Wednesday, February 17, 2010

World of Warcraft personal status report

This post is not to make any particular point. I’ll just list the current status of my World of Warcraft characters, and what my plans are for them. I like to do that from time to time, because it serves as a record, a diary of my virtual existence.

I still have three level 80 characters, a priest, a warrior, and a mage. The priest is technically my “main”, and the only character that ever raids, but I do play my “alts” a lot too. So this priest spent a lot of time in random heroics, although not necessarily with random groups. I frequently find a group in guild chat, where “we need a healer” is the reason I end up playing the priest so often, and then we just join a random heroic as a guild group, or as a partial group, picking up just one or two players. That gives us all the advantages of the Dungeon Finder system, while avoiding the worst disadvantages of pickup groups.

Unfortunately playing that way a lot results in two things that diminish motivation: You get to know every single heroic dungeon very well, and at some points you have all the emblems you ever wanted. My priest is at the point where there is not a single item which he could buy with emblems of triumph which would be an upgrade for him. And he also has all reasonably priced emblem of frost items already bought. So while theoretically I could continue collecting 2 emblems of frost every day, in practice I’d need 95 of them for a minor upgrade to one piece of armor, and I’m not very excited about that prospect.

I recently participated in a raid to Trial of the Crusader with my priest, but didn’t like it very much. As previously mentioned I am not a big fan of modern raiding, which reminds me more of playing a platformer game than of a MMORPG. Thus I’m more a “tourist” raider, trundling along with my guild when they do non-progression raids for which they are short a healer. However I follow with interest various comments from Ghostcrawler, who promised to make healing slower but more interesting again in Cataclysm. That would be exactly what I’m looking for.

The warrior and the mage are both slightly less well equipped than the priest, but still in full T9 gear, and just missing a ring here and a trinket there to reach that same “emblem complete” state. I’m still having a lot of fun with the mage, but the warrior is, as he has frequently been, my least happy character. I never really know what I should do with him. He is fun enough to play as a tank in guild groups, but in pickup groups he has constant problems with dps players who don’t know the first thing about aggro management, or who are in a terrible hurry to do things fast instead of doing things well.

Greatly contributing to the warrior unhappiness is the direct comparison with my other tank, my paladin, who is on another server, other faction, and just reached level 68. Since the Dungeon Finder came out, he spent most of his time as tank spec in dungeons, and it has been a blast. I always feel like my paladin is pointing a finger at my warrior and laughing at him, because the paladin is so much better in every aspect than the warrior is. The paladin taunt deals a ton of damage, the warrior taunt deals no damage at all. The paladin self-heal is an instant to full health, the warrior version only retrieves 30% of health as heal-over-time. And the list goes on and on. My warrior tank is always fourth on the dps meter, just above the healer, my paladin tank is quite often first or second on the dps meter. Unsurprisingly the paladin being so much better in comparison, plus the fact that the pally is still leveling, while the warrior is well into the diminishing returns rewards of the endgame, makes the paladin a whole lot more fun to play than the warrior right now.

So right now I’m concentrating on playing the paladin, and plan to level him up all the way to 80. As he is Alliance and my existing three level 80s are Horde, the paladin has the added bonus of getting Alliance quests that I never did before. Albeit I must say that up to now, in the Burning Crusade content that has been a disappointment. The Alliance quests of BC are nearly always carbon copies of the Horde quests, just with a different quest text and reward. So doing Alliance quests I often ended up visiting exactly the same locations and chasing exactly the same monsters as my Horde characters already did. I do hope there is more of a difference once I reach Northrend and the Wrath of the Lich King quests.

The original plan was that the paladin should have an equivalent on the Horde side, my Tauren druid, and that I would level both characters mainly through the 1-60 content of the old world as a last “best of” visit tour before Cataclysm totally changes those areas. But the druid somehow got stuck at level 29, and I haven’t played him for months. Yet another character suffering from comparison with the paladin, the paladin in retribution spec was far more pleasant to solo than the feral druid, and I suspect that the druid is also worse as a tank, although I haven’t really tried tanking with him much yet. That is the eternal game design problem of class balance: One completely overpowered class diminishes the interest in every other class with a similar role. Maybe once the paladin reaches level 80 I’ll get around to play the druid some more.

Still part of the plan is the phase that’ll have to wait for Cataclysm to come out: Playing level 1-60 again with one Horde and one Alliance character to explore how the world has changed. I’ll go for a goblin hunter and a worgen warlock, this being classes I haven’t played all that much. Thinking about Cataclysm also gets us full circle back to my priest: With every new expansion I have to decide which one of my level capped characters to level up to the new cap first. And unless there are some major unforeseen changes, I think I’ll play my priest as “main” again. The priest ended up profiting most from dual spec: Without even changing gear I can go from raid healing to doing over 3k dps. The warrior would need two completely different sets of gear to switch from decent tanking to decent dps, and the mage only has the choice between different flavors of dps. The paladin, even if he is level 80 by the time the expansion comes out, is disqualified from becoming my “main” by the fact that he is on the wrong server and wrong faction, and I’d rather play with my guild when the expansion is coming out.

As you can see, my plan for World of Warcraft has a rather obvious big hole: The things I want to do before Cataclysm comes out probably won’t fill out all the months until the expansion actually arrives. There is a suspicious lack of new information about Cataclysm, I find it hard to believe that Cataclysm could come out early summer and it is so silent mid-February. With SWTOR having been pushed back to spring 2011 at the earliest, Blizzard might well think that releasing Cataclysm in November for the holiday season is the better marketing strategy. They have never been the fastest at creating new content and releasing expansions. Thus I started to play more single-player games, and I might check out some other MMORPGs during summer as well.

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