Sunday, December 11, 2011

4.3 impressions

I'm loving 4.3. Here are a few notes about it from the top of my head.

The new raid, Dragon Soul, is tuned much better than the other Cataclysm tiers. I like that in normal, a casual guild can figure out and down a new boss in about two hours. That's exactly the level of difficulty I've been looking for. As far as I know, the heroic bosses are as hard as ever, but we haven't had opportunity yet to try.

Looking for Raid is a blast! I don't care if the fights are cheasified. It's fun running through them and seeing the bosses go down. It's borderline required in my guild that everyone run Dragon Soul in LFR before they run it with the guild on normal mode. You really get a feel for how the fight works, and it's a low-stress environment.

The new five-mans are really fun! They remind me greatly of the ICC 5-mans at the end of Lich King. They have a coherent and interesting storyline that is fun to play through. However, the difficulty is much less. They seem like the easiest 5-mans so far, given the level of gear most people going into them will have. That's fine with me, really.

Many people are using transmogrification to deck out their character with a really cool-looking gear set. That sounds fun, but I haven't had the time in my life to look into that so far. Instead, I've just been replacing the looks of certain gear with certain other gear I happen to have around. The worst offender on Ohken was the tier-11 blue-feather shoulders. I really hate those things! I changed them to PVP shoulders, which is not a terrific fit for Ohken's character, but they look a whole lot better. He's a brown cow of nature. Now he looks like one.

There are several valor point changes that I'm quite enjoying. Here is the new valor point setup:

  • You get 150 valor for running a new 5-man.
  • You get 150 valor for running an old 5-man on heroic. Note this is exactly the same; you can farm your valor points whichever way you feel like.
  • They've significantly nerfed the troll dungeons so that they now run pretty quickly. Even post-nerf, they are possibly the hardest 5-man dungeons in the game, though, in my opinion.
  • You get 500 valor points if you do a full clear on Looking for Raid.
  • The weekly valor cap is about the same: 1000 VP instead of the old 980.
  • You get 100 VP per boss on normal 10-man mode.
  • You don't buy tier pieces with valor.

These changes have a number of positive effects on valor points that I had not realized until I played with it a little. One effect is that you have no min-max reason to prefer one kind of 5-man over the others. This was sort of true before, because the troll dungeons were slower, but the troll dungeons were still usually the best use of time. Now it's a no brainer. You can queue for either dungeon and expect to spend the same amount of time getting your 150 VP. I will be running the old 5-mans quite a bit, I expect, just for the extra variety.

Most impressively, valor point farming is now optional for normal-mode raiders. If you are raiding enough that you see gear drops in raid, then you don't really need to get VP gear at all. You'll get tier gear in the raid, and you'll get reasonable gear for other slots even if not best-in-slot. Valor points thus work like Blizzard always wanted for emblems: you can use them as a crutch if you aren't raiding with regularity.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Partial ticks

I don't find haste thresholds very fun. Hit capping is already a little bit annoying; whenever I get new gear on a caster class I have to reforge everything to deal with the cap. At least I can manage the hit cap, though, without needing to refer to external sites. I just reforge to get enough hit and then change the rest to something else.

Haste thresholds are like hit caps but far more complicated. There are multiple haste thresholds that apply under different buff scenarios, and you have to decide with haste threshold you want to aim for. Then, again, every time you get new gear, you have to reforge like crazy to get yourself right back at the correct haste threshold. In practice, I'm hardly bothering. As a result, Ohken has a significant amount of haste right now that I should really get around to reforging off.

It doesn't help that the mechanic doesn't exactly feel polished. There have been a lot of questions posted over where the exact thresholds are. Many people are grabbing 10 or more extra haste just to be on the safe side. It also doesn't mesh well with the warlock spell Dark Intent. If you cast it on someone who is just above a haste threshold, they get minimal benefit from it. However, if they want to reforge so as to take advantage of it, they are severely gimped whenever they don't end up with Dark Intent. Overall, it feels like I'm doing a lot of work around haste thresholds for something that, from Blizzard's point of view, is more of an accident than something they prepared for a gamer to experience.

Let me describe a way haste thresholds could be removed from the game. First, consider the background. Up through most of Wrath, haste didn't help HOTs and DOTs at all, and thus it tended to be weak for classes that rely on HOTs and DOTs. In Cataclysm, all HOTs and DOTs now scale with haste. The way it works is that haste improves the ticking speed but does not change the duration of the spell. If you have a spell that, at baseline, does 5 ticks in 10 seconds, and you get 100% haste, then the spell will do 10 ticks in 10 seconds.

The only problem is that now we have to deal with haste thresholds. If you have anywhere between 80% haste and 99% haste in the above example, the spell will do 9 ticks in 10 seconds. Thus, the haste from 80% to 99% isn't improving your character in the slightest. That's a large gap for a stat to be doing absolutely nothing!

To eliminate these gaps, all it would take is to add a partial tick whenever a HOT or DOT is about to fall off. Continuing the example, if a player has 90% haste, then the spell would do 9 ticks at full effectiveness and then a partial tick at half effectiveness. With 81% haste, there would still be a partial tick at the end, but it would be a tiny one. With 99% haste, the partial tick would be almost as strong as a full tick.

One rule of game design, one I think is widely held, is that you want to control the kinds of decisions players are faced with. You want those choices to be fun. As an example, deciding whether to cast a big heal or a small heal is a fun decision. Each decision takes about 100 ms to work out during a single battle, it's not punishing if you make a mistake on some of these decisions, and in a gaming session you make a long string of these simple decisions.

I think haste thresholds fail the fun test. The only way to even know what the thresholds are is to do extensive theorycrafting and play testing. Hardly any player has time to do this themselves, so what they do is consult sites like Elitist Jerks that have a complicated chart of thresholds and a guide on which ones to aim for under what circumstances. It reminds me of the cookie cutter talent builds that we all currently use. Like with cookie cutter builds, reading up on haste thresholds are something you have to do and then, like a monkey, replicate in the game. There's no real choice in it, and it's tedious going through the exercise.

I think haste thresholds should go, and I think I see a way to do it. WTB partial ticks.

Make spell costs scale with gear

It's long been a problem that Blizzard can't balance mana limits for healers across all the tiers in an expansion. As healers get more gear, they inevitably get more mana, but the cost of spells never increases. Eventually healers get to a point where they have plenty of mana, and they become only interested in increasing the size of their heals. Ghostcrawler sometimes calls this "graduating" from mana concerns.

To see how this has played out in Cataclysm, consider druid healers as the expansion has progressed. Beginning healers use nourish almost exclusively, considering healing touch ridiculously expensive. Firelands raiders, meanwhile, use healing touch almost exclusively, and have little reason to bother with nourish. Additionally, I can attest that in quest gear, the level 85 heroics are nearly impossible to heal without running out of mana. Yet, again, in Firelands, mana just isn't a concern. You can't be stupid about it, but I no longer feel like I have to wait to refresh lifebloom, or that I need to switch to nourish whenever possible, or that I should bother cancelling a heal if I see someone else landed a heal ahead of mine. I just take it easy and worry about other things than mana.

There are a number of ways to fix this situation. One of them is to stop giving more mana with more gear, but I think that would take away a lot of the character of a mana-based class. Assuming they don't make that change, the only alternative is to make the cost of spells continue to increase at higher gear levels.

There are a number of ways to make spells cost more. Here is a simple one: Intellect increases both the power and the cost of spells. Intuitively, the idea is that intellect allows healers to use more mana at once. It's like using both barrels of a double-barreled shotgun: it does twice the damage and uses twice the ammo. From a balance perspective, as healers gear up, they would observe not just their regen improving, but also their rate of resource usage. They'd have to balance these increases with their gear choices.

Blizzard has already decided that in Panderia, intellect will no longer increase the size of the mana pool. That change matches well with the one I describe. I wonder if they will take a try at it? Throughput versus regen is one of the more fun itemization choices in Warcraft, and right now you only have much of a choice at certain particular gear levels.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The new talent system gives more choice

I think the new talent system in Panderia is excellent. I am seeing a lot of bloggers that are tired of the endless redoes of the talent system. I understand the fatigue, but I believe this time really is different. Blizzard has come up with something better than all their old designs.

In the new talent system, each class has one talent tree, and each player chooses six--count 'em!--six talents from the tree. Already it is helpful to pare it down to six choices. Blizzard does well if they have so many as six interesting choices in a talent tree, so why not cut out all the uninteresting choices?

More interesting is the way the talents are chosen. In the current system, you have wide liberty to choose any talents you want from anywhere in the tree. In the new system, you pick exactly one talent from each of six tiers.

That's a subtle difference that has a big improvement. The reason is that talents only compete with other talents of the same kind. They don't compete with talents of completely different kinds. Here are some ways Blizzard can use this new system to give the player an interesting choice:

  • They can offer three different kinds of mobility and make you pick which one you want.
  • They can offer three different kinds of raid utility, and make you pick one of them.
  • For a healer, they can make you choose between throughput and mana efficiency.
  • For a dpser, they can make you choose between an ability on a predictable cooldown versus an ability with a proc.

Suppose Blizzard tried the above choices in the current talent system. What would players do? If they're a healer, they'll choose the throughput talents and the mana efficiency talents, and ignore the rest. If they're a dpser, they'll choose both the cooldown and the proc. Whatever you are, you take the talents that buff the main thing you do (heal, dps) and ignore the rest. In the new system, Blizzard can make you choose one of each.

