Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What a Long, Strange... Month It's Been

I feel like I can finally start to breathe again after a long period of underwater spelunking. Yep, you caught me, I totally stretched that metaphor because I wanted to use the word "spelunking."

I said "spelunking," big whoop, wanna fight about it?

For those of you unsure as to where I've been hiding... well, I've been buried in CSS code for quite a while. Ok, fine, I'll come out and say it...

I am now (sorta) self-hosted! Update your links, ladies and gentlemen, to www.hazmacewillraid.com! I'll be tossing a post up there to make sure you land in the right place, and let me know what you think of the change!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Her 'Just Desserts' Were Actually Double Helpings of Death

Go figure. The one day I actually have work to do in the morning is the day after our big kill. Oops, I kinda spoiled it.

Heroic Sindragosa 25: Dead!

I had to "borrow" this screenshot from Rhi because mine got all crappy on Photobucket. I'll upload a couple of my own when I get home from work, though!

Anyway, the frosty queen of frost is dead, and now I can quit raging about this fight and start raging about heroic Putricide. I can see it now...
"Gorram it, green team, why is your add not dead?! You are all TERRIBLE and I'm going to write many, many blog posts about how people with the green debuff automatically have their RL Intelligence reduced by 75%!"
In all seriousity though, what a gratifying kill. You could tell that our final 'attempt' was a kill just in the way everything flowed together. No air phase deaths, clean switches, healer/tank communication, the lack of panic-y voices over Vent; everything went according to plan.

Well, other than our new shadow priest recruit getting quasi-hacked mid attempt. That wasn't too awesome, but at least he got it back right away.

Psst. That one's mine!

A heroic Conqueror's token dropped, so I threw down every last DKP I could scrounge up... and Rhi outbid me. There is one piece of good news to come out of this, however: after toppling Rhi's DKP surplus, I am now the veritable Conqueror's DKP king. Next time, my precious 277 tier, next time.

We used Rhi's strat. If you have questions, I highly suggest you go here and pepper that page with inquiries. My only regret is that the ever-skeptical individual I singled out in my last post wasn't in attendance for our victory. Phoey.

Icecrown Citadel: Revenge of the Skettis!

Also, in lesser news, unless my math is off (which wouldn't be unprecedented), this marks my 100th blog post, and just over a year since Haz Mace, Will Raid's inception!

Here's to another hundred, or perhaps more!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

In Which I Rant About Attitudes

Oh, Sindragosa, how I loathe thee. You weren't content to just stomp our faces in for one night, or even to possess a cat and distract further attempts at taking your life. Your stubbornness is very annoying. We even walked in there with a new strat (one Rhidach outlined here) and, while things seemed to be going well, the icy queen still lived at the end of the raid.

However, I didn't come here to write about how we fared against this chilly roadblock. What I really want to discuss, believe it or not, is attitude.

Unless your Vent is dead silent during raids, I'm sure all of you have picked up on (or are starting to pick up on, as is my case) the general feel of raid time in your local guild and the main actors and actresses that grace its stage. In many ways, it's your interactions with these individuals that determines how your runs progress and how much fun you take out of it.

I'm sure many of us have been in raids with ragers that are hovering over their Vent bind, just waiting to tear the heart out of some poor sap who isn't stacked perfectly enough, or whatever their rage-spiration may be.

On the other side of the spectrum there are the antithesises antithesi opposites of the ragers, the push-overs. These are the raiders  that kindly remind everyone not to kill XT's heart in a short message in raid chat (come on, no one reads raid chat), and when the heart comes down and the shaman hits Bloodlust, you just know the push-over is sitting there, shrugging his shoulders, saying to himself "Aw, shucks. Well, better luck next time!"

Obviously, neither extreme is ideal, nor do I think there is one specific attitude that is right for every situation. Rather than trying to find a happy medium, let's look at how these two extremes apply to raiding.

