Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From arcane to arcane: a mage's journey

Vurnak was created when the endgame content was Molten Core, so when deciding which spec to go I discarded the choice of fire because fighting fire with fire didn't look logical here. Back then I wasn't so informed about the game so I just followed my instinct here (later confirmed it was right since most of the mobs inside the Core had high resistance to fire spells). That left me with two choices: frost and arcane. Frost suffered from the same penalties like fire in my oppinion: you rely on a simple elemental source of damage... what if later you should fight in some frozen place? (Northrend wasn't even planned back then). Also fire and frost didn't look very mage-like imho (although one of the star spells of mages in all games is the Fireball) so I decided to go arcane. The name was also very appealing: you are a master of long-kept secrets that unleash astounding powers to strike down your foes. Woah! Sign me in, mister!
The crude reality however proved it wasn't that good. In the old days of classic WoW arcane was a bottomless pit for mana. You could spend all your mana on a single mob. And the routine of kill-drink-kill-drink was boring ad nauseam. Still Vurnak was somewhat sturdy and kept on leveling as arcane. Can't remember exactly when I was totally fed up, around 40-42 I think, but I decided to leave arcane and go for a good leveling spec, which was (and still is) frost. The change was as good as when I moved Kurnak from old arms to fury. More survivality, more cc and less drinking (my kidneys thanked me for stoping processing so much liquid).
The Burning Crusade came and Vurnak reached level 70 and started doing Karazhan. Frost was a good leveling spec, but a poor dps one for raids, so again I went to the trainer to respecc. Arcane was still the ugly sister of the three, so I turned (as all mages doing raids) to fire. And was very enjoyable. Even losing the cc and survivality frost offered, fire compensated it with a big punch, able to take down mobs before they reached you (soloing wasn't a problem anymore while being fire)
Then the news about WotLK started pouring and things didn't look good for fire mages. Seemed fire was being turned into the new pvp spec instead of frost and damage was being notably reduced. Also I had to level again, so I welcomed back frost spec. Everything was good (even using a spec without the defense Ice Barrier gives you) and reached level 80, getting into Naxxramas as frost. Dps wasn't that good despite wearing good gear, but for some time it was ok for me. Until I started growing tired of seeing my name so down in the dps list. It was time for a change. The decission was going back to fire, go frostfire (never really liked it, spell looks really ugly) or try the new and improved arcane spec. I already saw some arcane mages doing tons of damage in raids, so I finally decided to return home and dualspecc arcane. It was a good decission. Arcane is no longer a black hole for mana. Well played, a mage shouldn't use Evocation except in very long fights, and thanks to the changes in mana regeneration and Missile Barrage proc I manage to keep my mana bar in good condition. And not also arcane gives you one button more to push (frost is just Frostbolt all the way), but the fx look very cool (except maybe for Arcane Blast, some more elaborated effects on your character would look great) and makes you look more "magesque", the increase of dps is also very satisfactory.

Where have all the cowboys gone?

That's what Paula Cole sang back in 1997, but to be more precise in this case... where have all the tanks gone? You know, when trying to put up a pug, forming the backbone (tank + healer) is always the hardest part. Not everybody finds joy in being biffed by big meanies or staying in the back trying to keep everybody alive, so when you enter LFG channel it's typical to find lots of dps hoping to get inside a group but very few healers and tanks.
For some mysterious reason the amount of tanks available in LFG on Hellscream server has decreased to almost extintion, while months ago getting a healer in LFG was like finding a gold vein (in real life). So why this change? Nowadays it's easy to see 2 or 3 healers (all of them dualspecced, of course) available for each dungeon, but no trace of tanks. And you guessed it... all the huge load of death knights roaming LFG-land are dps! I know tanking is possibly the less exciting role in the game (unless you get inside a band of happy-trigger dickheads who think aggro holding comes built in all tanks as a passive skill) and requires more skill than most dps classes who only smash one or two buttons (hello mages and hunters!) but seriously, people should try tanking and break away from the I-only-play-dps-chars mentality (something I once did). Not only will give you a better understanding of game mechanics, it may reveal a hidden ├╝ber-skilled tank in you. So... where's my John Wayne?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lich King soup

