Seven Days in WoW

A week ago, I took advantage of the seven-day free trial that was tucked away in the Referral and Rewards section of my Battle.Net account and returned to the World of Warcraft for the first time in thirteen months.

What did I do? Well, I geared up my hunter pretty well, hah! I had started somewhere in the realm of ~458 as an average equipped item level (I’m not 100% sure, but I know it was below 463 and that seems about right) and finished the week with an average ilvl of 503 equipped. I replaced all my greens (!) and blues and got the Mystically Epic achievement. (I actually think that it took me longer than this during Cataclysm for Kurn to hit Cataclysmically Epic because it took me FOREVER to get a bow for Kurn in the last expansion.)

As I said in a previous post, I spent a lot of time on the Island of Free Lewts and then a lot of time queueing for various LFRs. The sort of unofficial goal I had for myself was to do all the raid content on LFR. Tier 14 went pretty well, Tier 15, not so much. I only saw half of the instance, because my priority was to see all of Siege of Orgrimmar’s content, so as soon as I hit 496, I moved on from Throne of Thunder (with every intention of going back to see the back half!) and started queueing for Siege. In two days, I did a ridiculous amount of SoO queueing and very few runs where we actually did anything. Countless groups fell apart before me, leaving me stuck and frustrated, because you can’t queue for the next segment when you haven’t gotten the achievement for the first segment. Frustrating, but understandable if you’re thinking about not letting people access the final bosses when they don’t have the first clue as to what they’re doing.

It took me two days of LFRs to get through all of Siege of Orgrimmar. My trial expired around 2:30am ET this morning (Tuesday) and do you know at what time I actually defeated Garrosh? 1:57am. CUTTING IT A BIT CLOSE, AREN’T WE, KURN? Granted, the denial of service attack that brought Battle.Net down earlier in the day didn’t help, but I only had two more LFRs to do and I didn’t think it would be a big deal.

Silly Kurn. I forgot the cardinal rule of LFR: the later in the week it is, the worse the groups probably are. I went through THREE LFRs before I got one that could do the Spoils of Pandaria fight (which, btw, seems like the stupidest fight I’ve seen thus far).

Still, I defeated Garrosh, just in time, and it was pretty satisfying, even though it was on LFR. I’ve disliked Garrosh since Faction Champs, so that was nice. ;)

I’ll talk more about raiding in another post, because I do want to talk about my experiences in each LFR I did, but I did some other stuff, too.

I did Bronze and Silver Damage Proving Grounds. I tried Gold a few times, but I’m still pretty rusty and hadn’t set up TidyPlates for mobs and such. As such, some of the AOE-heavy rounds messed me up because I was too far out for the standard nameplates to show up (hunters are a ranged class!) and there was so much crap on the ground (freezing trap, explosive trap) that I could hardly see anything in the center of the room. I also ended up trying to do it as Marksmanship so that I could have access to Silencing Shot.

This brings me to a hilarious story, which I’m sure everyone will enjoy, mostly because it’s somewhat humiliating.

When I logged in to the game, there was an empty spot on my bars. Here’s what my main action bar on Kurn looked like when I stopped playing in November of 2012.

emptyslot0
You can clearly see Silencing Shot there at number six. (Ignore that there’s nothing at the – position.)

So I logged in and… what the eff? Silencing Shot is gone.

emptyslot1
But it was there in my Marks spec. So I figured “oh, they took Silencing Shot out of talents, explaining the free talent point, and gave it to Marks and only to Marks.”

Kids, this is where reading up on class changes comes in supremely handy. At no point did I think “oh, I should go read up about Silencing Shot’s change”. Nope. Instead, there I am in guild chat, chatting with a DPS warrior raider and a hunter who was in the guild as a friend rank. And the following conversation occurs:

Me: I miss Readiness. And Silencing Shot. (Wasn’t Silencing Shot a talent available to everyone at some point?)
Warrior: It was.
Me: That explains why my 6 button on my bars is empty.
Warrior: All hunters got was Counter Shot which functions as an interrupt which is all I cared about really.

I paused. My jaw dropped. I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I opened up my spellbook for the first time all week and found an entry for something called Counter Shot.

Me: Holy shit.
Hunter: I didn’t know Counter Shot existed until 3 days ago
Me: Guess who just learned about Counter Shot.
Me: haha
Hunter: lololol
Warrior: Marks just gets Silencing Shot, something something balance specs in pvp something something

Worst of all, I had this conversation on Monday afternoon. I’d been playing for six days without opening my spellbook or questioning the lack of an interrupt (barring Scattershot and Intimidation, neither of which are ACTUAL interrupts, but disorients and stuns that will function as an interrupt).

