Archive for the ‘Instances’ Category

Blizzard Unveils Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms

If you needed a reason to queue up and join the dungeon finder, well…now you have one. Alternatively, if you’ve bemoaned the lack of people in queues and the time required to get a decent group, get ready for some relief. In patch 4.1 Blizzard is poised to unveil the Dungeon Finder: A Call to Arms.

Here’s the lowdown from Blizzard:

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.

Allow me to use this YouTube video to express my reaction:

Moving on:

This system is meant to address the unacceptable queue times currently being experienced by those that queue for the DPS role at max level. The long queue times are, of course, caused by a very simple lack of representation in the Dungeon Finder by tanks, and to some extent healers. We don’t feel the tanking and healing roles have any inherent issues that are causing the representation disparity, except that fulfilling them carries more responsibility. Understandably, players prefer to take on that responsibility in more organized situations than what the Dungeon Finder offers, but perhaps we can bribe them a little. While this system gives tanks and healers something extra, the incentive is being provided so that we can help players in the DPS role get into more dungeons, get better gear, and continue progressing.

While the gold, gems, flasks, and elixirs are OK incentives, we knew we needed something more substantial. We had briefly considered Valor Points and epics, but decided that wouldn’t be working toward the goal of helping DPS players progress, and ultimately wouldn’t keep tanks and healers in the Dungeon Finder system for very long. We settled on pets and dungeon-found mounts as they’re cosmetic/achievement items that players tend to try to get on their own, so why not change that up and offer them a chance to get some of those elusive pets and mounts in a way that also helps other players? Even if they don’t get a pet or mount, or get one they already have, the gold and other goodies still feel rewarding enough that it won’t feel like a waste of effort.

We think it’s a pretty solid incentive to get tanks and healers queuing, give max-level players another way to collect the pets and mounts they so desire, and above all, to improve wait times for DPS players sitting in queues. In the case of lower level dungeons, it’s actually not uncommon for DPS to be the least represented role, and so if this new system works out and we’re pleased with the results, we may consider applying this same mechanic to lower level dungeons as well.

Wow. Color me impressed. That’s really something, and personally I think the lure of loot just may work. After all, it worked during Wrath to get people to actually stay and finish The Oculus, why won’t it work here?

Blizzard Unveils the Tomb of Immortal Darkness: New 5 Man Dungeon!

Wow, Blizzard is really intent on bringing new and interesting 5-man content to the game. Today they announced the Tomb of Immortal Darkness, a new 5-player dungeon that will blow your mind. Here’s their description:

Deep beneath the crumbling tombstones of Duskwood’s Raven Hill Cemetery, a dark and mysterious power is emerging. Drawing strength from the blackest night and fiercely jealous of the sighted, a once-devoted follower of Leotheras the Blind is spreading his shadowy tendrils across the land. Heroes of Azeroth must delve into his pitch black lair to face Omgsogoth, Dark Lord of Twilight, before the world is plunged into eternal night.

Making use of cutting-edge Deep Dark® technology, the Tomb of Immortal Darkness is a new five-player normal and heroic dungeon that will be introduced in patch 4.1.11. Three new bosses, with unique features and mechanics, will put your group to the test: Omgsogoth, Dark Lord of Twilight; the maniacal Twisted Spiral Fool; and Duc Ulah, The Winged Keeper. Featuring new daily quests, updated monster models, and all-new unique loot, you’ll find you really can’t believe your eyes…

Face your greatest fears in the paralysing dark of the Tomb. Tremble as you stumble blindly towards Omgsogoth’s chamber. Panic at the claustrophobic atmosphere, and feel terror cloud your senses. Will you find your way, or will you be lost, never to return?

Check out the gameplay videos there too – the dungeon looks incredible! So much depth of field, and so much to explore! You could literally go over it a thousand times and never see the same details twice!

I cast magic missle!

