Cheap-ass link to prove I haven’t died

Wot I wrote on MMORPG this week.

I wouldn’t mind exploring the whole sandbox/theme-park thing in a bit more depth than is possible over there (mostly because I don’t think I can bore the readers of that site with the walls of text I’m capable of here), but I’m not feeling it right now.

Feel free to write your own post in the comments though. I’m cheap. I’ll take any content I can get.

More WoW screenies.

In the words of a guildie: "Future me is kind of an ass." I agree.

Best. Quest. EVAR. Nothing like rolling around blowing up/incinerating 1,000 gnomes. I couldn't stop...

Tol Barad – The Old Bag With The Flag

I was wrong, last week, when I said TB was all same shit, different day. The cap speed change has actually changed the battleground somewhat, and the net result has been that control flip-flops almost every battle, or at most every 2 or 3 (on my server).

That’s actually a good thing. It means people get a chance to win now and then, which everyone likes, and everyone gets a shot at at least some of the extra dailies. When one side or the other had control for days and days, that wasn’t the case and it got pretty tedious.

It’s been interesting to see people adapt to the mechanic, myself included. It’s been irritating and interesting to see that despite a pretty clear message in, you know, patch notes, that TB is all about capping flags, people continue to fight off over there in the distance, firmly believing (and saying so in chat) that killing that hunter for the 18th time way off on the road is way more productive for victory than standing at the damn flag.

And it isn’t. I’d have proof if I’d remembered to take a screenshot or a video or something, but yesterday we capped the Ironclad Garrison flag right out from under the Horde, and almost nobody died. Well okay, people died in droves, but the aim going in wasn’t to kill them, it was just to apply what the Horde has been doing perfectly at least as long as I’ve been doing TB: get more people AT the flag than they have. And since we already controlled two of the points (Alliance was attacking), under the new mechanic it took maybe 10 seconds to make them lose control, take control ourselves and win. Yay!

So this is now my Dude with the Thing mantra. I’m the Old Bag With The Flag.

“This is my flag. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My flag is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my flag is useless. Without my flag, I am useless. I must stand true by my flag. I must stand there better than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must stand there before he stands there.”

Extra points for knowing what movie I’m bastardising without having to Google it. Google killed quote competitions!

Oh, and Hi! to all the people who waved at me on Icecrown. (Okay, all two of you.) I’m still amazed people read this blog – when I write. Yeah yeah. Quit nagging.

Tol Barad 4.0.6 – SSDD

Patch 4.0.6 hit today, and here’s what it had to say about Tol Barad:

# Tol Barad

*         Attacking forces will receive a 200% capture speed bonus when they control 2 keeps.
*         Defending forces will receive a 200% capture speed bonus when they control all 3 keeps.
*         Daily quest creatures, herbs, minerals, etc. will only spawn when Tol Barad is in the quest phase between battles. [snip blah blah blah]
*         The weekly PvP quest “Victory in Tol Barad” now awards 200 Honor Points and 3 Tol Barad Commendations.
*         Players can now see the status of Tol Barad on the World Map no matter where they are. The time to the next battle is displayed by zooming into the Tol Barad section of the map. The current controlling faction can be seen on the Eastern Kingdoms map.

Gee, thanks. As far as I can tell, this makes zero difference. I’ve been in a battle to see for myself now, and all it means is that the capture points flip-flop so fast it’ll occasionally make you dizzy. Other than that… same shit, different day. Same place, same tactics, different cap mechanics. I don’t know whether to be disappointed or just laugh, because this is a typical MMO PvP “fix”. (Yes, PvP is hard to balance. No, I probably couldn’t do any better. However — unless you’re a dev with direct experience of doing this kind of thing, get the hell out of my armchair.)

(Actually, it means the Horde will have an easier time than ever taking it back on my server, on the rare occasions they let us have it, but I’ll get back to that.)

So basically, players who don’t hold TB continue to get bugger-all for trying to take it back, and the players who already hold TB continue to get commendations, extra honour, even more weekly commendations, a pat on the head and a chocolate biscuit for holding on to it. ALL the benefits accrue to the defending side, and somehow that’s just wrong. Note that I say this after several days of my side holding Tol Barad — if it’s not fair it’s not fair, whether I’m winning or not, and it’s just plain skewed.

