Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ding 18! 18! 18! 18!

The team is level 18 now, and leveling at a nice pace. There's a good side and a bad side to power leveling them. The good side is that I can run instances quickly and repeatedly, which means that they are highly likely to get the drops they need from any of the bosses I kill. The bad side is that I get pretty much no experience actually playing the classes. This isn't entirely bad since none of them is going to replace the shaman as my grouping/raiding main character. And once I get to a point where the group is taking a more active part in instances, I'll get something of a crash-course on their abilities and how to best apply them in my particular circumstances.

Multi-boxing a varied group like this does lead to a large amount of inefficiency, since there are so many abilities that I won't use often or perhaps at all. Then again, that's not entirely surprising, the game is designed around each character in a group being controlled by a separate player.

My leveling path was to get the four characters leveled via quests as a group until level 8, which is the lowest level at which they can zone into Ragefire Chasm. I ran RFC until they were 14, at which point I skipped Wailing Caverns and ran Shadowfang Keep. Wailing Caverns is very long and very confusing and visibility in some areas is poor, which means I may miss a mob or two, which won't aggro until one of the low-level characters gets too close. So I skipped it until recently, when I did a couple of short runs to complete the quest to get 20 Deviate Hides, which provides the characters with 10-slot bags as a reward.

Shadowfang Keep, on the other hand, is perfect for power leveling. It is a short and linear instance with mob groups that are relatively densely packed. So you're not really getting cheated on exp and loot just because it's short. I did all of the quests for Ragefire Chasm, but none for SFK and only one for WC. The run-throughs give good experience to the group, and many of the quests require a series of prerequisite quests that I'd just as soon skip.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Some changes...

I've taken a slightly different approach than planned. The multi-box group now consists of the following:

Bonuss- Blood Elf Paladin
Cannee- Orc Warlock
Xannee- Blood Elf Mage
Zannee- Blood Elf Priest

I'm going to use my main character, a level 70 orc shaman, to powerlevel them through instances. Depending on how that works in terms of leveling speed, I may also take them around to do quests. For a group, quest experience is a very large chunk of your leveling, since killing mobs in a group grants less experience per kill. Although you kill faster with a group, and may have a better ratio of experience-per-hour, when you are questing you're likely to be killing the same number of mobs. Thus the effect of questing with a group is cumulative-- you complete your quests faster and get the bonus experience when you do your turn-in. Questing also breaks the monotony of grinding for me. Simply chain-killing mobs might allow me to level faster, but it's boring and not fun.

I leveled them to 8 as a group, which is the lowest level that can zone in to the Ragefire Chasm instance. From there, I grouped them with my main and slaughtered the zone. Ragefire Chasm is relatively short, so I can plow through it quickly. At level 8 the group seemed to get about 2/3 of a level's worth of experience (I didn't bother to track it, but I should have). A second run will get them to level 9. At level 10 I will get all of the quests for the zone (about five, if I remember correctly). The experience granted by the quest turn-ins should get them to level 11 by itself.

My intention is to work this way until I'm at a point where it's more efficient to work the group in a more conventional manner. The paladin will be the tank, the warlock/mage/priest will be DPS and crowd control, and the shaman will be the healer. He is sitting at almost 1800 +healing in his healing gear and will be a viable main healer all the way to level 70. Assuming I can actually manage a team this diverse, it should be able to work its way through normal instances all the way to level 70, but that's a long ways off. For now, they'll accumulate experience and instance gear with little work on their part.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Multi-Boxing, prologue

This blog will contain posts relating to my attempts at 5-boxing a group of characters in the World of Warcraft MMORPG, specifically on the Bonechewer server. But first, a short piece on my first attempt, a group of 5 shaman on the Hyjal server, which I leveled to 23.

The easiest way to multi-box is by broadcasting keystrokes (ie, pressing a key on your keyboard and having multiple instances of WoW, on one or more computers, receive that input concurrently). Therefore the simplest setup is to have five characters of the same class, with the same talent spec and the same button bar setup. That way, you can target a mob, press a button, and all of your characters will perform that action. The shaman class is ideal for a few reasons:

Armor: Shaman start out able to wear leather armor and eventually mail armor, but they can also use shields from the start. This allows them to mitigate a fair amount of melee damage even at low levels and with less-than-ideal armor ratings from the rest of their gear.

