Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Return Experience

The Stormwind Clock
Time is a funny thing. When you're paying attention, it moves slowly. But when you're not paying attention, right by it flies.

The last seven months that I have spent away from World of Warcraft didn't seem like a big deal. It feels like just yesterday that I was logged in, assaulting the battlegrounds, sending Garrison followers on missions, screaming at the screen during a Highmaul pick-up raid, and damning various world bosses for the chance at mounts and glory. But it has indeed been a big deal, and seven months is plenty of time for change to happen.

Since March, Warcraft has seen a major patch released that included a new zone as well as the final raid of the expansion. Many players have received their legendary rings, and improved their item levels beyond the 700 barrier. There have been new items and new features - far too many to list here. But the most important change in these last seven months doesn't include them, or the zones or the raids and rings. In my experience it is that everything that has happened in-game was happening in a context of consistently-dropping subscription numbers.

Player numbers have continued to fall month after month, and life on the perimeter of WoW has looked bleak to those of us peering in from the outside, wondering if it was time to revisit the world our avatars called home for over a decade. Server traffic was decreasing, player achievements were dropping (per MMO-Champion) and friends and guild members were few and far between. Seven months was the longest break that I had ever taken from the game since launch, and my hope for a WoW revolution was beginning to dim.

And then came Legion.

Nothing in the WoW universe is more important to the Warcraft story than the Burning Legion. Not the Horde. Not the Alliance. Not Arthas, Medivh, or Azshara. Pretty much everything in WoW has to do with the Titans, Sargeras and the Old Gods. And so from the moment the expansion was announced, I knew that I would be returning to the game. The lore was too important to miss. 

It was early August, and I was paying attention again. This meant that the last two months since Legion's announcement have crept by ever so slowly as I awaited a reason to pull the trigger and reactivate my subscription. It came this past week, in the form of an armored drake. I had always told in-game friends that the fastest way to get me (and many others, I'd imagine) to return to WoW is to bring back the Armored Netherdrakes from PvP's past. And while this isn't a Netherdrake, an Infinite Dragonflight mount just might be even better. And it's armored, too.

Infinite Timereaver
Subscription, reactivated. Now to begin preparations to bag one of these beasts when they go live.

I logged in this morning to find my Destruction warlock just as I had left him - in his Garrison. There were complete missions to collect, achievements that I received and information about some jungle zone that I should probably visit and the Hellfire Citadel raid. I didn't pay much attention to any of this information as it was brief and ultimately unhelpful. I also wasn't ready for that type of bread-crumbing as I first felt the need to reconnect with my avatar and online peers, since it had been so long.

I focused on my Friends list and Guild Roster to see how everyone was doing and maybe to get some advice on what to do and where to go first. Opening up the Friends list, I found that no one was online. While two or three friends had been on earlier in the day, for most others it had been days, weeks and even months since their last login. I moved to the Guild Roster list to see who was online and it too was empty

Having a lot of experience playing Warcraft, I understood that Sunday mornings tend not to be the most active period of play. Still, logging into a Garrison and having no recognizable peer or human being to communicate with left my first Warcraft experience in seven months feeling incredibly empty. I logged out after 10 minutes of play.

A feeling of emptiness among consumers is not something that any business or environment, real or unreal, can survive. Imagine yourself walking into a restaurant and having no one there to take your name. Or walking into an Apple Store and having no associate approach you or give you the time of day. Imagine going to your friend's house after being invited over, and no one answers the door.

That feeling of loneliness, in of itself, may help to explain the drop in numbers WoW has recently experienced and is a major problem that Blizzard needs to address. Garrisons helped to create isolation issue as the game shifted from a "group" to "individual" model of play. Class Halls will look to address this in Legion by creating a more intentional environment where players can readily identify and communicate with one another. This will be a step in the right direction, but will it help? What about all of the other entry points in the game and WoW environment that lack the very intentional community that had been nurtured, built and created in years past?

To ensure that players return to WoW, and stay with WoW for a meaningful amount of time, very specific attention needs to be provided to what I call the "Return Experience." 

The return experience is everything players interact with (in the context of WoW) the moment they resubscribe to the game from their account management page. From that moment forward, the relationship between the player and Blizzard is incredibly sensitive. Players anticipate their return with expectations that are often biased, impacted heavily by their most positive WoW experiences (the 40-man raid argument is a great example). When these expectations are not met, disappointment follows - and when you begin a relationship or "Return Experience" with disappointment, it is very difficult to recover.

Another way to look at this is through the lens of "Relationship Recovery," which is another term for service recovery or how businesses treat a customer after something has gone wrong. When a player cancels their WoW subscription, it is fair to say that some level of dissatisfaction with the product exists somewhere in the player's experience. Relationship Recovery aims to identify this area of dissatisfaction, remedy it so that it does not occur for the player again and then aims to elevate the "Return Experience" so that the player feels the company appreciates his or her loyalty.

In the World of Warcraft, this level of intentionality in the Return Experience is missing, even though it is key to WoW's continued success. This intention begins with a deep understanding of the player experience, something that Blizzard undoubtedly already has, but will need to re-evaluate in a meaningful way. There needs to be attention provided to maximizing what players experience when they anticipate logging in, what players experience when they enter their realm, what players experience when they engage content, what players experience when they exit the game,  and finally, what brings players back upon reflection of their experience. This intentionality at every point of the game is paramount to success.

For me, the Return Experience was disappointing, and in part, explains the exodus that WoW has experienced over the past year. But I have not lost hope. With intention, Blizzard can and will rebound and go back to the numbers that it once saw "back in the day." All it will take is that intent, and purposefully managing the experience of players, every moment at a time. My hope is that with Legion, they will do so.

Only time will tell.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Worst and Most-Profound Thing in Gaming

Obviously, he's for the Horde
Scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day, I happened upon a tweet from Mr. Adam Holisky (@AdamHolisky), managing editor of WoW Insider. He was taking questions for the website's "The Queue" feature, a daily Q&A column. Having just enjoyed a conversation with a friend about the history of video gaming, I thought it would be great to take the conversation to the WoW collective.

I asked:

"What's the worst moment in video game history? Or, the most profound?"

My friend and I were talking about the near-perfection that is Final Fantasy VII. We mused about how Nintendo hilariously and tragically blew their licensing contract with Squaresoft, and how ironic it was that the game was released on the Sony Playstation, the system that was to be the Super Nintendo CD. We wondered if Square-Enix will ever get it's head on straight and re-release the game with updated visuals and music and how readily we would take it all in all over again. He laughed about our freshman year at college, when he "accidentally" deleted my FFVII save point as we raced to see who could beat the game first. I described the memory as "one of my low points" in gaming. I jokingly threatened him with shower-room violence at one point, even. He didn't think that was very funny.

It was that conversation that sparked the question I asked Adam. I thought it was a good one, and so did he.

Holisky dropped the question into his article a few days ago. His answers, along with the 327 or so in the comments section, reference events that impacted the video game industry as a whole or that were far more intimate, involving a player's personal experience and perception of grander. The read is entertaining and thought-provoking, and got me thinking about what my own opinion and answer would be.

Is it Nintendo's poor decision to axe Sony's development of the Super Nintendo CD? That decision did eventually lead to the release and rise of the Sony Playstation, Microsoft's entrance into the console market with the Xbox, Sega's departure, redefined gaming's landscape, breadth and scope and a total restructuring of the industry's use of memory and general hardware. To say Nintendo's decision was "monumentally-awful" is an understatement.

