Evaluating Raiders with Warcraft Logs

There is a new combat analysis site in town, and its name is Warcraft Logs. While the site is currently in open Alpha and will likely not be officially released until Warlords of Draenor, it still has a ton of functionality and is already a great tool for evaluating logs.

Since log analyzers aren’t entirely intuitive to use, I’ll be writing a guide on how to use Warcraft Logs to analyze and improve both your own performance and that of your entire raid (just like I did with World of Logs).

The guide is in its beginning stages, currently I just cover the basics – how to upload a log and a breakdown of the log UI. Soon I’ll be adding sections on how to analyze individual raiders and how to use logs to find out what’s happening on boss fights when things go wrong.

Warcraft Logs summary screen

I’ve added the first two sections to my guide section, please check it out and let me know if you have any feedback.

Evaluating Raiders with Warcraft Logs

Filling Another Stable Slot

If you follow me on Twitter, I’m sure you know that I recently got a new puppy.

Lily at 12 weeks

This is Lily. She’s an adorable little mutt. Her mother is a beagle/bulldog mix and her father is a husky. She’ll be 3 months old on January 15th.

Since I’m a proud new puppy parent, I thought I’d take the opportunity to inundate everyone with an excessive amount of pictures.

Lily at 6 weeks old

This is Lily the first time I saw her, when she was only six weeks old. She was so sleepy and calm. I fell right for that bait & switch.

Lily and daddy

Lily with her daddy on her first night at her new home. At 8 weeks she was still so tiny! Only 10lbs when we got her.

Max and Lily's first meet

After we got her home and settled, we introduced her to her kitty siblings. Momo, who is suspiciously absent from all these photos, was not (and still isn’t) impressed with the new addition to the family. Max was more curious than anything.

I love the look on Max’s face during their first meeting. “What the fuck is that?!”

Sleepy puppy with her cow toy

Sleepiest puppy. On her first night at home we were too wimpy to put her in her crate so she slept under the bed.

I never had a puppy before. The first night was fun. The next few days were overwhelming. She was peeing everywhere, chewing everything, biting everyone. She had me in tears by the third night. I was so used to quiet, low maintenance cats, and puppies are so needy and need to be watched constantly.

Max watches Lily

Max proved to be a good puppy watcher, and followed her around the house all the time to try to make sure she wasn’t causing trouble.

Lily learned to play fetch pretty quickly.

Sleepy puppy

The nicest thing about puppies is that they sleep a lot. We finally got into a pattern where she would be awake and get to run around for 60-90 minutes, then go into her crate for a nap for 90 minutes. Once we started this pattern I felt a lot less exhausted and overwhelmed. (And finally had some time to sit down and play the video games I got for Christmas).

Lily and her bone

She’s still pretty crazy though. She has so much energy and sharp little razor teeth, I can’t wait for those to fall out. My biggest source of frustration right now is that she is so bitey. Hands, feet, clothes, she wants to chew them all. And it’s not just nipping, she’ll latch on to my hand and try to bring it to her bed with her. Ouch. I’ve tried all kinds of things to get that to stop, but am not having too much luck so far. Hopefully it’s something she starts growing out of soon.

We try to distract her from biting us with toys and delicious marrow bones, but nothing seems to keep her attention for more than a few minutes when she’s riled up.

Banana thief

She also steals Max’s catnip toys because she’s a jerk and verboten chew toys are the most fun chew toys.

Lily on Max action

Not only does she steal his toys, but she also likes to try to mount poor Maxmoo. Max doesn’t seem overly pleased with this, and Lily tends to get bit shortly after. This week they were approximately the same size (18lbs each), but she’s going to outgrow him fast.

Last night Lily had her first puppy socialization class. I was afraid she was going to be awful and unruly since she can be so wild at home, but she was actually very good! She did the best out of all the puppies at the obedience stuff. She played nice with the other puppies. I was worried because she was twice the size of the rest of them (the other puppies where much smaller – a pomeranian, a shih-poo, a greyhound and a shiba inu), but I only had to step in to intervene once. She actually seemed a little intimidated by the little 7lb greyhound (man, that thing can run). As an added bonus, the class wore her right out. She was a very nice, sleepy puppy for the rest of the night.