Notes from the Blizzard Developer Q&A, No. 2

Blizzard held another Q&A session with its developers recently, taking forum questions from interested parties, just like last time. Same as last time, you can read the whole set of questions and answers on the official forums, but we’ll take a look at some of the new and interesting ones:

Q: Why can’t we have a pure, straight up, unadulterated Death Match style Battleground? – ???? ???? (Taiwan), Gulantor (North America/ANZ)

A: We think Battlegrounds work better when there is a goal that the team can work towards. Huge melees with lots of players tend to be chaotic by nature so there is less room for skill to influence the outcome. It feels more random, and the more random the system is, the more arbitrary the rewards will feel. It might be something we try someday.

For example, emergency buttons are balanced around the assumption that only a few players are ganged up against you. Even in the 5v5 Arena bracket, it’s very difficult to survive being focused by so many players at once, so you feel like you don’t have many options. There is a reason that most of our Arena attention is on 3v3 – it just feels the best.

You know, I had been wondering about this one too back when I was spending more time in battlegrounds – some people would love the “in and out” nature of having a battleground they could hop into and hop out of just to grab some honor in a short period, and in a game that’s perpetually ongoing that they could play for as much free time as they have without worrying their departure will negatively impact a team.

At the same time, the sheer number of empty multiplayer game servers in the world kind of tell the tale that when there’s no one interested in playing that all-out deathmatch style game, the few people who do want to play would have a horrible time doing it – or worse, they’ll just give up because it’s not the epic experience they’d actually want. After all – I’m sure the people asking the question are thinking of massive 25 v. 25 battle arenas with fast re-spawning, not a 3 v. 3 match.

Q: CC used to be the big thing for arena, but now it’s all about damage. Is it the direction you are taking at the moment? – Thatis (Taiwan)

A: If crowd control really was as weak in Arenas as you’re claiming, then Holy paladins would be the healer of choice and Resto druids wouldn’t have much of a role. But the Entangling Roots and Cyclone of the druid make a huge difference in Arena, and we see a lot of healing druids.

Ultimately, we think there has to be a place for both crowd control and damage. It can be just as frustrating to be chained from a fear to a poly to a stun without having an answer as it can be to die to two dudes killing you in a few GCDs without an answer. We don’t want Arena in particular to be all about which comp has the best layering of crowd controls that don’t share diminishing returns, because that greatly lowers the number of viable comps out there (and why rogue-mage-priest dominated in earlier seasons). We have taken steps this season already to nerf both out of control damage and excessive crowd control for some classes.

The best thing you can do is just keep providing feedback when you think something is broken. Many other players will disagree with you, and at times so will we. The signal to noise ratio for PvP balance is frankly always going to be bad, and the design calls are extremely subjective. We are constantly amazed that some players playing very powerful specs perceive themselves as weak or interpret very gentle nerfs as soul-crushing. That doesn’t mean that we’re never going to listen, but it does mean the burden of convincing us something is broken is going to be high, probably higher than it is for PvE.

Ouch – holy blowoff, batman! Although I can’t say I disagree here. I think Blizzard is acquising the point that they’re paying more attention to damage, but they’re trying to strike the balance between damage and crowd control. I disagree that seeing a lot of resto druids somehow means that holy paladins aren’t the healers of choice in battlegrounds (that’s like saying “hey, the fact that a exists means there must be less of b,”) but I see their point. Balance is what’s important, and they’re always open to your feedback.

I hope the person asking the question got that same message, because I could see how the tone at the beginning is kind of a diss. A loving one, but a diss nonetheless!

Q: Can I hear your thoughts of the survival abilities of the Warlock on PvP? – Mccoll (Korea)

A: Overall, we think they’re fine. Warlocks in PvP often compare themselves to Shadow priest, and to be fair, Shadow priests have some very potent emergency buttons, particularly Dispersion. Warlocks have good self-healing (which also to be fair, was nerfed recently), abilities like Demonic Circle and fears that are good for both offense and defense. Once Shadow priests lose their defensive dispel capabilities, we think they will be less versatile and their entire package will be more comparable to warlocks.

