May 042012
 

It STINKS. (/thread.)

Okay, seriously, let’s take a closer look at this thing, since I think we’ve said all that can be said about HOTW until we can actually try it. (BTW, if something looks funny above, I’m testing video embeds).

Dream of Cenarius
Wrath, Starfire, Starsurge, and melee abilities increase healing done by your next healing spell by 30%.
Non-instant casts of Nourish, Healing Touch, and Regrowth increase the damage done by your next damaging spell or ability by 30%.
Each of these bonuses lasts 30 sec.
See, this to me is MUCH more offputting than HOTW, for the following reasons.
  • If it’s good, it forces an awkward rotation. Much more than HOTW, which has wipe-prevention utility even if it’s not planned to be used in the current encounter, this thing is either terrible or strong, depending on where that 30% ends up. If it causes a DPS/HPS increase over a standard rotation, everyone will be forced to use it and rightfully complain about it. (I think a Nurturing Instincts once-a-minute heal is about the limit for actively dropping heals on the raid while doing the standard rotation.) I can’t find it at the moment, but I know GC discussed a similar issue for DPS warriors, and how they had to keep hotfixing an ability because it ended up being too good for the spec that it wasn’t designed for, which forced warriors into an awkward rotation to maximize their DPS. In the short run, we like little tricks to increase our DPS, but in the long run they’re just poor design. Anyone remember hitting Gift of the Wild to force an Omen proc? Anyone want to go back to that?
  • It gets balanced around. Do YOU want to get balanced around having lower DPS because you’re contributing significant HPS as well? Yeah, me neither. HOTW doesn’t have this problem because you stop doing the DPS to heal (or whatever), so you’re just changing the nature of the contribution, not increasing it.
  • It’s incredibly lame for a level 90 talent. Same as with HOTW. Neither of these things are what I would call “epic,” which is what I want to be looking forward to. Screw treants, I want to drop a whole forest on someone’s head. Or the moon. That would be cool too.
    There’s a whole ton of druid-themed lore and abilities they could be using. Even if they wanted to keep with the hybrid flavor; hell, give me a talent that lets me cast spells in Cat Form. I’ve got a good bit of “waiting for energy” downtime that I could fill with a spellcast or two.

Rambled on a bit, but eh. I really don’t want to see the level 90 tier go live as-is. Anybody have anything good to say about DoC?

 

May 012012
 
bearcat

As promised, I went ahead and wrote up a post on Heart of the Wild, which ran on WoW Insider today. (Go over and take a look, if you haven’t already.) I attempted to show the pro-HotW and anti-HotW arguments in a balanced fashion, though I’m decidedly for the talent, as you probably guessed. Some follow-up thoughts, which didn’t make the column:

  • I agree that the other choices are lame/random and it’s not worthy of being a lvl 90 talent. Just getting that out there. I’d like to see this tier become lvl 60, a single tier of CC talents at lvl 75, and new role-boosting choices added at lvl 90. If talents stay the same, I’ll still recommend people take Disentanglement for the heal. I really have no idea of what talents they could add, but there’s a whole zone of druid lore we just went through, there’s gotta be some ideas there. (Okay, one idea. How about a druid-themed version of Guardian of Ancient Kings, but instead, you can summon one of the Ancients for some help; the ancient you summon depends on your spec, and provides a spec-appropriate buff for X seconds.)
  • Making it a talent that just adds heals to our deeps (or vice versa) isn’t the same thing. I don’t have a problem with that idea, and it sounds pretty neat to have a tier of talents that, for example, add a chance for a heal to proc off a damaging ability. That’s not at all what HotW is trying to do, though. Classes are balanced around having X numerical output on each fight, so having a DPS class who can put out X DPS PLUS Y healing would be unbalanced. The healing would be constant but mostly inconsequential (think Leader of the Pack heals back in Wrath), a short burst heal with a long cooldown (which we already have, as Tranquility), or some other spot along that axis.
  • The talent has two different use cases, and you need to consider both. 
    • It can be used strategically. “Hey, this fight has an add with a high burst DPS and low HPS requirement, we’ll plan for our resto druid to pop HotW and switch to DPS to help with the check.” In this case, the talent is helpful, but not a panacea, as most encounters with burst have multiple moments of such. It will be very fight dependent as to whether you want to use it strategically. I generally think the “stacking classes” thing is way overrated; my intuition is that it happens very infrequently, due to the large opportunity costs. (Players on “OP class” alts have less skill/gear/experience; buff coverage becomes much more difficult, etc.)
    • It can be used as an emergency button. “Tank died, hold the boss until he dies!” “Tank healer died, keep the tank up!” That bit won’t apply much to heroic raiding (where a death or two usually means a wipe anyway due to not meeting DPS checks) but it will definitely help for lesser-skilled guilds who have more…situations. Sure, it won’t work all the time, but it’d be overpowered if it did
  • I don’t think it should become a baseline class ability. As one of the commenters noted, making it baseline means that all druids will have the capability, period. If you have it and choose not to use it, the odds increase exponentially that someone will call you out for “not knowing how to play your class.” If it’s a talent, the odds of that are much less, and you have a ready-made argument that you take talent X instead because of the benefits it gives.

