It is a near certainty that in any game like World of Warcraft where there is an incentive to progress and a punishment to failure that a system using talents and stat points will produce optimal builds. We have seen in the past many one trick pony builds exposed and curtailed quickly because players were not doing what was expected. Ghostcrawler has recently confirmed this approach once again by ensuring that retribution paladins (and protection though that is a smaller issue) will not and cannot make effective usage of spell power plate for fear that they would become over powered as healers. This of course seems a rather odd decision given that the overhaul of talents allows paladins to have only a few and inefficient heals directly within the base paladin architecture.

This approach to KISS is in many ways sensible, if there is only one build then that is the build that will be used and the game can be easily balanced around it the other approach however of allowing multiple builds including what would formerly have something like 31/0/40 holy (sheatheadin iirc) exist within the meta. Indeed this is explicitly what other games do. Taking magic the gathering as an example, the core set of each expansion brings 350 ish new cards into play with linked mechanics, an the. Two smaller expansions related to this with their own internally consistent mechanics. Each time a new set is introduced we see old decks adapt to the new using the new cards as well as entirely new decks formed from the new set with cards that might have been considered worthless in the previous set alone.

In WoW we have a very stagnant game controlled by evolution of power rather than mechanics. Imagine instead of the gear evolution what altered was our capabilities. So on Naxx we might have our basic abilities, the 31 point talent trees we know and love with say 35 talent points. When you clear naxx not only does your gear upgrade scaling your power but you gain access to new abilities as well. Each new tier brings out say an 11-16 point talent tree and some new talent points. Each tree is focused toward the fights of the next tier allowing blizzard to create fights that a normal build could not handle, but by the last tier allowing extensive customisation.

Of course this isn't new, subclassing has been known nearly forever in role playing, however making it dynamic bases on the new training and technologies we have unlocked would be interesting. Each new tier would be a new mini game with a new meta and each new expansion a consolidation to the 'best' talent tree.

-- Post From My iPhone

The Blizzard controversy has shown us something, irrespective of where you stand on the subject from pure apathy to moral outrage the common thing that can unite people is that the use of a tag rather than a name is not generally offensive or bad.

Many of us already use them, many of them are relatively famous. There however is no real way to provide these across a wide spectrum, we do not actively link our online spheres together nor do we have a central source of identity. The US government has proposed a scheme for identity providers, but the question becomes why do we need or want to pay for these services. As with gravatars we should be able to single source our identities, tying them together as we wish and giving the information to who we specify.

Blizzard and co shouldn't be aiming to create identities for us, but rather allowing us to create identities as we wish. If we need to further sub-domain this, a Blizzard only identity for example then we might consider Blizzard-Identity, or any other kind of identifier we wish, locally we are still Identity however we can also be globally recognised under that system as well.

Free identities for all!

What can really be said, what needs to be said really. As with all storms in a teacup the overreactions to this have been rather amusing and interesting to read, thankfully it has all blown over and the risk of our dinner set being disrupted has been quelled.

It has been said by many that it is impossible to balance the 10 and 25 man versions of a raid due to the expectations of each. If we work under the current assumptions that buffs will not be totally homogenised (Tank, Healer, Magic DPS, Physical DPS) and that abilities will remain scarce (bubbles for damage prevention,2 target healing, shiv, disarm etc). Then it becomes difficult to create an encounter that utilises these rare abilities on a 10 man, however not so in a 25 man where it is reasonable to expect 2 of every class with the 5 remaining slots representing overflow from healing and tanking classes.

Blizzard however actually have a way around this. We saw it in Naxxramas where the 10 man had two mind control orbs and the 25 required at least one priest (after they removed the taunt rotation to stop the boss simply being kited around). This mechanic was seen partially as unfair (making the mind controller act as a tank rather than as a DPS or Healer), however shows the easy way to make fights like this work, the vehicle mechanic / posession,or pets.

So we have a fight that requires a disarming move, on 25 man we expect 2 warriors and 2 rouges, on 1 we might not have either... instead the raid leader pulls out the handy disarmomatic 5000, usable only once (unless you survive) that gives her or her designated player the abilities that are required. It might be an NPC we "call on", a pet (see Grizzly Hills or Zul'Drak), an item we can buy or even one that drops in the fight (see Kael'thas). Working around special mechanics is actually nice and easy, and the added difficulty of a secondary ability or swapping a weapon mid combat is not going to make or break the difference.

The second major issue that we can see are effects that involve movement. Ok things like defile won't fall into this, in that case the penalty should be different such as the tick period or expansion size of the ability to make it equally penalising. However think of Hodir with his NPCs. Except we reverse this, 10 man has 9 NPCs, 25 man has 3 (the required buffs to make the DPS in the fight). Each of these NPCs though acts according to a minimally intelligent script (see the jousting knights in North Icecrown, each appears to have a slightly different response pattern to jousting in terms of stand off and charges). They act as DPS or healers or whatever, but also act to chain abilities. A 25 man now has 25 bodies in it each under intelligent control, the 10 man movement fight has 15-20 only some of them truly intelligent. We can actually balance the fights without having to shrink or expand rooms.

