Monthly Archives: April 2011

Raiding on high latency (by Garnaph)

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of “voices from the community” posts at Restokin. I am happy to report that my request for guest writers was very successful! So, this “voices” series is featuring guest writers from the druid community, who will be writing on a number of different topics over the next few months (about once a week). These writers have  a wide variety of experience and opinions. I hope you enjoy their posts!

Hi everyone, my name is Garnaph, I play a Tauren Feral Druid (often raiding in my Resto or Boomkin offspecs) on Twilight’s Hammer EU, run my own guild <The Exodus>, and raid lead a 10 man raiding team, 9 of whom are based in South Africa. We’re currently 11/12 normal, busy bashing our faces against Nefarian.

I’m going to give an overview of what it’s like to raid in a high latency environment. Most players who are based in the US or the EU are used to sub 50ms pings, and refer to anything over 100ms as “unplayable”. I constantly raid on 300-400ms, and that’s a good connection. To us, bad is when it gets to 700ms or higher.

For those unclear on what this means, the ping-time is your return trip time for a message to be sent from your PC to the WoW server, and for your PC to receive a reply. What this effectively means is all of your actions have a “lag” on them, which dramatically alters how the game works. So any action can go off anything up to a second after you intended it to. Your actions happen that much later than you intend them to.

Take a look at how we’re connected to the rest of the world here and here. Within the US or EU, you’re connected to the WoW servers via a large number of land-based fibre-optic connections, which results in extremely fast return-trip times. See that tiny little line connecting to South Africa from Europe? Every single South African player there is, connects to EU servers via that single line, and it is one hell of a bottleneck. There are other lines going live (one is already live), but there are such terrible stability issues with them right now, I’m not going to give them any mention.

From what I understand, South American and Australian players experience similar problems.

Even when connections are stable, there are many raiding problems caused by the consistent high latency…

Loss of DPS/Healing:

You cast a spell as another spell finishes, but thanks to lag, even though you click when a spell appears to finish on your side, it only actually goes off a half second later. Due to DPS rotations being based on the ABC (Always Be Casting) rule, this equates to a DPS/HPS loss.

The solution for this is fairly elegant. Firstly, the WoW client recently had custom lag tolerance added. This means that you can perform an action up to 400ms before you would normally be allowed to do so, and the server will perform the action for you after the previous action is complete. However, since this only accounts for 400ms, it’s not a complete solution for those with over 400ms. Also, it’s impossible to figure out the exact timing from this as there is no UI element showing you when to hit the next ability.

So, in comes an addon that most playing on lag cannot live without : Quartz is a cast bar replacement, and like most mods you can change the size of the bars, move them around, etc. The part relevant to this topic is that it also displays your current ping as part of the bar. So say you’re casting a 2 second Healing Touch, and you have a 400ms ping, roughly a quarter of the bar will display, showing this lag. The moment the cast bar goes into this red area, you can hit the next action, and it will hit the server roughly when the previous action finishes:

Addons such as pitbull also contain this functionality, but I find Quartz the most useful out-the-box.

The result of this, once you get it right, is that you lose the gaps in your casting due to (from the server’s point of view), actions going off directly after each other.

The combination of the in-game lag tolerance and Quartz means you can imagine a further 400ms gap before the red Quartz bar, and you can hit a spell in that imaginary window instead. If you were to hit a spell 50ms into the 400ms window, you’ll be idle for 50ms. It’s not a train smash, but it is significant. However, as mentioned before, if you hit a spell in the lag tolerance window, it goes off immediately after a spell finishes, which results in zero downtime.

Missed interrupts:

Imagine a boss has a spell that will wipe your raid, with a 1 second timer. Someone’s reactions means they hit interrupt 700ms into the cast, and their 400ms lag means it goes off 1.1s after the spell started casting. They hit the button at the right time, but the interrupt failed due to it hitting too late.

