Friday, June 27, 2014

Pokémon Geneticist: Making Tournament Ready Eevee From Scratch

Next month GameFreak is hosting an online tournament called "Eevee Friendly" for Pokémon X and Y, which is basically a tournament around a single Pokémon and it's 8 possible evolutions. Way back when at the beginning of my blog, I was working on breeding an entire set of near-perfect Eevee, so I figured this would be a good time to finally try out the online tournament scene.

All Eevee, all the time.
My Eevee army is complete; I have six different types, decked out with crafted move sets, stats, and natures (personalities). Given the effort, I figured I'd deconstruct the steps to both have everything I need in one spot, and to give folks an idea of what really goes on to get tournament-ready critters.

Step 1: Understanding the Lexicon

One of the first things you need to do is basically understand what we're aiming for, and to do that requires some basic groundwork.

All Pokémon have six stats:
  • HP
    • The total amount of damage your critter can suffer before they faint ("die").
  • Attack (Atk)
    • Moves that use Attack to help determine damage have a red and yellow star beside them.
  • Defense (Def)
    • Reduces the damage you take from moves that use the Attack stat.
  • Special Attack (SpA)
    • Moves that use Special Attack to help determine damage have a blue and purple set of circles beside them.
  • Special Defense (SpD)
    • Reduces the damage you take from moves that use the Special Attack stat.
  • Speed (Spe)
    • Determines who goes first in a given round. In case of ties, order is assigned randomly.
These stats are determined by combination of a Pokémon's base stats, Individual Values (IVs), Effort Values (EVs), nature, and level.

The base stats are identical for all Pokémon of a given species, and have the most influence over the final stats. For example, all Pikachu have 55 base Attack, and 90 base Speed. At level 100, a Pikachu with no EVs, IVs, or nature would have 115 Attack and 185 Speed ([2 x Base] x Level / 100 + 5). HP ends up being a little bit more, with ([2 x Base + 100] x Level / 100 + 10).

For the most part, just note that the higher the base stats are, the better. If you want something that is speedy and crushes your opponents with Earthquake, finding a Pokémon with a high base Speed and Attack is probably a good start.

Individual Values (IVs) are something I talked a lot about last time. These are basically the "genetics" that create variation in your Pokémon. They're generated at the point where you encounter the Pokémon (either in the wild, or in egg form), and are immutable. There is an IV for each stat: HP, Attack, Defense, and so on. Each IV can range from 0 to 31, and at Level 100, will add that amount to the stat.

So a Pikachu with a 15 Speed IV will have 200 Speed at Level 100 (185 from the base stat, 15 from the IV). Ideally, you want 31 is as many useful IVs as possible. I say useful because not every Pokémon uses every stat, usually in the case of Physical versus Special attackers.

Effort Values (EVs) are the nurture portion of nurture versus nature. They're basically XP for specific stats. Whenever you defeat another Pokémon, they're worth some amount of EVs. For example, if your Pikachu were to defeat a Charmander, Pikachu would get 1 Speed EV.

A Pokémon can have a maximum of 252 EVs in a single stat, and a total of 510 EVs across all stats. This makes choosing which stats you want to boost important, because you have a very finite number to apply. At Level 100, your stats will be increased by 1/4th of the EVs for that stat.

So our Pikachu with a 15 Speed IV, and 90 base Speed, if we trained him to have 200 Speed EVs, he would have 250 Speed total: 185 from the base stat, 15 from the Speed IV, and 50 from the 200 Speed IVs.

In Pokémon X and Y you can see your EVs via the Super Training window. The middle dark chunk is your IVs (and nature, I think), and the outer yellow portion of the graph is your EVs. The bar on the right is how close to your maximum of 510 EVs you are.

Finally, a Pokémon's Nature can also change the spread of a Pokémon's final stats. Some natures have no effect, others will reduce one stat by 10% and increase another by 10%.

All told, your Pokémon's final stat allocation is as follows:

With thanks to Bulbapedia for the graphic.
IVs, EVs, and Nature are all under your control as a player. Basically, the higher the better for IVs and EVs, and find a nature that makes what you want to focus on go higher, and lower a stat you don't care about.

Step 2: Choose your Pokémon

Simple, which Pokémon do you want to use? When you're picking for a larger team, you want to make sure you have things like type coverage (you don't want a team where most of your critters are susceptible to say, fire attacks), and different roles for different critters. If you have nothing but Special Attack sweepers (a critter who does little but makes super-powerful attacks once it's been set up with stat boosts), you're going to get creamed by someone with one or two Special Defense walls (a critter who has really high defenses/HP and often has moves to support those defenses).