From my perspective the motivation is entirely on the wrong side. Players who already have the place have every incentive to hold on to it, while players who don’t have only one incentive: take it so your side can get all the goodies. If you fail, however, you get nothing — too bad so sad, come back in 2 hours and try again, okay? It might be different!

The basic mechanic remains the same. The attacking force needs to split into 3 in order to have any chance whatsoever of winning, while the defending force could technically hold the zone as one single-unit zerg (though that would be really vulnerable to mistakes) — at worst they can split up into 2 major groups, which is usually what happens, and just play the round-robin “We grab the capture point you just took and can’t spare the people to defend” game.

Mistakes and poor fighting by the defending side remains about 80% of the reason Tol Barad changes hands, at least from what I’ve seen. When we’ve lost it, it was because we deserved to after playing like idiots, and not because the attackers deserved it after playing amazingly well. The attackers, for the most part, do play really well, but there’s only so much you can do to overcome the basic inequity, other than pray for a really crap team on the defending side. When we’ve won it, it was partly because we played amazingly well and mostly because the defenders somehow really fucked up. That’s just wrong.

And finally a few helpful tips for people in Icecrown TB teams, though I doubt anyone here really needs to hear them.

1. Moaning and whining in general chat about how awful we are and how we’re zomgqq going to lose — that just doesn’t help. STFU and make yourself useful by dying or something, but don’t mess with morale and don’t clog up chat.

2. Moaning and whining in general chat about how there aren’t any healers just means you don’t like dying. It’s PvP — get used to it. Hell, I hate hate hate dying and I’m used to it, to the point where it’s just a speedbump before I can get back in the fight. If I can suck it up, so can you. And if you’re dying a lot, maybe it’s not the healers’ fault, hrm? Maybe you’re squishy and NOT a priority. As a hunter I’m amazed and grateful when I do see green numbers pop up over my head, but I sure as hell don’t expect them. Healers have enough problems in PvP, like being the #1 target all the time.  STFU and don’t clog up chat.

3. This one is really important. FIGHT. ON. THE. FREAKING. FLAG! Is this rocket science? Is it nuclear physics? There is a flag, which is a big farking pole in the middle of the farking capture point, and you need to be near it. It’s like the dude with the thing. Not difficult. Do it. Here are the 3 main ways in which Alliance (the only team I’ve seen in action) fails to understand capture points:

a) The more people on a flag, the quicker it will flip. 95% of the time we attack a place and everyone fights about half a mile away, nonchalantly, like this is actually going to help. The Horde, who are ugly but a damn sight smarter, assault the flag and not the people around it. This means that once we clear the buggers from around a flag, fucking off to Timbuktu is not helping!! Stay and cap the damn thing! How hard can it be to understand that 10 people will cap a flag a million times faster than 2? How hard can it be to understand that capture speed is tactically vital?

b) Fighting miles away from the flag serves no purpose. I really don’t see how this can be stated more clearly. This is especially true if you’re attacking, since the defenders just rez right in the middle and can go wherever they’re needed. In fact, forcing them to rez and move on can be counterproductive rather than keeping them tied up at a specific place. Short-term gain offset by long-term loss.

c) Someone who mucks around at the edge of the capture point is trying to lure you away from the flag. Just because they’re waving their arms at you in a vaguely taunting way doesn’t mean you have to give in. Gosh, you know — if you let them come closer, to where 15 of your team-mates happen to be standing by the flag, the taunting bastard will die in about 3 seconds. On the other hand, if 75% of the flag defenders see a guy on the horizon and start chasing him, we’re going to lose.

This happens all the time, whether I’m attacking or defending. I’m seething with ire and a strange kind of puzzlement that such a simple concept — fight at the flag! — can seem so impossible to grasp, even when 5 people are repeating it calmly and rationally in chat every few minutes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been standing in flag defense, only to see 1 guy pop up in the distance and be immediately followed by most everyone who, seconds before, was at the flag with me. 3 seconds later I’m no longer alone at the flag — I’ve been joined by the half dozen Horde who were just waiting for my foolish team-mates to be lured away. It almost never fails, and now I watch it with a certain fatalistic resignation.

Here’s the main thing to know as far as TB on Icecrown goes: once the Horde outnumber you at a flag, you’re going to lose that flag. And everything that leads up to them outnumbering us at flags is a major reason why we usually lose. The major reason we hold on to the place when we do is because it’s really, really hard to lose Tol Barad — if victory were a little easier, I’m not sure we’d ever have it more than once in a row after a Horde defense fuck-up.