There's an expression in spanish, "hasta en la sopa" (even in the soup) that's used when something or someone can be found everywhere and everytime. And this is the feeling I have with the Lich King: you can find him even in the soup. And everytime is the same: grand entrance, threats you with the fist of doom (/threat) and then spares your sorry ass because he sees something in you but you're not yet a challenge for him. As if it this stopped him from slaughtering hundreds before...
Anyway, the first time we saw the Lich King in Northrend we thought it was a real good idea to show you the Last-Boss-of-the-expansion tm without having to level your char and do a painful attunement (no more attunements in WotLK, yay!) and get your face smashed to the ground by every boss until you get to the top of the Frozen Throne (which at present day still doesn't exist) so you can glimpse the Lich King in full glory (before your face is smashed down again and you have to pick up your teeth one by one again). A clever move by Blizzard, who using the phase technology helped us to get into the story much better. But the problem is always balance: either too few of anything or too much. And imho Blizz has gone to the other side with the Lich King. he appears in several places and his reputation of bloody murderer gets smashed to the floor (yeah, like your face) because you're still breathing instead of having joined the "Thriller Zombie Army". Dissapointing. Lich King's personality has been badly wounded. I got into Trial of the Crusader the other day and while his appearance before Anub'arak is cool (won't spoil anything, don't worry), you don't get excited for seeing him around... "oh, Arthas again. Looser!" is the common reaction. Even /ruding or /farting him is not fun anymore and the only emote that still pops from time to time is /bored
The worst, however, has yet to come with the release of Icecrown patch. I expect he'll be there on almost every boss fight. We have another phrase in spanish for these situations: "no quieres caldo? pues toma dos tazas!" (you don't want broth? then take two bowls!). As I said: Lich King even in the soup!

Sword designs: an epic fail

Fact: Blizzard doesn't know how to design swords. Ok, let me get some explanation because the statement is too simple.

I should say the weird design affects almost every object class, specially weapons, but I find the swords the most poignant. Maybe because I love swords, both in game and real life. I find they have some kind of inner beauty despite they're designed to kill. Or at least they were, hard to see people carrying swords nowadays :)
So, take a look at classic WoW designs. Most of them are quite simple but they look good. There're some exceptions, like the Blade of the Titans, that looks like some weird tool to put bread or pizzas in an oven, but the rest of them look very real. We get from european straight-bladed swords to curved blades like katanas and scimitars. Even most high quality swords look simple in design, and this probably was the ignition point where Blizzard decided to go into the land of the wild dreams and start producing the weirdest looking items I wouldn't call "swords" even in my most twisted nightmares.
Starting with The Burning Crusade swords start looking odd and lacking all balance between the handle and the blade. And after practicing 3 years of ken-jutsu with a bad balanced katana I can tell you how important is balance in a sword. If the blade weights too much it costs more to swing and strikes aren't so precise. And if the handle is too short the grapping of the sword becomes a nightmare. Ok, this is a game, so it doesn't need to reflect real world 100%, but at least I'm expecting some simple logic in designs. And another thing it really bugs me out: Blizzard started making all rare/epic swords pointless (as in "no point at the end of the blade"). Take for example Brutal Gladiator's Greatsword. Holy jormungar's tits, Batman! Do you really expect somebody to go around with such monstrosity? And where's the pointy end of the blade? What to you expect? To hack your foe like you're using an axe? Why do they call it a sword then? Just say you're wearing an axe or some kind of short-handled glaive and you'll be closer to what it looks. And WotLK swords are even worse. Uncommon quality ones look sturdy and with a broad blade that looks like made of stone instead of metal. Come on guys! You can make it better. Classic swords looked great. Just add some fancy decoration and you'll get good-looking swords. Take for example Quel'Serrar. Ok, blade is too wide, but it's one of the best looking swords in the game. In the other hand take the Claymore of Ancient Power that drops from the Four Horsemen in Naxx10... ye Olde Gods!! It's awfully heinous! I had this blade (it's still lying in my bank) and it makes you look like some silly jester, not a bloodthirsty destruction machine.
I've seen a lot of comments about the robes designs (all cloth chest items look almost the same, all dark and simmialr since the patterns aren't noticeable) but I think the case of swords is just worse every time. And I fear the worst to come with Cataclysm :_(


Ah failpugs... we all hate them, but they're the source of some of the funniest stories in WoW. But it feels strange when failpugs disband so quickly, usually takes 2 or 3 wipes until a raid compeltely disbands. Not in this case. The other day my guild-leader asks me if I'm interested in joining a NAxx25 pug with one ranged dps. Since I was a bit bored I agreed to bring Vurnak and try his new Arcane spec (now he's dual Frost/Arcane) since Arcane seems fun to play and chugs out decent dps. The group took a bit to form and then another bit to get everyone inside Naxx (come on people, don't be lazy slackers and get your asses to the instance or summoning stone when you're invited, don't wait for a summon unless your hearthstone is on cooldown). And yes, then took another bit (heh, I should use another word instead of bit, because it wasn't a small amount of time) to get buffed up and ready, with people yelling for missing pally buff and not realizing the shaman was overwriting it with totem. Usual story. When I joined I was the only mage and few clothies were inside, so my mate whispers me that I have a big chance of getting some loot. "I think not" I reply, "I smell failure". He checks the tanks and healers and replies back I'm being too negative, they look well geared. I tell him I'm not feeling confident with pugs, specially 25man where there's not a core formed by people of the same guild or at least recognized guilds who do endgame content. And again I had to say the words I really hate "I told you so".
So the run finally starts and we get quickly to Anub'Rekhan without losing anyone and nobody acting wildly. "See? group looks good, we're going to pwn his ass" he tells me. But as Ragnaros said... "too soon!", yep he spoke too soon about pwning because it was Anub'Rekhan who wiped the whole raid when he casted Locust Swarm. The tank decided to stand and let the healers deak with the damage (a tactic I never liked, I prefer to move the bosss to the other side of the room), but the problem was the rest of melee not getting away to kill the Crypt Guard. Obviously the healers couldn't keep up all the people taking damage from the swarm and we were finished in a blink. Up to this point nothing out of the normal with failpugs... every asshole thinks another person will do his duty and prefers to stay on boss to get "HUGEDPSLOL!!!!1". Morons. But then about 70% of the raid left almost at once, with the rest of people leaving too after seeing they would had to wait again to get a full raid. My guild-leader whispered me "Wow, this is the fastest failpug I've ever seen, they even didn't wanted to go a second time". My answer was "well, at least we didn't get locked". Leeroy at least got chicken.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Every story has a beginning