Case: Heroic Sindragosa 25

Yes, I am using my guild's current progression encounter as an example. Bear with me, and go ahead and take that grain of salt, along with what looks like a fistful of ibuprofen. I can wait.

For those unfamiliar with the heroic encounter, a basic overview is that it's a LOT like the normal version, just much, much less forgiving. I don't intend on making a fight breakdown / strategy for this fight until we down it, but thankfully a full understanding of the heroic mechanics won't be relevant for my discussion. I hope.

We normally run with only two or three druids, and as such, we only have two or three Rebirths.  On such an unforgiving encounter, those would ideally be saved for tanks, first and foremost. However, quite often we would have someone not quite LoS a frost bomb and get one-shot as a result, in which case one of our Rebirths is burned.

It is my own humble (/chuckle) opinion that LoSing frost bombs during the air phase is not a difficult thing to do, and therefore, those who fail at doing so need to buckle down and simply "do better." I don't know how else I can say it; such players need to adapt. I'll admit, I've been killed twice by the same mechanic. As a result of those deaths, I felt embarrassment and a little bit of shame for dying to something so simple, and henceforth kicked myself into gear. That was more than two weeks ago, and I have not been hit by a frost bomb since.

As an aside, I, in fact, don't hold myself as a shining example of the 'perfect raider.' I still have room for improvement, and I continually work at it. For example: the greatest thing about having dual monitors is having the ability to multi-task; the worst thing about having dual monitors is having the ability to multi-task.

So what happens when individuals who consistently fail at this are soaking up Rebirths like a desiccated sponge? Is it wrong to expect that raider to be improving their performance?

Short answer: No, it isn't wrong at all.

Long answer: The fact that we're getting so close to downing this fight is an indication of the potential of our players. I've seen some truly impressive things in my short stay here so far. The potential is there; the commitment to fulfillment is what I feel is lacking. We all want this shrill bone-thing dead. We should all be committed to this goal. By accepting that raid invite, you are telling not only your raid leader, but the rest of the raid and guild as a whole, that you are willing to go the distance and do what needs to be done to see these things through, among other clich├ęs.

Macroscopically, in any raid that's struggling on something, the solution may not be a simple strat change or repositioning; it could be the consensual attitude of the raid. So what's the remedy?

It's not yelling and barking at your guildmates, that's for sure. My old guild had a raid leader that shouted out orders like he was commanding a brigade of 9 year olds. Not only does it get grating and irritating, it's insulting to be treated like that. Thankfully, there isn't a soul in ES that has adopted such a style.

On the flip side, the cure we're seeking is also not the shoulder-shrugger attitude either. After a wipe, expressing your "Oh well, maybe next time!" point-of-view won't get you any points, and it definitely won't get you any closer to your kill.

I wanted to write this post without singling anyone out, and (hopefully) without causing too much intra-guild drama. As such, I'm going to try to put this next part as delicately as possible.

There were a few attitudes I observed last night that really bothered me.

First, the individual that Rhidach mentions in his latest post. In case you didn't click that link (I wouldn't blame you; my banner is way cooler than his), there was an individual opening criticizing the decision to try a new strat. I highly, highly encourage proper and intelligent feedback from raiders to their raid leader, but not in such a way that portrays the RL as a villain, which is (again, in my "humble" opinion) exactly what happened.

This is not to say I totally and utterly disagreed with this dissenter. At first, I too questioned the wisdom of switching up strats when we got so close to a kill last week. However, rather than crying in raid chat about it, I kept my opinion to myself. I made a decision of my own; that is, to trust the raid leader and see this through. And by golly, when we made it sub-20% on the first try of the new strat, those reservations I had soon evaporated. Imagine that.

Your raid leader, guild leader, and officer corps are a higher rank than you for a reason. They have all shown an aptitude for leading and decision-making, and, as the case with ES, their experience and guidance has seen us through to one of the hardest encounters in the game thus far. They spend a lot of time working, researching, brainstorming, and collaborating, so that when raid time rolls around, bosses drop left and right, and you, the average raider, leave later that night with full bags and a sense of accomplishment.

