Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why I Don't Like the 4.1 Conquest Point Change

If you don't PvP, you probably were ambivalent towards the change in the number conquest points awarded in patch 4.1. If you're a talented PvPer and have an excess of conquest points, you're probably annoyed, but by now you probably primarily play for rating, not to buy things.

As for me, I have no aspirations of a title this season, since I'm only doing 2v2. I'm playing for fun and the thrill of making that clutch save, but that doesn't mean I'm not affected by the change. Since I'm not interested in how high I can get my arena rating, I play just to get my points for the week. Once I'm done, I stop.

And that brings me to the conquest point change.

Community Manager Zarhym wrote:

We saw that Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds were over-rewarding players for the time investment required, particularly compared to point gains in PvE. We felt the change we went live with in the patch was a little bit too low and overcompensating though, so we buffed up the numbers for wins just a bit to 180 (Arenas) and 400 (Rated BGs).

Now, I don't disagree with the time investment for epic PvP gear vs. epic PvE. My first two weeks of arena netted me my epic healing mace while the non-PvPers in my guild are still salivating for the maces off of Cho'gall and Nefarian. I don't have to worry about the whims of RNG. Two weeks of playing for a little over an hour and I got a mace better than anything out of a heroic.

I was actually quite surprised when I learned how quickly conquest gear came to me. I stopped doing any PvP other than arena and Tol Barad, just because I couldn't justify the time vs. honor gained (not to mention that when I first got my paladin to 85 the battleground queues were buggy for Horde). An hour of arena vs. an hour of battlegrounds? It's no contest.

Gillien is ilvl 356 in his PvP gear, and I'd wager I spent less time assembling that than I have Hana's 358 and she's my raiding main.

Considering that I agree with Blizzard's assessment, it might come across as strange that I don't like their change, but what bothers me isn't that they fixed it. It's how they fixed it.

When arena was first introduced it was as a casual form of PvP where people could earn gear and titles without doing the crazy High Warlord/Grand Marshal slog that was infamous during vanilla. The fact you only needed ten games a week made it very casual friendly. Any games played beyond the ten were attempts to increase one's rating and considering that ratings tended to settle after a while (except perhaps at the extremes), it was easy to figure out when to stop.

My Challenger-level 3v3 team had a rule in WotLK. We would play our 10 games, and then if we were winning, we would keep playing until we lost two in a row. This prevented us from playing into a losing streak, but if we were hot we wouldn't stop.

In arena it is expected that when you reach your appropriate rating that you will hover there, winning 50% of your matches and losing the other 50%. In that sweet spot between the start of Cata and patch 4.1 players earned enough conquest points to cap for the week from winning just 5 matches.

I liked the 4.0 Cata system. It promoted winning (since previously teams could get their points for 10 games even if they lost all of them), and if the 50-50 ratio held true people would still be playing their 10 games for the week. It seemed elegant enough to me.

But now I have to play more games to cap for the week. After the whole 10 games and you're done that has been around since TBC, I'm rather irritated that I'm now forced to play an average of 16 games in order to cap. It's a 60% increase in the time spent each week.

What I would rather have seen (though I'm sure it still would have been an unpopular choice) would have been an increase in the cost of conquest gear. Two weeks for an epic mace is ridiculously easy to obtain. Make it three or four weeks. Just increase the prices by 50%-60%.

Blizzard would get the same effect of increased time spent per each piece of gear earned, but without increasing the amount of time spent per week.

I found 10 games to be a reasonable amount of time for a casual player to do in a single night while still leaving time for other activities, and while some weeks I've had to do more than 10 games due to having more losses than wins, it still hasn't amounted to as many games as my 50-50 win rate of this past Thursday. If we get on a losing streak it could potentially make for a very long night and I don't like the idea of playing 20+ games in a single night in order to cap.

Equally I dislike the prospect of making arena night twice a week instead of once.

While I like arena for what it is (as in I've played skirmishes before for no reward), I admittedly like my purples as much as anyone else and I feel obligated to cap my conquest points just as a hardcore raider feels obligated to run heroics until valor points no longer offer any upgrades.

I won't stop playing arena due this, but it means less time to do heroics, less time for alts. Maybe I won't get a game of Tol Barad in that I would have otherwise joined. I don't raid on my paladin, unless one counts the occasional Baradin Hold. This isn't an alternate way of me getting gear to kill internet dragons. This is my one night a week PvP fun fest that gives me better gear for hitting a set number of wins.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 03 – Your first day playing WoW

My first day playing WoW was back in vanilla. It's funny how the years meld together now, but I'd say it was 2005 (though I did not become a regular player until 2006). My boss lent me his discs and gave me one of his 10-day free trial passes and told me to go ahead and give the game a shot.

