Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apology from the desk of Mike Morhaime

Mike Morhaime, President of Blizzard entertainment, has posted an apology for the video played at Blizzcon. You can read it here, but I'll also paste it in to this post for those who can't read it because they're at work.

Dear members of the Blizzard community,

I have read your feedback and comments about this year’s BlizzCon, and I have also read the feedback to the apology from Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain. I’d like to respond to some of your feedback here.

As president of Blizzard, I take full responsibility for everything that occurs at BlizzCon.

It was shortsighted and insensitive to use the video at all, even in censored form. The language used in the original version, including the slurs and use of sexual orientation as an insult, is not acceptable, period. We realize now that having even an edited version at the show was counter to the standards we try to maintain in our forums and in our games. Doing so was an error in judgment, and we regret it.

The bottom line is we deeply apologize for our mistakes and for hurting or offending anyone. We want you to have fun at our events, and we want everyone to feel welcome. We’re proud to be part of a huge and diverse community, and I am proud that so many aspects of the community are represented within Blizzard itself.

As a leader of Blizzard, and a member of the band, I truly hope you will accept my humblest apology.

– Mike Morhaime

President, Blizzard Entertainment

For what it's worth, I personally was glad to read it and I think it addresses the issues fully. This heals the breach for me. I've also said and done things that I wish I could take back, and of course we can't do that. The best we can do is realize our mistakes and apologize for them sincerely.

Thanks to Mr. Morhaime and the rest of the Blizzard team.

Using your pet's abilities

I recently got an email with some great questions about the use of our pets' abilities. The sender has been playing the class for a couple years and has done a lot of their own research, but found that it seems like there are some things you're assumed to just know. In reality of course, there's no reason anyone would just know the answers to these things! In point of fact, I never really found any guides that answered these questions either, so the answers I have are all "this is what works for me." I'm not claiming that the way I do things is the best way or the only way, merely that it's a way.

That established, here are the actual questions as I understand them:
  1. Should pet abilities be on autocast or should the player choose when to use them?
  2. Is there any way to make the pet bar bigger, allowing you to fit more pet abilities onto it?
  3. If the answer to number 2 is "no," then is it possible to macro pet abilities?
  4. If the answer to number 3 is "yes," are they cast abilities, use abilities, or something else?
I think these are great questions, especially because pet control is so important to the class. If you're ever in a group with another hunter, watch their pet during trash pulls: does it run all the way back to their side in between mobs, or are they manually moving it to the next target right before the previous one dies?

I don't think that the latter is necessarily a bad hunter or anything! I just think it's more likely that that person doesn't think of their pet as an important part of their damage and hasn't developed the habits that make pet-control during boss encounters second nature.

Our pets' abilities are another aspect of pet control, and I think it's a great sign if you're asking yourself questions like those above and trying to find answers for them. To be good at something isn't to say "I know all the answers," it is instead to say "how could I be better?"

Ok! Having made a pretentious, melodramatic big deal out of things, I should probably answer the questions as best I can.

Number 1. The answer is "it depends." Growl should of course be turned off. Your pet's spammable attack, things like Claw, should be left on autocast. Call of the Wild and Roar of Recovery should be used manually and, more specifically, they should be stacked with either Rapid Fire or Bloodlust. I'll come back to that in a second. I leave Dash on autocast. They automatically use it whenever they have to get farther than a certain minimum distance, and with the short cooldown it's often available at good times. Any DPS you may lose from your pet using the focus on dash is more than made up for by increased time on target.

If your raid group is having you pet-tank adds (as happened a lot with Nefarian), then the usual recommendation is to leave Shell Shield and the similar scarab ability on autocast. The threshhold that pets seem to have for their Shell Shield use seems to work quite well. If your raid ever determines that they want access to abilities like Roar of Sacrifice for a specific encounter, then you'll definitely want to turn autocast off and use them deliberately there. The bat's stun is another example of this: some raids had their hunters bring bats for Ragnaros so they'd have another stun to use on Sons of Flame.

