Come fly with me… or not

redridge1After years of debate, Blizzard has settled the fly / no-fly controversy with a resounding “Not going to happen.” Community reaction has been both overwhelming and unsurprising. No-flyers continue to cry “Flying hurts immersion!” while Flyers cries for “Freedom!” have been replaced with just plain crying.

Blizzard’s defence of their position has been mantra-like and I think was best summed up by Bashiok in April 2014 with his seminal ‘Knarity’ post. Seminal because his response has become gospel for the no-flight camp and, punningly, it also pertains to, contains, or consists mostly of semen… It’s one of those posts that makes you yell at your computer then argue your views with anyone nearby – even if they’re on your side.

So, to avoid family ructions, here’s the conversation I want to have with Bashiok… but can’t.

Jem: So no misgivings about putting the kybosh on flying in Draenor for good? Is this because you banked on the success of turning WoW into a MMSNPGwFAT (Massively Multiplayer Social Networking Platform Game with Facebook and Twitter) and now you got nothing but an acronym people think is a gold-seller?

Bashiok: It’s important to first dissuade concerns that we’re looking to slow down the game. We’re going to be making sure flight paths and other forms of travel are quick and efficient… Our goal is not to make travel time consuming or painful, and with players on ground mounts we know we’ll have to do more to try to ensure people can get to where they want to go quickly… BUT being able to lift off and fly over content compromises many of our goals in how the game world is approached, how it’s played and how it’s consumed.

Jem: So I dashed out of my garrison the other day… I was riding around joking and laughing with Commandojack when I saw a Large Tree. It was about 5 yards away on top of a waist-high embankment. I thought I’d be clever and just hoist myself up to grab it. I looked for my Hoist key… Climb key?… hmmm no Shimmy key either… Use Shoulder Muscles & Upper Arms key… mmmkay, I’ll run around. I opened the map. I immediately closed the map – no help there. I started off in the opposite direction of the Large Tree and, while my initial direction choice was indeed correct, I did make a few wrong turns along the way. So after 20 mins and 2 views of a Youtube video I reached the precipice opposite my arboreal goal. Just one short leap, a hearth back to my garrison, a chat with Justin and 4 hours later those 30 precious resources would be mine. But when I tried to jump… yep, Space Bar Fail. I got wedged on a rock, /stuck and next thing I’m back in my Garrison sans lumber where I can tell you Justin was none too happy. Is that how you want people to consume content, because it’s not very efficient?

Bashiok: Being efficient is great, being clever is great, and using your cleverness to be efficient is great, but how many of us have done the Tillers dailies up on the cliffside where the Hozen are, and waited for packs to pass by before setting down right where you’re supposed to, use whatever thingamabob you’re supposed to, and then lift off ASAP hoping-hoping-hoping nothing aggros? How many of us have become furious when we actually have to fight something!? Is that clever gameplay? Is that being good at playing the game, or is it using a mechanic to avoid having to play it? Is that what the game should be, and what our expectations should be as gamers playing it?

Jem: Yeah, but Bash… you don’t mind if I call you that do you?

Bashiok: urghh, no…

Jem: Bash, I fought those Hozen til my eyes bled out my ears. I must have killed like 245 million of them. But when it didn’t make a damn bit of difference to the sorry plight of the Tillers, I have to say my empassioned emnity waned. I thought to myself: is this good game design? Is this using cutting edge software technology and breaking ground in MMOs for gamers? Would this be better if I couldn’t fly? In the end it was Bill Murray, not a Talbuk, that got me through. I watched Groundhog Day and Bill’s hopelessness and frustration during the 452-day suicide montage made me see my spoiled, brat-like behaviour for what it was.

Bashiok: [sensing my sarcasm] …we want to try to keep that questing experience available at max level with something more robust than daily quests.

As an example, let us consider a quest to assassinate an enemy leader. From the ground you approach a fort with guards at the gate. You charge and are able to dispatch them and sneak in a side hallway. You methodically take out packs of roaming sentries, and some of them shout at you as they run toward you. You notice they’re in the middle of practicing dark and forbidden magics, and you take a moment to disrupt their ritual. Dashing into the main courtyard you spot your target, sneaking and fighting your way to him–and with a forceful slash–the fort’s captain is vanquished, and as guards are alerted you fight your way out, glorious and triumphant in your success!! Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Jem: Well first up, most classes can’t sneak but, yeah, once… maaaybe twice… C’mon though, do you really think your content is so engaging that I’m going to push play on that fantasy every time some NPC has lost his vegetable baskets? Don’t get me wrong, your sentiment is noble but, as a developer, you can only hope for that once.

I’m hard pressed to think of something that doesn’t become monotonous through repeated exposure. Sex? … but then there’s that saying about the jar. Heroin? … the first few times are supposedly a high but then it’s just Requiem for a Dream in Frankston with less attractive actors. Skydiving? Skydiving is something people never get sick of even when they’ve done it a thousand times!! Hey now… wait a minute… isn’t skydiving kind of like flying?

Bashiok: [ignores my cutting barb and continues] In Draenor we’re designing max-level content, portions of zones or zones in their entirety that will be dedicated to max-level gameplay—and not just the top of a cliffside… We don’t think having all of that content inside buildings, or constantly challenged by sky cannons, or with magical no-flying smoke, or within some kind of dismount bubble is the most straightforward or best solution.

Jem: Alright, I just need to stop you there! For one, our inability to fly on Draenor has never been explained by any in game mechanic, so it can’t be THAT much of an obstacle for your devs. For two, rich, engaging, max-level content that provides hours of play every day all due to the magic of no flight? I don’t buy it. Especially given that this no-fly expansion is widely regarded as the lightest on content and the most boring in the history of WoW. Quests continue to stick to the same old formats, gather stuff, kill stuff, or escort really annoying npcs. Chris Metzen hasn’t written a new plot line since Warcraft 3. And, if WoW players wanted Platform games, Facebook games or to see which one of six expressions my toon was emoting when trash dropped from Blingtron on Twitter, we’d all be playing Super Mario FB Edition.

But let’s say you’re telling the truth… with flying off the table, and your creative thinkers freed from the shackles of those pesky sky cannons, are you planning to give us sooo much new stuff to do we’ll exist in a constant state of role playing bliss and never have to repeat anything more than 5 times? I suspect you’re making a rod for your own back there.

Bashiok: Even at level 100 there will be no small portions of the game world intended to provide relevant content even to max-level players. These zones may even unlock over the course of the expansion, or the content in them will progress in story and scope throughout content patches. Ground-level content from the ground offers more compelling gameplay.

Jem: You know, you didn’t actually say anything there except ‘even’ and ‘ground’.

Bashiok: We’re going to be making sure flight paths and other forms of travel are quick and efficient.

Jem: You said that already.

Bashiok: World of Warcraft is not a flight sim.


Bashiok: [sighs] I hope everyone can agree, regardless of personal opinion toward flight vs. non-flight, that flying fundamentally alters how content is approached in a world where the gameplay exists wholly on the ground.