I love this question only because it was asked. I remember the days when warlocks were unstoppable damage and destruction machines in arenas. If you had a lock on your team, you were pretty much guaranteed to win, and if you had one on your team and another on the other team, it came down to who had the most resilience. Thankfully, no more.

So – this set of Q&A questions were pretty heavy on the PVP side of things. If you’re a heavy PVP’er, what do you think of Blizzard’s responses and the questions they selected to respond to? What would you have asked if you had the opportunity? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Notes from the Blizzard Developer Q&A

Over at the World of Warcraft LiveJournal Community, eminent news source tchernobyl was kind enough to post the results of the latest Blizzard developer Q&A session, hosted over at the new official forums.

The whole post at LJ is here, but I’ve cut a few snippets I felt were particularly interesting:

Q: Are there any plans to update Outland and TBC zones to facilitate better level flow? – Atreydes (Latin America)

A: We think the flow of the zones works out well. It is true that you can finish the continents before hitting every zone because of the accelerated quest experience (further enhanced by mechanics such as heirlooms) but most players going back through the content on new characters seem perfectly happy to get through it faster than they did with their original character. What we don’t like is the strange way you go back in time when you go to Outland and Northrend and then back to the future (heh) when you go to the level 80-85 zones. That is definitely something we want to fix.

A similar but slightly different question was asked by one of our Russian players:

Q: Will the Outland and Northrend be “renewed”? Will there be new quests? – Мандрэйк (Europe [Russian])

A: Because we did those areas more recently than Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, we don’t feel the same urgency to go update them. They just don’t have the level design and quest flow problems to the same extent as the original content. We recognize though that some players are getting awfully tired of Hellfire Peninsula, and we’d like to come up with a good solution there.

This one is of particular interest to me. While I agree that the biggest issue with Outland and Northrend is that the player feels like they’re going back in time when they’ve leveled and then move into those zones to continue leveling but somehow the events of the Cataclysm haven’t happened there yet, I’m just as concerned with level tuning and story that players are missing when they push through all of those zones just for the sake of racking up dings.

I think the content of TBC and WoTLK deserve more than just a slight tweak to get the characters to give a nod to the fact that old world Azeroth isn’t the same as it used to be: I’m not saying they need to be directly affected by the Cataclysm, and I’m not saying that quests need to be reworked or zones completely changed, but I do think that when you go into outlands you should see the fruits of the past several years battle against the Burning Legion, and when you go into Northrend now you should see at least a little progress from the results at the end of Wrath of the Lich King, even if it’s only to note that the war is still open on that front and there’s still work to be done.

Q: What is your favorite escape/distraction when you arent working on WoW? – Danksz (North America/ANZ)

A: We polled the entire World of Warcraft development team and included the most interesting, unusual, and potentially terrifying responses. They included: roasting my own coffee; hiking all over SoCal; gardening with yuccas and bamboo; building my own 3D printer; attempting to turn my living room into a live action scene from Tron using blacklights, stencils and a helluva lot of paint; autocross racing my sweet ride; board games (I have over 450 of them); being spinal tapped to Tumblr, Reddit and 4chan; mastering cooking (duck confit, breads, pastas, more breads); building Star Wars Lego sets; trying to control my computer using brainwaves and an EEG reader; plein air/outdoor watercolor painting; geocaching; hockey; painting miniatures; swing dancing; crafting old-time cocktails; running 5 / 10 Ks / mud runs; motorcycling; go; blending smoothies; skydiving; work on my Jaina/Varian fanfic; baking bread; playing drums; reading sci-fi; comics; playing WoW.

Sounds like a fun place to work! Or at the very least fun people to work with.

Q: Will the devs consider giving us reason to interact in the new world of cataclysm? We sit in cities waiting on queues. Theres little reason to leave the city gates outside of farming and archeology. The *main* cities feel alive, the world however feels quite dead. – Odiem (North America/ANZ)

A: While you’re leveling up your character and gathering professions, you’re more than likely interacting with the world plenty. World of Warcraft’s endgame has centered on dungeons, raids, Battlegrounds and Arenas for some time, so it’s natural that you spend more time in cities organizing and preparing for those group-based events. We do think there is more that we can do to promote compelling solo gameplay for max level characters, though. The 4.2 patch has a pretty epic questing experience involving the Firelands and we’re really excited to see how players respond to it.