Oh, and the image? That was my original header, before it got edited out and replaced with a stock photo. :) Bearcat FTW!

 Posted by at 6:43 pm
Apr 292012
 

My much-less-controversial-than-that-title-made-it-sound column on the 5 things Balance Druids were missing going into Mists is now live over at WoW Insider. Feel free to comment here or there, so though I’m more likely to reply here. (EDIT: So Do La Fa Mi Do Re…and if you know what that refers to, you’re a good American.)

(Yes, I’m the balance druid writer now as well. We’ll see how long I make it before I collapse under a pile of angry spreadsheets.)

 Posted by at 7:05 pm
Apr 282012
 

In case you’re not aware, I’ve been squabbling with the majority of the druid blogosphere over the usefulness of Heart of the Wild. While that topic certainly deserves careful consideration, I was struck by one of the arguments I read: that Druids were the only class with a single role-affecting talent choice.

I said, “Well, I can check that.” I flipped through every tier of every class’s talents and attempted to assign each tier to a category. The choices were:

  • On-Role, for a tier that directly boosted a class’s performance of a raid role. (Such as DPS, healing, or tanking.)
  • Off-Role, for a tier that indirectly boosts a raid role or does two raid roles simultaneously.
  • Movement, for a tier that primarily boosts movement abilities.
  • CC, for a tier that primarily adds crowd control abilities.
  • Survival, for a tier that primarily adds abilities designed to keep the class (or group) alive.
Obviously, several of these choices are arguable, especially for the hybrids, and some tiers didn’t cleanly fit into a category. (Shaman Tier 3, Warlock Tier 4, etc.)  That said, here’s the total numbers for what I think (tables inc):
DK Druid Hunter Mage Monk Paladin
On-Role 2 1 3 3 1 2
Off-Role  0 1 0 0 2 1
Movement 1 1  1  1 1 1
CC 1 2 1 1 1 1
Survival 2 1 1 1 1 1
Priest Rogue Shaman Warlock Warrior
On-Role 2 1 2 2 2
Off-Role 1  0 1  0  0
Movement 1 1  0 1 1
CC 1 1 1 1 1
Survival 1 3 2 2 2

So, while the argument wasn’t quite correct, the spirit of it was true; Rogues and Druids aren’t getting a lot of choices that affect their role. We’re the only class that gets 2 CC tiers, while they get an extra…something (depends on how you categorize their Tier 1). I’m convinced on this: I’ll join the chorus that says we should trim down our CC”s, to make room for another tier of role-affecting talents.

My recommendation, as of right now? Cut Mass Entanglement entirely (too similar to Frost Nova or Ursol’s, + we get FN from Symbiosis), make Faerie Swarm a glyph, and return Mighty Bash to being a baseline ability. Boom. Whole new tier to play with.

Finally, I know the level 90 tier still has its problems, and I’ve seen several good proposed fixes. I’m not ready to concede on HotW yet, however. I still think it makes a good talent, or at least a good talent “choice” (though laying out my reasoning would take another column) and I’d like to save it for now. Let’s aim our criticism at the right place. Thoughts?

 Posted by at 10:35 pm
Apr 242012
 

Read the full list at mmo-champion or Wowhead News, I’ve pulled things from both places as they each have stuff the other doesn’t. A lot of things got buffed across the board, so don’t read too much into those; I’m going to focus on the things I see as relevant.

All

  • Heart of the Wild now depends on which specs you’re NOT, instead of which spec you are. (Read the tooltip; much easier to understand now.)
  • Dream of Cenarius  Wrath, Starfire, Starsurge, and melee abilities increase healing done by your next healing spell by 30%. Non-instant casts of Nourish, Healing Touch, and Regrowth increase the damage done by your next damaging spell or ability by 30%. Each of these bonuses lasts 30 sec. and cannot be gained more often than once every 30 sec.
  • Force of Nature  now has a 60 sec cooldown and lasts 15 secs instead of a 3 min cooldown and a 1 min duration.