Jem: Yep, it allows people to skip it if they want. You said it yourself: “Not everyone that plays the game cares how quests and outdoor content are experienced… Some may begrudgingly trudge through the content just so they can get to the part of the game they do want to play…” So why not let them? Unfortunately for me I’ve been playing MMOs a bit too long to still get a kick out of imagining myself as Yerl’s sista suffragette as we hack and hoof our way through enemy lines. But I would never deny that experience to other players. And there’s still loads of other stuff I love about WoW. But I’ve grown up and matured along with the game, so why are you forcing me to experience it like its still Day 1?

Bashiok: I’m sure some of you see the fortress example with the flying mount and see nothing wrong, if that’s how someone wants to play the game they should be allowed to. We’re not trying to create a slow and laborious game, or expect people will be yelling “YIIIPPPEEEEE!” while fighting a mob that aggroed when they tried to pick an herb. But… as much as we let players choose how they improve their characters within the world; leveling through dungeons, or PvP, or questing; choosing to do Arenas, or raids, or both; we’re still always wanting to create a holistic experience that supports all of these things. That doesn’t mean we think it’s a good idea to force people to read all their quest text, or stare at and appreciate the pretty new models, or anything like that, but it’s not unreasonable to see that combat and content exist on the ground, understand that, embrace that, and make decisions to support it.

Jem: So I guess what you’re saying is, your dev team want to use existing zones for new patch content and you can’t think of way to make players experience it without flatout banning flying everywhere, all the time, forever. You’d think that with $1.3 billion profit you could hire some bright young things that could, but meh, honestly if you think that hindering my every move with a train of mobs that donks me on the back of the head so the majority of players can enjoy a late patch quest or two once and the vast minority can fake-RPG with NPCs over and over again – who am I to judge?

For me, the lasting engagement in WoW content doesn’t come from Blizzard at all, it comes from my fellow players. The jokes, the laughs and that special kind of ‘Woot!” you only get after downing a boss you’ve been wiping on for weeks or that time when you were the last man standing from 1% and got the kill as your fallen comrades rallied for you in vent. And let’s not that fateful day when Horde won an Alterac Valley “For STEVE! – the guy who wrestled alligators and died a warrior.” Whatever you enjoy about WoW, whether it be thrill of a gawd-awful transmog, collecting 1000+ pets, levelling 100 toons to 100 or Riinaa’s favourite pastime of ruining someone’s day with a good old fashioned gank, not being able to fly isn’t going to take away those precious moments – well, maybe it will for Riinaa – it’ll just take me longer to get to them.


Here’s the fine print: This conversation is made-up. Bashoik’s responses are wholly taken from: This article is intended to be a humorous reflection of some of the community’s views during these dark, dark days, to make a few salient points to Blizzard, and remind us all that despite the massive quality of life issues not being able to fly will create. The true joy of WoW doesn’t usually happen on the back of a Griffin… except for the guy in the transmog.

Loot Speak: World of Warcraft, Guilds and Loot

Lootspeak I put a squabble over loot right up there with going to the dentist – both are equal bottom on my list of ‘awesome things to do with my time’ and the longer you avoid it, the more it festers.

WoW’s new flexible raiding system has put an end to much of the nonsense surrounding team selection (see /g chat Aug 2012: Swings, Roundabouts and Blenders) but it’s created a few new problems too and how to divvy up the plunder is one of them. Now that raid sizes and team make-up can change at a whim, I’d thought we’d take a look at how some of the loot systems are holding up under the pressure.

Highest roll wins is a no-maintenance way for guilds to split up the loot and thus, the staple of many a raid team. It’s the Fox News of loot systems – fair and balanced. (And I mean by that, not fair or balanced in any way). It doesn’t distribute loot evenly, doesn’t reward people for putting in an effort, and doesn’t care that you altrusitically passed for someone you believe deserves the gear more. It’s RNG and, personally I think, way too popular for its own good – just like Fox News. RNG’s bell curve flattens out nicely over many thousands of rolls. However, over the hundred or so rolls your team will make during an entire tier, it’s near certain that a lucky third of your players will be sitting pretty and start pushing to move on to new content. The unlucky third will end the tier with one or two upgrades after weeks of raiding while the middling third will staunchly and rather zealously hold no opinion at all. I think you all know which group you’re in.

Bottom line, outside of dungeon PUGs, the only people RNG serves are guild officers and MMO developers. They’re the ones spared the effort of imagining, creating and maintaining better, more engaging and fairer mechanics and, because the system is inherently impartial, any disputes can be also be effortlessly dismissed with a quick “don’t blame me, blame rngesus” or a cheeky “sort it out amongst yourselves”. Enough RNG, I say! It’s time to rise up from our puddle of complacency and demand a little more from the powers that be.

Biggest Upgrade
Often coupled with rolling or loot council, this is unequivocably the worst looting system in existence and flexi-raiding has made it worse still – if that is even possible. The trouble is it seems logical. Surely giving loot to the person who needs it most is the most beneficial thing for the entire raid team? Unfortunately there’s a seedy underbelly to this argument that often gets obscured in the cloud of justice and piety that its supporters always seem to espouse. When you give loot to the person that needs it most, you’re actually rewarding the laziest, flakiest people first. In the beginning, loot goes to those who didn’t bother to farm heroic items or acquire crafted gear. Later, as gear levels progress, you’re dishing out the booty to those people who turn up least, fake switch mains four times to gear up alts, or joined your guild 10 mins ago. If you’ve got a regular team and everyone is conscientious – this system is great. If your guild is reveling in the freedom that flexi-raiding provides – this system will make absolutely sure that your least frequent raiders are wearing the shiniest suits.

Fixed Wins
This system limits the amount of loot a player can win within a fixed period. Win a roll and that’s your loot for the night or week. It’s not a terrible system, but any system based on rolling isn’t fair – it’s gambling. Limiting wins does offset the downside of RNG a little but brings a whole new mess of problems – psychological vexation being the main one. If your raiders are any kind of conscientious, one win per lockout can pretty quickly spiral into a crazy mental dialogue – Should I roll on the Pretty-Good Cloak? Or should I wait to roll on my Bad-Ass Weapon? But if the weapon doesn’t drop I’ve missed out on the cloak. So Ima roll on the cloak… but what if I win the cloak and the weapon doesn’t drop but the trinket does!!? Okay… brain avalanche imminent. Activating fail safe devices. Shutdown in 10, 9, 8…”

Suicide Kings
Suicide Kings is another very popular, low-maintenance system. Make a list of your list of raiders. The person at the top of the list has first dibs. When you get some loot you drop to the bottom of the list. If you have consistent group of regulars, gear gets distributed pretty evenly among them. In a flexible raid system, however, Suicide Kings loses some of its sparkle. Back in the days when getting and keeping a spot on a raid team was something you had to earn, the incentive to turn up for every raid was a lot higher. Now that failing to show doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll ruin the lives of 24 people, most are availing themselves of a healthier life balance (and rightly so!).

