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Happy 6.2 patch day for druids and mages

The 6.2 patch is hitting the servers this week, with a new raid, a new questing zone, and various class changes. With playing both a druid and a mage, I’ll cover a couple things for resto and balance druids, with a bonus “what should I be?” for mages.

General updates:

Resto druid updates:

  • The good news for resto druids is that you didn’t change very much this patch. So, healing should be very similar in 6.2 compared to today. Overall, resto druids are solid in terms of healing toolset and output.
  • Note, however, that hunters’ aspect of the fox went away and can’t be paired with tranquility anymore (so, no more Tranq on the move).
  • The Tier 18 set bonuses buff your Lifebloom. The 2-piece makes your lifebloom HOT have a chance to proc a big burst ‘bloom’ periodically, and the 4-piece allows you to put lifebloom on both of your tanks. This should help make you more competitive as a tank healer, though the lifebloom ‘bloom’ procs are totally random and risk overhealing.
  • The legendary healing ring comes with a group buff you have to be aware of. When one person activates the ring, it increases all healing being done and causes all raid members to share a shield blanket that absorbs damage for the amount that people heal for. So, this basically becomes a very powerful AOE heal for all raid members that needs to be timed in progression fights – BUT only one person can use it a fight (e.g., like heroism). In LFR, expect random people to pop it at the wrong time – because that’s just how LFR rolls.
  • The druid trinket from Archimonde (seed of creation) allows druid rejuv & lifebloom heals to sometimes ‘cleave’ to heal a second person.
  • Other than those minor things to be aware of, you can mostly continue on doing what you were doing. Druids are still fine for healing overall (not the best persay, but certainly good enough to bring to raids).

Balance druid updates:

  • All the major changes to balance druids shouldn’t impact your rotation. They just did fixes to make gear scaling work better, which has always been a problem for balance druids and a few other classes.
  • The balance Tier 18 set bonuses don’t change your rotation or healing style. You have a chance to gain a temporary damage-dealing pet (2-piece) and that pet increases your damage (4-piece), similar to some of the other set bonuses.
  • The damage legendary ring group bonus will be something moonkin won’t actually hit the button for, as the person who uses it should be in melee range. You do, however, get a damage bonus when one of your melee uses the legendary ring effect. If you want to use it at the start of the fight in LFR, you are welcome to run in and pop it in melee range (but I can pretty much guarantee you that if anyone else has it, they’re doing the same thing).
  • The trinket has a chance for starsurge to also cast a starfall effect. So, you should use this in guiding whether you glyph starfall (untamed stars) or not (e.g., do you want starfall to hit one thing or many things?). The glyph may be swapped out between fights as necessary.

Mage updates:

The changes to mages mean that mages have to make more substantial decisions than druids do in the patch – namely, which of the 3 specs should they be? As always, gearing and skill are going to impact how much damage you do. So, changing specs isn’t guaranteed to be a damage increase for you and will require practice time to perfect rotations (plus you have to change your gear/enchants/gems/food).

  • The ‘right’ answer of “what mage spec should I be for Mythic HFC?” is “arcane for single-target plus either frost or fire for cleave/AOE fights, depending on where you are in progression”. If you never intend to do Mythic HFC, then frost actually becomes a much more viable choice (see below).
  • They did some pretty major buffs to frost mages in 6.2, since frost was having a hard time keeping up as the other specs got more gear. Thus, while I had dropped my frost spec entirely for the end of BRF progression (in favor of fire for all the AOE fights), frost is now more viable for HFC raids; particularly if you are working on fights where you can cleave to two or more targets. Frost is going to suffer from scaling problems (and there is a risk that some future bug fixes might substantially nerf frost damage again); so frost is really only an optimal choice for normal/heroic raiders who want one good spec they can use for all the fights without having to swap between two specs. TLDR: Frost wins if you want one well-rounded spec, particularly for normal/heroic HFC.
  • Arcane is by far the best single-target fight but suffers from basically a complete lack of notable cleave/AOE damage compared to the other two options. So, if what you really care about is being the best single-target damage dealer you can be, then arcane is the best choice. Note that the stat priority changes for the Tier 18 arcane and makes haste more powerful when you have the pet that doesn’t scale with your mastery (See the altered time post). Basically, if you go arcane – mastery is better than haste until you have the 2-piece set bonus for Tier 18. After that, you want to spec for haste over mastery. TLDR: Arcane is good single-target and weak AOE.
  • Fire is by far the best at AOE compared to the other specs; this is what made fire so powerful in all the AOE fights the last raid tier. Fire is less helpful in HFC because there are fewer good AOE/cleave fights where fire was really ahead on the PTR and the changes that end up nerfing fire damage leave fire behind on single-target quite significantly (enough to make fire single-target outright bad on any of the simcraft data). If you don’t ever intend to do mythic, then you could probably get away with staying fire for normal or heroic, but even in lower gear levels, your single-target will likely leave something to be desired unless you have lucky crits that boost your damage. TLDR: Fire is weak single-target and good AOE.
  • There is a larger FAQ for mages over at the Altered Time forums covering all other important things you should know.