Yup. I’m that good, ladies and gentlemen. /facepalm

I don’t really even have a reasonable explanation for it, either, which is even more upsetting. Maybe if I’d stayed Survival for Gold Proving Grounds and used Counter Shot, it would have worked better. (Serpent Spread is lovely.) Anyhow. Gold Proving Grounds didn’t happen but I learned about Counter Shot, so my overall knowledge has improved, which is the important thing. I just wish it had been improved a week ago instead of yesterday.

I also wish I’d known about it before deciding to tackle the last of my Glorious! rare spawns. What with everyone out on Timeless Isle or otherwise absent from much of Pandaria, I had very little trouble finding the various spawns that had eluded me during the last time I’d played. The trouble was this one panda mob in Townlong Steppes, Yul Wildpaw, whose Spinning Crane Kick kept killing my pet while his Healing Mists was doing a sick amount of healing to him. With a 24s cooldown on Silencing Shot (I was Marks for this, remember), I was using Intimidation and Scattershot as other ways to interrupt the mob, so the goal was to burst down the mob before my pet died from Spinning Crane Kick. This did not happen, even using my turtle and his shell shield thingy and even his Last Stand. My turtle died often and the platform he’s on is just a bit small for my tastes in terms of kiting, but I finally got him down  with a bit of a kite at the end. Then the last mob I was missing from Jade Forest spawned for me and so I got…

glorious

Yay! I’m not sure why I feel so good about that one. Maybe it was that it was about 3/4 done before I quit last year, I don’t know. But that felt pretty good. :)

What else did I do… Honestly, a lot of reforging, regemming, re-enchanting. Spent a ton of gold, like, 15,000 or so, and made virtually nothing. I’m okay with that, too. That’s what my 222,000 gold was for.

Apart from that, I chatted a bit with guildies, new and old, though I didn’t get a chance to say hi to everyone (hi, Apoth!) and generally winged my way through LFRs.

Anyway, all told, it was a satisfying visit, but I’m not resubscribing until closer to the expansion. Once I do that, I want to level Madrana to 90 and get her a bit of gear and such to see if I can pull off some kind of 6.0 guide for holy paladins. To this day, my most popular page on my blog has been my 4.0 guide, followed by my pre-T11 gear list, followed by my 5.0 guide. We’ll see if I can manage to get something for 6.0 going, but that’s going to take time and research pre-6.0 launch. And, aside from dinging Madrana 90, there’s not a whole lot for me to do (well, back-half of ToT, I suppose), so I’m going to put that off for at least a couple of months and we’ll see where we’re at when Blizzard announces more about Warlords of Draenor. :)

More posts to come about my experience in the raids, but in the meantime, happy new year to everyone! Here’s wishing that the very best of 2013 is the worst of 2014. :)

Two Types of Raiding Fatigue

I was chatting with one of my guildies this morning while I was unfortunately awake because my asthma was bothering me. (Sidenote: I was sitting in Storm Peaks, while tabbed out and working on my Kick-Ass Raider’s guide when NPCScan went off and scared the bejeezus out of me. I flailed around like a moron and couldn’t find the mob. Thankfully, it was just Vyragosa. Had it been the Time-Lost Proto Drake, I would have lost out by several minutes. I found Vyragosa’s corpse three minutes later, after flying around like a moron. Also, I blame Shawn’s latest post for why I was sitting the Storm Peaks in the first place. And if you’re not reading Shawn’s blog, you ought to be!)

Anyhow, where was I? Right. Chatting with a guildie.

We were talking a bit about the complexity of bosses in Mists of Pandaria and Merk was telling me about how some heroic 25-man fights have required spreadsheets for boss assignments. I’d heard about increasing levels of complexity, but spreadsheets? Yikes.

This is when Merk and I talked about how there are two types of challenging boss fights: the ones that challenge you on the field, in the moment, and the ones that challenge the raid leader (or team) offline in an administrative sense.

Rhyolith in Firelands challenged you on the field. You could do some pre-planning, sure, but the volcano thingies popping up meant that someone had to direct Rhyolith on to them and that not only changed regularly, but those spawns changed on every single pull. There’s no organizing that. That’s chaos that you have to deal with in the game.

Normal-mode Majordomo Staghelm, on the other hand, was a pretty simple fight to execute, but was nightmarish to organize. Here. Have a look at actual cooldown assignments for a raid of ours in September of 2011.

domocds

S1/S2/S3/S4 was Scorpion Phase 1, 2, 3 and 4, while C1/2/3/4 stood for Cat Phase 1, 2, 3 and 4. The numbers beneath those notations were for how many stacks of Adrenaline (in Scorpion) the boss had before we dispersed and the numbers under the C1 notations were for how many leaps before we stacked up again.

