Wildstar and World of Warcraft are both introducing “housing” systems into their content. Warcraft just released a post about how their garrisons will work. I wanted to take a minute to talk about how Warcraft isn’t actually introducing player “housing” into the game. Instead, the garrison feature is a military base. While I am more likely to stick with WOW due to my long-term investment, and I have issues with other aspects of Wildstar that make it less appealing to me, the one thing I do like is the Wildstar housing system. In that respect, Wildstar delivers a more traditional take on building your own aesthetic house. Blizzard, on the other hand, is allowing us to have some amount of choice in building our military base, but that choice is still largely limited compared to Wildstar’s full customization of your own plot of land.
- Starting from low levels (around level 14), you can build and customize your own house. You gain materials and items for your house from the early leveling experience thru max level.
- If you want to build a house in a tree, you can have your very own treehouse.
- There is a wide variety of enhancements for the decor, so that your house won’t likely look like someone else’s house. There are, however, general themes in terms of being related to various races, for example. So, houses will likely share some features with other houses, especially early in the content release.
- Want to build your own bar? Sure, not a problem!
- You can even customize the color of the sky if you really want. The important part is that your own house will feel unique because it’s unlikely that anyone else will have built the exact same thing. In this respect, you build a cosmetic house that serves the purpose of driving intrinsic motivation related to finding new treasures you can use to personalize your home.
- You want guild housing? Well, you might actually get to decorate a house with your guild members, and hang your raid boss’ heads in a communal space.
World of Warcraft Garrisons
- Starting at level 90, building a garrison is integrated into the leveling experience from 90 to 100.
- In the various zones, you will be given options to choose from specific pre-fab buildings. There are three levels of each building, with the stables (for example), getting bigger and fancier as you level them up.
- You can’t currently customize the look of any of the buildings. If you have a stables at level 3, it looks just like everyone else’s stables at level 3.
- As you level, you will be prompted to pick 1 of 2 buildings that impacts your leveling experience in a particular zone (though recipes are available later on to pick up those buildings you skipped, if you change your mind!). This might be neat the second time you play an alt in the zones, since your building choices will impact your questing experiences – perhaps your alt will choose all the opposite buildings in every zone.
- While completing the quests that give you access to building types is incredibly important for the leveling process if you want access to garrisons, you can also potentially skip this process and buy blueprints instead, meaning that on your 4th alt, you can still avoid the feeling of “chores”.
- A focus of your garrison is on the people that inhabit your base, not on actually building and customizing the base. You will send your garrisons on missions, and you will basically serve as the commander to this army that you accumulate as you strengthen your base. They may make your world feel more populated, but your garrison won’t be your own personal retreat to hide from the world. While your base will feel populated, they won’t be populated with your guild members, since there is no guild housing.
- These followers and rewards include content related to the extrinsic rewards of gaining access to crafting materials and bonuses that enhance your solo questing experiences. While garrisons may be fun, the point is to get things you need for completing other content. So, your crafting needs may shape some of the decisions you make related to your building plots.
- A benefit of the garrisons is that there will likely be a great deal of content tied to this system, allowing for more solo play related to trying to defeat the Iron Horde.
- Your final garrison can have up to 10 of the 21 buildings, meaning that most people will have roughly half of the available options once their garrison is complete. Thus, while you and your friend may have different choices you made along the way, the general aesthetics across a couple dozen garrisons (of the same faction) may have a really similar look and feel. You get to customize your garrison, but only to a certain point.
So, in the end, World of Warcraft isn’t really introducing housing, in the traditional sense. Instead, they are introducing military bases that allow you to have some form of customization. The garrison system is going to probably be a fun system; but if you want to build a house, you may have to look elsewhere. Maybe I can still keep my Lord of the Rings Online house for a while longer to have my own sense of home.
My hope is that they may eventually introduce more hooks for aesthetic customization in the World of Warcraft garrisons. Until then, I’ll enjoy building my military base, and wishing I could change the color of the wallpaper.
Post on optimum number of buttons in a rotation & review some classes.
With news of the stat squish, reducing our insane number inflation back down to something more reasonable, there is another area of reduction that needs attention. This area is in the inflation of the number of abilities each class has access to and uses on a regular basis. As Lore pointed out on the forums, it could be easy to remove buttons people never use, but the bigger problem is in the number of buttons people DO use.
