Still More Proving Grounds Progress

August 26, 2014

Also, alt updates!

I’ve gotten my monk up to 74 and am letting him build up rested/monk xp bonus buff. In the meantime, I’ve been leveling an alt in Askevar’s guild for my sister. That toon is currently sitting at 25 and rising. Things are picking up now that I have bags (thanks, Askevar) and a mount.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had been hitting the DPS endless version of proving grounds pretty heavily in my quest for the Proven Assailant title. After taking a bit of break on alts, I went for another round. My new high is wave 23 (score 2398), which means I picked up the [Proving Yourself: Endless Damage Wave 20] achievement along the way. I’m somewhat heartened that I’m making progress despite the fact that my biggest problem today was playing rather poorly. There were a few distractions here and there, but mostly I just kept forgetting stuff. I think I didn’t get enough sleep last night because I was playing like crap. Misusing CDs, missing mobs (as in I didn’t even see them), standing around not casting; you name it, I screwed it up today. Ugh.

More Proving Grounds Progress

August 20, 2014

Been hitting the DPS endless version of proving grounds pretty heavily, going after the Proven Assailant title. While I haven’t gotten there yet, I did manage to get to Wave 18, and picked up the [Proving Yourself: Endless Damage Wave 10] achievement along the way.

At the risk of jinxing myself, it doesn’t seem like this is going to give me nearly as much trouble as the healer mode did.  I’m pretty well settled into a strategy that works for each wave, and now it’s just a matter of executing the plan. You know, the old “just a little more polish” routine. However, having gotten to 18 so quickly, I’m encouraged. Especially since the reason I failed at that point, and the reason I abandoned today’s attempts altogether, was horrific lag.

Sadly, I can usually only get in good attempts when everyone else is either gone or asleep, because whenever somebody tries to watch videos or play Facebook games (or generally just any other bandwidth-hogging activity), it chokes out the connection and gives me horrific latency.

More Proving Grounds Success

August 19, 2014

Whew! That one was tough. Really tough. I did finally manage to get Proving Grounds Gold: Tank on my prot warrior, though.  That gold completion marks the third and final role completed, and 08/11 classes completed. Huzzah!

I’m not too sure what percentage of the player-base has managed Gold or better on all 3 roles, but I’m guessing it’s not high. Either way, I feel good for having managed it, regardless of how many others have done so.

Combined with my recent [You're Doing it Wrong] achievement (on my Holy Priest), and my [Proven Healer] title (on my Resto Druid), I’m really starting to knock things off of my list. I’ve made steps towards completing the Holy Paladin Gold, and though I’ve gotten to wave 10 several times, I haven’t quite cracked it yet.

I’m a bit concerned about the DPS modes, especially for my DK and Warrior. I have somewhat-geared toons of those classes on Horde-side, but my alliance ones are poorly geared. The problem is that most of my supply network on that side was drained when I made the big faction switch, so I don’t have a ready supply of flasks, food, and gold (for repairs) on that server. I haven’t quite decided whether it would be easier to re-kickstart the production line on that server or to just gear up some alts on this one. Decisions, decisions.


Proving Grounds Sucess!!!

August 13, 2014

Woot! After much practice and refinement, I have gotten the Endless (Wave 30) achievement and the Proven Healer title that comes with it. My new high score is 3526 and I think I’ll let that stand for the time being. I want to work towards the Endless Damage mode (which I haven’t attempted yet) and also try to finish off some Gold modes that I haven’t cracked yet.



Proving Grounds Progress

August 11, 2014

I put together some really great runs towards the endless healing waves last night. My original high score was 846 before I shifted around the talents and glyphs. That pushed me to 1548 and then 1646 before I plateaued again. And then… well, last night I was kind of “in the zone.” My high jumped to 2546, which gave me the Endless Healer (Wave 20) achievement. So huzzah to that.

I am now getting above wave 20 pretty regularly. I got to 25 twice, but unfortunately both attempts were derailed by lag spikes (as were several attempts that hadn’t gotten that high). I eventually just gave up when the occasional lag spikes faded into yellow or red latency, but all in all it was a productive night, despite all that. I had another attempt that fizzled at 24 because I OOMed when the party didn’t kill the mobs in time for me to drink between 20 and 21 (pretty sad when even the 15-second grace period doesn’t give you enough time to drop combat before the next wave spawns in).

