Category Archives: Raiding

WoW Drinking Done Right

The much-anticipated Mists of Pandaria will launch soon, and thanks to a wonderful community of dedicated gamers, you can find pre-raid BiS gear lists, talent evaluations, dungeon guides, and raid guides. What you can’t find, however, is a guide that helps you to decide what to drink while playing. I have decided to fill this void for you, faithful reader, in the hopes that come midnight you are as ready as possible. Research was grueling and lengthy, but no amount of delicious beer could stop me from providing you with a comprehensive guide to doing raid night drinking right. In addition, I had the pleasure and privilege to work with the most impassioned beer aficionado that I know, Arolaide of Dragonsworn (You don’t read Dragonsworn? Start NOW), whose suggestions and feedback went a long way to making this post happen. Thanks Aro.

You’ll notice no Budweiser, Coors, Labatt’s, or Molson on this list. I dare not suggest such swill to my beloved readers and Warcraft brethren. So find your class, buy your beer, and enjoy.

Step away from the Pabst and nobody gets hurt.

Death Knight: What better beer for a fallen soldier damned into martial existence than Unibroue Maudite. A malty beer that is also spicy can be very challenging to your palette, but this beer is not too heavy, nor does it have a lingering bitter aftertaste. It is hard to express how awesome this brew is, and how unique. Well worth the effort to find and try.

A strong beer for a powerful class.

Druid: Do you miss the Emerald Dream? Perhaps you are wondering if it was worth waking up after all? Well, you can’t go back to the Emerald Dream, but Delirium Nocturnum can get you close. This is a dark rich beer with a pleasant lingering taste. A good balance of sweet and bitter with caramel, mocha, and chocolate.

Enjoy some while your Pint-Sized Pink Pachyderm pet is out. Coincidence this is available from Brewfest? I think not.

Hunter: If you get along with pets and nature better than other players you just may like the woodsy and crisp nature of an India Pale Ale. There are an extraordinary number of IPAs out there, but Flying Dog Brewery’s Snake Dog IPA is an excellent choice. It has a citrus flavor which includes caramel. Don’t worry if it has a slightly bitter aftertaste, it’s there to remind you how we all feel when you roll on our gear.

Who wouldn’t want a Snake Dog pet? Blizzard should make this happen.

Mage: Do you like to enjoy a rich complex alcoholic beverage as you contemplate the most efficient way to blow something up or freeze it into nothingness? Then you are probably a mage, and if you are, you’ll probably enjoy Ommegang’s 3 Philosophers. This beer edges out Maudite as my absolute favorite during my research. Dark, rich, heavy, and incredibly complex. Drinking this beer while hitting Hot Streak procs will, in fact, confirm that you are better than everyone else.

Why yes Mortimer, I do believe we ARE better than Warlocks

Monk: The Pandaren race are notorious brewers and drinkers, and are introducing Azeroth to the Monk class. To pay homage to their Asian influence I suggest (with Aro’s help of course) Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale. With sake-like flavors this complex pale ale does justice to the Brewmasters of Pandaria.

Arolaide suggested, Chen Stromstout approved

Paladin: A defender and wielder of the Light deserves an exceptional beer with a summery feel and plenty of light citrus flavor. Unibroue La Fin Du Monde fits the bill perfectly and at 9% abv packs a serious punch that rivals Divine Light, Shield of the Righteous, or Templars Verdict. A smooth, dry finish and wonderful fruit flavors might remind you of wine, a fitting comparison for this class.

Delicious, complex, and light. This might be the best Canadian beer on the planet.

Priest: I’m going to admit right up front that I’m cheating, but I couldn’t help but suggest two beers for a class with an identity problem. For priests that use their power for healing let me suggest Leffe Blonde Ale, a smooth abbey ale with a slightly spicy finish and a wonderfully consistent and pleasant taste. For priests who embrace the shadows, Grimbergen Dubbel (Double) is an excellent choice. First brewed 900 years ago by Noberline monks, this is a bittersweet beer with a rich caramel flavor. In a word, awesome.

Holy or Disciplined? This beer is for you.
For priests that walk among the shadows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rogue: For the class whose primary goal in life is to incapacitate and destroy before you even know what happens I present Rogue Dead Guy Ale. A fitting name would be meaningless without a good beer, and fortunately Rogue delivers. Nice caramel malt flavor, but with more IPA flavors than most of the other ales I tasted. This gave Dead Guy a distinct flavor with a bite at the end, very appropriate for stun-locking fiends.

Nothing goes together better than Rogues and Dead Guys.