The reason I say that you pretty much must stack Call of the Wild or Roar of Recovery with Rapid Fire or Bloodlust is because RF and BL are cooldowns that multiply other effects. CotW and RoR could read more simply as "you do higher damage for a little while," so attacking more often with that higher damage is the best use of it. And don't underestimate RoR, either! If your raid needs Curse of Elements, you should absolutely use one of the two cunning pets that supply it. RoR allows you to fit a whole extra Aimed Shot in during the Careful Aim window, which is huge. My aimed shots have a 100% crit chance during CA, land for over 70,000 damage, and roll the Piercing Shots bleed, whose ticks get monstrously large by the end of the CA window.

Number 2. There's actually no way to change the size of the pet bar, even with mods, so far as I know. This means that yes, you'll probably be using macros.

Number 3. Yep!

Number 4. In general, abilities work through /cast commands in macros, while things like telling your pet to attack something or changing her stance work through their own specific commands. For the first example, let's look at how I use Call of the Wild in a macro:
/cast Rapid Fire
/use Potion of the Tol'vir
/cast Call of the Wild
Make sure to spam that button a few times to make sure everything activates. If you have an on-use trinket such as the Ancient Petrified Seed, put that in there as well. The /cast command will work for any activated pet ability. So if you're doing the bat pet for Ragnaros thing, you could make a macro that had "/cast Sonic Blast" and that macro would make your pet use his stun on whatever you've got targeted.

It's possibly worth noting that this opens up possibilities for doing cool things with pet control, especially with mouseover targeting. So you could make a macro that looked like this:

/cast [target=mouseover] Sonic Blast
Then, during Ragnaros, you could be targeting and DPSing one Son when you see that another is getting dangerously close to the hammer. Even if you're in the middle of casting an Aimed Shot, you could leave your current Son targeted, hover your mouse cursor over the worrisome one, and push the button for that macro. Your bat would swoop over, stun it, and then swoop back to your current target.

I mostly manage my pet's position through the use of macros telling her to attack, come to my side, be passive, or assist. Ever since the Burning Crusade I've developed super-strong muscle memory of hitting control-1 to tell my pet to attack, so I chose to bind my other commands to control-2 and control-3. I have these macros on a hidden action bar on the left-hand side of my screen that also houses trap launcher, my traps, and my aspect switching macro. Well, sort of! Control-1 is the default pet attack button, so I didn't change that, but I did make macros for the other things.

The first macro brings my pet to my side, and is used to make sure she doesn't get killed by things that target a specific spots. Mimiron's rockets in Ulduar for example, or Rag's hammer impact for lava wave, that kind of thing. The other thing it's good for is getting your pet in range for use of Master's Call. Whenever there's a dispellable immobilization or snare debuff in an encounter, you should use Master's Call. Let your healers know that you are not a priority for dispels and that they can and should conserve their mana unless you ask for help.

The macro looks like this:
That macro is 100% guaranteed to make your pet break off from whatever she's doing and come running back to you. Mine is titled "come". If you want to macro having your pet attack so you can bind it somewhere else, by the way, the command is simply "/petattack".

Finally I have control-3 bound to put her back on the assist setting. It's worth noting that you don't necessarily have to have her on assist. I use it for some fights and don't use it for others. If I'm going to be switching targets frequently but I want my pet to attack only one target, then I leave her on passive and just tell her to attack the correct target at the beginning. That said, here's my macro to put my pet on assist:
The /petfollow command is there because sometimes I'll hit control-3 after having directed my pet to stand in a specific spot. Petfollow does not make your pet come to your side, it simply tells her to follow you around if she's not doing anything else. Sending her a /petpassive command will always make her come back to you, even if she's already set to passive. Without that /petfollow in there, you could end up with her standing in some random spot, probably wagging her tail with a goofy look on her face.