Squaresoft's decision to jump ship in the wake of Nintendo's blunder is pretty impactful, too. It sent a clear message to console makers, defining a developer's role and driving power in the marketplace. It also gave the proverbial finger to Nintendo and their (other awful) decision to stick with game cartridges when optical drives were becoming the medium of choice for software manufacturers.

And what about Final Fantasy VII, all by itself? It was the first title to use full-motion computer-generated cut-scenes embedded within the gameplay and thus completely changed the way games are made and played. And the story, characters, and the score - oh man, they were damn near perfect.

Squaresoft's masterpiece, Final Fantasy VII
A number of other items or events came to mind, too. The Super Nintendo's controller, in some way, inspired the design of almost every video game controller to follow. The Internet and hardware progress brought high-quality graphics and co-op play home, essentially killing the arcade scene. Super Mario 64 and Tomb Raider introduced us to epic 3D console gaming. Ultima, EverQuest and Warcraft gave millions upon millions a home within a home.

Needless to say, I was highly uncommitted to an opinion, if not a little confused. So, as I so often do when I have a problem to solve, I turned to my friend alcohol to help me relax and think. I popped open a vanilla belgian stout and got to thinking about it. And man, did it take me back.

I began playing video games as a toddler in the early 1980s. My cousin had an Atari 2600 that I played so hard, I swear I dreamed in poorly-processed 8-bit graphics for the years that followed. That Christmas, I tore open a shiny new Nintendo Entertainment System - a gift from my parents, complete with R.O.B. and the Zapper light gun. Many games followed: Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Kung-Fu, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Contra, Ikari Warriors, etc. I slayed dragons, saved princesses, the world, and more impressive still, knocked out Mike Tyson on my 7th birthday. My cousin with the Atari was there, and he was super jealous.

I was a gamer in the purest sense, and if you stuck around outside my living room window long enough, you would indeed hear me roar.

As I grew out of the NES and on to other platforms throughout my formative years, the cycle continued. New systems. New games. More money. More time. Naturally, my parents became increasingly bombarded with the "don'ts" from concerned family, friends and even my pediatrician and the American Medical Association. These comments included things like "don't let him just sit there, he'll get fat!" and "don't give him that much T.V. time, it'll rot his brains!" And of course, there was the always-awful "don't let him play video games, because he'll kick the dog, punch the pregnant lady in the ovaries, rob the adult video store, steal grandma's pearls, start fights at school and put a horse's head in your bed!"

Scorpion's Fatality, Mortal Kombat
Okay, not that last one, but there was worry that, as a gamer, I would devolve into an unsocialized, inattentive, and violent member of society. And not just me, but everyone who played video games and were exposed to things like Mortal Kombat's fatalities, Counter-Strike's "headshots" and pretty much everything in any Grand Theft Auto game every made. The thinking being that the instant gratification and feedback reinforcement presented in video games results in a negative impact on attention span and increased impulsivity, and where viewing and engaging fantasy violence increases ones incidence of violent behavior.

That perspective, quite simply, is not accurate. That's not how the human psyche works. Our brains are far more complex than what simplistic theories give us credit for - they completely ignore all other variables that impact behavior. These include upbringing, personality, culture, socio-economic status, baseline mood, history, etc. And in thinking about this inaccuracy, it hit me: THAT is the worst thing to have happened in video game history. And by "thing," I mean any and every moment when a gamer is demonized - when video games are cited when attempting to explain an individual's awful, illegal and even homicidal behavior.

This happened with every major media-covered massacre within the last 20 years, including Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary, the theater in Aurora, Colorado, and last year's mass shooting in Norway. While investigating the latter, specific attention was given the murder's gaming habits: he played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 "for practice" and World of Warcraft for 16 hours a day.

From a psychological perspective, this avenue is ridiculous. All the talk of impulsivity and violence among the gaming populace is based on conjecture and anecdotal evidence. Put another way, there is no scientific evidence that supports the hypothesis that video games have a direct, positive correlation with real-world violent behavior. A professional in the field recently stated as much, as do many who reacted to the investigation in Norway. Simply stated, there is no definitive link between video games and real-life violence. Period. Shower-room threats, maybe. Actual, physical, real-world violence? No.

And people are starting to get that.

Looks like that kid up top went to medical school - well played
As gaming and "gamers" proliferate through mediums such as iPhones and mobile Android devices (which could themselves be on a "most profound" list), a greater understanding of gaming culture has emerged. Players who play Call of Duty do not aspire to rampage. Farmville players still buy their carrots at their local supermarket. And instead of focusing on the potentially negative impact exposure to fantasy violence may bring, researchers are keying in on the benefits video gaming can produce. For example, recent research tied surgeon skills to their gaming habits, stating that the "best surgeons play video games," operating more quickly and with fewer errors than their non-gaming counterparts. Other research presents the connection between video gaming and increased critical-thinking skills, creativity, and collaboration. Even Forbes has got in on the action, discussing video gaming and intellect.

And this change of perspective - this wonderful realization that video gaming has so much more to offer and in stark contrast to the demonization it has fallen victim to over the years - is quite possibly the most-profound thing that has happened to the industry. Personally, I always knew it counted for something, and my parents must have, too. As a gamer that experienced success, my confidence and self-esteem was boosted along with my critical thinking and creativity. I came home with many friends, a solid GPA and a clean record - I have always given gaming credit. It's nice to see that science agrees.

I, for one, have never been more proud to put my gamer tag on display. I hope the same for you.

Game on, friends.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Therapy Thursday - When Married to WoW

"Mawage is weally hawd."

The other day, I met a good friend and Warcraft addict at a local coffee shop where he asked me an incredibly philosophical question. He is a Masters student in Psychology, and like many other modern philosophers of the cognitive arts, he tends to over-think things. It takes a cup o' joe and pointless conversation to calm his thoughts - the sign of an espresso addict. After 36 oz of delicious, caramelous and caffeinated goodness, he asked:

"How do you do it?"

We had just finished discussing his friend's infatuation with Ke$ha, so naturally, I vomited a little.

"Marriage," he said. "The same person, the same thing, every day. How do you do it?"

After immediately replaying the famous "mawage" scene from "The Princess Bride" in my mind, I sat and thought about it. I took a slow sip from my coffee cup and internally reminisced of the 17-year affair that my wife calls "our journey together." Vacations, late-night discussions, movie dates, play dates, working together and eventually having children and starting the whole process all over again but with the pitter-patter of little feet that constantly keeps us on the move - the two of us have always done our best to keep things fresh, try something new. There is something very nice about taking a risk with someone you know will always be there, which is why we tend to do it so often. I smiled at the thought.

"I don't," I answered.

The look of befuddlement on his face quickly turned into Fear. I had just shaken a core foundation of his belief system and he was trying to decide what to say next. Like many players I have encountered in the battlegrounds that I scorched so quickly they didn't know what hit them, he was ironically frozen in his response (I must have it glyphed). So, I decided to clarify.

I said, "I don't ... we don't ... do the same thing every day." I knew he understood the message when his faced contorted as if to respond to passing gas - he had relaxed but was still receptive so I carried on. "It's what makes being with the same person a perpetually-new and amazing adventure every single day, for the rest of my life."