For the Eevee Friendly tournament, thankfully, my choices are limited to nine: Eevee and the eight evolutions. With each Pokémon having only a single type, and some having type counters, but not others, it makes thinking about the metagame interesting., but far more finite than the game as a whole. For myself, I ended up choosing a tank (Vaporeon), a staller (Umbreon), three sweepers (Flareon, Espeon, and Jolteon), and a baton passer (Leafeon).

Tanks often can take a lot of damage and still dish some out. Stallers inflict various conditions that do damage over time, then try to hold out for a period of time while those conditions do their job. Baton passers refer to a specific in-game move, where you set up some positive status conditions then "baton pass" to switch to another Pokémon, who would inherit those positive conditions.

Step 3: Determine IVs, Natures, Abilities, and Move Sets

Once you've determined who you want to bring, you'll want to figure out what you're aiming for. As an ongoing example, I'll use my Espeon.

Espeon are often used as Special Sweepers, and that's my primary aim here. Since Espeon won't be using the Attack stat, the IV for Attack can be zero for all I care, but I want 31s in all the other stats--note that getting a 6 perfect IV Pokémon is extremely unlikely, whereas 5 is totally doable in a couple hours. I also want to emphasize the Speed stat at the expense of the Attack stat to make it more likely that I will go first in a round, so I want an Espeon with a Timid nature.

Pokémon abilities are a special attribute which usually have positive effects in battle. Espeon can have one of two abilities: Synchronize, or the hidden ability Magic Bounce. Hidden abilities cannot just happen. You need to have caught a Pokémon with the hidden ability and pass it down via breeding. Since I didn't do that, I ended up with Synchronize, which causes any status ailments inflicted on Espeon to also be inflicted on Espeon's opponent, which isn't too shabby. Since that's the default, nothing extra for me to do here.

Finally, the move set. As a sweeper, I want to make sure I have a bunch of special attacks in different types to ensure the maximum number of types that I can inflict double damage on. Since I decided against cross-breeding moves from other Pokémon, there was nothing else to do here but select moves from Espeon's levelling list and/or technical machine list--TMs are items which can teach moves to Pokémon. Not all Pokémon can learn all moves.

For Espeon, I selected:
  • Psychic
    • A powerful Psychic-type special attack.
    • Since Espeon is a Psychic-type Pokémon, it gets a 50% boost in power on this move.
    • Learned from levelling.
  • Dazzling Gleam
    • A powerful Fairy-type special attack.
    • Useful against Dark-types such as Umbreon.
    • Learned from TM.
  • Grass Knot
    • A moderately powerful Grass-type special attack.
    • Useful against Water-types such as Vaporeon.
    • Learned from TM.
  • Reflect
    • Reduces damage from incoming physical attacks for 5 turns.
    • Leafeon and Flareon are both strong physical attackers, and the Eevee line tends to have better SpD than Def.
    • Learned from TM.
Step 4: Get Your Pokémon, and Start Breeding

To breed more Eevee, you need to have an Eevee first. Since all Pokémon from the Friend Safari start with at least 2 IVs maxed out at random, I started with Eevee from there. Catch a whole bunch, then go to the Kiloude City Pokémon Center and talk to the guy on the right-hand side of the screen.

When he checks out your Pokémon, he'll say, "Incidentally, I would say its greatest potential lies in its <best stat>." He'll also append other stats if the IVs are equally as good. For all Eevee from the Friend Safari, he should say at least two stats and end with, "Stats like those... They simply can't be beat!" If he doesn't end with that sentence, you don't have any IVs at 31. I lucked out and got a couple 3s.

A neat trick for keeping track of which IVs are 31 is to mark them on the Pokémon status screen. In the screenshot above, you'll see 6 symbols outlined in pink. When you touch one of those symbols with the stylus, it darkens, and when you touch it again, it reverts to light. A standard way of marking IVs is to darken any symbols corresponding to a stat, starting from the left: HP, Atk, Def, SpA, SpD, Spe. These markings stay with the Pokémon, even when traded. I've gotten a few from Wonder Trade that were already marked up, because Wonder Trade is a great way to get rid of your failures. If you get lucky and get a 4 IV Pokémon, I suggest squirreling it away for future breeding.

You'll also want to make sure you have at least one Eevee with the nature you want, or it'll be a pain to fix it later when you're relegated to chance.

Once you've gotten an Eevee with decent IVs (2 or 3), and another Eevee with the nature you want (and also preferably decent IVs), you need to give the Eevee who's nature you want an Everstone. This ensures that the offspring will have that nature, removing luck from the process.

For the other Eevee, you'll want to give it a Destiny Knot. Normally in the breeding process, 3 IVs are chosen at random, then pulled from a random parent to be given to the offspring. For example, the system could pick Attack, Defense, and Speed, and choose the mother's Attack, the father's Defense, and the father's Speed. The other 3 IVs would be completely random between 0 and 31. With the Destiny Knot, the system picks 5 IVs from the parents, and only randomizes 1, making it easier to get 5 perfect IVs down the line (which is why getting 6 is such a pain).