The best bit is that these NPCs can actually be non-friendly such that their job is to cause chaining effects, kiting the adds effectively and positioning them becomes part of the fight (2 people nearby each other representing minimal movement room), they don't even have to do damage themselves, merely be annoying to build the same level of difficulty into the game.

In a chance to be difficult and present an alternate view, from the tales of EU-Silvermoon.

It has been pondered amongst the blog rolls of many why some people do not find guilds, why pick up groups form for content and what draws people into the game if they are not in a guild with a consistant group of friends. Often however for many of us a guild is restrictive, forcing us to raid certain days, to carry players that we would kick from a group if they didn't bear the same tag as us, or even simply to stay at a fight beyond the time we want to or risk sanctions.

Silvermoon is a strange server. It is a relatively hardcore raiding server yet is very friendly to undergeared players. We tend to have three gearscores characterised as "I just hit 80 (again)", "Noob", and "Don't even ask". Players in the first category tend to get a carte blanche, simply no one asks them for more dps, or expects them to have it, the other members of the party simply carry them through which ever heroic it is without question. Our middling gearscores tends to be the worst treated, simply being less than 5,000 score and wanting to raid is unlikely unless you are the raid leader, its doable through heroics and crafted gear so put in the effort. For everyone else, everyone has an achieve and gear somewhere.

Almost since the day the Lich King was downed we have had pick up groups running at him, and downing him. My first kill of him came at the 10% buff with a four pull from scratch moment (well really a lie, I had pulled him twice before in guild for the laughs at 0% but then went afk for a while). The buff has since increased to 20% and the tactics required to down this boss have changed massively in that time. So what follows is a random trade chat pug.

I had logged in last night with the intention of finding some badges to farm (not really sure why since neither of my mains needs them other than for bank gear or off sets at the moment). In trade I spotted an extended raid aiming for Lich King with the remaining bosses down, seeking only a discipline priest. I logged (at this point I should explain that I have played discipline exactly four times, a heroic (which I swapped to holy half way through), ICC 10 for 3 bosses, and ICC 25 for 10 bosses, and now... Thankfully I had done Lich King before so I knew what to do, but this time I was on the other side of the massive damage.

I have to say that this fight is totally different as a healer than as tank, well not really but the stuff I care about is. I was on bubble spam for infest duty and dispel duty for the plague so essentially refreshing a PW:S on everyone after infest (to negate it completely), dispelling the disease runner, and occasionally throwing heals to help cover the Paladin healer's downtimes for mana. Overall it wasn't that bad, it took 7 pulls from start to end with disconnects killing three, two downed by defiles, one by a val'kyr and defile combo and the last by the death of the Lich King. The huge buff altered the tactics used totally, our off-tank died at the transition into phase two leaving us with the MT handling the spirits and the Lich King, our tank healer getting continually Val'kyr'd (we brought two locks and a hunter, and we got 1 use of their avoidance mechanics between them). One thing to note, with a discipline priest and the buff to health the best tactic to deal with the vile spirits now seems to be a scrum / American football solution, just run into them and make them go pop! Four waves of spirits (one when I was taken into the Frostmourne room resulting in two more deaths from our suicidal charging solution) and the Lich King fell to his knees, dropping loot that was worse than that from a normal ICC 25... sad priest was very much sad, but I had a new title.

So here it is in slightly more dramatic form!

A view from the Throne

"They have come for us Arthas. They have finally decided to take our head for your arrogance.", The voice of the long dead Ner'zul spoke softly in Arthas' mind.

"They will fail. I will not allow them to claim my victory after this time. We have met before and each time I spared them, now they shall repay me in kind." Arthas thought back to himself, Ner'zul was of course dead and powerless, he was the master of the fel blade and it was his choice alone what would shape the world.

"Kil'Jaden is dead. We serve no master now, the choice is ours alone", Ner'zul understood the treachery that had lead to today, however his visions for the future had always led him forwards. Perhaps someday the young Prince would actually listen to him rather than treating him as the remnant of the former Lich King

"No, the choice is not ours alone. We did what we had to do, the world must be remade", Arthas replied haughtily.

"A servant to our master to the end? I suppose it matters not the future I foresaw will end today..."

We teleported up onto the Frozen Throne behind the Highlord Tirion Fordring, it was a much longer teleport than others inside the citadel, taking us up the entirety of the inner core away from the endless undead and plagued minions of the Lich King.

The frozen throne lived up to its name. A small windswept 'island' floating in the highest levels of the citadel open to the elements. A large area for supplicants, large ice hewn steps leading upto a simple throne upon which the former Lord Menethil, now the Lich King sat. The calmness of the area broken only by Highlord Fordring's footsteps and the muffled groans and curses from the still living yet burned and ravaged body held in chains above the throne. The Highlord stepped forwards towards the throne as we spread out to assist him as needed. His pauldrons flickered in the high winds, the small fires in each pauldron warding off the life stealing chill, yet threatening with each step to provide no more light.

