Monthly Archives: March 2010

What’s a “main”? Specialists vs. Generalists

So, since I’ve been splitting my time between LOTRO and WOW, I’ve noticed that I have very different play-styles between the two games.

In WoW, I’m a specialist: I have my main, a druid, and I spend MOST of my time & resources on that one character. I did manage to get a shaman up to 80, but it’s an “alt” that I’m barely comfortable taking into ICC past the first wing. None of my other alts ever get very far, and I get bored leveling alts.

In LOTRO, I’m a generalist: I don’t have a main. I cycle between lots of different characters, and I can’t get any of my characters to the level cap because I never focus on one character long enough. Even when I have oodles of playtime, I keep making new alts over and over and over again because my favorite part of the game is solo leveling and learning new classes that I haven’t tried before (Ooh shiny new things!).

These aren’t really new concepts, as other people have talked about this distinction many times before. However, switching back and forth between these two games (where I have dramatically different play-styles) has made me wonder about why I play differently in the two games, and why I have sometimes been unhappy in WoW with my specialist attitude. There is also a lot of people who don’t fall strictly in either category, but may fall somewhere in the middle.

What is a Specialist?

Specialists focus on 1 character. I would consider a specialist to be someone who focuses on a “main” character, at the expense of not having enough time to really dedicate to alts. Inspite of playing WoW for 5 years, I really only have 2 characters that I’ve ever dedicated very much time to. Even if you play for hours every day, the main focus is on getting one character to level cap and dedicating the majority of your play time to that character. You can have alts, but there is a clear gear (or level!) disparity between your “main” and your “alts.” For example, I have over 200 days /played on my druid(about 50 at level 80) over the span of the more than 5 years I’ve been playing the game. My next highest character has 31 days /played total (with 2 days /played at level 80). You don’t have to be totally hard-core to be a specialist (you don’t even have to be 80!). It’s all about how much you focus on one character.

So, what is a generalist?

Instead of “putting all your eggs in 1 basket”, generalists spread their playtime out over a bunch of characters. They focus more on alts. Even if they have a “main,” the discrepancy in playtime between multiple characters is much more reduced compared to the example of my characters. Regardless of # of hours you play the game, generalists will usually have more than 2 characters that they cycle between. Raiding may even not be that fun when they have to choose one and stick with it. For example, my boyfriend gets tired of raiding faster because he hates having to just stick to one character. However, generalists may still enjoy raiding (especially in WOTLK), but will do it on multiple characters if they have the time, rather than raiding with just one. Some generalists at this point have 10 (or more!) level 80 characters, and spend time trying to gear up all (or most) of their alts. If you have one 80 of each class, you are likely a generalist. You may even have 2 or more of the same class. It doesn’t really matter how much you play (a little or a lot); what matters is that you feel like you have a split-personality disorder as you cycle through your many characters. Maybe you get bored at end-game and like starting over, or maybe you like being able to do end-game things with multiple classes because just having 1 is something you find boring.

Generalists vs. Specialists in WoW:

For end-game purposes when WoW first came out, being a specialist was heavily rewarded at end-game. There was even sometimes asocial stigma about trying to raid with your alt and get raid-level gear (ie. some guilds didn’t allow you to raid with other guilds if they knew about it, and you couldn’t win loot for an “alt” over other people’s mains). You also usually had to be in a guild to raid, and very few guilds even had enough people to do alt-runs on the side. If you raided a lot, you probably dedicated all your time to one character (4 to 5 raid days a week on 1 character was pretty common for specialists). People who were true generalists may have gotten frustrated about having to choose between their children that they loved equally (or, they may have just never hit 60 on all of them before BC even came out).

Burning Crusade still rewarded this specialist model, though more people started having alts, and you could do a lot of “alt runs” to Karazhan. At the expansion, a lot of people also leveled up new characters to 70 (with the new races), and either changed who their mains were, or had the ability to do end-game with 2 characters (even if 1 usually out-geared the other).

Wrath of the Lich King came with a huge paradigm shift on this axis, which a lot of people attributed (somewhat incorrectly) to a struggle between hard-core and casual players (because specialists & generalists can really be either hard-core or casual in terms of attitude & play-time). The people who won out in WotLK were the generalists, and the specialists spent a lot of time fussing and being angry over losing their footing (ie. if I dedicate 50 hours to one character, as a specialist, I feel that it should have better gear compared to the person who spent 5 hours on each of 10 characters – and my game play feels cheapened by my alt with 2 days /played at level 80 and almost as good of gear as my main). WotLK spent a lot of time focusing on being able to gear up more than one character at level 80; and 5 years after the game first came out, it’s not uncommon for people to have multiple level 80 characters to gear up (ie. I’ve it’s no longer uncommon for people to have between 6 and 12 level 80 characters). They make it super easy to get epic gear from 5-mans and badges. Heirloom items make leveling faster & easier.