That's how I do it. And not just in my marriage, but in everything else I do in my daily real life. I surprise my wife with something new daily. I eat something I have never tried for breakfast, lunch and dinner whenever possible. I take on different projects at work regularly. I catch up with old buddies and make new friends. I take my family on vacations to different destinations. I try my best to make every day "a brand new" day in the most literal of sense of the word. And it works.

And really, it makes sense that it does. As biological organisms, we become tolerant of stimuli that we are exposed to on a consistent basis, requiring either greater exposure to said stimuli or exposure to a new stimulus to achieve the same desirable effect. Put a different way, doing things the same way over and over again tends to make us feel less and less excited over time. Things get boring, less exciting, and we tend to search for something new to fill the void, or in the case of many illicit substances, use more.

This applies to relationships, too, and a lack of insight into the aforementioned mechanics helps explain why the divorce rate in America is ridiculously high. Instead of maintaining excitement for each other, complacent husbands and wives develop a tolerance for one another. The "magic" disappears and one will undoubtedly blame the other. Throw in financial stress, overtime at work, a less-than-active sex life and the hottie throwing looks from across the hall and you have yourself a recipe for a divorce and a new and exciting drug, at least for now. Sadly, this one also comes with spousal and/or child support payments. Congratulations.

This interaction is the same in practically everything that we do and is obvious for us gamers in our marriage to Blizzard and World of Warcraft. As the divorce rate between players and developers continues to increase (as evidenced by decreasing subscription numbers), there is no doubt that the "magic" is disappearing. Players are blaming developers for reusing the same-old formula for leveling, boss encounters, dailies and handing out rewards like candy in a context that has us doing the same old thing day after day. Developers struggle to make adjustments to rekindle the fire but do not deviate from the simple formula that sees us engaging in the same way day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year. The players are frustrated, and considering League of Legends' ballooning numbers, she's the little family-breaker winking from across the hall. She's free-to-play, though. Congratulations.

I guess that what I'm trying to say in all of this is that maintaining happiness and a healthy, balanced lifestyle takes work. It requires active participation and changing things up to prevent tolerance and burn-out. For us husbands, it's about finding new ways to engage our relationship with our wives and kids. For you wives, it's about finding new ways to do the same for your men. The same is true for husbands of husbands and wives of wives. For us gamers and WoWaholics, it's about finding new ways to play the game. For the developers, it's about providing us with something new and fresh to fall in love with all over again.

That, my friends, is how to do it. And it totally 'locks... err... rocks.

I suggest you try it, too.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Little Bit Locky

The Warlock Cometh, and Fast.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

On the Path to Dragonwrath

Legendary weapons. I used to daydream about them, salivating at the simple thought of owning one on my main someday. Unfortunately, I was never in a position to farm Naxx40 for Atiesh, the only legendary meant for caster DPS through Wrath of the Lich King. So, over 5 years later (has it really been that long?) and needless to say, I was thrilled when Dragonwrath was announced as Cataclysm's first Legendary. However, what is left in the wake of my saliva - after 2 months of working towards the staff - isn't more drool, but a warlock foaming at the mouth.

Here's why:

The Nexus Quest

Upon stepping into a "special" version of the Nexus for the "Through a Glass, Darkly" portion of the Dragonwrath questline, I received an unexpected surprise - a single-player experience so enjoyable, I remember telling guildies that it was a microcosm of everything the 1-player portion of WoW should be. The solo quest is sufficiently-challenging (at least for a warlock) while remaining far from impossible, and incredibly satisfying to complete. The story was there, the mood was perfect; it had everything going for it. But with everything the experience did right for my fire-flinging fingers to enjoy, there existed a distracting and glaring problem: it felt like my warlock wasn't meant to be there.

When I pulled Thyrinar, the final boss of the quest, I immediately felt out of my warlock's element. This encounter was not minion-friendly. The Felhunter - the pet of choice for this encounter - sat beyond the range of the boss and could not attack him with physical or Shadow Bite damage. He was able to get some action after using Spell Lock to interrupt one of Thyrinar's casts, bringing the boss within range as he approached to smack me upside the head. This approach proved helpful, but was definitely not the answer-all to the problems that persisted.

During a number of separate attempts that evening, the Felpuppy bugged in some way, shape, or form. On my first try, for example, the little guy stopped responding about a quarter of the way through the encounter and just stood there, completely frozen in the middle of the platform. I Soulburned a resummon and there he'd reappear, frozen still.

When I was lucky enough to keep the Felpup moving on command, he would periodically ignore my instructions to cast Devour Magic (no, it wasn't on cooldown) or just decide he didn't want to be there anymore and despawn altogether. Without my minion devouring the boss's shield/regen-buff (which mages can spellsteal, btw), victory was out of reach, and it was frustrating to lose the encounter in such a way. And it happened over and over again.

When I finally completed the quest (using the Affliction spec pictured above for sweet survivability) after getting lucky with my Felhunter's behavior, I appreciated the difficulty and the amount of work that went into the event's design and intent. It really is one that every caster should see. However, the pet-related bugs added quite a bit of frustration to the overall experience. Most will never feel it, however - mages, boomkins, shamans, priests ... none are reliant on pets or minions that would potentially bug out and mess things up for them. This is purely a warlock problem. Lucky us.

Speaking of other classes, the obvious ease with which some could faceroll the event without an issue, particularly "lolcane" mages, doesn't make me feel any better about this. I mean, this is seriously slanted, and ridiculously-so. I heard a story about a lolcane mage's pet gerbil running across his keyboard, popping Time Warp, Mirror Image, and then scratching it's back on the Arcane Blast button, blasting Thyrinar and Spellstealing with it's nubby tail on command. True story.

Anyhow, moving on before this becomes a standardized and over-played anti-mage post.

Time After Time

Nothing says "you're not special" louder than a slap of repetition across the face. Doing the same thing over and over again, after all, isn't a very difficult calling, is usually not substantial work by any means, often pays lousy, and even the most simple-minded of individuals (lolcanes, again) should be able to get things done in such a manner, given enough time of course. Doesn't sound too flattering, right? Well, normal-mode 10man raider, sucks to be you.

And in this case, that "you" is me, and I'm all frothy because of it.

To complete Dragonwrath with the guild that I've been raiding with for over 2 years, it will take me about 19-23 weeks to gather all of the required mats, assuming that I get the average number of drops per item per week, post-nerf. That is:

 - 25 Eternal Embers: 4-5 weeks
 - 1000 Seething Cinders: 7-8 weeks
 - 250 Smouldering Essences: 8-10 weeks

And that's assuming a full clear of Firelands each week with no internet connectivity issues, no power outages, no holidays, no family vacations, no baby food flying across the room and onto my keyboard seeping beneath the keys and rendering it useless, no wife tempting me with her goodies during raid time - no issues whatsoever that would prevent me from logging in and getting my items for the week. Unfortunately, in the real world, all of that stuff happens, and far too often (well, not that last one - that can happen as often as she'd like). But even with these slight "breaks" in the pattern, the amount of grinding required for this, for someone like me, is quite ridiculous.