"Arthas. Former Lord Menethil and King of Lodaeron, now nothing more than a puppet of demons, not a Lich King but a slave to that which you once fought." Tirion yelled up towards the seated Lich King, his words not revealing the nervousness he felt underneath.

Arthas ignored Tirion's words, rising slowly to his feet and drawing the mighty blade that had rested by his side, Frostmourne.

"So...the Light's vaunted justice has finally arrived. Shall I lay down Frostmourne and throw myself at your mercy, Fordring?" Arthas mocked the Highlord, both knowing full well one of them would not leave this place alive.

Slowly the Lich King started to descend the stairs, each footstep crunching heavily into the snow, then the metal on metal shriek of his frost enctusted armour. Fordring stepped closer towards the stairs, looking to force Arthas to fight from them and end it quickly as he faltered on the icy steps.

"We will grant you a swift death, Arthas. More than can be said for the thousands you've tortured and slain." His voice remained stern, but those of nearby could see Tirion almost pleading with Arthas to simply drop the blade and return to being the Prince he had once been.

The Lich King gave Tirion no chance to stop him, simply completing his walk to the base of the stairs, their eyes both shone with an inner fire, an unquenched hatred for each other like I had never seen before that day.

"You will learn of that first hand. When my work is complete, you will beg for mercy - and I will deny you. Your anguished cries will be testament to my unbridled power." Arthas, I had to admit, looked impressive as he yelled his defiance at Tirion, as neither Prince nor King had he tolerated the views of others above those of his own.

Tirion bowed his head towards the former Lord Menethil, a sadness in his eyes capped by a single tear.

"So be it. Champions, attack!"

With that command Tirion surged forward, the Lich King however was ready for his movements and ice erupted from the ground, four swirling pillars writhed up the Highlord's plated skirt, surrounding his body and coating him in ice, his pauldron fires flickering and dying under the magical assault.

"I'll keep you alive to witness the end, Fordring. I would not want the Light's greatest champion to miss seeing this wretched world remade in my image." His tone again mocked the Highlord, I felt despair creep into me as he spoke, truly he held power within his body that we could not imagine, yet he seemed to want to toy with us.

He turned then to us, Frostmourne radiating power and hatred towards us. Each step of his massively armoured form moved him towards our formation, no longer supporting the Highlord but engaging the Lich King ourselves...

"Come then champions, feed me your rage!", We would be happy to oblige him, however none of our numbers ranked in the beserker clans and so we would have to stand alone with merely the Light to guide us forwards.

With calls to the Light the ancestors our magic shielded our comrades, those heavily armed and skilled in melee combat interposing themselves between us and the Lich King. Each second they moved, swords striking against heavy armour, misses and parries with wounds that would have killed anyone not protected by our magical forces. Slowly Arthas was driven back, the sheer weight of numbers in the tight melee and the cascading demonic energies flung towards him by our two warlocks. It would not end here though, Arthas gripped Frostmourne and drove it into the frozen ground beneath himself. Energies radiated from the sword, lines of force summoning and posessing the ice itself into an elemental attack on us

"I will freeze you from within until all that remains is an icy husk!" Arthas roared as he threw back our staunchest Paladin, his body slid across the ice away from the Lich King and the blade slicing towards the ice.

We stayed silent, though moved towards the edge of the floating island. Black arcs came from the entrenched sword striking us across our exposed flesh and flaying what it could, where it struck armour or cloth we suffered mere pain as though driven across hot ashes. His torture though was not alone as three of our number rose up into the air, writhing as though held by their throats, then arcing backwards as a spirit replica of themselves came into being. We dealt with each in turn, confusing them in melee and striking their corporal forms, slowly infusing their bodies with energies until they could no longer be contained and each exploded with a whirlwind of arcane energies. One of our number fell here, a Death Knight and redeemed servant of the Lich King himself. It seemed painless, or at least I hope so, his body was held by the spirit as it shrieked at him, magical energies thrown from its throat then compounded by those released on its death. He slumped to the ground, armour charred and flesh burned beyond recognition.

"Hope wanes!" Arthas taunted us... it instead strengthened our resolve, our friend and the Highlord would not die for nothing today

Arthas grew bored of us it seemed, no longer toying he pulled Frostmourne from the ice.

"Watch as the world around you collapses!" The world shuddered with Arthas' words.

His warning was correct, the ice under our feet glowed with an ethereal power. Chunks turned bright luminescant blue then dissolved as we rushed back towards him. He continued to fight as he had before, this time though his mere presence defiled the ground underneath him as he drew upon the powers of the vile blade he held. Each spawned under us, a rippling surface oily and slick yet burning hotter than the best forge of Ironforge. We edged around them, trying to hold our own against his strong attacks when he called down his flying servants, the Val'kyr, upon us.