Shaman: The connection between this class and the elements that they commune with made this a tough match. Luckily for me I had the magical beer powers of Arolaide on my side and she delivered with an exceptional recommendation. Midas Touch is without a doubt the strangest beer I’ve ever tasted, fortunately it’s also delicious. Brewed by Dogfish Head, this beer is a mixture between wine, beer, and mead and tastes much better than that sounds. Tons of fruit flavors and even saffron. One of the most unique beers I’ve ever tasted.

Flameshock? Stoneskin? Healing Stream? How about all of them.

Warlock: Arrogant Bastard Ale. From the label to the name to the taste, this aggressive hoppy beer fits the warlock class perfectly. The ideal beer to drink as you send your minions to do battle for you, cause widespread destruction and cackle madly while you watch your enemies flee in terror. The beer itself is an exceptional one, with a taste similar to an IPA, but more complex, and smoother. A sweet start with a bitter, spicy finish.

A proud warlock brew that mages simply can’t handle

Warrior: This class is nothing if not stout, and Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout is a perfect homage to these battle-hardened denizens of Azeroth. A very dark beer (black with a tan head) that can almost be a meal in itself, this brew is incredibly smooth almost to the point of being silky, and very rich. The sweetness of the beer is balanced by the coffee and chocolate flavors, and creates an immensely satisfying drinking experience. This strikes me as the kind of beer a warrior would drink.

The perfect beer for the warrior that wades happily into battle

I admit to being disappointed that some of my favorite breweries and go-to choices at the store didn’t make this list. Magic Hat, Samuel Adams, and Sierra Nevada make good, solid beers, but were not especially good fits for this article. Nonetheless I feel that their consistency in making very good beer warrants a mention here at the end.

In addition to enjoying some beer while you play Warcraft, I hope this inspires you to try some of the excellent brews right across the aisle from the cheap stuff that so many people seem to be content with. Thanks again to Arolaide for all her help. Happy Hunting, and Hooray for Good Beer.

The Predictability Problem in Raiding

I’ve been pretty busy lately. I could say that my job has intruded into my blogging and playing time, but it’s more accurate to say that my free time simply dried up due to an influx of extra work. I apologize to anyone that was consistently reading my talent tier posts, and I’ll be continuing them as soon as time allows. Today’s post is something completely different though. I’ve been playing a lot of Starcraft 2 lately, and it has me thinking long and hard about World of Warcraft.

Before recently SC2 was a casual gaming activity for me as I worked through the “Wings of Liberty” campaign (SC2 is a RTS game with multiple game modes) first on Normal difficulty, and then on Hard. Around this time I decided to try its Multiplayer Mode, and all hell broke loose. As of yesterday I’ve played 16 bronze ladder (lowest 20% of players based on mathematical model, starting position for new players) matches with a very modest record of 7-9. From my perspective as a moderately experienced PvP participant (2v2, 3v3, BGs) in WoW, SC2 multiplayer is an immensely better PvP experience. RTS and MMORPG are completely different gaming experiences. But that’s not to say we can’t learn something from the tremendous success of Starcraft 2, and I think we can apply it to raiding.

Predictability

World of Warcraft raiding is a game design built around experience, failure, learning, and mastery (I knew my Master of Science in Education degree would come in handy someday. Totally worth the $23,000. I need a drink). The better your raid team is, the faster you reach the mastery level. It is a simple system, and if the encounter is too simple then mastery is easily attainable (‘sup Morchok). Create too much randomness, and mastery becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible (Fuck you Rhyolith). I emphasized randomness in order to differentiate from unpredictability. They are not the same, despite their similarity.

What makes SC2 great in multiplayer mode is the nature of its predictability. In a 1v1 matchup you could get a 2 base map or a 4 base map. You could be playing against 1 of 3 races (each with their own strengths and weaknesses). That map could have easily defensible positions, or maybe not. After all of this is established you still have to scout your opponent, because each race has tons of builds (strategies) that you have to be able to identify and counter. If all of this sounds like too much work, think about how much effort goes into establishing stat weights, BiS lists, favorable raid compositions, raid boss strategies, and spell priorities. It isn’t more work, it’s just a different approach to game design.

The difference is that SC2 thrives on the inability of the player to predict what their opponent will do, whereas WoW thrives on the ability of its player base to predict and react to boss mechanics. However, the same raid encounter design in WoW also causes players to become bored with content once they’ve reached mastery. The boss does the exact same thing at the exact same time over and over and over again.