All six of our healers had multiple times in which to use their cooldowns, such as Tranquility, Aura Mastery, Spirit Link Totem and Power Word: Barrier, plus our tank healers for the fight also had specific times to use tank cooldowns such as Hand of Sacrifice and Pain Suppression.

In a word, this was tiresome.

Rhyolith was tiresome in his own way, because of the nature of the fight (hitting legs to steer? REALLY?), but normal-mode Majordomo Staghelm was tiresome from an administrative perspective.

The question is, of course, what kind of interesting and new boss fights can you have without resorting to gimmicks like Rhyolith’s steering or Zon’ozz’s bouncing? It’s not that all gimmick fights are bad, but Yor’sahj, for example, was (IMHO) an inventive fight that wasn’t really based on some new-fangled gimmick. Yor’sahj was different enough from the regular sort of add-spawning fight (adds spawn, but choose ONE to kill instead of all of them) to make it interesting, but there wasn’t a whole new resource bar, a new button to push, nothing like that.

The trouble is that fights like Lucifron and Magmadar, the first two bosses in Molten Core, would pose absolutely no challenge to raiders these days. Lucifron consisted of the boss and two adds, plus a nasty curse that you needed to dispel. Take out the adds, dispel the curses as they’re applied and kill the boss. There wasn’t even any fire on the ground!

Magmadar was a bit more challenging because you had to have hunters with Tranquilizing Shot (which was a drop off of Lucifron!) and then you had to set up a Tranq Shot rotation. It also helped to have a dwarf priest with Fear Ward (that was the dwarven priest racial, they were the only priests with Fear Ward back then!) to cast it on the tank to prevent issues with Magmadar fearing them (or, since almost all tanks were warriors, they could also stance-dance and hit Berserker Rage… which you don’t even have to stance-dance to do anymore!). There was some fire on the ground, some fearing in general, but it really hinged on the Tranq Shot. Apart from the fears and a bit of fire, it was basically a tank-and-spank. Still, though, not remotely challenging.

By contrast, Merk was telling me that Heroic Thok consists largely of a cooldown chain lasting 40 seconds to ensure the health of the raid.

Raiding has changed significantly since the early days, obviously, but rather than have gimmicks being a large part of the fight now and again, they seem to be happening more often than not.

In Tier 12, you had one major “gimmicky” fight, which was Rhyolith. Everything else was a combination of adds or buffs or debuffs. No special buttons appearing on your screen, no strange bars displaying a new resources.

Yet, as I’ve been doing LFR after LFR during my seven day free trial, I’ve been astounded at the amount of gimmicky things in use on various fights. (For this post, let’s say that gimmicks involve something unusual, like an extra UI element or a different realm or something like that.)

Immerseus: Has a corruption bar that is his actual health bar. (And this was the least gimmicky of them all, IMHO.)
Fallen Protectors: Multiple-mob fight with the extra special bonus of needing to bring them all down to 1% at about the same time. While this isn’t NEW (Mimiron comes to mind), it’s unusual enough for me to mention.
Norushen: A Corruption bar AND a secondary realm? Lordy, it’s like the worst parts of Halion and Cho’gall. (Although I actually liked the fight on LFR.)
Sha of Pride: Hey look, it’s a Pride bar.
Galakras: Honestly, all the trash made me feel like I was in Hyjal… But this wasn’t very gimmicky otherwise.
Iron Juggernaut: Not all that gimmicky on LFR, although Crawler Mines are borderline, IMHO.
Dark Shaman: Not really gimmicky. Lots of chaos, but that’s not a gimmick.
General Nazgrim: Again, not much of a gimmicky fight.

So out of eight SoO boss fights I’ve seen (on LFR), half had a gimmick that was unusual to raid fights. Half. The other half consisted of many mobs, a lot of AOE or some combination of the two. As someone who hasn’t raided seriously since… oh boy, when was it… August of 2012, I guess it was, it’s interesting to see the differences between raiding now and raiding then (and previously).

This begs the question: do gimmicky fights fatigue players? I know that they always tired me. There wasn’t an encounter I disliked more in Firelands than Rhyolith. In Dragon Soul, it was really Zon’ozz (and all his bugs) who received most of my loathing. In general, the gimmicky fights were the ones that caused me, personally, the most fatigue. I was so tired of killing Zon’ozz by the end of raiding. I killed that jackass, in LFR, normals and heroics, over two characters, a total of 58 times. That’s about 50 times too many, if you ask me. But even just looking at my main raiding character, Madrana, it was 34 times (20 heroic, 12 normal, 2 LFR) and that’s a lot for a fight where people have to bounce this dark orb thingy between themselves and then at the boss. It just got tiring.