"Val'kyr, your master calls!"

We could do little but hold our own. While the Warlocks channeled massive shadowy bolts into the Lich King our melee reformed, two continuing to distract and force Arthas to stay with them while the others savaged the Val'kyr's. Each one flew down to a flurry of knives and blades, destroying or hampering their ability to fly, then slaughtering them on the floor to stop them aiding their master further. We were not prepared when he reformed the ledge that had broken asunder with another thrust of Frostmourne into the icy ground. This time however the spirits drawn from our companions proved no threat to us, our Shaman brother cried an ancient battle cry and we attacked renewed, leaving nothing between us and Arthas himself.

"Frostmourne hungers..." His continual yelling was becoming annoying, each time he spoke his voice, half orc and half human rattled around and grated on us, this man was no Human being but a monster that needed slain!

My spirit was drawn from my body into the blade itself. Facing me a great demon attempt, however a spirit form interposed itself between us. It was an older man, wizened by time and wearing robes not seen in many years, kingly robes.

"You have come to bring Arthas to justice? To see the Lich King destroyed?"

I could do little but nod dumbfounded as he struck at the beast. Recovering my wits I shrouded us both in the energies of the light and together we struck at the beast.

"First, you must escape Frostmourne's hold, or be damned as I am; trapped within this cursed blade for all eternity."

"Aid me in destroying these tortured souls! Together we will loosen Frostmourne's hold and weaken the Lich King from within!"

The beast died slowly, however both myself and the kingly spirit were unharmed by it. He grasped my arm, and with that my spirit was repulsed from the blade, returning to my body, exhausted mentally and physically I dropped ot my knees.

"Argh... Frostmourne, obey me!", the fell powers of the blade were beyond even the control of Arthas, those within it could escape and challenge him if they could but conquer their inner demons.

Slowly I recovered, just in time to see spirits being dredged from the cursed blade, each flew towards one of us and as they met us we were shaken, our bodies spasming and writhing against our wills as we lost a fragment of ourselves to the blade. We stood firm, forming two rings we continued to pound the Lich King with mystical energies and simple cold steel.

"You gnats actually hurt me! Perhaps I've toyed with you long enough, now taste the vengeance of the grave!"

"Face now your tragic end!"

Arthas raised his blade aloft. It pulsed with a malevolent energy. Then nothing. Blackness and dark overcame us as we slumped prone to the ground.

"No question remains unanswered. No doubts linger. You are Azeroth's greatest champions! You overcame every challenge I laid before you. My mightiest servants have fallen before your relentless onslaught, your unbridled fury... Is it truly righteousness that drives you? I wonder."

"You trained them well, Fordring. You delivered the greatest fighting force this world has ever known... right into my hands -- exactly as I intended. You shall be rewarded for your unwitting sacrifice."

Drawing upon the former powers of the Light that he possessed mixed with the dark energies of the felblade Arthas began to reconstruct our souls, our bodies healing themselves rapidly yet settling onto us with a strangeness, no longer were we quite ourselves

"Watch now as I raise them from the dead to become masters of the Scourge. They will shroud this world in chaos and destruction. Azeroth's fall will come at their hands -- and you will be the first to die."

"I delight in the irony. Those who served the light, who followed the path I set for them and whom I have saved shall rise again to serve me and the new Light."

"LIGHT, GRANT ME ONE FINAL BLESSING. GIVE ME THE STRENGTH... TO SHATTER THESE BONDS!" Fordring yelled inside his icy tomb, we had thought him dead and the threat to keep him alive but a taunt, but he had survived this long bound by the magic of the Lich King.

Before our eyes, still half glazed as our spirits returned light blossomed from the icy tomb of the Highlord. Energy infused his body, lighting the ice from within. Then shattering it.

The Highlord wasted no time, he ran towards Arthas and leaped, the Ashbringer in his hands biting intot he fel blade held aloft in our resurrection, then cleaving it in two pieces.

"Impossible..." Yelled Arthas

"No more, Arthas! No more lives will be consumed by your hatred!" Tirion countered him, smashing the Lich King to the floor with a powerful blow.

Spirits flowed freely from the blade now, reaching our world then turning on their former master. As more reached him they suspended his form in mid air leaving him vulnerable and weakened. A single spirit in human form appeared, the same from my earlier vision and confronted Arthas directly

"Free at last! It is over, my son. This is the moment of reckoning.

Terenas Menethil the Second raised his arms, shrouded in pure light. Our spirits already partially returned to our bodies surged back into them, fully and under our control.

"Rise up, champions of the Light!" Terenas drew us back to life with his words and magics.

With that, our bodies returned we joined the assault. Tirion Fordring, the spirit of Arthas's father Terenas Menethil the second and ourselves, mere bystandards in a game played longer and over our heads inflicted wounds upon the Lich King until his fel energies could no longer sustain him.

"Now I stand, the lion before the lambs... and they do not fear." Arthas sounded piteous, his words mere shells of his former confident speech

"They cannot fear."