So once you have those set up, drop them off at the daycare to get them to make babies. Wander around for a bit, checking with the man in front of the daycare every couple hundred steps (note steps, not time). Eventually he'll have an egg for you! Rinse and repeat until you have 5 eggs.

Fly to Lumiose City and go to the tower. You'll note that the screen rotates in a circle automatically if you just hold to the right or left. Get on your bike, shove a dime under the thumbstick to get it to stay to the right, and let the game go. Eventually, your eggs will start hatching. When one hatches, just spam the B button until the dialogs all go away, and let it run again until all 5 eggs have hatched.

You can speed up the hatching process by using the Hatching O-Power, and/or have another Pokémon on you with the ability Flame Body, which halves the number of steps it takes to hatch eggs. For me, I have a Talonflame with the ability, because it can also fly me to the other cities, meaning fewer Pokémon to switch in and out of my party for the process. It's also native to the game, and easily found.

Once your eggs hatch, take them to Kiloude City's IV checker, and figure out which Eevee are better than your current ones. If any of them are actually better (more perfect IVs, and/or more desirable perfect IVs), replace the current parents with the better ones, and repeat until you have your 5 IV Pokémon with the correct nature, remembering to move the Everstone and Destiny Knot the appropriate Pokémon.

Do note that in the process, you're more likely to get what you want if you choose Pokémon with perfect IVs in the stats you want, and garbage in the stat you don't want. It's easier to get perfect IVs for all but Attack if you breed a Pokémon with HP, Def, SpA, and Spe (often denoted 31/x/31/31/x/31) and a Pokémon with HP, SpA, SpD, Spe (31/x/x/31/31/31). Note on both Attack is garbage, and the other garbage stats are covered by the other parent. You're quite likely to get a perfect 5 IV but garbage Attack Pokémon with this setup. Shouldn't take more than 10 - 15 eggs unless you get really unlucky.

Also note that if you get other 4 or 5 IV Pokémon, squirrel them away for other breeding projects. For my Eevee breeding team, since I needed 6 of them of different natures and IVs, I saved a whole whack of them. It made further Eevee breeding a snap.

Step 5: EV Training

Once you have your 5 IV Pokémon with the correct nature (in my case, a 31/x/31/31/31/31 Timid Eevee), you'll want to start EV training immediately, because every time you knock out a Pokémon, you get EVs. To prevent getting EVs in stats where you don't want them, you'll want to make sure you only knock out Pokémon who give you the EVs you want until you're maxed out and can't gain anymore.

Since my Espeon is a special sweeper, I want a lot of speed, and special attack. So I'll aim for 252 Speed EVs, 252 Special Attack EVs, and have the 4 left over in HP for the extra 1 HP at Level 100.

With Super Training, you can play minigames to increase your Pokémon's EVs, which is a fun way to pass some time. But the fastest way to train EVs is to get some items from the Battle Maison, and then go find Hordes.

For 16 Battle Points (BP), you can buy a Power Item: Weight, Bracer, Belt, Lens, Band, Anklet. Holding a Power item gives your Pokémon 4 extra EVs in a specific stat (HP, Atk, Def, SpA, SpD, and Spe respectively) every time it knocks out a Pokémon. So that Charmander from before which gives 1 Speed EV? If your Pokémon were wearing a Power Bracer, it would get the 1 Speed EV and 4 Attack EVs. Or it could wear the Power Anklet, and get a total of 5 Speed EVs!

The next thing you want is for your Pokémon to catch a virus. That's right, a virus. The Pokérus is a benign virus that can randomly occur on Pokémon, but the odds are quite small. If you do manage to get infected, it's a cause for celebration! Having the Pokérus, or having been cured of it (which occurs naturally after 24 hours in your party) doubles the EVs that you get. So those 5 Speed EVs? If your Pokémon had the Pokérus, you'd get a whopping 10 Speed EVs instead!

If you do a lot of Wonder Trading, chances are you may have gotten a Pokémon with Pokérus, as kind souls give them out to help other trainers. Honestly, it's the most likely place to get it unless you know someone who'll give it to you. Once you have a Pokémon with the virus, just have them in your party next to uninfected Pokémon and have a couple battles. Eventually, the virus will spread to adjacent Pokémon. You can keep the virus indefinitely if you put the critter in your PC, and then whenever you need a Pokémon to catch the Pokérus, bring them out, and run a couple of battles. Note neither the infected or infectee need to participate in the battle.

You'll also need the Exp Share item, and it should be turned on. This allows experience earned by your Pokémon to be shared among others who are in your party, but did not participate. This also includes EVs. Note that while Experience is halved, EVs are not: the full value transfers.