Yes, I’m moaning and whining, but at least I’m not doing it in general chat during a battle.

Tol Barad: All I need to do

In which I discover the power of absence

All I need to do for our side to win Tol Barad is –

Not take part.

I missed a battle yesterday because I was too busy writing my conclusions post, and hey presto! When I get back we’re in control again. Yay! Huzzah! Drink vodka and let slip the feral druids of war! (No, I don’t know why I’m polluting Shakespeare with grain alcohol and hybrid classes.)

The next battle went fine, even though I was there — hey it’s defense, it can be done by an army of sleepy chimps — but the battle after that was an almost-debacle where the only reason we didn’t lose the island was because ONE of the chimps was vaguely awake.

It was odd. I fought like a demon in that one and so it seems did everyone around me, and yet still we slid almost inexorably towards defeat. It’s actually not about the chimps – the only reason we didn’t lose the island is because it’s too easy to defend. Slowly, sloooooooooowly I’m seeing people come to and stay at the flag, after many many many repetitions in chat. Don’t fight way the fuck over there where my arrows can’t reach your opponent – if you can’t see the possession bar, you’re in the wrong damn place. (As an aside, I can’t see the possession bar at all. I suspect one of my myriad add-ons is to blame.)

Kind commenters have pointed out that an upcoming patch may change the details of how Tol Barad works. Then again, WoW patches less often than Halley’s comet comes around, so I’m not holding my breath.

PvP ProTip of the Week

ProTip, though I doubt anyone who visits here is that kind of asshat: Yelling at people in chat and calling everyone else an idiot because they’re not doing what you’re telling them — not matter how smart your instructions might be? That won’t ensure compliance. For my own part it ensures a hearty “Screw you too, buddy!” if only in my head. Being called an idiot makes me contrary – I know, I’m a little unreasonable. I can’t imagine most of the other people in the raid are going “Oh my god, he’s right, I am such a moron, let me quickly run and do exactly what he says.”

This irks me. Do. Not. Call. Complete. Strangers. Names, you jackwagon dickwad! It’s not polite. Plus it’s counter-productive.

Brilliant, or so dumb it only seems brilliant?

Speaking of instructions, someone was very earnestly telling us never, ever, ever to return to where we died in TB — so if you’re defending the Slagworks and you die there, go anywhere but there when you rez. I’m still trying to puzzle that one out — it’s either brilliant strategy, or it’s really stupid pseudo-brilliant strategy founded on the pseudo-strategic “let’s go round in circles!” principle, which isn’t really a strategy at all but rather simply a direction.

I can see why you might want to simply move on because mostly when the bad guys come in, they do it as a zerg and you’ll be dying anyway, so you might as well reinforce somewhere else and not waste 2 minutes on a hopeless defense. On the other hand, if the other side knows all they have to do is kill you once and you’ll go away, it pretty much ensures zerg tactics and it leaves you open to smarter moves.

This is an Eddie Izzard continuum-of-cool conundrum.

Last and least, some random screenshots

Groove is in the heart (Alouette + ogre + dwarf conga)

My very own minion straight off the cloning line! (Unintentional, too.)

 

I knew that priest was dodgy the second I saw his I <3 Nyarlathotep badge!

 

Pretty Deepholm. Slightly Avatar-y?

 

Uldum. Very Stargate-y!

Tol Barad: the attackers’ lament

Let’s start with a few caveats. I’ve only done about 20 of these Tol Barad battles, and I’m no PvP expert; I’m barely even a PvP noob. On top of that, my situational awareness in visual effect-heavy PvP is diabolically bad — I’m working on that, but I’m easily visually overwhelmed.

All that being said, I’ve been reading up on Tol Barad and I’ve reached a few conclusions of my own. This post is partly to set out those conclusions for  review and partly to get feedback from the more experienced PvP types out there, because I really would like to work out if it’s possible to win Tol Barad through strategy, or if it mostly comes down to waiting for the defending team to be bad enough to permit a win.

For those unfamiliar with Tol Barad, this is a much better introduction than I could provide, though it may be a little dated. I gather there may be some TB changes in the works, but I haven’t actually done any research on that yet — so this post is based on the situation as I know it and as it seems to be right now. Listos version for those who don’t like links:

1. The zone is contested and never starts off neutral. The team currently in possession defends, and the opposing team attacks. Maximum team size is 80 (2 raid groups). I’m not sure what the minimum team size is currently because that’s been tweaked a bit since December, but I’ve never seen less than a mostly-full raid.

