Category: New Players

Dec 09 2014

Gearing up at Level 100

The Warlords of Draenor expansion is underway!

With Highmaul Looking for Raid wing 1 opening today, I thought I’d take a look at the various ways to gear up your characters for those of you looking to advance into raid content. Whether the goal is moving into Mythic, Heroic, Normal or even LFR, progressing your gear at the cap is something many players will want to do. There are a ton of ways to gain gear this expansion including many new ways just introduced through Garrisons.

Questing

Questing in high level areas (Nagrand and level 100 areas) often rewards higher item level blues. Remember that with the new random roll system, you may get lucky and have any of these roll to a superior reward of epic quality! Get started on your end game gearing by working through Nagrand‘s quests.

You can increase your odds for these upgrade rolls by building a War Mill (Horde) or Dwarven Bunker (Alliance) in your Garrison.

Rare Mobs

Draenor is filled to the brink with rare mobs, many of which have a very short respawn timer and have a chance to drop blue gear that might be useful to your character. The item level of the blue gear varies depending on the zone and the level of the mob, so for the best chance at useful upgrades for a level 100 you want to look at rares in Nagrand and level 100 questing areas, which can drop ilvl 615 and 620s.

However, you only have a chance to receive loot the first time you kill a mob on that character, so you basically only get one chance at the loot. If you’re unlucky and it doesn’t drop, camping the respawn for repeat kills will not help you.

Dungeons

One of the simplest avenues for upgrades is to jump into five man dungeons. Normal mode level 100 dungeons award ilvl 615 gear, which will at least prepare you for heroics. Heroic dungeons drop ilvl 630 gear which can roll “warforged” and upgrade to ilvl 636 if you’re lucky. Keep in mind that in order to do heroic dungeons, you will need ilvl 610 and must beat Proving Grounds at at least a Silver level in order to queue in your desire spec.

Challenge Modes

Challenge Modes are a particularly lucrative source of gear, and you only need to finish them – not earn a medal time.  For each Challenge Mode daily you complete, you will receive a Challenger’s Strongbox which contains a random ilvl 640 epic that is appropriate to your spec. The epic is a guaranteed drop in each box and has a chance to roll warforged for a higher item level and a chance at a gem socket or tertiary stat bonus.

Legendary Ring Chain

This expansion’s first legendary is a ring, which starts at ilvl 640 and upgrades multiple times. Everyone who desires to put in the time and effort can work on acquiring one of these rings. The first two steps of it are fairly easy to get, as they only require five man content:

The first ring is item level 640 and requires you to complete the Skyreach dungeon on either normal or heroic and loot an item from the final boss. The second ring is item level 680, and requires you to complete four specific heroics and gather about 5,000 Apexis Crystals.

(further iterations will require raiding)

PvP

If you like PvP, you can hop into Battlegrounds or Ashran to purchase ilvl 620 gear via Honor Points.  If you like more competitive PvP, you can get ilvl 660 via via Conquest Points which can be earned via daily randoms, ranked play, and various dailies/weeklies in Ashran and in Nagrand.

Crafted Gear

Many crafting professions this expansion can create ilvl 640 epic pieces with random stats. This includes Blacksmithing (plate armor), Leatherworking (mail & leather armor), Tailoring (cloaks & cloth armor), Inscription (weapons, off-hands, trinkets), and Jewelcrafting (rings & necks). Engineers can also make Goggles, but these can only be worn by other Engineers. You are limited to wearing three crafted pieces — combined across all profession crafting — at a time, but having all three can be a huge boost to your item level.

The recipes for these pieces are purchased through the crafter’s Garrision profession building, and each piece require a large amount of materials that are made via daily cooldowns and work orders, which slows the amount of time it takes to acquire enough materials to make these pieces. For this reason, crafted gear can be expensive on the auction house right now. However, since they are BoE, there is nothing to stop you from setting up a Garrison on an appropriate alt and making them for yourself (or begging a kindly guild mate)!

