Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hello, Arcane Mage.

Dear Arcane Mage,

I am a Marksmanship Hunter.  I would like to compare your "hard" spec to mine.

Your priority system is divided into three phases based upon your mana pool.  That's nice; my priority system has several different permutations based upon the health of the boss, how much movement is necessary at the moment, and whether any dynamic haste cooldowns (like Heroism or my own Rapid Fire) are active.  While one of those permutations is a two-button scheme like yours (during this time you'd actually be using only one button), it is for the narrowest of phases (boss health greater than 90%) and requires a haste cooldown to be active.

While we're on the subject of haste, we look at the stat in very different ways.  You see haste on your gear and say, "oh, my spells cast faster." I see haste on my gear and promptly break out a calculator and open two or three tabs in Chrome to see what I should reforge it to, if I should reforge at all.  You see, my priority system will change at certain levels of haste, due to being able to work in extra shots between my signature shot.  This makes haste all kinds of win at certain points, and my absolute worst stat at others.

You have several "utility" spells to manage.  Hey, so do I.  I have an interrupt in Silencing Shot.  I have CC in Scatter Shot and Freezing Trap.  I have to Tranquilizing Shot enraging bosses.  Are there adds for the tank to pick up?  I'm probably Misdirecting them to the tank, as well as using it at the pull so you can press your Arcane Blast button lots without pulling aggro.  Oh, you have a threat wipe?  So do I.  You have a short-cooldown movement aid?  I do too, except I have to spin myself 180 degrees to aim it.  So while you face the direction you want to go and push "go," I start to run in the correct direction, jump, spin 180 degrees, push "go--backwards," shoot the boss as I careen across the room, spin back around in the correct direction (while still in midair), and continue about my business.  Did I mention I'm shooting the boss during this entire process?  Yeah.  I am.

So you say you have a resource you have to manage?  Me too!  My life would be much easier if Blizzard gave me Focus Gems, too.  Cooldowns?  Check.  Procs?  Yep, so do I.  In between Steady Shot pairs--I have to pair them or I lose DPS, and I have to fire two pairs between signature shots, or I lose a lot of DPS--I have two globals to dump my focus and react to procs.  Hunters have fast globals too, like Rogues.

So what's your main rotation?  Arcane Blast and Arcane Missiles?  That's it?  My main rotation, which is to say when the boss is between 90% and 20% health and there isn't Heroism or Rapid Fire active, consists of Chimera Shot, Steady Shot, Arcane Shot, and Aimed Shot.  This assumes that I've already applied Serpent Sting.  Not only do I have twice the buttons you have, I have to carefully manage my short-term buffs, procs, and my rapidly rising and falling resource in order to not lose a ton of DPS, all  while doing all the useful utility stuff just like you.

In addition to all that, I have a pet that requires careful management, because if it dies, not only do I lose 10-20% of my DPS, but the raid group loses the buff or debuff that my pet was bringing.  That's right, in order to do my job properly, I have to pay close attention to our raid comp and bring the pet that gives the best buff or debuff.  This means that while you're selling ports, I'm trekking all across the world to find the myriad of pets I need to cover buffs/debuffs properly.  Myriad is not an exaggeration; I routinely use 5-8 different pets while raiding, based on the raid composition and the boss we're facing.  Sure, a Huntard might get away with bringing his cat (which brings the Strength/Agility buff) to the raid with two Death Knights, a DPS Warrior, and an Enhancement Shaman, but a good Hunter would be using the correct pet.  In case you're wondering, based solely on that information, the correct pet could be any one of about five different possibilities, depending on how the DKs and Warrior are specced.

In closing, I just want to be clear:  I'm not saying your spec doesn't require skill.  I'm not saying you only press two buttons for an entire fight. I just wanted to compare all the things we have to do over the course of a raid encounter

Yours Truly,
Marksmanship Hunter

Friday, July 1, 2011


So, this is my grand entrance as a video game blogger.  What shall I write about?  The state of the industry as I see it?  What games I'm looking forward to in the coming months, and why you should be excited too?  A cutting review for a brand new game?


I'm going to talk about Valve.

I might be considered a Valve fanboy, especially after this is written, and to be honest, I'd have a hard time arguing against that assertion.  However, I'd like to think I have good reason (or rather, reasons-plural) for having as much affection for a company that a person can have and still be considered (mostly) healthy.

First and most obviously, Valve makes excellent games.  I don't particularly think I need to elaborate much.  They made Half-Life, Portal, and Team Fortress, among several others.  For those of you who haven't played any of those yet, do yourself a favor and play them.  Team Fortress 2 is now free-to-play on Steam, as well.  That brings me to my next point.

Valve is generous to their customers.  They made one of their flagship games free-to-play.  Yes, I'm aware that there are microtransactions for us to give them our nickels.  Yes, I'm aware that it's either a) a shrewd business move, or b) a business model experiment for future games.  But the fact of the matter is, we're in a time where on top of a $15/month subscription fee, Blizzard (another ultra-successful company with exceedingly loyal fans) charges lots of money ($15-$30!) for character transfers and in-game vanity items, and then they nickel-and-dime their most devoted and/or crazy customers with mobile apps that let them view their in-game auctions or chat with their guildies.  Nevermind the fact they've broken Starcraft 2 into three separate, fully-priced (that means $60!) games.  However, this isn't about Blizzard-rage; this is pointing out that Valve could have gone in a very different direction than what they have, and it's refreshing to me to see this kind of attitude toward their customers.

Lots of companies have already adopted this "freemium" model, where the actual game is free, but you can buy premium items quickly and easily for small amounts of real money.  The difference between Valve doing this with Team Fortress 2 and, say, Turbine doing it with Lord of the Rings Online is that Team Fortress 2 is still really popular.  I've never had a problem finding a game of TF2 to jump into, and I'm also reasonably sure that the game is still selling because I encounter people who are actually worse than me at the game.  LOTRO, on the other hand, was on life support when Turbine switched to the freemium model, but when they did, they immediately started making more money than they ever did with the outdated subscription model.  In other words, while this may have been a shrewd business decision on Valve's part, the decision wasn't made because nobody was playing TF2 anymore.

I could go on about the ridiculous Steam sales that are happening right now (Oblivion GOTY Deluxe $8.50!), or about the new support for freemium games on Steam, but this post is beginning to become long in the tooth.  So I shall sum up this entire post thusly:  Valve is really stinking cool to its customers, and everybody else in the industry can and should learn from their example.