Oh, the QQ on HoW this is going to be so epic, and so premature. Until we see numbers and can try it for ourselves, we have no idea; all we can say for certain at this point is that Blizzard’s intent is that you can do what the other three specs do for 45 seconds, once per fight. To me, that’s freaking awesome (Atramedes air phase would have been a lot less boring), but I understand the point of view of those who don’t want to be pressured into doing other stuff just because they have the ability to do it.

DoC is one of those I’d just have to see in practice. If the wording on this is right and you can have 100% uptime on the buff…well, Balance rotations might get shaken up. Having the option to weave in HT’s to buff your nukes? Hmmmmm.

The FON change is good, though; the 180/60 was far too passive. I’m expecting this to be the mini-burst option (compared to Incarnation, which the the big-burst big CD, and SOTF which is passive).

Edit: Lissanna says “I’d still take anything from any of the other talent trees in the game over HOTW and DoC. ”  Like I said, premature QQ.

Guardian

FR scales off of AP? Well, that’ll make stat weights more interesting. Enjoy tracking your current Vengeance stack so you can pop FR when it does the most healing.

Restoration

  • Healing Touch  now has a 1,5 sec cast time, down from 2,5 sec. Base healing value reduced by 33%.

Very very curious as to where they’re going with this. My guess is that this is to make HT more useful for non-resto druids (see the HOTW changes below), but this kinda kills the worth of Regrowth for restos, right? Never mind, datamining error here.

Moonkin

  • Moonfire  direct damage base value has been increased by 20%. DoT base damage has been reduced by 20%. Duration reduced from 18 to 12 sec. Now scales from 24.8% of Spell Power, up from 22.7%.
  • Wrath  now has a 1.5 sec cast time, down from 2 secs. Base damage reduced by 10%. Now scales from 121% of Spell Power, up from 110%.

The assault on moonkin DoT damage continues. The reduced duration is going to dramatically affect DoT uptimes. Wrath…I don’t know where to start. 1.5s cast time? Well, there went the value of haste for moonkin again. I assume that this is also HOTW related. Edit: again, ignore that bit, bad datamine.

Feral

  • Swipe (Cat)  now awards 1 combo points if it strikes your current combo target.
  • Clearcasting   Your damage and healing spells have a small chance to cause you to enter a Clearcasting state. The Clearcasting state reduces the Mana, Rage or Energy cost of your next cast-time Your next cast-time Druid class  damaging or healing spell or offensive feral ability  by 100%. If specialized as a Feral Druid, Omen of Clarity will also have a chance to occur from your auto-attacks. has its mana, rage or energy cost reduced by 100%.

Whoa whoa whoa. THAT makes AoE a ton better. No need to Mangle/Rake something to get a CP to put SR up, and if you’re dealing with a cleave situation, you can keep a single-target rotation rolling and sub Swipes for Shreds. Hopefully it also is affected by Primal Fury. I LIKE it.

Oh, and I hope we didn’t just lose Omen of Clarity. (Edit: No, we didn’t, just a tooltip clarification.)


Apr 242012
 

I spent a few hours playing the TERA open beta over the weekend, and here’s some quick thoughts. (I’ll start doing these every so often, especially when there’s no druid news to talk about.)

Gameplay

The gameplay is quite good. Initially, things are confusing as heck (you start at lvl 20, play a short tutorial, then go to lvl 1…none of which is really explained at all) but the whole action-combat style works well. Very similar to a multiplayer version of Kingdom of Amalur, though like KoA, it really works better for melee classes than ranged classes. Having to move + dodge frequently because you’re right up on enemies = fun; stand and nuke = not as fun.

Questing isn’t any better or worse than any normal MMO…nothing to see here, really, and the storyline is also quite forgettable. Leveling is quite fast, and you do want to level quickly, as the AI of the early mobs is simply terrible (thankfully, they get smarter.) I didn’t try any of the crafting or PvP, so I can’t speak to that, but all the buttons were there.

Remember how I said leveling was fast? Several people were already at level cap, and complaining about how there was nothing to do. (If you preorder the game, one character per server will not be deleted when the open beta closes. Interesting incentive.)

Interface

The UI is good for a MMO game. All the elements can be moved around the screen by default, though I couldn’t immediately see a way to minimize/close them. This annoyed me, as one of the UI elements was showing how my spells were mapped to my controller, even though I was playing with mouse/keyboard. There’s a rudimentary combat log, but no mod support, so good luck with doing any kind of comprehensive analysis. (Yes, WoW has spoiled me on this. The question about whether that’s a good or bad thing is a whole nother’ debate.)