Blizz really needs to do something about the group’s dps or else tweak the mobs’ health on the last wave. It’s endlessly frustrating when (even with the healer dpsing) the group can’t down a 1:00 wave in less than 1:10. Even having the drink key on the action bar and spamming the key as the final mob dies, you’ll get pretty close to missing the window. What I’ve taken to doing is positioning my mushroom/puddle on the spot where Wave 1 spawns in just before the final mob dies and then drinking through most of Wave 1. As long as you get started in the 2-3 second space between dropping combat and the new wave spawning you should be able to keep drinking (as long as you aren’t interrupted by moving or being attacked or something like that). My efflorescence puddle is usually enough to keep everyone healthy enough that I can recover my full mana bar and then top everyone off with basic heals towards the end of the round.

At any rate, I don’t mean to come off so negative about what was essentially a very good night. I got some nice attempts in and I feel like I’ve turned a corner. Just a little more polish ought to get me past that last hump. I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll crack the last few rounds and get my title soon. After that, I wish to attempt the same thing on my shaman. Yes, I know the title is account wide, but I want to try to “achieve” it on all of the healers. Now that the shaman has his legendary cloak and some Siege gear, he’s actually looking at some extraordinarily good gear for the challenge (huge numbers of sockets and the legendary has extra stats even though the proc is inactive in PG). In fact, I’m tempted to grab a few pieces of Siege gear for my druid, since he still has lots of weak slots. A few extra gems wouldn’t hurt and replacing all of my single-stat Timeless Isle gear with complete gear would also add a little oomph.

I’ll end with a few tips I’ve learned. Hopefully they will be of use to somebody else. Even if not, writing it out helps me organize my thoughts. So, here goes:

  • Casting and maintaining a DoT on each mob adds up over the long term. It is often more effective (both in terms of mana and damage) than trying to dps with hard-cast spells. Just be mindful to do it early and refresh as needed.
  • Waves 5 and 9 are the toughest waves by far.If you have limited raid CDs, those are the waves you want to use them on.
  • Because of the CD on Tranquility, I can usually use it early on Wave 2, late in Wave 5, and then as needed on Wave 9. Any 3-minute healing CD (Healing Tide Totem/Divine Hymn/etc.) should time out the same way.
  • Waves 1, 7, and 10 are easy waves that let you recover mana.
  • Waves 2, 5, and 9 are tougher waves that will make your burn through mana.
  • Waves 3, 4, 6, and 8 are medium-difficulty waves, so you can maintain or maybe even recover mana as long as you stay on top of things.
  • Handling Chomp and Aqua Bomb quickly and efficiently is the key to make or break those waves and by consequence your whole run.
  • In the wave with two Aqua Bombs, your priority is generally as follows: Oto, Ki, Kavan, Sooli, You. Oto and Ki will always hit the melee group. Kavan will often hit the melee group (because she runs to melee range to spam Arcane Explosion). Sooli is almost always alone at range. You can run away from the group. Additionally, you can use a damage reduction CD to minimize damage and then stand in your healing puddle to recover the damage done.
  • The key to handling Chomp is two-fold: 1) keep everyone as close to topped off as possible *before* Chomp is applied, and 2) use a bursty heal to push them above the 90% threshold as quickly as possible. If you don’t have any better tools available, even your basic fast/expensive heal (Flash Heal/Healing Surge/etc.) works out to be cheaper than letting Chomp continue to tick.
  • Damage Reduction CDs will help you catch up if you get behind on a Chomp, assuming you have one available. This is particularly useful on Oto, since his constant stream of tank damage can make it difficult to get him above 90% long enough for Chomp to clear (it can take a second or two for the game to recognize your health and remove the debuff).
  • If Chomp goes on you, your Soulstone is amazing for taking it off (instantly heals 20% of your health). Unless you have an absolute emergency, save it for this purpose.
  • DON’T PANIC!!! Keep your head and stick to your game plan. The party’s health bars are going to dip. Quite often, they will be below 100% health. Don’t freak out and start spamming your fast heal for every little fireball.
  • You’ll get a ton of mileage out of your ground effects (if you have one). If yours is cheaply/easily movable (like a druid’s) then keep up with the group and move it when they do. If it’s a little more expensive and/or has a lengthier CD (like a shaman’s), try to wait a second or two and make sure he group is settled in before placing your puddle. Either way, place the puddle carefully, covering as much of the group as possible. The mage often moves to melee so try to include her if you can and don’t forget to stand in it yourself.
  • The group may still move out of your puddle despite these precautions. Try not to murder your computer’s monitor in your frustration about this.
  • Proving Grounds Endless Healer mode tests not only your reflexes, but also your decisions. This is the hardest part of the challenge. Learn the difference between a true emergency and just a low health bar.  Train yourself to recognize damage patterns: it usually comes in spikes and lulls. There’s no need to rush to two or three fast heals when only one (or none at all) are needed. If there will be no more damage for 5-6 seconds, a couple efficient heals will work just fine. Likewise, know when you need to use a fast heal or a CD to get a health bar back up quickly because more damage is incoming shortly.

