Thursday, August 6, 2015

4.43. Guitar Hero in Hell

Mature clocks in at a full 2k under Hells
as the 25-Man defeats Heroic: Chimaeron,
Blackwing Descent

Right in the Feels

Omaric's exit from DoD opened up a new position for a ranged officer. I'd approached Mangetsu once before, but he politely declined, unsure of his ability to commit to the necessary demands of leadership. While mulling it over one evening, I decided to return to Karazhan to farm for Attumen's mount.

As ghoulish melodies of the harpsichord belted out of my speakers, I was immediately reminded of Goldenrod, the mage who'd been my officer back in The Burning Crusade, and who had recently returned to 25-Man progression. I'd been spending more time with Goldy, both in-game and out, thanks to the convenience of my new job flying me out to California every few months.

Goldy, too, had done well to take heed of his own vulnerabilities. He'd grown from a player willing to cancel his Blizzard account in a fit of rage over a ticket fiasco, to defending himself against cancerous attacks that challenged his ethics (and keeping a cool head throughout the ordeal). During one of my business trips, I extended the position of ranged officer to Goldenrod, and he humbly accepted.

Goldenrod was DoD's last ranged officer.


Sentimentality nearly always gets the best of me. The amount of time I spend dwelling on the past is probably a little extreme. If there was ever any doubt, allow me to point out, dear readers, that you're in the midst of reliving a story which ended four years ago. This kind of sappy melancholy isn't typical amongst gamers who carry themselves as if every day is a clean slate. At times, I get a little disgusted with myself, just on principle. It's a game. Move on with your life.

It's those damn external triggers. For me, nearly all of them are steeped in music. Fire up a song from a particular WoW soundtrack and my mind instantly rewinds to that moment in time. Netherstorm's hollow echoes as lightning cracks across the barren purple landscape, and I'm immediately reminded of Divinepants trying to finagle his way back into the guild. Black Temple's orchestrations will always remind me of Ater's final days in the guild. Even Alliance music does it: Elwynn Forest catapults me right back to Vanilla, right where it all started. It's a fun party trick; try it on me if you see me at the next BlizzCon.

I'm sentimental because I'm an emotional guy...I have a box of broken keyboards to prove it. Coming to terms with that part of me was evolutionary. Learning that my affinity to punch keyboards affected my decision-making changed how I made decisions.  Knowing that, if left unchecked, my emotions could lead me down a dark path, they could be used against me by those seeking their own agendas. It's OK to reminisce fondly about times that have passed, but clinging to old ways on account of tradition is a path with too much zeal for my tastes. Be objective with decisions, look at it from all angles.

And remember that gut instinct is statistically more likely to be right.

...just know that the Halo Effect applies to your perception of more than simply people.

Mature sizes up his dual wield gear next to Hells,
Ebon Hold

End of the Honeymoon

Unholy was pissing me off.

The spec I grew to love in Wrath was history. I tried everything I could to acclimate to the death knight changes, but after five months of swapping to DPS whenever we secured two tanks, my DPS wasn't where it needed to be. There is nothing more pathetic that a player whose only claim to fame is denial. When that player happens to be the guild leader, it's flat out inappropriate.

The Blizzard hype machine was on overdrive when the death knight changes were announced for Cataclysm. I'll admit there was a brief and torrid love affair with Dark Transformation, when my ghoul first grew to twice its size, cleaving its way through a pack of trash. And Blizzard's description of Dark Simulacrum made its spell-copying ability read like unfulfilled necrotic desires were now within reach of Mature's pallid fingertips. Oh, you gonna Mirror Image, mr. mage? Let's see how you handle three death knights.

In reality, Dark Transformation's uptime was awful, and micromanaging the timing to increase it left wide gaps in unspent runes, downgrading both Mature's effectiveness and my enjoyment. It was difficult to get right on a dummy, never mind the chaos of a Heroic: Magmaw attempt. And as for Dark Simulacrum, it ended up a nerfed, barely-realized fantasy. A million spells in World of Warcraft, and death knights ended up being able to copy...about four.

Maybe I'm exaggerating. But it felt like four. And that didn't feel very fun.

I put on my big boy pants and took these cuts in stride. There was still plenty to like (including Necrotic Strike). What I could not turn a blind eye to, however, was the new rotation. Or lack of a rotation, to be specific.

In Wrath, there was an implicit contract with the death knight. If you want to burn all six runes in as fast as your globals would allow, knock yourself out. It could also mean you go for a long period without having any runes to spend. But the disciplined death knight (an oxymoron, I know) would easily get into a rhythm that had runes cooling down at a rate tempered by how quickly their runic power was burned. By having the runes cooldown simultaneously, one could get into a solid rhythm, moving back and forth between runes and runic power, but still be able to burn all six in nearly a heartbeat, if there was cause.