That's most of what leaps to mind for me! Which tips have I missed? Also, I keep making these kind of long posts without really intending to. Blogger has an option to cut these into an intro and a body, hiding the body unless someone clicks to see it. Would anyone prefer that I start doing that?

Zeherah's Dragonskull Crown!

Zeherah, in case you didn't know, is the super-hero behind Female Dwarf. She is also, in my experience, a uniformly kind and helpful individual. I honestly can not think of a single other person that has contributed any single resource as important for hunters as her DPS simulation site. It has an intuitive interface, it's highly customizable, you can easily import your own character's information into it, the list goes on to the horizon.

And it looks like she's getting an item named after her in the Dragon Soul: Zeherah's Dragonskull Crown.

This is completely excellent and I'm just thrilled. Congratulations, Zeherah!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grubtor and his faithful companion...

I did end up getting a race change, as some folks have already noticed. I'm fairly pleased with her new appearance, but I did want to share a quick little story from the appearance editor.

To begin with, I seem to have this weird thing where I prefer to play female characters in CRPGs and male characters in tabletop RPGs. I'm not sure why this is! It just seems to be true. From the Baldur's Gate series through Oblivion and Dragon Age and WoW - lots of ladies. My three 85s are all ladies. I dunno, it just happens! So when I brought up the appearance editor for the hunter formerly known as Pradzha, I clicked on the boy button just to see if maybe I wanted to make a guy this time.

Now, female Draenei are not all that petite. They're taller than just about all the other ladies, and as Sir Mix-a-Lot would say: baby got back. Ok. Nonetheless, when she was replaced with a boynei the difference was crazy. He covered two and a half times more screen than she had, you know? Like someone dropped off a refrigerator in the appearance editor, taped a bow to it, and lit it on fire (yay T12).

My boyfriend happened to be in the room and we both sort of laughed about this, and then we noticed that the race change editor uses the same framework as the character creation editor. Which meant that this meaty slab of Draenei had, hovering down by his knees, the teeniest little level 1 moth pet. So teeny! This inspired my boyfriend to introduce the pair in the voice of a gravel-throated, gritty fantasy narrator which I have attempted to reproduce in visual format below:

Click for full size
So we laughed and laughed about that, and having completed our sojourn into unfamiliar territory, I clicked the girl button again. Ahem.

I also did some looking through my screenshot folder and noticed something else interesting: my hunter has now been three different races and she has never, not once in her life, worn shoes like a normal person. From troll-feets to spacegoat hooves to puppydog paw-pads, shoes are not for her. Just kind of... armored leg warmers.

The only downside is that one of my guildies that draws things recently posted a drawing of her before her race change, reading a book to her wind serpent Temeraire. It's really cute! And now I feel bad about race changing, as if Pradzha has abandoned Temeraire, and now he's sort of flapping around, looking for his lady to read books to him. Gaah! Sorry Temeraire and Crapes!

My ability to make myself sad by telling myself stories about virtual things is unrivaled. By anyone.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I would rather not be making this post

I wish I didn't have to make this post, but there's no way I'm getting to sleep without writing it. It's going to be long and unpleasant and it's going to directly confront things that, these days, I prefer to just not deal with.

At the end of BlizzCon there was a concert, in the way that there usually is. During this concert, Samwise invited a man named George Fisher up on stage to sing that metal song about being in the horde. George Fisher's stage name, by the by, is "Corpsegrinder" and he sings in the metal band Cannibal Corpse.

So far so good! Celeb plays WoW, wants to sing (probably for free) at BlizzCon, great! Then, to introduce him to the crowd, they play this video snippet of an interview he gave at some point presumably during BC:

This is substantially less awesome. It was pretty clear to me what lived in those beeps, but in case you're in any doubt, here's the unedited version (skip to 1:01):


Then a thread gets posted to the official forums about it. You can find that thread here. It is really weird. The thread is - for the most part - not about how Blizzard just put a really bigoted rant on the screen because they thought it was funny. The thread is mostly about how Alliance players feel marginalized.