Personally, I'm very happy to see the new talent system. For further reading, here are what others are saying:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Real-money auction house

Blizzard is adding a real-money auction house to Diablo III. MMO Melting Pot has a roundup of several comments on it.

If the experience goes well, I would imagine that Blizzard eventually makes the same change in Warcraft. Why not?

One difference that should be good is that gold selling will no longer be the massive black market that it currently is. If gold selling becomes legal, like it now is in Diablo III, then gold spam should mostly disappear. What's the point of spamming someone when you can already sell it through a proper channel? Eliminating black markets is generally a good thing.

What I hope does not happen is that it starts to require real money to do be reasonably raid-ready, or to otherwise be in a position to have fun in the game. The monthly fee is enough. I hope the game does not get to the point that unless you are paying a lot of extra money, you can only do a little bit of the starter content.

How this works out for Diablo III should be very interesting. I'm guessing it will be fine, and that we'll all wonder what the fuss was about.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How many valor points per week?

Murloc Parliament has a good post on the valor point grind:
After a new patch, a lot of people DO ALL THE THINGS and just postpone the RL stuff to accommodate. I remember those days, and kind of miss them. But hey, life choices.

What this means is that I’m planning to be putting in pretty much the same effort every week. No huge gaming sessions right after a patch release, but no totally slacking off a few weeks in, since I will still be needing stuff. I suspect that’s a different model than many gamers, and a very different model than hard-core raiders. Pacing for a marathon instead of a sprint.

It's a good read.

One good point is that if you aren't going to get the full cap of valor points per week, you are better off doing heroics than troll dungeons. You get about the same VP/hour either way, plus you have an almost zero chance of failing. It's also less fun, in my opinion, but it's definitely easier and more lighthearted.

Another good point is to check carefully about the firelands dailies. First, it takes 425 marks before you unlock the second vendor. As an aside, the first vendor just takes 20 marks, so you surely want to do it if that first vendor has anything useful. Second, even after you unlock them, the gear is only ilvl 365. Thus, it's likely to be temporary anyway.

Personally, I am thinking to VP cap until I get two pieces of tier 12. This is because I do have the time to play that much, and I expect those two pieces of gear to be a significant help in our raiding efforts. So far we have only downed Shannox in the Firelands, and on the other fights we've tried, we seem to have the mechanics down but not the dps and healing throughput. After that, I'll stop doing dailies on my main.

I also plan to complete all the Firelands dailies, but only partially because of the gear. I simply think they are fun!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How has Cataclysm healing gone so far?

The first tier of Cataclysm raiding is drawing to a close. Now is a good time to ask: how have the planned changes in healing worked out in practice?

Before Cataclysm came out, Ghostcrawler wrote a great post on what he wants from healing. Here's an excerpt:

Mana efficiency is ideally part of this calculus. If mana doesn't matter, then either your highest healing-per-second spell or your fastest spell (depending on the situation) is always the best choice. Increasingly in LK, it's just the fastest spell that wins because of the nature of incoming damage. If mana doesn't matter, then you aren't trying to hit the bullseye I described above because missing the bullseye (overhealing) has no consequence. If you use the proverbial bazooka to kill cockroaches, then who cares?

I would tease out three overall goals from this and other posts by the Blizzard developers:

  • Mana efficiency should matter. Healers should choose spells not just on their healing per execution time (HPET), but their healing per mana (HPM). Healers should gear not just for bigger, faster heals, but for mana regen.
  • Damage should be slow enough that healers feel free to use slower spells. In Lich King, a slow spell like Healing Touch could easily mean people die before the heal lands.
  • Healers should not cast the same spell over and over. They should intelligently make choices about what to do.

Based on the normal-mode 10-man raids I have been in, I believe the game has accomplished this quite well in the current tier. For the current tier:

  • Mana efficiency is huge. Regrowth is only used in emergencies, for example, due to its high mana cost. Resto druids are highly prioritizing mana regen on their gear and in their specs.
  • Damage intake is slow enough that you don't need super-fast healing. Slow and steady healing is just fine. The main exception is Chimaeron, where Caustic Slime comes very rapidly in the phase 1 and is devastating in the phase 2.
  • Healers have a lot of choice in spells. This is weaker than ideal for nourish versus healing touch, because their HPM are so close. However, there are lots of interesting choices in where to use swiftmend, when to use tranquility, when to cast a regrowth after all, and when to use tree of life.

The second two items look fine for future tiers. Damage will go up, but so will stamina, especially now that stamina gives 14 hitpoints per point. Furthermore, much of what is interesting in spell choice nowadays is about other factors than HPET versus HPM, so even if we switch over to only good HPET spells, we'll still have more to think about than in Lich King.

Mana regen is a different story. Since spells take a fixed amonut of mana, it seems inevitable that mana regen will eventually get to the point that druids can spam cast healing touch and rejuvenate indefinitely. At that point, which is pretty much top-end tier-11 gear, players have no more benefit from regen. Thus, I expect regen in Firelands and beyond to be more like the hit cap: it will be very important up to a certan amount, and after that you won't care.

Fixing the mana regen problem is pretty hard. To make healers keep caring about mana, it seems like we need a way to heal even more than they currently can, but at the expense of using more mana. One way would be if higher spell power meant you also went through mana faster. That would be a rather dramatic change in how healing works, though. A milder change would be if players could take a talent to get more healing but much worse mana efficiency. For example, 50% more healing but 100% more mana per spell. Players in the current tier wouldn't use it, because they'd end up out-of-mana very quickly. Players in later tiers would have to take it, though, just so that their max throughput can keep up. Once they take it, they care quite a lot about regen again.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Built-in damage meters?

Someone asked about this on the DPS installment of Ask the Devs. They answered that they are working on it:
Q: Will we ever see an in-game damage and healing meter to replace Recount? – Sinth├Ča (NA/ANZ), Hemodynamic (EU-EN)

A: We’d dearly love to do this, and it’s been something we’ve been working on, off and on for some time. The problem is that increasingly players place a really high and occasionally unhealthy emphasis on meters, and once there is an official Blizzard-supported meter, then that situation is only going to get worse. Anything that isn’t portrayed in our meters with a great degree of accuracy is going to be misinterpreted and cause forum drama. For example, it’s easy for DPS to inflate their meters on some fights by attacking targets that don’t matter. How do we handle those situations -- trust players to know the difference? That’s tricky, especially when the community has a penchant for distilling lots of fights down into a single measurement of DPS. As another example, the Restoration druid Tranquility is intended to fill a role similar to Power Word: Barrier or Spirit Link Totem. Yet the druid cooldown is an actual heal, which greatly inflates their meters to the extent that we see a lot of players complaining about how Resto druids are overpowered. Do we not show Tranquility on healing meters?

On the other hand, one benefit of having easy-to-use Blizzard meters would be getting players to focus on their own personal DPS instead of what the best players in the world are capable of. It makes developers cry when we see a good Fury warrior go Arms and do lackluster DPS just because they read that Arms DPS is higher. (Now, if that player just likes Arms or wants to try something different, more power to them.)

Also consider that damage and healing meters are valued by a pretty small set of the playing population as a whole. New UI features like the quest and equipment systems we added not so long ago, and even the upcoming Dungeon Journal, would be more widely used overall.

So the short answer is that it would be a very useful tool and we suspect we’ll do it eventually, but we have an enormous responsibility to get it right, and even then it could do bad things to the community as a whole.

I played vanilla for several months without it occurring to me that I should be maximizing dps. I played it like other role-playing games, and in other role-playing games it doesn't much matter. So long as the mobs die, they die.

Having a built-in damage meter would be an excellent step for two reasons. One is that it would provide guidance to new players on what they should be paying attention to. Second is that semi-new players would get this vital information without needing an addon.

The describe a problem with attacking irrelevant targets, but there's no way to fix that, so don't bother. Besides, with the simple meter I have in mind--just a single number somewhere on the screen--nobody would see anyone else's damage meter, anyway. This highly limits the ability of people to pointlessly boast.

Another issue they describe has to do with healing. There are more issues than they list, however! Basically I don't think it would help to include a healing meter in-game. In a 5-man, your hps in the same as the incoming dps -- that is, the healing you do will always match exactly the damage done to the party. As such, there's nothing you can do to change it. In a raid, you only improve your own hps by subtracting someone elses, which is otherwise known as sniping. In short, I don't think a built-in healing meter would help new healers do a better job.

I'm very glad to read that Blizzard is considering adding a dps meter. However, I don't think they need to think about this quite as hard as they are. Skip it for the healers, and only show the dps of the player themself. For anything else, let people go to add-ons or log analysis sites.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Path to Dragonwrath

Hedra has a great writeup on the quest chain for obtaining the new legendary in Firelands.
With patch 4.2 comes the new Tier 12 raiding content and the Firelands raid instance. It’s also when the Legendary staff, Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest, becomes available and will be the most important item for almost any raiding dps caster. This is the first appropriate legendary for a boomkin, since Atiesh (which is no longer in the game). The staff stats are the equivalent of Tier 13.5 gear, so this will likely be the weapon of choice until the end of Cataclysm.