Still fooling people into thinking she's good

She can be infuriating, but she sure is cute. Over the last few weeks I’ve come to accept that she’s just a puppy, and not a little demon in disguise like I first thought she was. I love this bad puppy.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Patch 5.4 and Siege of Orgrimmar was released on September 10, 2013. We’ve been in there for 4 months so far but to me it feels more like 4 years.

This week we learned that there is another PVP season planned during Mists. This means we’re likely looking at another 6 months in Siege of Orgrimmar before Warlord of Draenor comes out. At least. Blizzard does a lot of things well, but pacing their raid content releases is not one of them.

The most recent three expansions have had a pretty distinct pattern when it came to time spent in a tier vs. number of encounters available in that tier. The first tier goes quick. There are a lot of encounters, but the tier isn’t current for that long. In the middle tier, the ratio of encounters:time goes down – the tier stays current for roughly the same amount of time (give or take a month), but there are less bosses to fight. In the final tier of an expansion that encounter:time ratio drops even more. We get more bosses than the middle tier, but the tier drags on for 10-12 months while we wait for the next expansion to be released.

Wrath of the Lich King
Tier 7  (5 months, 18 encounters – 3.6 encounters/month)
Tier 8  (3.5 months, 23 encounters 6.6 encounters/month)
Tier 9  (4 months, 11 encounters – 2.75 encounters/month)
Tier 10 (1 year, 26 encounters – 2.2 encounters/month)  

Cataclysm
Tier 11 (6.5 months, 25 encounters – 3.8 encounters/month)
Tier 12 (5 months, 14 encounters – 2.8 encounters/month)
Tier 13 (10 months, 16 encounters – 1.6 encounters/month)

Mists of Pandaria
Tier 14 (5 months, 32 encounters – 6.4 encounters/month)
Tier 15 (6 months, 25 encounters – 4.2 encounters/month)
Tier 16 (10 months?, 28 encounters – 2.8 encounters/month)

Tier 8 (Ulduar) in Wrath of the Lich King is an outlier in this – an example of creating a tier that was amazing in both quality and quantity, but then pushing it to the background with another tier extremely quickly. WotLK is also a bit of an anomaly in that it was the only time in any expansion (or original WoW) that we got 4 raid tiers.

The question is…why the hell do they keep doing this?

I can understand some front-loading of content. When a new expansion comes out, having a ton of new content is going to help convince people to purchase it. But they need to spread the content out better. Here’s what my generally mindset looks like as expansions proceed:

Game is released
“Oh my god, there’s so much to do! Level! Get rep! Get enough gear to start raiding! Try to check out the new features that were introduced.”

First raid tier ends
“I wish it had lasted longer! I’m sure my raid could have defeated a couple more raid bosses if we had an extra month, and there’s still so much other stuff to do.”

Second raid tier ends
“I feel good about this tier. We had a decent amount of time to progress, and I’m ready for a change of scenery.”

Six months into the final raid tier
“Is this tier ever going to end? Can we hear some news about when the next expansion is coming? Pleeeease.”

Eight to twelve months into the final raid tier
“I’m so bored, we killed everything months ago and playing has been a huge waste of my life for the last few months. Fuck this fucking game, I hate it.”

They need to learn to hold something back. Maybe instead of having 3 raid instances at the start of the xapc, only put out 2 and save one for the last tier. I know I’m not the only one who gets bored doing the same, single raid for almost a year.

Mists of Pandaria also had the least amount of raid zones. In Burning Crusade we had 8 different raids – Karazhan, Magtheridon’s Lair, Gruul’s Lair, Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep, Hyjal, Black temple and Sunwell. Some of these only had one or two bosses, but 8 raids make for a tremendous amount of variety in scenery, lore and types of bosses encountered. It makes things much more interesting. In Wrath of the Lich King there were 9 different raids. In Cataclysm we had only 6 raid zones. In Mists? Only 5, and 3 of them were squished into the first 5 months. This made for a lot of monotony over the next 10 months.

Is providing varied, interesting raid zones becoming less of a priority?  It seems that in Warlords, a lot of attention is being paid to allowing people to raid in 700 different ways (LFR, normal, heroic, flex, cross-realm, mythic). How much attention will be paid to the variety and amount of raid zones themselves?