End-game raiding in WotLK takes up less time if you only raid with one character, making the game seem boring for specialists who focus on raiding (ie. there have been periods of time when you could get one character through all the raid content in two nights a week, leaving specialist raiders scrambling to find things worthwhile to do up to 5 nights a week). Specialist PvP isn’t really that much better, with a relatively small # of arenas required to meet the weekly goals, the bigger battlegrounds not giving very good rewards, and Wintergrasp on a pretty long timer. One of the things I was the most unhappy about in WotLK was not having enough to do with my one main that I’ve been really focused on. Also, PUG raiding makes it really easy for you to raid with multiple characters; and many guilds will do ALT 10-man runs on off-days. Death Knights made it even easier to be a generalist

The future of WOW: More Fun for Generalists!

Cataclysm will really be a generalists’ playground. Generalists benefit more from the new races, new race/class combos, new/redesigned leveling areas, and other changes to the leveling system. Specialists, however, will still appreciate Cataclysm for being able to explore new areas with their mains; along with the fact that they are releasing more raid content early (so you will have more to do at end-game if you don’t focus on leveling up alts). Cata may also encourage specialists to branch out a little bit more and try new things, so that they can experience more of the leveling content on new characters (though I think I’ll mostly end up with a string of alts that I abandon between level 10 and 20).

What I learned from playing LOTRO:

Most of what I wrote above could make me sound like an elitist jerk. However, I learned to appreciate the viewpoint of a generalist when playing LOTRO. As I said before, when I play LOTRO, I’m a generalist and not really focused on any one character. I get bored with one relatively fast, so then I’ll just start a new one and play through the early leveling zones again. I’ll probably never do end-game on a character in that game, since I never focus on one character long enough to make a character my “main”. Also, I’ve been able to see (over the course of the game) how they have made more and more improvements to leveling. They made mounts available earlier, which I was able to benefit from with my newest character. They have progressively made the early levels more solo-friendly (which I’ve been able to benefit from, as well). I keep discovering new leveling areas that were newly added, and each time they make improvements to their leveling areas, the game is more fun for me.

Conclusions:

I used to argue with my boyfriend over whether or not he needed to pick a main in WOW and stick with it. However, I’ve come to accept that being a generalist is a viable play-style in WoW as of WotLK being released, even for end-game purposes. I appreciate handing out new gear and heirlooms and all the fun toys that generalists get to play with. At this point, I’m almost envious of his ability to enjoy leveling new characters over and over again in WOW. I’m hoping that Cataclysm will make me more open to the idea of being less of a specialist, and I hope it will make leveling alts more enjoyable for people (like me) who have spent the last year or so trying to cling to our specialist mentality in a generalist’s World of Warcraft.

Posted in Cataclysm, Lord of the Rings Online

Distractions: A case of the mondays

So, I’ve been distracted from WoW lately, and thus also distracted from blogging.

One of my distractions from the game was school work done while my Undergrads (in my course & my research assistants) were all off partying it up for Spring Break. I’ve been working on organizing things for beginning to design & write my dissertation proposal. I front-loaded blog posts at the beginning of break, and then had to really push and get work done the last couple days.

My second distraction has been more fun. I got back into Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve had an account for a while, and I’ve played on and off for the last year or so. None of my characters are above level 40, but I do have a handful of alts. Mostly, I just can’t settle on the right class for me (and WOW spoiled me too much). I started a human Guardian class (melee & tank) over the last week, and got up to 26 with it. Some of the mechanics are a little confusing, but it’s fun being able to see how a new character’s skills all work, and I’m constantly learning about the game mechanics, little things that I take for granted about my WoW-related knowledge. Since I play so little, I constantly find new things that I didn’t remember before. They have also been working to improve the low level experience in LOTRO, and I recently found out that my newest character could solo a lot of the really annoying group quests related to the main storyline quests. I’ve written before about housing in LOTRO and how much I like the little hobbit house that I’ve dectorated. I only recently took down my house’s Winter/Christmas decorations.

WoW is still my main game, but I don’t have anything WOW-related to write about today. So, here’s a picture of Annobur, my 26 Champion on the Meneldor server.

I also updated my computer over the weekend from Windows Vista to Window’s 7. Everything seems to be working okay with the new operating system. I didn’t have any problems last night when I was raiding. I had backed up my WOW folders (addons & WTF) before doing the OS switch, so it was pretty easy to get WOW back up and set up right after the fresh reinstall.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

Moonkin in 3.3.3: To dot… or not to dot.