The maths of Suicide Kings, however, depends on a fairly even class/spec/tier split across your team and dictates that the people who turn up every night get about the same as people who only show up for farm night. Humans being humans, every guild will have a couple of ‘them’… the guys that only show up when their name is near the top of the list. The old system tended to spare us by limiting their exposure to raiding in the first place, but flexi-raiding doesn’t do that. If you’ve got more than one or two in your roster, Suicide Kings might quickly become Ninja Rape No-Reach-Around Kings.

Loot Council
What’s that saying… “Power corrupts and absolute power is crap for everyone who either isn’t on the loot council or cybering with someone who is.” Loot Councils are brilliant for hard-core progression guilds, where gearing up tanks, healers and key DPS are top priorities. In these cases, Loot Council is just a small part of the progression machine that also includes class analysis, performance benchmarks and attendance requirements. Plus the guild’s kills, server rank and general prestige act as significant component of the reward you get for your effort, making gear comparatively less important. However, instituting a loot council without the rest of that framework or the glory of ‘World Rank Shit-YEAH!’, can too easily fall victim to the sub-concious trials and tribulations of the day. Before you know it, the majority of loot has found its way into the inner core’s pockets and all you’re doing is crafting the world’s best recruitment messages to spam trade chat with. If you’re not a hard-core progression time but you like the idea of Loot Council, a good way to avoid the potential downside is to establish the parameters by which Loot Council awards loot with the whole guild. Publish that criteria on your website and be sure to include some checks and balances to make sure council member’s stick to the agreed rules.

Developed by the guild Afterlife in 1999, DKP awards Dragon Kill Points for attendance which can then be spent on gear. Within DKP there are lots of different subsystems – zero sum, relational, perfect, bidding. I could write a whole article alone on the pros and cons of each kind. But, at it’s core, DKP uses the following formula to arrive at a priority for loot: Attendance Points Earned – Gear Won = Priority. EPGP expands this system beyond attendance and winning loot using the formula Effort Points / Gear Points to establish priority. Effort points can be awarded for anything from attending a raid, to being on time, wiping a bunch, contributing gold to the guild bank, making pots and chants or insulting someone’s mother. Similarly, Gear Points can be deducted when you win loot, use guild repair money or bank items… or insult someone’s mother. The beauty of DKP & EPGP is that it allows people to set their own priorities and make the choices that suit them. You can save your DKP for the weapon or trinket that everybody wants, or replace crafted items and BoEs without reproach. You can distribute your DKP amongst four of your toons or super-gear one main.

Another huge benefit, of EPGP in particular, is the ability to give bonus DKP to players for making decisions that benefit the team or guild – like a person deciding not to play the FOTM to help rebalance classes or to give new raiders a little piece of sunshine fairly quickly.

The downside of these systems is their corruptibility. Busdriverx on Reddit says it best “… it’s a fair assumption to say that leadership is always corrupt and to find a system that most effectively eliminates that aspect.” Too much bonus DKP, or a system that was designed to support the minority’s definition of fair, rivals Loot Council and Biggest Upgrade for terribad systems. But a good system, designed by the majority of members and faithfully maintained by the officers, will not only help shape the code of conduct for your guild, but will compel people to make considered loot choices and live with the consequences.

One of the reasons discussions about loot are so difficult is the lootwhore brand people risk at the mere mention of gear. It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, absolutely no one puts in the time and effort to maintain a raid schedule for the altruistic reward of helping gear everyone else. Anyone who says they do is stright-up lying. There’ll always be those voices crying “People just need to be nicer and share!” but everyone’s interpretation of a fair share is different. And, as the moody, hormone-driven creatures that we are, even your own interpretation of fair can change from day to day.

The best loot systems are ones that reward players with the things they want, not the things they need – even if you think what they want is stupid. Your raiders should know what they need to do to earn rewards and be able to plan their toon’s gear progression with some modicum of certainty. Loot should be distributed by a means other than chance, as fairly as class and spec distribution in your roster allows and the guild as a whole should decide on that definition of fair. It’s the officer’s job to implement a system to support that definition. Is fair – first come, first serve? highest attendance? most liked? best team player? most even distribution? best for the guild? Only your members can decide on that.

It’s our fun time after all. No one should tell us how to spend it and a fair, self-directed loot system makes for happy players and ultimately a happy guild.

WoW Zone by Zone Achievement Guide Part 9: Space Goats and Nelfs

WoW achievement guideWelcome to ZAGGARAT ( Jetsai’s Zone-by-Zone Achievement Guide for Getting Across the Realm with Alliance Toons), a comprehensive zone by zone guide to wrapping up every achievement you need. You can view all instalments by clicking here. The printer and screen friendly guides can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.

Areas covered this week: Azuremyst Isle, Bloodmyst Isle, Darnassus, Teldrassil, Darkshore, Ashenvale

Draeneis and The Exodar were a bit of a sensation when they were first released. Until Burning Crusade, Night Elfs presented the only tall, non-human race option for Alliance. But the choice to be both tall AND exotic came with some heavy penalties. If you wanted to play a ranged class, and actually look like a Night Elf, your choices were Hunter or Priest…  healing Priest, that is. Darnassus required a boat to get from the bank to the Auction House, well almost, and the harshest penalty of all apart from having a flat chests… contending with the relentless barrage of tree-hugging, Volkswagen camper-loving, crystal-stroking nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, I respect Radagast but I lean much more heavily to the Sci in Sci-Fi and I’ll take gun-toting, manga-vixen Faye Valentine over Elune-of-the-Moon-Pansies any day.

Draeneis, therefore, introduced the only non-human option for Mages and Warlocks that wanted to continue dpsing despite the small crate in front of them. Draeneis also opened up the Shaman class to Alliance for the first time and their popularity remains strong to this day.

Not so with The Exodar. Its sheer inaccessibility relegated it to ghost town in just a few short weeks, home to just a few bank mules, Auction House scanning toons and anyone who wanted to buy a Moth.

Now that you can fly, Darnassus isn’t nearly as arduous. It’s the next hub for Well Read and is a great source of food for the Delicious achievements. You can pick up all the mounts and tabards for the Night Elf and Gilneas races here as well.

Throughout the Draenei Isles, Teldrassil, Darkshore and Ashenvale there’s a dozen or so fairly ordinary battle pets to bolster your collection and The Maw of Madness in Darkshore is the best place to jump off a cliff for Going Down!

Next week, we venture into the goblin heartland of Azshara, get smacked about the head a bunch in Orgrimmar and check out Barrens chat five years on…

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(Editor’s note: I just wanted to say what an amazing feat Jemima has pulled off with these Zaggarat guides – if you find them as incredibly useful as I have already, please use the donate link below – proceeds will be forwarded onto Jem for her work)

WoW Zone by Zone Achievement Guide Part 8: Swamp of Sorrows, Blasted Lands and Deadwind Pass

WoW Achievement Guide by ZoneWelcome to ZAGGARAT ( Jetsai’s Zone-by-Zone Achievement Guide for Getting Across the Realm with Alliance Toons), a comprehensive zone by zone guide to wrapping up every achievement you need. You can view all instalments by clicking here. The printer and screen friendly guides can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.