I was reluctant to play due to the fact I had been a horrible MUD junkie in college (now that's old school, MMORPGs from before they had graphics!) and I knew that if I got hooked I could have trouble maintaining a balance between the game and the rest of the world.

Because the free trial was for a limited period I decided I would start it up on a Friday night so I would have two weekends to play. At about 9 or 10 in the evening I finished installing the four CDs and found myself at the character select screen for the first time. I made my tauren druid (race/class combo already picked) and made her a brown cow who I dubbed Hana because it's Japanese for "flower" and sounded appropriately pleasant and fantasy-ish.

Hana began her life in Mulgore in what I believe was June (of 2005) and dutifully pew-pewed little plainstalkers to provide food and supplies for Camp Narashe. It was dark and I don't recall other players being around, but that suited me just fine. I was just learning everything.

My internet connection at the time was pretty bad, so I was having trouble staying online and I distinctly recall being killed by one of the quilboar's battle boars, the very first mobs that would aggro on to a new low level tauren, during a disconnect. I'd wager I didn't make it past level 4 before I logged for the night.

What I remember the most about my first night was that Mulgore was very green and (my death notwithstanding) very peaceful. I remember the night sky, and that I was amused that I could do the majority of the old emotes from my MUD days. MMORPGs were just MUDs with graphics. How little things change.

What actually turned out to be a pleasant thing to know after I finished my 10-day trial is that I was able to put the game down and not buy it. It would be over six months before I would actually buy the game and begin playing it.

While it seems like an odd thing to say considering that five years later I'm still playing it and I have been almost continuously, it means to me that I'm not in danger of the addiction I feared. I only raid twice a week and while as a guild master I have to put a certain amount of time into the game and related activities, I think I can quite happily put this game down when the time comes. I'd miss my online friends of course, but I'm not in danger of the game ruining my professional or social life.

Friday, April 22, 2011

[Paladin] More Thoughts on Season 9 Arena

My paladin is starting to get decently kitted out in PvP gear, especially for an alt I haven't had much time to focus on. (I blame a combination of Dragon Age II and overtime at the day job.) My 2v2 partner and I have designated Thursday nights as arena night and I've since bought my Vicious Gladiator's Gavel as well as a new cloak, ring, wrist, and shoulders. It's kind of funny how quickly these Conquest points are adding up compared to previous seasons.

I love it.

I've realized that I really like Season 9 much more than previous seasons and it's because of the changes that have been made to allow people to buy epic PvP gear.

Back when arenas were first introduced in TBC everyone started at 1500 arena rating and went up or down, but as long as you played your ten games a week you got arena points. Gear had no rating requirements so you played, win or lose, and got your gear after you earned enough points. A lot of casual arena play occurred due to people who had no interest in titles but found it was a nice way to get gear.

Unfortunately, people also played who had no interest in arena itself, titles or no. They just wanted the gear, because it was better than what they could gear raiding Kara every week. I knew several people like that.

Then Blizzard added the rating requirement to get the best gear. Some people I knew stopped arenas altogether, because the gear they wanted (for PvE) was out of reach.

With WotLK, the urge to do arenas for gear largely went away. For certain classes a piece or two of arena gear could be sweet, but by and large PvE gear came from PvE. And arenas themselves changed.

Now players started at 0 rating and moved up. Gear could be purchased at 1100 rating and up, but it would take a good many games before reaching the appropriate rating, and it was frustrating to be accumulating arena points only to cap out at a point where points were coming in but there was no new gear to spend them on because the better gear was inaccessible. Or, perhaps your team got to the appropriate rating, but you didn't have the points to spend and by the time you did you'd lost that ranking and your chance at the gear you wanted.

I did have a good time with arenas in WotLK. I got my Challenger title for 3v3 and 5v5 in Season 6 (both teams were ranked high enough). I loved my teammates.

But after they stopped playing it was hard to get back into arenas again. My one remaining teammate was my hunter friend, and as I've mentioned, hunter/paladin is mocked as "terrible" to put it lightly. While we knew we weren't terribad players, we couldn't get a rating that mattered, and our gear couldn't get any better, which was discouraging.

These days in Cata, we're still playing, and while we aren't at our former Challenger-level glory, we're making progress and having fun. We progress without being concerned about hitting a number.

We're getting conquest points much more efficiently than earning honor points in battlegrounds (working a lot of overtime right now, time is at a premium), and as our gear has improved, we're finding hunter and holy paladin isn't quite the suck it initially appears to be.

That's not to say we don't hate the Dalaran arena anymore, or that my partner doesn't want to punch himself when healers start pillar dancing, but we're durable. We outlast other teams.

My partner loves the double dps groups. If I can keep him alive through the initial burst, we nearly always win. And I have a lot of burst healing. I've had Divine Favor and Aura Mastery up at the same time to let me chain cast a bunch of super fast un-interruptable Divine Lights.