Finally, you'll want a Pokémon with the Sweet Scent move. When this move is used in the field, either in a cave or in the grass, if you can encounter a horde, you will (unless it's raining). Since hordes are usually five of the same Pokémon, they're extremely efficient at earning EVs.

If we were to run into a horde of 5 Charmander, and our EV training Pokémon is in our party but not battling, holding a Power Anklet, and the Exp Share is turned on, we'd expect 50 EVs from a single battle! Given that we want 252 in a single stat, that's 6 battles and we're finished for that stat. Pretty damn quick. Bring another Pokémon with a move that will hit all enemies, like Surf, and you're good to go.

The most efficient routes for grinding EVs are as follows:
  • HP - Route 5
    • Gulpin give 1 HP EV a piece. Run from other hordes.
  • Attack - Route 19
    • Weepinbell and Arbok both give 2 Atk EV each.
  • Defense - Terminus Cave
    • Durant give 2 Def EV, Geodude and Aron give 1 Def EV.
  • Special Attack - Frost Cavern
    • Vanillite and Smoochum give 1 SpA EV.
  • Special Defense - Reflection Cave
    • Mime Jr. give 1 SpD EV each.
  • Speed - Route 15
    • Murkrow give 1 Spe EV a piece.
If it's raining in an area, check the link above for alternate areas.

For my Espeon, I needed a Power Anklet (for speed) and went to Route 15 for a while, then a Power Lens (for special attack) and went to the Frost Cavern for a while. For the 4 HP EVs I just donned a Power Weight and knocked out another horde of Vanillite since I couldn't gain anymore SpA EVs (and could only get the HP EVs).

Step 6: Round Out Move Set, Level, and Evolve

The final step is to round out the move set by either levelling and/or using TMs. Since I didn't carry over any moves I wanted from breeding, everything for my Espeon was levelling (Psychic), or TMs. I just used the TMs, and evolved Espeon and levelled him up until I had Psychic. Then my move set was complete. Since the tournament reduces your level to 30, anything above that was wasted effort (unless needed to learn a move).

And bam, rinse and repeat for all my Eevee. All in all, it took probably a good 12 - 15 hours or so to get the entire team tournament ready. Since I was using only one base Pokémon (Eevee), step 4 took a LOT less time in aggregate compared to breeding 6 disparate Pokémon. It also helped I had a lot of the items and helper Pokémon required (mostly through playing the story, thankfully). But all-in-all, despite the crazy lengthy process, it wasn't terribly complicated.

The tournament starts July 11th and ends July 14th, so we'll find out how well I do. Here's hoping I do okay!

#Pokemon, #Guide

Monday, June 23, 2014

[WoW] Guild Kill Montage Video from Siege of Orgrimmar

I was going to do up a post about Wildstar dungeon difficulty, but I want to do a bit more research still. Instead, this weekend I finally put together a montage of our guild's run through Siege of Orgrimmar, taking our first kill videos, slicing them up, and putting the raid story together.

I used Sony Movie Studio Platinum 13.0 for editing, Audacity for sound, and FRAPS for recording.

It was fun to put together, but a lot of work. About an hour's worth of editing for a minute of footage. Took about 20+ hours total over the weekend. The raid is just way too damn long, even dropping Spoils (because boooring), and doubling up some of the middle filler bosses in split screen.

Some of the highlights are the Galakras kill, where our Druid tank ended up soloing the last 9% of his health or so. Siegecrafter you can watch our boomkin get pinballed and saved, then I get pinballed and died. Lots of the kills ended up by the skin of our teeth, too, like Paragons, Shaman, and Sha. Garrosh himself is actually two takes: one of our actual first kill, where I brought a DPS with strong off-heals (Enhancement), and one of our 3rd kill, where I was 2 healing on my Paladin. Made for a fun exercise comparing the two.

I will note that Sony Movie Studio Platinum is amazingly powerful, and terribly buggy. Rendering a movie would often insert static in the sound or video, and one render to another it would be different places. However, if you save your project and recycle the application, you get a nice clean render. Not sure why they have such an awful bug, but I have a few guesses.

Anywho, there it is above, all 21 minutes of glory. Enjoy!

#WoW, #Personal

Monday, June 16, 2014

[Wildstar] Telegraphing Dropped Cryopods

After seeing Wildstar this and Wildstar that across the blogs I read as well as my Twitter feed, I finally decided to give it a whirl on Thursday. At this point, I’m level 15, and the game isn’t too shabby. The game itself is reasonably fun, and a good, polished take on the Themepark MMO so far; however, getting to play was a trial unto itself.

The first thing I did was download the client. Or try to. When I downloaded the patch launcher, anytime I tried to boot it I’d get, “Cannot connect to patch server.” An auspicious start.