After the original release and four expansions, will Blizzard ever learn how to not suck at timing their raid content releases?

Hearthstone and Sportsmanship

I’ve been playing a fair amount of Hearthstone lately. This is the first trading/collectible card game I’ve ever played. It is a game that is played against real people, however, aside from playing your hand, you have very limited interaction. You can’t talk to your opponent directly. There are 6 emotes you can use or you can Squelch (which I just learned means mute) your opponent. You can also concede the match.

Though interaction with your opponent is very limited, the way you play the game can have an immense effect on how they perceive you and how much they enjoy the match. With no direct communication, we often have to guess or assume our opponent’s motivations. Since the emotes are so vague, they can be interpreted in many different ways. When someone thanks you after you play a card are they being friendly or smarmy? When they say good game after completely destroying you do they mean it, or are they rubbing it in? When they keep using threaten are they being a jackass or just trying to RP Garrosh?

I first realized that sportsmanship in Hearthstone was a contentious issue a while ago on Twitter. I had expressed my irritation about how some people have you beat, but then proceed to play every card they can before striking the killing blow. To me, this is a frustrating waste of my time, in addition to being a real dick move. It’s bad enough I’ve lost, but now I have to watch you fluff your minions before making the final move?

Get on with it, motherfucker.

Get on with it, motherfucker.

A number of people shared my sentiment about putting people out of their misery quickly, but I was quite surprised by the number of people who disagreed. Their argument was that people get enjoyment out of the game in different ways. Whereas I like to quickly move on to the next match if it’s clear I’m about to win/lose, some people might find it fun to build up a minion as much as possible and deal 20 damage to win when only 3 damage is needed. If I didn’t want to wait, they argued, I could just concede.

Conceding is something my opinion has changed on over time. At first, I never did it. I’d rather be taken out by someone else than do it myself. Also, there’s always a small chance your opponent will screw up and you can turn things around. I do it more often now though, as my patience wanes.

As I’ve been getting more into Hearthstone and doing some reading to improve my game, I’ve been seeing that there are even more disputed issues when it comes to sportsmanship. This thread on Hearthhead introduced a few issues that I found surprising.

First, there was the idea that some people might prefer their opponent wait one round before finishing them off even if they can clearly win this round. If someone could clearly win the match in this round and they ended their turn without doing so, I would assume: they made a mistake; they’re dumb, or; they’re an overconfident asshole who wants to waste my time. I personally don’t understand how anyone would be appreciative of being “let to play another round” before getting beat.

The biggest area of contention in the thread was how people felt about conceding. Opinions on that run the gamut. Some feel that not letting your opponent make the killing blow by conceding was poor sportsmanship. On the opposite side of the spectrum, some think it’s rude if the person doesn’t concede if they know they’ve lost.

A Twitter discussion about conceding in Hearthstone

 My thoughts on people conceding are somewhere in the middle. If I’m winning and my opponent concedes, I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with them finishing the game. Mostly I just like to win, I don’t care how it happens.

This did get me thinking about my own play habits and how they could be interpreted by others. I consider myself a good sport. Actually that’s a lie. I’m a terribly sore loser, but no one can hear what I’m saying in Hearthstone, so it’s kind of irrelevant. I am very polite to strangers though and when I play I try to make the game a pleasant experience for everyone. However, going through that thread on Hearthhead makes me realize that some of the things I do (or, more likely, don’t do) might be considered rude by others.

May way's not very sportsmanlike...

My way’s not very sportsmanlike…

For one thing, I almost never use emotes. I find them vague and pointless. I just want to play cards, not socialize, so I usually don’t return peoples Greetings or Well Playeds unless I’m in a really good mood. I’m not trying to be a jerk, I just think emotes are an unnecessary part of the game.

Similarly, I’m sure I consider many things irritating or rude when that is not the intention of my opponent. Things that particularly bother me:

  • Drawing the game out unnecessarily (whether they’re winning or losing).
  • Overuse of emotes. You don’t need to use one after every turn.
  • Emoting Well Played when in fact I played a terrible game.
  • Other people winning :P

What do you think makes a Hearthstone player a good or bad sport?