By the same token, I killed normal Majordomo Staghelm 9 times (and probably planned out another 5ish raids where I wasn’t in for the kills) and that was tiring. I had never been happier to switch a boss to heroic because it meant I no longer had to write up these epic-length assignments. That was a really tiresome fight for me, moreso than Zon’ozz and Rhyolith.

Is this the future of raiding? Spreadsheets detailing specific assignments? Special buttons and resource bars aplenty? Twilight-esque realms, harkening back to Sartharion, Halion, Valiona & Theralion? Flying mechanics that bring back awful memories of Al’Akir?

When I think about that, going forward, I don’t really feel the desire to experience that. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t been in a progression raid in forever. One of my fears, when I stopped playing, was that even if I wanted to come back, I’d feel left behind in the grand scheme of things. And I do, to an extent, but what I’m seeing now is a different problem: if people are acclimated to this gimmicky (or spreadsheety) raiding environment, have I missed the boat?

Let me rephrase that, because it’s not exactly missing the boat, but… how can I put this, exactly? Let’s try this: in the fall, after a hot and humid summer, the temperature of, say, 12 degrees Celsius (~54F) feels cold. As in you want to put on a jacket. In the spring, after a frigidly cold winter, the exact same temperature of 12C feels hot! You’re taking off your coats, walking around in shoes instead of boots and you’re generally gleeful at this fantastic weather. Why is this? It’s because you’ve been acclimated to the colder temperatures over the winter. You’re used to it being cold. So when you hit 12C in terms of temperatures going up, you’re thrilled and happy.

By missing a full expansion of raiding, have I missed the acclimation needed to enjoy raiding going forward? Is my distaste for gimmicks merely a sense of nostalgia, which I absolutely acknowledge could be the case? Do others feel like these gimmicks and spreadsheets are fun and I’m still the grumpy one thinking 12C is damn cold because I missed all of winter? In other words, would experiencing all of these fights over the course of the last year have acclimated me to what is potentially a new raiding paradigm where this is the standard? Or would I have quit by now, frustrated and fatigued?

Possibly more importantly, where is raiding heading in the future?

Lots of questions. Not a lot of answers.

What have you enjoyed (or not) about raiding in Mists of Pandaria? I’d love to hear your thoughts as we wait for answers that will inevitably come as we get more info about Warlords of Draenor.

DPSing vs. Healing

I started playing World of Warcraft in October of 2005, as a hunter named Kurnmogh. I primarily raided as a hunter throughout Vanilla, although I was certainly asked to swap to my alt holy paladin, Madrana, for several raids. (I remember healing Sulfuron and Golemagg in MC as Madrana, in particular, not to mention a couple of ZG clears and some AQ20 partial runs.)

When Burning Crusade came out, I dinged 70 on my hunter first. And then I didn’t really have any place to raid. So I dinged Madrana 70 and promptly got snatched up by a guild that was looking for healers. When that situation didn’t work out (8 of the 12 people on the main raid team in that guild got poached by another guild on the server), Majik, myself and a bunch of old Fated Heroes members (our Vanilla guild) formed Apotheosis.

Here’s the thing — I was so well-geared as Madrana, and we had so few healers, that I basically didn’t have a choice but to continue to heal as Madrana in raids.

It was okay. I wasn’t upset. It was very weird to me to progress as a healer, mind, but it wasn’t a problem for me. I just hadn’t really had the ability to choose what I wanted to do during BC. I mean, I wanted my guild to succeed, so I healed because I had the gear and because we needed healers. As time went by, I could have recruited another healer or two in order to replace me, but I didn’t. Over time, I’d made the decision that Kurn would get all the holiday titles and such (primarily for the free epic flying that came with the violet proto-drake) while Madrana would get all the raid titles and mounts and stuff. I’d made my peace with Kurn being my non-raiding character.

When Wrath of the Lich King came out, I was on the fence over what to do. I really enjoyed playing Kurn. I always had. So while I levelled Kurn to 80 first (as always, Kurn is the first to hit level cap), I was debating whether or not I’d raid as Kurn. Almost as soon as I dinged 80 on Kurn, I started levelling Madrana to 80. But I also dipped my toes into casual 10-man Naxxramas runs that my guildies were doing — as Kurn. I figured that it would be a good way to see if I wanted to change how I played the game.

It was the Abomination wing that made up my mind for me. We were trying to down Grobbulus. I’m sure most people in the 10-man raid were undergeared, not hit-capped and such, but we were dying to stupid things. People weren’t dropping things where they were needed to be dropped, adds were running amok and the like.

It was then that I realized that I was just one DPS. No matter what I did, I could not, single-handedly, kill everything. I was doing everything right and still, that was not enough. More to the point, it would never be enough. I, as a single DPS, would never, ever be enough to make up for all the other DPS in a raid situation.