Arthas fell to the ground, released by the spirits, the crown falling from his head to clatter loudly on the ice towards Tirion's feet. He reached for the helm, striving to survive despite the grevious wounds to his body and soul. Finally collapsing mere inches from the helm, fingers stretched outwards, the Lich King no more but simply Arthas, former Lord Menethil and now a piteous man wracked by his own guilt.


"It is not yet over though. As once there was created so there must be. Perhaps though you will wear the crown with a cooler head since your life has already been spared..."

Larisa recently commented on my last post to note that my intention of making larger instances goes against the currently published Blizzard motivations to create smaller more PUG / short raid night friendly instances. While I do believe short instances can be effective if they are correctly themed and scaled to be the size they are. The pumping station that was Serpent Shrine Cavern was sensibly scaled to around 6 bosses reflecting its limited size and scale; similarly Tempest Keep felt correctly sized at four bosses as a command module of a starship. Scaling beyond this however as a full starship or operations centre we would have expected to see more:

Perhaps for Tempest Keep we might have expected an Engineering Section, an armoury or weapon section and navigation / command; for Serpent Shrine areas for breeding and training, multiple control sites and then the pumping areas themselves. Instead we saw small disconnected areas with no logical motivation behind them (what role did the bosses in SSC or TK actually play in their areas?).

Instead we can have a more thematically correct instance (think Zul'aman or Zul'Gurub) but in an accessible way. Rather than building a monolithic instance like Icecrown Citadel with 12 sequential bosses (effectively) vs 3-5 interconnected instances.

Our Icecrown model becomes something akin to:

............................--------- Plague Wing ----|
Ramparts -------------|.........................|
............................|-------- Blood Wing----- x---- Frostmourne ---- Lich King
Nerubian Tunnels --|.........................|
.............................--------- Frost Wing------|

Sorry for the dodginess of the diagram, essentially we have two entrances into the instance each as a separate instances, We then have the interior wings (either gated as their own instances or a single instance) and then the final wings. Thus progression is available for PUGs as they can approach these in small parts, being saved to a semi-fail PUG will not totally lock you out of the instance (provided you can approach the other entrance).Similarly guilds starting the instance don't feel tied to a single boss that is stopping progress and we can build in exceptions.

Furthermore if our instances are thematically based and linked in we can do funky things with boss ordering (a large scale version of the Iron Council) allowing us to create scaling difficulties before hardmodes.

A base boss in each wing may drop 1 item and 0 tokens with the end wing boss dropping 1 and 1 token. If we approach them in reverse order (thus activating a scaling hardmode like Flame Leviathan) the end boss drops 3 items and 2 tokens with the others scaling similarly. This gives us a reason to do things in a non-standard order.

Taking ICC Plague Wing this would be something akin to:

Engage Professor Putricide with Precious and Stinky
Engage Professor Putricide with Precious or Stinky
Engage Festergut with Stinky
Engage Rotface with Precious
Engage Professor Putricide
Engage Fester/Rotface

So our regular modes are their boring selves. However we can engage the bosses with additional difficulty to increase their rewards and difficulty. The Hardmodes would of course stack with these effects making fights that scale towards a difficulty like Lich King.

For progression guilds the best approach to these instances is to hit the hardest normal modes first and then work in a balance of hardmodes scaling uptowards hard hard modes. Loot rewards those willing to make the effort and try new things rather than simply approaching bosses in a linear order.

We can then further tie in other instances towards this. Our two tier 10 instances might have an interlink that lets you skip the outer instance of the other instance. Again this gives flexibility to a guild to approach instances in new ways.

It needs more thought, but I think I prefer approaching instances as a thematically linked and interesting group of raid locks rather than distinct and unlinked raids that may not further the story we are seeking.

So I was thinking (always a bad plan) that Icecrown Citadel feels a little small to realistically represent the citadel of the Lich King himself. So using some photoshop (Gimp) magic I present a rashly thought out larger Icecrown Citadel.

Citadel Layout

In this expansion we see the citadel holding 25 bosses and subdivided into five sub-instances gated such that the completion route is the outer ramparts, the four inner sections of the Necropolis, then the upper fortress leading to the frozen throne.

Lets take a look at the overall concepts:

The Outer Ramparts

This consists of the current four bosses. Our heroes enter from a back route from the Pit of Saron encountering Lord Marrowgar and his minions, eventually breaking into the lower sanctum of the Death Knights and Lady Deathwhisper.

These two sections should feel a lot like a break into sections of the citadel we don't normally see, the resurrection chamber and the Death Knight barracks leading into Lady Deathwhisper acting as a priest to the newly risen Knights. This lets us break through from the rear into the ramparts where we destroy the anti-air defences (think 3 mini-bosses guarding anti-air guns), and mount our capital ship rising up towards the main citadel body.