Want! It is too bad that I dps so little. I will be ridiculously far down the list for this staff.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Five changes in WoW that are good

Jinxed Thoughts has a fun post up on changes in WoW that were for the better in WoW. For example:
Believe it or not, there are few things in the game that have annoyed me as much as the way gaining wep skill used to work. For any weapon you could use you had to not only go buy the skill in some cases, you had to also manually learn it by swinging at a mob with said weapon until you reached the proper skill level. Going from 1 to max skill could take hours.
Yeah, it was pretty miserable. Casters wouldn't bother. With melee classes, though, you have to skill them up, and it takes forever. The first few points go quickly, but it really slows down when you get close to the skill cap. RIP, weapon skills. You were a terrible bore.

It got me thinking what I am happy has changed. Here are five picks of my own.

The Dungeon Finder. I played a little bit in vanilla and had no idea what was going on. I found 5-man instances one of the most fun parts of the game, but I found it really tough to find an instance. I came back to the game in Lich King, and I still knew what was up, but assembling a group for anything took a while. The Dungeon Finder is a huge improvement, especially for dps classes. Instead of plaintively asking for a group for half an hour or more, you hit the front of the queue in about 15-20 minutes, all without having to beg and plead.

Newbie friendliness: tooltips and the new spec system. Jinxed Thoughts mentions this one, too. I like that the tooltips say things like "a large heal" rather than giving a very precise and very bogus number like "heals for 132 points". The spell always healed for more, because the tooltips didn't factor in all the buffs that apply, so the number on the tooltip was pretty useless to anyone who is not a human calculator. Likewise, I like the new talent system, where you get spec-specific improvements right when you pick a tree. It means that level 10 is way more fun than it used to be.

Easy mode of raids. I like that casual players like myself can at least see a softball version of everything.

The new token system. The new token system means that it's fairly quick to level up an alt to being able to work on the previous tier of content.

Class balance. I'm impressed and glad that every class has a competitive dps spec, and every healer and tank class is about equal to the others on the whole. Getting a character to level 85 takes a while, and I'm glad that nowadays you can be sure you won't regret your choice of class.
I just got around to reading the Tier-12 set bonuses that will be available in Firelands. Here are the bonuses for resto druids:
  • 2-part: Your periodic healing from Lifebloom has a 40% chance to restore 1% of your base mana each time it heals a target.
  • 4-part: Your Swiftmend also heals an injured target within 8 yards for the same amount.
The two-part bonus is huge but will not affect gameplay. It will just regenerate mana for us all the time. Just remember to be extra sure to cast a lot of lifebloom in Tree of Life form, but I am already doing that anyway. The two-part bonus means we already graduate from needing to worry about mana in tier 12. Sustainable throughput no longer looks like the most important thing to aim for. I recently made a couple of Nefarion attempts while accidentally wearing moonkin gear, and my regen was lower than normal, but probably still enough to beat the fight. In tier 12, with the higher amounts of int and spirit, I am guessing we no longer have reason to bother reforging secondary stats to spirit. Just take the spirit that comes on the gear, and reforge everything else to haste.

I'm not sure why Blizzard is making this change. I enjoyed having to manage mana usage, and I was hoping it would last for at least one more tier. Instead, Blizzard seems ready to hasten it out of consideration.

The four-part bonus will affect our gameplay. It's going to be interesting trying to swiftmend people who are near other injured people. In practice, I suspect the best I will be able to do is swiftmend people who are in a group--it will be good to be melee in any group I am healing! Basically, this will tip the scales of using the heal on the tank versus using it on a group to trigger efflorescence. With the extra heal on a neighboring player, it will be even more valuable to cast swiftmend on a group.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cynwise on what makes content replayable

I highly enjoyed reading Cynwise's long post on what makes content in WoW replayable, or even appealing at all. For example, he points out that PVP activities endlessly grow due to the presence of other people in them, whereas most PVE content is pretty much the same the second and third time around.

I enjoyed reading such a good analysis of the tradeoffs, but I do come to different conclusions about what I like to spend time on.
  • I prefer the new zone-wide quest lines to the old style of having a five or more clusters of small quests in a zone. There are only so many kinds of individual quests that Blizzard has thought up, so what really makes them interesting is when they are put into an arc.

  • I still prefer raiding to PVP. I enjoy the camaraderie, and I like that a broader group of people is able to learn the dances than are able to learn to think competitively with other humans. For that matter, I really enjoy kicking my brain down a notch. I like to relax when playing Warcraft.
I agree about Tol Barad being boring. On defense, there's little hope of saving the towers, so you end up lasting out the siege. Twenty minutes is a lot of time to wait out. On offense, you have to somehow magically capture all three flags at once, which is rather difficult to do. I also agree that the current raids are tuned too hard for my liking. As Cyn writes:
I was willing to spend months wiping on the Lich King. There’s a sense of completion there, a huge amount of motivation there, to do it at least once. But wiping for months on a raid at the beginning of an expansion? Really?
Indeed. In the end, Warcraft is a game, and 10 hours a week is a lot of time to put into a game. I wish the game were balanced so that 10 hours a week were enough to make an enormous amount of progress in the normal modes. Hard modes, fine. Leave those to the guys who spend more time in Warcraft than doing a job.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Moving information into the game

A game is better when it has a clean, self-evident user interface. It's better when the only time you don't understand something, it's an intentional mystery put in by the game designers. Blizzard has done two things in Cataclysm to really help with that.

One is to clean up the ability tooltips. They used to include very precise numbers about healing or damage down that were completely inaccurate, because they didn't include buffs. The tooltip would say heals for 1021, and the actual heal would be more like 5000. In Cataclysm, they've removed the numbers and instead they say things like "heals for a large amount". Additionally, they've added a sentence to the most important abilities to say when you should use them. For example, "Use this on a player whose health is very low".

A second way is the inclusion of much of wowhead into the game. Already they include a quest helper, meaning crucial locations for quests show up right on the map. In 4.2 they are adding the Dungeon Journal, so it won't be necessary to go to wowhead just to remember which abilities this particular boss has.

Some people are complaining that these changes make the game too easy, but that's a crude way to look at them. The things that are being made easy are things that should have been easy to begin with. They are the basic game mechanics. Count me in as not wanting to have to go to a separate resource to figure out basics of the game. That's wonderful that the Internet allows such information sources to gather, but I'd rather the game designers put the information into the game to begin with.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Micro-charging for cross-realm groups

The excellent MMO Melting pot has links to five bloggers talking about Blizzard's decision to charge a fee for anyone who wants to use the ability to build cross-realm parties.

Count me in with the camp that prefers a monthly subscription to being micro-charged for every little thing in the game. Even worse, naturally, is to both pay a monthly subscription and also to have micro-charges on top of that. I wouldn't mind WoW costing a little more; it's currently very inexpensive given the number of hours I play it. However, I definitely mind having to pick different subsets of the game off a menu.

More fundamentally, I'm still bothered that RealID is based off of email addresses. Even though it's not necessary, cross-realm invites will be based on RealID. I can't see myself using it, anyway, without careful research into whether RealID can be used without, in fact, leaking any personally identifiable information.

Overall, it's saddening to read this sort of thing. In two different ways -- micro-charging and privacy violation -- Warcraft is changing from a game where everything just works right, to a game where I have to be very careful which parts of it I use.


UPDATE: Elunamakata in the comments on World of Matticus has found a quote from a Blizzard designer explainign the idea of a subscription model:

“We chose to go with the subscription-based model instead of that approach. We’ve taken the approach that we want players to feel like it’s a level playing field once they’re in WoW. Outside resources don’t play into it — no gold buying, etc. We take a hard line stance against it. What you get out of microtransactions is kind of the same thing and I think our player base would feel betrayed by it. I think that’s something else you have to decide on up-front instead of implementing later.
–Rob Pardo, Blizzard’s Senior Vice President of Game Design (2/20/2008)”


Quite. I wonder if Rob Pardo is still there, and/or if we are witnessing the marketing department overriding the game designers.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why archaeology > fishing

Alas has a post up on the best part of archaeology:
I haven’t paid much attention to minute details of terrain at all in years.... Until Archaeology. Until I zoomed in and realized for the first time that Un’Goro is carpeted not with short grass but ferns with great fronds that stand as high as my human mage does. Then I glimpsed the stark beauty of the tangled and naked trees in Dustwallow Marsh that stand against a pale pink and vanilla sky and the rich autumnal colors of the tall grasses that move there. The vibrant jungle flowers scattered across Stranglethorn remind me of the flowers my sister received from her mother in law in Hawaii for her birthday.

A great thing about Warcraft is that there are a number of different things you can do depending on your mood. Sometimes you just want to chill and slowly work on some sort of goal or achievement. I used to fish all the time, but now I would be more likely to go dig in the dirt. It's quite enjoyable flying around Azeroth and taking in the scenery.

Warcraft for casuals

Casuals dominate the World of Warcraft. It's a game that's set up for people to burn away excess time they have watching pretty graphics and sound effects. Anyone who really wants a serious game and doesn't care about the fluff is better off playing Go or Bridge. As such, the bulk of the Warcraft population simply is not going to raid 6+ hours a week, nor are they going to make a significant dent into the heroic-mode raids.

Blizzard has recognized that casuals are their main customers since at least Wrath, and I'm guessing The Burning Crusades. They often toss statistics around about how RidiculouslySmall % of players ever even saw Ragnarok at level. So what are they trying, and how are they doing? MMO Melting Pot asks, and here is my answer. Here are the ways I see to burn time casually, and how they are working for me.

