Friday, December 28, 2012

The Batmen of Star Wars

I've been operating at a sleep debt all week and keep meaning to catch up, but I seem to be stuck in a bit of an MMO... thing, which is causing me to lose track of the time at night.

I bought the Grade 7 spaceship upgrades so I could do the new missions without my ship melting, but god damn those things are a step up in difficulty. I actually had to learn how to fly defensively [power to shields, move your ship in a square-ish circle around the edge of your screen while spamming barrel roll; makes you practically invincible], and found myself compelled to look up more information online. Apparently you can steer your ship with the movement keys while keeping your targeting reticle in the same place. Mind=blown. Did the game provide this information to me somewhere and I just missed it? Because that seems pretty significant. I just assumed it was like Starfox, that you can only ever shoot straight ahead and that's just how the game works. I've been getting torn up by laser fire this whole time, assuming that the best way to avoid damage is to kill the thing which is killing you, and now I find out I never needed to stay perfectly still just to shoot straight.

I also had a look at a couple of videos and now have to wonder if the size of the Bounty Hunter ship actually translates to a bigger hitbox in the game. I do love Robe's ship... though I didn't at first. It's a pretty retarded design you have to admit, but it grew on me with its very Bounty Hunter-appropriate lack of giving a toss; "Yeah, I'm totally impractical but fuck you." I guess even if it was easier to hit, I'm okay with that, because that's just part of being a god damn Bounty Hunter. If you can't outsmart them, at least you know you out-gun them.

It suddenly occurs to me that Bounty Hunters are like the Batmen of the Star Wars universe.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Return of the Jedi

As much as I dislike the the implementation of "Free to play" that Star Wars has gone with, I now have to concede that it was 100% successful in getting me to resubscribe to the game. Over Christmas I had two days of absolutely nothing to do and the game took that opportunity to sink its hooks into me again.

I spent most of my time on my lowbie Jedi Knight, but when I logged onto my Bounty Hunter, Robe, I ended up getting pulled into a Operation with my guild, along with a few other relative newbies. It's a bit of a remarkable co-incidence that whatever random time I log on to Robe, it always seems to be Wednesday night, my guild's Ops night.

I think I'm going to delete my Sith Warrior. Playing that story as light side makes no sense and it's a bit excruciating watching the dialogue after I report back to my master after making some huge lightside choice  and he can only talk in the vaguest terms about that thing which transpired, and how surprised he was that that would happen, and he probably would never have sent me on that assignment if I had known it would transpire that way. I may come back to that story later, probably with a Marauder, and play darkside as was obviously intended. Will need to brainstorm character ideas...

Apart from that I'm really happy with my other characters. Robe I've talked about before. Acherel, my "pretty boy" Pureblood Sith Assassin is great fun as the slimy, conniving, power-mongerer. And Dreyd, my "pretty boy" Zabrak Jedi Guardian has a bit too much passion than his calling should allow for, too easily caught up in conflict and losing his true perspective.

Friday, December 21, 2012

On cartels

I'm tired of being overly cynical in this blog, but when Star Wars names its expansion "Rise of the Cartel Coins" or something like that I have to wonder if they're just trolling us now.

Just playing the game I get the overwhelming feeling that they are deliberately trying to make free players feel as bad as possible. Because I know when I play a game for free the only thing stopping me from wanting to spend money on it is the lack of the game guilting me into doing so, or perhaps not doing enough to punish me for playing for free.

Weird business models have always existed. A fancy restaurant will charge more for its food and drink, when what you're really buying is the location and the service. A contractor may offer you a free quotation in the hope of winning further business. Even in the simple transaction of paying a set amount for a physical product, you are usually paying for the advertising that informed you that the product existed in the first place.

Free game demos were very popular for a couple of decades, until publishers realised that they were actually discouraging people from buying bad games.

I guess it's going to be like this for a while now, as companies try to figure out what people are willing to pay for that isn't the game itself. To be honest I really don't like this direction. No matter what the business model, someone is paying for the game, the only difference "Free" makes is how obfuscated the payment process is. Trying a game and then deciding it's worth paying for is a great concept, but these days it all seems very duplicitous.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Buy to play

Apparently "BTP" is a thing now, with the term being used to describe Guild Wars 2 and now The Secret World's lack of a regular subscription cost.

I have to say I like it. You buy a game... to be able to play it. Sweet deal!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Flow in WoW

Thinking about what kind of content I personally want to see more of in WoW had me lamenting once again how undertuned our current tier of "Heroic" 5-man dungeons are.

But then I feel compelled to ask myself why I don't just do Challenge modes? I mean, that's the answer for people at my skill level, right?

Challenge modes are too hard though, is my [whining] response. And putting together a group of similarly skilled players is not something I'm able to do easily. Which is fair enough I guess. In the last two months, the only really successful challenge group I've been in was both organised by, and comprised mainly of, some friends of mine on the Nagrand realm.

[As an aside, that run was one of the most fun things I have ever done in WoW. Ever. And I have to admit I'm proud to still have my name at the top of the Feathermoon leaderboard for Mogu'shan Palace.]

So I appear to be one of those entitled people who expects all content to be made for precisely the difficulty level that I play at, which in different ways both an unreasonable and completely justified expectation.

The reason difficulty matters is flow. Flow basically requires that the game be matched to the player's skill level, so that their gameplay input is what determines the outcome.

The current tier of ten-man raiding hits this spot for me. The Cata Heroic dungeons [at launch] hit this spot for me. Soloing Stonecore and Vortex Pinnacle at L85 hit this spot for me. PvP pet battles consistently hit this spot. Even tanking the current tier of undertuned five-man dungeons often hits this spot, because I can put my focus into playing better; designing and executing more elaborate pulls, controlling casters, maximising my damage...

[It's a bit funny to realise, but writing this blog post hit this flow spot for me. A moment ago I suddenly snapped out of it and realised I'm at work.]

And you better believe Challenge dungeons hit this spot for me. They just require more skilled party members that I'm usually capable of mustering.

What WoW has historically been very good at is allowing players to choose their own difficulty by the way they approach the game. Obstacles can be overcome by charging in with skilled play, through patience and tactics, by seeking friends to help, by working to improve your level or gear, crafting or buying potions or devices to assist...

Unfortunately so much of the game these days is so heavily structured, not to mention designed with the "majority" of players in mind, that allowing for emergent gameplay options is something which is often completely overlooked.

It's still there in places if you look for it though. I enjoy those Klaxxi dailies around the Heart of Fear, where the mob density is high enough that I can charge headfirst into a group of mobs, with the strong likelyhood of picking up two waves of patrolling adds while fighting, because I enjoy needing to play well to survive and the genuine thrill of not knowing whether I'll be overwhelmed or scrape by.

For Warriors, there's this moment that happens when you're fighting a group of mobs when you realise that you need to stop your AoE right the fuck now and dump all your rage into one mob because if you don't proc a Victory Rush in the next few seconds you're toast.

That's the WoW I love.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Subscription No Longer Required" play The Secret World, according to an email I received earlier this morning. My cynical self loves the choice of wording. Because "free to play" has indeed become a bit of a dirty word in the MMO community of late.

I have yet to look into it, but I'm guessing that what it actually means is that an initial game purchase is still necessary at this point [ie Guild Wars]. So perhaps it's not quite free. Yet.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


In the same day I received emails from two separate MMO developers encouraging me to come back to their respective games.

Funcom is promoting some kind of AR game around The Secret World, an ambitious concept for sure, and strikes me as a gamble which probably would not have been taken had the game met performance expectations. Of course, providing any actual details on what they plan to do would spoil it, but my mind goes to the 2001 game Majestic. So presumably they'll start by revealing that all those reports of poor subscriber numbers were actually a giant conspiracy. Interestingly, no active TSW subscription is required to sign up for the AR game, which cements it in my mind as less of a value-add than an advertisement.

EA Bioware has of course been laying on the spam fairly thick recently to promote The Old Republic's new "not worth paying for" tier of access. I guess if it helps the game it's probably a good thing. The good bits in that game; art design, atmosphere, many storylines, space battles, interesting combat mechanics, a solo game which doesn't bend over backwards to ensure the player is never ever challenged, are well worth saving. Also, they have true blue actual Australian servers located in Australia. -sigh- I would be so all over that shit if I didn't already play WoW.

It's a bit funny to think back on all that speculation that every MMO released in the past two years might "kill" WoW. Yeah. Those was some good times.

Eight years. WoW has been running for eight god damn years. Video games have only really been a thing for around forty years. MMOs have only really been a thing for around fifteen years.

What I find interesting to think about is how historically significant World of Warcraft will be, no matter how long it runs past this point... and ten million players is a hell of a lot of momentum.