TLDR: Balance and resto druids are fine enough for now – you didn’t get redesigned this patch (YAY!). Mages have to drop fire for any single-target fights and go arcane (or frost) instead.

Posted in Druid - General, Mage, Moonkin Balance DPS, Patch 6.2, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna

Breaking the echo-chamber: usability and data driven design

One thing that game companies have a lot of is data. They record tons of ‘big’ data using their various analytics. However, this only tells the company what people have done (where did they go? What did they click on? How often do they log in? How much money are we making?). This big analytics data says nothing about how people feel (Why did they do something? Did they enjoy what they did? What changes would make people happier?). The use of usability testing to generate data can help break up echo-chambers that are likely to form within companies or within feedback forums.

To understand the motivation of players and to understand the ‘why’ in player behavior, game companies need to do actual psychology testing of their game via surveys and lab testing. The New York Times recently ran an article on the importance of “small” data (titled “How not to drown in numbers”). In it, the article highlights the fact that Facebook not only measures clicks, but asks people “why?” via surveys.

With regards to video game companies, one that has been very successful in using ‘small’ data is Riot Games, who produce League of Legends. Part of the success driven by League of Legends comes from maximizing enjoyment via using user data to decide how to make future changes in the game. They pilot potential future game content with the help of psychologists. The most obvious use of data by Riot is their player behavior team that has significantly reduced negative player behavior in the game, which they continue to develop today. Their older GDC talk about how their ‘small’ data collection improved the game can be found here. Riot’s data collection taught us that it was possible to reduce negative player behavior, even if it wasn’t possible to completely eliminate negative behavior.

The interesting part of Riot is that they extended this value of data collection into every aspect of the game’s design. This includes surveys about the amount of money people were willing to pay for services, such as new skins (or what types of new skins players would want). If something appears in the game, it is likely a combination of designer’s ideas and people who tested the potential impacts of those ideas before they were implemented.

Riot’s approach differs significantly from companies who design primarily based on their own developer’s guts with little or no integration of surveys or other usability data. Usability testing can help to see whether or not people are having fun. There is no way to measure fun other than to actually interact with users via usability testing  (whether survey-based or observation of players). The best design is user-centered design, rather than trusting that other people will use a product in the way that designers intend. Design needs to care about usability and player experiences. For people interested in usability testing, Carol Barnum has a book titled “Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set… Test!” there are also plenty of other resources to learn about how to measure player behavior and enjoyment.

Regardless of the methods, ignoring the experiences of players can result in designing without knowing what users will do in the future, or how players feel.  While it is unlikely that any designer can make everyone happy all the time, understanding players’ thoughts, motivations, and goals can improve the design of games. User testing allows for understanding how people will react to things that are not yet released out in the wild. While tools like feedback forums are helpful, the use of actual targeted user testing and survey data gives much better samples and avoids the echo-chamber problem that can happen inside offices or discussion forums. Frustrating players by making them feel like their thoughts and feelings don’t matter ends up hurting companies. Interacting with users via actual experiments and surveys can help to make sure that data being used to inform game design in meaningful ways. In the rise of big data via analytics after the game’s release, we can’t forget the importance of measuring whether or not people are having fun now, or could be having MORE fun in the future. A little psychology driving user experience testing can go a long way in improving game design. I just wish more game companies invested in psychologists as a core part of their design teams.