No matter how you swing it, killing the same bosses over and over again, week after week, over the course of half a year isn't something I would call "fun." Nor is it something that I or anyone with at least half a brain would call "legendary," either. In fact, this kind of repetition can be destructive, directly competing with progression as it will with my guild this upcoming week. Say we want to work on heroic modes during our scheduled raiding time. We'll have two options: practice, down new bosses on Heroic mode, and progress ... or just clear all bosses on normal mode so I can get my Seething Cinders for the week. How would the latter be fair to ask of my guildmates? How is that fair to even put me or any one person out of 10 in that position?

Even if the guild did decide to just clear normal mode, it would just be what it has been: the same old encounters that only reward less and less each time through. And that is a very demotivating prospect. I mean, really, I don't work at a fast food chain or gas station for a reason. I don't want to flip burgers. I don't want to make change. I don't want to kill bosses...

Volcanus, taking it up the ... last part of his name.

...over and over again. Give us some flair; something legendary to work with. Then, maybe, we can call the reward as such.

When the Fat Lady Sings 4.3 Lands

So, patch 4.3 is on the PTR as of today, and a new tier of ilvl397 gear drops with it. But wait, isn't Dragonwrath ilvl397, too? What does this all mean?

I'll tell you.

If I and other 10man raiders are to complete Dragonwrath - and that is a very big "if" - it will most likely happen after 4.3 makes it to live servers (patches are usually on the PTR for about 4 weeks). And when 4.3 does go live, how many desperate DPS spellcasters do you think will seriously ask their guilds to skip the new raid content, drops, and goodies and continue to use their limited time to farm questline mats out of Firelands? Very few can ask that of anyone with a straight face, I'm guessing. And those that do will likely be laughed at, ridiculed, and molested by the shiny new ilvl397 staff the mage just got ... because, you know, the warlock is going after Dragonwrath and doesn't need it.


It's bad enough that the legendary weapon we will have worked on for over 5 months will be comparable, in terms of overall performance, to a drop off a boss in the new raid instance. Does it also really need to be harder for us to actually get a group that will be willing to make Dragonwrath happen? I don't think providing a smoother path is too much to ask, do you?

Maybe if the new Raid Finder included Firelands ...

Long Path Ahead

So, here I am. A few hundred Seething Cinders into this questline and several ridiculously repetitive weeks to go before I see Phase 2 of the staff. I hope many of you are having better time and luck than me. If not, well then, like me, I'm sure you'll continue to keep dreaming of a legendary weapon of your own one day. And, like me, perhaps it will turn into a nightmare and have you foaming at the mouth. And again, like me, I hope you will keep trying, and eventually make it happen.

Good luck.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Warlock in Wanting


Horrifying, isn't it? This awful picture was a failed attempt at a header image for one of my posts at the helm of the warlock flagship at WoW Insider. It was so horrible, in fact, that I never allowed it to rear it's ugly head even behind the scenes. It did lead to one hell of a replacement, though, and an edit that I am still very proud of. But that is neither here nor there. I'll chat about my experiences at the best WoW-related blog on the planet later.

This post is simply a test. I'm trying out a few new options and wondering if a move to a more meaty blogger service is necessary before I start writing again. This site has been kind over the years (especially the one that didn't see a single post), but the lack of certain customization features has left me wanting more even in absence.

Other sites like Tumblr and Wordpress offer a wider, more modern range of alternative templates and basic page setup than Blogger currently offers. When it comes down to it, multiple page clicks are important on the internets, even in the most casual of senses. And to me, it doesn't seem like Blogger offers the best blend of form and function. Just look at the header image of this post. It's just floating there all awkward like... and resizing it to the "proper" size clips the image's border? Wtf?

It could be that my impatience (if you know anything about me, you know that I have zero tolerance for bullshit), I have overlooked some quality features here at this site. But if the list of gadgets is anything to measure things by, than I am indeed on the right track.

Here's looking for more... gadgets, control, and of course, warlock therapy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Night(fall) of Affliction

So Patch 3.3 has finally landed, and with it has arrived many issues the Warlocking community is having to deal with. The hotly-debated Conflagrate nerf, drop in Destruction-spec raid DPS, percentage stacking changes, and Imp Firebolt pre-casting issues are just a few examples of topics that are keeping Warlock discussion forums busy and that I will be covering here within the next couple of days (vacation ftw!). But before we tackle the serious issues that should have your black blood boiling, here's something to wet your appetite... or make fun of... whatever you wish.

I always thought that "of the Nightfall" was an amazing title for any Warlock, and especially those running Affliction as I had done during Wrath's initial release (v3.0). But as soon as the tree was nerfed in 3.1, I decided it was time to assault the Battlemaster title as a Destruction Warlock and became so absorbed by that grind that Sarth and his 3 drakes simply fell to the wayside. It didn't help that I wasn't amazingly PvE-geared or a member of a solid raiding guild, either.

But with the return of chart-topping Affliction raid DPS in Patch 3.3 and a membership in a casually hardcore raiding guild that is currently clearing ICC-25, I decided it was time to scratch the Sarth10-3D itch that I have ignored for too long.

Below is my pathetic attempt not only at video-making, but at the encounter itself. You'll understand what I mean when you watch the clip -- the sizing is all wrong (I couldn't get it to fill the YouTube frame) and the quality could definitely be better... and if that wasn't enough to poke fun at, just don't laugh too hard when I get stuck in the lava or come within 1k health of an embarrassing death in a void zone. >.< Gotta love early-morning zombie raids!

Thanks to the guildies who helped to make this happen. ;)

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Destructive Invitation - No Newbies Allowed!

Patch 3.3 is less than a short time away, and with it will arrive a couple of changes to the Warlock class, most notably being the return of raid-dominating DPS by the Affliction Warlock. I'm very excited to see our talent trees receive a bit more balance, as I'm sure many of you are too. Destroying raid bosses as a Destruction Warlock is great fun and very effective, but having options is a good thing... especially when Destro is a little too reminiscent of the simple "Shadow Mage" approach to DPS. And really, if I wanted to play a Mage, I would have already cut off my genitals and rolled one (did I really just say that?). But lets not digress or get too ahead of ourselves just yet... we've got some things to do before we can consider which spec to throw when standing within the gates of Icecrown Citadel.

Be it Affliction or Destruction or even Demonology, in order to hit the meters in the neighborhoods of 9-12k DPS, we're going to need the absolute best gear possible. I'm talking a full set of BiS gear, which will eventually include the somewhat-racist-looking abomination that is Warlock Tier 10 (one of the uglier Warlock sets imho). And to have a shot at all of that ethically questionable goodness, we're going to need regular, dependable raid invites. And to get those invites, we're going to need to raid now. We're going to need to raid often. And most importantly, we're going to need to raid well.

As a Warlock, there are a number of things we need and are expected to do at each and every raid that we attend. This includes showing up with a sack full of Soul Shards, calling upon a summoning portal and Soulwell whenever necessary, and dropping a Soulstone on the head of a raid member when it is available. Ignore any of these elementary requirements and we can kiss our raid invitations goodbye. But keep in mind that fulfilling them ensures you nothing, because more important than any of these principles is the amount of DPS a Warlock can produce. Excel there, and we can expect our invitations every week. Fail there, and expect to spend an eternity in Tradechat... *cough*

Here are a couple of classic ways that Destruction Warlocks can improve their DPS. Some are obvious and well-known, and others not so much, but all are very important and have allowed me to make enough of an impression to remain actively invited to guild runs as a PuG raider. Not too shabby, right? Hopefully you will gain something from this list too, and if you have something to add to it, please do so in the comments section.