Monday, December 3, 2012

More on 5.1

I had a reaction which surprised me the first time I saw the 5.1 updated map for Krasarang Wilds, with the Alliance and Horde each having taken over a chunk of the area-- it gave me a feeling of sudden loss. In pure gameplay terms, these areas have been changed forever and there is no going back. I barely got to know this area in its natural state, and now it's gone overnight [literally, heh]. This really impressed me because that seems to be exactly what the devs are going for in story terms too. We did this. We came to Pandaria and decided we knew better than the locals, and changed the face of their country forever in the name of the greater good.

So despite my last post, I'm not that cynical about the game. I went back to Klaxxi'vess and [with after purchasing my double XP] helped free the last of the Klaxxi Paragons from his amber prison. I walked into Karazhan [without a raid group] to once again kill Attumen. I look forward to going back into other classic raids to collect the new pets.

I want to talk about upgradable gear. This must be the stupidest and most brilliant addition to the game I never saw coming. Stupid because systems don't come much more shallow-- you spent points to buy item levels. No lore justification, just very simple, very game-y progression. It just seems very, very tacked on.

But brilliant because it actually creates gameplay through adding complexity to your gearing strategy. You need to consider not just how much of a bonus you will get for upgrading a certain piece of armour, but how likely you are to replace it. The price is identical regardless of slot, so you'll need to weigh up whether you spend it on a high stat-budget slot like helm, chest or legs, or on that primary stat-only trinket you're probably going to use well into the next tier. It also means that you are not Best-in-Slot until you spend 1500 Valor points on every single piece of gear you're wearing, adding a new step to progression which previously did not exist.

I love the Brawler's Guild. This is how you foster realm communities. Players from the same server standing around spectating other players from that same server as they demonstrate for all to see just how good [or bad] they are at the game. It's like standing around in SW but instead of recognising the names of all the people who by definition have nothing better to do than talk in trade chat for hours at a time, you'll end up recognising the names of people who achieve actual gameplay feats.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

5.1 Patch Notes

"The conflict between the Horde and the Alliance has ignited a new series of daily quests..."

Says it all, really.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Another short post

Nearly 90 on Coreus, the last of my three "focus" toons for this expansion. I've been really enjoying dicking around as a Demonology Warlock. I'm sure I've talked before about the excellent design behind this spec in Mists. We've really come a long way since our rotation was; (1) maintain dots, (2) spam filler. These days it's all about banking/spending resources and judging when to sacrifice overall damage for burst. It's the kind of thing that I think I'd really enjoy in doing in a raid-- learning how to weave my burst into the right phases of the encounter. I'm letting myself off the hook for managing Shadowflame dot stacking too efficiently for the moment, because frequent gear upgrades, not to mention levelling, keeps shifting my casting haste so the timing keeps changing on me.

I think that's all I have to say.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blog entry for Tuesday 20th November

I've noticed my WoW playtime has seen a significant reduction recently. Mainly I just feel like I have nothing to do in the game. I honestly can't tell whether I genuinely dislike Golden Lotus daily quests or if all that time I spent hating the obligation to do them has just poisoned me against them. I like the Klaxxi stuff but as I'm already Revered I'd prefer to wait until double rep is patched in to do more of that. Crafting is boring, and I haven't even logged into my auction mule in the better part of a week.

Maybe I'm "getting over" WoW. Maybe I'm one of those people for whom Cataclysm was made, so when a million people said it was the worst expansion ever they stopped making the game that I liked and started making a game that revolves around daily quests and trivial random-group content.

Maybe I'm falling into that same trap of entitlement that I find so infuriating to read about.

I'm wondering if a goal would help. Maybe it's time to "go for goldcap" as those wankers on the gold blogs say. I've been sitting on a bunch of investment items for some time now.

I plugged in Ocarina of Time on Sunday. I played this game to death when I was a teenager, and I am honestly amazed how much it still stands up today as a pinnacle of atmosphere and exploration gameplay. That game is a fucking achievement.

Friday, November 16, 2012

All-purpose tanking

I talked about prot warrior stuff a few weeks ago, coming to the conclusion that the massive shift in the value of the Mastery stat-- depending on whether you are using mainly Shield Block or Barrier in a fight-- would mean a lot of gear-swapping, if not completely reforging.

In the weeks since that post I've become a lot less concerned with min-maxing and have adopted an "all-purpose" build; prioritising stamina, then expertise and hit caps, then mastery. I try to keep the option open for swapping in more mastery for any block fights where I can, but the thing is; I've yet to reach any point anywhere in the game where the amount of damage I'm taking is significant enough that I feel compelled to min-max my damage reduction stats. Brief periods of danger can be dealt with easily by hitting Enraged Regen in combination with a health-boosting CD/trinket, and any high-damage phase is predictable for easy CD timing.

Overall, I just don't think that healer mana is anywhere near as affected by me as by all the DPS carelessly soaking avoidable damage. As long as I am playing properly and using my damage reduction and control abilities reasonably intelligently, my damage intake is fairly predictable, and I might as well be contributing what damage I can.

That's all I have to say about theorycrafting, I suppose. But I do want to talk about how ridiculously fun prot warriors still are. It just feels very active, like you have a tool for every situation. And while the all-purpose combo of Charge-Thunderclap-Shockwave-Revenge-Shield Slam is what I end up doing 80% of the time, it's the trickier pulls that make it all worth it. The ones with multiple casters to shut down, or mobs with irritating abilities that you just want to control as much as possible.

We still have an amazingly versatile toolkit [though I miss my single-target stun] and the best mobility of any class in the game. Executing one of those pulls where you zip around like a madman sweeping all the mobs into a neat pile and then BOOM stun the whole pack in place-- wrapped up like a gift you're presenting to the DPS-- it's a great feeling.

I have a fond memory of the first time I tanked that trash before Elegon, realising a fraction of a second too late that oh shit this mob was about to knock me over the edge of the platform and oh fuck there I go... but having my well-developed Heroic Leap reflex kick in to instinctively leap straight back to solid ground again.

Then the second time I tanked that trash, the exact same thing happened.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A bit of train-of-thought

I'm led to wonder where this incredible sense of entitlement in gamers came from. Maybe it's not something unique to games, but a specific demographic which is common in games. Or maybe it's only the fact that MMO Champion puts it in front of my face daily. Maybe it's a human thing to expect the world to conform to your desires, and everybody complains about how everyone in the world is terrible except for themselves. I know I do.

Hm. I really expected that thought to go a bit further.

I was reading on another blog about The Secret World, which I played a bit before Cataclysm came out but didn't end up staying for a second month. This blogger talked about how awesome the story and the characters are, and I totally agree. I really enjoyed the ambience and feel of the world in TSW, and being reminded of how awesome it was makes me want to go back and play it again.

But I know better than this. It's far from the first time I've had a nostalgic craving like that; to go back and experience a video game's world and ambience and characters again. Sometimes I attempt to indulge those cravings by booting up the old game; but with very few exceptions [Chrono Trigger still holds up amazingly well today] I would get as far as the first lengthy gameplay sequence, get bored and switch it off again.

To me it comes back to that all-too-common disconnect between story and game. I like the story; but the game itself has become just an annoying obstacle to experiencing that story. My question becomes: why does this story need a game attached to it? We have plenty of media capable of telling stories, putting one in a game waters down the impact at best. Putting one on a sub-par game is just a complete waste of time and creativity.

To be honest I think the average video game player these days appreciates the concept of video games more than the actual product. They're attracted to the hype and spectacle of blockbuster games, play through each level once to view the cutscene at the end, until they reach a part they can't beat on the first few tries and lose interest. You know, the kind of player who gets excited when control of their avatar is yanked away, because it means something cool is about to happen and they get a short reprieve from actually having to play the game.

Basically, I tend to think that kind of player who demands an awesome story from their video game is the one who didn't really care about the game that much to begin with.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Super Fucking Meat Boy

I know this blog is about WoW, but I am unable to not rave about this game. Having finished the "main" game a year or two ago but losing my progress to a PC upgrade, I turned it on last night last night on a whim and ended up playing all the way through The Hospital's Dark World [with A+ time on all but that god damn vertical fan level] and once again found myself having the most fun playing a video game ever.

Every gamer should play this game. Don't be frightened by people telling you how stupidly hard it is. Don't think it's like Dark Souls-- a game which uses the argument of "it's supposed to be hard" basically to excuse the developer not bothering to fix any blatantly unfair design issues. Yeah-- I get that Dark Souls is "genuinely" retro in that way, but let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater in terms of modern game design.

Super Meat Boy is not a retro game, it's a game that builds on a quarter-century of refinement of the platform genre.

Super Meat Boy is not designed to be "finished" by more than some ridiculous top percentile of gamers, but the game does have a smooth difficulty curve to gradually push you into trickier and trickier challenges. It's about seeing how far you can get-- exploring and expanding the outer limits of your skill as a gamer. And although you will inevitably end up dying over and over, the constant refinement of your play skill [the purest form of video game fun] will compel you to keep going, attempt after attempt, until you finally nail it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Character progression

I really enjoy pet battles, but WoW has trained me to not "waste" my playtime on activities which do not provide any character progression [or at least high gold per hour]. I was joking when I first suggested providing Valor Points for max-level pet battle wins, but I've actually come to the opinion that it would be a really good reward to add to the system.