Okay, so now that 3.3.3 is getting closer to release, we have more details about what moonkin PvE will look like “soon.” However, this is still subject to change.

One big looming question that a lot of high-end moonkin are struggling with is when to cast dots, or when to not cast them. The buffs to starfall actually have the effect of making our DOTs seem even less worthwhile.

Recommended reading: Murmur’s wow.com post on DOTs, along with Hamlet’s work (among other posters) at EJ.

The problem:

Our Damage over time spells (insect swarm and moonfire) have not kept up with the rest of our rotation and are not scaling well enough at high gear levels (ie. Tier 10, ICC 25-man gear). So, there has been a lot of discussion lately about how to glyph (since all of our glyphs previously were being used to buff our DOTs), along with when to cast our DOTs (along with if we still use them).

Glyphing in 3.3.3:

The nerfs to Glyph of Focus in the latest PTR build, even with the huge buff to starfall’s damage, make the most common/obvious glyph choices: Glyph of Starfire, Moonfire, Starfall. I will be dropping the Insect Swarm glyph, in favor of Starfall when the patch hits. These glyphs will be the best choices even for beginners. There will likely still be some situational variability, but these are the glyphs that I assume you will have when I talk about DOTs in 3.3.3.

DOTs for new level 80’s:

At the lowest gear levels, and even in Tier 9 gear, our DOTs are worthwile to maintain in 3.3.3. So, the newbie “how to DPS” guides still work great for beginners, because it’s always going to be a DPS boost to refresh your DOTs at the lowest gear levels. So, the basic rotation guide still applies to you. For people wearing 2-piece Tier 9, moonfire is definitely a good damage ability to keep going.  You should also have an idol that requires DOT damage to be effective. In practice, for new moonkin, refreshing DOTs when they fall off will work well enough, since the problem really ends up being at high levels of gear (and for new moonkin, a complicated DOT refreshing system would end up being a DPS loss due to confusion problems & hesitating).

DOTs for ICC 25-man geared moonkin:

It’s much more complicated, and there seems to be very little agreement on what to do about it, and the recommendations seem to be subject to change based on various factors. For patch 3.3.3, this seems to be the most reliable (current) advice, however this is likely to change again between now and when 3.3.3 is released, based on lots of different factors.

  • Since you won’t use the glyph for insect swarm, then you can use IS (potentially even at a DPS loss) just to keep up the hit debuff to help your raid, even in high-end content. It appears to be worth casting IS when Eclipse is not active, but ends up being a larger DPS loss to cast IS when Eclipse is active. If you are trying to keep up the debuff, but not lose too much DPS, then one solution would be to refresh insect swarm after it falls off  when your Eclipse proc has ended (regardless of which kind of Eclipse). If you don’t care about keeping up the hit debuff, then you would likely want to refresh right before you proc a Solar Eclipse and start casting wrath.
  • It is also looking like moonfire shouldn’t be refreshed during a solar Eclipse portion of your cycle, since it is only a consistent DPS increase if you can get off 3 starfire casts before it falls off. When you are chain-casting wrath for a prolonged period of time, then refresthing moonfire is likely a DPS loss because it will fall off before you benefit from the starfire refreshing glyph. If you have the moonfire & Starfire glyphs, then it is going to be worth casting starfire before a Lunar Eclipse proc, where you will be able to cast more than 3 starfires before it falls off.
  • The really only clear piece of the puzzle is to: cast DOTs while moving. Since DOTs are instant-cast abilities, you should always be able to refresh DOTs while moving, regardless of what part of the DPS cycle you are on.  For fights with predictable movement, you can likely avoid recasting right before a movement phase, so that it will fall off before you can refresh it on the run (ie. Marrowgar’s Bone Storm ability). Since most fights have movement phases, and you should “Always Be Casting”, then movement periods are always the best time to cast your DOTs.
  • EDIT Disclaimer: Part of the problem is that DOTs make up such a small % of our DPS that the difference between various DOT refreshing strategies ends up being pretty small, so people are likely going to work out different strategies of DOT refreshing, since a lot of different factors will impact the theorycrafting math. Gear also makes a big difference in DOT scaling issue calculations. So, there may not be a good one-size-fits-all strategy for DOT refreshing in 3.3 – which makes it hard for people like me who are given the task of simplifying all the theorycrafting into bite-sized morsels.