(Backdraft + Rain of Fire) > Rain of Fire

We've all seen it a million times: Onyxia takes to the air in Phase 2, out come the whelps, the idiot who yelled "MOAR WHELPS! HANDLE IT!" is told to shut up, and Rogues, Mages, DKs, and Hunters shoot up with Damage Meter. Baffled Warlocks, spam-casting Rain of Fire cry out, wondering why their AoE spell of choice falls short in situations like this and how to improve it.

The answer is Backdraft, which will increase the speed of RoF ticks by a whopping 30%! The trick is to plan for it and set it up properly - have a Conflagrate ready to go and then begin bathing your targets in fire from the sky at a fantastic rate. Just be sure to have your Soulshatter ready to use too. And to add even more "umph" to your AoE, cast Shadowflame on the targets before you Conflag, as you wait for the tank to establish enough aggro to handle your hate. The raid will thank you. ;)

UPDATE: Apparently, there was a bug somewhere that was allowing Backdraft to impact channeled spells like RoF and even Drain Life, and was patched in 3.2 because it is NOT supposed to work as described above. But then what can explain this image from a raid just last week?

My Rain of Fire channeling time was a mere 4.7 seconds and was pumping out over 20k DPS! When trying to recreate this feat outside of Dalaran, however, the cast time was only impacted by my Haste rating (bring it to 6.7 seconds), and wasn't influenced by Backdraft whatsoever.

May we have stumbled upon something here or was it just a fluke?

More to come!

CONFIRMED! It is a bug, according to a WoW GM. He didn't tell me the details involved, but you better be sure that I'll be trying to recreate it come raid time this week! I will post updates in another post, also explaining how we can still up the damage from our Rain of Fire with a couple of very simple steps. In the meantime, if any of you figure out the exact bug, do tell in the comments section!

Happy 'locking.

Your Imp Needs Love Too

If you are sporting 2-piece Tier 9, you have no doubt noticed the set bonus that increases your pet's critical strike chance by 10%. This may not seem like such a big deal at first glance, and Warlock set bonuses have received quite a bit of criticism for their lack of awesomeness, but consider this: with the Empowered Imp talent (3/3), your next spell has a 100% chance to crit after your imp's Firebolt crits. In other words, increasing your imp's chance to crit also increases your chance to crit, and that's a big deal in terms of potential DPS.

Now we come to one of the biggest and most common mistakes that Warlock raiders make: using Phase Shift on their little fire-cracking minion. Doing so removes the pet from the active field of play, the original intent of which was to maintain Blood Pact on the the raid or party. Phase Shift, however, is removed the moment the Imp is brought into combat, so whatever use it once had is now null and void (and made redundant by the Fel Synergy talent). What it continues to do, however, is make the imp unable to receive raid buffs pre-pull, like Kings, MotW, AI, and anything else that would increase its chance to crit, thereby increasing your own. It's a simple mistake that when prevented, can result in a nice boost to your DPS. Easy enough.

If You're Gonna Get Stoned, Get Stoned Right

Warlock stat ratings are always a hot topic of discussion at blogs and websites like Elitist Jerks and The Warlocks Den. After much number crunching and discussion, they all have pretty much decided that Haste rating is a more important stat for Warlocks than Crit rating. That should make choosing between the Spellstone and Firestone pretty simple, right?


All Destruction Warlocks should be buffing their weapon with the Firestone. Its increase in Crit percentage and overall Direct Damage results in about a 25 DPS increase over the Spellstone, even for Warlocks with sub-standard Haste ratings (below 500 - ideal is about 600-620). The only times a Warlock should ever buff with the Spellstone is if he or she is Affliction spec or has taken the Master Conjurer talent in the Demonology tree. Otherwise, stat up with the Firestone and use your gear to itemize the important stats (Hit, Spell Dmg, Haste) accordingly.

Corruption is Corrupted

Damage per Cast Time, or DPCT, is a great way to gauge the importance of spell casts relative to one another and therefore which spell is best to cast in a specific scenario. To calculate the DPCT for all Warlock spells, simply take the amount of damage a spell produces and divide it by its cast time, taking into account bonus damage and global cooldown (Haste) modifiers, of course.

For a raiding Destruction Warlock with no talent points buffing shadow spells or specific DoTS and many buffing Fire-based abilities, Incinerate has one of the highest DPCT values, easily out-classing shadow spells like Shadow Bolt and Corruption. It is a wonder then that many Destro 'locks still include Corruption in their rotations - doing so is actually a DPS decrease vs replacing it with a higher DPCT Incinerate cast. The only time Corruption should ever be cast is when the Warlock is on-the-move and casting Incinerate is not an option... only then will it result in a DPS increase.

Bask in the Flask

Back in the day of Vanilla 40-man raiding, flasking was an absolute necessity. If you didn't flask, you didn't progress, period. Blizzard began to move away from that requirement in TBC, eventually limiting flasks by number and type, and tuning encounters without even considering their use. To be honest, at that point, I stopped using them because, well, they weren't at all necessary and there weren't many other raiding 'locks to compete with.

Today it is a different story. Raiding is more accessible than ever and that means more players are vying for your raid spot than ever. Every little extra bit of effort counts, and flasking is one of those bits that pays a little towards your overall DPS and, perhaps more importantly, how your fellow raiders perceive you. Both are incredibly worth the small price to pay (about 20-30g per Flask of the Frost Wyrm), and therefore should be given attention at every opportunity.

Call of CoE Duty

I know you've been in a raid like this - one with 3 or 4 Warlocks and wondering which would be the one to cast Curse of Elements instead of the more personal-DPS-friendly Curse of Doom. You run into the encounter right behind the tank and tag the boss with CoD, internally bellowing a "not it!" as you begin your standard DPS rotation. And then it happens... 3 more CoDs appear on the boss, and CoE is no where in sight.

Assigning CoE pre-pull is incredibly important, and that importance grows with each additional magical damage caster that you have in the raid. So who should cast it? Should it be a Destruction Warlock? An Affliction Warlock? Does it matter? The simple answer to that last question is yes, it does matter... but the reasoning behind it is semi-complicated and a topic of heated discussion within the raiding community. The basic position to this argument is that the Warlock who brings the least amount of DPS to the raid should be the one to cast CoE because the raid would lose the least amount of DPS possible with him or her doing so. Many try to complicate the matter by arguing in terms of relative DPS (Affliction DPS suffers more by casting CoE than does Destruction DPS, etc.), but what is important is the overall effect of the cast on the raid, not the individual, and that is what you must consider when looking to maximize DPS.

If all Warlocks in the raid are equally specced and geared, do what I do and call for a /roll. Lowest roll casts CoE. Done. :)

Curse an Off-Target with Doom

Sticking with the curse topic for just another second, one thing that I do not see many Warlocks doing is maximizing their use of CoD and CoE as a collective group. If you find yourself on CoE duty for an encounter that has multiple targets, cast CoD on a tanked off-target for a DPS increase. As a compliment, if you are casting CoD in the same situation, cast CoE on the Doomed off-target. A perfect example of where this works perfectly is during the ToC Beasts of Northrend encounter versus Acidmaw and Dreadscale. Both should have at least one CoD and CoE applied to them.

Again, using curses in such a way takes coordination and planning, so the previous piece of advice about taking care of curse assignments applies.