At, say, six minutes per battle and assuming average skill [ie 50% win rate], five VP per pet battle win would still be worse Valor/minute on average than daily quests, so it wouldn't break the system. It would be akin to XP in levelling BGs-- a small bonus to the activity so that your progression doesn't completely stagnate if that's what you spend all your playtime doing. And at around 20 hours playtime to cap Valor this way, I'm sure it would satisfy Blizzard's "give the player plenty to do" policy on everything being a huge grind.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Playing dumb

I think it's pretty silly how the CMs are responding to players complaining being "forced" to do Raid Finder by saying in no way is this content compulsory, it's just optimal.

Come on guys, we know you're smarter than that. For many players, being sub-optimal is not an acceptable option. We know you know this because we've seen whole game systems designed around this fact so many times in the past. All you're doing by feigning ignorance is insulting the players who pose these legitimate questions.

But to the people who ask, the reason is not hard to figure out if you think about it. Blizzard just can't admit to it.

Raiders are "forced" to do Raid Finder because bad players need to be carried. Raid Finder is designed around this idea. It's about preserving the illusion of competence and therefore self-esteem of the bad players; to keep them feeling good about the game and keep them playing. Pretty much every developer decision that unfairly inconveniences raiders comes down to that same reasoning: to protect bad players from realising that they are bad.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

GC's PvP propositions

Ghostcrawer has a blog up about the current state of PvP. He went over some of the ideas the dev team has been considering implementing, a couple of which caught my eye. I should mention I don't PvP very much because while half the time it's really enjoyable, the other half makes me hate everyone and everything in the universe.

"Loss-of-control UI"-- that being some kind of dealie on the interface which shows you very clearly that you have been controlled so that you don't have the frustrating experience of trying to push buttons and nothing happening. I fucking love it. Literally just last night I died to a pack of really annoying chain-1sec-stunning elites on my Shaman because I thought I had hit my healing CD, but didn't notice that I was momentarily stunned when I pressed it so it never went off. I mean fears and disorient effects are easy to notice and react to, snares and roots too if you're trying to move at the time; but for things like stuns, hexes, disarms; in the thick of battle it often takes me a second or two to realise why my buttons are suddenly not doing anything.

Queueing for Rated BGs with only 5 people would be fantastic-- enough of a barrier to entry to ensure that the individuals who join the group and least think they know what they're doing and have some accountability to the team, but drastically reduces the logistical issue of needing so many people online at the same time to access this part of the game.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A bit of E/N

I've started running dailies again. Not all of them, but I've the Klaxxi have a nice pair of pants that would be great to have come raid time, so they have been my focus recently. Sometimes it's just good to ignore the metagame and just focus on what's in front of you.

Arms is a lot of fun to play these days, with plenty of tools for dealing with crowds of mobs at the same time. I've even started accepting the Damage role in dungeons if the opportunity arises, mainly because I know that my contribution as DPS will lead to a faster run overall, and to hell with undergeared tanks-- I can keep myself alive if I need to. I'm really happy with the recent changes to the timing of CD-refresh procs. It's now a lot easier to react to these before the next GCD even with Aussie latency.

In pet battles,  I've reached [what I am assuming is] the final Gym Leaders for Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. These guys have L19 pets, so I reckon once my guys all L17 I should be able to down them without worrying about all my attacks missing.

My current team is... actually I just noticed shows your current team, so: LINK. Yes, I know I'm using a Dragon and and an Elemental like every single other player. But they're both really good, so ner. I find the pairing of hard-hitting long-CD abilities with pets that can heal is a good strategy, and the damage that Scorchling can put out is just insane.

I need to find a mod that keeps track of when your opponent uses their abilities so you can see when their CDS are up. Knowing whether your opponent has a defensive ability ready to use, or if their big CD just became ready is really useful information.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Prot Warrior stuff

EJ has some good stuff up for Prot Warriors at L90 [finally]. One of the more interesting recommendations they make is to prioritise Hit and Expertise to cap ahead of any mitigation stats, including Mastery. I'm not totally sold on this as general gearing strategy-- I'd just call that a Barrier build. As long as you're using Shield Block, mastery is both your most effective and smoothest damage reduction stat.

I guess the thing to keep in mind is that Warrior tanks are going to basically have two modes, switching based on whether the fight has significant unblockable damage or not. Block fights will obviously prefer Mastery, while for Barrier fights, Mastery will do very little. The interesting consistency between these two builds is the lower value of pure avoidance stats; Parry and Dodge have a lower value in a Block fight due to rage income being important for keeping Shield Block up, and in a Barrier fight they are almost as poor as Mastery.

So I suppose what this all means is that progression tanks will have a lot of on-the-fly reforging to do. For me, though, I'll switch out what I can, probably mainly trinkets, but reforging between fights is a bit beyond my commitment level.

As long as I'm talking about gear, it's also a bit of a shame so much of the current tier is so poorly-statted [so much Dodge >_>], but I guess it gives them somewhere to go in the next tier. I know they know how to do it well, because I noticed they did it with the "Masterwork Spiritguard" entry-level crafted tank set. You should see that thing... Mastery on literally every slot. Beautiful.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Warlockin' again

Played my warlock a bit last night, levelling from 85 to 86. Wow. Demonology is amazing. Once you get your head around transitioning frequently between the two modes to it feels very fluid. The design is just beautiful, the way you can bank Demonic Fury and either spend it efficiently for max sustained DPS or inefficiently on powerful burst. AoE burst with two Felguards breaks my brain it's so OP. Would be even nicer if we had an AoE ability to spend Molten Core procs on instead of just Soul Fire, but I guess we have enough shit already to throw out in AoE situations.

I haven't quite gotten my head around keeping my damage up during heavy movement yet, and found the final boss in Brewery really frustrating with his bloody spam of that debuff you need to run around to remove, and the beer walls to constantly jump over. Also our healer was terrible and died [then dropped group] halfway through the fight, so I had my own health to worry about too.

I heard that Hunters are getting to move while casting in the next patch. Perhaps it's time to just allow all casters to move while casting. I mean they already buff melee classes with the assumption that they wont have 100% uptime on the boss due to "movement", with casters now apparently being totally able to get around their "equivalent" restriction of standing still to cast things in movement fights. So why don't we just go the whole way and we can get over this nonsense.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I have yet to Valor cap this expansion. I feel slightly ashamed of this. I got to 900 the first week, 910 the second week, 600-odd last week.

Why? Well, for starters, it turns out that undertuned Heroics are fucking boring. [Who would have guessed?] They also now provide only 20% of the Valor they did previously, which is almost understandable given the difficulty reduction, until you realise that they are not actually solable now, so one-fifth of the Valor might be slightly off.

But the Dailies are worse. Remember when they said they were removing the Daily quest cap to "stop people from thinking they needed to cap it"? It's now been replaced with a weekly soft cap of two-hundred-- the number of daily quests you need to complete to gain 1000 Valor points.

I didn't used to hate Dailies. They weren't the most fun thing in the world, but I didn't actively hate grinding out every single one of the Argent Tournament mounts, and that thing has a reputation for being awful. But then they told me my raid gear depended on it, because... I have to assume they think I will enjoy Dailies more than running Heroics..? That is the only explanation I can think of. Why would they, as game designers, take my reward from one place and put it another unless they think I'll enjoy the other thing more?

The reputations have also had their grind increased. Where we previously had the option to use tabards to grind rep through Dungeon runs if that's what we enjoyed more, the lack of tabards has completely removed this alternate progression path. They gave us fewer options. On top of this, all Valor rewards now have a reputation requirement. We have to do daily quests to gain rep or even the Valor we gain is useless.

It's not the quests themselves. I like the easy-going running around smiting mobs and freeing slaves or whatever, knowing it's all headed towards a reward at the end. My issue is a resentment of being told exactly what to do to not be sub-optimal; the implicit obligation that the game has set for me. What I am feeling is exactly the effect that they were trying to avoid by removing the daily quest cap.

I resented being "forced" into it so much that last week I completely stopped doing daily quests. Just stopped. I could not bring myself to engage with that grind any more because it was making me dislike playing the game.

The reason I think this happened is the devs held too closely to this mantra they've been touting throughout the Mists development of "giving you lots to do to progress your character". This is a great concept, except that I think they misunderstood "progress your character" to mean "grinding Valor gear is the only way to progress your character", and "lots to do" as "you have to do the same things for longer". Then I imagine these devs cackling madly; "HAHA YOU WANT VALOR GEAR? DO WHAT WE SAY OR NO GEAR FOR YOU". And what they want you to do is everything. Outside of professions and pet battling, I can't think of much that exists at endgame that isn't now tied to Valor points in some way. I guess they'll probably start giving you 2 Valor per max-level pet battle win in patch five-point-two.