Folks suggested flushing your DNS cache (didn’t work), or use a VPN to connect. The actual “easy” solution that worked for me was to modify my HOSTS file (under C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc on Windows 8+) using notepad and add the following two lines:

Once I did that, the patcher connected just fine.

Once the thing downloaded, I went to the NCSoft site and purchased an account. Went back to the launcher and went into the game. However, when I tried to log in, it said it couldn’t find a North American account and switched it to the EU. And then it couldn’t connect anymore and was stuck.

After digging around my account settings, I realized buying the time/product wasn’t sufficient. I had to apply a code to my account. I realize this is probably to allow for CREDD, but I wasn’t expecting it, and it was mildly vexing.

Back to the game itself, the game couldn’t connect to the EU servers, and wouldn’t flip back to NA. I searched around for a way to switch which region I was attempting to log in to, but nothing existed within the game itself. After some digging on the internet, I found out the region select is in the settings of the launcher, not the game, despite the fact the game was the one that switched me to EU in the first place.

At this point I was about ready to quit. It was seriously the most frustrating process I’ve ever had trying to even start a game, let alone play it. This is a released product? But I had already paid for my time, and damn it all, I was going to get in.

Once in, picking a server with other bloggers (Evindra), I made myself a character. After digging through some of the races, classes, and paths I decided on an Aurin Spellslinger Soldier. I’m pretty stoked about the rainbow punk-rock look that I managed to put together:

Rainbow punk-rocker mouse-person.

The game itself, at least the first few levels, isn’t really different from any other MMO out there. It’s basically what TERA should have been from a whole picture standpoint. Combat is quite similar, and the telegraph system is pretty enjoyable. Some “spells” (because I’m a gun-toting caster) can be cast on the move. Other, more powerful ones need you to be stationary; it makes timing really important, as well as understanding enemy movements and abilities.

It mishmashes sci-fi with fantasy relatively well, and I actually rather like the over-the-top everything. From the voice-overs for the zone introductions, to the nearly 4th-wall breaking comments of NPCs you pass by. I do find the fact that character voice-overs not matching the text quite distracting, though. It’s often close enough that you start reading with it, and when they quickly diverge my brain just shuts down.

So very pretty.
It’s very pretty, as well. However, I quickly ran into issues where the client video and input would freeze, but the sound would keep playing. Windows would eventually kill the client for not responding. This happened pretty much every 10 to 15 minutes for an hour before I finally figured out lowering the graphics settings would fix it. But again, extremely poor performance from a released product, and quite frustrating.

Being an MMO, the gold spammers are already out in full force, and Carbine helpfully provides a way to report spam. Or it would be helpful if the UI wasn’t outright broken out of the box:

Seriously? Fantastic.
I also got stuck in a tiny vertical tent by sitting on a cushion. Thankfully, Wildstar does provide a “Help, I’m Stuck!” button which causes your character to suicide and reappear at a graveyard, but default geometry/terrain where all I did was right-click the cushion.

To put icing on the awful experience cake, on Friday when I logged in and was at the character select screen, I got this helpful error message:

Not actually helpful.
Turns out they have region-locking code that ran amok. Now, to be fair, if the forums are any indication, the issue only occurred for a period of about 30 minutes, so I applaud them for fixing it quickly, especially on a Friday evening. But it’s just one more thing on the pile of frustrations.

I played quite a bit on Friday once I was in, and reached level 12. Some things haven’t been obvious, like how to salvage things from your inventory (I think I missed the tutorial on it), but the ability UI as well as their AMP tree have been quite self-explanatory. I’ve just gotten started in on crafting, and the fact that each profession has a “tech” tree of things to build/discover is amazing. I still like Final Fantasy XIV’s crafting better, but I think Wildstar has a pretty good approach to it here.

The Soldier path is just a bunch of extra combat missions, and I think I’m regretting not picking Scientist or Explorer instead, but at the same time it gave me a ballcap so I could complete my rainbow redneck character fantasy, so I’m still pretty pleased with it.

Hoverbike, military ballcap, mullet-esque hair. Living the dream.
I just reached housing, but I haven't really explored it yet, nor dungeons, so we’ll see how difficult they are. I’ve managed to solo a few 2+ group quests at my level, so I think I’m probably sufficiently skilled to pull them off if they’re as tough as other folks are saying. The game is a solid entry into the Themepark MMO space, but so far doesn’t feel like it has truly set itself apart from any other Themepark MMO aside from the look and feel (which does account for a lot, I realize). The technical issues are embarrassing at best, and subscription preventing/losing at worst—I nearly rage quit before even launching the game I was so annoyed.

I’m sticking around for at least a few more levels—I want to see these reportedly difficult dungeons. But I haven’t seen anything that would make this game supplant WoW for me long-term. Still, it's made for a pretty fun and satisfactory play time so far.

