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Scattered Shots: Grandpappy Frostheim on Cataclysm changes

Brian Wood

Scattered Shots is brought to you by Grandpappy Frostheim, who spends his evenings in an Ironforge tavern telling young hunters how much harder things were in his day, when they had to kite mobs uphill, both ways.

It seems like everywhere I turn these days all I see is hunters overreacting and complaining about the small bit of Cataclysm hunter changes we've seen. "I hate focus! I hate haste! We're going to become ranged rogues! I'm quitting if they do this! I'm going to hold my breath until they take it back! Huuuumph!" Kids these days, I tell ya.

Let me tell you, back in my day ... Well, back in my day hunters complained and moaned about every major change, too. I guess some things never change.

While Cataclysm may be the largest change our class has seen, it is not the first major change our class -- or our stats -- have had. Some of you are just too young to know that we've gone through this all before, although to a different degree. So have a seat, make yourselves comfortable, and shut your trap for minute and maybe you'll learn a little something about the way things were back in the day. Like Brann always says, "If ye don't know yer history, yer doomed to repeat it. Then ye'll look like a great buffoon, won't ye?"

Now back when I was a young-un, we didn't have nearly so many stats as you kids do now. We had intellect, agility, hit and crit, and that was about it. And our hit and crit were straight percentages -- if gear had crit on it, it had either 1% or 2% crit, none of these newfangled ratings. Sure, technically there was attack power, but no hunter anywhere would take AP gear -- after all, our agility gave us two attack power plus some crit.

Then came the fateful day when Blizzard finally got annoyed that hunters ignored attack power gear. They decided they were going to make agility only worth 1 attack power and put attack power on all of our gear, retroactively. They changed every piece of hunter gear in the game, took away a chunk of that agility and turned it into attack power. Whoo-eee, were hunters up in arms over that. "It's a giant hunter nerf!" they cried. After all, we'd much rather have 20 of the old agility rather than 10 new agility and 20 attack power. The old agility was just flat-out better.

Of course in the end, it turns out that Blizzard actually understood how stats worked and how they affected our DPS, and they rebalanced all of our gear so that our DPS did not go down. In fact, it went up!

Then there's all those other stat changes. Crit and hit turned into ratings, which had some people complaining that it made their gear get worse as they leveled (the yokels complaining, I suppose, that they didn't want to have to get new gear when they got to the new level cap). Then haste and armor penetration rating got added to the game. Hunters hated that! "Our stats are getting too complicated -- no one can understand them! We have useless stats clogging up our itemization! We don't want to ArP, it's garbage."

Well, I'm sure you Wrath hunters know how useless ArP is for us now. And now they're complaining that it's going away!

Of course, the kids today are also complaining about stats becoming too simple. Hmph! You don't know what simple stats are! It's kinda like the complaint about it being too easy to gear up to entry-level raid gear nowadays. Don't get me wrong, it is undeniably easier -- massively easier. And that is a good thing! Let me tell you about what it was like if you wanted to raid in my day.

This is a true story: A wee Frostheim had recently hit level 60, and like everyone else, he was endlessly pugging Strat dead and UBRS (which were 10- and 15-man raids back then) trying for the awesome tier 0 set -- the Beaststalker blue quality gear. And pugging back then meant no dungeon finder and no summoning stones. It meant going through Looking for Group channel and ending up with two people AFK the entire run and at least two gold farmers who would try to ninja every BoE.

Tired of this, our wee Frostheim started searching around the internet to see what gear was available. Why go through all that pain unless he's certain that's the gear he wants after all? There he discovered the fabled Dragonstalker set. By the Titans, that stuff was beautiful! And who wants to stalk beasts, anyway, when you can stalk dragons?

Then baby Frostheim had this conversation with the grizzled veteran in the guild, the legendary hate-filled tank, Hrist:
Frost: "Forget Strat dead and UBRS! I've run them 50 times each now, and they just drop blue gear -- I just saw Dragonstalker gear online. That's what I need!"

Hrist: "Yes, that is the hunter tier 2 gear. It drops from Blackwing Lair and the helm drops from Onyxia."

Frost: "Awesome! We need to get people together and do that!"

Hrist: "We don't have good enough gear to have any chance against the first boss in there."

Frost: "Oh ... Where do we go to get good enough gear to go there?"

Hrist: "Molten Core."

Frost: "Sweet! We need to get everyone together to do Molten Core then! It will be awesome!"

Hrist: "We don't have good enough gear to do Molten Core."

Frost: "Oh ... so where do we get the gear we need to do Molten Core?"

Hrist: "From Strat and UBRS."

Frost: "Damn it! Okay, well, I figure another 20 runs or so of each and I should have it."

Hrist: "Even if you do, we have to wait until the entire raid has run them all enough to get all of their gear. We can't go until almost everyone is ready."

Frost: "I ... I just felt a little bit of wonder and happiness wither and die in my soul."