Sacred Duty has a great post that reiterates a lot of what I've been saying and claims that this is the grindy-est the game has ever been. That post also talks a lot about food buffs, which honestly I have been trying to ignore because I took one glance at the food system [yeah, it's a system now], saw how ridiculously convoluted it was and decided not to bother. I can't help but think they must have assigned some overzealous up-and-comer to design it and he really wanted to make his mark.

"This food provides 250 stats to ten people unless one of them is Best Friends with the Cooking trainee in which case it provides 275 stats to all players but if the person who placed it recently purchased a buff token from Halfhill they get 300 stats but this expires in 15 minutes instead of 30. Also it makes you larger."

These days you can buy food from a vendor for three gold that buffs you with 200 stats [other people like Mastery the best too, right?]. But you want that extra 100 stats? Oh man you better be ready to WORK for it.

So anyway I've been enjoying pet battling a bunch, doing a lot of AH trading, and slowly levelling Tashraal. I got the Shaman ability Ascendance last night, which for someone levelling is basically a oneshot iwin button against whatever you're fighting. Shamans have a lot of iwin buttons, I've noticed.

I also played a Monk for a few levels. It's fun, but needs more mobility and/or ranged abilities. I guess most classes feel slow at low levels, especially when you're used to charging around on a Warrior.

I think I'm just going to stay away from endgame until it makes me hate the game a bit less...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More on professions

I put a lot of thought into structuring my professions for this expansion. Harmony is the new paradigm for crafting, and the only way to get it is for the crafting character to play the game. I know plenty of people who think Harmony is the worst thing ever, but I don't think it's terribly unfair to restrict what is possible to do on a character who just sits by a mailbox and crafts. It's a different way of thinking too; you don't buy Harmony, so the word profit does not apply, it's about converting it to gold, and calculating the most efficient way to do so.

Syrannia is a Blacksmith, which for the most part means milking the cash cow which is Belt Buckles. There are a couple of other miscellaneous items, like the Shield Spike, which are profitable mainly because I'm the only person bothering to sell them. I've been using my Harmony to purchase the crafting patterns for entry level PvP and tanking gear. Going back to the idea of Harmony to gold conversion, these patterns are a total no-brainer because there is no restriction on how many times I can produce and sell the item. As long as the item is profitable to sell the gold conversion for 1 Harmony spent on a pattern is theoretically infinite.

Ghost Iron Dragonlings are the gift Blizzard gave Engineers this expansion. This trinket sells amazingly well; there are few enough BoE trinkets to choose from, and this one is useful for every class. This item also finally creates a mass market for the previously Engineer-exclusive Cogwheels.

Coreus is the clothie cliché of Tailor Enchanter. Tailoring in my experience only has limited production value; I've yet to really look into whether there is anything profitable in there. In the past I've found crafted epics tend to be more profitable later in the expansion once the material price has dropped and the competition has forgotten about them.

Enchanting on the other hand, is doing very, very well. With the exception of a few "newbie traps" all the new enchants sell for a very healthy profit. Blizzard did a really good job, in my opinion, in removing "lesser" enchanting Essences and for smaller DE values just giving Dust, five of which can then be converted into one Essence. Player ignorance [I have to assume] of this feature means that a single Essence actually sells for up to double the price of the five Dust that any Enchanter can use to make one. It's even profitable most of the time of the time to down-convert Shards [from Rare-quality gear] into Essences; the sell price is that inflated.

Tashraal is the master Engineer and a learned Scribe, both important facets of his character. Darkmoon cards have been selling very well, and if I'd realised that the daily CD mechanic meant that one scribe could produce one card per day I would have trained up a second one ahead of the expansion to take more advantage of this. I've sold a few glyphs, but as we all know this market is heavily contested, so sales are relatively proportional to how often I can be arsed cancelling and reposting them.

I need to correct what I said earlier; Blizzard actually gave Engineers two gifts this expansion. The second is not one, but two new flying mounts. These use 12 Harmony each to make, and I predict they will be by far the best gold conversion rate in the long term. These mounts are also the saving grace of having redundant Engineers; because one mount is restricted to each specialisation, having Engineers to cover both is extremely convenient.

And on the toons I don't play, I have a Leatherworker Transmute Alchemist, Miner Transmute Alchemist, a Jewelcrafter Transmute Alchemist, and a Herbalist unspecced Alchemist, likely to go Transmute... but I'm waiting to see if making my own elixirs will be worth doing. :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Raiding; pet battles; recruitment

I've seen a few people who refer to progression raiding as "progressive". Social reform is a noble goal it's true, but I'm not sure it's necessarily a high priority for most World of Warcraft raids.

Pet battles in their current state reminds me so much of the first generation of Pokémon. Unrefined interface, unbalanced mechanics, and an insane amount of fun. They are going to do good things with this, assuming any kind of ongoing development focus.

I'm concerned about the future of my raid group. Our best players are all people who have been with us since we were a 25-man raid, but natural churn has been eroding at that core for a while now, and our recruitment is only ever reactive. It doesn't help that our server is small these days, or that so many of the quality people tend to be caught in the gravity of a certain top raid leader and his cult of personality. I guess I shouldn't be surprised of the power of social ties in an MMO, but god it's depressing how far some very average players have gotten just by glomming onto the right person.

Recruitment is all about the size of the pool you have to draw from. It's about knowing enough people [or having enough people know you] that you can cherry pick the best ones. Sometimes I wish I could care enough about knowing people for the sake of knowing them, but that's just not who I am.

I really like the group I have. I suppose if in a month from now we're unable to field a consistent 10-man group it will be time to review our options. I have to ponder whether an Guild merger is going to be an attractive option, but I absolutely don't want to give up playing with the people I play with. With the recruitment pool of a large guild behind us we'd be set. No more horrible trade pugs slowing down our progression, and we could reach the level I know we're capable of.

I guess I wouldn't really want to give up the perks of being a guild officer either, but I'm not the kind of person who requires the ego boost of being a big fish in a small pond.

I went with a few guildies to try a Challenge Mode the other night. I think the difficulty took them by surprise. ;)

Friday, October 12, 2012


Not sure where to start, really.

I tend to only post in this blog when I'm at work, and as I've taken some time off to enjoy Mists at my own pace, the blog has languished.

Some thoughts, in no particular order:

AH sellers are a peculiar breed. Mainly in their lack of understanding of the difference between an item being listed at a certain price and an item selling at that price.

The crafting and selling business is good, though I've been spending gold almost as fast as I've been earning it so I don't really notice.

Valor points are pissing me off. It's like they made a conscious decision to make them as irritating a grind as possible. I remember being a bit put off at having to complete 7 random Heroics to cap Valor in Cataclysm. But that's nothing compared to the twenty-seven random Heroics we need to complete to cap Valor now. But a person might say that that should be less of an issue now that we can do daily quests instead. You only need to complete two hundred of those. Two fucking hundred daily quests. Not to mention the rep grind required obtain raiding gear. I'm usually one of the last people to complain about doing the same thing over and over in a video game, but right now these "compulsory" quests are making me hate daily questing.

I thought it was pretty funny that because they made the "entry level" PvE gear deliberately terrible people were using PvP gear instead, so they had to buff the former and nerf the latter.

Grummles are awesome.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Some thoughts for the day before the expansion

Call me cynical, but did anyone else read that the the latter two thirds of our next raiding tier would be available four weeks after the first one and think it was a bit too coincidental that this time period is almost exactly one subscription period. And besides, I thought they were trying to get away from that gated content idea...

Lots of people complained about the lack of explanation given for the events of the Theramore scenario, and I'm one of them. I think there's a big difference between the way I play "multiplayer" content versus questing content. In multiplayer content, I'm there for the challenge and flow of the game, so any story bullshit that interrupts it is highly annoying. In questing content, I'm just farting my way through a bunch of crap gameplay-wise anyway, so I prefer to have a narrative to follow on so I don't get bored. The gameplay found in the Theramore scenario was, as expected, much closer to the latter paradigm, but unlike questing I had no idea why any of it was happening, so playing it just felt kind of boring and pointless. I followed the icons on my map, clicked on anything clickable, and killed the things with red bars.

Apparently the new Challenge Gold armour sets have "procs" on them. I'm not sure whether it was MMO Champion guy that first incorrectly called them "procs", but seriously, a proc is something which happens on a random chance; these are just effects-- there is nothing random about them. Why are we reaching for obscure jargon words without needing to? The dumbs of the WoW populace probably are going to call these effects "procs" forever now that the term has been established, like what happened with Warlock summoning "stones".

I've decided to focus on three primary toons for Mists: my Warrior, Syrannia; Warlock, Coreus; and Shaman, Tashraal. Each is a character I'm quite attached to and a class which I really enjoy playing, as well as providing an even spread of group roles: tank, damage and healer respectively.