Spaaaaaaaaaace! On an asteroid.
#Wildstar, #FirstImpression

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

[WoW] Illusions of Community Grandeur - Communities in Gaming

Going through University, I actually nearly switched my major from Computer Science to Sociology. I had a fantastic professor who really was passionate about the subject, and it totally shone through when she taught. It engaged me at a level that I hadn’t seen in my education before, or since. Now, I kept on with computer science when I realized I’d rather take a math test than write an essay—yet here I am, writing essays effectively one to two times a week for my blog. Go figure.

One of the things I loved about sociology was the study of people in aggregate. The sociology of gender; social norms and mores; deviance; and community. Linking that to video games it’s clear, especially in the MMO space, that community is an extremely important part. The Internet has changed what a community effectively could be, by eliminating geographical boundaries. People often mention the reason they still play WoW is because of their guild, or their community.

Wikipedia defines community as, “a social unit of any size that shares common values. Although embodied or face-to-face communities are usually small, larger or more extended communities such as a national community, international community and virtual community are also studied.”

A social unit of any size is important to note. A community can be your family, your guild, your server, your game as a whole, the entire gamut of gamers. It can also be aligned with ideas, such as feminist gamers, LGBT gamers, and Christian gamers; all sub-communities of both gamers and their respective shared values. Communities are important, because they shape, validate, and reinforce identity. When communities clash, the results can be illuminating, and/or infuriating.

But at what size does the idea of community become useless to the common person?

In a guild—even a large one with over 1,000 members—there’s a sense of camaraderie, and a set of shared rules, enforced by the guild officers. Sure, you get sub-communities, like the raiders, the questers, the pet collectors, and so on, but there’s still a shared purpose and commonality to the guild as a whole.

Even at a server-level, there can be a pretty tight-knit community. A friend of mine recently moved to the Alliance faction on US-Proudmoore in WoW, and commented that people were, “so damned friendly on this server, it gives me the creeps.” I’m proud of my server community. Proudmoore is the unofficial LGBT-friendly server in WoW, so there’s a large contingent of like-minded folks. If you go to Trade or General, people shut down homophobic commentary pretty quickly.

Numbers, yo.

According to Realm Pop, Proudmoore has 154,548 Alliance characters (the server itself is the 10th most populous realm in all of the US). I have absolutely no data to back this next assertion up, but if we assume the average player has 5 characters on the server, we’re talking about 30,000 people making up a community with a very strong identity. Probably less than that given how many of those characters are probably inactive, so maybe 10,000 to 15,000?

But Proudmoore has its trolls as well. In fact, I would argue that the larger a community, the less homogenous that community will be. You see this every day on the Internet, where even in the echo chamber that is Twitter you have verbally violent dissent. The community of MMO bloggers in which I participate in has polite disagreement and spats every now and then. While differences of opinion are fantastic (because otherwise, how do we grow?), disruptions to a community can be stressful.

Within a small, tight-knit community, it’s easy to enforce those social mores. If you can’t work with a person because they’re being disruptive, excommunicating the douchecanoe is a relatively simple thing to perform when you’re talking about a community of 30 – 50 people. Or even just chastising them. For a server, if most of the server is onboard with certain expectations and someone deviates from them, the rebuke is often swift. Hell, when you look at North American society as a whole, which is a MASSIVE community, and take something like sex versus violence, the majority of the opinion swings in a certain direction. But you have dissenters. And as time passes, the social norms about sex and violence are changing, albeit slowly.

Change can occur much more quickly in small communities, as well. How much easier is it to get your close friends and family on board with your opinion on ladies in gaming versus the Internet at large? But in those small communities, homogeneity also seems to be king. While a large community such as North America can tolerate dissenting opinions, because there are enough members to form sub-communities, a tiny one like your family may not be able to cope with 20% of their members (e.g.: you) having a different opinion or outlook (e.g.: being atheist, or gay, or a gamer).

Tzufit recently tweeted about the “WoW community”. While it is a large community, it’s hardly monolithic. Quite similar to a large city, actually. If you look at London, or Sydney, or Vancouver, or Seattle, while certain, shall we say, stereotypes hold, there are still a ton of sub-communities within each city, and those sub-communities are extremely diverse in their opinions. And it’s possible to be part of multiple communities at once, including ones that don’t generally overlap.

So is it useful to talk about the WoW community as an entity given how massive it is?

I think it depends on the context. If you’re talking about people who are playing WoW, and trends around the game, such as GearScore, or requiring ilvls higher than the content you’d be running, or general attitude in LFR, I think it’s a useful entity to discuss, as that is the commonality between those people—and frankly, I might be pushing that limit considering the fact that WoW itself has a number of sub-games, such as Pet Battling.