Catching the Bogpaddle Bullet from Sharon Boomgetter in Burning Steppes will land you smack in the Swamp of Sorrows – the zone where Goblins go Keanu surf-style and the Alliance v Horde clash over Stonard has been raging relentlessly for at least 2 years now.

The Swamp is home to a huge variety of the very sought-after flying and aquatic pets so prepare for battle and snatch yourself some Level 15 rares.  It also marks the beginning of the next level of fish for The Oceanographer and The Limnologist. Sunken Temple isn’t the maze it used to be and I highly recommend doing this when the quest chain takes you there. It’s a quick, fun zone that Loremasters should be able to knock over in an hour or two.

Blasted Lands, however, is without doubt the worst questing zone in any MMO …ever.

The mobs are spread far enough apart to make aoe impossible, the story is plain lame given how much lore there is to work with this side of the Dark Portal and I don’t know about Horde but Alliance spend the entire zone running one errand at a time for a myriad of NPCs at the end of overly-circuitous caves, caverns, towers and keeps.

If I wasn’t so annoyed at being a substitute telephone for Quartermaster Lungertz in the Keep and Watcher Mahar Ba at the top of the Mage Tower, I would have nominated Blizzard as the World Record holder for Longest Possible Path Required to Travel the Shortest Distance. As it stands, I just stabbed myself in the eye with a rusty screwdriver instead.

By contrast, Deadwind Pass – the home of Karazhan – is in my opinion the best raid instance I’ve ever experienced in a game.

It has everything – a great backdrop with a compelling story and some of the most interesting raid encounters you’ll experience. I’d go so far as to say the raid mechanics introduced in Karazhan laid the foundation for everything that was to come after and established WoW’s reputation as the gurus of raid content they are known for today.

If you’re going for Rep achievements, getting exalted with the Violet Hold will take 2-3 weeks if you do all the quests and full clears of Karazhan. Alternatively, you can fast track a rep grind by clearing to Opera, leaving bosses alive, and resetting.

Violet Hold’s two quest chains require you to run most of the Outland Heroics, as do many other quests out there, so efficiency nuts may want to save these until you’ve fully completed questing in all Outland zones.

Deadwind Pass is also home to two zone-exclusive pets, the Restless Shadeling (only found between 12 midnight and 9 am) and the Arcane Eye, as well as Eastern Kingdoms’ Grand Master Pet Tamer.

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(Editor’s note: I just wanted to say what an amazing feat Jemima has pulled off with these Zaggarat guides – if you find them as incredibly useful as I have already, please use the donate link below – proceeds will be forwarded onto Jem for her work)

WoW Zone by Zone Achievement Guide Part 7: Badlands, Searing Gorge, Burning Steppes & Blackrock Mountain

WoW Achievement GuideWelcome to ZAGGARAT ( Jetsai’s Zone-by-Zone Achievement Guide for Getting Across the Realm with Alliance Toons), a comprehensive zone by zone guide to wrapping up every achievement you need. You can view all instalments by clicking here. The printer and screen friendly guides can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.

Chapter 7 is all about the Dwarfs … and lizards… and beetles … and snakes. Ok, so basically anything that scuttles, skitters, crawls or slithers can be found in Badlands, Searing Gorge, Burning Steppes and Blackrock Mountain.So strap on your Ultra-Advanced Proto-Typical Girly-Scream Diffuser coz we’re going in!

I highly recommend completing all the quests in these three zones, especially Searing Gorge, before entering Blackrock Mountain if you’re concerned at all about reputation achievements. The Mountain offers both the shortest and the longest reputation grinds in the game. You can easily get to exalted with Thorium Brotherhood in less than a day but Hydaxian Waterlords will take a minimum of 15 weeks even with all the guild perks, banners and a human racial at your disposal. Plus, two of its three raids, Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, offer the new Battle Pets for Raiding with Leashes. Beware though- contrary to popular belief, these raids still require attunement as of 5.1. Details about how to do this are included in the guide.

You’ll also need to gather a possee of mates to easily do Cata’s Blackrock Caverns achievements as some of the mechanics are going to stymie solo players.

And remember as you travel, Female Dwarf Hate is wrong, mmmkay. Ironforge girls rock! (pardon the pun).

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(Editor’s note: I just wanted to say what an amazing feat Jemima has pulled off with these Zaggarat guides – if you find them as incredibly useful as I have already, please use the donate link below – proceeds will be forwarded onto Jem for her work)

WoW Zone by Zone Achievement Guide Part 6: Ghostlands, Eversong Woods and Tirisfal Glades

WoW Achievement Guide - Ghostlands, Tirisfal Glades and EversongWelcome to ZAGGARAT ( Jetsai’s Zone-by-Zone Achievement Guide for Getting Across the Realm with Alliance Toons), a comprehensive zone by zone guide to wrapping up every achievement you need. You can view all instalments by clicking here. The printer and screen friendly guides can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.

Ghostlands, Eversong Woods and Tirisfal Glades move us deep into Horde Territory.

Scarlet Monastery, Scarlet Halls and Zul’Aman will provide some challenging content but if you’re on a PvE server then there’s little to do in these zones other than exploration and pet battles.

If you’re on a PvP server it’s a great opportunity to practice your Orcish. ‘Kagh! Grombolar’ (Deploy the yak!) and ‘Bin mog g’thazag cha thrAkk gezzno’ (It looks like your face caught on fire and someone tried to put it out with a fork) are some of my personal favourites. Just kidding, Blizzard has made it pretty difficult to communicate cross-faction and are constantly updating their algorithms to prevent it, so most of your time here will probably be spent avoiding guards, getting the spacing right in D a p Ee bb (Y o u Lo se) and reminding yourself that killing lowbies is mean and no yard stick of your PvP prowess.

Other things that may happen while you’re completing your achievements in these three zones:

  • You may break some electronic equipment on your desk after the fourth time you try to fly in Ghostlands and realise you can’t.
  • You may feel a bit bad when a fresh level 12 Rogue, with a glinty eye and a sorely misguided sense of how well stealth protects him, skulks up behind you and crucifies himself on your lightning shield.
  • You may start to individually name each of the Maggots and Spirit Crabs you battle in the hunt for a rare Larva.
  • You may fantasise about winning a championship spelling bee with the word Lordaeron, then realise it’s way past time to get a life.

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(Editor’s note: I just wanted to say what an amazing feat Jemima has pulled off with these Zaggarat guides – if you find them as incredibly useful as I have already, please use the donate link below – proceeds will be forwarded onto Jem for her work)


WoW Zone by Zone Achievement Guide Part 5: The Plaguelands and Scholomance

zaggarat-5Welcome to ZAGGARAT ( Jetsai’s Zone-by-Zone Achievement Guide for Getting Across the Realm with Alliance Toons), a comprehensive zone by zone guide to wrapping up every achievement you need. You can view all instalments by clicking here. The printer and screen friendly guides can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.