Posted in Research on video games, Written By Lissanna

New 6.2 patch news!

Blizzard put the patch 6.2 content on the PTR last night. Thus, the WOW community has now had some time to digest the patch notes and the datamined content. There are a couple key points worth highlighting early on that aren’t necessarily as easy to see from the quest notes and datamined info.

The 6.2 patch has a ton of content. Following a small content patch in 6.1, all of the new real patch content for the entire expansion is being released all at once. They are opening an entire new end-game content zone (Tanaan Jungle), a raid dungeon, small 5-man group content, and the last legendary ring quests. It should be a really great and entertaining patch with something for everyone. This will be a huge patch with tons of things to do right when the patch launches. However, as this includes the end of the legendary ring quests, this is likely to be the last real raid tier of the expansion as predicted. It may be possible to see a 6.3 patch, but it looks much more like they put all their eggs in the 6.2 patch basket. This expansion feels more like two mini expansions rolled into one, rather than having content spread out over time across different patches.

Tanaan Jungle’s description pretty much guarantees that flying won’t come back. They have highlighted the content being more ‘open world’ questing, treasure puzzles, and rare spawns. This design is similar to the Timeless Isle except for one thing – Tanaan Jungle is a giant zone in the middle of the map. So, if you can’t fly in Tanaan Jungle, you can’t fly anywhere else, either. Tanaan Jungle is also going to be content that is gated by the garrison interactions, in that you can only unlock the TJ content if you have a level 3 garrison and construct your shipyard. So, if you love jumping puzzles in WOD so far and loved the Timeless Isle, I can pretty much guarantee you that you will love Tanaan Jungle. This also comes with a new batch of daily quests, so perhaps we can get a little more out of Tanaan Jungle than we did out of the Timeless Isle in terms of reasons to keep returning over time. If those things aren’t your cup of tea, I’m sure there will be plenty of garrison missions to help keep you entertained. The garrison will come with more follower missions, including being able to build ships and send ships out into battle.

Blizzard’s design team is removing more class-related utility. The patch notes come with the removal of two raid buffs: Hunters are losing aspect of the fox, and mages are losing amplify magic. These two raid buffs weren’t huge, but the mage’s amplify magic spell was a brand new spell we’ve only had for a couple months in the first place.

Will the legendary ring procs may provide much more significant raid utility? Shortly after posting about the legendary ring procs, the @warcraftdevs twitter posted that the datamined legendary ring procs were outdated. So, it’s possible that the internal testing hasn’t shown the bouncing raid utility buffs to be a good idea. This isn’t really surprising, but I’ll withhold judgement until we see the final procs. I would still expect to see multiple versions of the ring procs across beta if they are trying to do something other than just provide traditional bonuses.

Look at this pretty birdThere will be a lot more info coming in the next few months. However, the recolored dread raven bird mount that comes as the raid achievement reward next patch is really pretty. There are other fun toys & mounts coming next patch for all the collectors. There is plenty of stuff to look forward to in the next patch. Keep in mind that everything is subject to change this early in a patch cycle.

MMO-champion datamined picture of the dread raven bird mount.

Posted in Patch 6.2, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Lissanna
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Druid Selfies and outdated forms

The 6.1 patch came with a new Selfie camera, that allows you to take close-up pictures of your face. This is great for the new races that got face upgrades recently in Warlords. This Selfie camera does not work quite so well with some of the druid forms. Particularly problematic are the stumpy tree form arms that make the camera zoom close into your terrifying face. resto tree selfieMoonkin, instead, appear to have an invisible ‘selfie stick’ that allows the camera to zoom farther from your face. This mostly just hides the fact that moonkin doesn’t look so great close-up either. The camera still reminds me of why moonkin needs a new updated model. If moonkin looked better, I might consider playing moonkin more often. Buff moonkin shapeshift graphics, please! 🙂

Moonkin Selfie

You still, however, can take some pretty nice pictures with this new selfie camera even as a druid (even if you aren’t quite sure who is holding the camera, anyway).

WoWScrnShot_032315_204141

Posted in Druid - General, Written By Lissanna
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