Leveling alts. This is my favorite thing to do once my main character is maxed out. In addition to there being three different roles of play (damage, healing, tanking), there are several different styles of resource mechanics (energy, mana, runes, cooldowns) and different styles of priority management (procs, synergistic spells, long cooldowns). Playing with different classes and specs keeps me amused for so long that there's not much else I expect to spend time on in Warcraft.

Experiencing more content. The new low-level zones are quite fun. However, I don't spend much time on them so far. The main reason is that it's very difficult to keep a toon at just the right level to experience the content. It's a little too brainless to walk through a zone with tiny little enemies that die when I breath on them. This could be fixed if there was some simply way to intentionally weaken a character when entering a zone. I'd love it if I could play a zone and set my character's effective level to that of the zone.

Dailies. There have been some compelling clusters of dailies, but they are the exception. The best I've seen were the tier-9 dailies, the ones that went with the jousting tournament. While the tier-9 dungeon was the pits, I thought the dailes were well done, and I did a lot of them. Ever before and since, however, I haven't gotten into them. The Tol Barad ones I am finding to be particularly grindy and boring, especially the ones on the northern island.

Crafting, and secondary professions. I find the professions themselves okay. Blizzard has done a good job of making all umpteen crafting professions different and useful. However, leveling them is a total bore. Going through 524 iterations of looking up a recipe, finding out the mats, buying them on the AH, is just not fun. I wish they could come up with something like fishing, where higher skill is important but not overwhelmingly so. For example, they could let you craft anything, but with a lower skill require you to add some extra components.

Fishing and archaeology. I used to really like fishing. Archaeology, in my opinion, is like fishing but better done, because you end up moving around and seeing different locations. However, despite having the Salty title, I've dropped out of both of these in Cataclysm. Partially this is because the dungeon finder is so good. Partially, though, the new bloated fish are just too hard to catch, and archaeology is a bit too slow to level for my taste. I can't see myself really going back to these any time soon; there are enough specs and zones that I will have plenty of things to do between raids.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The horror of the School of Hard Knocks

I skipped the School of Hard Knocks last year because it looked miserable, and I didn't think I'd ever get the holiday meta-achievement anyway. Sure enough, this year rolls around and it is the only achievement I am missing. It took about 8 hours of play, but now I have it.

First, let me agree that this is really a horrible achievement. To get it, you have to play a battleground badly. I love battlegrounds, so it's not because I'm a pure PVEer that I hate this achievement. I hate it because they make you play battlegrounds badly, thus making all your teammates angry at you. I hate it because it's hard to do on your own, and it's also hard to get a group together to do it as a group.

Second, let me point to the excellent guide on Cynwise's Battlefield Manual. It's a great guide to how to get the achievement.

Here's how the achievement went for me.

Eye of the Storm. This was the hardest. It's only possible to capture a flag if your group controls the middle, and many teams don't try too hard to control the middle. Controlling three bases is better than making a bunch of flag runs. Basically I just persevered until finding a random group that zerged and held the middle. Then I could wait at the flagpole and click wildly whenever the flag was about to respawn.

Alterac Valley. I found this one pretty easy. I just ran up and down the set of towers until I found one that was held by the enemy but under contest. While other people finished off the enemy, I wildly clicked on the flag so as to get credit for it.

Arathi Basin. This one was pretty tough. The people playing to win want to hold the flags they have rather than trading them around. With no trades, however, there are no possible flags to convert. The final strategy that sort of worked for me was to follow around any zerg I could find, and try to be the first one to click the flag. It took many tries, though, and the other players were not really happy about this behavior.

Warsong Gulch. This one I thought would be easy, but was not. My original plan was to wait by the flag and simply kill anyone who tried to take it. However, I saw surprisingly few solo attempts on the flag, so it wasn't realistic for me to kill them. The only way I got this in the end was when some nice person from the opposite faction came and started picking up our flag and immediately dropping it. Despite about half the population of all the battlegrounds going for the achievement, this was the only player I saw doing that sort of thing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

4.2 changes long time coming

Most of the druid changes in 4.2 strike me as things that seemed likely to eventually happen, so long as Blizzard is actively paying attention to class design making sense. I didn't know how much Blizzard really does, and I didn't know when they'd happen, but either they had to happen eventually or Blizzard needed to come up with some sort of fundamental redesign of the class. In much the same way, I've thought for a looong time that hunter pet happiness was not a good place to put complexity in the game. Thus I'm happy overall to see Blizzard taking on these issues.

Good descriptions of the changes can be found at Gray Matter and at Rank 4 Healing Touch.

My takes on why most of these changes are good and inevitable:
  • The damage from entangling roots has never been a useful source of damage but has always been a source of concern that they would end up doing enough damage to break the crowd control. I'm happy to see the damage just dropped. Complexity in the game should make it more interesting in some way, and the damage from entangling roots is just one more random thing to think about.
  • Dots moving the Eclipse bar seemed somewhat likely, given that dotting as an AOE technique is frankly lame. It's the sort of thing that just doesn't seem like what Blizzard is going for. However, it sounds like the new design is also problematic, as is described at the above two links.
  • Innervating being able to help other players is a huge ability that no other class has. I've always wondered how they could ever balance that with what other classes can do, and now it looks like they are throwing in the towel. I agree with others that it would be better to have self-innervate only than to have it technically work on other players but not very usefully. Alternatively, I wish it could be cast on other players but on a much longer cooldown, like it was in Wrath.
Finally, while I didn't foresee the crowd-control thread issue being addressed, it's welcome. Figuring out which CC to apply first is one of those many little problems that tanks have to worry about in instances. It's somewhat fun, but it is also requires knowing all the other classes fairly well. This is a welcome simplification.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

4.1 Incoming

Everyone seems to think 4.1 is arriving today. Perhaps it already has. There are a lot of things I'm looking forward to:
  • New 5-mans. Personally, I love 5-man content. It's easy to arrange groups and you can beat a whole dungeon in 30-60 minutes. Also, the fact that it's trolls again is fine by me. I enjoyed the zombies and constructs of Wrath, but the Old World ogres, trolls, and dragons make a nice change of pace.
  • A week's of dailies at once. Yay! Random dungeons have become a bit of a chore on my main character. Being able to do 2-3 at once makes it much better. I'm hoping that many groups will do chains of dungeons, meaning that you only have to wait in the queue for the first dungeon. Curiously, if chaining does become popular, it should mean that initial queue times for healers and dps will be increased.
  • Call to Arms. I'll be playing a tank alt more often because of this, and if the incentives work to pull in more tanks, my main will be able to queue even faster.
  • Resto druids get an extraordinary buff via tranquility. It's down to a three-minute cooldown, and it has pushback protection. I still don't understand all the whining about this.
  • I can drop Living Seed. It's not a bad talent, but it's not as good as some of the others I've dropped.
  • Maelstrom crystals will be available for justice points. I won't be buying them, but it means the cost should now be reasonable.
  • Players can buy honor for justice and vice versa. This means it will be a good long while before I run out of things to spend justice points on again. I hated blowing thousands of justice points on trade goods just to have something to do with them.

All in all it's an exciting patch. What are you looking forward to?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why Call to Arms will work

I've come around. Jinxed Thoughts describes a scenario that will play out over and over once Call to Arms is in place:
There are a couple of features that I am looking forward to a little extra in this patch, for example I intend to start burning through instances like there was no tomorrow (aliens attacking?) with my dk, maybe even my warrior, due to the new Call to Arms. I like tanking - I just need a little more incentive to stand the douchy pugs. Maybe this will be enough, we'll see

I previously pointed out that players already have a tremendous incentive to enter dungeons as a tank, so if they are going in as dps nonetheless then no reasonable cash bonus is going to change it. However, I overlooked that there's another source of tanks than people who would otherwise have queued as dps. Alts!

Warcraft is an alt-friendly game, and many people create alts once they have their main character maxed out, for some definition of "max". When people decide what to do with their time, they choose between things like daily quests, taking an alt into a dungeon, playing the auction house, working on achievements, and so on. Call to Arms will tip the scales of that decision toward running dungeons as a tank, and the scales there are already pretty balanced.

I predict we will see a lot more tanks in the dungeon finder. We'll also see a lot fewer people doing dailies, participating in battlegrounds, and all the other things people would otherwise spend their time on. That's really all fine with me. I find dungeons the best part of WoW. It's not a very good PVP game, but it's a wicked cool multi-player PVE game, and nowhere do you see more multi-player PVE goodness than in dungeons and raids.

Bouridon on managing mana

Bouridon has a great post up on choosing spells and abilities so as to use mana efficiently. It's well worth a read.

One thing that I'd quibble with is that I haven't see the value of passive regen going away when you get full epic gear.
None of the following will really matter if you don’t have an adequate amount of spirit for passive combat mana regeneration. While you may have to stack some spirit at lower gear levels (346ish iLvl), once you start getting some purple pixels this will become less important as your gear will provide more than enough.

What is happening with the Straw Hat Pirates is that as we get more gear, I don't have regen issues on the on-farm bosses, but we immediately go to work on more difficult bosses where there's a lot of healing. On progression bosses, I still find mana to be a significant concern.

I frequently run into druids who think of regen as something to get enough of and then you stop. This point of view is only helpful if you have a set number of raid bosses you will ever attempt and then stop. For the most part, I don't think it's very helpful to optimize for on-farm bosses. In theory, you can optimize for repeatability, but once you start out-gearing an encounter it's going to be pretty repeatable no matter what you do.