While some people are worried that reducing the number of buttons will increase homogenization, I actually think it would do the opposite. Due to 10-man raiding for high-end content, we have increased the number of buttons so that 10-man raiders wouldn’t be missing any necessary tools to defeat the encounter. You had to defeat the hardest content in the game with only 2 healers present (meaning that every healer had to bring every tool, or they would risk getting benched). In thinking about the “ability squish”, the nature of Mythic 20-man raiding means that you can require one of each of the 11 classes to be present for optimal raiding, and can balance the game around the idea that you would have around 5 healers likely to be present in the raid. While requiring a “frost mage” or “resto druid” specifically could be problematic, abilities available to all classes allow for more unique flavor if an ability is taken away from some of the classes that had to bring the abilities just for the 10-man content. To get more unique flavor, while having fewer overall buttons, it may be time to remove some places of redundancy.
How should ability bloat be managed? By removing unused abilities and reducing the number of redundant abilities (if two buttons do basically the same thing, one should just be removed and the other potentially improved to compensate if needed). Below are some examples of potential areas by which redundancy and unused abilities can be identified for potential removal/consolidation. While I use specific examples from druids and mages (the classes I am familiar with),
- Remove buttons that are not used by your specialization: While healers still need to be able to do damage to things, and damage dealers still need healing/survivability tools, there is really no reason for a frost mage to have fire mage spells, or vice-versa. We could actually reduce homogenization by taking away more of the unnecessary and potentially redundant off-spec abilities from the main spec of a class. For druids, while having the ability to use moonfire in feral forms could be interesting (with the new level 100 talent), that is likely just going to increase the ability bloat without being a useful or necessary tool in the first place. Removing more unnecessary buttons in terms of reducing off-spec buttons would actually help to keep button bloat from getting out of control, and this is especially true for pure-DPS classes where these tools increase redundancy and confusion without increasing effectiveness or fun. Now that we have gotten used to the idea of split tool sets, the hard decisions of splitting more tools and increasing the unique set of abilities available to each specialization within a class absolutely needs to be done.
- Combine mechanics that are redundant with other mechanics – There are some things that actually should be “homogenized” in terms of having two things that function the same having different names and category labels for no real good reason. An example of how this has worked well in the past is putting multiple cleanse mechanics into one dispel button (instead of one button for removing poisons and another for curses). Another example in the current expansion, Soothe is still not consolidated with other dispel mechanics. In terms of what soothe does, it seems to dispel some (but not all!) enrage effects (what’s an enrage again?). In the end, enrage is really just another name for a type of “buff that increases your damage”, and there are also lots of other different classifications of “buff that increases your damage” and so it should share the same classifications and rules of game-play as other mechanics as other buffs that increase your damage. I’d suggest removing spells like Soothe and instead changing current enrage effects to either be dispelled by other class dispels or balanced around not being dispelled. Make all boss enrages either not dispelled or magic effects. The dispels for enrage effects are an under-utilized feature in PVE (I can count on one hand the number of raid encounters where soothe was useful in the last 9 years of the game), and an obtuse and confusing mechanic in PVP. The “enrage” warrior damage increase ability and mechanics could still be called enrage in terms of the name (the way that Eclipse is the name of a moonkin buff that increases damage), but “enrage” effects that are dispelled in PVE (or even in PVP) by things like Soothe could be changed to a different classification of spell mechanics – such as magic, or just not be able to be dispelled at all. At this point, I’m not sure that Soothe even removes warrior enrage in the first place (because enrage mechanics in terms of whether dispels work or not are so poorly defined that druids can’t actually agree on what soothe does at all). Removing things like “enrage” as a spell category with its own set of dispel mechanics could allow for consolidating buttons by eliminating the need for Soothe. While warriors need a buff that increases their damage, it doesn’t have to be its own special “enrage” magic type that is set apart from other mechanics that function exactly the same (that is really just a damage buff mechanic by another name). In fact, not being able to dispel enrage-type mechanics at all would make it easier to balance what enrage mechanics do in PVP and PVE alike. There is no reason for druids to have one button that specifically dispels enrages from enemy targets and another button that cleanses magic, poison, and curses from friendly targets. Just like combining the button that dispelled different debuff categories from friendly players, Soothe is a button that doesn’t need to clog up druid bars.
- Put the breaks on healing button wars - Now that we can balance around 20-man mythic, healers need fewer buttons that are tailored around two types of healing rotations: a set of buttons for single-target and a set of buttons for AOE healing. There is no need for three single-target direct heals that are both redundant with the other healing spells, but also are the exact same for each healing class (the original “triad” model). Instead, each class should have the single-target heals that makes the most sense and are the least redundant with their class-specific tools. For druids, removing Nourish is an obvious candidate. In terms of AOE heals, the emphasis should be on making sure that all classes have an AOE healing toolset, but that the number of actual buttons they use for AOE healing doesn’t balloon out of hand (especially since raiders are likely to use both single-target and AOE heals in raids). In some places, redundancy should be reduced to increase the unique feeling of classes, even if that means we have to give up some tools we’re used to having (but with an emphasis on removing buttons we hardly ever actually use, or contribute very little to our overall healing). If a healing spell only contributes to 5% (or less) of your total healing being done across an entire expansion, is that spell still important to have access to? The number of buttons that healers are using inside and outside of raids should be examined and should be reduced. The emphasis should be placed on reducing redundancy in healing toolkits – and undoing some of the damage caused by the 10 vs 25-man healing split.