The Inner Necropolis

This section (vaguely reminiscent of Naxxramas... well they had to get the architecture somewhere!) houses four independent wings unlocked by the death of Deathbring Saurfang (Killing 4 bosses opens your raid-lockout to these 4 instances, clearing all 4 of these opens the upper citadel). Each wing is themed as with Naxxramas hosting Plague, Construct, Death Knight, and Risen. Each wing can approach any boss in any order however like a giant version of the Assembly of Iron doing them in different orders results in different power levels and the true hardmode of each boss being doing them last (or activating the alarm on the section to activate all hardmodes).

As each section is independent it allows guilds suffering on a single boss to attempt progress on the four different wings, while allowing pugs to complete the first four then join upto four different pugs that week (or a single really successful pug).

This large section gives us a really strong way to gate the instance as a whole, 18 bosses spread over effectively 5 instances means we can produce a very difficult first area with this area serving to make unlocking the upper fortress difficult.

The Upper Fortress

The upper fortress is exactly what we have already, the commanders and research arms of the Lich King's forces. This section should ideally be ungated however with the bosses being harder.

I would like to really see the hardmodes of these bosses being tied together, Rotface and Festergut must be engaged on hardmode to trigger that of Putricide etc. Each of these fights should have a much stricter DPS, Healing and Tanking requirement than the lower citadel. This area is designed to force the players to really focus and test the players even on normal modes with the hardmodes being equivalent in difficulty to the Lich King at least.

The Frozen Throne

Not much more to do there, the Lich King alone on his throne. I would have preferred to see this fight being much more epic with waves of adds eventually thinning to be the raid against the Lich King while our NPCs engage and distract the adds and lieutenants to give us our single shot at ending the menace.

Gating the Instance

Simply gating based on a strict timetable is a little dull and limits the playability of the game. I would like to see this instance treated more as an event rather than a raid. The two weeks prior to the unlock of the outer ramparts begins with a series of 5 man and daily quests relating to Pit of Saron and the breakthrough into the under citadel.

Once the instance opens we have two active bosses, Lord Marrowgar and Lady Deathwhisper representing the reclaimation and newly risen Death Knight areas of the citadel. This section is not linked into the main body of the citadel so we instead break onto the ramparts starting the second set of events limiting the ammunition and downing the mini-bosses on the ramparts to enable our capital ships to fly into the airspace. This runs concurrently with Deathbringer Saurfang's mini-event to gather explosives and munitions to break through the citadel's armour.

Once we are inside the citadel itself we have four wings of the citadel. This section is cut off from the upper citadel due to a lack of power caused by our penetration efforts. Each end zone boss downed combined with a series of daily quests allows us to gather power cores to charge up the internal supplies of the citadel gaining access to the upper citadel.

The upper citadel is gated by progress, overall boss kills within the citadel and daily quests on each of the three zones (plague, blood and frost) result in forcing the lieutenants back into the fortress to defend their zones. The death of all bosses unlocks the Lich King himself.

The Bosses

I think I should leave this to a different post, trying to cover 25 bosses in a single post will likely be hard. Overall the idea is to make each boss more involved and the hardmodes especially punishing rather than the walkovers that many were.

If anyone has been following the Healing forums recently they will have noticed that Ghostcrawler replied to a thread complaining about tracking absorbs (generally attributed to the last cast absorb player rather than the actual player) saying that this was relatively difficult to actually do. He did however give us a call for armchair programmers to try and solve it, so I thought I should look at the problem. The thread is here for anyone interested.

The Problem

Firstly we need to clarify our problem, "absorbs aren't reported" is a very large issue with little breakdown. We can break this down into:

  • Absorbs aren't reported accurately
  • Absorbs aren't attributed to a specific player

Secondly, lets see what Ghostcrawler actually said.
Quote From: Ghostcrawler (source)
"We're still working on showing absorbs. It's technically very challenging. It's not information we currently pass down to the client, and while passing that information down isn't too tricky itself, making sure we can share it without affecting your performance is less trivial."

Tracking Healing

Tracking healing is easy as each heal event is discrete, even residual heal type effects like Prayer of Mending generate discrete healing events. We can break these events down as:

Player casts heal
Server compares current health, heal value, crit, then returns response
Player sees awesome heal, logs show healer is awesome

Tracking Absorbs

In contrast absorbs are only resolved on damage, the cast itself is an independent event. This means we have to track a group of absorbs on the target:

Absorb 1
Absorb 2
Absorb 3
Player Health

Firstly we need to worry about ordering the absorbs, first come first served, first in last out, shortest duration first? Then we need to consider usage, if a PW:S has already lost 50% of its strength, should it be displaced by a new absorb making it more likely the disc priest won't get the bonus mana for the shield consumption before it lapses?