In short, trust in your leaders. Trust is the glue that binds your raid together.

The second attitude that really irked me was actually conveyed in the middle of an attempt. We had a healer clearing stacks of Unchained Magic who suddenly got marked for a beacon and, unfortunately, couldn't make it all the way to the designated "ice block area." The tank had to readjust in order to get back in range of the tomb so both tanks could clear stacks quickly.

The placement of this tomb, while poor, was seemingly unavoidable. Sometimes these things happen. Everyone did a fantastic job readjusting, but we eventually ended up wiping anyway. However, right as the tomb went out, the tank let out a cry of frustration over Vent, to which someone responded "Oh well, it's alright."

I have a few problems with this. First, I know that you mean well and you're trying to calm the tank who is probably foaming at the mouth, but it is not alright. The tomb got placed in the wrong area, and as a result, we wiped shortly after. Nothing about that is "alright."

It may not actually be anyone's fault; the healer in question can't just zip to any part of the map at a whim. It was great that no one else managed to get tombed alongside them during this mishap, but we cannot walk into these attempts with the sense that, if you screw up, everything's okay.

Second, not only was that the wrong thing to say, it was also the wrong time to say it. You don't try making idle chit-chat with Jim Furyk when he's in the middle of his backswing. The only people talking should be those contributing to the task at hand, i.e. the murder of this stupid dragon. There is no need to clog up Vent with your "carebear" chatter.

All in all, my advice to anyone reading this that is in a similar situation is to try to be mindful of your raid's attitude. Whenever possible, encourage determined optimism while discouraging apathy and raging outbursts.

Essentially, be more like Vulcans. They know how to get stuff done.

Ha, innuendo. Awesome.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So Much Blue!

Finally, there are good Blue beta posts on ret paladins. Let's take a gander.


On a related subject, Pursuit of Justice is pretty under budget and Eye for an Eye is pretty risky to take, considering it could perhaps break CC on the target.

Eye for an Eye will only reflect direct damage spells, not dots. 

Oh good, another reason not to take Eye for an Eye. Next.


It is something that really needs work on because at the moment as long as you have a single Holy Power and an open GCD you will TV instead of only wanting to TV at 3 which just seems odd to me.

This would be a pretty big dps loss under most circumstances. A 3 charge Templar's Verdict hits so much stronger than a 1 charge, that it's not worth it using Templar's Verdict to fill holes. 

They're trying to move away from the FCFS rotation system, from what I've been told, so the poster's sentiment of "Oh no, I have no more buttons to push, I'm just going to TV!" is misinformed. Wait for the 3 stack, young padawan, then facesmash TV.


This has pretty much been my complaint from the start. Our rotation is one part Rogue, one part feral, one part empty space, and one part mashing buttons.

It doesnt feel cohesive, it doesnt feel fluid, it has no rhythm

This specific feedback is a tricky thing to handle because a lot of Ret paladins are used to mashing buttons every GCD, and any time they aren't in that state they are going to feel a lack of "rhythm" (as you put it). Yet if you look at rogues and Feral druids, they can't hit a button every GCD because they don't always have the energy to do so. 

We don't want classes / specs to use every GCD. We don't think that's good for the game, as I've mentioned before. (Casters do their waiting while casting rather than in between abilities.) The trick is to fill "enough" holes with something. For some players, especially some Ret players, that "enough" is going to feel weird for them unless it means every single hole. That's not what we're going for though. Wasting every other GCD is too extreme and isn't what we're going for either. 

Again, no more FCFS. At least not the "fill the hole with any old spell that's not on cooldown" FCFS we're used to. Since I'm not on the beta, and since I've been lagging behind with my beta research, I can't say for certain, but it seems like it's going to be a FCFS with a HoPo (*shudders*) dump (*giggles*) woven somewhere in there. Yes, it's going to be weird. But at least they're trying to require a little skill for the ret rotation.