- Reduce redundancy and increase uniqueness of single-target damage rotations: Bring damage rotation buttons back under control. Reduce number of damage cooldown abilities for each class (especially redundant things that people could macro together if they were on the same cooldown). For example, do we have too much damage from all classes coming from DOT/bleed effects? How many simultaneous DOTs/Debuffs does each class need? Are there places (similar to removing insect swarm for moonkin) where removing abilities could make the rotation feel better? While there is a core set of roles that have to be filled by a rotation, there can be complexity without the need to constantly watch 10 different timers in some cases. At this point, we have mistaken overloading memory and attention capacities as the primary criteria by which we evaluate “interesting” damage rotations. A rotation with 4 buttons could potentially be even more fun and interesting than something with 20 buttons – in this case, more is really not always better.
- Reduce redundancy and increase clarity of intended AOE damage rotations: With my frost mage, when multiple targets are available, I have too many possible tools that I could use to deal with those targets, leading to more confusion than fun. If there was a more clearly defined AOE strategy (rather than 10 different possible damage spells that do damage to more than 1 target), frost mages might have an easier time dealing with AOE damage. You need a spreadsheet to tell you the maximum efficiency of the damage use between: DOT/bomb (the 3 possible bomb talents you can choose before the fight), Ice Lance cleave to spread mastery damage (likely used during a DOT-cleave strategy), frost nova (Does AOE damage and freezes them in place, on a cooldown), cone of cold (does damage and slows them, on a cooldown), Blizzard (is channeled, with a slow), frozen orb (on a 1 min cooldown), arcane explosion (stand in melee and spam the instant button), and flame strike (a cast time spell to place a damage circle on the ground that ticks over time). These 10 total abilities are all incredibly redundant and you can’t use all three at the same time. Instead, the muddiness and confusion of the AOE tools means that a DOT/bomb + cleave strategy almost always ends up working out the best, with not actually using the tools we should use for AOE. In a raiding situation, I’m only likely to use 3 to 4 of these 10 possible buttons (but, all 10 buttons take up space on my bars!). So, having all of these abilities in their overlap of roles is actually more harmful than good. What is the point, for example, of a frost mage having flame strike, blizzard, and arcane explosion? Instead of three super redundant abilities, if we just had 1 of these that was clearly defined in an AOE rotation, we could actually be better balanced in our AOE damage and have a more unique feeling AOE rotation between each mage specialization. So, if Blizzard was uniquely available to frost (and frost didn’t have either arcane blast or flame strike), and was designed to fit more intuitively within the frost mage PVE rotation (potentially channeled for a shorter period of time and worked with the frost mastery or the 8 other abilities I listed above), that could allow for frost’s AOE rotation to feel more unique vs. fire or arcane (and frost mages would still have 8 total DOT/AOE/cleave abilities even if they lost two of the 10!).
- Reduce redundancy in damage/healing/tanking cooldowns: While moonkin needed one additional damage increasing cooldown (or some way to control Eclipse better) to allow for controlling their damage output, in MOP, they were actually given up to 4 new buttons for managing damage output (up to two thru talents and two given baseline), which contributed to some redundancy and bloat in the toolset. This largely just brought moonkin in line with the cooldown wars that other classes had been participating in for a long time (because when everyone else has tons of cooldowns, moonkin needed them, too). As a frost mage, I have 4 cooldown buttons I hit to increase my damage: frozen orb, mirror images, alter time, & icy veins. Alter time is actually an ability I could live without ever using as a DPS increasing talent. While it was originally designed to add some fun utility, due to this spell’s interaction with buffs that increase our damage, this is used only as a DPS increase in raiding situations (with a huge drawback of randomly placing you in fire puddles of death). I could live without time warp and be perfectly happy with the four other abilities that increase my burst damage potential. Most frost mages actually just use mirror images, alter time, and icy veins all at the same time, so while mages would complain at the idea of losing any of them, the area of cooldown management is still an area for most classes where there is a huge amount of redundancy in the cooldown buffs we use. In general, the buffs that should be removed are ones that provide either the least amount of unique flavor, or provide the most drawbacks (in the case of alter time sometimes killing me in fires or removing heroism from me when someone else casts it at an inconvenient time) where the buff is also a huge trap that inexperienced players will have problems with.