Basically this whole situation is screwed in twelve different directions. It's honestly pretty difficult to know where to begin, but it's easiest for me to start with the totally weird faction focus that has characterized things thus far. Let's all be clear about this: there is nothing inherently Horde or Alliance about any of us. We're all human beings that may or may not have a preference to play one faction or another for any of a zillion reasons. If you're insulted by Mr. Fisher's diatribe because you play Alliance, you are honestly being kind of silly.

There are some folks in that thread talking about how, soon, there could be soccer-style riots with jackbooted Horde thugs stomping on fragile Alliance skulls. I guess I'll just say that if that day comes I will eat my hat. Hats. I've got a few of different sorts, and I'll eat all of them. The factions are not real, we do not really owe allegiance to them, and insulting your faction can never be equivalent to insulting you as a person.

The actual problem here isn't even that this guy used unequivocally, completely, unapologetically bigoted language.

The problem is that Blizzard put him on their big stage at their event and then deliberately played the video of him using that language. What this looks like, to me, is Blizzard as a company have said loud and clearly that they think his little rant was hilarious. That the Blizzard company culture is one that considers LGBTQ people of every description sad, disgusting little jokes. That the official Blizzard nomenclature for a homosexual man is "cocksucker". That Blizzard thinks jokes like
"Go fucking cry a river and tell me how you're gonna slit your wrists you night elf faggot."
are especially funny in light of the gay teens who have committed suicide, often after being urged to do so by their bullies.

That they chose to do this says to me that Blizzard thinks that everything I just pointed out is so common sense, so truly and obviously funny, that it's a proper way to make a gag about faction rivalry.

I can almost guarantee that there were queer people in the audience at that concert. A lot of them probably play Horde. After all, Horde is the faction of the castoffs and the rejects, the marginalized and the despised. It's not surprising that it's home to the largest LGBT guild network in the game.

It must've felt pretty awesome for those players to hear that video and hear the cheers that it was met with.

I say again: sigh.

WoW is a hobby for me. It's not my only hobby, but I like it. Mostly I like my guild. We have representatives for every letter in the LGBTQ initialism, most of whom are regular raiders, as well as a few just regular old straight folks. I log in, in part, because hanging out with these people is a fun way to get away from everything else. To get away from the George Fishers of the world. To get away from having to explain my DADT discharge at every job interview and then, now that I've gotten hired, coming out to coworkers. Wondering each time if this will be the one that has an issue with it (so far so good!).

I don't live every day with the crushing chains of oppression hung around my neck or anything. I've had an easier time of things than probably most gay guys out there, or most women or people of color or any other minority, for that matter. Even for me, though, it gets wearying. Listening to the things our politicians say. Having to mute or /ignore at least one person any time I play any videogame online ever. It gets old. I like being able to log into WoW for raid time, hang out with my guild, and know that I won't have to bother with any of that. We just spend a few hours killing pretend monsters and taking their stuff.

Except now even that is just a little bit poisoned. A little ruined. Not totally, not even majorly. But wouldn't it be nice if it hadn't happened? Wouldn't it be nice if we felt welcomed by the game's makers, not just by the people we play with?

Wouldn't it be nice if we hadn't been totally blown off at the open Q&A? In case you don't know what I mean, here's the only queer-related question they got the in entire con and its response:

Where are the LGBT characters in WoW Lore?
Everything is gravy as long as its just a great character. There is the possiblity of adding them, as long as the story is compelling, might see it in the future.

Translated, this is pretty much "yeah yeah whatever, next?"

I suppose it's worth mentioning that Bashiok kind of apologized for the concert thing on the forums. Although a little later on he made this post, kind of nullifying it. Yes, we know he was joking, Bashiok. That's why it sucks: because we're the butt of the joke. The joke's not funny if you don't think a gay man is a grotesque parody of a "real" man, debased and degraded by any expression of his own sexuality. If you think that queers are just people, then his rant lacks any humor.