Each profession also makes items to reroll the stats on these items in the event they are not ideal. These pieces can also eventually be upgraded to higher item levels with more costly materials.

Garrison Mission Rewards

When your Garrison followers start reaching item level 615, you will begin to receive missions that reward ilvl 630 loot for successful completion. When your followers hit ilvl 630, they can start bringing you back raid-quality epics.

Garrison Salvage Yard

Build a Salvage Yard in your Garrison. When you’ve upgraded it to level 3, you will start receiving Big Crates of Salvage any time your followers successfully complete a level 100 mission. These boxes have a chance to contain random ilvl 665 epics. The more missions you successfully complete – the better your odds!

Apexis Purchase

You can also purchase ilvl 630 gear using Apexis Crystals. Some of these also require reputation with corresponding factions.

Keep in mind that Apexis Crystals also used to purchase Seals of Fate used in raid bonus rolls and are required for your Legendary Ring quest, so you may find that it is more useful to save these for other purchases.

Molten Core

Until January 5th only, as part of the 10th anniversary of WoW celebration, a scaled up version of Molten Core is available through the Looking through Raid finder. Completion awards a Corehound Mount and an ilvl 640 hat appropriate to your class/spec.

You do need ilvl 615 in order to queue for the special MC raid.

World Bosses

There are also several world bosses in Warlords that drop raid quality loot. Right now, you can look for Tarlna and Drov in Gorgrond, which have ilvl 650 loot tables and give you a chance at loot once a week.

Rukhmar will be added in the future, and will drop ilvl 665.

World Drops & Black Market Auction House

And, of course, if you’re insanely rich, you have a couple more options. You can keep an eye on the BMAH, which can have some raid quality gear available for purchase (this includes Mythic quality!) and there are also BoE world drop epics out in the world which may find their way to the regular auction house for very hefty sums.

Lower raids

And, of course, you can work your way up through raid tiers, starting with Highmaul LFR, through normal, heroic and then Mythic.

The first wing of Highmaul LFR opens today and is pretty quick and painless.

 

GOOD LUCK GUYS!

Jul 20 2013

Proving Yourself in Proving Grounds

This PTR build of patch 5.4 introduced a long-awaited feature to the game: Proving Grounds!  Proving Grounds are solo scenarios where a level 90 player can test their skill in their chosen role against wave after wave of enemies that get progressively harder.

•  As a DPS, your job is to kill the mobs before the next wave spawns.  It’s just you and your toolbox of spells and abilities to burn them down, interrupt their heals, and keep yourself alive.

•  As a tank, your job is to protect your NPC healer by picking up the mobs as best you can, interrupting them, and using your own cooldowns to survive.

•  As a healer, your job is to keep your party alive.  Your party is a team of NPCs – a warrior tank, an assassination rogue, a hunter and a mage.  The AI is pretty smart — they are good about interrupting and focus firing — while still being realistic in the sense that they are occasionally being slow to get out of fire or meandering out of your healing range.  You’ll need to do a lot of healing and dispelling here.

If you fail in your role objective, you get a failure message and the mobs despawn and you have to talk to the NPC to start again at wave 1.  If you get “killed,” you are actually just reduced to 1 healthpoint – so no death repair bills!  You do take wear-and-tear durability damage, though, and there is an NPC inside the instance who can repair you.

Healer PG

Goals

Proving Grounds can serve several useful functions:

  • First and foremost: it is something fun to do!
  • It gives new players a safe but real-time environment to practice their skills and improve their play.  Whether you’re new to the game or just new to a role, PGs are a wonderful place to hone your skills without worrying about irritating or — worse — killing four other players in the process.
  • If gives players a place to test out particular talents, glyphs, as well as fiddle with their addons and keybinds.

Gear Scaling

To make sure Proving Grounds are a challenge of skill and not of who simply has the best gear, all equipment is scaled down in a similar fashion to Challenge Modes.