2. There are three capture points, arranged as the points of a triangle around a central non-contested location (Baradin Keep). The attackers have to hold all three at once to get a win. The defenders need to retain only one at the end of the countdown timers to win.

3. The initial battle timer is 15 minutes, but this can be extended in 5-minute batches by destroying 1-3 defending siege towers. The siege towers can be destroyed by using siege engines positioned at various points around the map, which have to be driven up to the towers. Those same siege engines can also be driven around the map for other purposes, though they can’t really do much other than be really bulky and have lots of hit points. Note that as far as I know, the siege towers serve no purpose whatsoever other than to give an extra 5 minutes when they’re destroyed. They don’t help the defense and they don’t hinder the offense.

4. The attackers always respawn near the capture point where they died, at one of the three triangle points. The defenders always respawn at Baradin Keep, right in the middle of the map and equidistant from all the capture points.

5. At the beginning of the battle, the attackers spawn on a bridge leading into the zone proper, which is a little to the left of the top point of the capture-point triangle — which means that that particular capture-point becomes the obvious first point of attack (and has been in every attacking battle I’ve been in so far).

So that’s the basic setup. From what I’ve seen, attacking strategy seems to be to grab the first point as fast as possible, which doesn’t usually take long, and then to always move clockwise around to the next capture point. Defenders are occasionally left at the first taken flag, but usually not enough to put up a creditable defense. Zerging is the most prevalent strategy on both sides, but it seems to work a lot better for the defenders than it does for the attackers.

My observations and possible strategy ideas are as follows. Please feel free to destroy them and improve on them, bearing in mind my opening caveats.

I. Fight at the flags. Flag/capture-point possession begins to shift as soon as there are opposing-team bodies around the flag. There’s no need to kill anyone or clear the area around the flag before possession can start changing (which if memory serves, was a requirement in Warhammer scenarios like Nordenwatch). If those defending a flag have 10 bodies there and you bring 30, and even if those 10 mount a heroic defense, possession will immediately begin to shift towards those with greater numbers.

The obvious conclusion here is that being near the flag is actually more important than killing the opposition, other than as a means to reduce the number of opposing bodies at the flag. The corollary to that is that fighting away from the flag is strategically unhelpful. And yes, luring people away from flags is a common tactic — from what I’ve seen of late, the Horde appear to understand this flag mechanic while the Alliance (my team) doesn’t.

II. Intelligence is crucial. In just about every battle I’ve been in, I’ve seen the Horde leave corpses at the capture points so they can keep an eye on what’s going on. I’m not sure we’re doing the same thing, and I’m starting to think we should be. Of course, being a corpse isn’t really that glamorous and the instant reflex is usually to respawn so you can rejoin the battle as fast as possible. I have a feeling it would also be useful to have scouts on the roads, but that might be a) dangerous for the scouts and b) spreading the team too thin. The attackers tend to get spread pretty thin around all three bases as it is.

III. Defend the captured points. Obvious as it is, this is the really hard part. The attackers have to keep moving because they have to take the other capture points. The defenders, in theory, could use about 80% of their forces to just zerg from one capture point to the next and make sure the attackers can never hold all three at once. This is pretty much what actually happens in the matches I’ve seen, both as an attacker and (less frequently!) as a defender.

The question here is, how many do you leave at a flag? Leaving a handful is pointless unless you can rapidly reinforce them, and “rapid” just doesn’t seem to be possible in TB. Comms aren’t easy, and most of the time nobody listens because 75% of what gets said in raid and general chat is either conflicting or just plain bad advice. Leaving 10-15 lets you defend a flag for a little while but generally doesn’t work when the opposing side brings 20-25. Leaving 20-25 of your own leaves you too short to effectively attack the other capture points, especially if they’re well-defended.

IV. Communications. I’m only including this because it should be, but I don’t see this being affectable. There are too many people shouting too many different things in chat, and the good comms gets drowned out by the crap. Good communications would be an invaluable tool for victory, but I just don’t see it happening.