This week’s ZAGGARAT takes us to the Plaguelands where we first meet the Argent Dawn and Argent Crusade. This region also presents the first at-level dungeon with achievements – Scholomance.

I have to admit I used to hate both the Plaguelands. Apart from being drab and in desperate need of Zap Beezlerocket’s Interdimensional Cobweb Cleaner, they were awfully grindy and extremely difficult to move about in unaccosted. Install a beach, equip each of the mobs with a selection of bead jewellery or teach them how to braid hair and you’d have yourself a tropical holiday but Blizzard chose a different path when revamping these zones and they did a pretty good job.

Both Plaguelands are now cut-scene central. Lore-buffs will appreciate a personal introduction to Highlord Tirion Fordring and the story around Andorhol in Western Plaguelands has been condensed, tarted up with some cut-scenes and is much easier to follow. Those of you who are just after Blighted Plaguehawk will have to /popcorn while you quest as these zone-excusive battle pets aren’t available until after Andorhal is phased.

Eastern Plaguelands is tied together through the story of Fiona’s Caravan, with Gidwin and Tarenar providing all the quintessential elements of an epic Dwarf meets Blood Elf tale – friendship, paladin humour, tragedy, betrayal, ultimate reunion and a serious amount of rep with Argent Dawn.

In fact, you get Revered about half-way through the zone. A few repeatable quests later, one of which can be done in Heroic Scholomance and you’re Exalted.

Stratholme, surprisingly, still has a lot to offer achievement hunters. You need to do both live and dead sides to get Stratholme and credit toward Classic Dungeonmaster but the live side offers four books for Well Read and a repeatable quest for 2000 Argent Dawn Rep. Aurius Riverdare, on the dead side, has a chance to drop his gorgeous… er, I mean… very manly, Deathcharger.

Scholomance is where it’s all at, though, with some of the easiest and one of the hardest achievements to get your Reins of the Crimson Cloud Serpent. Shouts go to lancore89 of wowhead who developed some macros that have made Attention to Detail very much easier as well as any healer that has managed to retain their sanity after completing School’s Out Forever. Also don’t forget to grab a full supply of disguises for Polyformic Acid Science completed throughout the rest of Panda’s dungeons and The Invasion of Draenor from Lilian Voss’ room in either Heroic or Normal for Well Read as this is the only place you’ll find this book in the game now.

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(Editor’s note: I just wanted to say what an amazing feat Jemima has pulled off with these Zaggarat guides – if you find them as incredibly useful as I have already, please use the donate link below – proceeds will be forwarded onto Jem for her work)


WoW Zone by Zone Achievement Guide Part 4: Arathi, Hillsbrad, Silverpine and The Hinterlands

WoW Zone By Zone Achievement GuideWelcome to ZAGGARAT ( Jetsai’s Zone-by-Zone Achievement Guide for Getting Across the Realm with Alliance Toons), a comprehensive zone by zone guide to wrapping up every achievement you need. You can view all instalments by clicking here. The printer and screen friendly guides can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.

This week’s ZAGGARAT covers Arathi Highlands, Hillsbrad Foothills, Silverpine Forest & Shadowfang Keep and The Hinterlands.

Shadowfang Keep presents some of the easier Cataclysm dungeon achievements to be had at level and they’ll be cake at 90 if you take a friend or two with you. I’m sure there are some Hunters and DKs that have already soloed these, but for most of us mere mortals Cataclysm Heroics are still cause to cash in a few favours with your guildies.

Pet Battle achievements are also starting to mount up now. If you’ve been monitoring some of the meta achievements along the way, you’ve probably already collected: An Uncommon Find, A Rare Catch and High Quality for capturing uncommon and rare quality pets; That was Close for capturing a battle pet at less than 5% health; Master Pet Battler for winning 250 pet battles and Win Streak for winning 25 in a row.

I’ve taken to capturing a pet as soon as I see it and then continuing to battle as I quest throughout the zone until I get a rare. I’ve added a new note to the guide [zone exclusive!] if you won’t come across this pet in any other zone. So if you’re going for Quality & Quantity catch your rares while you’re there!

Arathi Highlands features the Tiny Twister, Silverpine is home to the Blighted Squirrel and The Hinterlands gives you Jade Oozelings. Hillsbrad Foothills, however, is one of the meccas of battle pets. Where Red-Tailed Chipmunks frolick with Infested Bear Cubs, Lofty Librams float through the crater of Dalaran and where Plants vs Zombies meets WoW in Lawn of the Dead at the Brazie Farmstead. It’s a fun quest and mini-game all rolled in one with Brazie the Singing Sunflower as your final reward. Best news is, it’s repeatable – worst news is you can’t play it on the train on your way to work.

Next week we visit The Plaguelands and the first of our Pandaria Dungeons in Scholomance, Ghostlands, Eversong Woods, Silvermoon City and the first of our Rep Guides with the Agent Dawn & Argent Crusade.

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(Editor’s note: I just wanted to say what an amazing feat Jemima has pulled off with these Zaggarat guides – if you find them as incredibly useful as I have already, please use the donate link below – proceeds will be forwarded onto Jem for her work)


WoW Zone by Zone Achievement Guide Part 2: Stormwind and Stranglethorn

Welcome to ZAGGARAT ( Jetsai’s Zone-by-Zone Achievement Guide for Getting Across the Realm with Alliance Toons), a comprehensive zone by zone guide to wrapping up every achievement you need. You can view all instalments by clicking hereThe printer and screen friendly guides can be downloaded at the bottom of this post.

This week’s ZAGGARAT features Stormwind, the Stranglethorns and Zul’Gurub.

For the last two expansions, Stormwind City has been the Alliance mecca and, without question, now serves as the most significant hub for Achievement hunters in the entire realm. In fact, compiling everything to be achieved in Stormwind required four pages of listings.

Mounts and cooking recipes feature prominently but Stormwind also houses much of Azeroth’s history for the Well Read achievements. It’s the fashion capital of the Alliance, if you call getting a haircut and donning a new tabard fashion and there’s also a disturbing amount of the realm’s cheese available in this one cosmopolitan hub.

Northern Stranglethorn started our four-expansion adventure with those crazy Nesingwarys and was most people’s first experience with open world PvP. Has anyone else ever thought that the goblins in Booty Bay look a little too much like BDSM Leather Men for comfort? Fitting, I suppose, since many of my first PvP encounters occurred outside the Gurubashi Arena and felt like I’d paid for such services.

The Stranglethorns now are a treasure-trove for Pet Battlers. The schism that divided Stranglethorn Vale into the North and Cape also gave rise to lots of interesting new quests, so if you haven’t completed the zones since, they’re worth a look.

The return of Zul’Gurub heralds the return of the prized Razzashi Raptor and Zulian Panther mounts at a staggering 1% drop rate. And I, for one, can assure you how much I missed farming Zul’Gurub every week during those few months of reprieve to help my husband maintain his car… er mount… status. /end sarcasm.