The Success of Tier 11

Halfus Wyrmbreaker was one of my favorite encounters in Cataclysm. In fact, Bastion of Twilight and Blackwing Descent were my favorite raids of the expansion. There are encounters in every raid that introduce unpredictable components (Fading Light, Ice Lance, Face Rage, Roaring Flame Breath, etc.) but these are, in my opinion, poor substitutes for unpredictability and better described as randomness. And remember, a little randomness is good. It keeps players on their feet, and forces them to react. But they are still predictable. You know Ultraxion is going to cast Fading Light, you just don’t know who it is going to hit.

Let get back to Halfus. This was the entry encounter in Bastion of Twilight, and it was an encounter that changed every week. On normal mode there were 3 active drakes each week, but the combination of drakes available were not the same every week, forcing your raid to adapt and communicate your strategy before the pull. I always liked the encounter for this reason, but never really explored why until now. It was the anticipation that I enjoyed. Was I going to be tanking the boss or the drakes? Was it going to be a relatively easy combination, or a difficult one? I realize now that I loved running through these thoughts as we cleared trash and prepared ourselves for Halfus. This was a fight that was both predictable (through consistent mechanics and timing) and unpredictable (through different mechanics based on encounter composition). For example, the Nether Scion had a predictable mechanic that you could react to, but you didn’t know each week if you would have to. I really believe that this is an exceptional encounter design compared to a fight like Shannox, which is a completely predictable encounter with elements of randomness built-in. And it really is disappointing to see the Heroic version of Halfus removed that by having all 5 drakes active. Sure, it made the encounter more difficult by forcing the raid to deal with more abilities, but it made it more predictable, and in my mind, less compelling.

I might surprise some people with my second choice of a good raid design with a nod to unpredictable. The Omnotron Defense System (ODS) encounter was very enjoyable from this perspective. Each encounter started with one of four members of the ODS active, and while one unit was active, you would be notified which unit was next. Each pull created a different sequence of the four members of the ODS, making it unpredictable but allowing for mastery of each member’s mechanics. This is exceptional raid design.

The Fine Line Between Random and Unpredictable

Yor’sahj the Unsleeping is a great example of exploring the line between random and unpredictable. In fact, I would argue that it is very similar to ODS, and was my favorite encounter of the Dragon Soul raid. Yor’sahj summons 3 slimes (4 on heroic), and the raid can only kill one. Your raid decides which slime to kill, and deals with the mechanics of the other 2 (3) that are allowed to survive. This makes the encounter different on every pull, introducing a desirable amount of unpredictability that your raid team has to react to. It also has an appropriate mastery level. Until you over-gear the content, you must master the combined mechanics that you can see, and once you do the success rate increases.

Yor’sahj’s counterpart Warlord Zon’ozz in a good example of a terrible encounter. Despite the originality of the void sphere, it is a horrible mechanic that is completely random. The members of the raid have very little real control over where the sphere floats, and it doesn’t behave the way you would expect it. This isn’t unpredictable, it’s random and stupid and frustrating. There is no mastery of the void sphere mechanic here, either it works as intended on the pull, or it doesn’t, and that is not a good design.

Randomness and Loss of Control

No discussion on this topic would be complete without mentioning Lord Rhyolith. This Firelands encounter was terrible on normal and heroic mode. From Wowhead’s comment section:

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By Rygol (2,255 – 3·26on 2011/07/17 (Patch 4.2.0) Report
Worst designed heroic fight by far, this boss is completely governed by how well RNG praises your guild.

Last edited by Rygol on 2011/08/17 (Patch 4.2.0)
upvote11downvote GullaDaPwna on 2011/08/13 (Patch 4.2.0)I agree even on normal mode RNG has a lot to do with it..We oneshotted him last week because active volcanoes spawned right in the path we were already taking and now this week they spawn directly opposite of the one we’re going after…very lame

I’m not going to go into depth about how some nights it felt like the boss was NEVER going to turn, or the times when you missed the volcano by one pixel, or when volcanoes seemed to spawn practically IN THE FUCKING LAVA (which the boss couldn’t touch), or how much fun it was when a volcano activated right BEHIND the boss assuring you wouldn’t be getting to it anytime soon. I also won’t lament the fact the a guild working through phase 2 of Ragnaros could still wipe on Rhyolith if you got unlucky, or that there were nights that ended with Rhyolith because we ran out of time waiting for the RNG gods. The unofficial stats show that I consumed approximately 137.9% more alcohol on Rhyolith nights that any other raid boss since I started tanking in Wrath. Rhyolith is a good example of complete and utter failure in compelling raid design.

Players do not like – and for good reason – when they have reached a level of mastery with an encounter, but still fail due to something outside of their control. This is why Rhyolith was failure despite an admirable attempt at an original design. Here’s hoping that raid designs lean more towards Halfus and less towards Rhyolith as we head to Pandaria.