Given the small percentage of guilds that have Sinestra down, there are precious few of us who are likely to hit the end of progression before the next raiding tier comes out.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Getting more tanks into the Dungeon Finder

Blizzard just announced that they are adding Call to Arms as a way to entice more tanks into the dungeon finder.
To be eligible for the additional rewards you must solo queue for a random level-85 Heroic in the role that is currently being Called to Arms, and complete the dungeon by killing the final boss. Every time you hit these requirements (there is no daily limit) you'll receive a goodie bag that will contain some gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask/elixir (determined by spec), a good chance of receiving a non-combat pet (including cross faction pets), and a very rare chance at receiving a mount.

By the way, I disagree with the premise that the current queue times for dps are crazy. They are long, but they aren't crazy long. So long as you have something else to do (quest, gather, dailies, ...), the queue times are just right to give you a pleasant alternation between two kinds of activity.

Nonetheless, shorter queues would be better. What can be done?

I suspect Call to Arms won't make much of a difference. Already, tanks can queue instantly, so they have a very strong enticement to queue as a tank instead of as a healer or dps. The additional benefit of getting gold out of it is swamped by the benefits they already have.

A better angle, though one much more difficult to implement, is to make it less onerous to tank. This can be hard to do, because tanking is much more demanding than the other roles.

One possible solution would be to lower the gear requirements for tanking in heroics. Make the mobs hit less hard, so that characters can queue for heroics with less fear of wiping the group. As the game is balanced right now, tanks that meet the minimum ilvl requirement are fairly squishy. Some might say this is making the game too easy on tanks, but if we are seeing tanks not sign up or heroics, the game must already be fairly hard for them. A nice thing about this solution is that it only affects heroics. As far as I know there is no shortage of tanks for raids.

Another possibility would be to make tanking rotations even simpler, or at least, make a simpler rotation be sufficient. I find that when tanking with a new class, there's a tanking equivalent to grid lock where you get so focused on your threat rotation that you lose track of where all the mobs are. If tanks had a couple of fewer buttons to worry about, then they'd find it easier to focus on all the other things tanks do. This strategy, granted, can easily backfire. Many complained in Wrath that tanking many fights was terribly boring, and that's why Cataclysm tanks have so much more to do.

A third possibility, and not something they can implement immediately, is to reduce the ratio of tanks that are needed for a group. Why not have 8-man dungeons with one tank and one healer?

Overall, it's a tricky problem. As usual, it's gratifying to see that Blizzard is thinking about these game design problems instead of just raking in their dough. I don't think Call to Arms will solve the tanking shortage in Dungeon Finder, but it's a simple thing that is easy to try.

UPDATE: Jar on Rank 4 Healing Touch takes up the same question.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Would we want bosses that only drop useful loot?

I've been enjoying reading Ghostcrawler's "dev watercooler" posts about Warcraft's game design. His latest entry is on how specific to make gear.
One suggestion that pops up fairly often, both internally and externally, is to make gear more tailored for each and every talent spec.[...] The problem with that approach is that boss loot tables get really long.[...] There is a reason that Argaloth and his ilk feel like slot machines -- because they can drop so many items, the chance of them dropping the piece you want is pretty low.

With the exception of intellect plate, I'm pretty happy with how gear works right now. There's a primary stat--intellect, strength, or agility--that is so good you would never take gear without the right one. The secondary stats, excepting hit, are always good to a varying degree, but some are better than others. All gear ends up being interesting to a few different specs, so even in a 10-man raid, any particular drop will usually be interesting to someone in the raid. They can at least use it as an off-spec.

As an aside, I love paladins, but I don't like intellect plate. Even aside from the fact that only one spec wants it, plate just doesn't seem like an intelligent sort of gear. Plate is not smart. Plate is about raw, brute force. Ghostcrawler suggests but rejects turning normal melee stats into healing stats for holy paladins. It's a good thing to try. Occasionally someone mentions a potential healing design where you'd wail on a boss to heal your own group. If that is ever tried, holy paladins would be a good spec to try it on. Imagine smite healing, only with a mace.

But I digress. Several of the commenters suggested making loot drops be definitely useful to the raid, rather than just probably. The idea is that when a boss dies, and the game calculates what it will drop, the only choices are drops that look useful to the current members of the raid. If there aren't any mail wearers, then no mail would drop. If there are ten paladins in the raid, then only plate will drop.

That approach doesn't sound as fun to me. While I'm glad there are tokens in the game, so that I can make some progress on gear even if the drops are unlucky, I overall prefer getting gear from drops. If all gear was automatically useful, it would be like tokens all the time. It would take a little bit of the thrill of a game that is already pretty laid back.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Patch notes for 4.1.11

Somehow I missed them. The April Fool's patch notes have buffs to all classes that play on stereotypes of those classes.

For druids, it's the shape changing. For example, "Druids no longer talk to Innkeepers to set their Hearthstone. They are instead now required to talk to Stable Masters." Also, there's a dig on druid gathering, which is highly annoying to every other class in the game. "Druids now perform an area-of-effect knockback when harvesting herbs, looting, or skinning (does not remove Flight Form)."

Enjoy, if you missed it like I did!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Crabby the dungeon helper

Crabby the dungeon helper is awesome. The best part are the screenshots. One of them has a picture of a hero standing next to a dungeon portal, and the dialogs goes like this:
Crabby: It looks like you're getting ready to enter a dungeon. Would you like help?

Option 1: Get help
Option 2: I've got this one, thanks!

Personally, I'd like a dungeon assistant more like the skull from Planescape: Torment. An assistant that helps you... but that you're always suspicious about.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Restoration talents to live without

In Wrath, I took every restoration talent that looked useful and only then looked around in other trees. In Cataclysm, the outside trees are too good to do that. Mana is tight right now, and there are more mana-saving talents outside of restoration than you can take even if you go down to a minimum of 31 points in restoration. Which talents are conceivable to give up if you want to spec this way? Here are my ideas.

Nature's Swiftness. The heal is no longer a life saver, and damage is not as spiky as it used to be. I notice a lot of restoration druids still take this one, but perhaps this is just inertia from Wrath. In Cataclysm, Nature's Swiftness isn't that great.

Nature's Bounty. This talent has two effects. First, it improves regrowth. That's nice, but I find I only cast regrowth nowadays during emergencies and during Clearcast procs. I do okay without it. Second, it gives you a speedy nourish if you have at least three rejuvenates rolling. This makes the talent more tempting, but again, you don't need it on most fights if you plan ahead. The main exception I can think of is Chimaeron, but on that fight I'm finding mana usage manageable even when using regrowth instead of nourish. Note that on this fight, twitch heals are required, but they aren't required all that frequently.

Blessing of the Grove. How can one pass up straight healing? It's a matter of comparison. Each point in this talent adds 2% to rejuvenat's healing, and I find that rejuvenate is around a fourth to a third of total healing. Being generous, each point in this talent yields 0.7% more healing. It's below the rule of thumb that when a talent point only makes the player's spells do that much better, it should have about a 1% improvement. I currently have 1/2 points in Blessing of the grove.

Swift Rejuvenation. If you are good at predicting damage, then this talent isn't very important. If damage isn't spiky, this talent isn't very important. Nonetheless, I have found it too useful to live without. I run a fair number of 5-mans in addition to raids, and people are always playing slack in 5-mans and standing in fire and so on. Further, even in raids, I find my damage prediction isn't perfect. I currently take this talent, but it looks survivable without if you have better damage prediction and raid-mates who are good at avoiding needless damage.

Gift of the Earthmother. The main benefit here is the instant rejuvenate tick, though the lifebloom blooms are a nice touch. I haven't tried running without this talent, but it is three points that several druids are living without. I just find that the instant rejuvenate tick is helpful for making a dpser a little more stable before the hots roll in.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Working stiffs

Murloc Parliament raises an issue that is close to my heart:
And when I’m working 40 hour weeks, it’s effortless to keep up the level of concentration and step out of the bad. When I’m working 60 hour weeks, I start doing stupid shit in the first HOUR of raiding.[...] Heroics? Haha. It’s such a mental strain to stay totally absorbed and focused for raiding, I dare not waste that focus-energy on doing heroics.

I'm a working stiff, though not quite to THAT degree. Nonetheless, I play Warcraft rather differently than a lot of college students that spend all their time playing video games. I play an hour here and there in the evenings, and I raid two nights a week for a strictly scheduled three-hour raid.

One thing that helps is, indeed, to have a break every hour or two. The Straw Hat Pirates always raid for exactly three hours, and they have a five minute break right in the middle of it. There are any number of reasons it is good to stand up, check on things around your home, refresh your drink, clear your head, and generally spend a few minutes not staring at a computer. I would imagine this is more important for those of us with many demands in our lives, because we have more things to check up on.

Another aspect of this difference is that those of us who play relatively little will have significantly less developed characters in the World. Our mains will have fewer emblems (excuse me, "points"), we'll have much less gold, our off-specs are so so, and our alts are nearly non-existent. For the most part this doesn't make a big difference. I figure that mains are the most important thing, and that a lot of the other people's time gets soaked up by alts.

Further, there are sharply diminishing returns once you've gotten all the level-346 gear and all the reputation rewards you can. Earning victory-point gear means running a LOT of random heroics, buying crafted gear means farming up a LOT of gold. The bad news is that at my level of time in the game, there's no way for me to do this kind of grind. The good news, though, is that it doesn't help that much. If you spend two weeks earning up gold to buy a crafted item, you've still only upgraded one level-346 piece to one level-359 piece. It's certainly helpful, but you don't really need it for normal-mode raids.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why are tankers not around?