My only disappointment was not being able to include a Leatherworker in this group, as the new endgame profession model relies significantly on you actually playing the character you're crafting with, and these characters only cover Blacksmithing, Tailoring, Enchanting, Inscription and Engineering [twice]. I very briefly considered dropping Engineering from either Syrannia or Tashraal, but I'm unwilling to give up the Engineering conveniences on my most-played character, and being a master engineer is too central to the character of Tashraal [also I've spent too much time and gold collecting obscure schematics] for me to throw that away.

My Paladin, Judicas was my previous choice to fill the healing role [also with Leatherworking and Jewelcrafting professions], but I actually haven't been enjoying healing with a Paladin much recently. After thinking about it I realised that the reason I started healing with the Paladin class in the first place-- playing a melee healer-- has been completely patched out over the course of the expansion. Now I just feel like the healing rotation [because the Paladin resource system means you have a rotation-- does any other healing class have to deal with this?] is a bit too reactive and just feels clunky overall.

Shaman on the other hand feels very smooth and genuinely hybrid, with such a large proportion of the healing being indirect or smart healing, as well as having some really fun and powerful utility, which I suspect will be a pretty big deal when it comes to Challenge dungeons.

My long term goal is to get a full set of Challenge gear on each of these characters, as a representation of mastery of that class. No idea how viable this goal is, but I think that is what makes it a good goal; achieving something  I already know is possible doesn't prove anything. :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A non-WoW post

I while ago a game called Journey was released to generally hyperbolic reviews and I felt compelled to purchase a PS3 to play it. Journey was an amazing experience, and afterwards I spent a few dollars on some other games I had heard about but previously had no means to play, such as Flower and Shadow of the Colossus-- and I also found a version of Lumines made specifically for PS3 that was still utterly subpar compared to the PSP version released seven years ago. Man, that game has aged well.

Um, where was I? Oh, but since that first week or so, I've barely touched our PS3, and our semi-permanent couch guest has become by far the primary user of the machine, which may be related to our lounge room having over time mysteriously evolved a stack of PS3 disc games. One of these games is Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, which I felt compelled to try out the other day, having heard enough about it from various sources to think I might enjoy it.

The art design is just amazing, the highlight of the package in my opinion. Ruined husks of skyscrapers have been overtaken by a jungle of lush greenery and the sun is always shining brilliantly. This is a post-apocalypse I can get behind-- a really refreshing take on what is usually such a depressing setting. I'm only at Chapter 8 or so and have met two characters so far-- Tripitaka is a bit of clichéd girly girl, but I love the enigmatic Monkey. I understand the characters were acted using performance capture [a la Avatar, Planet of the Apes, etc] and the developer has taken full advantage of this. I've been really impressed with the performances, and how much emotional nuance is conveyed non-verbally.

The game is concerned largely with jumping, clambering and various other feats of athletics, with a healthy dose of melee combat and smidge of shooter-ey stuff to break it up. The SO remarked that it looked extremely reminiscent of Assassin's Creed and Uncharted, but I haven't played either of those-- the gameplay reminded me most of Prince of Persia.

I admit I nearly stopped playing this game early on due to how janky the controls were and how often this can interrupt the flow of movement. Basically it's because the game wont let you jump unless it's already figured out where you are going to land. I assume this is to get rid of any annoying "leap of faith" trial and error gameplay [as this genre is usually rife with it] and it also works to prevent you from accidentally walking off a cliff, with Monkey coming to a screeching halt at the edge if you so much as try, but unfortunately no automatic distinction is made between bottomless ravines and two metre drops, and it can be incredibly frustrating when you just want to hop down from a small ledge but the game wont let you do so because that particular jump hasn't been programmed into the level.

Overall I just feel like the levels are a bit too scripted and linear, and traversing them feels unfairly restrictive. I was pretty disappointed when I found that the most efficient method of tackling the clambering sequences is just to spam my X button and waggle the stick around in the general direction I think I should be going rather than actually looking for the next hand hold.

I suppose this is true of all modern 3D games, but I never felt like I could see enough of the environment at once. There is no way to zoom the camera out, so when exploring an area I feel like I'm spending far too long just waving the camera around just to see what's around me. This level of zoom persists during combat as well, and though it's nice to have a clear view of the melee action, this means that any enemies which you are not currently hitting are completely off screen and once one is dealt with, you need to then slowly pivot the camera around to see the other which is about to attack.

The combat is what kept me interested though. I've never been a big fan of brawler-style games, but I'm glad I took the effort to learn this combat system. The enemies tend to be varied and each type needs to be dealt with in a slightly different way. I almost didn't mind the few occasions where the game blatantly threw wave after wave of enemies at me in a single area which I had to beat before the obviously visible exit door would display the context trigger that let me open it. Many areas are set up to allow you to bypass combat completely and but disappointingly this option is only present arbitrarily-- in other areas you will find another inactive exit door passively suggesting you go back and kill all the enemies like you were supposed to.

Maybe my memory is off but I always understood that the PS3 was a graphical powerhouse capable of high-end HD graphics. Playing this game I was immediately struck by how shockingly low-res it was, and the frame rate dipped regularly.  Have games themselves evolved so far since this console's release that 1080p is no longer possible, or was the PS3 never all it claimed to be to begin with?

That ended up a bit more like a game review than I intended. I hope I didn't sound too negative because I really am enjoying the game. I criticise because I love.

And I suppose I will award this game my highest score-- two stars. **

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pre-expansion limbo

We're in a weird limbo right now, we WoW players. Just about all serious play has ceased as people wait for the imminent expansion to drop.

I'm a bit baffled by the fact that I still see people farming Elementium and Whiptail. The sell prices for these materials have long since plummeted below all other types of metal and herbs, and they're about a week away from becoming practically worthless. I guess it takes a certain type of person to begin with to spend hours down in Uldum earning 1-2g per node. Maybe they're bots, I dunno. They could at least send their bots somewhere a bit more lucrative.

The hardest thing for me has been trying not to spend all my gold when prices are ridiculously low on just about every material I intend to use in the future. Silver lining to what is basically just a very slow sales period. I've been hovering at 5-10k liquid [non-earmarked] on my primary faction, which is far lower than I'm comfortable with. [My net worth including investments is still somewhere in the 900k ballpark, but actually selling any of it is a different story.] I've even stopped buying Tol'vir Hieroglyphics because I just can't afford them right now.

Mists will fix it all. The buyers will return en masse and all sorts of new opportunities for making gold will present themselves. I've pondered doing that thing where you stop spending gold for a while in order to reach goldcap. But that always struck me as just a pointless epeen thing. I'm more concerned with spending that gold on an entirely different pointless epeen thing which is having more mounts than Whateley.

Friday, September 14, 2012

More on Challenge Dungeons

Zarhym: "It may be helpful to think of the Gold medal armor sets as analogous to Gladiator mounts."

Watcher: "I can't promise that every possible composition will be able to get Gold... [but] every class should have multiple viable group makeups in which it can obtain Gold, assuming masterful play."

And I get a sudden burst of apprehension. Multiple CMs are talking about Challenge dungeons as if they were high-end arena PvP. I mean, I like to think I'm a good player, but I'm well aware of my shortcomings, and the idea of needing to min-max group composition is something I generally place outside of my level of commitment to the game. If gold medal times will truly be so unforgiving that this level of play is required, maybe they will in fact be out of my reach.

Or maybe the CMs are just posturing to keep player expectations in line. Really could go either way here. ^^

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The numbers are bad!

Been reading a bit of Warrior theorycrafting. The current numbers have Mastery valued just ahead of Dodge/Parry in terms of total damage reduction when Shield Block uptime is maximised, which is reassuring. Mastery in Cataclysm provided less overall damage reduction than Dodge/Parry, but was sought after more for its "damage smoothing" effect, and in the later tiers to completely prevent non-mitigated hits. Being on par for damage reduction as well makes Mastery even more of a wonder-stat for Warriors. In the situation that you're using Shield Block, anyway. ;)

What's a bit less reassuring is how stupidly overpowered Shield Barrier is at the moment. Sims are currently showing Barrier preventing as much if not more overall damage than Block even at L90, while also being a superior form of damage reduction-- Block only has an effect on melee hits, while Barrier stops AoE, magic, bleeds and special attacks like Impale. The reason this concerns me is that I'm certain the design intent is for Shield Block to be the primary mitigation tool, and if this has not been achieved, Barrier is probably headed for a nerf to keep it in line. I mean unless the T14 raid encounters have been designed to deal tank damage exclusively with melee hits or something.

I know, I know, gift horse. But a broken mechanic, even when it's broken in my favour, is still disappointing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Extremely hardcore

Our favourite Lead Systems Designer and spectral crustacean has a new twitter account and has been answering many, many questions with short and very sweet responses. This might be one of the best things to happen to WoW's community management in the past few years.