Hunter Tips for General Nazgrim

General Nazgrim is the 8th boss in Siege of Orgrimmar. He’s a warrior with the typical warrior abilities, rage generation,and stances. He also summons waves of adds to help him throughout the fight.

The most difficult part of the fight is learning to control and efficiently kill the adds.

The fight

Nazgrim has the three typical warrior stances, which he cycles through during the fight, spending 1 minute in each. 

  • Battle Stance – He begins the fight in this stance and generates 1 Rage per second.
  • Berserker Stance – This is the second stance. He takes and deals 25% more damage and gains more rage from abilities.
  • Defensive Stance – This is the third stance, which causes Nazgrim to take reduced damage and gain rage any time he’s attacked by a non-tank. No one but the tanks should be attacking while he’s in defensive stance.

What does Nazgrim do with all this rage? He’ll cast an ability every 15 seconds, depending on how much rage he has.

  • Heroic Shockwave (30 rage) – Nazgrim leaps to a random player, dealing damage and stunning anyone in the impact zone. After this, Aftershock lines go out in random directions, dealing damage to anyone in them and generating rage per person hit. If you’re doing the mechanics correctly, you’ll see this ability a lot.
  • Kor’kron Banner (50 rage) – Nazgrim summons a banner, which causes any adds present to generate rage for him. This has low health and is easily killed.
  • War Song (70 rage) – Deals damage to all players (50% of max health).
  • Ravager (100 rage) – Spawns an axe that whirls around the room. It inflicts a large amount of damage on anyone it hits, and makes Nazgrim gain rage. Ideally, you don’t want to see one of these at all during the fight.

Every 45 seconds or so, Nazgrim will summon a group of adds into the fight (I believe it’s 3 in 25 and 2 in 10). There are a few different types of adds (listed in rough order of kill priority):

  • Warshaman – This guy is a healer. He drops Healing Tide Totems which must be killed (and never allowed to get near Nazgrim), and casts Empowered Chain Heal, which must be interrupted.
  • Arcweaver – A mage that does high damage with Arcane Shock (a single target nuke) and Magistrike (AoE). Both of these are incorruptible. In heroic mode, the Arcweaver becomes the highest priority target as it is very dangerous.
  • Assassin – A rogue that starts in stealth and tries to Backstab his fixated target. To deal with the Assassin, the focused target should either kite, or face the mob.
  • Ironblade – A warrior that spins around the room, doing damage to anyone he hits. Since this add is most dangerous to melee, it should be the priority target for ranged once the Shaman/Arcweaver is dead.
  • Sniper (heroic only) – A hunter that will focus a target and shoot at it. It will also cast Multishot, so it needs to be faced away from the raid.

Control of the adds is a very important part of the fight. The shaman and mage needs to be locked down with interrupts. The other mobs can be stunned, rooted and slowed.

Talent Recommendations

Level 15 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Chimera

Level 30 – Binding Shot
This is helpful for controlling the Ironblades and Assassins.

Level 75 – A Murder of Crows (SV)/Blink Strikes (BM)
I am generally Survival for this fight and I like AMoC. If you time it carefully, you can get one right on the pull and put up a second just before he switches to Defensive stance. If you’re BM, stick with Blink Strikes.

Level 90 – Glaive Toss
There aren’t very many adds and they tend to be quite spread out so Barrage isn’t fully effective a lot of the time.

Tips for the Fight

  • Your pets basic attacks do not cause Nazgrim to gain rage during Defensive stance. So your pet can attack during this phase. However, Kill Command will make him gain rage. So don’t use it during defensive if you are BM and leave your pet on him.
  • If you do this fight as Survival, leave your pet on the boss full time.
  • If you get focused by the Assassin – kite! Use Concussive Shot, Binding Shot, Disengage. Deterrence if it gets too close and you can deflect all the melee attacks.
  • Help slow down the Ironblade, or an Assassin focused on someone else (Concussive Shot, Binding Shot).
  • If you are focused by the Sniper, Deterrence will not deflect his shots (which is odd), but you still get the damage reduction.
  • I generally avoid Frost Traps, as they can obscure Aftershocks on the ground.
  • Deterrence is a great thing to use if you’re about to get hit with a War Cry.
  • Disengage is good for getting out of poorly positioned Aftershocks.
  • Refresh any DoTs on Nazgrim just before he enters Defensive stance.