Yeah just to clarify though, I think most Rets understand that they are a hybrid and like GC said like an arms warrior but with no MS and better healing. However, the majority of complaints are coming from the "defensive dps" model and not necessarily just being defensive. We don't want and don't need to be offhealers or defensive utility providers, that is what we were and that is what GC has said multiple times was NOT effective.

I usually regret getting into the "what is my role supposed to be?" discussions because players then feel like they're supposed to use that as a constitution to interpret whether their class is performing correctly or not. Let us worry about that. If Word of Glory is so weak that you'd never consider using it, then that's good feedback. If it needs to heal for 50K before you'd ever consider using it, then that's good feedback too (because it either means we're barking up the wrong tree, or you personally aren't the correct audience for that talent). The fact that you have talents that affect a heal should be ample evidence that we want you to situationally cast it. The fact that you have only a couple of talents (and one really aimed at Holy sub-speccing) should suggest that we want to keep it situational. 

Blizzard needs to understand that as ret paladins, defenders of the Light and all that RP stuff, we have MASSIVE egos. As such, we're going to get every damage-increasing talent within our grasp, only coming back to utility and "situational" things as our remaining talent points afford us to.

Healing has no immediate, noticeable increase in ego-size. No one stops what they're doing and goes "Hey, ret paladin, thanks for healing me!" Hell, I do it a lot now-a-days with my Art of War procs and not one peep from anybody. Well, Ana gives me the occasional confused, "Did you really just use that proc for a Flash of Light? On... someone else?"

But our Hand spells? Freedom-ing a tank on Sindy, Salv-ing an overzealous certain cat-wielding frost DK, Sac-ing our LK tank when the Lich King enrages when someone just utterly fails in the Frostmourne room, Protect-ing a Marked healer or caster on Saurfang when we're sub 30%; all of these things distinguish the good paladins from the apathetic, lazy ones.

And just so we're clear, Blizzard; we don't need mana and cooldown reductions on our utility spells. Unless you make them cost like 50% of our mana. Then maybe we can talk business.


GC do you have any planed changes for AoW? what do you think of the suggestion to make it effect hammer of wrath instead? i thought it was a pretty cool idea.

Hammer of Wrath hits too hard to be a rotational ability. We'd have to make the proc really rare or nerf the Hammer of Wrath damage. You might notice we dropped Execute from the Arms warrior rotation for the same reason -- it actually neutered Execute rather than making it a fun ability. 

Why does this need to be changed? If they made AoW affect (notice: affect, not effect) Hammer of Wrath, that would essentially eliminate Exorcism from our rotation. Less spells and an Execute spam, or sophistication and an Execute that works as intended? Hmm, toughy.


Could you please address any of the many greater concerns outlined in the OP instead of a tertiary flavour talent please?

I address what I want to address. The reason is because players will never agree on what the right thing is for us to address, nor do we want to turn it into a shouting match. You're better off giving us feedback and letting us answer when we think it's appropriate rather than demanding answers for specific issues.

And Ghostcrawler becomes Eric Cartman. Seriously though, WoW players are like a bunch of spoiled brats when it comes to class changes; Mommy Blizzard can't appease all of us all the time. It's called tough love, get used to it.

Talents like Eye for an Eye, Selfless Healer and Acts of Sacrifice are designed to be choices. No half-decent paladin is going to skip over a major talent like Sanctified Wrath. But we are trying to design the trees so not every talent is Sanctified Wrath. If part of what attracted you to the paladin class was being able to occasionally throw out a heal to save your friends in a 5-player dungeon, then Selfless Healer might be attractive. If you like having lots of utility in PvP, then Acts of Sacrifice might be a better choice. 

It's okay -- intended even -- that some of you would skip over these talents. It's only a problem if everyone does so. We imagine a cookie cutter Ret build would tell you to absolutely take Sanctified Wrath and Zealotry, but to spend a few points where you want.