Proving Grounds Frustration

August 9, 2014

After a a few UI tweaks and a change of talents and glyphs, my high score jumped from round 8 to round 15 on my druid in my search for the elusive Wave 30 achievement and Proven Healer title. Since then, progress has been much slower than I’d hoped. Though my high score is now at 16, the stars seem to be aligned against me. Every time I start to put together a really nice run, I get whomped by the bad RNG. Although it’s somewhat heartening to note that my problems are very rarely to do with mana management now (I can brute-force the first 10 waves just fine with no CDs), it still sucks a bit that bad RNG (or rather, poor AI) can still screw you over. Some of my best attempts have been derailed by a single NPC getting 2-3 debuffs simultaneously (which results in an unhealable amount of damage), by numerous NPCs standing in the fire (and having a less-than-amusing “joke” about it while they’re doing it), or by a combination of the two (I’ll thank you not to stand in the fire while you have double chomp debuffs, thank you very much). At any rate, I feel like I could maybe turn the corner on the whole thing if I can just avoid the dreaded RNG double-whammy. It’s been pretty frustrating, though.

No, I’m not Making This Stuff Up

July 25, 2014

WARNING: The following blog post only sort of pertains to WoW. I got off on all sort of rambling tangents that are, nevertheless, (at least hopefully) interesting and entertaining. It is devoid of embittered cursing and is safe for all audiences. ;)

Not too long ago, I got into an argument on a message board. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to you, Dear Reader. As all my readers ought to know by now, cruising message boards and making inflammatory statements is one of my favorite hobbies. Not only is it a great way to express humor, it’s also a great way to bait people into a debate (or well, usually an argument, but one dares to dream).

This particular argument stemmed from a debate about the hotly-contested decision to remove flying from current content during Warlords of Draenor. Anyway, during the course of this argument I commented that one of Blizzard’s biggest flaws in designing content is its inability to grasp the shifting baseline. The guy arguing with me didn’t just disagree, he accused me of making up the concept out of whole cloth. It’s a real thing, I promise you.

I wanted to explain to him exactly how much I wasn’t just making this all up, but I was fairly certain he was a troll, anyway, at that point, but even if he was legitimately stupid, every effort I made to explain the concept unraveled into a long-winded mess of scattered threads of thought. Not entirely unlike this tangled ball of yarn you’re reading now.

Well, anyway, it occurred to me that it was all just too much to fit within the scope of a single post within a thread about flying. My solution, as it often is, was, “Well, why don’t I just blog about it?” And so I am. I’ll try to keep it brief and interesting, so bear with me.

In WoW, as within the real world, there is an aspect known as the “standard of living.” Basically, the standard of living is a measurement of how well-off you are within a given system. Like all such systems, the standard of living has a shifting baseline. As the economy grows, the standard of living increases. Things that used to be considered luxury items eventually become mainstream, and then just standard/expected.

Cars, Televisions, refrigerators, and microwave ovens are excellent real-world examples of this phenomenon. All of these items used to be exclusive to only the wealthiest homes, but now it’s hard to find a home without them. When first introduced:

  • The television was first mass-produced in the USA in 1938. It sold for about $190 (or about two months’ salary of an average American at that time). Adjusted for inflation, that would be nearly $3,000 in today’s dollars.
  • The automobile was first commercially available in 1885. It sold for around $1,000 (or about three times the yearly salary of an average American at that time). Adjusted for inflation, that would be around $24,000  in today’s dollars.
  • The electric refrigerator was first mass-produced in 1927. It sold for just over $1,000 (or about the yearly salary of an average American at that time). Adjusted for inflation, that would be $12,600 in today’s dollars.
  • The microwave oven was first commercially available in 1947. It sold for about $5,000 (or more than twice the yearly salary of an average American at that time). Adjusted for inflation, that would be around $49,000 in today’s dollars.