This kind of stuff makes me so tired. Misogyny, racism, homophobia. It's all so old, and so evil, and the defenses are always the same. Just thinking about it makes me feel as if I'm 97, rickety and exhausted, standing at the bottom of a stairwell that I have to get up to get home. Writing this whole long post is the equivalent of shuffling my left foot a few inches forward so that it nudges against the first riser.

This is why reading this essay was so tense for me. Most of the time, you just don't want to deal with the bigots on the net. They're just these endless turds of varying sizes scattered along the sidewalk, making it harder to get where you're going. And a lot of the time you can't win, anyway. Sometimes the racists have better aim than you, or they've been playing longer, or you screw something up because you're shaking with emotion, or whatever. To put one in his place is positively ambrosial.

Heh. I wish I'd found out about this whole debacle before I signed up for a year of WoW, damn it.

Addendum: I may as well preempt a few likely responses. There's a whole swath of "it's just a joke," "it's death metal, what do you expect," "but they beeped it out," and similar defenses. They take different tacks, but they're all sailing for the same port: "it doesn't actually matter that he said those things."

My response to that is to ask you to imagine if he'd said "I don't play Horde because it's full of niggers and kikes," or "go kill yourself, you downsy cow."

Did those sound different to you? Worse, more shocking? Because they shouldn't.

Update: online petitions are often of dubious efficacy, but there is one up at I signed it - it's something, right?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hunters in the Mists

I'm going to start with a brief discussion of the new talent system. Just to be totally upfront: I think this is a great change. I was really excited about the way they talked about the talent revamp for Cataclysm, but I was disappointed in how it actually came out. The proposed system for Mists is exactly the radical change that needed to happen. I also think that the change is being widely misunderstood, because I'm seeing tons of people calling it "simplified," "dumbed-down," or "pandering to casuals".

In fact, it's the exact opposite of these.

Since the game launched, talents have largely been a system whereby you spent points to modify abilities. So you gave something haste, or caused the use of a certain shot to proc a buff, or added 10% damage to something, so on and so forth. Any talent that just gave you a new ability was almost always automatically taken, such as Readiness. Not taking Readiness as a Marksmanship hunter is just a mistake. It's not actually a choice, there's nothing complex about it: if you don't do it, you're just wrong, end of story. Similarly, if you don't take Careful Aim you're wrong. No Improved Steady Shot? Wrong. You're not making choices, you're just picking the right things and not-picking the wrong things. The underlying theorycrafting may have been complex, but you probably didn't do that: you went to EJ or a blog or both and took the right talents. That's the antithesis of complexity.

The new talent system is largely about choosing between abilities. To get any given thing, you must give up something else. The talents they talked about at Blizzcon obviously aren't yet in beta, but looking at them gives us something useful to think about the changes coming up. Here's a helpful chart from MMO Champion:

Potential Hunter talents
If you'd prefer just a plain-old text version, Hugh from MMO Melting Pot has helpfully transcribed them here.

Take a look at the first tier talent, which becomes available at level 15. You can choose between your autoshots:
  1. Applying a free snare.
  2. Giving you a TON of focus.
  3. Stacking a DoT on your target.
Those are hard choices! And the fact that they're hard makes them compelling. PvP hunters will be torn between the free snare and the free focus. If I had to guess, I would actually guess that (if these talents go live), the focus-on-autoshot talent will become the PvP standard. Less time wasted in AotF casting steady or cobra shots will be huge for PvP hunters, who already have pretty decent kiting tools. But then maybe that free, stacking dot will do enough damage to be chosen for PvP. And it's easy to imagine either the DoT or the focus becoming dominant for PvE, and I think their goal is to have either of those be a valid choice.

I do think that the hunter talents as we see them right now will require some tweaking. It seems to me that some of the tiers still have wrong answers as far as PvE goes, but I also acknowledge that it's difficult to make compelling choices for PvE. The question we're usually asking is "what does more damage?" and it's hard to get around that in interesting ways. I think possibly they could do something like toy with making survival a spec that's constantly starved for focus by removing Explosive Shot's cooldown: then you'd have things like survival hunters taking Thrill of the Hunt while marks hunters took Readiness.