- Make more PVP tools not be useable in PVE (and vice versa), with better UI marking/labeling and tools for management that reduce the number of things we put on our bars: The PVP vs PVE ability wars actually end up with over-complicated PVP and PVE situations. Things like excluding long cooldowns from PVP was one area of allowing for separation in toolsets. In addition, sometimes bosses are immune to PVP mechanics. However, there are not clear markings on the abilities themselves that designate PVP vs PVE settings on the tools, and as such, we tend to clutter up our bars with both sets of tools, even when the tool on your bar isn’t going to work in the content you are currently in. In addition, with some outdoor bosses making outdoor-only tools magically become available, or some bosses that happen to NOT be immune to the PVP mechanic tool, this “set of abilities I can’t use here, but I might use somewhere, at some point” turns into ability bloat on our bars. Even with mods that help us manage our bars, the pvp vs pve toolset becomes confusing and contributes to bar bloat. Inconsistency amongst where tools may or may not be useful leads to people throwing anything from their spell book into a bar somewhere that they can reach in the 1% chance it might be useful at some point.
While I have put in some specific examples above, this is not a complete list of what tools might be removed (especially when some abilities are contingent on other class’ abilities). However, there is still a great deal of redundancy and unnecessary confusion built into the current toolsets for each class that could be fixed to improve the unique fun and feeling of each class.
The latest World of Warcraft patch brought with it a new raid size – Flex raiding. With two wings of the four total wings available in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid, I thought I would talk about some of the benefits for Flex raiding.
- Variable group size. If you have 20 people on to run a weekend Flex raid, you can hop into a raid and not have to pick up 5 unknown people to form a 25-man raid. If you have 11 people, you don’t have to sit one out to form up a 10-man raid. Instead, you can run with any number of people between 10 and 25. This lowers the administrative and organizational burden. If you have 15 people online, you can hop into a raid – assuming that you have the right group makeup with tanks, DPS, and healers.
- People can join & leave freely. When we would do organized LFR runs, if someone showed up 10 minutes after you started, they couldn’t join the raid. In LFR, you couldn’t swap people out between bosses. In LFR, you couldn’t replace a bad PUG with a great friend. With the new Flex runs, you can do all three! If you start the raid with 10 people, you can still end the raid night with 25 (or any amount in between). We frequently have people show up late to our Flex raids and it doesn’t cause nearly the same headache that we experienced the last few expansions without Flex raids.
- Individual loot system. An administrative burden for normal & heroic raids is the need to have some way to ensure that loot is fairly distributed. In 25-man normal/heroics, we run with an addon that tracks points (EPGP). However, for the Flex nights, we don’t have to worry about distributing loot, as the use of the LFR individual loot system reduces the possibility for fighting or loot drama in the more relaxed atmosphere.
- Allows for organization. Unlike LFR with strangers, you can force the raiders running Flex to be prepared for raiding. You get to choose the members of your raid team.
- Wings mean you can skip more bosses. A difficult problem with having 13 or 14 bosses in a normal/heroic raid is that you often have to do 12 bosses to work on the 13th. In most cases, this means that normal/heroic raids require significant time commitments to clear the earlier bosses and unlock the later progression bosses.Having only 3 to 4 bosses in a Flex or LFR wing means that you can skip the first wing if you just want to do the second – or you can skip the first three and start on the last wing (once they are all open).
- Raid with your friends. A benefit of being cross-server is that you can raid with your friends. We can bring along social guild members, battle-tag or Real-ID friends along for the fun. Our guild does a Monday night alt Flex raid where I have been able to raid on my druid for the first time this expansion, as alt LFR raids weren’t very satisfying for my raiding guild.
- Raid with strangers. If you don’t have an organized flex raid with friends, you can still organize groups of strangers using tools such as Open Raid. If you can’t plan in advance, you can also use an addon called OQueue to find a group in-game. Other communities such as Twitterland Raiding have been used for people to organize cross-realm raid groups.
Taken together, what does this all mean? Well, for one – there will be fewer organized LFR runs. Most of the organized groups will be better off hitting Flex raids (meaning you won’t be lucky and happen into the rare spots in the organized LFR runs when you do run LFR). I believe that Flex will be a very popular raid size for small casual guilds or for cross-realm groups of friends that were formed to run LFR groups together, with fewer drawbacks of having to pick up random LFR people. Either way, it encourages some consistency in raiding with friends, without being super rigid the way that normal & heroic raiding is. One thing I can say for certain is that I am really enjoying Flex raiding on my druid.