  • Gear scales to 463
  • Gems do not scale
  • Set bonuses do not count

Unlike Brawler’s Guild where players can hit a ceiling on their success because their gear is subpar (or get further because great gear gives them more margin for error), the equalised equipment means ranking accurately reflects true skill.  Of course, if you’re exclusively a tank or healer, you can’t do Brawler’s Guild at all!

You can use flasks and foods, but not potions; they didn’t want you to have to bring stacks and stacks of pots just to make it through.  There is a soulwell for health cookies, though!

There is also a reforger NPC in case you need to make any gear tweaks, and a vendor who sells  Tomes of the Clear Mind so you can tweak your talents and glyphs as much as you need.

Tuning

First the obligatory disclaimer – All of this can change!  Proving Grounds are a brand new feature and it’s possible Blizzard may shift their goals with what they want with them.  Additionally, right now the tuning on the PTR is really easy — far below what I was told was intended (and what I outlined below). It is likely untuned right now, but being the PTR I imagine they will be tweaking them quiet a bit over the next month or so.  Give them a try, leave feedback on the tuning whether you prefer it harder or easier!

You begin with bronze mode.  The plan is for bronze to be tuned to a player ready to step into heroic 5-mans, so this should be easy for just about everyone.

After you beat bronze, you can step into Silver.  If you’re a normal mode raider, you should be able to make it through this level, with maybe some difficulties in the final waves.

After that comes Gold.  Beating gold is intended to reflect comparable skills to a player that is ready to raid heroics.  Expect to use your whole toolbox to make it through Gold.

After you beat Gold, you are eligible to try Endless mode.  Endless mode, as the name implies, has unlimited waves of increasing difficulty.  Each wave does a percentage more damage and has an equal percentage more health than the one before it.

Your furthest wave will be tracked so you can come back try to beat your high score later, and so you can compete with your friends.  Although there are no in-game leaderboards like for Challenge modes, this information is tracked in your character statistics and can be pulled up in the armory, so expect third party sites to run rankings eventually.

Rewards

There are achievements for reaching each rank in each role, as well as surviving 20 waves into Endless.  There will be titles, as well.  “[Name] the Proven [Healer / Tank / Damage Dealer]” probably earned by completing Gold for a given role.

Perhaps later other rewards will be implemented, but that’s it for now.

I got the opportunity to test Proving Grounds a couple weeks early thanks to an awesome dev, but now they are a little more polished and available for everyone to try.  Just speak to your class trainer* or the NPC in the Temple of the White Tiger in Kun Lai Summit to be sent in.

 

* NYI this build – go to Kun Lai

Outside Resources

 

Dec 14 2011

LFR Tool: Raiding Lite™

The new Looking for Raid (LFR) tool is a new avenue of advancement introduced in 4.3 for characters.  Out for a few weeks, the feature has had enormous popularity with players.  For those of you who haven’t experienced it yet, here is an overview based on my experiences using it.

LFR is raiding with training wheels.  To compensate for throwing a bunch of strangers together, many of whom will be inexperienced or underskilled or just bad as following directions, the fights are stripped down and tuned to be very, very easy.   They are designed to be successfully done provided at least half the raid is conscious and capable of following basic instructions, a difficulty level that is arguably necessary to ever get anything killed in such an environment.  As a result of their ease, they offer low quality loot — just slightly better than the new heroics — and lack the perks of regular raiding like achievements, epic gems and Valor-points-per-boss (LFR awards VP only for completion), or the ability to work on the tier’s legendary.

To use it, one queues through an icon on the menu bar like with random dungeons, and is automatically matched up with 24 other players.  It can be done multiple times a week (although you only have one chance at loot), and will not lock you from doing the raid on normal mode.

Organisation

The group is composed of two tanks, six healers and seventeen DPS.  The fights are designed to always use this same comp, so there is no need for dual spec or talent switching during the raid.

Raid leadership is on a volunteer basis.  To queue as a potential leader, one must check the box on the queuing window along with their usual role – same as is done for the LFD tool.  If the raid leader leaves, a new one is assigned from amongst the other volunteers.  Raid leaders get no special perks or powers and mainly exists as a way of saying “yes I will give any new people instructions if they want them.”  Unlike with a real raid group, here the leadership rarely is required to do anything different than any other raid member, although you shouldn’t volunteer for the job if you’re not interested in explaining the fight mechanics.