Ok, so we need a working assumption for this. I would say sensibly it should go in shortest duration first (giving us the maximum absorption over time). This means when an absorb is applied we need to store:

Absorb ID - Strength - PlayerID

Each time a hit is resolved, we then have to resolve each of these effects in turn as a discrete, but simultaneous event:

{Damage -> Absorb 1 -> Response / Effects
Apply Effects}

{Damage -> Absorb 2 -> Response / Effects
Apply Effects}

{Damage -> Absorb 3 -> Response / Effects
Apply Effects}

{Damage -> Health -> Response / Effects
Apply Effects}

This makes an absorb far more costly in terms of processing to deal with as a single hit can trigger multiple player's effects on the target as well as multiple absorption calculations, and we need to create multiple responses (though these could be aggregated).

So what does this look like?

Each player / enemy / object now maintains an absorb list sorted in the order we wish to have them handled(95% chance this exists currently, or is handled by buff code)

Each player / enemy / object must now maintain a list of who applied the buff (90% chance this already exists, addons can typically see "playerid"s associated with buffs)

Each hit must now trigger multiple responses (100% chance this doesn't exist or this problem wouldn't exist).

So it should be relatively simple to implement tracking these. The combat log would look like:


20/09 12:00:00 SPELL_ABSORB, 0x00, "Alice", 0x00, 0x01, "Bob", 0x00, 00001, "Power Word: Shield", 0x01, 1000
20/09 12:00:00 SPELL_ABSORB, 0x00, "Alice", 0x00, 0x02, "Clarisa", 0x00, 00001, "Power Word: Shield", 0x01, 10000
20/09 12:00:00 SPELL_ABSORB, 0x00, "Alice", 0x00, 0x03, "Dave", 0x00, 00001, "Power Word: Shield", 0x01, 200
20/09 12:00:00 SPELL_DAMAGE, 0x00, "Alice", 0x00, 0x05, "Evil Dude", 0x00, 00002, "Hitty Spell", 0x01, 0

4 Events each considered concurrent with 3 absorbs and the final player takes 0 damage.

My Conclusions

As an armchair programmer (actually a really nice comfortable leather office chair but ignore that) I don't see why this should be problematic. Absorbs already cannot be simply treated as an additive absorption source (since they are removed over time) meaning the system must track individual absorbs. Each absorb effect should track its owner (to allow for one absorb per caster functionality) meaning our attribution system is present. This means that all the system currently lacks is the reporting mechanism, which is in place but not utilised.

Assuming everything is in place, a few hours coding to get the message responses in place and tested (since something always goes wrong) along the lines of:

@absorb_code / buff_handler
report(..., absorb strength, absorb remaining)

Assuming we lack attribution of identifiers, a few days coding to get it in place since the framework already exists for other buffs so it is a design, port, test scenario.

Looking at it right now for a Paladin vs a Blood DK, we seem to have:

Health: (1.144 vs 1.092 scaling, 0.052% difference for ~ 1.2k health (120 stamina) so equal at 2307 stam roughly then Paladin A)
Paladins: (base+x)*1.08*1.06*1.10
Death Knights: (base+x)*1.06*1.03*1.10

Paladin: Armour*1.10
Death Knight: (Armour - Shield)*1.10*1.6, so 1.6x(armour-shield) ~= shield

Static DR: (inc sanc on both)
Paladin: (0.94*0.97*0.97*0.97) = 0.858 multiplier on damage taken (think this is right)
Death Knight: 0.95*0.95*0.97 = 0.875 multiplier on damage taken

So Paladins take 98% of the damage DKs do (which I think is nearly the % offset by the 300 or so armour DKs have over us)

Deflection DR:
Paladin: BR (1,700-2,000) @ ~ 100% of attack taken
Death Knight: DS @ 6,000 healing / 5s best case scenario, worst case 6,000 / 10s (to activate Death Runes for HS spam), Rune Tap @ 7,000 / 30s

So Death Knights have very potent self healing potential coming in at approximately 800HTPS worst case to 1,400 HTPS best case. The healing is of course based on the DK rotation however you have some play in this and can offset by ~2s / choose to use Death Runes so it is potentially valuable.

Cool Downs:
Paladin: 60% DR @ 2 minutes
Death Knight: 37% DR @ 2 minutes

The main CD is pretty much equivalent, the Paladins win in terms of raw numbers for the DR however attacks are typically designed against the ~ 35%+ bonus swing (which rules out secondary CDs). For all intensive purposes this can be considered a wash imo other than for sustained damage scenarios.

Paladin: Heal to 30% on death @ 2 minutes
Death Knight: +15% health for 20s, +35% healing for 20s @ 2 minutes

Paladin cooldown covers the worst case scenario better (single shot, healer slacking), Death Knight allows for sustained damage phase of moderate increased damage and massively increased healing (including self healing to nearly 2,000HTPS for the duration using best case)

Paladin: 30% DR on damage under 35%
Death Knight: 15% DR on all damage for hits taking the DK under 35%, 15s ICD

Paladin version is superior for sustained damage, the DK version for single shot scenarios. From this it appears that really these are matched up wrongly. The GS effect is pretty equivalent to WoTN in the single shot scenario (100% to 0% giving the DK + 17.5% EH, the Paladin + 30%). The ICD / cooldown disparity would suggest that WoTN be weighted against our ADGS effect as a wash in favour of the DK in normal scenarios and the Paladin in worst case).