Well said.


Acts of Sacrifice just seems lackluster in a tree that isn't suppose to worry about mana.

That's not entirely the case. Ret is designed to be able to hit basic abilities with enough mana. You don't have infinite mana. You'll find that casting heals other than WoG will be really difficult and Consecrate is probably not going to happen unless you situationally find yourself with a lot of mana. In that environment, being able to do something other than dps might be attractive. I think it gets way overplayed on the forums, but it's often nice to offer something other than "I bring damage!" to a group, because everyone brings damage. 

Thank God, now maybe this "finite mana" sentiment will be heard by everyone else and I won't get asked to heal a dungeon when our healer drops group. Wishful thinking, to be sure.


With regards to Seals, I agree with the general sentiment that it really isn't much of a choice between Seal of Truth and any other Seal right now; even in PvP, you lose such a huge amount of damage by using Seal of Justice that it's just not even a choice. Either Seal of Justice needs to be more effective at slowing targets, or Seal of Truth needs to be less powerful so the choice is more reasonable.

We're going to add a little bit of damage to Justice just because there are several talents that improve Seals in the trees and we don't want those to be completely unattractive to a PvP Retribution paladin. I think it's far too early however to be able to place judgement [sic] calls on whether damage or the movement limitation of Justice is the obvious choice. You can't do much damage if you can't get to melee and typically autoattack-based damage isn't nearly as valuable in PvP. 

I foresee a return of seal-switching in PvP. Seal of Justice until you can get into melee, Seal of Truth when you do? Although we've held the "kitee" crown for quite a while now, maybe Seal of Justice + Long Arm of the Law will topple that throne.


I'm sorry...but acts of sacrifice are probably my favorite situational talents, as they are helpful in heroics to alleviate tank damage with sac, and hof 5 seconds less is too good NOT to take. Reducing mana cost is just icing on cake. It will probably be in my pve and pvp builds, but if WoG doesn't heal for a decent amount, I doubt many will take selfless healer at all.

That's good. Now if we can just get to the point where some (not all) paladins say that they like the hybridy feel of Selfless Healer, then we're all set. 

That's all well and good, but the current iteration doesn't do a damn thing to Sac. It does seem odd that it only affects two of our Hand spells, though.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Birth of an In-Joke

So, apparently, "next week" to me means "the NEXT next week." With Rhi back at the helm of our 25m, we charged through Icecrown our first night, knocking out 7/12, leaving Plagueworks and Sindy up. Last night, we went in, knocked out Plagueworks within 45 minutes, leaving a little over 2 hours for attempts on the ole Ice Queen herself.

We had a few especially good bits of progression; namely, the air phases. Up until now, we've had trouble coordinating tomb DPS and, in some cases, line-of-sighting the frost bombs (especially that first one, it's a quickie). Last night our raid showed phenomenal improvement in those areas, with only a few exceptions. We had attempts where no one died at all during air phases, whether it be to frost bombs or asphyxiation. The lowest we got the old gal was to 13% I believe, which is a decent improvement from last week's 22%. 

Finally, we come to the real inspiration behind this post. 

Once upon a time, there lived a death knight named Morvain. Well, since he's a death knight, it's more like "there unlived," but you get the point. He was in the guild Enveloping Shadows, a group of ruffians and pally bloggers bent on killing things and stealing things from their bodies. This band of Scourge fodder strolled into Icecrown Citadel in order to defeat the terrible Lich King and his many sundry minions. Anywho, they finally cleared a swath through the dread citadel until they reach the perch of none other than the Queen of the Frostbrood, Sindragosa! Prime-consort to Malygos in life, she now served Arthas in undeath, and was preventing our heroes from getting phat lewtz, so they decided that her unlife must end. 