It's like forum posts, but the character limit forces people to get to the bloody point instead of rambling in a single page-long paragraph, or posting another fucking bullet point list of why their point of view is incontrovertibly correct; and forces GC's responses to be to the point without any of that pandering "we totally value all points of view even the retarded ones" bullshit. I don't think I've ever felt so satisfied reading developer feedback to player questions ever before.

I've glommed onto one particular comment which I found extremely encouraging:

"Challenge modes are extremely hardcore. Hoptallus may be harder than any raid boss ever."

Now that's what I want to read. It's been my suspicion for a while now that Challenge modes aim to match the difficulty of Heroic raids, and this practically confirms it. Un-nerfable content is still a concept which is a bit hard to conceive of for a long-time player, and to imagine that perhaps two years from now, when all the raids have been nerfed to the ground and we are farming Heroic Hellscream in our ilevel 600 gear, that a 5-man encounter could still be the hardest thing in the game is a tad mind-boggling.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Apparently there's been some shenanigans going on with people using the new cross-realm grouping in the game to farm rare spawns across multiple realms, mainly the new Darkmoon Rabbit world boss... which I would link to but doesn't seem to have a Wowhead page yet. I can, however, link to it's loot. This pet is currently listed on the AH my realm for 250k, which I doubt will sell, but I can't necessarily argue against that price considering its present rarity.

Hard to say if Blizzard will consider this worth fixing-- mainly because it's such a hard thing to limit without removing some functionality from the cross-realm feature itself. I think the least disruptive solution would be to give World Bosses specifically a special flag to prevent them from being engaged by off-realm players. Using this technique to hunt other rare spawns is a lot less overtly disruptive, but still a bit disheartening considering the amount of time I spent hunting then just on my own realm.

I am in love with the Warrior ability Shield Barrier. It really is the most beautiful, responsive, awesome-feeling ability. Damage comes in, you hit a button and wham, stop it in its tracks. Assuming the Protection buffs currently in beta make it through to live we are looking at a situation of having sufficient rage generation to maintain optimal uptime on Shield Block and still have leftover rage to use Barrier as needed to cover the gaps. The only wildcard is boss avoidance-- your rage generation relies significantly on your ability to hit the boss-- so I'm actually getting excited about reforging into expertise/hit again. The jury's still out on how theoretically optimal this will be, but in terms of my own playstyle I'm pretty sure I'll end up doing this. I guess it would make really good sense from a design point of view if stats that provide a benefit to the reactive rotation were more optimal than passive avoidance, but I'm less confident that the designers would bend over backwards to create this situation in the game.

Friday, September 7, 2012'

We can no longer CTC cap. =(

This brings mitigation stats back to the forefront, especially with the brand new ability Shield Barrier. While tanking your major choice is between two spells: our old friend Shield Block costs 60 rage [lol totally called it] and makes you CTC capped for 6 seconds; Shield Barrier will consume 20 to 60 rage and grants you a damage absorption shield based on your Attack Power multiplied by the amount of rage consumed.

The obvious conclusion is that since Block mitigates a percentage of incoming damage and Barrier is a fixed amount*, there will always be a break point in incoming damage where for anything higher it is better to use Block, and anything lower to use Barrier.

[*though scaling with attack power means that incoming damage is a factor in the absorb size due to Vengeance]

My experience doing Dragon Soul this week has been for Barrier to "feel" better in most situations. The only time I felt like I needed Block was while tanking Warmaster Blackhorn. I attribute this mainly to overgearing the content, so incoming damage for the most part would have likely been below the aforementioned break point, not to mention the amount of mechanics in DS that deal magic damage [on which Shield Block no longer has any effect]. Banking rage to use Barrier in anticipation of large bursts of predictable damage feels amazing.

As I mentioned before, the inability to CTC cap makes mitigation stats relevant again. I swapped my Stamina trinkets for dodge and mastery, and changed a buttload of stam gems back to mastery and parry. Because any mitigation effects are applied before the shield absorb, gearing for mitigation makes Barrier even more effective for general use. I have to wonder whether Mastery will be less of a wonder-stat moving forward if its major benefit of smoothing damage can be replicated with intelligent Barrier use.

Yesterday I heard that Prot Warriors will be getting buffs to passive damage reduction, active mitigation by way of increased rage generation, as well as a minor buff to damage. Didn't realise we needed buffing, but happy enough to hear my class is getting more powerful.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


They made Warlocks easier to play I guess. But this is Blizzard, so you know they will add high skill-cap mechanics anywhere they can, and that's the only thing I find I can focus on.

Warlocks at the moment are all about generating resources and then spending them on high-damage abilities. The clever thing about the system is that it allows you to save your high-damage phase for when you need it, with a fair amount of wiggle room for doing so without losing any efficiency. So you can save it for a burst phase, or just hit it when your trinkets proc.

As mentioned before I quite like the way Destruction feels for single target fights. The mechanics are simple enough; generate Embers, aim to have close to four when Dark Soul comes off CD [or save for the burst phase] so you can get three to four Chaos Bolts in while that buff is up, otherwise spend Embers during your most powerful trinket proc.

Still getting a feel for Demonology. Switching in and out of Metamorphosis at will is a really cool mechanic with multiple uses. I really would like to see some better theorycrafting for Demo. Or I suppose I can just go do a bunch of dummy testing. What's harder to test, though is the value of Demonic Fury generation. Currently I only cast Doom and Touch of Chaos while in demon form, because I my understanding is that Soul Fire is more valuable as a Fury generator.

Speaking of theorycrafting, wtf is the deal with Noxxic. Those guys seem to just make assumptions based on the tooltips and present them as fact. I lost count of the number of times while reading their pages on both Warlocks and Warriors that they basically just rephrased the ability tooltip and followed it up with the most useless advice like "use this when you need AoE damage".

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Time may change me...

The hot topic for forum whiners this week is the recent massive update to WoW, including an epic hundred-page thread  [EDIT: now multiple threads] entitled "I didn't want a new game." By now I'm sure there are plenty of old hands who loved the game as it was, and change can be scary, but what they don't seem to acknowledge is the sheer number of players who have and will stop playing and move on to other things, were the game to stay the same.

In this past week I've seen guild names I haven't spotted on my server for years, not since they were a top raiding guild back in whatever tier. I think it's telling that they're back now, not for the content addition of Mists in one month, but for the mechanics update of the 5.0.4 patch. They are interested in the game they know being revitalised with modern gameplay mechanics.

It's easy to see the Blizzard forums as a single whining voice that can't seem to make up it's mind, but we need to remember that it's really just a throng of people with ridiculously different wants, and there is no change [or lack of change for that matter] Blizzard can make without one segment or another getting pissed off.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Version 5!

Protection Warrior AoE damage seems a bit ridiculous at the moment due to the lack of a vengeance cap. Glyph of Revenge is pretty OP and may get nerfed. Still getting a feel for how to use Shield Block, so for the moment I'm just hitting it whenever it lights up. Or if there's a bunch of magic damage flying around maintaining uptime on Barrier instead.  This will all be easier to understand once I can set up Power Auras to easily visualise it all on the fly.

A fellow Protection Warrior whispered me last night to mention an unintended effect of the lack of a vengeance cap-- that Baleroc mechanic where he increases the tank's health over the course of the fight while buffing his own damage in proportion. While tanking Baleroc this Protection Warrior ended up with 273k attack power, doing an average of something like 350k DPS for the fight, including an Execute crit for 1.5 million damage. In one hit.

Apparently Warlocks are all about multi-dotting now. I feel lucky that in all my years of WoW I've managed to avoid ever playing a spec which did AoE damage by casting the same spell over and over on multiple enemies [perfect example of "assembly-line" gameplay], but it would appear those days are over. Destro gets a conceded pass for having a multi-dot CD which is pretty fucking awesome.

I get a bit miffed when I go to EJ for some theorycrafting advice and their Warlock thread does not even mention playing the game, but is just a series of graphs showing which combination of specs, talents and glyphs provides 3% more theoretical damage overall. I guess as long as they're having fun...

Demonology's going to take some getting used to. I don't understand why Metamorphosis has you spamming just one spell. I think they must have gotten a bit too much feedback from Warlocks who miss the glory days of Burning Crusade. I also miss how front-loaded this spec used to be. Now you have to spend ages building up to your heavy damage phase.

For the moment I'm concentrating on the much more manageable Destruction spec. Single target is strong, assuming the boss lives long enough for you to max your Embers [again, very long ramp-up time]. There is no AoE filler so we end up AoEing with a primary target like a melee class, with AoE spells also providing significantly faster Ember generation so you can chuck out more Chaos Bolts in between, with the ex-bane spell Havok giving you the ability to "cleave" a few spells to another target. I get the feeling that once this all becomes second nature it will be a very fun spec to play.

I've yet to figure out whether Demonic Sacrifice is the best choice for damage. Having a second demon as a damage CD is attractive, but considering how powerful Chaos Bolt is it's hard to pass up anything will buff it directly.