Damage: Shaman can damage mobs from a distance via spell-casting, or up-close with melee attacks. With a group of five shaman whose actions are synchronized, you can unload a lot of damage before a mob reaches the group, and can continue to do decent damage once it gets within range. They have weapon buffs that add to their melee damage, as well as instant-casting damage spells.

Heals: Shaman can heal both via spells and with their Healing Stream totem after level 20. What's more, the Healing Stream totem's effect stacks. Five of them on the ground at level 20 will return 30 health to the group every two seconds. At later levels they can cast Chain Heal, which is great for dealing with situations where more than one character in the group is being damaged (multiple mobs attacking, or casting AoE effects).

Totems: Shaman totems provide lots of utility. With five shaman in a group, you now have the ability to stack totems of the same or varying types. As I said above, Healing Stream totems stack. While many other totems of the same specific type do not stack, you can place various totems of the same element for a very useful synergy. For example, you can place your five Healing Stream totems in order to provide health regeneration. Or you could place four Healing Stream totems and one Mana Spring totem, to provide both health and mana regen. You could place a Stoneskin totem (to reduce melee damage taken by the group), an Earthbind totem (to slow the movement speed of mobs), and three Stoneclaw totems (which cause mobs to attack it instead of you, and can occasionally stun the mob that attacks it). The Stoneclaw totems "stack" in that the mobs will destroy one of them and then move on to the next one. Searing totems also stack, and can provide a nice bit of added DPS during a battle.

With the recent change that allowed items with +healing to also provide additional +spell damage, a group of shamans in gear that is primarily itemized for +healing can also do respectable spell damage as well. The extra healing will make their Healing Stream totems more potent, while the extra spell damage will allow their fire totems to do more damage. This is in addition to the obvious benefits (more damage from spells, more effective heals).

My experiences

I ran with five Draenei shaman, because my friends on Hyjal were alliance characters and because it would allow me to see an all new area and quests. Things went well because nearly all outdoors quests in World of Warcraft are designed to be completed by a single player. Therefore the capabilities of the mobs are such that a team of five shaman can dispatch them with no trouble, often with a single volley of spells.

Instancing at low levels was easy but somewhat tedious. With my main character, I am always running instances or raids with a group of friends, and we can interact and have fun. Talking, joking, discussing the instance or raid... the social aspect makes the game a lot of fun. Soloing five characters means I'm missing out on that aspect. But also, because I have to be more careful when pulling and killing groups of mobs in a dungeon, it also takes longer to complete the instance. For relatively short instances like Shadowfang Keep, this is tolerable. But long instances like the Wailing Caverns... *shudder*

Anyway, if I got that far, why re-roll?

Well for one, I had created this group on the Hyjal server where some friends played, but they no longer play. Most of my friends play on Bonechewer, so it makes sense to re-roll the group on that server. Yes, it's a PvP server and I'm sure that my little group will make a tempting target for higher level alliance gankers, but that's okay. The group is a diversion and I'm not under any pressure to get them to level quickly, so I can log off when things get too painful for them.

I am also creating a more diverse group. The group will consist of the following:

Bonuss, a paladin
Cannee, a warlock
Dannee, a warlock
Xannee, a mage
Zannee, a priest

They are all blood elves. I went with that so that I can have them all level together from the very beginning, and because I haven't done the quests in their area very often, so it'll still be relatively fresh. I might have gone orc or undead, but neither have all of the classes I was looking to use.

This group will require a bit more coordination and careful setup of macros and keybinds. Being primarily a caster group, it'll be easy enough to run some basic attacks (ie, have everyone cast their primary damage spell by pressing "2"). But being able to have the paladin keep a mob's attention while the priest keeps the paladin healed and the others do damage should be an interesting and fun experience. This really isn't much of a problem until I get to the level where I am running instances, though.

I don't know how often I will update this blog, since I don't know how often I'll be playing the group. They are, as I've said, just a diversion. I have a level 70 shaman that I play most of the time and there's enough to do with him to keep me busy most of the time that I'm logged in. But I'll try to keep this updated as they reach any milestones or go through any humorous situations.