She threw all of her frost magic at ES, killing them over and over since, apparently, one death was not enough for this crew. Sindy, as her friends tend to call her, grew tired of this charade and decided to have a little fun while they flailed their pathetic magic at her. She reached out with her powers and was able to possess Morvain's cat. While the raiders swung their swords and threw things at her in Icecrown Citadel, Sindy was stalking the halls of Morvain's house, enjoying her newfound freedom. Slowly, quietly, she entered the room where Morvain played. She lurked about, observing the death knight spamming Frost Strike, waiting for the right opportunity. Sindy could sense that the heroes were getting close... too close to ending her, once and for all. 

Well, until the next reset, at least.

This is an actual picture of Morvain's cat. I hope he doesn't send it to my house to interrupt my raiding experiences as punishment for posting this picture; my (kinda) epic screenshot got resolution-cleaved by Blogger overnight. 

With her health draining, she knew she must act. Through a sheer force of will, Sindy reached out from the cat and touched Morvain's mind, entrancing him, binding him to the cat like when you see something really really disgusting but it's just so captivating you can't look away. As Morvain was busy being enthralled by his cat, he ran into two other people and all three were entombed in ice. Snapping back to reality, Morvain admitted the mistake was caused because he was "looking at his cat," and the following hysterical laughter on Vent got more people frozen, which led to one of the most hilarious wipes I've experienced during my stay in ES thus far.

What's funny is that the aforementioned wipe happened when we switched the difficulty from heroic back to normal, as well as the raid's attitude from "cautious" to "nonchalant." The link leads to Ana's Twitter, where she linked a screenshot of the whole mess.

In parting, here is a quote from Mr. Rogers (of all people, why I chose him is beyond my comprehension) that I believe illustrates the relationship between our poor death knight and his cat:
"There's only one person in the whole world like you, and I like you so much. Meow meow meow so much. Bye bye."

Monday, August 16, 2010

AVR: Re-visiting Blizzard's Own "Kill Command"

With all of our work on heroic Sindy 25 of late, I've heard a few voices over vent proclaim, "I wish we still had AVR!"; getting extra tombs from improper placement of the beacon targets is never a good thing.

Sometimes, when doing Festergut and Rotface, I long for the near-definitive circle on the ground that made sure I was getting a stack of Inoculated or wasn't going to get hit by an Unstable Ooze Explosion. That certainty was really nice to lean on, to rely on, that when Blizzard took it away, it felt like I was entering these fights for the first time... again.

For those late to the party, AVR, short for Augmented Virtual Reality, was an add-on that projected graphics onto the game world, most often for use on boss encounters with specific ranges of abilities and the like. The aforementioned are perfect examples of the ingenuity of AVR; rather than using something like "/range 10" to determine how far away someone is, you could have a circle with a radius of 10 yards drawn around you in red, clearly delineating what you were and were not going to entomb in deathly ice.

Note I use the past tense, 'AVR was,' because in patch 3.3.5, Blizzard essentially "broke" the add-on, preventing it from working properly, and proclaimed that,
The invasive nature of a mod altering and/or interacting with the game world (virtually or directly) is not intended and not something we will allow. World of Warcraft UI addons are never intended to interact with the game world itself. This is mirrored in our stance and restriction of model and texture alterations. 
There was quite the uproar following this announcement and its implementation. Elitists, who never downloaded the mod, were filled with glee at all the 'scrubs' that were crying on the forums. The opportunists, who saw a way to help their raid learn difficult boss mechanics, were befuddled that something so seemingly harmless and extremely helpful was dispatched of by Blizzard, a company that supposedly welcomed UI add-ons and modifications that personalized the individual's playing experience.

Anyway, that's all in the past. The question I wanted to address, whether it is a touch belated or not, is this:

"Did Blizzard have the right to break AVR?"