Despite everything there is to be accomplished here, it’s a good time to talk about what’s not included in these Zaggarat Guides.

Reputations and factions: I’ve included how to procure the windfalls of gaining reputation that help earn other achievements like Mountain-o-Mounts and Thirty Tabards but not the achievements associated with earning reputation themselves or any notes on how to.

Daily Quests: achievements associated with daily quests haven’t been included here. Daily quests tend to be associated with a faction or a secondary profession. So while the Twilight Highlands ZAGGARAT may indicate you need to fish up a Striped Lurker for The Catalcylsmic Gourmet, it won’t tell you that you need to complete three cooking dailies to earn the tokens to buy the recipe in Stormwind.

Those sorts of achievements will be covered in a separate guide.

Low-level dungeons: ones like Stormwind Stockades, that don’t have a heroic mode, any boss-by-boss achievements and can easily be soloed by a 90 are included as a breakout section in their relevant city or zone and don’t have an entire page devoted to them.

PvP: this is a world of achievements unto itself. I have included some of the open world and city PvP achievements like For the Alliance! and Gurubashi Arena Master, but PvP achievements will, on the whole, be covered in another series.

World Events will also be covered separately, although by the time I’ve finished every other guide I’ve an idea for, it may be a Level 100 guide.

Next week: Ironforge, Dun Morough, Loch Modan and the Wetlands.

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(Editor’s note: I just wanted to say what an amazing feat Jemima has pulled off with these Zaggarat guides – if you find them as incredibly useful as I have already, please use the donate link below – proceeds will be forwarded onto Jem for her work)




WoW Zone by Zone Achievement Guide Part 1: Elwynn, Westfall, Redridge and Duskwood

WoW Zone-by-Zone Achievement GuideWelcome to ZAGGARAT ( Jetsai’s Zone-by-Zone Achievement Guide for Getting Across the Realm with Alliance Toons), a comprehensive zone by zone guide to wrapping up every achievement you need. You can view all instalments by clicking here.

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m an achievement whore.

I was pretty proud of the some 10,000 achievement points I’d managed to accumulate when I quit playing WoW a month or so into Cata. So when I returned to the game for MoP with a new main, I secretly knew it would only be a few weeks before the stigma of venturing around with a paltry few thousand points got to me and I’d have to farm up my “I’m no noob” points again.

I looked for a guide that could help satisify my addiction efficiently. What I wanted was a guide that could take me zone by zone and get every conceivable achievement while I was there.

The Loremaster and World Explorer are easy to get, but there are a lot of additional achievements in later zones that slip through the cracks: hunting rare spawns, finding lore objects and returning lost treasures to some old codger.

I also want to do my fishing achievements: The Oceanographer, The Limnologist, The Scavenger. Cooking achievements have historically been extremely tedious requiring many trips to the AH, back to the zone and to vendors to purchase recipes I forgot to get. I want to buy and eat everything I’m supposed to for the Delicious series and farm up all the mats so I can cook up the Gourmet achieves in one go at the end.

Then there’s mounts and pets. Pokemon brings a whole new form of torture to pet collecting. It’s no longer a question of doing a continent hop to half a dozen different vendors, spending a suspicious amount of time with the neutral Auction House master in Booty Bay, and camping some rare spawn spots. There are literally hundreds of pets to catch and collect now, so I need to know which pets to battle and catch while I’m in that zone.

Plus I need to buy all my tabards, get my old-school dungeon and raid achievements and those pesky miscellaneous ones Like Archmage Xylem’s trials, reading the entire history of Azeroth, a series of unnatural associations with Squirrels, getting down with the Nesingwarys, getting beaten up in Gladiator rings on every single continent and spending lots and lots and lots of gold on useless things.

There had to be a guide out there that could deliver me all that – Googling “wow Achievement Guides” returned pages of online lists sorted by exactly the same categories Blizzard provides. Googling “wow Achievement Guides by zone” returned me exactly the same list with the Explorer ones at the top. Curse gave me nothing broad or overarching. Zygor looked promising but a trial demonstrated I had to keep switching out new guides and starting the zone over again – I wound up doing the Cape of Stranglethorn six times over and still lots of little things got missed.

With every option exhausted, I decided to compile my own and I present Chapter One to you here – Jetsai’s Zone-by-Zone Achievement Guide for Getting Across the Realm with Alliance Toons. Ok, so the name needs a little work… but ZAGGARAT will do for now. In this guide, I start in Elwynn Forest, move on to Westfall and Deadmines, then Redridge and Duskwood listing everything you need to do to complete ALL the achievements sorted by sub-zone. I’ve included waypoints and some notes as well as a map for each zone with icons to indicate what you’re supposed to do there. The paths roughly follow the questing order throughout the zone, so if you’re not working on your Loremaster achievement you may find it quicker to work from one end of the zone to the other.

I’ll continue to release new chapters each week working through all the zones on all the continents up to and inlcuding Pandaria. Next week, we tackle Stormwind and the Stranglethorns.

I do need to note, this is a pretty old-school guide. There’s nothing fancy about it. I list subzones by their names, not a set of co-ordinates, although those are included where possible and it’s designed to be printed out and placed in a ring binder –landscape fashion. The map goes at the top and the sub-zone list below.

Why? Well I don’t have the programming skill to develop and in-game assistant like Quest Helper or Zygor, but honestly I think old school is good sometimes. For one I hate alt-tabbing – having all the information on my desk next to me to view at a glance is great. Moreover, this game isn’t even close to an exact, step-by-step progression and things don’t happen in the same order for all people.

I find a battle-pet on one side of the zone, you find it in another. Someone just farmed out my entire quest area so I’ll move on and come back later. Plus, as a 90, you have the choice to start pretty much anywhere. I chose to start at the beginning but you could easily do the zones in whatever order you wanted to: start in Outlands, do the zones backwards or alphabetically, do the dungeons as you go or assemble them into a collection of their own and do them with a group – just mix up the pages in your binder.

And finally, I think there’s something really satisifying about actually ticking a box with your own hand. Yellow highlighter pens are pretty good too.

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(Editor’s note: I just wanted to say what an amazing feat Jemima has pulled off with these Zaggarat guides – if you find them as incredibly useful as I have already, please use the donate link below – proceeds will be forwarded onto Jem for her work)

The Third Edge: 1.4 Balancing for Mercenaries / Commandos

The Third Edge is devoted to everything Bounty Hunter and Trooper. Our resident guru in the area, Jemima, knows her stuff and what she doesn’t know she knows where to find it. Drop Jemima a line if you have ideas for future columns!

The news of coming Mercenary/Commando changes in 1.4 has been out for a day or two now and as usual the ‘balancing’ is nothing if not contentious. To this end, I’ve put in my own two cents and assembled a few of SWTOR’s leading theory crafters in the world of all things Mercenary and Commando to give us their ideas, insights and predictions as to what these changes are going to mean for all of us.