The rotation was easy to master. I could stand with the best melee in the guild -- Blain, Jungard, Hells -- and use a boss like Deathbringer Saurfang to make sure everything was in alignment. Saurfang was our Patchwerk, and while I'm not about to sit here and debate his difficulty (hint: he's not), I made no secret about looking forward to the fight every raid evening. It was the one place guildies couldn't claim problems like "too much moving around" or "lag affected me too much" or one of a million other excuses why their numbers weren't where they should be. Saurfang was the benchmark, and every kill gave me an opportunity to ensure my rotation was exactly where it needed to be.

Perhaps I was in the minority in thinking the death knight rune system was working pretty well out of the gate. Blizzard didn't think so. The claim was that our play style was essentially "rune locked": that we only had enough globals to burn each rune as it cooled down, forcing us into a locked rotation that was too penalizing if we strayed. Some death knights seemed to yearn for a system more random, more up to the player at any given moment. Some call that a more "dynamic" system, a more rewarding play style.

I saw the logic of the "rune lock" argument, and looked forward to what lay ahead.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock

"Driving Instructor" isn't a Career, It's a Sentence

Now in Cataclysm, runes cooled down sequentially, rather than simultaneously. It was easier to stray from the rotation because there really wasn't a rotation -- runes ended up sporadically appearing, one-by-one, in a slow-as-molasses style that wasn't anything even remotely close to a "rhythm". This was the side-effect of the new system. A rune would not cooldown until its equivalent partner cooled down. It was clunky. It felt like Mature was perpetually tapping his foot, looking at his watch, waiting for the right rune to reset.

The odd slowness of the new rune system was immediately felt in early Cataclysm beta. To offset this, Blizzard gave frost death knights Runic Empowerment, a talent that jelled with frost's proc-like style. But for Unholy, we gained a different talent: Runic Corruption...or what I like to call "Guitar Hero in Hell".

Runic Corruption was a talent that had a small chance to proc when we spent Runic Power. When it proc'd, rune regeneration would double for three seconds. This was Blizzard's halfhearted attempt to resolve the sluggishness of the death knight that was introduced with runes cooling down sequentially.

Since my rune addon of choice was DKIRunes, I'd configured my UI to have my runes cooldown in a vertical animation, coming to rest at the screen's dead center. The effect was not unlike the lanes of multicolored buttons that stream towards a musician as they rock out on a plastic guitar in the various Rock Band and Guitar Hero style music rhythm games. With Runic Corruption proc'ing, I expected to get Mature back into his groove, ramp up the speed and eventually hit a new momentum in which I was spending runic power, procing Runic Corruption, lighting up the runway with runes as they poured down my screen in double time, and repeating the process.

In practice, it was a constant state of speeding up and slowing down, which felt like the first day of Driving School. The whiplash of constantly lurching forward, then screeching to a halt. then lurching forward again. You were either doing 60mph...or nothing, but you weren't doing either for very long.

I tried everything I could to get into the groove that Runic Corruption promised, to hit that steady stream of runes flowing down the screen. But the groove never materialized, and week after week of "good intentions" did little in the way of contributing DPS to our heroic attempts. I faced the truth: this wasn't Wrath, and I needed to stop pretending it was.

Cataclysm's Unholy was clunky, awkward, and most of all: not fun. But even more than any of these, Cataclysm's Unholy prevented me from realizing Mature's full potential. As the music of the death knight wing in Naxxramas piped through Ebon Hold, I divorced myself from the notion Unholy would ever be what I remembered it to be, and respecc'd to Frost.


Jackwraith said...

Man, is that familiar. Cataclysm basically killed my interest in Death Knight but for a somewhat different reason. I LOVED Frost tanking. Loved. It. It was the most fun I've ever had as a tank (although the visceral pleasure of hitting something with Shield Slam and Shield of the Righteous cannot be denied.) Then I had to play Blood... and I just couldn't get into it. With most of the talents and abilities switched over, it wasn't THAT different, but it just wasn't the same. So I figured I'd just stick to DPSing as Unholy and I ran into the same problem you did. It seemed like I did more waiting than hitting a lot of the time. Ugh. That's doubly hard for someone who mains Enhance ("Let me hit it now! Now! 37 times now!")

Unknown said...

Your excessive attachment and sentimentality in relation to the game is the necessary ingredient to achieve greatness in WoW. The just-a-game lowest common denominator folk are incapable of bringing true greatness. You, Sir, have achieved greatness. It might not be the type greatness everyone is looking for in WoW, but it is definitely a shining example.

I am deeply offended by anyone in the game who tries to use the "just a game" attitude on me, and refuse to put energy into associating with them. The game needs people like us. Mankind needs people like us.

Damn that was epic.