A similar but slightly different question was asked by one of our Korean players.

Q: PvP realms are getting indistinctive from the PvE realm as players are not engaging into PvP contents, since they are not finding it attractive. The only difference from the PvE realm is that it’s possible to attack opponent around zones in Conflict. Is there any plan to strengthen the difference between PvP and PvE realms? – Soulcube (Korea)

A: We don’t think it’s that world PvP is unattractive, we just think it’s just the cumulative effect of a lot of changes we made to the game to meet other goals. For example, flying mounts are really cool and convenient, but they mean you are much less likely to stumble upon someone from the opposite faction while travelling. We considered teleportation a mandatory feature for Dungeon Finder to succeed, but then you are less likely to bump into an enemy outside of a dungeon. To get world PvP back in some form, we’d have to develop something like the Isle of Quel’danas: a non-flight zone that is not a sanctuary where players congregate to finish quests or earn rewards. We’ll think about ways to do something like that again in the future.

I can’t say I’m satisfied with the devs’ answer on this one. While I agree that there’s plenty of world interaction when you’re out and about and questing and gathering and boosting your professions, I think that the concern of PVP players is probably more serious for them than the devs are really picking up.

Back in the vanilla days, when mounts were both expensive and far off, and when beginner mounts were slow enough that you could still be ambushed on one successfully, it was pretty hazardous playing on a PVP server during those early levels. I remember trying to just quest as a poor level 25 Tauren Druid and getting repeatedly ganked in Stonetalon by level 60 Night Elves coming through the pass.

Admittedly, I moved on to play on PvE servers after that, but I understand how global combat is a core component of playing on a PVP server, and between flying in old world and earlier/faster mounts, it’s become all but a moot point.

Q: I think a lot of people would like to see some more options for inventory storage are there plans for any of the following? Bank slots/Equipment manager storage/Upgrade backpack/storage for costume, cosmetic, toys/tabard storage. – Shinysparkle (North America/ANZ)

A: We do have some storage solutions in the works. We’d like to convert tabards in particular to something like the current UI to manage titles. We don’t want to just keep giving players larger and larger bags in which to lose items. We’re focusing more on better ways to organize items.

Finally! A fix is coming for my tabard addiction!

Q: During the expansions released since vanilla, the specialities of the different classes were watered down more and more. By now, many classes can do almost everything and almost none is still special. Are there any steps planned to give the classes more “charisma”, so that they are more distinguished from each other and regain their special flair? – Blades (Europe [German])

A: Sometimes when players say “special flair” what they really mean is “something so awesome that everyone will have to take me.” We really don’t want to go back to that model, which just isn’t tenable in a game with 10-player raids and 30 different talent trees. We have no problem spreading around buffs and utility that we consider more-or-less mandatory, such as the battle rezes and raid buffs. At the same time, we think there are enough unique abilities out there to make the various talent trees shine. Shaman have a great interrupt with Wind Shear. Warlocks can get out of danger with Demonic Portal. Discipline priests can mitigate a lot of damage with Power Word: Barrier, but Unholy death knights have their own version in Anti-Magic Zone. We struggle a lot with how much homogenization is good for the game, largely so that you can play with your friends, and how much is bad for the game, because then your character feels less special. It’s something we’ll continue to work on in an attempt to strike that perfect balance.

I really REALLY like the answer to this question. A lot of players who have been around for a long time miss the days when people formed their raid or dungeon groups because specific classes had “ubertalents” that were so good in the situations the raid would put you in that you absolutely wanted to have them – and it made the people who played that class feel uber as well.

In reality, that’s indicative of a lack of balance, and I’m glad that Blizzard is trying to strike a line between giving people talents that feel epic and important without being essential to specific – or every – encounters.