The Expert Panel:

JEM plays Jet, a Valor Rank 73 Mercenary, as well as a Shield Tech Powertech on the Dalborra server and is GM of Aftermath, a leading 16-man progression guild.

KRIPT is one of the Dalborra server’s most renowned PvP Mercenaries and a member of Notorious Synergy.

AERRO is an Arsenal Mercenary and an officer of Chosen, a 16-man World Progression guild on Prophecy of the Five and is the author of the MMO Champion guide  ArsenalBountyHunterAreYOUDoingItRight?

Onto abilities:

Electro Dart and Cryo Grenade now have a 10-meter range

Jem says: This is a nerf. To be able to use our one and only stun we now need to be in melee range, and that’s exactly where we don’t want to be.

Kript says: This change was more for the Powertechs but has also affected Mercs / Commandos. BioWare should have noticed this and changed the range back to 30m for this AC.

Aerro says: If I looked at this without taking all things into consideration, this is most definitely a nerf. We may or may not have gained things to offset this nerf, but overall it is a nerf. Our utility in Huttball (Arsenal/Gunnery) already felt minimal.


Using a crowd control ability on an already controlled target now applies reasonable Resolve gain values by comparing the incoming control effect to the greatest of existing control effects. As a result of these Resolve changes, unorganized teams will no longer pay huge penalties for overlapping control effects at critical moments.


Jem says: Resolve won’t fill up as quickly allowing more and longer CC times. Fantastic if you’re the one dishing it out. Not so great if you’re the recipient. I think Bioware intended them to be Marauders/Sentinels, but I have a nagging suspicious we’re going to be an unintended casualty here. Beyond the universal 2-minute release from everything, most classes can free themselves from at least some forms of cc every 20-45 secs. Yet we can only Degauss once every 2 mins if talented.

Kript says: This is something I need to see for myself when 1.4 is out. Resolve has always been a touchy subject on the forums and I want to test this before making judgement.

Aerro says: In a way I am glad for this change. Even when queuing with 3 others, you get players on your team with poor CC knowledge that sometimes change the match for the worse. However, Mercs/Commandos are going to soon be on the low end of this change. Having Tracer as our primary, getting interrupted means running around in fear for what seems like forever. Adding in the CC changes means we will now run around in fear followed by being CC’d while we watch our friends die.


Mercenaries and Commandos now have a 30-meter interrupt, Disabling Shot. This ability interrupts the target’s current action and prevents that ability from being used for the next 4 seconds.

Jem says: Look, an interrupt is a good thing. Healers should no longer be able to kill us with the same speed a Marauder/Sentinel or Sniper/Gunslinger does and it’s a meaningful change for PvE. But I’ve been a long-time proponent of that fact that an interrupt was not going to be our panacea in PvP. Our dependency on Tracer Missile/Grav Round makes us a one-column temple. We need a way to stop being interrupted far more than we need a way to interrupt others.

Kript says: Well it’s about time, right? We have been asking for one on the forums for months and the amount of times I’ve been rejected from a raid group or rated WZ because of no interrupt is staggering. Good move BioWare.

Aerro says: I whole-heartedly agree with what Jem has stated. An interrupt being added to our skill list is definitely a nice PvE change, especially for those of you who raid in an 8-man environment. Having more interrupts readily available is a positive for this. As for PvP, our utility was to put the pressure on the healer or DPS and use melee as the interrupters. It may be a 12-second cooldown, but I would much rather have an ability that made Arsenal Mercs / Gunnery Commandos immune to interrupts for a select duration. Bodyguard Mercs / Combat Medics already have that with Energy/Combat Shield, so I much would rather have a talented form of that.


Afterburners / Concussive Force: Rocket Punch / Stockstrike now immobilises the target for 4 seconds instead of knocking it back. Damage caused after 2 seconds ends the effect.

Jem says: This was the change I was looking for – an immobilisation ability I can near on spam.  But I needed it IN ADDITION to the Rocket Punch knockback.

By my calculations I need around 24 seconds of casting time and 30 seconds total to kill an opponent with decent gear and a few abilities that mitigate or offset damage – like bubbles, heals and temporary immunity. Surely balance in PvP is giving me the potential to do that and then relying on my skill to achieve it? This change gives me about half that time and replaces a knock-back (which most classes can’t mitigate) with immobilise (which many can). It’s actually a big, fat nerf and it makes ledges in PvE HEAPS less fun.

Kript says: I’m against this move and I’ve gotten very heated on the forums about this. The knock-back has been a huge part of my play style. As a ranged class we need to keep our distance from a target and, yeah sure, we can run back, but other classes have something to close that gap, ranged can keep shooting, Powertech / Vanguards can pull us back and others can leap to us just  few seconds after.

I would have loved to have seen it changed to ‘Rocket punch knocks target back and roots target for 2 seconds’. BioWare have let Mercs down with this change.

Aerro says: I’m not quite sure why this change was even added. The suggestion forums exist for a reason (so I thought), and nowhere did I see this as one of the major suggestions offered by the community. A root is great, but not when our kiting abilities are already lack-lustre. Rocket Punch / Shockstrike was a great way to cut a few GCDs out of melee on you, but now it seems only useful if you’re *running*. Rather than give us more of a reason to run, I would appreciate something that stopped us from having to run, such as a knock-back that roots the target when talented.


The knock-back previously caused by this skill generated enough Resolve that it was actually detrimental to the Mercenary / Commando’s ability to further escape the attacker.

Jem says: Interesting. I wonder if an external factor forced them to switch to an immobilise rather than change the amount of resolve applied by knock-back.

Kript says: Was resolve the issue here? In PVP you want to time everything and when you knock them back you want to make sure your target isn’t coming back right away, by staying on high ground and knocking them off. Well then, resolve wasn’t an issue.

Aerro says: Generating half a resolve bar for a Rocket Punch knock-back was absurd to say the least. If it were cut in half or just removed, I think the community would have appreciated that more than having the new version. Again, more emphasis on Arsenal Mercs / Gunnery Commandos having to escape targets instead of ‘manage’ them.


Tracer Lock / Charged Barrel: Now each stack additionally reduces the activation time of your next Healing Scan / Advanced Medical Probe by 20% per stack.

Jem says: This one is my absolute favourite!! I would argue that if I can get 3 tracers off on the same guy and keep the stacks up I probably don’t need to instantly heal myself for less than a med pack. But, I didn’t think it was possible to link another thing to Tracer Missiles / Grav Rounds, let alone a heal, so well done there. Completely unexpected. [/sarcasm]

Kript says: This got me excited! A 3rd instant heal, if used right. A 5-stack takes no time to get up. Add that with a Power Surge / Tech Override heal and a WZ med pack we can get 10 -13k health back in no time at all. Some may think it’s a little OP, but I guess we will see.