Jinked Thoughts says because it is hard. It's a great article about the social side of tanking in pugs. Yes, in pugs -- where else are you going to learn?
I've heard plenty of people who've tried to tank, complain about how difficult it is. Actually I don't think I've ever heard someone say "wow, this was fun!" the first time they do it. One could really wonder why people keep at it at all. It's difficult not only skillwise, but because you ultimately are fighting not only the mobs, but against your own group as well.

In addition to the social issue, there are real technical challenges. For example:
  • Tanks have to understand the dungeon mechanics so that they can mark targets and choose pulls. In theory someone else can do it, and I've even seen a few groups where it went that way, but most of the time everyone stands around waiting for the tank to decide what to do. As a result, tanks have to understand all the patrolling groups and all of the enemy mob abilities, and what mobs are linked to each other. The other players just come along for the ride.
  • During a fight, tanks have to be aware of more things than the other players. In addition to things all player have to watch, like which abilities are on cooldown and where the fires are that need avoiding, they have to know where all the mobs are, whether a CC has broken, whether a new add has wandered into the fight, whether the healer has aggro, how threat is looking on all the mobs, and what level the tank's own health bar is at.
  • Tanks take care of more issues than other players. In addition to maintaining their threat rotation, they have to taunt mobs, trigger defensive cooldowns, keep an eye on ranged mobs, play line-of-sight games, switch targets to mobs where threat is decaying, and position and reposition mobs.
  • Tank death is less forgiving than other players dying. If a healer dies halfway through, many encounters can be survived by a tank blowing all their cooldowns. If a dps dies, it really doesn't matter. If the tank dies, though, the monster had better be very close to dead or it's a wipe.

I like tanking, but it was a lot to think about the first few times I tried. For anyone wanting to try it, be sure to try easier content first. One way to do that is to start a new character and level by tanking dungeons. Blizzard has balanced low-level dungeons to be rather forgiving, probably because they assume that the players in them might be playing their first toon. Another way to make a dungeon easy-mode is to switch roles with a max-level toon, but to first gear them up before doing so. Use excess justice points to get some tank gear, and then jump into some normal, non-random dungeons.

Friday, March 4, 2011

More tranquillity, and an incoming damage-reduction ability

It looks like in 4.1, tranquility will be on a three-minute cooldown for restoration druids. Compared to the current eight-minute cooldown, this means it can be cast twice in a typical boss fight instead of once.

This strikes me as a gigantic buff for restoration druids. Now that tranquillity works raid-wide in Cataclysm, it's an emergency heal that can stabilise an entire raid. Ponder that a moment: a single healer, casting a single spell, can restore an achy almost-dead raid to being highly viable. As a bonus, the healing is a hot, so once your cast falls off you have several seconds to get regular hots up before the tranquillity hots fall off.

It's an amazing spell. Some effects can be trivialised if you have a druid available to cast tranquillity during it. If the effect happens twice, and you have two druids, then your raid doesn't have to be that smart to handle it. More frequently right now, tranquillity is an oh-dear button, if some players get out of range, or a healer gets silenced in some way, you can use tranquillity to get the raid over the hump.

Now that it will be on a three-minute cooldown, we can more frequently make plans to use it instead of saving it for emergencies. We can, for example, alternate shifting to tree form and casting tranquillity to have a big cooldown every minute and a half.

It sounds like we have another large buff, coming, too. I missed it earlier, but apparently the Blizzard designers want all healers to have a damage-reduction cooldown available.


Personally, I hope they don't make it a separate spell. I feel pretty good about how restoration druids work in Cataclysm, and I don't get excited at all by the idea of homogenizing the healing classes. To the extent Blizzard wants to work on druids' abilities to protect against incoming damage, I'd rather they focussed on our HOTs than on adding yet another ability on a cooldown.

A simple approach they could use is to let us cast barkskin on other players. Barkskin isn't as huge of a damage reduction as other healers get, but it's not shabby. Perhaps ours could have a shorter cooldown to compensate.

Another simple approach would be to increase the HOT portion of regrowth and increase the mana cost proportionally. Before a damage spike, we could add regrowth to the stack of pre-HOTs on the player.

A more fun approach would be to redesign living seed as our damage reduction. Right now, it's not something players consciously worry about, and its behavior is much like having an increased crit effect on our heals. One way they could make it work for damage reduction is to have the living seed grow first on the casting druid. Then, only when we cast regrowth on someone, does the living seed transfer to them and activate. Between damage spikes, the seed would grow and grow. When the spike finally comes, we'd toss on regrowth plus a sizeable living seed.

We'll see. I wouldn't be surprised if they simply add yet another spell to the mix, though I hope they can come up with something that keeps our spell count down.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Valuing proc-based throughput

There's an interesting discussion on the Elitist Jerks resto-druid forum on the question of how much value should be placed on proc-based throughput. This is highly relevant because the Mandala of Stirring Patterns is one of the best pre-raid trinkets available from the point of view of sustainable healing per second. However, a lot of its throughput comes from an int proc that only has 20% uptime.

Note I am writing here only about the throughput improvements. Everyone agrees that the regeneration benefits of a proc are at least as good as a static improvement that has the same average benefit. As long as you finish the fight with at least one mana left, you don't care whether your mana descends at a steady rate or that it goes up and down in spurts as your procs come and go.

To evaluate this question, one premise I assume is that we are talking about progression content. It is a separate question to consider content that is on farm, where your raid reliably beats it and you want to beat it more reliably and more quickly. For such content, it doesn't matter that much what you do, much like it doesn't matter how you level, so I find it much more interesting to talk about how to address progression content.

For progression fights, it's highly unrealistic that players will be at max health throughout the fight. What's more likely to happen is that players hover around 50-75%, and you race to get them above 75% before the next wave of incoming damage happens. The cycle is that health bars drop after big damage, they float slowly up as healers heal like mad, and then they go down again at the next wave of damage.

If your healing is sufficient for the content and for the skill of the raid members at dodging fire, then the peaks and valleys of health in the cycle will be about the same. When I see my guild lose in such raid encounters, it's due to either unhealably severe spike damage, or it's due to players standing in fire. The former I can't do anything about. For the latter, I theoretically can help with, but when I fail to do so, what I see is the health bars going down fairly gradually.

For the content I'm familiar with, which is about half the Cataclysm raid bosses, the length of the cycle of hurt is on the order of thirty seconds. For example, on Argolath, a meteor slash comes in around 10-15 seconds, but it hits a different half of the raid each time. Thus you have 20-30 seconds after a player is hit by one meteor slash to heal them back up for the next one. Furthermore, any one wave of hurt tends to take off something like 50% of everyone's health bars. It's pretty rough, but it's not like many Wrath fights where everyone would suddenly lose 75-90% of their health.

How does proc-based versus static throughput compare in this environment?

It seems to me they are actually pretty close. First of all no proc is going to be wasted. Since players aren't at full health in the steady state, there will always be plenty of healing to use the proc on. Second, if you don't get a proc at the ideal time, it should just mean that players hover at a lower health for a little while. You will be able to pick them up just fine when the proc eventually comes around.

This is a minority view on the thread I linked. The majority view is that it's better to have static int instead of an int proc even if the average int goes down by 10-20%. The main arguments are just what I addressed above: they argue that many of the procs will be wasted, and that the procs might not be there when you need healing the most. In short, the proc won't save lives. I just don't see it. Saving a life only requires an emergency heal of 10-20% of a player's health, and for healing on that magnitude it doesn't matter what your immediate throughput is. What's more important is whether you can push the raid back up high enough to survive the next spike, and for that procs are fine.

Perhaps things are different in heroic mode, and there is more a need for emergency, unpredictable heals. I wouldn't know. At the rate my guild is going, I'm not sure we'll be doing much heroic content before the next tier comes out.

As well, I'll certainly agree things are different in a lot of ways once you master a tier and have everything on farm. You'd rather avoid proc-based gear for on-farm content. Additionally, sustainable throughput is much less interesting, and in particular haste is a lot more valuable.

Monday, February 28, 2011

RestoDude asks why it might be the right thing for a healer to let someone die:
Tanks and healers are in general top priority, you could do with a dps less but losing a tank makes most fights impossible and losing a healer puts more stress on the other healer(s) still alive, which then could force them to let people die because of the damage being to high for them to handle.

It's an interesting question in a lot of ways.

In practice, I find that my healing algorithm is to focus on the tank and then handle the raid when I have a moment. Thus it's usually not all that conscious of a call to let a dps die. If the tank is below 50%, the tank is getting my next heal, and there's nothing to think about. I only make an exception for wild growth, which is so powerful you've just got to hit it on cooldown if you've got an opportunity to use it.

A related question is when do you battle rez someone? I run into this question all the time in raids if a dps dies early on. If I rez them, then we'll have a lot more dps, but I'll waste the fight's only battle rez. (I mostly run in 10-mans). Maybe we'll have an emergency later on? Deciding when and who to battle rez is often a more concious and interesting choice.