Players are in and out of the raid group constantly.  It is not uncommon for people to leave mid-fight, or to start a boss down a few people.  The tool is very efficient about replacing these people the instant a group leaves combat, but the fights as also easy enough that the empty spots are rarely a problem.  For this reason, no player should feel intimidated about having to bow out before a run is finished; it is possible no one would even notice.

Niche

LFR has such a huge scope of utility across all spectrum of players, that it’s hard to just pin as “raiding for casuals,” although this is the thing it is typically billed as.

However incomplete that statement might be, though, it is still very much true.  With the difficulty level so low, even someone who has never played in a raid environment can stumble through it successfully.  The tool is an amazing way to let players see the raiding content they might have not otherwise dared to try.  The DPS checks are minimal, and even a few stronger players can balance out a handful of inexperienced ones.

Additionally, with the [currently] very short queues for DPS and healers, players who don’t raid due to lack of time may also find LFR to be an exceptional tool.  Not longer do forays into raiding content require regularly scheduled groups and hours and hours of attempts learning new bosses and farming old ones.  Instead, these players can opt for a limited “demo” version of the raid instance on their own schedule as an alternative to seeing nothing at all.  Currently, both wings of Dragonsoul in LFR take about an hour each and with so many players in and out constantly, it is not harmful to your teammates if you need to bow out even earlier.

Another advantage is that LFR provides a way for all players, serious or casual, to have an opportunity to try raiding on an alt that they wouldn’t have otherwise raided on.   Whether you just want to get more familiar with that class, or take a break from your main, or practice with them for a potential re-roll, the tool can fulfill this niche.

The LFR tool can also be extremely helpful as a tool to help seasoned raiders become familiar with the fights in advance.  Although the stripped down nature make it nearly useless for learning the mechanics themselves, seeing even the basic version of the fight can be helpful in figuring out position, learning spawn points for adds, what that special mob or ability looks like visually, and getting a general feel for the way the particular fight works.  Instead of just watching that tankspot video, now you’re immersed in it, and you can control the camera angle and zoom yourself. Paired with a written guide or a video, I’ve found the LFR tool to be immeasurably helpful in understanding a fight.

Finally, let’s not discount the huge advantage LFR provides for gearing up new players, alts and rerolls and for filling in gearing holes on raiding characters.  It also allows for main raiders to get their set bonuses faster and get small upgrades more often, and the nerfed tier pieces will still work towards completing a set bonus.  Lastly, as a source of Valor Points, you might choose to get the currency to buy those VP items through LFR rather than LFD.  Although its steeper item level requirement means you can’t just waltz in as a fresh 85, the requirements can still be met by doing the new heroics rather than raiding.

Success Ratio

Queuing at least once weekly on four characters, I’ve had very good luck in terms of success with my LFR groups.   Most bosses take just one or two tries to down, with ample forgiveness for mistakes.  Trash wipes typically only occur when someone facepulls several packs or the boss itself (or both in the case of the slime boss).  The worst group I’ve encountered spent 45 minutes just on the first boss of part 2, which is still a good deal faster than a real raid might take, and they still went one to one shot every following boss.  In the best group, I’ve cleared part 1 of Dragonsoul in just over a half an hour on my lunch break.  The raid is definitely succeeding it its goal to be painless and easy.

Loot

You can roll on loot for each boss in LFR once per week. Once you’ve already beaten that boss, you will be ineligible to roll on loot from that boss again during the week if you continue to queue.  Many of the items are now limited to particular appropriate classes (ie, a rogue cannot roll on a strength sword).  Roll bonuses are given if you are ‘need’ rolling on an item for the spec you are queued as, so if a piece of intel/spirit mail drops, the resto and elem shaman will have an advantage on it over the enhance spec’d one, but the enhancement shaman may still roll for their offset without worrying about the item getting dusted.