Hello there, brave adventurer! Welcome to The *urnaks! A place of thrilling mysteries and... oh wait! Sorry! I can't start like this. Let's try again... Beware brave adventurer, tread carefully on the... cut!! Can I take a different approach? This is not even original. Once upon a time... no! Somebody fire the writer please!
Ok, I'll do all the dirty work. My name is Kurnak, a veteran warrior of the Hellscream EU realm and elder of the *urnak family. Me and my alts have been around the world of Azeroth since almost the begining. So what's the deal with this blog? You won't find here theorycrafting or statistics. I'm not a numbers junkie. I prefer to have fun rather than chugging out "bit critz lol!". I know there're lots of blogs with funny stories out there and I hope to bring you some too.
So first of all let me introduce you the family and friends:

Kurnak. Warrior. Cold and precise. He's my main char, the first one I created. Not rare, I tend to create a warrior on all MUDs/RPGs/MMORPGs I play. maybe because is possibly the easiest character and lets you get the grip on the game. He enjoys bashing heads (started as Arms until I got really tired of it and discovered the joy of Fury). He doesn't like tanking but when needed he switchs to Protection and puts his face on the frontline, ready to be biffed and spanked just so the rest of the group can dps safely.

Turnak. Paladin. Caring and generous. He started a career as dps when Retribution wasn't a good dps spec, so he finally switched to Holy (guild was low on healers too). While Kurnak doesn't like tanking he really loves it. I suspect he has a secret passion for martyrdom.

Murnak. Priest. Serious and with a twisted vein. Follower of the Shadow during his entire life he discovered the joy of Discipline some time ago. Nothing teachs you better to respect the gods than a good face melting.

Vurnak. Mage. Wild and a bit crazy. After playing with the Arcane for some little time he decided to investigate the power of Frost until he turned to the other side... Fire. Only to go back to Frost. And he's thinking on switching again.

Surnak. Warlock. Cold and dangerous. After mastering the way of Affliction turned to Demonology to investigate the preternatural beings that can be summoned into Azeroth. Someone you don't want to upset.

Jurnak. Rogue. Cheerful and playful. The younger of the family and possibly the most irresponsible. He forged a respectable career in the field of Assassination but decided to give a shot to Combat. He's still developing his rogue skills and plans to go back to Assassination because he just loves to wield daggers.

Durnak. Death Knight. Dreadful and fearless. The last member of the family who came back from the Dark Side and offered his abilities in Blood and Frost to the Alliance. He thinks the Lich King is a boring snob.

These're all the *urnak family members, but in their joruneys around the Warcraft world they made some great friends that share their adventures in Azeroth and Outland.

Grimbol. Hunter. Brawler and good-hearted. This proud son of Ironforge swore to follow the *urnaks wherever they went. A great Marksman in his early years he decided to extend his love for beasts and decided to go deep in the ways of Beast Mastery.

Lorathiel. Druid. Distant and silent. No one really knows why he decided to follow the family, but they're happy to have this professional Feral and Restoration druid around. He enjoys prowling around stealthed and you never know when he's there watching you.

Valaak. Shaman. Solid and loyal. The last companion that joined the band, coming from the crashed ship Exodar, crossed the paths with the family and found their goals were the same, so he offered his knowledge in the art of war as Enhancement and also his healing skills as Restoration.

So now you know the family a bit. What's then with them? Although I like to add some roleplay I've never developed a full personality for all (or at all in most cases), so I usually don't project difrferent parts of me into the different characters. All are basically me :) I find disappointing that all races (and specially with humans) have an unique body configuration. It would be great to have mages and warlocks with a crooked and fragile look, fat and rounded priests, warriors with a beer-belly and so. Shouldn't be a big deal when you check the amount of models WoW has. Who knows... maybe in some very future expansion...
And what about the blog itself? I don't really have a script or goal for it. I want to write about any possible aspect of WoW, specially about the funny issues you might find on a daily basis. After all, WoW is a game and the goal is to have fun with it. When you get your nineth character to level 80 there's not much fun in the daily play per se. It's the people behind the characters who really make you login everyday, either by what they say or the actions they perform in-game. So again be welcomed here, hope you find my posts amusing.