Also, OH MY GOD SO MANY DEFENSIVE CDS. I heard someone say somewhere that it's easy to justify because Warlocks necessarily need to damage themselves as part of their DPS rotation, but haven't healers been coping fine with this for years? Do most DPS have huge defensive CDs by now?

Holy Paladins are pretty much the same as they were. I think I'll be better at it once I can set up a buff indicator for Sacred Shield and that for that proc that lets you cast a free WoG/LoD.

Flash of Light seems a bit less inefficient than it was previously, but I still barely see the use for it. I always thought these "quick, expensive" heals were kind of pointless. My understanding of the design is that they are for emergencies, ie when someone is in danger of dying. But 1.3 seconds is still a very long cast time if someone is in immediate danger. Especially considering your next fastest, not to mention far more effective heal is a 2.1 second cast-- so casting a Flash heal seems to be useful only in the specific situation where you expect a player to die between 1.3 and 2.1 seconds from the start of your cast.

For Paladins especially, now that we're able to always have Holy Power banked I find it hard to imagine a situation where a 1 or 2-point Word of Glory wouldn't do the trick over a Flash of Light. Or barring any future need for it, you could even just hit Lay on Hands. Or if the player in danger isn't terrible you can just have faith in them to hit one of their own CDs to stay alive long enough for you to cast a Greater heal as per normal.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I laughed out loud

...last night when I read the notice stating that Blizzard once again totally expects that they can get this major patch up and running in the standard 8-hour downtime window.

Will they ever learn?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Glyph of Falling Meteor

I've lost count of the number of times I've gone apeshit excited over a new warlock mechanic in WoW version 5. The latest one I discovered last night when I logged in to Coreus on beta to find the Glyph of Demonic Leap [use Demonic Leap while falling and the fall damage cannot kill you-- already pretty fucking cool] has been updated to Glyph of Falling Meteor, which transforms you while falling into a meteor that slams into the ground to reveal your demon form. Words cannot express how utterly, utterly cool this is.

This is why I love Blizzard.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Guild Wars 2

I don't care about Guild Wars 2.

Friday, August 24, 2012

More on mounts

About time we had some official word on the possibility of a new mount achievement, considering how much some people care about this aspect of the game. It is definitely worth mentioning how long it's been since the last time this type of achievement was added-- y'know, a couple of months after achievements first existed.

When that 100 mounts achievement was first added, in patch 3.0.8, it was only barely attainable at all, usually by Warlock or Paladin Engineers, or people who had spent hundreds of dollars on TCG mounts. We've come such a stupidly long way since then, and with Mists is about to add yet another metric asston of new mounts, not to mention mounts now being account-wide, a patch 5.1 equivalent to 100 mounts in 3.0.8 would probably be closer to 250 mounts than even 200.

In my opinion we need to start coaching the devs by discussing at length on the forums the most important question: whether we should get a 275 mounts achievement, or by that point just go straight from 250 to 300-- y'know, really anchor them as high as we can to make sure they don't sell us short.

Oh speaking of mounts, I need to go pick up a couple of $5 game licenses. I find having a second account useful from time to time, and I might as well get a cheap mount out of it when I next use one.

Now I need to get back to petitioning the guy who runs to remove Tarecgosa's Visage from the list of mounts. IT'S A SPELL, NOT A MOUNT FFS. If you're going to count spells, you also need to count Ghost Wolf and Flight Form and that thing where Kael'thas makes you fly around the room.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Fuck that loser"

I didn't see that much of a problem with what Brevik said in his interview. The interviewer was obviously encouraging him to talk about the way Diablo III "failed" in many fans' eyes. It was only the part where Brevik said he was happy with the negative responses the game had received, because it vindicated the team who was no longer making it. We call that schadenfreude, dude, and you really don't want to be so open about stuff like that. It's not a good thing.

But then the response from Blizzard staffers was so much more interesting. It would appear he struck a very tender nerve there. Making someone in as senior a position as Jay Wilson lose his shit publicly is a big deal.

I  tend to think it's because Brevik has a very valid point. Blizzard took Diablo III in a direction that nobody asked for, because they assumed they knew what players really wanted, and it turned out they were wrong to make this assumption.

I think it's interesting that the game, by any external measure, was ridiculously successful. It's only that they went so far out of their way to turn in into an "online game", and these days online games are judged by the public on an inverse scale of how many players they lose. So in losing 5 million players Diablo III became the worst online game ever.

Personally I think Diablo III was a really good game, bogged down with terrible controls and way too much story bullshit.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Patch time!

Next week will see WoW version 5.0.4 go live, a patch which has been confirmed to include all the annoying "I have to re-learn my class again?!" changes of the expansion and almost none of the cool new features.

I'm mainly excited about all the unintended consequences of this patch. At this point there are so many unknowns! What classes will be end up ridiculously overpowered? What classes will break completely? Which classes will be 5% behind the curve in throughput and therefore declared to be worthless now? Will Heroic Dragon Soul become facerollable, or extremely facerollable? Will Warlocks legitimately be able to tank-- and how overpowered will that end up being?

Will we really be able to buy a pet, add it to our account-shared collection, then sell it on another realm?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The average WoW player

I think we're all generally aware that we, as seasoned gamers [connoisseurs perhaps], have become the minority in World of Warcraft. Blizzard always refers to demographic data when they make unpopular decisions but never actually reveals what that data is. So all I can do is imagine who the average WoW player is. However, I do have a few anecdotes about people I know who have tried WoW and their varying responses to it as [what I would call] casual players.

A few years ago my at the time flatmate asked me to show him WoW. He was a console gamer, with a Wii and an X-Box, and typically enjoyed games like Bioshock and Gears of War. He rolled a few toons including a Gnome Mage which he seemed to like the most, being especially enamoured with the slash emotes for that race, and an Orc Warrior which I have a distinct memory of bringing into a Ragefire Chasm run to teach him to tank, and him totally freaking out and wailing "were gonna die!" when we overpulled, with me reassuring him that I was healing him and to just keep thunderclapping and we'll be fine.

This flatmate and I had a colleague who was also fairly casually into games who started playing a short time later. I never played with him directly, but I remember the game hit him hard, levelling his Warlock far past the toons that my flatmate and I were playing at the time. He would rave about how awesome the game was, but only ever played very superficially, not bothering to look too far into gearing choices or talents or spell choices.

My partner has a friend who is very elitist about the games he plays, and was always resistant to the idea of playing WoW despite the fact that so many of the people he knew were doing it. When I finally convinced [bribed] him to try it, he rolled a Dwarf Hunter and we messed around a bunch in Coldridge Valley, Dun Morogh and beyond, but he never seemed to really find that spark that keeps people playing WoW and stopped playing after less than a month.

I was trying not to push him too hard to like it, hoping he would discover the game compelling on its own [like so many who've gone before], but the one thing I really wish I hadn't done was take him into a random dungeon. It was Blackfathom Deeps, and it was a faceroll. At the end he told me that he had no idea what was going on, and I couldn't blame him. I wanted to show him my favourite part of the game, where teamwork is important and everybody has a role to play-- except these days player power is so out of hand that most non-underpowered classes can practically solo the place. With five players, no teamwork is required at all. All you do is amble through the place, hitting thing that aren't dead before you can get a shot off, and collect your loot.

In retrospect, I showed him the worst part of the game. I'm not sure he even logged in again after that. In thinking about it further I know what I should have done*, but the moment has long since passed.

In conclusion, um...

I think those of us who are so deep into the WoW that the moment-to-moment gameplay ceases to matter in the context of an overarching metagame often lose sight of how fun it can be to just be a player on the ground, navigating the world and developing your character's power.

It's also worth remembering that this game we play is incredibly, incredibly broad, and having so many, many paths to pursue means that the game attracts a ridiculously diverse playerbase, and the idea that it's even possible for someone to play the wrong" way is completely absurd.

Yeah, okay, that's a decent conclusion.

*We should have done BFD, but just with our group of three: myself, partner and he. We should have waited until we could all get together in the same place physically, and really taken the scenic route. Blackfathom Deeps is mostly unchanged from the old days of WoW when the idea of a 5-man dungeon being an epic adventure was still important. The entrance alone is fantastic, descending into a nondescript abandoned ruin to find a huge maze-like network of tunnels crawling with Naga, with some much less abandoned ruins to follow. We could have really taken our time with it, getting a full sense of the scope of what we were doing, not to mention the social experience of teamwork, relying on each other to overcome the challenge.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Eating both cakes

The current MMO payment model needs to die. Well, I mean subscription fees are probably still going to be necessary for the foreseeable future-- server architecture doesn't run itself, but I mean the idea of paying full price for a game and paying extra every month for it afterwards. That's what needs to die.