So what do you think? Blizzard developers took this one in stride, I think – and there were some great questions. I don’t think this will be the last dev Q&A that the developers do, so stay tuned for more in the future. What would you ask Blizzard developers if you had the chance? Sound off in the comments.

Video :: Blizzard Sucks

You’ve likely heard all of the complaining about the state of Cataclysm raiding and dungeons. You’ve also likely heard enough from either side of the debate that you’ve come to your own conclusions. Personally, I think that a number of people are asking a little too much of Blizzard when it comes to nerfing the game – and that when some of the more hardcore players are mad that the game is too easy and some of the most casual players are mad that the game is entirely too hard, then you’ve got the perfect balance for most players who don’t complain either way.

To that point, this video is another Cataclysm Heroics are Hard-style skewering of the mentality that Blizzard should ratchet the difficulty of the game down to the point where it’s pretty easy, especially for players who want to put in even less effort than those who willingly call themselves casual. Click play, and enjoy.

MMO Champion’s Raiding Tactics Flowchart Makes Knowing Your Role Easy

Click the image above to embiggen and get a nice large version of the flowchart that you can, you know, bookmark or print out and put up next to your monitor, whatever it takes to remember your role in a raid or an instance.

The chart, which comes to us by way the fine folks at MMO Champion and was originally created by Aear, from guild Fierce Creatures of Bloodhoof-EU, does a really great job of boiling down raid responsibilities and roles into something that’s easy to follow and understand, regardless of the class you play – it’s really about the role that you play, and there are more than a few specific tips for people who play specific classes along the way.

Admittedly, these aren’t specific raid strats for specific instances or events or bosses – they’re general tips that, if you follow them 99% of the time, you’ll make out just fine in just about every dungeon or raid you join.

Visualize Raid Strategy with BossBlueprint

If you have a difficult time explaining to your raid or your guild exactly how they should move and where they should stand in a given raid encounter, or if you have people in your raid or guild that are be far visual learners and just don’t seem to be getting the hang of what you’re saying, Boss Blueprint might be a handy tool to help you build those raid strategies and share them with your raid members before the encounter so there’s no confusion.

The site only has support at the moment for Blackwing Descent, Throne of the Four Winds, and Bastion of Twilight, and the boss encounters therein – it would be really useful if the tool added more encounters and raids, even older ones that some people still run as practice or for fun – but it makes sense that the most recent content would be of primary interest to the people using Boss Blueprint.

The app then lets you add raid icons, raid roles, and directional arrows and zones to the map to indicate where players with ranged DPS should stand, where the healers should be, and where the tanks should be in relation to the boss, and other mobs and elements of the encounter that players should be aware of are located. You can drop big red circles on the ground to indicate places where you shouldn’t stand, arrows to tell players where they should move, and more.

Once you’re all finished, you can save your blueprint and share it with your raid either by downloading the JPG and posting it somewhere yourself, or by embedding the blueprint in another Web site.

Raid Ready Wants to Change the Way You Play WoW

This hilarious video (hit the link to see it in HD at YouTube) is one of three that have been unlocked over a Raid Ready, all designed to give you a little bit of a clue as to what Raid Ready will be when it’s released.

Okay, the videos themselves don’t say too much, and that’s okay because they’re all hilarious – the one above is the first to be unlocked, and since then there’s another great one that parodies an eHarmony ad, and yet another that makes me feel awful for that poor guy – he just wanted his morning cup of joe.

Anyway, between the site and the videos, I had to find out what this Raid Ready business was all about, so I dropped the team there a line to find out what they’re planning and what they could tell me about it now.

I noted the air of mystery around the videos, and I asked what exactly Raid Ready was going to be: a Web site? A service? An add-on? A utility? A subscription service? What was the deal? Here’s what Stubby, one of the folks behind the scenes working on Raid Ready, had to say:

Raid Ready is a new way to measure the readiness of players and entire raids for certain content. In the past 3-4 years several methods have been introduced that give players what I feel are rather ambiguous ways of measuring their readiness for certain content. What’s wound up happening with all these methods is that we have several sites, add ons and calculators which give you either a number or a graph that tells you what you’re ready for and how you rank against other players. The problem with these systems is that they tend to use things which don’t matter to measure the capability of players. I’ll be 100% honest. The only real thing that matters is a player’s ability, but there’s no true way to measure that outside of having that player in your raid and seeing how they perform.