By contrast, a single healer can make a huge difference. A massive difference. Our very first Vashj kill happened because I threw Lay on Hands on our sole remaining tank and it crit, buying us the precious few seconds we needed to get the kill. A well-timed cooldown here, a clutch heal there… Even one healer out of six or seven can make a huge difference, at least compared to one DPS out of 17. And, personally, I like being someone who really makes a difference on a fight.

Why am I talking about this?

I’ve been on a bit of an LFR binge. As of this writing, I have done all the LFRs relating to Tier 14 once. (And gained 5 Sigils of Wisdom and 8 Sigils of Power or something like that.) Of course, I’ve been doing these on my hunter, who has gotten a chunk of gear over the last few days. Madrana, much as I love healing with her, is still sitting pretty at 85, although it’s tempting to start the grind to 90.

We were on Wind Lord Mel’jarak and both tanks were dead by the three-minute mark. The fight continued for another four and a half minutes (total time was 7:22!) and I was literally mashing my buttons and trying to do anything I possibly could to get more damage out. At one point, I realized that was it: I could not put out any more damage. Everything (Rapid Fire, Murder of Crows, Stampede, agi potion, even my cat’s Rabid) was on cooldown and all I could do was wait for something to come back up and try to keep a perfect rotation while I waited.

As we whittled the boss down, I sat there thinking about how I could have made a difference as a healer. Maybe I could have kept at least one of the tanks alive. Maybe a druid would have given me Symbiosis, granting me a battle rez, allowing me to rez one of the tanks. The boss’ health kept dropping, I kept mashing my buttons and watching as OmniCC’s 1m started counting down in seconds on a couple of my abilities, rather than minutes.

Throughout it all, I knew that even that boost granted me by Rapid Fire and Murder of Crows was, ultimately, not the make-it-or-break-it portion of the fight. Even if the fight were extended by another 15 or 20 seconds, we would probably down it. Of course, it was LFR. In a normal or, more likely, heroic version of a fight where there are unforgiving enrage timers, DPS makes more of a difference. They have to put out a lot of damage or the entire raid will die. But even in those cases, I don’t think that I can ever feel as though I, personally, made a difference. Anyone can do damage. The fact that I’ve ranked on World of Logs on the majority of my LFR excursions, after not playing for 13 months, attests to that. ;)

There have always been jokes in my guild, and among my friends, that I’ve always wanted to raid as my hunter. I got teased a lot about it in Cataclysm as new people would join the guild and go “what the fuck, you don’t raid as Kurn but you want us to call you that and you refer to your non-raiding character as your main? What is up with THAT, you freak?!” (Well, perhaps they were a bit more polite than that, at least until they’d been in the guild for a while.) People made the assumption that because I wanted them to call me Kurn and because Kurn was my so-called “main”, that I wanted to raid as Kurn.

Nope. Healing is my preferred raid role. I could easily blame it on being used to healing, but that wouldn’t really be honest. I like being someone who is a difference-maker. That’s not to say DPS can’t make a difference, because they can — we had lots of people in Apotheosis whose presence would be the key to downing a new fight. But individually, I personally feel a lot more useful as a healer than as a DPS.

The fringe benefits (shorter queues for various content) are nice, too, but, for me,  it’s really all about keeping those other people alive so THEY can do crazy amounts of damage, as a solid group of 17ish DPS. As for myself, I’ll take being part of a kick-ass team of healers over disappearing into the huge group of DPS any day of the week.

As for my plans for the last three days of this trial: I have one mob left for the Glorious! achievement and I plan to try to do all of Throne of Thunder and Siege of Orgrimmar’s LFRs over the course of the weekend. (Wish me luck!) And I’d also like to get Gold Proving Grounds, too. :)

What are you doing in WoW this weekend?

I caved.

I wrote about temptation a couple of weeks ago, in that I had been severely tempted to play World of Warcraft, in a way that didn’t seem to be abating.

Well, I also saw in my Battle.net account, under my WoW account, under the Rewards & Referrals section, that I had a 7-day free trial that I could apply to my account.

While it’s not about the money, I eventually caved and took the offer of a free, short-term return to WoW. I think it’s so tempting because it’s so short. A week? That’s barely enough time to do stuff, if indeed there is stuff to be done. A month is a long time and while one doesn’t have to play for the full month, it sort of felt to me as though I’d be chaining myself to the game for a month if I resubbed. I know, I’m weird. But I’m someone who tends to binge rather than do things in moderation. For me, it’s often safer to abstain entirely than try to indulge myself on occasion. And WoW is definitely proof that when I do something, I go all out.

So late Monday night/early Tuesday morning, I caved and applied the 7-day trial to my account.

