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.