Additional starfall 3.3.3 reminders: When starfall gets it’s buff, you should cast starfall as often as you can (it will be a 1 minute cooldown with the starfall glyph). Please remember to still being smart about not wiping the raid by pulling extra things, and paying attention to other factors specific to boss fights. Each fight may have times where it’s better (or worse) to pop starfall, so be aware of the fact that it is going to have a large radius around you if you aren’t using the Focus glyph. Starfall may also potentially cause threat issues when used on new sets of adds (which is good for sarufang if you are trying to pull the adds away from the boss, but not as good for other fights with adds spawning), so watch your timing of when you pop your ability. There may be situations where you need the focus glyph if you aren’t as confident about being able to keep things under control, but this is going to be a more personal choice.

Conclusions:

When should you switch from a “refresh all the time” to a more complicated refresh pattern? I would say that once you have your 4-piece Tier 10 bonus, you probably have the knowledge and need for the more complicated DPS rotation in the 3.3.3 patch. When you refresh DOTs ends up not even being that important, since DOTs are such a small DPS difference in the first place. Even with all that work, the timing of DOT refreshing may only add up to a couple hundred DPS difference at most. The total DOT damage (moonfire & insect swarm combined) makes up between 10 & 20% of my total damage, even on single-target fights.

Suggestions:

Since moonfire seemed to benefit so much from being able to crit with the T9 set bonus, I think that Insect Swarm probably needs the same treatment to remain viable – and this isn’t something that I think can wait until Cataclysm to fix it. As people get more and more heroic gear, and possibly into the new dungeon, it is going to become more and more tempting to start not using IS at all. When we have all the bosses on farm, then I would anticipate not needing the 3% miss debuff at all, and so this isn’t something that we should wait until Cataclysm to fix. The fact that refreshing our DOTs at the wrong time is a DPS loss is actually really concerning, and should be something the developers are concerned about fixing sooner rather than waiting. I am more concerned about Insect Swarm than moonfire, and I think adding in crit IS ticks would be a really good step to helping with moonkin’s stat scaling issues in high-end gear (ie. I’m already crit soft-capped, hit capped, & haste soft-capped, and I’m in mostly 10-man ICC gear).

Posted in Moonkin Balance DPS, Patch 3.3 WotLK, Patches

Should healers have to deal with mana management?

So, the healing forums have been having a pretty big discussion lately (over the last few weeks) about how much mana management should matter in Cataclysm, and how spell choice plays into managing mana.

As someone who survived healing from the early days through now, I remember having to make more… intelligent decisions about what heals to use when mana was a limited resource.

I remember the days of using down-ranked Healing Touches weaved between other spells. In Burning Crusade, we didn’t really make that many choices about spells (my resto druid spammed rolling lifeblooms, and my shaman spammed chain heal). I remember the days of actually having a macro to cancel my long cast spells, though. Even at the beginning of WotLK, mana seemed like something that was a slightly more limited resource.

The problem right now, though, is that you have to use your fastest heals at the expense of everything else. This encourages people to heal with less efficient, more expensive spells (which is why Glyphed Healing Touch is seeing a resurgence, and why HOT raid healing even works). There doesn’t seem to be a way to tell good healers from bad healers. Meters just reward healing “first”, and people don’t really judge healers any other way. Since you can’t run OOM, you may as well just spam your fastest and least efficient heals all the time.

In Cataclysm, the goal seems to be a desire to return to the original game’s style of healing, where you need a team of healers to manage their mana and heal “smart” instead of healing first. Where you will have to actually spend time choosing what sized heals you want (maybe unglyphed HT’s long cast time will make it back as a useful tool?). I think that there would also have to be less AOE raid constant damage, as it is the AOE healing that really tends to be the most spammy and the least mana efficient a lot of the time (with the most limited healing tools). For single-target healing, most of the classes have those small, medium, big options. For raid healing, none of the classes have much variety in tools (and for paladins, they just have nothin at all). So, perhaps raid healing is a place where the developers should look at the tools that the healing classes have, to see if they want to give us more choices in what spells we use for AOE healing.

Mana management can be an interesting part of the healers’ game.  I hope that it leads to interesting changes in Cataclysm, and that it makes the game more fun instead of more frustrating. So, I think that healing spell variety has to be interesting and meaningful if mana management is going to be part of the healers’ job in Cataclysm once again. If one or two spells are obviously just better than the rest, then we’ll just spam ourselves OOM and get frustrated, so there has the be the right mix of tools and the right balance. Can we achieve all of this next expansion? Only time will tell. I personally think that mana management can work as an interesting part of the game, because it has been in the past. However, I think there is also a lot of risk.

Posted in Cataclysm, Restoration Healing Trees, Uncategorized

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