What have I done?

- I have spent a crapton of time over at the Island of Free Lewts.
- I have done both halves of Mogu’shan Vaults in LFR.
- I’ve got three each of the sigils I need for the first step of the legendary questline.
- I’m also honored with the Black Prince.
- I’ve done a couple of heroic dungeons.
- I’ve done Bronze and Silver Proving Grounds for DPS.

The Timeless Isle is a ridiculously fast catch-up mechanic. I’ve never seen anything like it. Badges in BC pale in comparison to how quickly you can gear yourself up on the Timeless Isle. Even better, you can mail your alts the drops that aren’t for your armor class. While my paladin is still 85, she has no less than three Timeless Isle plate pieces waiting for her to open if she ever gets to 90. My shaman has two Timeless Isle resto pieces (since Kurn had already picked up pieces in those slots). My druid, who is level 85 and on Proudmoore, still, even has a couple of pieces waiting for him if he ever hits 90.

I don’t remember my precise item level before I started, but I know it was less than 463, because I remember thinking to myself that Challenge Modes or Proving Grounds were kind of out of the question until I had gear that COULD be scaled down. So let’s imagine I was somewhere around 458 or thereabouts.

I’m now at 492.

RIDICULOUS.

As such, I have spent a lot of time reforging. And transmogrifying. And reforging some more. Oh, and enchanting. And gemming. Did I mention reforging?

Even with the help of something like AskMrRobot, reforging is a serious pain in my ass. Adios, muchacho. I won’t miss you.

I’ve never really been able to take advantage of a catch-up mechanic, such as the Timeless Isle, because I’ve just never needed to catch up. I’ve always been subscribed! It’s interesting to come back after a year and see what mechanics are in place for me to enjoy myself.

That said, while I’m pleased to be acquiring gear, I don’t feel accomplished. I feel lucky. I lucked out by getting most of my Timeless Isle stuff. I got lucky by coining my new bow off Will of the Emperor. I don’t feel as though I worked for any of it.

As to LFR, here’s a secret: I didn’t do any research at all on any of the bosses in Mogu’shan Vaults. I just dove in head first and winged it all. Hell, I didn’t even realize Stone Guard was a boss fight! I thought it was a slightly more difficult trash pack.

Overall, I felt moderately badly at my lack of preparation but then I realized two things.

1) LFR is easier than I remember.
2) People are dumb.

Even if there was a mechanic I didn’t really grasp, I still figured out how to move out of it. Flanking orders or whatever? Yeah, not hard. Get off of the platform before it drops? Not very difficult.

And yet, people died to everything imaginable. Tragic, really.

Further, I seem to be ranking. Granted, it’s LFR. Plus, I’m playing as survival and I imagine most hunters are being Beast Mastery (?), so there’s more opportunity for me to rank on fights if there are fewer people who have done the fights as those specs, but good God, there’s no way I should be ranking after never seeing the fights and being so very rusty. (I may or may not have done the second half of Mogu’shan Vaults LFR with a +Strength leatherworking embossment instead of a +Agility…)

I’m hoping to see the rest of the LFRs this weekend before my week comes to an end, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to swing it. It would be nice to see Siege, though.

So I also did a couple of heroic dungeons. Heroic Stormstout Brewery which was pretty much the same as normal, from what I remembered, and the other was Heroic Scarlet Halls. I miss my old Scarlet Monastery, but this was all right, I guess. (I was not pleased to see what they’d done to Scholo, back when that change happened, so at least SM isn’t too different.)

I quite enjoyed the Proving Grounds that I did. I honestly wish that my paladin were 90 so I could go in and heal forever in the Proving Grounds, but she’s not and I’m not going to ding her 90 during this trial. Next up will be Proving Grounds Gold DPS for Kurn.

Honestly, I’m not sure that this trip back to WoW is going to stick. As of right now, I don’t think I’ll resubscribe once the week is up, at least not until closer to the expansion. Maybe I’ll change my mind, maybe I won’t.

All of that said, though, it’s been nice to revisit WoW for a bit. My brain needed it, I think, but once this binge is over, I think I’ll be satisfied for quite a bit of time. :)

I have a few projects in the works while I still have access, by the way — just a matter of finding the time to put them together.

Lastly, I wanted to pimp out Brutall’s YouTube channel. Brutall is the guild master of Static (H) on US-Arthas and has some amazing videos up on his channel. You can also follow him on Twitter @brutallstatic. I highly recommend doing so. His Life of a Guild Leader series and Backseat Raid Leading series are great and he even wrote and sang a couple of songs. (The LFR one was HILARIOUS.) So check out Brutall. I found myself nodding and agreeing with him as I went through ALL his videos (seriously, all of them!) and he seems to be someone who really understands stuff. I spent 358 pages in my GM guide covering a lot of stuff that he covers, but he does it in short videos that are probably easier to digest, unless you’re a fan of my long-windedness.