This one is a constant pain for high lag raiders. Usually the solution is to find the melee DPS with the lowest ping (normally someone with an expensive ADSL account with 250-300ms), and put them in charge of interrupting said ability. Alternatively, spells such as Curse of Tongues also work wonders to slow cast times so they are actually interruptable. If a boss is immune to curse of tongues, you’re in big trouble.

Our biggest problem in this regard was Maloriak, whose abberations cast time was increased in a patch, and only after that was it easily interruptable by any raid member.

“I was out of it I swear”:

Thanks to high latency, things will hit you in raids that you were not standing in on your screen. The only way around this is to be literally one step ahead.If you have 400ms, think of where you were 0.4s ago. That’s where you still are as far as the server is concerned. We recently had a lot of trouble with this on Al’Akir, where someone would run into the gap in a squall line, and then would get pulled into a tornado halfway through the line (not even the one next to the gap). The explanation of course is the server thought they were somewhere else.

The only real way to get around this sort of thing is to stand in the right position a good second or two before you would normally need to, and let the effect pass you by, rather than running through it.

I’m not going to talk about tunneling (e.g. smoothping) services, as blizzard is in the habit of banning players who use these services, due to their source IP changing without warning (which blizzard identifies as them being hacked). I have friends reporting pings as low as 150ms on smoothping, but I can’t honestly recommend it until blizzard stops the random banning.

Ultimately, the lag is there to stay, and play styles are built around it if you insist on playing wow. As a result we struggle with raid content, can’t compete with low ping players in arena, and some raid content seems entirely out of reach. Until Blizzard decides to start putting localized servers in place to lower the distances involved, we have to accept that this is how things are going to be.

Posted in Druid - General, Voices From The Community

The worst graphics in the game

So, a couple days ago, Zarhym posted that warlocks would be getting male/female versions of their demon pets.

However, their demon pets aren’t the worst looking models in the game. No, I believe that druids still win for having the worst looking graphics. The winners for biggest losers are travel form & aquatic form.

Our travel form loses because it’s a placeholder graphic that is identical across all the races and is so boring and uninspired that it can be mistaken for some random NPC feline, and looks so much worse than the  cool updated graphics that hunters get for their pets. Blizzard originally called it a placeholder graphic, and then took back that statement saying it was intentional and permanent (because I think they didn’t want to put in the effort to actually update it).

Our aquatic form is so ugly that people had serious debates on the druid forums a long time ago about what it actually was, and team Seal, team Sea Lion, and team Manatee had epic forum battles. The one thing everyone agreed on was that the form was super ugly.

Seriously, when are we getting new graphics for these two super out-dated forms that weren’t even really good to begin with? We heard rumors from Blizzard that they were thinking of changing them for Cataclysm, but they didn’t get done before the Launch of Cataclysm. I’m hoping that Blizzard hasn’t forgotten about these two neglected graphics. These two druid graphics should definitely be in line for replacement before they start working on having multiple gendered options for the warlock demon pets. Until then, I’ll just be embarrassed every time I have to use these two forms. I actually hate looking at them so much that I almost don’t want to put the pictures in my post, but I need them for emphasis.

Please, Blizzard, replace these graphics ASAP! Let them be a priority in the art department please!

Posted in Cataclysm, Druid - General

Resource spotlight: Moonkin Repository’s recruitment forum

So, I do a lot of recruiting for my guild. I am also a moderator at The Moonkin Repository. Thus, I have been paying special attention to the recruitment forum on TMR.

In the last few months, I have seen a lot more guilds posting on TMR’s recruitment forum. The posts in TMR’s recruitment forum are usually posted guilds recruiting for raiding moonkin (with some resto openings). However, I don’t think that many moonkin/resto druids realize this resource is available. The forum has guilds from mostly US servers, but there have been some EU guilds using that forum, as well. There is a pretty good variety of playstyles & time zones listed in the various recruitment threads (with some guilds on normals and others on hard modes).