Look and Feel

The big controversial point: it’s pure anime styling. The men all look like Marcus Fenix or Ezio Auditore, while the women are all in stripper gear. There’s even a “race” that looks like pre-pubescent females, complete with available bunny ears and panty shots. Combine this with the marketing campaign (which features a MMA fighter beating up people who play other MMO’s until they switch to Tera) and you can see EXACTLY which demographic this is targeted at. That all said, the world design (monsters, weather, backgrounds) is the best I’ve seen in any game to date, so that’s something.

Overall

Two thoughts. 1) If I was 18 again, I’d probably be all over this game. Now that I’m 28 with a wife and son, this kind of thing just feels tawdry. 2) I don’t know what their goals are, but the target demo + the lack of endgame (which appears to be all PvP) tells me this thing is going to be big for a month or two, then flame out as everyone moves on to the next big thing. Again, a lot like KoA where about 15-20 hours in, you were like “Welp, I’ve seen everything this game has to offer.”

 Posted by at 9:00 am  Tagged with:
Apr 232012
 

My column this week on WoW Insider was about Symbiosis, and how I think it’s being unfairly dismissed far too soon as being “useless.”  Everybody brings up the Dark Intent comparison; I disagree. I think Blizzard’s learned from that, and it won’t be THAT big a deal…of course, I have no idea what the popular perception will be. What do you think?

(Oh, and I have a full guide to Symbiosis up on the blog here.)

 Posted by at 12:33 pm
Apr 212012
 

I’ve been frustrated with the lack of updates for druids recently, so I decided to roll up some Monks on beta, see if they were worth assuming ‘main alt’ status come Mists release date. Well, I’ve enjoyed them enough that I’ve decided to rip off my own blog layout and start up a new Monk blog called…World of Monkcraft! (I know, I know, great name, right?) I’ve been writing up some Monk spec guides: Windwalker is up, and I’m currently working on Mistweaver. Feel free to pop over and comment/troll/berate as you see fit; the design is terrible, as is my usual standard.

Also, not to worry, I’m still committed to Feral: the thread on the beta forums I started is going on five pages of mostly drama-free constructive criticism, so input’s still flowing in. Just no new builds means no new stuff to talk about. :(

 Posted by at 10:21 pm
Apr 172012
 

(Technical non-WoW stuff. TLDR: new website design.)

I’ve been planning a site redesign for a while, but never got around to doing it. Unfortunately, the WordPress theme I was using was obsolete when I implemented it a couple years ago, which meant every change I’ve made to it has been (poorly) hacked in. I’ve got some big plans for Mists of Pandaria, and the theme I was using wasn’t going to let me implement a lot of what I wanted to do. I’ve been messing around with it on an on-again, off-again basis since January, and I’m finally ready to go into open beta. :) (A big thanks to Samara Dionne for helping with the new logo; now I just need to actually come up with a header that isn’t me scribbling in Photoshop.) I’m still working on several things, so fair warning. Some of the older content is going to look very odd.

Let me tackle the questions upfront.

Ads? WTF, man?

Sorry. I tried going the donate model for a long time, and, while quite a few of you chipped in and donated (which I am very thankful for), it hasn’t nearly covered the site’s costs. Roughly 80% of my traffic is people that come here from Google/Yahoo, read a guide or two, and leave…and that’s who the ads will be for. For the other 20% of you, well,  they’ll block with an adblocker, and I’m working on a method to not show them to loyal viewers. Of course, you could click them if you like. :)

I liked the old theme! Can I change back?

I liked it too, but that code did so much noncompliant stuff it wasn’t funny.

Are you still writing about feral stuffs?

Yes, the *blog* will still be mostly feral info, though a lot of my long-form columns will still likely end up over on WoW Insider. The *site*, however, will have a set of guides for all four specs, at the beginner-to-intermediate level. By FAR, that’s the biggest request I’ve gotten. I’ll start putting those up as the mechanics in the Mists beta solidify a bit.

Sidenote: Looking for good druid blogs to link to, as always. Especially feral ones.

How can I be awesome like you?

Write your own FAQ’s where you make up the questions. :P

Apr 152012
 

As promised, I’ve posted my full thoughts on feral in the beta on the WoW forums here (http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4427707211). I encourage you to go read and discuss there; perhaps we can encourage some feedback. (Or perhaps it’ll get deleted like the last long feral thread did. Dunno.) A revised version of that post will also go live on WoW Insider later today, so hopefully there will be a bit of traffic.