Hope everyone is having an awesome holiday season! :) I shall doubtlessly have more to say soon…

The BattleTag Saga

Last week, I wrote about how a new feature in the latest Hearthstone game client means that one’s BattleTag will be shown to your opponents post-game. I questioned the wisdom of this feature (to put it lightly) and then embarked upon a journey to see exactly how difficult it might be to remove my BattleTag from my account.

I opened a ticket.

Since the patch to Hearthstone this week (version 1.0.0.4217), my BattleTag is now purposely made visible to any random opponent against whom I play. I do not wish for this information to be visible. In fact, I don’t actually want to have a BattleTag at all. Hearthstone is the only Blizzard game I currently play and even if I returned to World of Warcraft, I would not wish to use a BattleTag for that game.

I know BattleTags are required for Diablo III, but I assure you, I will never again play Diablo III and I do not play Starcraft II. As such, I would like for my BattleTag to be removed from my account so that it doesn’t show up against my random opponents in Hearthstone.

(The BattleTag FAQ does not state that BattleTags are required for Hearthstone, only for Diablo III, so I would assume that I could continue to play Hearthstone without a BattleTag.)

Thanks for your help!

My first response:

Hello there, this is Marcus,

I understand your concern, however if you want to play against another player there has to be some way to identify you, the Battlenet tag was created for this purpose, an anonymous way to be represented in game. No personal information is shown to the other player.

However I see that your BattleTag has your first name in it, so if your concern is your actual first name being show I recommend using the BattleTag change option On Battlenet. If you have already used the change we can offer one more change for you :–)

Should you ever find yourself again besieged by the forces of evil feel free to reply to this ticket. If you would rather speak with a representative directly, please use our phone support or Web Chat, Our contact information can be found at https://us.battle.net/support/en/ticket/status

Have a great day!

Marcus, d=(^_^)=b
Customer Services
Blizzard Entertainment

https://us.battle.net/support/en/ticket/status

First, that’s not true. My BattleTag’s portion before the random numbers was not my first name. Since I opened the ticket at the website, my real name was visible through this whole thing, so I don’t know what Marcus was smoking.

Second, this guy doesn’t actually understand my concern. At all. But it was pretty nice of him to offer me a free change if I needed it.

Here’s my response:

Hi Marcus,

Thank you for your reply. I still have a couple more questions, though. :)

1) Does this mean that a BattleTag is required in order to play Hearthstone? This information is not in the BattleTag FAQ. (It lists only Diablo III as needing one.) That’s to say, if I had an account without a BattleTag and got a Hearthstone beta invite on that account, would I then be forced to create a BattleTag before being able to play?

2) What if I would like to quit playing Hearthstone altogether due to this displaying of my BattleTag? If I no longer wanted to play either Hearthstone or Diablo III, I should not need a BattleTag. Is that correct?

3) If I no longer played Hearthstone or Diablo III, would it THEN be possible to remove my BattleTag? As it stands, I will never play Diablo III again and I am seriously considering never playing Hearthstone again due to this forced display of my BattleTag.

4) Last year, in September of 2012, Blizzard said an Invisible Mode would be implemented “in the coming months” for BattleTag/RealID stuff. Any update on this Invisible Mode?

Finally, I appreciate your offer for another change to my current BattleTag, although I believe I still have one available to me. That’s really kind of you, but it’s not my primary concern in terms of privacy. Still, it’s nice to be reminded that I have the option to change it.

One further bit of clarification:

“if you want to play against another player there has to be some way to identify you”

I don’t want to play against another player that I know. I want to play ranked and arena matches with random people. I have no desire to play against anyone I know.

Thanks very much, hoping to hear back soon.

So here was their next reply…

I took a look at the ticket for you and I wanted to let you know that the Battle Tag is required for playing Hearthstone and we don’t have a way to remove it from the account once it is added. That being said, while people can see your Battle Tag in Hearthstone the only way they would be able to see if you are online is if you accepted a friend invite from them.

I would be happy to help you out further if you have any further issues with this about this or any other issue, simply reply to this ticket. Or, if you prefer, you can contact us via Webchat. https://us.battle.net/support/en/article/contact They are available between the hours of 10 am to 6 pm, Pacific Standard Time, 7 days a week. Or please call our Account and Technical Services personnel at 1-800-592-5499, or 1-800-041-378 if you are in Australia. Best of luck!