Most of the time, I won't battle rez a dpser. However, if the enrage timer matters for us, I'll do it. If that dpser was performing some vital role and not just nuking the boss, I'll do it. Also, counter-intuitively, I'll also battle rez dps if the content doesn't seem that challenging. In such cases, I figure we don't need the battle rez for the purposes of defeating the content, and it's more of a social issue of whether to leave a fellow player laying on the floor or not.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What to do at level 85

Aspect of the Hare raises a common sentiment among Warcraft players:
Upon hitting 85 on my main, I looked around and realized that I had no motivation to do what I’d already done several times before in previous expansions. One month later and Tawyn’s still in greens and I’ve hardly touched her. I did have a brief spurt of motivation when I remembered how much I absolutely LOVED doing Uldum, so I ran over to my Horde-side hunter, powerleveled her to 83 specifically to do Uldum, and went and did Uldum again. It’s just as awesome the second time around. Unfortunately, upon finishing it up, I have, once again, found myself at a loss for what to do.

Many people said the same thing about level 80 in Wrath. When you're leveling, there's a clear direction on what to do next. At max level, though, what do you do?

If you have fun doing daily quests, exploring zones that you skipped, and going for solo achievements, then reaching the level cap opens up a host of possibilities. You won't be bored. You will, however, have to approach the game differently than you did during levelling, which already runs people into a sort of options paralysis.

Things are different if you want to continue to make your character more powerful. You have to increase reputation with factions that will give your character better gear. You need to run a random heroic once a day. You need to run randoms, heroic or otherwise, until you have at least 333 gear in most slots, either through drops or through justice points. You need to get your professions up to max level. It's a lot of different things, and you have to direct yourself to know to do them, and you don't get the clearcut goals and dings from the default UI to guide you on the path.

In addition, you need to run raids. Raids in Cataclysm are less forgiving than in Wrath. I don't just mean the first-tier raid, either. Naxxramus was notoriously easy, but Ulduar, Trial, and Icecrown were all manageable if you maxxed out gear from the previous tear. To contrast, trying to do Cataclysm raids in mostly ilvl-333 gear is going to be painful. Lots of fights are going to be balanced such that you must do everything exactly perfectly or the healers will run out of mana or you'll miss the enrage timer or some other problem.

To my taste, the intro raids are balanced a little bit too difficult in Cataclysm. I wish they had at least a few raiding bosses that were pretty easy, so that less organized guilds could at least do the easy bosses every week and gear up slowly. More dedicate guilds would be coordinated enough to beat the harder bosses every week, too, so they'd advance much more quickly.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Talking in random dungeons?

Jinxed Thoughts has a great article up on individual play versus group play in Warcraft. It's an important topic for making Warcraft a great game. If anything, I lean toward thinking it is too far toward the individual side. If I really wanted to play a single-player game, there are vastly better options out there. The reason to play Warcraft is the social interaction.

One point I'd emphatically agree with is this:
I socialize as much with my random pugs today as I feel like I did a couple of years ago, and believe it or not, people are as prone to act as morons now as they were then. To me the random dungeons are the same, but without the 1-2 hours wait of collecting people for the run and having everyone travel to the instance. Seriously guys, do you miss that?
Gathering groups for a 5-man was just terrible. It's good to be reminded of this before complaining about the groups the Dungeon Finder assembles.


One question is one I've been thinking about lately:
I've got a friend who, without any special reason, doesn't say much in instances. He never has. I on the other hand talk all the time, even when tanking and healing (which has lead to some wipes). It is naturally a little difficult to do a good job tanking/dpsing/healing if your keyboard is busy typing words. So if you do a smooth run, ie stay in combat alot, there might not be much typing and not much "talking".

I wouldn't say it's wrong to be silent in a random. I used to stay silent during most randoms, and I don't think that was necessarily a bad thing. For other people, I'd rather shy folks come along than that they sit out. However, lately I've personally started making an effort to say hi to everyone and get a little small talk going. If nothing else, it makes things more fun than if you grimly march through and blast pixels to bits without a word. As well, sometimes something really interesting or funny will come up.

As well as those advantages, however, it also increases your chances of success. Suppose you wipe on a boss due to miscoordination. Suppose you see that the tank isn't using cooldowns. Suppose the paladin has a weird choice of auras up. Your group will be better if you can share your insight. When you get ready to share that insight, it's going to go a whole lot better if you have a talking relationship with them. If you don't, then the first words out of your keyboard are going to be criticism, and players will have an initial reaction to blow you off.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Normals dungeons are for learning?

Icedragon writes:
I’m fine with newbies when they’re in normal instances. Some people prefer questing all the way to the level cap, which isn’t a bad thing. You’re new to the dungeon? Use your map and ask questions if you don’t understand a mob pack or boss strategy. Communicate with your group. For the most part the newbies I meet are open to learning how things work, and some are even nervous about their performance. I’m a regular poster in the Newbie forum and it’s satisfying to help someone out.

It is a pretty theory that people should practice in normal dungeons and then go do heroic dungeons. However, it doesn't work in practice. I've tried getting people to crowd control in normals, and they complain it is too slow. They're not wrong, either. If it weren't for the aspect of trying to practice for heroics, there really wouldn't be much point in crowd controlling in most normals fights.

As a result, the only way to practice the new things you need for heroics--crowd control, damage reduction--is to actually run heroics. As such, I don't see a way for Icedragon to attain a mythical world where other random people he meets through the Dungeon Finder are going to know as much about Warcraft as he does. Everyone starts out not knowing, and then mostly learns from doing it rather than reading about it, and since they are all in one pool, they are just going to be a lot of groups that mix old hands with hopeful newbies. Personally, I kind of like that mix in general.

The closest thing to a good answer I can come up with is to drop the valor-point bonus for running daily random heroic dungeons. The valor point bonus was initially put in so that people will have a reason to run heroics after they outgear them. However, it's not needed any longer. Meanwhile, the heroic dungeons are clogged up with people who totally outgear them. If they dropped the valor-point bonus, then the only people in heroic dungeons would be people who have some heroic gear but are hoping for a little more. Groups would have a consistent gear level, and they'd also have a more consistent level of newbiness. The feel would be more like with levelling dungeons, where three out of the five have no idea and the other two are levelling alts and can contribute a lot of pointers.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sustainable HPS theorycrafting

Tangedyn writes:
I was not satisfied with TreeCalcs having 2 different metrics. Although sound in theory, in practice hardly anyone knows how to use the 2 different metrics which is why most people seem to simply ignore MPS and look at HPS... which severely overinflates the value of Haste Rating. My model combines the two into one measure called "Sustainable HPS", basically the maximum sustainable HPS given available mana.
I'm delighted to see this kind of theorycrafting. Here is a link to the spreadsheet.

Tagedyn calculates over several healing models. To give an idea of the results, here are the relative stat values for the model where you roll lifebloom and rejuvenation on a tank and then focus on the raid:
  • int: 1.0000
  • sp: 0.3907
  • spi: 0.3707
  • mastery: 0.2099
  • crit: 0.1694
  • haste: 0.0756
A few things to note:
  • Intellect is the best, followed distantly by spirit, followed distantly by mastery and crit.
  • Haste is rock bottom of the barrel, both for raid healing and tank healing. This is counterintuitive, because it is king for max throughput. Max throughput just isn't that important.
  • Intellect is way ahead of other stats. Always choose higher-intellect gear when you have a choice. Notably, trinkets with int should be the better choice even across ilvls. Trinkets with both int and spirit are vastly better.
One thing I wish Tegedyn would add is support for raw mp5. This would be helpful in evaluating, for example, the on-use effect of the Jar of Remedies.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Always be casting?

At current gear levels, the best rotations for maximum sustainable throughput are a little counter-intuitive. The maxim "always be casting" does not hold for us right now!

To see why, start by looking at some heal-per-minute (HPM) estimates from the invaluable TreeCalcs spreadsheet on Elitist Jerks.
  • Lifebloom: 18.94 (assuming a rolling 3-stack)
  • Swiftmend: 9.94
  • Wild growth: 9.67
  • Rejuv: 5.53
  • HT: 4.96
  • Nourish: 4.92
  • Regrowth: 2.11
The exact values will vary depending on gear, raid buffs, and boss debuffs, but these give a rough idea. Also, these values will change in patch 4.0.6. Rejuvenate will get much cheaper, thus having a much higher HPM. Wild growth will do 30% more healing, which means 30% higher HPM. The 4.0.6 changes only further emphasize what I describe below.

These values assume that there is no overhealing. For progression content, if you can afford to let people drop to 80-90% before healing them, then this is pretty realistic. The main exception is that lifebloom on the tank will probably do a lot of overhealing, but you really need to keep that lifebloom stack rolling no matter what. If you let it drop, you don't just lose the healing from it, but also the mana regeneration.

Other things equal, you want to cast high HPM spells. At the top of the list, keep lifebloom up and cast wild growth and swiftmend whenever they are off cooldown. At the bottom of the HPM list is regrowth. Regrowth is just abysmal for sustainable throughput, so save it for emergencies or for omen of clarity. Overall, the extremes of the HPM list give us the usual conventional wisdom for sustainable throughput.

The spells in the middle are more interesting. They all have roughly the same HPM. Nourish and healing touch are nearly identical, and rejuvenate is a little bit higher. This similarity in HPM leads to a counterintuitive result: for sustained throughput, it doesn't matter very much which of these three spells you use! The only thing to be aware of is that if you cast the mana-heavy ones, you need to cast them less frequently. Thus, the more you cast rejuvenate and healing touch, the more dead time you need to sit still and let your mana regenerate.