If we fight a healer/dps combo, the fight is often longer, more likely to be dicey, but I have discovered something. Even with only 1600 resilience, I'm pretty durable against a single dps. It's only been these past couple weeks that it's become evident, but apparently my resilience is now at critical mass where I can start feeling comfortable with a dps beating on me while my partner does his business of pew-pewing a target.

After last night's rousing win ratio of 5-2 (only 5 matches needed to cap on conquest for the week), I started reforging some of the spirit off my PvP set to haste.

The reason for that is that I've noticed I haven't been hurting for mana the past two weeks. We had several matches where our opponents are dps (in which case the match is over one way or the other relatively quickly) or the healer goes oom way before I do.

We had one poor team where the disc priest was at 5% mana and I was virtually at full. We can outlast. If we're durable I can keep us both up primarily with Holy Shocks and Word of Glorys, weaving occasional Holy Lights or Divine Lights as necessary. I have kited a rogue in circles in the Lordaeron arena while keeping myself alive with nothing but instants.

I can only see this getting better. I used to be the squishy healer, never mind the plate, but I can only imagine how much the opposing team is going to hate me once I get even more PvP gear. It makes the PvPer in me grin.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 02 - Why I Decided to Start a Blog

I'm not sure I ever mentioned why I wanted to blog. Mostly, I think I wanted an outlet for all my WoW talk. There was a period I went through where I just couldn't get enough WoW.

I read other people's blogs. I read WoW Insider. I loved keeping up on the latest on Elitist Jerks. And I am by nature a writer. It's what I do.

So it was a natural decision to set one up. Even if I haven't been blogging as much lately, I assure you that I have not stopped writing. I have a novel that's almost done that I'd started in September of last year. It's just a question of whether I'm writing here, on my other blog, or something else entirely.

Also, at the time I started blogging, there were still very few moonkin. Graylo's Gray Matter wasn't the only game in town, but the other blogs were few in number. Moonkin didn't become popular until WotLK and so I figured I could present a different voice, more of a layperson's voice to moonkin affairs.

I understand the math and the theorycraft, I can even do my own theorycraft push comes to shove, but I'm quite happy to leave the simulations to others and I suspect there are a fair number of others who are happy to do the same.

As for the holy paladin end of things, that's mostly because I love playing Gillien and I didn't believe I'd have enough meat for the blog if I restricted myself to moonkin only. I'm glad I made that decision because blogging about arena on Gillien has been one of the highlights of my blogging experience. There aren't a lot of PvP bloggers so it's fun to talk about something that's relatively unique.

Speaking of which, when I'm not doing one of these 20 day blogging challenge posts I need to get up my latest thoughts on the current arena season.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Day 01 - Introduce yourself

I found out about the 20 Days of WoW Blogging Challenge that Saga of Spellbound came up with, and I figured "Hey, that would be a good way to get back into blogging regularly again."

So here I am.

Introducing myself:

I am most commonly known as Hana in WoW, though there are a few people who only know me as my paladin alt Gillien.

I'm a thirty-something female with a day job in the game industry and I am a part-time fantasy and science fiction writer after having won the grand prize to a major sf/f writing contest. I might not be able to quit my day job yet, but it's nice to start earning enough that I need to list my income on my tax forms.

I have also written two pieces of WoW fiction for the global writing contest, featuring my paladin Gillien. "By Whatever Means Necessary" was an honorable mention in 2009, but "Devotion" did not place in 2010. I think there are a couple of reasons for that, aside from writing quality, which is something for any writer to be aware of. For one, I decided to write a sequel when the judge might be unfamiliar with the original (though I took steps to reduce the need to have read the first story). For another, Blizzard may have had their fill of both blood elves and paladins so all else being equal they may have chosen to honor a story with a different topic.

My play style is a bit irregular depending on what's happening outside of WoW. I try to be on at least four nights a week, though I can be distracted by day job overtime, writing deadlines, and other games. Dragon Age, both the original and DA2, are bad for my WoW time.

I am the guild leader of Be Your True Mind, which takes its name from the subtitle of the first Persona game. I set us up to be a 10-man guild compatible with the lifestyle of a working adult while still making progression (and we're currently recruiting healers!) and despite ups and downs we're still kicking.

Hana was my first character, ever, and I became a balance druid because I didn't know better and I found I liked it. I play Gillien a lot though, and consider him to be my PvP main. I've always wanted to raid with him, but it's never been practical to do it on a regular basis.

I'm also an altoholic with numerous alts scattered on different servers (my home server of Skywall is already maxed at 10), though I tend to play them in bursts depending on mood. All my alts are below level 70 save Gillien and my feral druid, Darkker.

Other fact: I have four druids, one for each spec, and a fourth that is leveling moonkin to see how different it is from back in vanilla.

On to Day 2!