I think if you’re talking about a subset of jerks on the Internet yelling at someone because they didn’t like what was posted about WoW, but you have just as many folks saying, “Hooray, good for you!” I don’t think you can attribute it to that particular community. Not to mention, as Ghostcrawler once pontificated on at great length, the silent majority of people who just sit, read, watch, and play. Or they don’t even read or watch; they just play, and aren’t participating in the community outside the game, splitting your playerbase into a small, vocal minority and a large, mute (and effectively invisible) majority.

But at the same time, I also don’t think you can just wave your hands and say, “Nope, not our problem.” It’s similar to the post I made before about underrepresented people in games. If you are silent, nothing will change, so calling people out on their behaviour is probably necessary, or at least vocally disagreeing with it. Which is hilariously ironic, since that’s precisely what the folks who are yelling at someone because they didn’t like what was posted is doing. But that’s how change occurs in a community: someone or some people pushing for said change.

In my opinion, the word community gets bandied about a lot, but I think its usage masks just how large and disjointed WoW’s sub-communities are. Treating that many people in the same way as you’d treat your family or your guild isn’t really useful for discussion. Rather, I’d treat the WoW community as an online society, or gesellschaft. It’s certainly large enough.
#Community, #WoW

Thursday, June 5, 2014

[WoW] A Hasty and Critical Look at the Spirit, Mastery, and Versitility of Secondary and Tertiary Statistics

Blizzard dropped two relatively large dumps of data on us yesterday. The first being a look at secondary and minor (tertiary) stats, and the second being the alpha client. Clearly the second is the bigger of the two, but since I don’t have access to the alpha client, instead I’ll be talking a bit about the secondary stat watercooler and my thoughts on the upcoming changes.

As a reminder, in case you weren’t aware, gear in the next expansion will have Stamina plus a “primary” stat of either Agility, Strength, or Intellect, which will change based on what spec you are—for example, if you’re a Holy Paladin, all that plate will have Intellect and Stamina. If you’re Ret, then it’ll all look like it has Strength and Stamina. This makes gearing simple as far as your primary stat goes. Higher ilvl is better, plain and simple.

Gear also comes with a combination of secondary stats. These stats will be allocated on gear as per an item level budget. In an ideal world, this means that if you got exactly the same benefit from Crit, Haste, and Mastery, then an item of ilvl 650 with 100 Crit and 100 Mastery should be the same as the same ilvl, but with 100 Mastery and 100 Haste. Now, we don’t play perfectly spherical classes with no air resistance, so it won’t be perfect. Some classes will still get slightly better benefit from different secondary stats than others.

Items may also roll minor (tertiary) stats. These do NOT count against an item level budget. They’re purely a bonus. Not all items will have a tertiary stat, and when they do, it won’t always be the same.

Finally, gem slots as well as whether an item is “forged” or not (i.e.: slightly higher ilvl than normal) may also show up on the piece of gear at random.

So, all armor items will have a primary stat that is malleable based on spec, stamina, one or two secondary stats (as per a budget), and may roll with a gem slot, a tertiary stat, and/or it will be forged. Trinkets, rings, and neck pieces will have secondary stats, and possibly extra effects (especially trinkets), and potentially the gem slot/tertiary stat/forged. Weapons I’m still unsure of off-hand, but I think they largely follow the same pattern.

The watercooler talks about the changes, and I recommend reading through it as I won’t be going over it in detail, just my thoughts. However, for ease, here’s the complete list:

Secondary Stats
  • Haste: (Unchanged) Increases attack speed, spell casting speed, and some resource generation
  • Critical Strike: (Unchanged) Increases your chance to critically strike, dealing double damage
  • Mastery: (Unchanged) Increases the effectiveness of your specialization-specific Mastery
  • Multistrike: (New) Grants two chances for your damage and healing effects to fire an additional time, each at 30% effectiveness
  • Versatility: (New) Increases damage and healing, and reduces damage taken
  • Spirit: (Unchanged, healer-only) Increases mana regeneration rate
  • Bonus Armor: (New, tank-only) Increases your armor

Minor Stats
  • Movement Speed: (New) Increases your movement speed
  • Indestructible: (New) Causes the item to not take durability damage
  • Leech: (New) Causes you to be healed for a portion of all damage and healing done
  • Avoidance: (New) Reduces your damage taken from area-of-effect attacks.

First thing you may notice is that Amplify and Readiness are gone. And frankly, good riddance.

Amplify had strange effects in terms of making all of your other secondary stats even more powerful. However, it would quickly snowball into being the best stat quite easily. Why go for 3% extra Crit when you could have 1% extra Crit, Mastery, Haste, Multistrike, Spirit, Bonus Armor, etcetera?