The same concept applies to WoW. In Vanilla, simply having a mount was a rite of passage all on its own, and having a fast ground mount was a true status symbol. But ground mounts aren’t special anymore. Now everyone and his brother gets a mount at level 20, because it’s the new standard.  Each successive expansion has expanded the economy, made players wealthier, and thus increased the standard of living. Getting 280% flight used to be a long, hard slog and an enormous gold sink. Now it’s almost unheard of that somebody won’t have at least 280% flight on their main and fairly common for somebody to have purchased it on all or most of their alts. If somebody says “I only have slow flight on this toon” there’s an instant and unspoken question: “Why? Are you new? Are you poor? Do you have too many alts? What’s wrong with you?” This is the shifting baseline at work.

This is what Blizzard failed to understand with their Guild Perks. They repeated time and time again that these were just “perks” – not necessary to play the game, just nice little bonuses. Except that when you design the game to be balanced as if you have them (which they did), then they are NOT bonuses, they are the standard. People naturally adjusted to this new standard and came to expect the perks. Leveling was balanced around having the guild’s 10% bonus. Leveling without it felt slower, like you were being punished for not being in a big guild. The same applies to the discounts, bonus mats, instant mail delivery, etc. Can you play without them? Sure. Do you feel like you’re “slumming it” – somehow playing below the normal, or beneath your accustomed standard of living when you play without them? Of course you feel that way. Because you are.

The problem with the no flight decision is that for the first time, the expansion is taking a big step backwards in the standard of living. Things that have become the standard, baseline expectation are now being *removed completely* and it’s only natural to feel that this is a hassle, inconvenience, or otherwise negative experience. Imagine that your washing machine or microwave oven were suddenly and forcibly removed from your home. You could still use these devices, but only at a laundromat or some sort of newfangled microwave kiosk. Would they still be as convenient? Would they still feel like as much of a labor-saving device? Or do they suddenly feel like a chore? Are you now starting to weigh a cost-reward analysis about whether it’s even worth the hassle of using a microwave or washing machine? How long before you start to look for other options? That’s the obvious natural progression for those disenfranchised by the no-flight decision. At what point does the slow movement, the dazing, the dismounting, the forced combat with trivial mobs, all become too much of a hassle for what is supposed to be a form of entertainment? In short: when does the bad start to outweigh the good? That’s not a conversation you want customers to be having with themselves if you are in the entertainment industry. Especially if you’re operating under a subscription model.

Don’t get me wrong. I get why Blizzard is doing this. No flight means they can push out smaller zones with less content (less art, fewer quests, fewer creatures, etc.) in an attempt to make it appear that they’re delivering on their promise of “more content, more quickly.” I understand that cutting corners to decrease the workload is cheaper than hiring enough programmers to meet that workload. But, Blizz, the cheapness is starting to show. The year-long content drought at the end of the expansion, the laundry list of removed/reduced/delayed features in the new expansion, the stagnation, the gimmicks (CRZ, server merges, no flight)? It’s all piling up to a point that the average Joe is starting to notice. That guy in the tinfoil hat isn’t looking so crazy anymore. In short, we’re on to you.

It’s time to pony up, Blizz. Dip into those billion-dollar yearly profits and hire a new team. Just one new content team. Yes, there will be a slow-down as the old team helps the new team learn what to do. But guess what? That reduction in output/quality is temporary (and easily defensible/excusable to your customer base). Unlike your current plan, which is both permanent and smacks of greed. Just see if it works. See if that increase in creative talent, differing opinions, new ideas, and helping hands translates into an increase in quality and productivity. Find out if making a better product might get some folks to come back and try out the game again. See if maybe they decide to stay because the infusion of new blood has led to innovations and a genuinely more enjoyable game. Do things the right way, instead of the easy way. Just this once. What’s the worst that could happen?


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