Friday, August 28, 2009

10 Changes That Will Make Deadmines More Heroic

  1. The Defias Traitor now offers a new daily heroic quest: The Big Pay. It sends you into Heroic Deadmines to acquire the Head of VanCleef, and pays double the normal daily quest reward amount.
  2. Rhahk'Zor is now a two-headed ogre. Both heads have to be killed simultaneously, else the living head will resurrect the dead one. Aggro speech changed to "VanCleef pay bigger for your heads!"
  3. Miner Johnson promoted to Majer Johnson (yes, the misspelling is intentional). He now dual wields mining picks.
  4. The Sneed's Shredder encounter is now a vehicle fight for which players have to use catapults, motorcycles, ballistae, siege vehicles, and/or gnomish flying machines to succeed. However, the shredder itself is still susceptible to the Gnomish Universal Remote.
  5. Sneed himself must now be fought by all 5 players jumping into his Shredder (now a 5-person vehicle) and using it to stop him. Two players stand on the shoulders and attack via the newly built-in turrets, one pilots and repairs the shredder, one manages the saw blade and fuel supplies, and the last uses the grappling arm to grab planks of lumber for repairing and barrels of pyrite for fuel. Combat pets can sit in front of the primary screen and play StarCraft: Brood War*.
  6. Gilnid is now known as The Smelterer, and now smeltinates the foundryside with cool new abilities like Molten Ore and Melt Metal.
  7. Mr. Smite has fallen in love and started a family. Players now face not Mr. Smite alone, but the bovines he commands (namely Mrs. Smite and the Smite-ettes). The Smite family now improvises with interpretive dance. Your party will have to /dance for supremacy. To facilitate this, the Dance Battle System will finally make it into the game!
  8. Cookie has hired an ooze named Cream. Additionally, the pair now have a chance to drop main and off-hand fist weapons with brand new models—salt and pepper shakers! Hooray! Be warned, though, defeating one will cause the other to kick it up a notch. BAM!
  9. In an effort to become more politically correct, Captain Greenskin has been renamed Captain Jadepidermis. Also, he can now summon sharks. With friggin' laser beams. On their heads.
  10. Regular Deadmines was merely a setback! The Defias Kingpin has returned...with a vengeance! Edwin VanCleef has upgraded his Madcap's Outfit to a complete set of Totally Triumphant VanCleef's Battlegear, and now dual wields pirates who dual wield cutlasses. Also, those cutlasses have a chance on strike to summon ninjas. Ninjas with turtles. Teenage ninjas with turtles. Mutant turtles. And also a giant sewer rat. Plus, he's now 34.33% (repeating, of course) Cleefier than ever before.
*: For those of you who don't get the reference, see this.

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's Here! It's Here! BlizzCon is Finally Here!

I wasn't able to snag BlizzCon tickets this year. It's the first BlizzCon that I won't be able to attend in person. =(

However, I thank the powers that be for the live internet stream (which can ordered and viewed at, so at least I won't miss out on absolutely everything. Got friends coming over, and furniture to rearrange, so I'm out for the rest of the weekend.

Happy BlizzCon everybody!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Lion Guard is Now on Twitter!

The Lion Guard is now on Twitter! Follow me via the side bar or at!

On the Difficulty (or Lack Thereof) of Trial of the Crusader

Since Call of the Crusade, the 3.2.0 patch for World of Warcraft, went live two weeks ago, I've been hearing a lot of grumblings expressing disappointment in regards to the difficulty level of the new raid instance. It seems that no matter where I turn, people are commenting on how the content is just too easy and not at all challenging. To this, my response has consistently been, 'Well, duh!' Now, I don't mean that in a rude way, but it surprises me that people were expecting the normal mode of the raid instance to require a level of coordination and skill above and beyond that required for, say, the Keepers in Ulduar. There are several reasons why this was almost certainly never going to be the case in the first place:

First of all, over the course of Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard has worked to integrate their new view on raiding into the game. This view is that everyone who plays the game should at least have the ability to experience raid content. Now, this doesn't mean that people are going to be able to faceroll their way to beating Arthas (despite some peoples' complaints to the contrary), but it does mean that with some degree of effort, anyone who is willing to face raid content and improve their own play to overcome its challenges should be able to see the inside of Icecrown Citadel. However, with this philosophy, Blizzard was almost certain to run into the problem that if they made raid content too easy in order to accommodate the people who want to experience raid content but didn't really want to challenge themselves by raiding, then whatever raid content was introduced would just bore those who did seek to test their own raiding muscles. Thus, various hardmodes were introduced as a compromise so that those who sought a challenge would find one, and those who only sought to see content would not be hindered in their own quests for progression. So, why am I bringing this up? Because the people who complain about the ease thus far in the Trial of the Crusader raid are forgetting the fact that normal mode content is not supposed to be particularly difficult—it's supposed to give people a taste of what raiding is about while allowing them to see the storyline unfold first-hand. If Trial of the Grand Crusader, the heroic version of Trial of the Crusader, is too easy when it finally becomes available, then would be the time to complain about it.

First-and-a-half-ly, (since this point is ancillary to the one above, but still important enough to merit its own paragraph), I think that many of the people who have tried Trial of the Crusader and found it easier than expected are not the people the instance was designed for. In my mind, if you've defeated Algalon, Yogg-Saron, or even all four of the Keepers in Ulduar, then you've already surpassed the level for which the first few bosses in the instance were tuned. As such, my opinion of the complaints from this group of people is little better than my opinion of, for example, a group of people in full Naxxramas gear complaining that regular level 80 instances (i.e. non-heroics) are too easy.