Aerro says: After testing this on the PTS, I can say that I definitely love this change. I haven’t had a first look into its affects in PvP considering there were zero queues, but I can imagine that it is probably one of the greatest strengths of this patch. As for its usage in PvE, unless heals are seriously scarce, its most likely going to be avoided by those trying to maintain their highest DPS possible. It does get rid of your Tracer Lock stacks on use, so ‘wasting’ it on a heal will not only take away a GCD from your rotation, but also nerf your Rail Shot in the process.


Pinning Fire: This ability’s snare has been increased to 70%.

Jem says: I’ve never really noticed the effect of this in PvP, maybe the extra 20% slow will make a little difference but it’s only for 2 seconds, so I don’t think it’s going to be a game breaker.

Kript says: I personally don’t use Pinning Fire. I’ve felt the slow isn’t really needed in PVP because of too much open space and not a lot of room to kite.

Aerro says: This change does not seem like a buff, but more so a form of balancing. Expect to see little to no results from this change, so take this ‘buff’ lightly. The only benefit of this talent seems to be against melee… who aren’t after you. Most melee have a major gap closer, so slowing them down doesn’t change much, especially if their gap closer is a leap. It’s still a positive change so I’ll take it. It’s better than nothing, right?


Over to you: what are your thoughts on the 1.4 changes?

/gchat: Swings, Roundabouts and Blenders

/gchat is an ongoing column on guilds and the fun, conflicts, laughs and rage-quits they contain. If you have a topic you’d like covered, drop our guild guru Jemima Moore a line!

Raid Team Selection. Yep, I said it. It’s a dirty word. It’s an ugly word. Ok, it’s three words but I’m bringing them out of the closet and shining a light on the shabby, shameful, heart-wrenching world of raid team selection – no holds barred.

The oldest and arguably most maligned way to assemble a raid team is the Playground Panel.

It comes in many forms from “everyone be on at 7 and we’ll see who’s on” to “I’ll be picking teams based on class balance and gear” and is often characterised by a green wall of furtive questions around  7:15pm AEST: “Are we raiding tonight?” “What time is it starting?” “Have invites gone out yet?” It may seem harmless enough, but rest assured it’s all a euphemism for “I’m too lazy to care about anyone ‘cept me and mah boyz.”

It’s a bad system. Designed and perpetuated by a select few who want the maximum number of warm bodies to fill raid slots for the minimum effort. It promotes elitism, anxiety, dissent and disappointment as even the most seasoned raider can’t help feeling at least a momentary lump in the throat wondering whether they’ll get to go – and only the biggest narcissist will leave someone behind without at least a momentary twang of guilt. The best case scenario is you didn’t set aside an entire evening for nothing and the majority of the team made it through the selection process with enough confidence intact to actually perform.

Thankfully, this arcane system of selection has evolved and most guilds have moved on to more structured modes of selection. If yours hasn’t, I suggest you shop around.

The Rotating Roster with a Team Split Twist is the most common of these. Guilds divide their raiders into fixed, over-sized teams and schedule the extras on a rotating stand-by schedule.

It’s a much fairer method and provides a lot more flexibility in terms of attendance. Plus there’s an argument that sticking with the same people in the same roles makes progression easier and more efficient. There are some hidden drawbacks though.

Tanks and healers are typically not rotated as much as dps. If they are, it falls on a few members of the team to maintain two sets of gear and the skills to fill those roles on odd nights.

The counter-argument to easier and more efficient progression is reduced development of skills across the broader team which often makes the next fight harder. Plus, you’re back to wiping a few times on a boss you usually one-shot when that key taunter/runner/add collector isn’t around.

It sucks to have your standard rotation night come up just after you spent an entire evening wiping on a boss and know the team will kill him next raid without you. The only things that sucks worse is having it happen twice.

Unapologetic 1980’s reference foisted on this great post by the sentimental Editor

Then there’s the ‘guild killer’ that’s more insidious than cancer: the A-team / B-team split. One team due to subtle (or not so subtle) differences in make-up, happens to progress faster than the other. Maybe that team has an extra taunt, a speed boost or a min/maxing dps of a certain class that makes a hard boss just a little easier. The acquisition of gear and new skills they’re developing skyrocket them ahead of the other teams and A-grade egos develop in line with an A-team tag. As the gap in progression widens, so does the ability for players to interchange teams and, over time, the individual groups become insular and cliquey. A vicious circle ensues until one day someone wonders out loud why they’re tolerating the whiney/egotistical pack of QQers/l33t jerks on the other team at all. There’s usually casualties.

All too frequently, guilds with this make up can’t ride the ebbs and flows of raiding through multiple expansions and inevitably one team breaks away to form their own guild ready to start the cycle over again.

In order to overcome these problems, some guilds are now guaranteeing raid spots for players willing to commit to 100% attendance (or close to it) and are mixing raiders up from lock-out to lock-out. I call it “Will it Blend?” and Aftermath tried it this season. It’s not a perfect system by any stretch but it does engender whole-guild camaraderie, significantly reduces the drama surrounding kills and loot drops and that in turn develops both loyalty and pride in oneself and the guild. It also requires a team of skilled and committed raiders who show up every week ready to do anything but that’s kind of a chicken and egg thing. The downside is that without guilded raiders on stand-by, real life getting in the way becomes a huge issue. Assembling and balancing teams each week is no small issue and maintaining a wide and varied friends list to PUG from takes a lot of time.

As an aside, Murphy’s law holds true every time – a PuG will always win the /roll on set gear. And finally, when there’s no side door to nudge a lacklustre player to, it occasionally forces you to have conversations that are more honest than you’d like.

I can’t help but think there has to be a middle ground. On the one hand, it’s a game and requiring 100% attendance for a hobby is pretty hard core. On the other hand, less than 100% attendance when multiplied by the number of people in your raid team, means that somewhere between 7 and 24 people that set aside their evening are adversely affected to at least some degree every single raid.

In a good MMO, raids are hard enough that the individuals in the team need to work pretty hard on their class, their gear and their research to be there in the first place. Yet developers don’t allow any flexibility in raid size or balance for sickness, working late, someone’s 21st birthday, wife aggro or the Grand Final. Guilds and players are expected to somehow overcome real life and field a team of an exact size and class balance each and every week.  Working within these limited parameters, it’s hoped that Raid Leaders can minimise disappointment, inconvenience and drama while providing a fulfilling and satisfying group experience for a set of highly competitive and motivated individuals.

Anyone else think these mechanics are somewhat at odds?

What BioWare, as a developer, has done to help is make a point of supporting server communities.  On the Empire side of Dalborra end-game raiding guilds have embraced that. The GMs of Prophets of Agony, Tenacity, First Legion, Reach (now part of Violation) and Aftermath formed a network of guilds that “borrow” raiders from each other for the night or the week. We try and make sure all our raiders get a run through somewhere and we try our best to help each other out with any bodies we can muster when another team is short. There’s still a healthy dose of competition between the guilds, but there’s just as many woots and gratz in /1 Denova on Wednesday night.

Again, it’s not a perfect system but it is better than the sand-box shenanigans we suffered in primary school.

I’d love to hear your stories of the best and worse raid team selection techniques you’ve come across.