Dotting the i's and crossing the t's

The following is an excerpt from the World of Warcraft End User License Agreement (EULA), specifically from section 2, Additional License Limitations:
"You agree that you will not, under any circumstances... use cheats, automation software (bots), hacks, mods or any other unauthorized third-party software designed to modify the World of Warcraft experience..."
At first glance, at least to a non-lawyer like myself, this seems to brand ALL add-ons and mods illegal (for the sake of this discussion, I intend the term 'illegal' to mean 'against the rules,' not against any state or federal laws). However, the operative phrase "any other unauthorized... software" suggests that there exist some mods and add-ons that are authorized for use by Blizzard, and some that are not.

How does Blizzard decide what to authorize and what to forbid? In short, we don't know. They are a business and, as such, don't necessarily have to explain why they do everything that they do; they don't hold the same accountability as a governing body. For example, if Ford wanted to stop painting their cars red, they technically would not be accountable to consumers as to the reason behind this decision. Their stockholders, perhaps, but not their consumers.

However, we can extract a reasonable guideline for these decisions from the World of Warcraft Terms of Use Agreement (ToU), as quoted from section 9, Code of Conduct, sub-section C, Rules Related to Game Play:

"[C]ertain acts go beyond what is "fair" and are considered serious violation of these Terms of Use. Those acts include... [a]nything that Blizzard considers contrary to the "essence" of the Game."

While the original context of this clause is in reference to the conduct of players within the game itself, it seems that this philosophy, of forbidding things that are contrary to the "essence" of the World of Warcraft, holds true for many of their policies and decisions.

Therefore, the question becomes thus:

"Is the functionality of AVR contrary to the "essence" of the World of Warcraft?"

Lines in the sand

As I suspected, Blizzard replies to this sentiment in the second part of the response quoted above:
[I]t removes too much player reaction and decision-making while facing dungeon and raid encounters. While some other mods also work to this end, we find that AVR and the act of visualizing strategy within the game world simply goes beyond what we’re willing to allow.
Let's see if we can extract some assumptions from this statement. First, Blizzard has an expectation for the level of player response in terms of dungeon and raid encounters.

For example, if I were to ask you to log in right now and stand twenty yards away from another player by purely eyeballing it, could you do it? I'm guessing a large proportion of you could not, myself included. However, with a simple "/range 20", this task is easily performed. What does this mean in terms of Blizzard's expectations?

It means that they know what is reasonable to expect from the player and what is not.

It is reasonable to expect a player to know that standing on top of another player who is marked for death via Ice Tomb is bad; it is unreasonable to expect a player to know, without previous knowledge, the exact distance in-game that he or she needs to be from the marked target in order to not be entombed as well. In allowing Deadly Boss Mods and its "/range" functionality, Blizzard was admitting that determining precise distances in-game without outside assistance was unreasonable.

Another assumption that can be taken from Blizzard's statement is that there exists a line that Blizzard has drawn that defines what is and is not acceptable in terms of the implementation of an add-on or mod, outside of previously established reasons (the "essence" argument).

This assumption is a bit harder to grasp. For this purpose, let's compare DBM with AVR.

In Deadly Boss Mods (DBM), messages and timers appear on your screen that inform you of impending attacks, abilities, cooldowns, etc. For anyone who has ever used this or a similar add-on (which I'm guessing is a large majority), you know that sometimes DBM can clog and pollute your screen with its incessant warnings. What's important to note is that Blizzard condones this; without even researching a fight, a raider can jump into Icecrown Citadel and have DBM chirp away all of the boss's abilities and reportable mechanics.

In AVR, textures appear around certain objects to visualize some of the abilities and attacks from various encounters to provide the player with a very simplified "don't stand in the red circle" version of raiding. Again important to note; Blizzard does not condone this.

What's the difference? Format. DBM can spam all the messages and timers it wants, but if the player doesn't interpret these messages and timers correctly and act accordingly, bad things will happen. AVR took this interpretation and beat it senseless; arrange the pretty patterns on the ground and you win (sarcasm, but it's not far from the truth).