The system is far from perfect and is still peppered with bugs and oversights, but overall it is a large improvement over LFD.

Attitudes

Just as any environment in which anonymous strangers are thrown together and forced to interact, LFR certainly contains its share of jerks.  Every group has the one DPS who spams Recount after every attempt to brag about his numbers, and the other guy who spends more time bitching about the weaker DPS than he does doing his own job.  You do encounter those two people who get in a fight over something petty and insist on holding up the entire raid so they can bicker over it.  And yes, there is the guy who tries to publicly shame anyone who makes a mistake or taunt everyone who dies with “newb!”   There are also people who are abusing the system by joining then going AFK, and those lazy people that don’t want to help with trash or run back after a wipe.

However, I have been largely impressed by the bulk of groups.  For every asshole throwing a tantrum, there are three people telling him to shut up.  I have encountered players who have made special effort to explain the fights to the people that ask, who give helpful call outs and reminders, who present solutions instead of complaints.  There are those people who are cheerleaders and in the face of others bitching can say, “we were really close, we can do it, we just need to be a little more disciplined.”   There have been people who win duplicate loot and gracefully hand it out to the second highest roller.  I have seen more people booted for being a jerk than I have for making mistakes or doing low DPS.

Overall, I’ve found it to be a smoother and more enjoyable experience than doing PuG five mans.  The jerks are diluted in a sea of people, and the bad players don’t hurt the raid’s success and there are always at least a couple good and patient players to help teach the inexperienced what to do.

My conclusion on LFR is that it is a wonderful tool that many people will find useful and/or enjoyable.  Since it is only a few weeks old, I suspect that once the novelty wears off and people are capped on valor goodies, the demand for running it will decrease and queue times will grow.  Nevertheless, it is reasonable to believe it will still be one of the most popular game features Blizzard has ever implemented in WoW.   Love it or hate it, the thing is clearly a hit.

Aug 20 2010

New Players & WoW’s Learning Curve

Today I want to write about newer players and the learning curve for a game like World of Warcraft. Compared to many other MMOs, World of Warcraft has a low learning curve. It is friendly to newer players and fairly easy to pick up even for people who haven’t gamed before. WoW proves this by appealing to a very wide demographic that you probably wouldn’t find in, say, an FPS player base. You can also see this in Blizzard’s famous 11-million-subscribers figure. But while the basics of playing WoW are simple, the massive size and complexity of the game and its vast world can make truly learning all the ins and outs a daunting task. Much of the game requires outside research and preparation in order to perform adequately enough for any group work.

Learning to play the game “right” is something established players rarely need to think about and, if they joined to play with mentoring friends, potentially something they have never had to consider. Yet much of the latest game development has brought this issue to the forefront. Recently many of us have started encountering “less knowledgeable” players frequently via the new Looking For Group dungeon tool. There has also been a great many changes in recent patches (and planned in future ones) to make the game more accessible or, as dissenters might frame it, “too easy.” With these types of players impacting everyone’s gameplay, the issue is now relevant to all WoW players.

Whether it’s the Death Knight wearing spell power, a mage that is incorrectly gemming for crit, or a rogue still playing combat daggers, many of us have found ourselves frustrated at these players. Doesn’t he know anything? How hard is it to look up the correct talent spec? Everyone knows ability X does more than Y! But it’s not that simple, and such judgments are, at least partially, unfair.

I didn’t fully realise how much about WoW I’ve really learned outside of the actual game or from friends who also played until I bought my father an account as a gift. I gave him the very exhaustive run-down of all the basics, which are more than five minutes of explanation. I showed him the various hotkeys and shortcuts, the way to control his character and access the game menus, maps, social pane, spell book, etc. I explained his abilities, the questing system, how to find things in the world and in cities, how to tell if something is worth saving, class roles, professions he could learn. I informed him about the bank and auction house, and told him about needing to repair and train weapons. I had to go over how to communicate, and how to specify if it went into a private whisper, or was out loud, or in party or guild, and when it was appropriate to talk where. Then, thinking he was set, I left him to his own devices thinking he would figure out the rest by exploration and experience.