Running is Bad for the Knees, and Your DPS Too

Demonic Circle is first and foremost a PvP spell, no doubt. Its main purpose is to increase the Warlock's survivability by giving him or her more mobility and a fighting chance against snares, which the ability breaks upon use. A secondary purpose, however, is PvE-related and directly impacts the amount of DPS the Warlock can produce... if only by a small amount.

As we discussed earlier, it is well-established that Incinerate has a higher DPCT value than Corruption when working within the confines of the Destruction tree. That means time spent running around the field should be limited to the absolute minimum so that Incinerate can be cast as much as possible. DC provides a great way to help make this happen and can be applied readily in a number of situations. For example, putting one down on Heigan's platform while he channels his dance and teleporting back to it when it is finished, or planting one as Icehowl prepares for his Massive Crash and teleporting to it once he begins to charge. Another great use is to place a DC by one of the Twin Val'kyr portals, and teleporting to it when they cast Vortex. Oh and of course DC is useful for when you get caught in Sapphiron's Chill and need to move out of it asap, or when Thaddius casts a Polarity Shift and you must move to the other side of him, or when... well... you get the idea.

Hellfire Isn't Completely Useless Afterall

Hellfire... what can I say about this spell? It is one of the most limited of Warlock abilities, and probably sees the least amount of use amongst Destruction spells in general. I can remember only a few occasions where the spell came in handy to me as I struggled to make it useful in some way. First, there is "Ghost Walking," when upon impending death, a 'lock would Life Tap to near empty health and then Hellfire to death. This resulted in no durability damage being applied to gear and as a result, no repair bill either - not a bad deal. Another application I remember was in Karazhan while fighting Illhoof. A Warlock would be tasked with standing between the boss and his imp portals, and spam Hellfire as heals were constantly thrown his or her way. It was an interesting approach to take through the encounter, and was the only effective significant application of Hellfire in a raid setting that I can think of... until ToC.

In what is surely a feature that will see a nerf someday, Hellfire triggers the Light Essence buff during the Twin Val'kyr encounter in Trial of the Champions. Stacking this buff to 100 results in the Empowered Light buff, which provides a huge DPS increase to the player. I'm sure you all are familiar with this and how annoying it can be... how one must wait until they have collected a certain number of Light Orbs (while dodging the Dark Orbs) that sporadically make their way throughout the field of play and only at specific times throughout the encounter. But using Hellfire, the first proc is a little less annoying to work with, as Warlocks can pre-buff the ability before the pull is even made to a point where it would only take 1 or 2 orbs to set off the Empowered Light buff. Pure win, imho. Get to it before it's gone. ;)

Spread the Hate Around, Fast!

The transition between DPS targets is elementary, but has been a very underrated mechanic in this era of OP AoE. Your raid comes across a bunch of mobs stacked up next to one another? No problem... just AoE all of them to oblivion for the win. Back in the day (I say that too much...) when 40-mans were the norm and even in TBC to an extent, trash mobs had to be CC'd and tanked carefully. AoE'ing was a no no, and individual attention was everything. This made moving from one mob to the next an art form in a way, that when done right, resulted in a seamless transition that did not break up damage produced by the raid in any way.

These days, however, I notice sloppy movement and transitions between mobs. I see Warlocks continuing to begin casts on a target that is about to die, even DoT'ing them, and having their duration or cast interrupted and losing DPS as a result. Instead, what a Warlock should do is switch to another mob before their current target is dead to ensure that damage production is constant and consistent. All this requires is a little bit of attention, and it can result in some noteworthy DPS (depending on how bad your current methodology is =P). Trust me, when you start working on this mechanic, you'll be amazed at how something that is seemingly so insignificant can render such a large impact on your performance. It really is a big deal.

So there you have them - a few items that can help elevate your performance when doing so is as important as ever as we approach 3.3 and the next expansion. If you have any tips or critiques, as always, feel free to leave them in the comments section. Happy 'locking. ;)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's About Time, Literally

Those of you who know me well know that I'm a pretty punctual guy. When I say that I'm going to get something done within a certain time frame, it usually gets done. But Father Time definitely throws me curveballs every now and then, as when I first began the Battlemaster grind in 1997 (it feels that way, anyway). Little did I know that 6 short minutes would equate to 3 MONTHS of pain, sweat, and agony on the fields of AV.

[The Alterac Blitz] Achievement, the LAST Achievement I needed for the [Battlemaster] meta, was supposed to be one of those easy, "cheesy" accomplishments. After all, it could be completed via having "Not Enough Players" at the start of an AV game, and indeed, I spent countless nights pissing off my wife and logging into WoW in hopes of finding a thin Alliance team that would sputter towards Galv as the timer ticked from 5 to 0 minutes. But those pesky Alliance players just kept signing in time after time, and to my disappointment, all of the AV games that I queued into continued on to a miserable completion, reminding me just how difficult this process was really going to be.

There was a point where I thought that I would never get the Blitz done. My Battlegroup was and is very much against the idea of rushing past Balinda, all bunkers, and flags on a straight shot to Vann "just for an Achievement," and players were very vocal and derogatory about the "Achievement whores" for sure. The resulting lack of coordination made the Blitz difficult enough in it's own right. And coupled with the flood of low level toons now taking advantage of Battleground XP and leveling in the Valley (read "/afking at the spawn point"), it seemed nearly impossible to find a mostly-empty game or a decent PuG to work with.

Completely frustrated with the process, I began putting together partial premades to help better my chances. But because of face-pulling lowbies (oh how I hate the AV level scale...), a complete disinterest in the Blitz Achievement amongst the well-geared PvE crowd, and even Horde teammates that would pull Vann early and towards the awaiting crowd to purposefully ruin our attempts (I saw this way too often), the string of disappointing attempts continued week after week, and month after month.

But thankfully, the cycle of complete and seemingly infinite fail had an end, and didn't continue beyond last night.

After spending several hours recruiting friends and acquaintances over the past few days, and convincing players to download and install Preform AV Enabler, we finally had a solid group of capable tanks, heals, and DPS to work with. We completed the Achievement on just our second attempt, and when the Battlemaster announcement was displayed to our BG group, most of the guys were just as surprised as I was.

Tonight, each of them is 100g richer (not a bad income for 6 minutes of work, right?) and for the first time, I'm displaying a title other than High Warlord. Battlemaster Jagoex just sounds too good to pass up, doesn't it?

Better late than never. ;)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Rare and Dreaded Sight

After playing WoW for about 4 years now, and having almost 360 days /played on my Warlocks, I can honestly say that there isn't much I get blown away by these days. One thing that does stop me in my tracks every time, however, is a Warlock in full Dreadmist gear. Today, that's a given rarity since the rainment is a Level 60 collection of pieces from the heydays of Vanilla WoW. But even back when running Strat and Scholo was the norm, it was still very uncommon to see a 'lock sporting a full Dungeon 1 set. It was inspiring to see, and still is to me.

But that is nothing compared to what you're seeing in the image above.

Resurrected (a fitting name for sure) is a member of my good friend Demordrah's army of alts. Not only did he spend a good amount of time gathering Dreadmist pieces from the several Level 60 dungeons that drop them, but he also invested a lot of questing and gold to put together the super rare and epic Deathmist set. That's DEATHmist, as in Dungeon Set 2 - a full set of which I had NEVER seen before his accomplishment.