So, if you are a moonkin/resto druid looking for a new home, or if you are a guild looking for moonkin, then I suggest checking out the Moonkin Respository’s recruitment forum. It may help you find a good fit without having to wade through the sea of recruitment posts on the official WoW forums.

Also, if you are a moonkin, the Moonkin Repository is a great resource in general for learning about things like how to PvE or PvP effectively and how to gear your moonkin. The posters there are generally helpful and friendly while answering questions (and if they are not friendly or helpful, I get to ban hammer them. /evil laugh ). Feel free to make a new account there and get started by introducing yourself on the “member profiles” forum! It is a great way to talk to other moonkin and generally have a good time!

Posted in Moonkin Balance DPS

incentives for playing the game

So, when the new 5-man “call to arms” system was originally announced a few days ago, a lot of people got upset. Mostly, the upset people (at least on twitter) seemed to be DPS who couldn’t tank or heal. This leads me to believe that the “call to arms” will be a somewhat effective reward, since the rewards contained in the sachel are highly motivating (at least enough to upset people who can’t get it).

Add to this the more recent announcement that the rewards will be Bind on Account (BOA),  and you now have rewards that may drive people to play on their alt tank (to transfer rewards to their main) once their main no longer needs the gear from the instances (gear is still a stronger motivating reward than pets & mounts overall).

Blizzard uses incentives every day:

Video games are really designed using behavioral psychology principles, where people will work very hard for salient rewards even if they are rare. So, everything Blizzard does in designing WoW is to figure out what incentives they need to give us to play their game. These incentives come in the form of: gold, gear, tokens to redeem for gold & gear, vanity pets, mounts, experience that advances your character, etc. Then, they set up a guild system that allows you to bond socially with other people and thus you have player-created incentive systems to encourage their friends to keep playing (ie. why I like DKP point systems better than loot council or free-rolling for 25-man raiding).

Thus, giving the rewards to encourage people to play less-desired roles in 5-mans is actually a really awesome idea at a conceptual level. It should ideally have the result of increasing the number of people who sign up as tanks or healers. It makes me think more about wanting to level up my tanking alt so that I can tank for groups if needed. The entire point of BOA rewards is to get people to roll alts, or to play on their existing alts, to help bring down the queue times for the 5-man instances. In this regard, I think that Blizzard’s attempt at bringing incentives to playing less desired classes is a smart attempt to fix the problem, since Blizzard has never found other ways to fix the imbalance of roles (in raids, the social incentives work well for getting other players in your guild to change specs or roles, but that doesn’t work so well in a random dungeon world with no social rewards).

The problem Blizzard can’t solve:

Now, just because it’s an effective reward doesn’t mean it will make running random 5-mans more “fun”. The social rewards of playing the game with people we like and get along with is probably a stronger motivator than a low chance to get a mount. So, people who normally run with their guild have rewards that are more salient than the satchel (ie. they can just run the old instances with their friends for the mounts from their original drop locations in the first place).

These types of issues (and more) were brought up by R4HT’s blog post about why he didn’t think the LFD incentives would work. The problem is that Blizzard can’t add social motivating factors into the game (the “vote kick” system is really the closest proxy Blizzard could build, and it doesn’t seem to really have worked).

If people in the PUG groups keep being nasty to each other, then people will have a reason to want to avoid running those PUG 5-man instances. I’m not sure anyone can stop other players from being jerks, so long as those players aren’t actually doing things that blatantly break the rules. However, if we were all nicer to eachother in 5-man instances, and we changed the culture of the LFD system, then we could make those instances a better place for everyone involved. So, when you go into a 5-man instance, try to be nice to your tank & healer or other DPS players. Being mean to other people just makes the game less fun for everyone. Blizzard can’t change the social dynamic of instances, but we (as a playerbase) can make things more fun for ourselves.

When you go into a random instance, try starting with saying “hi everyone, nice to meet you,” like you would if you were meeting people for the first time in real life. A little kindness can go a long way in improving everyone’s day.

Posted in Druid - General, patch 4.1, Patches

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