Happy hunting!

Offline Co-op

Remember the days when playing a video game with a friend was an easy thing to do? Just pop a cartridge into your NES (you may have had to blow on it first), plug in the second controller and go. It was a simpler time. No internet connection was needed. There were no headsets, cameras or motion controls. There was no Facebook integration (to be fair, there was no Facebook). Just you and a buddy, sitting on a couch, playing a game.

Gaming has come a long way. Games now have amazing graphics and sound, stellar storytelling, seamless UIs. Games can make us choose, can make us think, make us feel, make us react, or just let us hijack cars and run over pedestrians.

Gaming can be even more fun when you’re playing with friends (says the girl who always wanted everyone to leave so she could play the Goldeneye campaign rather than playing yet another round in the Stacks with grenades.) Big strides have been made to let people play games with others – but only in certain ways. Want to sit at your computer, group up with 24 other people from all over the world and take on a dragon? You can pay WoW, Everquest, Rift, Aion, FF, LOTRO. If you’re more into spaceships than swords you can play Eve, SWTOR, Starquest, Phantasy Star, or Star Trek. Want to join a team of people to shoot terrorists or aliens and listen to strangers who sound an awful lot like 12-years olds call each other fags? Then Counterstrike, Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo are all there for you. Want to collaborate or compete in large scale strategic battles? You can always find someone online to play DoTA, LoL or Starcraft with.

Want to play a console game with someone who is in the same room as you? Well, then your options are much more limited. Especially if you’d rather cooperate than compete. The majority of games seem much more concerned with enabling you to play with strangers online than allowing you to play offline with your S.O./roomate/sibling/parent/child/friend/dog who is sitting beside you on the couch.

My boyfriend and I have been trying to find console games that we can play together. It has indeed been a trying experience. There aren’t too many games that advertise having an offline co-op mode. Plus, when local co-op is actually included in a game, it often seems like more of an afterthought. We went out and bought games that advertised having local co-op. We tried Madden 25. It has offline co-op but, aside from the fact the game basically plays itself for you, playing on the same team was pretty dull for whoever wasn’t the quarterback. We got Tales of Vesperia. A multiplayer RPG? Sounds awesome. In practice, not so awesome. Player 1 basically plays the majority of the game by themselves and player 2 gets to jump in and control one character during combat. Yawn. We turned off that one after about 8 minutes. We picked up Call of Duty: Black Ops. There is offline co-op, but only for 2 specific modes – zombie survival and playing against bots. You can’t do the campaign or play against other people online together. My bf was going to buy Dungeon Siege 3, but was talked out of it by the cashier at Gamestop. It features a drop-in co-op that doesn’t allow the person dropping into the game to save any of their progress or items. Considering the game is a dungeon-crawling loot grind, this seems like a pretty serious issue. Some games even advertise having offline co-op when there actually is none.

Offline co-op

Offline co-op? Not so much.

There are a number of arcade style games that feature decent offline co-op. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Castle Crashers, TMNT are all games I’ve enjoyed playing with friends in the past. However, they’re all fairly mindless (and very short) side-scrolling beat’em ups. Those have their place, but sometimes you want to play something a little deeper.

In terms of AAA titles, most console developers seem to consider offline co-op a waste of time or something to be thrown in at the end, in a completely underwhelming way. There are exceptions.

Valve in particular has added some very good co-op play to their games. Portal 2 features the most complete co-op experience I’ve had and was definitely not an afterthought. It adds a whole extra campaign and hours of playtime to the game. Left 4 Dead also lets you play through the campaign with a friend (or three). Both of these multi-player games give you a choice too. You can play with someone sitting beside you offline, or you can connect with people online and play through the game. Other developers should take note – this is the way to do it. The only small complaint I have about these games is that co-op mode is not very intuitive to access.

Left 4 Dead start screen

Play campaign? No… Press X to Play with Friends? No…
Oh! There it is in small, barely contrasting text in the bottom left corner.

