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Did ZA and ZG miss the mark?

One of the things about 5-man content in the time of WotLK is that it was largely accessible to anyone. Any of the 5-man content could easily be PUG’d except for one of the ICC 5-man instances in the last tier of content, and most of them could be finished in somewhere between 20 minutes and an hour at most. A lot of the raiding content was difficult, but people who didn’t want to be doing end-game hard-mode progression still had an option of running new 5-mans during the content release (and they didn’t need raid gear to clear 5-mans).

Right now, with the ZA and ZG heroics, people are reporting that they are spending 2 or 3 hours in the instance trying to clear them, and PUGs are really hit-or-miss in terms of whether you complete it or give up at the first boss. After taking a peak at the content, I’m pretty sure they missed the mark on what ZA & ZG were supposed to be. ZA and ZG should be content where average players are still capable of running it, even if they don’t have full raid gear epics.

I am okay with raid content being hard and somewhat exclusive. I’m perfectly  happy to have raiding content be long and grueling (I spent like 6 hours one day raiding a single instance in LOTRO a couple weeks ago). However, I’m not really okay with 5-man content feeling long and grueling. Even if it’s “hard”, it should be relatively fast to clear. Both ZA & ZG have too much trash, since they also have a lot of bosses. The target should be for people to be able to get done in an hour or less for 5-man dungeons. Any 5-man taking longer than an hour (unless you are wiping repeatedly) is too long for people. A 5-man version of a raid we used to run shouldn’t really feel like running a raid, it should feel like a fun 5-man where you can just calmly hang out with your friends for a quick trip down memory lane.

The new random PUG dungeon finder tool should go along with a set of dungeons that can actually be done by people who PUG 5-mans on limited time schedules because the 5-man content should be end-game content targeted at people who can’t raid. People who don’t raid want to be able to go in and not have to commit a 3 hour time block to clear content. Even people who raid really want short things they can do in the ~hour or two they may have free before/after the raid. Instead, the ZG and ZA instances are huge time-sinks that I haven’t even been able to run due to my schedule not allowing for setting aside 3 or so hours on either a raid night or a non-raid night.

I like my raids long and epic-feeling BUT I like my 5-mans fast and straightforward to give me a fun break from the grueling raiding end-game process. ZA and ZG just don’t feel fun because they’re just so long. :(

Posted in Cataclysm, patch 4.1, Patches

Happy 4.1 patch day!

Okay, so I spent this morning working on getting my healing guide ready for patch day.

The 4.1  updated healing guide can be found here.

Information on talent specs in 4.1:

Major Changes in 4.1:

  • Living seed was unlinked from Efflorsescence, allowing you to move those 3 points wherever you want.
  • Tranquility’s cooldown was reduced through Malfurion’s Gift (so, Tranquility has a 3 min cooldown after talents).
  • Efflorescence’s healing effect got changed so that now it’s a smart heal that scales with haste. It will target the lowest 3 players and heal them for a decent sized chunk of health. This is a much better design and should heal for more overall than the old version. The change to efflorescence is a BUFF, and you should now pick up this talent for ANY resto druid spec.
  • I wrote a more complete set of changes in a previous post you can read here.
  • Rank 4 HT’s blog has another list of resto changes here.

I hope you have a good patch day!

Posted in patch 4.1, Patches, Restoration Healing Trees

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

A look at all the resto 4.1 changes

Since the patch for 4.1 has now been on the PTR for a month, that means it is possible it could go live at any time from this point. With their goal of having more “frequent” patches, this also means we need shorter PTR cycles. I’m going to start preparing now for the 4.1 patch, especially since I’m going to be out of town most of next week for a psychology research conference.

So, lets look at the overall set of resto changes for 4.1 & what they mean:

  • Cyclone was reduced from 6 to 5 seconds in the official patch notes, but mmo-champion is reporting this reversed back to 6 in their latest datamined set of notes. So, cyclone may or may not have been changed.
  • Lifebloom’s bloom has been reduced by 20% (note: no change to the mana cost). This will be a minor bummer for people who let their LB bloom often, but it should still be pretty strong.
  • You no longer need to use barkskin before tranquility, since tranquility will innately have pushback protection (meaning that getting hit with melee & spell attacks won’t shorten the duration).
  • Malfurion’s Gift talent: now reduces the cooldown on tranquility by 5 minutes at 2 ranks. This means that you will get to pop tranquility every 3 minutes (so, likely twice per fight).
  • Efflorescence has been changed. It is now smarter, and will heal the 3 most wounded players standing in the healing circle. It also now scales with haste. The benefit of the new version is that it will do substantial amounts of healing to wounded players, rather than wasting most of the heal by dividing it by up to 25 people. While the tooltip change is slightly confusing, the talent heals more than before, and heals more meaningfully than before. It will feel less wasted when used on a tank, and it will still do decent healing as an AOE heal.
  • Living seed has also been unlinked from Efflorescence, giving you more options & choice in making your talent builds. In some cases, tank healing resto druids will want to keep 1 or 2 points in living seed, and in other cases, you may skip it in favor of other healing talents (not that your other options are much better, however, as several of the lower tiered talents have very small/negligible effects on your overall healing).

The newest addition to our round of changes comes to Nature’s Swiftness, which needs further discussion below:

Nature’s Swiftness may be getting buffed. It is showing up in mmo-champion’s unofficial patch notes and WoWhead’s latest PTR info. The change would make Nature’s Swiftness increase the size of the heal by 50%, meaning that when you paired NS with Healing Touch, you’d get an even bigger HT. While this isn’t as helpful as a damage reduction attached to it, the change makes NS slightly more useful, and makes the talent slightly better (but still not “required”). While it won’t look great in your HPS according to WoL, sometimes that extra instant boost to save a tank may be worth investing in (because your job as a tank healer is to keep the tank alive, not to top meters).

If you are often assigned to tank healing, then I would recommend that you pick up the 4.1 version of Nature’s Swiftness along with the Healing Touch glyph. With the glyph, your healing touches on the tank will reduce the cooldown on nature’s swiftness and amplify the effects of this buff on keeping your tank alive. In this case, you would keep the rebirth glyph and then either drop the innervate or WG glyph from your set (drop innervate glyph if you only innervate yourself, or drop WG glyph if you do trade innervates). You may be able to shave a minute (or more!) off the NS cooldown timer with a normal tank healing rotation (given that you can’t just spam HT the whole fight). I wouldn’t recommend the HT glyph for people who AOE/raid healing primarily, since you may not cast enough HT for the glyph to be worth it compared to the benefits you get from the other glyphs.

Posted in patch 4.1, Patches, Restoration Healing Trees

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