Raid Ready doesn’t focus on iLevels or achievements to make it’s assessment of players or groups. Instead it takes the accumulated research on player stats and measures known good stats against the stats of players in your raid, allows for variance in stats to compensate for others and mathematically takes into account players who will make up for others in order to come up with an assessment that determines whether a raid can find success in the content they’re attempting. The idea is not to tell a raid leader that their raid will pull content off but to give them a better understanding of what they’re taking in so they can be better prepared and build strategies accordingly. This is really just a small part of what we intend to do but at it’s core this is what Raid Ready is.

So, I asked, it’s more about understanding the overall “talent” of a player, as opposed to his or her gearscore or total HP or DPS averages, right? Some way to determine how a player will likely perform overall, not just a stack of numbers that supposedly define them, right? Stubby replied:

Somewhat a look at talent. It does take some level of understanding of a class to be able to stat properly, but more to the point it’s about knowing whether the group as a whole based on the known required stats can pull off the task at hand. In that way, yes, our approach is much more holistic and takes the character into account over gear.

Very interesting – so we still don’t know how Raid Ready will do what they’re planning to do, but the concept is exciting regardless – imagine as a raid leader having the ability to understand the capabilities of your group and whether you have the right mix of talent, stats, and skills to get the job done, as opposed to just staring at some potentially non-representative piles of numbers that supposedly will help you make a judgement call on your own.

We’ll have to wait and see what the folks behind Raid Ready have up their sleeve, but the prospect is exciting, and the videos are more than entertaining!

Blizzard to Address Dungeon Finder Abuse

Apparently there’s been some pretty heavy abuse of the Dungeon Finder system that I wasn’t aware of – mostly because I’m still making the long slog between 80 and 85 on my main and leveling some new alts to see the new content. I caught the story over at WoW Insider, here’s what they had to say:

Anyone who’s read the official forums lately has probably seen a raft of complaints directed at players abusing the dungeon finder and vote to kick features. It’s a reminder that people will always figure out a way to twist a system to their own benefit. The most upsetting technique I’ve read about is two hybrid DPS in cahoots with a third DPS queuing as a tank/healer duo, getting an instant invite to dungeons, and then pressuring the two other members of the party to shoulder the tank or healer job. If they don’t or can’t fill these roles — kick ‘em after the 15 min grace period and requeue themselves as straight DPS. Voilà — they are now at the head of the dungeon queue for the next tank or healer! Is it any wonder that players find this enraging?

Yowch – that’s…brilliant and horrific at the same time. Well, the folks at WoW Insider had some ideas on how to avoid dungeon finder abuse, mostly suggestions Blizzard could take to improve the system and make it a bit more equitable for everyone – things like “invisible” rep, or performance based rights to vote/kick.

The same day, Blizzard said they were looking at options to improve the system and remove the kind of abuse people have seen, but admittedly it’s going to be difficult – after all, designing a system to try and manage people’s behavior, especially in something as potentially inflammatory as removing someone from a pick-up group, is bound to be difficult.

Video :: Cataclysm Heroics Are Hard

Yeah, this about sums it up. I’m not running heroics just yet, but with people like WoWCrendor on my side, I can be proud to be a casual player who doesn’t mind that his games actually require some thought and strategy to play.

Everyone’s talking right now about how difficult heroics are, and the only people I’ll take that from are healers, since they do have it a little tough right now – but I do have to wonder whether or not the fact that they have it rough is because of DPS players who are used to Wrath style dungeoning or it’s actually the way the game is designed.

In either event, this hilarious video brings us back to earth, so if you’re having a hard time in heroics, don’t give up – just know that you and your party will just have to work a little harder to get to the goal. I promise, it’ll be more rewarding this way.

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