To fully appreciate this feat, you really have to go back and actually experience the long and arduous tasks of putting together a full D1 set, and then questing hard to upgrade the pieces to D2. Even today, it would be a hella tedious task, so just consider how difficult it must have been for a Level 60 'lock to get a group motivated enough to help him get the job done. I remember being 7/8 Dreadmist myself (damn Jandice Barov and the shoulders that never dropped for me) and starting the upgrade quests, only to drop them after having put them off for months.

Looking back, and seeing Demo's alt in all of its D2 glory now, I very much wish that I had gone through with the upgrading effort. D1 was more than enough to strike fear into opposing players that loathed getting Feared and DoT'd to death--could you even imagine what it must have felt like for them to come across a 'locked decked out in full D2?! Total dread, imho. The set had, and still has a kind of "oh damn" look to it that just screams Warlock. Even in modern Azeroth, Demordrah was telling me of instances where people in Hellfire were whispering to ask about the "crazy" gear he was wearing. If only all armor design was still that compelling!

Congrats to you, Demo. It's nice to see someone with the motivation (and pain threshold) to get such an epic and true achievement done. I am indeed impressed. Well done, sir! :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Patch 3.2: Resilience No Longer Only Applies to DoT Damage

Fellow Warlocks, wannabes (Mages), Shadow Priests, and anyone else with a close relationship to the DoT'ing kind. Go grab yourself some food and a drink, a towel, and then return to your seat, where you will more than likely spend the next few hours frozen in awe and excitement at the glorious news I am about to relay to you. Seriously. It made my wife pee a little.

Hidden deep within the PTR 3.2 Patch notes is a little bit of Warlock love in the form of a major change to Resilience -- the stat that has been the bane of DoT damage for almost 2 years running.

Here's the little nugget in all of it's DoT-loving glory:
Resilience: No longer reduces the amount of damage done by damage-over-time spells, but instead reduces the amount of all damage done by players by the same proportion. The other effects of resilience (reducing critical chance, critical damage and mana drain effects) have not changed.
What does this mean, exactly? It means that DoT damage is getting an indirect BUFF via the direct application that Resilience will equally have against ALL forms of damage. In other words, DoTS will do relatively more damage than they do now, compared to other forms of offensive attacks.

Within the current state of World of Burst-craft, this is a VERY big deal! It not only means that Resilience-heavy Affliction Warlocks will see more survivability, but it also means they will be dishing out a higher percentage of overall damage done!


Together with all of the other pro-Affliction changes that 3.2 is slated to bring (the Pandemic Buff to Haunt that we will discuss in an upcoming post, for example), this should be a big help to a long-ailing tree in PvP. Only time will tell if it will be a large-enough step in the right direction to make a difference.

Now, go clean up a bit, and be sure to check back for an update on Affliction's performance on the PTR very soon.

See you then. ;)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Warlock 101: "Drain Some Dummies"

Warlock 101 looks to shed some light on the basic truths of Warlocking, for those that are new to the class, or just may have missed them while QQ'ing about the constant nerfs to Fear.

Ask a Warlock, any Warlock, what changes they would like to see implemented in a future patch, and amongst the calls for "green fire" and a new Megan Fox succubus skin, you are more than likely to find a few that will wish for stack-able Soul Shards.

We 'locks have often complained that our shard reagents are an inconvenience, taking up too much space and taking far too long to farm before a night of raiding or PvP. Even after the recent lifestyle tweak to Drain Soul, we still complained that the shard mechanism was too costly, taking up too much of the the time we could be spending doing something else equally as unimportant as shard-farming.

Well, my friends, the reality is that the Soul Shard mechanism isn't that big a deal, and it is far less time consuming than you think. Check out the video below for a hot tip on how to make Soul Shard farming super efficient, no matter your level or experience.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Best Questions a Warlock Can Ask

Ladies and gentlemen, it's that time of year again. The great (and sometimes sexy) Dr. Eyonix has made his Summer rounds on the official forums, summoning the "questions you may have concerning your class." Playing a Warlock, I know we got a whole bunch of them. But before you go off running to ask why we haven't seen green fire applied to all of our spells just yet, hear me out. There are far more important matters at hand.

Here are 10 of the best questions we Warlocks can ask in the current state of the game. And please feel free to bombard Eyonix's thread with them. Maybe we'll get some much-needed attention!

Will incoming pet/spell-pathing and redirection after a Demonic Teleport ever be tweaked to result in a miss?

While defending the Farm in AB the other day, I was approached by three mouth-breathing Death Knights. After being LOL-Gripped by two of them back-to-back (that's where the "lol" comes in), I Teleported into the shed to escape the ridiculously high damage they were doing... and that's when it happened! A Deathcoil that one of the DK's had fired off came through the wall and hit me square in the face!

If a Rogue Vanishes, a spell headed towards them will miss (unless it's still bugged), and a pet will run back towards it's master. If a Warlock Teleports, a spell will redirect and shoot straight for them, and a pet will hunt them down and continue to attack. Sure, Vanish and Teleport are different spells, but shouldn't their effect on spell/pet-pathing be treated the same? If not, why not? At best, it's an awkward mechanic difference as is, and is in desperate need of a change.

Will our pets ever be allowed to Teleport with us if they are set to Passive?

Our pets. Sometimes I love them. Sometimes I hate them. And I ESPECIALLY hate them when they lead opponents straight to me after I break off a Teleport. They're like the worst little back-stabbing snitches ever, and I often find myself having them attack an opponent and get killed just to keep myself alive. Broken, imho.

Will melee always be able to cut-off spells when "running through" the caster?

At range, Destruction Warlocks are where it's at. They have some of the best combos and burst in WoW (which we'll talk about in an upcoming post), and are game-makers as a result.

In close-quarters, however, they are about as useful as a pair of scissors with no handles. This is mostly because of melee's ability to "run through" a caster and interrupt his class if timed right, and which isn't that hard to do. Melee have a huge advantage over casters as a result, and it is a shame this long-broken mechanic hasn't received the attention it deserves.

Will the Soul Shard cap ever be raised?

Let's face it: Soul Shards will never stack. So the question is, will we ever need anything beyond an Abyssal Bag? Inquiring Warlocks, especially ones that Arena regularly, want to know... because if the Soul Shard cap isn't going to see a change, it's time to get a maxed out shard bag, pronto.

Are there any plans to lower the Soul-shatter cooldown?

Of all the spells a Warlock has in his arsenal, Soul-Shatter is by far one of the most poorly maintained. As a spell, it's fine, just as any aggro-reducing ability is. As a spell that has a 5-minute cooldown and costs a Soul Shard, however, it is not. Almost every other class has an aggro drop on a much shorter cooldown... why not Warlocks?

Are there plans to introduce more consistent burst damage to the Affliction Tree?

Affliction burst is based upon RNG DoT crits that are great during long PvE boss encounters, but not so hot for PvP. In order to make Affliction a viable Arena spec again, it needs to have a controllable amount of burst that is not dependant on an automatic, uncontrollable, and untimable DoT tick. Perhaps make Shadowburn trainable? Or even better yet, give the Afflicton 'lock an ability to consume a DoT for 50% of it's overall damage on-command. That'd be a start!

Are all pets going to scale equally from their master's stats?