One fight where AVR shined as brightly as a tire fire was Festergut, specifically for the purpose of determining the range of the spores. Essentially, this mechanic went from this,

where you can see ranged DPS and healers stacking under skull's spore intuitively, to this,

The mechanic no longer emphasized finding the spore target and making sure you're underneath it when it explodes (or whatever the hell happens to give you a stack), and instead it became a matter of "OMG stand in this absurdly large red circle outlined on the ground!" Rather than have one raid member valiantly put themselves in danger by *gasp* running out of melee to share the spore with ranged or, even more dangerously, running in towards the tanks to ensure they get a stack as well, it became a drawing game obsessed with making sure the player knew their shapes and colors.

The end of the road

Let's take AVR to its logical extreme. If the author felt especially ambitious, or if a player had enough programming knowledge to modify the add-on themselves, one could conceive of a boss encounter where the floor was quite literally covered by AVR. Special circles could represent where to tank the boss, other circles could represent where each player was to stand, and so on and so forth.

In essence, boss strategies could potentially be integrated into the add-on, turning the entire concept of fighting an 'internet dragon' into "stand here, don't stand there, hit your buttons, collect loot." (I know a lot of us kid that we may already be at that point, but in actuality, we are not.) By allowing AVR to progress to such a point, Blizzard would be killing off a community of intelligent discussion and interaction that has blossomed and flourished over the years. The spirit of creativity is as close a concept to the "essence" of the game as anything can get, and by providing such a basic and simple workaround to the more complex and difficult aspects of the game, that spirit would be extinguished.

I believe that Blizzard foresaw these developments, knew that the WoW community would want more and more out of AVR, and was determined to stop it. As per their legal agreements, they cited that AVR was not an authorized modification in that it violated the "essence" of the game, and took action to prevent it from functioning correctly, generously providing a more than ample reason for doing so to their player base.

Therefore, and this should come as no surprise, Blizzard was fully within their rights to make changes to the game to prevent any add-on like AVR from ever functioning properly. They laid out the rules, AVR broke them, they broke AVR, end of story.

I'm thinking of a number... but you can't have it!

One last legal issue before closing: the "intellectual property" issue of add-ons and mods. Even though such authors invest their time, and often money, in producing such additions to the World of Warcraft, the cold truth is that, due to the presence of specific clauses within the Ownership section of the WoW EULA, these additions are not the intellectual property of their creators.

If you went to Tom Smith's beachfront in Maui and built a sand castle on his beach, using his sand, but using your shovels, buckets, blood, sweat and tears, the sand castle would still belong to Tom Smith. In the same way, even though you're the one designing add-ons for WoW, using code that Blizzard has provided for developers like you, it's still their sand castle.

If perchance you went and did a CTRL-F for "TL;DR", here you go: Blizzard was right to disable AVR, a mod that significantly cheapened the game we love, because it's their party and they'll break things if they want to, and no amount of tears will ever bring it back.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Many Tombs! Handle It!

Progress (n), according to Dictionary.com, unabridged: a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage; growth or development; continuous improvement. 

If you had asked me on the seventh wipe to 25-man heroic Sindragosa last night if I thought we were progressing, the answer would've been a hesitant "not really." Sure, there were air phases when people wouldn't die to frost bombs (I stupidly ate two frost bombs for reasons too unimportant and whiny to go into), but generally, each air phase was accompanied by held breaths and crossed fingers. We were at the same place we have been on Sindy since I've joined the guild; not a very encouraging showing.

I'm not sure if it was the "last attempt" call, or if eight is a lucky number, or if the planets were at syzygy (real word!), but suddenly everything clicked, we put our progression pants on and triumphantly marched into phase 2, getting the Queen of the Frostbrood down to 22%!

I am filled to the brim with pride that our 25-man group, rather than give up on the last attempt in order to 'get it over with' quicker, gave it our all and showed that we really do belong here.

She's as good as dead next week, I'm calling it right now!