V. Kill priorities. I have a feeling that if the attackers could decide on kill priorities they might have a better chance. Instead, battles tend to be incredibly chaotic — which of course is the nature of PvP. My own priorities as a hunter are to hunter’s mark any healers I can spot and then take out any of the softer targets I can see. I think I’m going to start sending my pet in to bug casting classes, especially healing casting classes (i.e. priests).

VI. Better use of AOE annoyances. This is almost certainly skewed by my many deaths, but it seems to me that the Horde knows how to use their ground-based AOEs to better effect than Alliance does. It took me several matches to realise I should be putting down traps ALL the time, because even if they’re only a minor annoyance, local skirmishes can actually hinge on such minor annoyances. I’m not sure what all the other classes can do but if the Horde can do it I’m pretty sure we have the means to as well.

VII. Go counter-clockwise — that’ll totally fox ‘em! Okay, I’m (mostly) joking on this one. But you never know. As it stands, everyone knows the general direction of battle is clockwise, and I’m not sure that’s really a strategy. I’ll grant that it’s a start — people need to have a basic idea of where they should be going, but that only seems to work for a few minutes. Once the capture points have changed hands a few times, the attacking forces are scattered between them, and the clock has counted down a few minutes, it all seems to devolve into even greater chaos. People will holler for reinforcements in chat for their own beleaguered area, and the match turns into instant-reaction rather than overall tactics. This probably goes back to Communications, and since I don’t think it’s possible to effectively communicate and have people actually listen, this may be insurmountable.

VIII. The towers are irrelevant — or are they? I welcome clarification on this point. Right now, as far as I can tell the towers do nothing for either side other than prolong the agony for the attackers. If that’s true, then there’s absolutely no need to pay any attention to them. From what I’ve seen, if the attackers can’t win in 15 minutes they won’t win in 30 — in fact, extra time seems to work entirely to the benefit of the defenders.

IX. If VIII is true, use the siege engines for other purposes and use them a lot. Those siege engines are slow, but they’re BIG and they have quite a lot of hit points. I noticed as a defender (only the attackers can use them) that they’re a real distraction when someone drives them right onto the flag and just bimbles around there, getting in the way, until the engine finally gets destroyed. Maybe I’m just easily visually distracted, but it seems to me that we could and should make use of those engines to add a bit of chaos and force the flag-stickers to move around. If nothing else, while the defenders are ganging up on me in a siege engine, my buddies have a chance to gang up on them.

That’s about it. I’ve noticed a few other things but they mostly pertain to my own character and how I still suck at PvP. For instance, Warden’s Vigil is a horrible place to fight at when you’re ranged. There are stairs with corners on the way up to the flag (outdoors but still), which impedes line-of-sight, and the damned flag itself impedes LOS — which means that I can see my opponent perfectly clearly, but I can’t bloody fire at them because of LOS issues. I need to figure out my own positioning up there so I can be more effective both as an attacker and as a defender. As a result, I’ve noticed that I’ve been avoiding Warden’s Vigil like the plague if I possibly can, which isn’t much help to my team if that’s where I should be.

Comments? (Helpful) suggestions? Observations of your own? I’d love to hear them. I’ve been enjoying Tol Barad for the last week or so that I’ve been playing it, but a string of defeats has left me frustrated and wondering if it’s even worth bothering with. If I can improve, if we as an attacking team can improve enough to have a chance of winning, that’s one thing. However, if it mostly comes down to waiting for the defenders to be crap — then I probably can’t be bothered to take part. That’s not fighting, that’s just gambling, and I don’t gamble.

(WoW) Huntard no more!

I can’t believe it took me so long to find this site. Well actually I can, because it’s me and because I can be pretty oblivious sometimes — and, as I shamefacedly admit, because my theorycrafting usually comes down to “Ooo shiny!”

However, since Eloise is now 85 and *gasp* doing Tol Barad PvP battles on a pretty regular basis (ahem, 5 in the last 24 hours), I’m going to have to pay at least a little bit of attention to what she’s wearing, how she’s specced, and what she does with her abilities. Yeesh, this is WAY too much like hard work.

Next thing you know I’ll be doing heroics and raiding.

(NOT)

Anyway – if you’re a huntard in WoW, this — Warcraft Hunters’ Union — is a lovely site. I’m sure there are tons of lovely hunter sites out there, but this happens to belong to a guild that also happens to be on my server, Icecrown, so they’re extra-special lovely.

That’s all for today, I have about a million words of reading to do and a million people saying “L2P nub!” to avoid.