I bought The Secret World last week because it sounded really interesting, but man, that game is all about milking the players for anything they can. You pay $50 to purchase the game, plus $15 per month and they expect players to pay extra on top of their subscription fee for any premium features past the base game. Can we at least agree that under the above model the very concept of "purchasing" the game is irrelevant. What exactly do you "own" from this purchase? These guys need to make up their mind on whether they are selling a product or a service, because right now they're getting away with doing both. [Hint: it's a service.]

Relevant Penny Arcade. [As a side note, I'm starting to think there is a Penny Arcade comic relevant to just about every hot video game topic these days.]

That all said, I'm really enjoying The Secret World.

A disjointed post

Cynwise has a post up about Cataclysm as a whole and the way it didn't quite hit all the notes it seemed to be aiming for. I can't really disagree. There was a lot to like in terms of improved systems, and the content was all very, very polished-- there just never seemed to be enough of it.

Wrath, in its 25 months, had four raid tiers, with a total of forty-eight bosses. Cata in its 22 months had three raid tiers with a total of 27 bosses.

But that's only one type of content, and though raiding is often considered the pinnacle of the game, it's been long-understood that the majority of the playerbase does not place raiding at a high priority, and so it would make sense that the game would evolve away from raiding as the centrepiece.

I've said before that I don't think anyone at Blizzard had a full comprehension of just how much work they were setting themselves up for in the Cata revamp. They've gone on record talking about the high number of zones they started work on with the intention of performing a few tweaks, but ended up reworking the whole thing. It's easy to understand this attitude of just seeing things that could be improved and needing to do something about it.

But still, I thought the initial tier of Cataclysm Heroic dungeons and raids were fantastic. For the most part really well-tuned, challenging without too many gimmicky mechanics, a very welcome return to form in this area. Blizzard just failed to anticipate the sense of entitlement of the general playerbase, who didn't like suddenly not being able to faceroll group content.

Blizzard for a long time maintained their stance that this was only a temporary issue and it wont be long before we can all overgear everything enough to make it facerollable again. It was part of the way through Firelands that this stance was finally shown to be infeasible. They expected that the lesser-skilled players would be content to live on the previous tier of content, that they wouldn't rather spend three hours grinding Firelands trash for a chance at a single i378 BoE drop, than go kill a bunch of T11 bosses for a constant stream of i359 gear, even after they nerfed those bosses into the ground specifically for the purpose.

So it was then decided that every tier would be subdivided into three difficulties. Heroic raids would be for skilled players, normal raids would be for friendly casual raids, and Raid Finder would be for facerolling idiots. We had the Great Firelands Nerf to bring the current content in line with this philosophy, and we were assured that never again would a player have to suffer the indignity of needing to play content that wasn't current for gear upgrades.

I feel like I've been over this topic before. Way to digress, Coreus. >_>

But anyway, Cataclysm.

I've said before that I think the developers spend way too much time developing complex rewards systems to effectively nudge players into the content they "should" be doing, and not enough on making the content itself worth playing.

The term that overwhelmingly comes to mind when I think about WoW development is "feature creep"-- a term describing a situation in which a piece of software is undergoing testing and polishing to prepare for release, but then has a new feature or improvement added to it which, though it does improve the software overall, has the potential to severely set back the testing process and therefore release as it inevitably introduces more variables to be tested and more bugs to be ironed out. Feature creep is the result of a developer who cares that their product is the best it can be, a perfectionist attitude-- a Blizzard attitude.

Y'know, I'm pretty unhappy with this post. It's disjointed and doesn't really have a central point, but I'm going to post it anyway because I feel like I wrote way too much for it all to go away.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The random dungeon tool

I was thinking about how easy getting loot is these days. You click a button, wait 0-12 minutes, then run around killing stuff for another 20-40 minutes, briefly pausing every 5-10 minutes to click the Need button. Sometimes you wipe because the group is terrible, but most of the time you do great even though the rest of the group are elitists who keep trying to say they're better than you.

Sometimes people hold up the dungeon by asking you about why you did something, but that's only because they're idiots who think you should play their way instead of the fun way. Sometimes they try to kick you because they're horrible people who care more about being douchebags than just getting on with the dungeon. But most of the time they're good players who just play the game like they should and don't totally freak out when other people take short AFKs.

If you do ever get a group that sucks enough to kick you, don't worry, just queue again straight away. The next group probably wont hold you back as much as they did. And anyway, Blizzard wont let people kick you too much, because at least they understand how unfair it is to get kicked from groups all the time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Questing in WoW

Klepsacovic in his post today recalled an anecdote which was originally related by some Blizzard employee about how during development, WoW [being initially modelled after Everquest] only had questing in certain areas of the game, but when feedback indicated that players didn't know what to do once the quests ran out, the devs had the entire game filled with quests. I also remember that anecdote. It's the kind of thing that sticks in your mind as a "beginning of the end" moment.

Actually this reminds me of that head honcho Pathfinder MMO guy saying recently on their forums [in response to the usual whining] that their game is not about giving players what they want. That guy fucking gets it. MMOs are about stopping the players from doing what they want, forcing them to find world-appropriate solutions. Hence, the world itself is the game and you don't need silly quests to keep you occupied.

I'm not against the existence of quests completely. A great storyline told well can make a game much more meaningful, and some of the epic journeys WoW sends the player on are really something special. But I have to assume that a team of quest developers have only so much creative juice collectively, and this insistence they seem to have on shoehorning a story into every "got to location z and kill y number of creature x" quest is a massive waste of resources at best, and tends to lowers the overall quality of the story experience significantly when you're bombarded with a bunch of crap in between the stories you may actually care about.

I might even go so far as to say that constant quests are antithetical to the core idea of an MMO, railroading players in a genre whose main strength is freeform exploration and discovery. Not to mention role-play-- I'm here to play my character in the game, but they assume that I want to be told what to do and even what my character's motivation is for doing it.

Oh, I just thought of an awesome analogy. Quests in MMOs are like training wheels on a bike; great for those who need them, but as experience grows will only become constrictive and unnecessary. Even those epic journeys I mention earlier could technically be done without any structured quests. If anything this would only be a more immersive experience, the "downside" being it would require the player to remember where they were going and why at each step of the way.

As far as WoW quests are concerned, I'd be content if they would just give us some kind of indicator whether a given storyline is worth paying attention to or whether to just follow the map markers and kill things; whether the fact that the city is being attacked by creature x is a cop-out busy-work quest, or the subtle beginnings of some sinister plot from the x queen who has infiltrated our leadership and is using the war on x as a distraction while she engineers the destruction of Azeroth.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why I don't play TOR

I think I figured it out, and though I would like to say I did it by myself I think the fact that many other bloggers are having similar thoughts means I more than likely picked it up via osmosis.

I play WoW, I've played WoW, I will continue to play WoW for the foreseeable future. I don't need another  WoW. It think of it in terms of MMOs having reached a saturation point for me. And that saturation point is one. And quite frankly WoW is the best one, so why would I ever need another one?

I do, however, look forward to popping in and out of TOR as it suits me, like the single player game it always should have been, once the value proposition has fallen in line with that style of game.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Challenge Dungeons

Bloggers always seem to be an overly cynical lot*, even at times wilfully ignorant of anything which might provide hope for the future. Like, for instance, Challenge Dungeons. Why aren't more people talking about these things? Timed dungeon runs are pretty universally popular as far as I'm aware**, and it would appear the devs have recognised this and expanded the concept into a complete tier of 5-man content. Shouldn't this make everybody happy?

The design decisions that we know about so far are all positive. They are not just adding a timer to the existing Heroics, they're setting them up as a higher tier of Heroic dungeons, with different mechanics and everything. Speaking of which, we do seem to have long since lost the term "Heroic" to meaninglessness***, so giving us a new one, "Challenge" for this higher tier makes a hell of a lot of sense.

The very strong impression I get is that the Mists "Heroics" are tuned to be the five-man equivalent to LFR difficulty, and this is supported by the Challenge Dungeon system's parity with the standard tier of raiding-- no random grouping or porting directly to the instance [and hopefully similar difficulty]. The only real differences are the gear normalisation, and lack of gear upgrades as reward. But when you think about it, this is all necessary, not just to preserve the challenge moving forward, but to reinforce the idea that these dungeons are not designed [like most 5-mans] as a stepping stone to raiding-- that they are their own endgame.

Actually, now that I think about it, these Challenge Dungeons sound like they're going to return to us everything about 5-man content that we've lost in the past few years, since the Random Tool automated everything and the devs couldn't nerf Heroics fast enough to keep the bads happy. Isn't that something bloggers can get excited about? I'm talking about Guilds getting regular groups together, LFGing in trade chat, no "queues" for DPS who are willing to start and lead a group, and most importantly, not being forced to tolerate asshats, since the group leader has executive authority over who gets invited and who gets kicked.

I'm feeling so very optimistic right now. =)

-sigh- Two months...

admittedly myself included a lot of the time
** meaning I can't remember ever hearing someone whingeing about them
***  in the same way as we lost the word "Epic" years ago