When I heard that Ghostcrawler and his development crew had finally decided that it was time to work on pet scaling, I called Hell to see if it had frozen over. It hasn't, so I remain cautously optomistic. We are Warlocks, afterall, and whenever we see something good come our way, there is often a catch.

So I have to ask, when the pets get these incoming buffs, are they going to receive them equally across the board, or are each of their specific weaknesses going to be addressed?

And semi-related to this question comes the next:

Will switching between pets quickly ever become an untalented option?

Warlocks are dependent on their pets, now more than ever at least since the "mushroom" era of PvP. Each has a very specific use and strength meant for a very specific environment. So when we find ourselves stuck in the mud with the wrong pet out... we're pretty boned.

Currently, the only way to summon a pet quickly is to spec at least 10 points into the Demonology Tree, where you'll find Fel Domination. Fifteen points in, you'll find Master Summoner, which will reduce the cast time of your next summon by 9.5 seconds to a mere half-second. Unfortunately, each of these talents is on a 15 minute cooldown, which doesn't do much for the Warlock enjoying World PvP or a day in the Battlegrounds.

We need more... and faster too!

Is Fear going to be tweaked to better compliment the Affliction tree?

After the recent Fear "nerf," the spell seems fairly balanced to a Destruction Warlock. Destro 'locks don't DoT, so the spell can easily be used as an off-target CC or to setup a powerful destruction spell combo.

As an Affliction 'lock, however, whose quasi-purpose and strength is to afflict damage to as many targets on the field as possible, it is quite useless. It cannot be used as an off-target CC, because Affliction Warlocks SHOULD be doing consistant, constant, dependable damage to as many enemy players as possible. And almost any damage to Fear currently breaks the CC, making it one of the worst offensive spells in the game.

And yes, you read that right. I wrote "offensive," because that is how it was originally designed. Afflicton Warlocks are SUPPOSED to DoT their targets and Fear them to death. Now, sadly, that's not the case, and they need Affliction-tree-specific buffs to Fear that will allow them to do so competitively. Add a talent, add a glyph, whatever. Just do it already.

Is Immolate going to get some much-needed dispel protection?

As is stands, Immolate is one of the most important spells in a Destro 'locks arsenal. It increases the damage of Incinerate and Chaos bolt via Fire and Brimstone, and is the opener of choice for an instant-Conflag. However, it's as easily removed as Paris Hilton's panties, yet unlike those panties, it comes with no STD penalty whatsoever.

An Afflicton Warlock's DoTS are the bread and butter of his offense, and protected by Unstable Affliction. Immolate is the core ability of a Destruction's Warlocks offense, and has no protection whatsoever. Without Immolate, we lose the burst damage of Conflagrate, and the CC of Aftermath -- both of which are very necessary to keep the spec a successful one.

So those are my questions -- ten issues that need addressing. Hopefully they won't fall upon blind eyes or deaf ears, and hopefully yours won't either.

Speaking of yours, what Warlock questions do you have for the devs? Is there anything that you see as vitally important to the class and wonder why it hasn't been addressed? Let me know in the comments section -- link to it in the official thread if you wish.

Now, lets get this done, people. Good luck to us all.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What's Up With Ferarro & Paladin Schmaladin?

I have to take a quick time-out from the norm to outline a concern that I have about the honesty of blogging and bloggers. For those of you who normally read blogs, it may impact you on some level, so it won't be a complete waste of your time.

If you found yourself over at fellow WoW-blogger Ferarro's website today, Paladin Schmaladin, you were greeted with a new message that the "blog is open to invited readers only." According to her Twitter updates, she believes that she has a stalker, and things are getting a bit too uncomfortable with all of the private information she has been posting.

Now let me be serious for a second (it's all I can muster): if she does have a legit stalker, she made the right decision in closing shop. Playing it safe is the only way to go in that scenario. There is nothing worse than feeling exposed, after all (we Warlocks know that all too well). However, I am getting reports that the stalker story is about as straight as Tom Cruise, and that I should have listened to my mother when she told me to never believe everything I read on the internet... that I don't write myself.

According to multiple sources in-WoW and out, Ferarro was outed as a fraud when an astute Warlock posted a convincing link on the WoW Forums, pointing to a website called TechDarling. All over the site are pictures of a girl that we know as Ferarro. In fact, many of the pictures there are identical copies of those we've seen on Paladin Schmaladin. But instead of the WoW game-tester we all know, we see a real-life social-blogger who is into the tech scene and has posted pictures from various blogging expos and web design events -- pictures stolen by and featured on Paladin Schmaladin and that Ferarro presented as of herself, and her job as a game-tester for WoW.

Doing a little bit of digging, it seems that all of the self-portraits posted of Ferarro on Paladin Schmaladin originate from TechDarling and its author's own web pages, including Facebook and Flickr. In fact, there are many images there that authenticate TechDarling as the legitimate source and owner of the pictures and events. Oh, and btw, WoW is never mentioned on these other sites. Not once.

So what does all of this craziness mean, exactly?

Well, for starters, a bunch of love-struck boys are going to experience some heavy frustration when this comes to light, and we are bound to see some nerd rage soon. For bloggers like me, it is a little disheartening. Ferarro has basically been lying about her identity for years, and stealing someone else's content and posting them as her own. She has taken advantage of another blogger and her reader's trust, and that makes my job as a fellow blogger just that much harder.

On a WoW-related front, this mess also means that Ferarro isn't a game tester for Blizzard. The "game-testing" images that were posted on Paladin Schmaladin were relabeled TechDarling images that were taken at a blogging expo.

I gotta admit, just thinking about this gets me a little angry, and my mind is going crazy with a series of difficult questions: what drives a person to do this kind of thing? Why would anyone lead people on like that? And for what means? And do you know what the worst part about this whole thing is? Paladin Schmaladin was a great resource and excellent WoW blog. Why it needed to be masked by someone else's pretty face is straight attention-whoring.

And here's a piece of advice from your friendly neighborhood Warlock Therapist: if you post someone else's picture and get caught, don't take down your blog and try to explain it away as a problem with a stalker. Don't go into hiding and conjure up 7 different identities when that doesn't work either. Fess up, make things right, and move on. It may hurt at first, but it is the only way to help guarantee yourself respect and friendship in the long-run. And lets face it, you owe at least that much to your readers, right?

It will be quite interesting to see where Ferarro goes from here. While watching the changing status of Paladin Schmaladin's accessibility, I wish her, or him, some much-needed sanity.

I am Jagoex. I'm a husband, a father, a professor, and a warlock. That's all you need to know. ;)

UPDATE: Apparently, Ferarro has closed her Twitter account and many of her articles at are MIA. Threads started on the WoW Forums linking to TechDarling or this post are being reported as harassment and immediately removed. Also, many young boys are in complete denial.

UPDATE 2: TechDarling is aware of what is going on and according to her Twitter page, she was unaware anyone was stealing her images and content and using them as her own.

UPDATE 3: admins played no hand in the posts that were being deleted on their website, and were clueless on what was going on until after the fact. Also, Ferarro's character on Alexstrasza is no longer showing up on the Armory.

UPDATE 4: Paladin Schmaladin is available for viewing once again, with a long explanation of what has happened -- including a creative story detailing 7 different owners of "Ferarro" the Paladin.

UPDATE 5: just posted a very detailed look into Ferarro's explanatory post, basically debunking her statement that Ferarro was operated by 7 different people over the years.