Paladin: 20% DR, -20% threat, 2 min CD
Death Knight: Absorb upto 50% health Magic Damage @75% for 6s @ 45s

Paladin: 100% heal @ 20 min CD
Death Knights: 45% magic DR @ Parry % (~ 20% giving +9% magic DR overall)

I am going to put these as a wash in terms of utility. The Paladin threat loss is crippling in fights where its important, and LoH can be used on others, at the same side the DK one is magic damage only so cannot be utilised on pure physical fights yet has a deflection like effect on magic fights that no other tank can match.

So basically in terms of CDs it basically seems to come down to AD (30% DR effect) vs Vampiric Blood. AD is probably the stronger of these two however the short CD on WoTN likely makes up for this in raw mitigation equivalence.

So from the looks of it, Blood DKs would appear to be on a similar level to Paladins at current with the EH differential not being able to account for the self healing / ICD on WoTN which basically can only be measured on average. This perhaps suggests that DK need a deflection mechanic.

This makes me think the best solution is something akin to:

Frost Presence: +5% base mitigation [+7%] (0.873 base multiplier, [0.854])
Blade Barrier: When both your Blood Runes are on CD triggers the blade barrier effect (15s duration), granting a % chance equal to your parry chance to reduce damage taken by [str*0.5], 3 charges.

In effect this mitigation should balance the base level of the tanks making them equal there with a deflection mechanic in place of mitigation on blade barrier which is similar in power to Holy Shield (~ 1,250 block). The lowered number of charges compared to HS reflects the ability to refresh faster (once per 5s under ideal conditions). This is not a full deflection mechanic, its not as powerful as Paladins full block (under ideal conditions it is lowered mitigation and uptime (due to non unhittable status) vs a 2.0s boss swing timer), nor as controllable as say Druid or Warrior versions which can maintain 100% uptime effectively.

That should balance out the raw damage taken numbers, the pure EH worst case I am not going to consider balancing given then unmeasurables in the scenario (self healing, potential, ICD on WoTN which reset on a very short timer compared to a proper CD). From this perspective I would say Tanks do not need to be balanced around raw EH provided Blizzard are not including one shot bosses that do not cover at least Tank Health * 1.5 ( > any secondary CD requiring 1 external CD minimum or 2 personal CDs). The issue arises with single shots at 1.01*-1.14*, or 1.3*-1.59* where by Paladins (and Druids due to higher EH) have a massive bonus due to the effective numbers on the cooldowns.

In terms of the other 2 DK specs more work needs to be done towards a stronger deflection talent to account for the lack of self healing. Likely both specs should have a high end + stamina talent to equalise base health making it easy to work out the danger zones of EH for the game designers.

Frost would likely aim for UA being something like salvation without the threat loss. Its mitigation technique being active in my mind:

Frozen Armour: 20s CD, 10s duration: Reduces physical damage taken by [str+500] for the duration.

This makes the damage taken spikier (given they are an avoidance build this makes sense) but high (like Shield Block for Warriors).

For Unholy I would simply increase the effectiveness of Blade Barrier:

Bone Blades: Your scourge strikes increase the number of charges on Blade Barrier by 1 and the damage absorbed by [str*0.25] for 5s, increases stamina by [3%]

Should work to equalise numbers a lot I think while still making DKs active tanks.
Any thoughts?

Blood DK vs Paladin seems like a fairly equal scenario bar 1 shot EH comparison where Paladins have an advantage. However this scenario covers such a small time period (0 heals within 2 boss swings) that it is very complex considering the interaction of controllable self healing and short ICD abilities.

Equalising overall base mitigation - removing the ~5s start of fight when a DK is vulnerable compared to other tanks:
Frost Presence: +5% base mitigation [+7%] (0.873 base multiplier, [0.854])

Adding a deflection equivalent making DKs damage taken roughly equivalent to Warriors (which is ~ equal to Paladins but spikier)
Blade Barrier: When both your Blood Runes are on CD triggers the blade barrier effect (15s duration), granting a % chance equal to your parry chance to reduce damage taken by [str*0.5], 3 charges.

Divine shield, a 5 minute CD 12s immunity with a 50% damage penalty while active, it is often seen in PvP to be overpowered given its effectiveness.

The Hunter equivalent is a 1 minute CD, 5s frontal 100% parry 100% spell deflection chance.

Seeing these two actually makes me believe that Divine Shield is underpowered for its cooldown. A sensible rework for this ability would be to place it in a similar role to deterence:

Divine Shield, 1 minute CD 5s immunity, cannot attack.

This would make it an active cooldown for usage and bring it in line with the other similar immunity talent. If you are wondering why it has to remain an immunity rather than an effective immunity the answer is the protection spec which would otherwise have the most awesome tanking cooldown ever (so the boss doesn't stop hitting me and I am immune... awesome).