If you are tank healing, then the thing to do is keep rejuvenate up and then cast healing touch every once in a while. How often you should cast healing touch depends on how much mana regen you have. This is a counterintuitive approach, because most druid bloggers recommend constantly spamming nourish and then casting an occasional healing touch whenever you can. However, I don't see the advantage of doing so. You do just as much healing and use just as much mana, but by casting healing touch you are able to move around between casts.

If you are raid healing, then matters are simpler: just cast rejuvenate. Rejuvenate has better HPM than any other option, and it's an instant cast, so nourish and healing touch have literally no advantage. The only time you'd want to cast something other than rejuvenate on the raid is if you need to heal someone that already has rejuvenate on them. All these rejuvenates are expensive, but like with tank healing, simply insert enough dead time that your mana doesn't drain too fast.

Both rotations have a lot of dead time in them where you just sit there twiddling your thumbs and watching the pretty graphics. How much dead time is enough? It's a matter of theorycrafting, and I don't know. As a rough ball park, though, I believe it should be substantial, something like 40% of the time. Instead of nourish spam, which you can do indefinitely, you cast spells that are roughly twice as expensive, roughly half as often.

I know this dead time is counterintuitive. Dps casters must Always Be Casting to get their highest dps, but that's only true when they are in a position of never running out of mana. Also, all the blogging restoration druids are recommending never-ending nourish spam whenever your mana is tight. Perhaps their intuition is that nourish is "free", because while you cast it you regenerate enough mana to cover the cost. However, you still have to pay the cost of the spell. If you instead don't cast, for the same amount of time, you get to cast rejuvenate or healing touch sooner, and this makes up for the lost healing from nourish.

If Blizzard wanted to change this situation, they could make nourish do much more healing and thus have better HPM than healing touch and rejuvenate. Then what we'd cast nourish as much as possible and only use the more expensive spells because we become GCD locked. However, honestly, I kinda like the idea of having some free time to think and move around. It's a nice change of pace. It makes healing more deliberate and less spammy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jinxed Thoughts strikes a chord for me in talking about healing easier content:
I love healing with my priest, but basically only in raids. I don't enjoy doing anything else on her. Maybe healing is such that if it isn't really challenging, it just isn't much at all. I don't know. Remember how healing heroics was in Wrath? You mostly just stood there. I'm not saying that's what heroics has become in Cata yet, but it's not far from.

I feel the same way. When dpsing, you can always try to get higher dps. With tanking, you can also try to get higher dps, plus you have to deal with marking targets, watching aggro, evaluating a path through the instance, dealing with patrols, and many other things. As a healer, though, once you have it down it's the same thing over and over, in five-mans.

Yet, raiding gets boring much more slowly. Perhaps it's because the fights have something to do even for the healers.

There are ways to improve this situation. One would be for healers to minimize their mana use, thus making a game out of efficient healing the same way dpsers try for higher dps. It would be great to have a mps or hpm meter instead of the usual dps meter.

Another way is to have healers start sneaking in some dps. The main problem I have with this is that, for restoration druids, you run out of mana very quickly unless you spend two points in Fury of Stormrage. However, talent points are hard to come by, so I wouldn't want to do this on a spec that I also use for progression content.

All in all, I feel the pain. I'm not there yet for healing heroics in Cataclysm, but it probably won't be too long before I am.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Druid love in 4.0.6

The 4.0.6 patch notes are out, and druids are getting a lot of little improvements.

The Mount Up guild achievement works in flight form. Yay! This achievement is much better for druids now. I hardly ever use a mount other than flight form, and now this achievement works for it.

For restoration druids, the most interesting change is that nourish is now very fast if you have at least three rejuvenates up, and rejuvenate takes much less mana now. Lissanna has some good discussion of the issues. This means that when raid healing, you can sprinkle around rejuvenation just like in Wrath, but unlike in Wrath, you can use nourish instead of regrowth as a top-up spell. Additionally, when you have mana problems and have to cast fewer rejuvenates, your hps won't drop as much as much as it does right now. All in all an interesting change; it leaves maximum throughput exactly the same, but it significantly increases sustainable throughput.

Among other tweaks to moonkin, wild mushrooms are improved. However, it's still not clear anyone will use them. Gray Matter writes:
It's fair to say that Wild Mushroom has been a flop in Cataclysm so far. They are difficult to place. It's difficult to make them affective given their very small radius. Overall they just weren't worth the effort. I've tried to use them in several fights but in most cases they were a waste. The question is will these changes cause people to use them?
For my part, I don't think it's worth bothering making wild mushrooms do more raw damage, or damage to more targets. They will either do more than hurricane and starfall, or less, and whichever one does more is the one that will be used for aoeing. Instead, focus on what's interesting about them: they can be targeted during quiet periods of the fight, and they can trigger fungal growth, an aoe debuff. The former strikes me as hard to make an interesting feature, so I'd focus on the latter.

Jacemora figures that melee stat priorities might be changing:
My only problem with the changes is that we are coming into content that supposedly is melee unfriendly according to Paragon who is on the edge of raiding progression… So I see this as a nerf because I have a feeling to be viable we have to run out of the action a lot. Even without that info I have this strange feeling they hid a nerf in there somewhere. My guess from these changes is that Mastery value just fell some… maybe haste too. I am thinking (without any math) that after agility, Crit might be the more attractive stat now… but probably not. It does however look to make our DPS more weapon dependent now though doesn’t it… bah, I suppose that has been the case for a while now anyway ever since the fixed our poor scaling in BC.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blizzard buffs AOE healing... sorta

I just read, via Rank 4 Healing Touch, that Blizzard is improving resto druid's ability to AOE heal:
Nature’s Bounty no longer affects Swiftmend, but now has a new effect. When the druid has Rejuvenation on 3 or more targets, the cast time of Nourish is reduced by 10/20/30%.

This is a great mechanic. When there's raid-wide damage to heal up, and we have to do it in a hurry, what we will do now is cast a few rejuvenates and then a lot of nourishes. As our mana gets more plentiful, we'll cast fewer nourishes and more rejuvenates, except for situations where rejuvenate is too slow. I'm not clear how often rejuvenate will be too slow, however. In Wrath, rejuvenate was plenty fast for just about everything except Infest.

Note that this doesn't entirely answer the challenge Xaar raised, tohugh, which is a little disappointing. Xaar claims that our heal-per-cast-time of rejuvenate is significantly less than that of the similar fast-raid-spam spells that other healers cast. His combat logs show him getting about 17k whereas other healers get well above 20k per cast.

Xaar's objection doesn't matter much for T11 content, because we will run out of mana anyway if we chain cast rejuvenate. It suggests, however, that we might come off as feeble in later content when mana is more plentiful.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

AOE Healing Woes

A number of bloggers are complaining that Restoration druids have no emergency AOE abilities.

Kae at Dreambound writes:
AoE Healing?
...is no longer our forte. Wild Growth has a monstrous cooldown, and Tranquility's is even longer. Swiftmend has a cooldown for its use and subsequent green puddle of aoe healing, but the puddle itself is insufficient for healing more than a sliver of health at current gear levels.

Lissanna writes:
The reason R4HT and Xaar are concerned is really because we have NO tools to deal with the spiky large burst AOE that is happening in Heroic-level raid encounters (which is a problem that only druids in guilds like Paragon are having to deal with now, but unless Blizzard does something, this is going to become a bigger problem with time).

Rank 4 Healing Touch writes:
So by now it’s no secret about Xaar’s (of Paragon) post on the Warcraft forums. In his post he calls out some rather serious issues with restoration druids at the higher end of this current tier of content. As of right now, due to poor scaling with gear and lack of burst AoE healing druids have fallen pretty low on their healer priority list for heroic content.

It's now the common lore among resto Druid bloggers, right up there with haste having a cap and the new Tree of Life being a travesty.

The discussion is a little odd to me, though. We have just as good of tools for dealing with raid-wide damage as we did in Wrath. What's different now is that rejuvenation has been doubly nerfed: it takes far more mana, and it doesn't last as long. Rejuvenation is mana expensive, but what exactly do you expect if you want to heal everyone, a lot, and quickly?

If you look ahead to later tiers of gear--or back to 4.0.1 in Northrend content--mana will be plentiful and we will be able to chain cast rejuvenation whenever there's massive raid damage. Meanwhile, we will still use rejuvenation, but we'll have to cut back on it in one way or another. Either we can't chain cast it, or we'll have to have responsibility over just part of the raid rather than the whole raid, or we'll have to alternate between times of furious chain casting and then times of sitting back and letting mana regen.

I haven't raided any yet, but I've done about all the heroics. So far, there aren't that many cases where there is massive, unavoidable damage to the whole party. In such cases, I tend to spam rejuvenation and then try to hold off after the emergency to regain mana. It works fine so far. Perhaps raids are different, but we'll see. In a raid, there are more people to heal, and the fights last about twice as long, but there are also more healers.

Overall, you look at these problems differently if you take the point of view of sustained throughput. The question is not whether you use rejuvenation or not, but how often you can insert a rejuv without going out of mana, and then whether or not you can keep up with the damage by doing so.

Personally, I haven't raided yet, but I must say the balance is pretty good for heroics. Lots of fights are a real mana drain, but if everyone executes well then I can keep them healed. That said, if any change is to be made, I'd rather it not go toward buffing wild growth. Wild growth just isn't much fun: you just press your "heal the world" button every ten seconds. I'd rather they added the healing mushrooms that Lissanna describes, or that they add a mini-rejuvenate that was low mana and low healing.