Diablo 3 also makes it easy for people to play offline co-op and we played that a bit on PS3. A nice thing about D3 is that you don’t have to deal with split screen, which I really liked from an aesthetic standpoint. However it has some serious drawbacks too. If you get items or level up you need to take turns with the menu screen to examine and equip new gear or choose new talents. This brings the pace of the game to a crawl. Also I had already played through it when it came out a year and a half ago on PC, and starting from scratch on console wasn’t all that appealing.

There’s a site called Co-Optimus, which is dedicated to all things co-op gaming. I’m hoping it leads me to some good games. A quick search for Xbox 360 Couch Co-Op games shows 256 results! That seems positive. However, once I filter out the genres I’m not really interested in (like Sports games), the party games (there are dozens of music/dance games), the games whose co-op is a half-baked afterthought, and the games that are generally just bad, the list isn’t that long. The Lego games, which have been recommended to me, look like a good option. Hopefully I can find a few more.

I’m hoping that the games for the new generation of consoles take into account that people may actually want to play video games together in the same room. So far, it’s not looking too good though. Dead Rising 3, the game I’m most interested in on the Xbox One, is online co-op only. Same with Ryse and Black Flag. Call of Duty: Ghosts has “co-op specific” content.

This is a plea that game developers make more games that can be played with others offline. I love video games and I’d much rather share my gaming experiences with someone I like enough to live with, or at least invite over, than some random online gamers.

Breaking up is hard to do… but not that hard

Raiding guilds in WoW tend to be a very fluid thing. I like to park myself in a guild for an extended period of time until something happens that makes membership very difficult, but not everyone is this way. Some people guild hop. Some can’t make up their mind about where they want to raid. Some people aren’t even solid on if they want to (or are able to) raid. 

Fourteen months ago, as Mists was coming out, the officers of Apotheosis made up a roster of 33 people that were going to tackle whatever raid bosses Pandaria could throw at us. Of those 33, 15 are still raiding with us. Almost half of the 17 people who stopped raiding for real life reasons, but are still part of the guild. The rest have left. Between then and now, we also trialed no less than 33 more raiders – 14 of whom are still around. The 19 that are gone either didn’t pass their trials or left for greener pastures. So, by my count (which could be off by one or two, I tend to forget people who aren’t around for long) 66 people have raided with Apotheosis over the course of the expansion.

That was a very long-winded (for me) way of saying that raiders come and go. It’s a fact of WoW.

What I don’t get is why so many people who choose to leave lie about it, or go about quitting in a manner that is very inconvenient for their (soon to be ex-) guild. I’ve seen it all. Though I’m happy to report we haven’t had any more gquitting incidents quite like this, a surprising number of the people who have quit raiding with my guild have done it in a way that left me (and others) with bad feelings towards them.

Improper ways to quit your raid include:

  • Saying you need to step down due to real life issues (your family is sick, your dog died, you have so much schoolwork to do) then joining another raid guild within a week.
  • Saying you got hacked/your account is locked, then ninja transferring off server.
  • Knowing you won’t be able to make raid times due to a schedule change you’ve had planned for a while but not letting your guild know until the day before. On the same day your buddy who plays the same class/spec as you is planning to announce that he’s stepping down.
  • Ragequitting in the middle of a raid.
  • Announcing that you’ve cancelled your WoW account on Twitter before (or instead of) telling anyone in your guild directly.

It’s the liars that bother me the most, because I just don’t get it. I understand that sometimes a guild and a raider aren’t a good fit, but why is it so hard for some people to say that? Are we not killing bosses fast enough for you? Do you not like our loot rules? Do you miss the people from your old guild? Do you want to be the leader? Do you think we’re all assholes? Just say so.

Jasyla,

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to raid with Apotheosis but, I’ve decided that it is not the guild for me, so I’m going to leave and look elsewhere. Good luck to you all in Siege.

Is that so hard? Or, if you like:

Jasyla,

You are terrible. I’m out.

Later suckers.

I guess my belief that people are capable of acting like mature adults is rather precious and naive. But seriously, you don’t even have to say it to someone’s face. You can send a message from the comfort and safety of your desk.

Making up a story – especially a sob story that makes people sympathize with your plight – instead of just saying you’re looking for greener pastures makes you a tool. It also seems like a lot more work than just saying “I don’t want to raid with you anymore.”

People will find out – guild officers are accomplished internet sleuths.

We always find out.