I say this because it leads me very nicely into my second point, which is that I believe that the instance was most likely tuned for players who are still about halfway through Ulduar's difficulty curve. If you were to graph the difficulty level of each tier of raid content in comparison to each other tier of raid content within the same expansion, you'd probably find that the easiest bosses in each tier tend to fall somewhere in the middle of the difficulty levels of the previous tier. In other words, the easiest bosses in tier X are usually harder than the easiest bosses of tier X-1, yet are still not as challenging as the final bosses of tier X-1. Anecdotally, take the example of Magtheridon's Lair in the Burning Crusade's raid path. Magtheridon was designed to be the final boss of tier 4 content, however, he was perceived by much of the raiding community to be "too difficult". As a result, many raiding groups passed over him and went on to Hydross the Unstable, the first boss of tier 5. Similarly, there were many raid groups that skipped over Lady Vashj and Kael'thas Sunstrider in order to pursue Rage Winterchill and High Warlord Naj'entus. Now, this doesn't mean that Hydross the Unstable, Rage Winterchill, or High Warlord Naj'entus weren't designed to be challenging, only that they probably weren't very challenging to those who actually managed to best the final bosses of the previous tier(s), yet were likely challenging to those who were still working on Gruul's Lair or Fathom-Lord Karathress. Since I doubt Blizzard has dropped this design philosophy in favor of a more linear difficulty curve, this means that the Northrend Beasts encounter, the first encounter of Trial of the Crusader, is likely designed to be roughly on-par with the Antechamber or Keeper bosses. Thus, the people who the encounter was designed to be challenging for are likely those who have just recently beaten the Assembly of Iron or thereabouts.

Finally, if you look at the way Blizzard has designed raids in the past, you'll notice that raid bosses can usually be broken down into three categories: regular bosses, final bosses, and gatekeeper bosses. Regular bosses are, of course, the bread 'n' butter of raid instances. They basically exist to reward players for getting through their portion of the instance, and not to pose any particularly difficult challenge. I've heard them described as both "loot piñatas" and "glorified trash" (usually depending on whether the person describing them needs any of the loot they drop or not =P ). Final bosses are fairly self-explanatory—they're the bosses at the end of each tier of content that drop the most desirable items and are usually the hardest in the entire tier. Gatekeeper bosses, however, are the ones most pertinent to this discussion, and generally some of the more interesting ones to encounter in each instance. These bosses come in a variety of flavors, but their purpose is basically to act as a yardstick against which raids can measure their readiness for final bosses. Now, gatekeeper bosses can be actual gatekeepers, such as Sapphiron who blocks the entrance to Kel'Thuzad as well as drops the item necessary to access the Eye of Eternity, or they can be bosses such as Mimiron who essentially act as skill checks for progression, or they can be bosses like Thaddius, who somehow manages to wreck some raid groups for whatever reason. The most famous of these gatekeeper bosses are probably the Twin Emperors from the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj, and M'uru from Sunwell Plateau.

I bring up the subject of these gatekeeper bosses because when one thinks of the fun and challenging encounters in each raid tier, one usually thinks of final bosses and gatekeeper bosses. However, with a few exceptions (Blackwing Lair comes poignantly to mind), gatekeeper bosses tend to be found near the end of each content tier. Since this has been the overwhelming trend for the raid zones of World of Warcraft's expansions, it was highly doubtful that the earliest bosses of patch 3.2.0's new raid would be such gatekeepers. And since there was even less chance that the first encounter of the 5-encounter instance would be the "final boss", this meant that the Northrend Beasts and Lord Jaraxxus would most likely fall into the glorified trash/loot piñata category of regular bosses.

So, why was anyone expecting these bosses to be any challenge whatsoever for raid groups that had finished (or mostly finished) Ulduar? Now, I could see the point that the raid is "too easy" if groups that had never set foot in Ulduar managed to walk in and defeat the first few encounters of Trial of the Crusader with ease, but any group beyond that level of progression managing to down the content handily should hardly come as a shock.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Semi-Sensical Explanation of Warsong Gulch

There have been countless jokes about the dichotomy between the premise and implementation of the Warsong Gulch battleground since it was first introduced to World of Warcraft back in the 1.5.0 patch of June, 2005. For those of you who are not in the know—or have just plain forgotten—the premise of Warsong Gulch revolves around two factions vying for control over the southern portions of Ashenvale forest. On the Horde side, the Warsong Outriders seek to obtain valuable resources by making lumber out of the forest's trees. On the Alliance side, the Silverwing Sentinels seek to keep the land pristine by halting the Warsong Outriders' lumber operation. So, how was this premise actually implemented into World of Warcraft?

As a game of capture the flag, of course!

I'll let that sink in for a moment, shall I? For those of you who have known about this for a long time, feel free to take this moment to let the headache from slamming your forehead into the desk subside.

Feeling better? Good. Now I'll bet you're wondering how a game of capture the flag can possibly make sense in the above context. Well, the truth is that no explanation that makes sense in terms of game lore can actually explain Warsong Gulch completely without requiring some degree of creative interpretation (hence the "Semi-Sensical" in this post's title). Back when the debates about how the implementation of Warsong Gulch makes sense lore-wise were still common, one of the rationales was that the flags were symbolic of actual trees. Thus, by capturing flags, you were, in effect, raiding the enemy's lumber reserves.

Personally, I disagree. Why? Because I think I've come to a conclusion that I feel better explains the relationship between the premise of Warsong Gulch and its capture-the-flag implementation—capturing the flag is not a symbolic gesture that represents capturing the enemy's lumber's a literal one! We're not really after the enemy's flag so much as we're all trying to capture the enemy's flagPOLE. After all, those flagpoles are the only movable lumber in the entire battleground. Suddenly, it all makes sense! =P

Wait, why are you all looking at me like I'm crazy?