However, when I checked in on him when his character was around level 30 (which is a only a handful of hours of gameplay, even for a brand new players) and found he’d spent no talent points — if fact, didn’t even know what they were because nothing in-game explains them to you. He was also wearing [white] vendor gear because it had “more armor” than some of the greens he was getting from quests. I told him magic items were better and that armor didn’t matter very much, only to catch him wearing cloth with useless stats for him at a later date. So then I had to explain that only some stats on magic armor were good for him, and that was followed later by me having to explain why that spell power item was bad for his hunter even though it had hit and crit on it which I had put on the list of useful stats for him. And so continued the endless cycle of me being frustrated with him not understanding and his being frustrated because I was seemingly contradicting myself and not making any sense. Even explaining something as simple as buying an epic mount reflected what a vast divide there is between his perspective and that which I am used to (“Why do I need to go faster? If I’m going a long distance I use the flight master anyway”).

Whew.

Think about the following questions: How do you know what specs are “best” for leveling, that someone probably doesn’t want to level as a holy priest or a protection warrior, especially if they’re still learning the game or aren’t playing with a friend? Why isn’t “mana per five” something they want on their mage, even though they use mana? How do you clarify armor classes to someone without misleading to them to think that armor is more important for non-tanks than it is? And how would you explain why a piece of cloth armor piece with stamina, intell, and crit is bad for their leveling warrior after you just told them that crit is useful for them, stamina is decent, and armor doesn’t really matter? Furthermore, how do you explain the differentiation on why stamina is something that you don’t gear for but that it’s nice if your armor has it, but intell is something you don’t gear for and isn’t really okay if your armor has it? How do you clarify the ambiguities of all those kinds things that don’t really matter, except when they do? How do you enlighten someone as to the delicacies of why it’s better they let the hunter take that gun, even though it has stats on it that are useful to their rogue? Where in-game do you learn about the existence of enchants, belt buckles, and armor kits, if you don’t have one of those professions? How do you know that you can put a green gem in a red socket, or whether you should?  How do you learn the value of professions in the first place, especially what they will mean in “end game?”  For that matter, how does one know definitively that a particular piece of armor, or enchant or gem or glyph or talent or ability is “worth” more than another?

I always took these types of things as blatantly obvious before but now I was beginning to see that they are pretty complicated to a player who is new to the game, and especially confusing to a person who unfamiliar with the RPG/MMO genre entirely. Today my father has six 80s (he levels them quickly and then immediately retires them after reaching the cap) but still asks me questions that kinda horrify me. He’s an intelligent man, but not only is he not a part of this “world” of outside reading and research, I don’t even think he realizes this world exists. It just doesn’t occur to him that not only do people see it as a “big deal” if you’re not doing things perfectly correct, but that people go as far as to run simulators and use spreadsheets and argue on message boards as part of the process of determining what is correct.  And even if they knew, it would probably sound like absolute madness that we do these things for a game.

It may sound bizarre to the people here. As evidence by the fact you’re reading a WoW related blog, you are the kind of person who already uses resources outside of the game to improve your characters. However, players like you and me make up a minority of the player base. For the average WoW player, it probably has never even occurred to them to do outside “research” on a game. There are tons of people whose relationship around WoW is limited to the times between opening and closing the client. Those people may not even realise things exist beyond that. So something is not made apparent through regular gameplay, they’d be oblivious of it through no fault of their own.

On top of struggling with all of this, newer players also have to face negative judgment from older players who take for granted all the knowledge they’ve acquired over the years, who assume that everyone should know the correct way to spec or gem intuitively and who resent players that don’t do so as “lazy,” even though it is fully possible that many of these players don’t even realise there is such thing as a “correct way.”

It is perhaps time, with this in mind, that we learn to adjust our tolerances and, when really exasperated, aim for educating not berating.