Readiness also had odd effects. It’s easier to make things like Haste and Crit relatively equal, but for a stat like Readiness? If you’re an Enhancement Shaman, where a LOT of your DPS comes from cooldowns, Readiness easily becomes insanely powerful. When you’re a Retribution Paladin, who in WoD will only have Avenging Wrath, effectively, Readiness becomes extremely lackluster. Why go for Readiness when really you could just go for Mastery or Crit and get a passive 30% boost to your throughput? The balance there just couldn’t be reached. I’m intrigued by the stat, don’t get me wrong. I will miss my 3.45 minute Fire Elemental come WoD, because I love him so, but at the same time, it seems to me to be a little wonky as a stat.

Multistrike isn’t terribly complex as a stat. It’s basically a slightly steadier version of Crit, really. Less damage per strike (since Crit doubles your damage but Multistrike only increases it by 30% - 60% depending on if you get one or two), but you’ll trigger it more often. With a visual effect similar to Dragonwrath or Echo of the Elements, it’ll have a bit more visual oomph than Crit which will probably make it more fun. The only real difference between Crit and Multistrike will come in as class flavor, like Frost Mages triggering Brain Freeze off Multistrikes instead of Crits.

Spirit is the same as always. Now with it only available on jewelry pieces, however, I wonder how swingy regen will be if you have it on one item versus all of your items? With triage healing making a return, raw throughput becomes quite important, and a balance between Spirit and other secondary stats I think will be an interesting question.

Bonus Armor isn’t great. It’ll be useful on physical bosses; it’ll be useless on most other bosses with magic damage. I think tanks, as usual, will want multiple trinkets and will be switching them out as needed.

Versatility is brand new, and at first blush sounds extremely overpowered and not much different from Amplify. The devil is in the details, however. With a boost to healing, damage, and damage reduction, it has the potential to be extremely interesting. Clearly it won’t be equal to the other secondaries for anything they do. I’d expect 1% Crit to be a bigger damage or healing boost than the Versatility rating required to boost damage 0.5%. But the fact that it does all three things makes it a potentially attractive option for hybrid roles and tanks.

Take, for example, the Enhancement Shaman. Look below to see an excerpt from our guild’s 10N Malkorok kill last night. I pulled 114k HPS as Enhancement, and still pulled nearly 300k DPS. As one of the only off-healers our raid has (everyone else is a pure DPS class), my off-heals are powerful and important for being able to two heal encounters; I’m usually like half a healer (Malkorok is an anomaly that I can take advantage of to pad my numbers in a way that still helps the raid). A stat like Versatility which boosts both my heals and my damage would be amazing for my role.
Malkorok 10N. Note the icon on the left for my Shaman's spec.
For tanks, where it increases their damage, healing, and reduces damage taken, it could be a good defensive stat. It depends on how active mitigation works out in the next iteration, as it will be competing with Haste, Crit, and Mastery, depending on the class.

Another case could be the entire raid stacking Versatility to reduce the overall damage taken. Imagine an entire Mythic raiding team using enough to reduce total damage taken on a healing intensive fight like 5 to 8%, and benching a healer and adding another DPS instead. That could be the difference between a kill and a wipe when you’re talking that cutting edge.

It still has an amplify-like effect, though, as the faster you can cast spells, or the more often you can crit, or the more Mastery you have, the harder your abilities will hit in the first place. It also kind of impinges upon Mastery’s place in a lot of classes, like Retribution Paladins, whose Mastery is a straight up damage boost in the form of an extra Holy attack. I’m not sure how much thought they’ve put into it yet.

For the minor stats, nothing too ground-breaking here. Movement speed is nice, but not surprising. Cleave going away is also not really surprising, given how meh it was for DPS and awesome it was for healers. Indestructible is a fun little bonus, wouldn’t mind seeing that on my weapons since they always break quickly (hooray dual-wielders). Avoidance is interesting, and I can see that being useful for tanks especially, but honestly with the amount of AoE that goes out in WoW, it’s probably great for anybody, really. Leech giving you a percentage of your own heals is great, too. I loved getting that on my Paladin in the past.

Overall, I’m enjoying the changes. Versatility could be terrible or really interesting, and I’m happy they shelved Readiness and Amplify. I like the fact that gearing will be similar to Diablo III’s style, but since we have much smaller loot tables and know exactly when loot will drop (but not what will drop), it feels more acceptable to me to have the chance of getting something perfect, but more likely you’ll get things that are decent. What gear we’re shelving for offspecs because of the primary stat malleability will be taken up by having more pieces with different secondaries/tertiaries, and that feels like a more interesting gearing strategy to me. It remains to be seen what the “drop rates” on tertiary stats, gem slots, and the forged attribute will be, but personally I am much happier with the new system in theory than the current.
#WarlordsOfDraenor, #Blizzard