Hrist: "It's what I do."
If you wanted to do end-game raiding in vanilla, the gearing was horrible. In order to be geared for the latest raid, you had to have run the previous tier's raid dozens of times, which required gear from the tier before, and on and on and turtles all the way down. The problem was the guilds running the current raid weren't going to gear you up -- you had to do that on your own. It didn't matter how well you knew your class or how skilled you were, if you couldn't find a guild running the content to gear you up, you couldn't raid.

Let's hit that one again for the people in the back: it didn't matter how skilled or knowledgeable you were. Without the gear, you couldn't raid the end game. And you couldn't get that gear without an end-game guild. And that guild wouldn't take you without the gear. It's the doomsday device and the gnome, the chicken and the egg, catch 22 -- whatever you want to call it, it added up to fail.

This also created a problem where many raiding guilds behind on progression were used as stepping stones for would-be raiders. A guild working its way through Molten Core would get applicants who came for a few months, got enough gear to app to a Blackwing Lair guild and left. And the poor Molten Core guild would never progress, because people left as fast as they came -- and all the incoming raiders were undergeared.

No, trust me kiddos, you don't want the gearing situation we had back in the old days. In fact, the only real reason anyone would want entry-level gear to be so hard to obtain is because they desperately want most people to have worse gear than they do. It's as if they feel that somehow giving more people the opportunity to attempt end-game raids will rob them of their accomplishments. To me, it seems like an complaint of the very insecure. Probably elves, actually. After all, why else be so blasted tall, if not from insecurity?

Probably the biggest hue and cry in the olden days happened when Burning Crusade was announced. They were killing, absolutely killing, our beloved Aimed Shot. This was our go-to shot: three-second cast time and hit for a good three times the damage of any other shot. And in 2.0, they were making it an instant that hit no harder than anything else. Worse yet, they were ruining our rotation with Steady Shot -- forcing us to completely re-learn how to play. They were pinning us in place with that junk. "A two-second cast time that we'll be using non-stop? How can we move? How can we get out of the fire? How can we kite?" Oh, for the good old days of Aimed Shot, Multi-Shot, then just auto-shot for half our rotation. It was so easy to get around when we didn't have any shots to fire! "They're ruining the game! I'm holding my breath until they take it back. Hauuuumph!"

I bet you kids can guess how this one ends, can't you?

BC made the hunter rotation better and more interesting than ever. Sure, they cast MM to the curb and propelled BM to the unrivaled spec for everything for an entire expansion, and sure, that whole clipping auto-shots thing was a nightmare. But you know, they got around to fixing those things, too.

If you spend some time listening to the old-timers talk about the good old days, you'll hear a lot of rosy stories about how things were better, when men were men, and women were men too, and our pets were next to useless, but they were also men. But listen closely to the details. Every one of those stories is about how horribly painful everything was back then, from gearing to ridiculous attunements to pets to rotations to raids to soloing. We had to kite demons uphill, both ways, through the snow. You kids don't know how good you got it. The good ol' days were things of legend, yes, but they were not good days.

And that's the thing you gotta understand about Cataclysm. Some changes hurt and some changes rock, and Blizzard certainly make mistakes here and there. But take a step back; look at the big picture. Look at the game back in my day -- the weak and vulnerable pets, the empty rotation, the bugs, the grinds -- and look at it now. The game just gets better and better and better. So many of the horribly painful things from vanilla blissfully vanished in BC. So many of the horribly painful things from BC blissfully vanished in Wrath. And come Cataclysm, sure, we're going to have to relearn our rotations just like we did in BC. But who knows what horribly painful things from Wrath will vanish?

Because here's a secret: in those painful good old days, we didn't sit around and complain about how hard things were. That's just the way they were -- it's the way the game was. It wasn't bad because we had nothing but worse things to compare it to. It wasn't until the game changed -- with all the complaining and howling and breath-holding that goes with it -- that we could suddenly look back and realize, "Holy crap. We had it hard in my day. You kids don't know how good you got it ..."

And just like we didn't realize how much better all this upheaval would make our class, I have a hunch that you kids will see the same thing in Cataclysm. You'll be sitting here by this fire, telling a new group of youngsters how hard you had it back in your day, when you had mana, and if you ran out you'd have to do 40% damage until it came back. Or how there was only one pet that anyone used. Or that awful ArP stat that was so complicated even the theorycrafters couldn't figure it out until Blizzard stepped in and explained it to them. Or who knows what? Something that we take for granted now as just being a part of the game, but will seem like such a hardship when it gets changed -- even if it's a change that we rail against.

I'm not saying you shouldn't be critical, but you do need to keep the greater context in mind. Then you'll start to see that big picture that Blizzard is painting of a game that keeps being more approachable, keeps growing, of mistakes made but then corrected and made better than ever: a picture of an awesome game that just keeps improving.

You want to be a hunter, eh? Well then you came to the right place. You start with science, then you add some Dwarven Stout and round it off some elf-bashing. The end result is massive DPS. Scattered Shots is the column dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. Each week, Scattered Shots will cover topics to help you improve your heroic DPS, understand the impact of skill vs. gear, get started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101 and even solo bosses with some extreme soloing.

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