Even if they don't get it totally perfect this time 'round, though, it's absolutely an improvement.

I was also thrilled by the announcement that hunter melee weapons are going away. Especially because they've said that they're looking at bringing back quiver/ammo pouch graphics that could be customizable in some way! This is completely righteous. Ever since they removed ammo I've missed the sight of a quiver on my back. So not only do we get rid of the annoyance of letting the feral have the staves/polearms first, we won't have to worry about enchanting a melee weapon any more and we'll get quivers back. Perfect.

Finally, while the new tiger model is absolutely gorgeous, I'm a little sad that it's not something else. Really, anything else. I have a low-poly wolf, a low-poly raptor, a low-poly hyena, and a medium-poly windserpent from BC. I would kill to have high-poly versions of the my other pets, but it seems like half of all the pretty pets are cats. Loque/Gondria, Sambas, Skarr, the shiny glow-eyed tigers from Neferset City, etc. Hell, even Skoll is a low-poly wolf with some zappies. Come on dudes! Why no pretty raptors? Why no lovely wolves?

With the sole exception of that gripe though, I am surprised at how pleased I am with everything out of Blizzcon. Mists of Pandaria is looking like an unexpectedly delightful expansion.

I'm also considering race-changing from Draenei to Worgen (still female, natch). OPINIONS?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blizzcon reveals

Just like everyone else, I'm going to have a lot to say about these. As the reveals are ongoing, however, I'm going to hold off on making a "real" post for now. I'm just going to kind of get out my notepad and start scribbling thoughts and connecting them together. The summary of my reaction so far is that everything sounds like an April 1st joke and sounds like great directions to be going in.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Some good news and thoughts on the final tier

Something momentous has occurred: for the first time in recorded history, a Protector token has dropped for my guild when the content it dropped from is still at least kind of relevant. And it just so happened that I was at the front of the list to get it. So I'm actually going to start out T13 with T12's 4-piece bonus.

Pretty astounding stuff.

In fact, I've got almost everything I need from T12. I still need trinkets from Majordomo and Rag as well as the bow from Rag, but other than those two things I'm set. The raid in general is like that: we're looking pretty good to walk into T13 with entirely or almost entirely up to date gear, which is pretty exciting.

Visually, the T13 hunter set doesn't look all that exciting. I wish they'd go in an archer-ey direction in the same way they went in an ornate knightly direction with the Season 11 Paladin PvP set. I still might - I'm not sure, but I might - like it better than T12 and certainly better than T11 though, so I might be one of the few not making a whole lot of use out of transmogrification.

The set bonuses look pretty straightforward and good. Enforcing the use of glyphed Arcane Shot with the 4pc is a bit of a bummer, but it's going to make huntering actually much easier than it might otherwise have been at the end of the expansion. The two bonuses synergize very well together. The extra focus from the 2pc (double focus generated by steady and cobra) encourages the spamming of focus-dump shots, and Arcane is a lot easier to work into your cycle in an ad hoc manner than Aimed shot is. The haste from Arcane will, in turn, make it a lot easier to manage your ISS buff. This will be especially valuable because the combination of the high focus income and the frequent gain and loss of haste buffs pretty much demolish any sort of set DPS cycles.

Playing a well-geared hunter in T13 is going to mean constant adaptation of your ability use to get the maximum effect out of your buffs at any given moment. It's going to be quite difficult to manage your focus such that you're not wasting focus over the cap or being starved for focus when Chimera shot comes off of cooldown.

The new raid and the new dungeons look pretty neat, too: the screenshots of Wyrmrest temple in a distant background with Deathwing gnawing on it are quite evocative. I'm not logging in very often right now (which is a big part of why I'm not posting very frequently, sorry) but I'm definitely recharging my WoW enthusiasm batteries.

I can honestly say I'm looking forward to the final chapter of Cataclysm.