didn’t think of it.)

Speaking of Devotion Aura, it’s better than Aura Mastery was, although we pay for that with an extra minute on the cooldown (DA is 3m vs. AM’s 2m). Why is it better? It works on Watery Entrenchment on Hagara. It works on Hour of Twilight on Ultraxion. These are two areas where Aura Mastery did zip.

Back to the instance… I think that it was more challenging than I suspected it would be, to be constrained to 100k mana (102k with the meta gem that grants you 2% extra mana) and to be careful not to overextend myself. I found myself in trouble a number of times. Thank goodness for Hymn of Hope sticking around as well as Mana Tide Totem!

Of note, with the redesign to Blessing of Might, I think all pallies need to bear in mind that we have a crazy amount of mastery just by virtue of being fully raid-buffed now. Illuminated Healing did a LOT of healing/absorption. Part of that might also be because I was making great use of Eternal Flame, which contributes to Illuminated Healing on each tick. (Remember not to overwrite a stronger Eternal Flame with a weaker one!)

I forgot, several times, that Light of Dawn is now a circle around you, not a cone, and I still have Judgment (new spelling) on my bars, although I should throw it away at some point. I’m not sure what I’d put in its spot, though!

So those were my experiences — I loaded up on more Spirit (but maintained an intellect flask with intellect food) and had a couple of sticky situations. I would recommend people be conservative to start their regularly scheduled content until they get the “feel” of the new size of their mana pools, too.

How was your first experience raiding in 5.0.4?

Raiding in 5.0.4

Apotheosis raids on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Lately, we’ve been clearing in about 2.5 hours, at most, on Tuesday nights. I stopped putting signups up for Sunday AGES ago and stopped putting up signups for Thursdays weeks ago.

This week, I knew there would be issues, so I put up signups for both Tuesday AND Thursday.

As such, Tuesday’s raid, post-5.0.4, was probably one of the longest three hours of the entire expansion, to be honest.

– UI issues
– Addon problems
– Connection issues
– Latency/frame rate issues
– Mechanic issues

All of these plagued us in one form or another.

Yet, we actually got through Spine. YAY!

Morchok was okay.

Yor’sahj was okay.

Zon’ozz was craptastic, issues with soaking.

Hagara was fine.

Ultraxion was craptastic, until everyone made sure their DBM was working so that they could appropriately hit Heroic Will when they had Fading Light.

Blackhorn was okay.

Spine was okay, even though someone fat-fingered Heroism randomly early on and even though we had a different tank configuration.

Madness was rough — issues with impales and then P2 bloods.

But I feel good about walking in there, pwning 7 bosses and leaving just one left with another 3 hours scheduled this week.

The most hilarious thing of the night quickly turned sour when we wiped on Madness and were ported to the top of Wyrmrest, then had to take the portal back DOWN to the bottom of Wyrmrest, then had to take a portal to the Skyfire, then a portal to the Maelstrom. I mean, really? Portal boss, hello! We got REAL tired of that.

I don’t have a lot to say about being a holy paladin during 5.0.4 yet, but I’m sure I’ll post soon. I really am loving Clemency and Eternal Flame, though. After running a couple of fights in the back half of LFR, I also removed my 3×67 int gems and put in 3×67 spirit gems and switched to Heartsong. I still felt the crunch here and there, particularly on H Spine and H Madness.

I expect a lot of things to fix themselves in the next couple of days, though, so I’ll post more comprehensively later on.

Overall, a long, but successful raid night for Apotheosis. Still seeking various classes for Mists of Pandaria, so check us out!

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