Note: A more up to date version of this guide can be found at: http://www.restokin.com/hearthstone-druid-guide/
Hearthstone is a really engaging new game. While I have some concerns about the current beta systems (especially with regards to quests and rewards), I am pretty confident that this game will be a lot of fun when it goes live. However, as this will be the first card game that many current or past WOW player might play, I thought it would be helpful to pull together some basics that will be helpful for everyone, and then go into more specifics with regards to thinking about how to put together a good starter druid deck before you have access to a lot of the more rare cards.
New player resources for Hearthstone:
There are several types of cards available as druid class cards:
- Spell damage cards: Moonfire, starfire, starfall, swipe, and wrath
- Minion cards: druid of the claw, ancient of lore, keeper of the grove, ironbark protector, ancient of war, cenarius, force of nature
- Cards that buff minions: Mark of the wild, power of the wild, savage roar, Mark of nature, soul of the forest,
- Cards that buff your hero: Claw, savagery, bite, healing touch (heals your hero),
- Mana increasing cards: Innervate, Wild growth, Nourish
- Remove opponent minions: Naturalize (note that wrath and starfall now only do damage against minions)
- Card draw: Several abilities have secondary bonuses allowing us to draw more cards: wrath, nourish, ancient of lore, and wild growth (If you cast wild growth when you have 10 mana, it lets you draw a card instead).
- There are also many neutral minions available to all players
Decision points in building a deck:
- Spells vs minions - The druid deck works well if you have a mix of minions and spells. Going too spell heavy or too minion heavy may actually hurt the druid deck. Spells such as starfall and swipe that help to clear the board are especially vital in controlling the board and gaining an advantage over your opponent.
- Choose 1 of 2 cards: Many druid cards let you choose one of two effects, such as choosing between taunt and charge, or choosing between gaining mana/health and gaining cards. You want to pick up several of these flexible cards to allow for better adapting to the situation.
- Card draw power: Basic druid decks are often bad when you run low on cards. So, the ability to draw more cards is vital for a druid deck to be successful. Minions that allow for drawing cards (such as novice engineers) can be vital for getting card draws without losing board presence. The Gadgetzan Auctioneer can be very powerful in a spell heavy druid deck for getting card draws. Cards like wrath and starfire that both do damage and draw cards can often be better than cards like nourish that only draw cards.
- Spell power buffs: Cards like swipe and starfire benefit greatly from spell power buffs, allowing you to hit substantially harder than you would otherwise. Minions such as dalaran mage with their +1 spell power buff combo well with spell heavy druid decks.
- Controlling the board: Being able to contain and control enemy minions is important. So, cards with silence such as ironbeak owl or keeper of the grove are good additions to a druid deck and can often turn the tide of battle. Natualize is powerful for killing legendary or high mana cost minions, but letting your opponent draw 2 cards is a huge disadvantage.
- Buffing minions: Druids can do well with strategies that involve controlling the board with several minions and then buffing them up. This makes druids an ideal candidate for “murloc decks”. Cards and minions that buff other minions are powerful (e.g., raid leader, shattered sun cleric, power of the wild, savage roar, soul of the forest).
- How defensive? Cards that heal, taunt, or otherwise protect you can be good additions to the deck. However, unless healing touches are well timed (e.g., played right after your opponent exhausted their hand), they may just delay your loss since they don’t give you board control. Instead of having Healing Touches, I run with Ancient of Lore minions and often will use the draw card effect instead of the healing effect if the heal won’t give me an advantage. Cards like Druid of the Claw are very versatile, offering either charge or taunt depending on how aggressive or defensive you want to play.
- Mana control: I have had mixed success with cards like innervate and wild growth. While they can help you get out big minions quickly, I often find that my big minions get turned into sheep and frogs, since players will often have removal in their hand to deal with big threats early in the game. Without big legendary cards, I don’t find that innervate fits well into how I personally play my deck. However, others playing aggressive decks have found ways of using innervate to get more early medium-sized minions out to control the board.
Example Druid Decks:
For people starting out without many of the premium cards, using the basic druid starter deck is pretty terrible. So, the goal should be for you to create a custom deck as early as possible when you play a druid.
Level 1 druid deck with no premium cards:
- Practice Mode Minion Buff deck.
- You will want to replace cards with new abilities as you level. Spells like swipe and starfire are really important to add to your deck as you level up.
Level 10 druid budget druid deck with no premium cards
Level 10 template deck with some common premium cards:
More advanced druid deck starting points:
What druid decks are you running with? Any advice to new hearthstone players?