Finally, I have some answers to my questions.

a) BattleTags are required for Hearthstone play, despite the FAQ stating only Diablo III requires a BattleTag.
b) This means that if I don’t want to play D3 or Hearthstone, I shouldn’t need a BattleTag.
c) However, they do not have a way to remove a BattleTag from an account once it’s been added. (I call bullshit, but whatever.)

So here’s what I sent back:

Hi Rotohiel, thank you for your response. You have adequately answered three of my questions. So, as I understand it, a Battle Tag is required for playing Hearthstone and once a Battle Tag is attached to my account, I cannot remove it, only change it.

If this is correct, then as of this latest build of Hearthstone, I will not be playing the game any longer. This is due to the fact that my Battle Tag is being displayed to the random players against whom I’m matched up. I feel this is an awful change. Were it reverted or if I were able to opt-out of this, that would be fine, but there’s no way to do so.

Let’s be clear: I do not wish to share my Battle Tag information with anyone. I do not even wish to HAVE a Battle Tag. I have no intention of chatting with anyone in any Blizzard game through this system. I understand that I would have to accept invitations in order to have people see my online status and the like, but I have no intention of using the system and do not want to have spammers spam me with Battle Tag invitations the way other users are suffering in other games.

My remaining question, which went unanswered, is how is the Invisible Mode coming along when it comes to RealID/BattleTag chat? Blizzard announced it would be implemented “in the coming months” more than 15 months ago. While this would not solve all the problems inherent with your current chat system, it would make things somewhat more palatable.

In short: I want to play Hearthstone, but I don’t want my Battle Tag being displayed. If it’s displayed, I won’t play. I would consider playing despite it being displayed if there were a properly implemented invisible mode in the Battle Tag chat system. Please advise on how these efforts are coming along.

Thank you very much for your time.

And their response:

I appreciate you taking the time to contact us! I’m Game Master Toyoshu, and I want to thank you for your exceptional patience which has allowed me to work with you on your issue! I hope that this finds you well and in good spirits. :)

Sorry to hear about your frustrations with the battle tag system and hearthstone. As for your last question, I am afraid that customer service has not be told about a timeframe in which the invisibility feature will be implemented. One thing I may suggest, is putting your feedback on our forums to help keep this topic on the radar of our developers so they can keep working on it.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and Happy Holidays.

Thank you for the contact and if there is anything else we can do to make sure you have an excellent time in Azeroth, Sanctuary and beyond, let us know. :).

Of course, the other issue here is that posting on the Hearthstone forums also reveals your BattleTag. I felt obliged to bring that up.

Hi Toyoshu, thanks for your response.

I appreciate you letting me know that there have been no announced updates regarding the invisibility feature.

The last issue I want to mention is that posting on the Hearthstone forums ALSO reveals one’s BattleTag! Further, anyone who thinks this matter is important will also be reluctant to post on the forums. It’d be appreciated if you could inform the devs that there is a subsection of the playerbase that are really very much opposed to the recent change.

For more on why I (and others) have an issue with BattleTags being revealed, you can take a look at my blog entry about this: http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/?p=2641

Thank you and have a great day.

And their final response:

Well met adventurer.

Thank you for sharing your concerns. However, as previously mentioned several times, Battletags do not reveal any personal information. That’s why they were chosen to represent players wherever a tag is required. We do not currently permit anonymous play or posting, and may not ever permit it. If you do not wish to share your feedback with Development, you are not required to post on the forums. Customer Support does not currently accept complaints or suggestions as we do not have any method of implementing changes – we are not Developers. I notice you have a WoW account. You may instead submit feedback via the lightbulb icon in the “submit a ticket” section, which will be sent straight to Development. I am sorry we cannot assist you further, but I hope this has clarified that Customer Support is not the correct department to assist you with changing how battletags are displayed.

So, after that many back and forth tickets, they still don’t actually grasp the concern I (and others) have about BattleTags being displayed. They say “we do not current permit anonymous play”, but they did, just a week ago! Sure, you saw the first bit of the BattleTag (minus the specific number), which, to be fair, was okay with me, but it’s the same difference as knowing someone’s name is José vs. José Theodore. One could be anyone, the other was an NHL goalie. Adding the last part of the BattleTag removes any kind of privacy regarding the BattleTag and opens you up to spammers, harassment and the like. Combined with a lack of news about the previously-promised Invisible Mode, I’m done playing Hearthstone. It was nice while it lasted. I really did enjoy the game and I’ll miss playing it, but it’s not worth it, to me, to open myself up to various methods of harassment using my BattleTag. I have never given out my BattleTag and, until there’s an overhaul of the entire system, I have no intention of giving it out.

Honestly, in these days where there’s all kinds of crap going on about privacy, you’d think a publicly traded company would be smarter about this sort of thing and wouldn’t give out identifying information without your permission. Alas, that is not the case.

 

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