Wednesday, August 26, 2009

EVE Online - When will fools stop being parted with their money?

One of the interesting features of EVE Online is that you are literally allowed to do anything, and I mean anything, inside the game as long as you do not circumvent any game mechanic in doing it. It's a sandbox game that allows (and encourages?) players to cheat and swindle other players. When I was playing I had thought about putting my money in E-Bank, but thought better of it when I realized that no amount of interest was worth the risk of putting my hard earned gains in another players hands.

E-Bank has been rocked recently by scandle, and today we find out that they are insolvent. People. Stop. Trusting. Others. With. Your. ISK!

Grunty vs. Zergling

Blizzard is famous for their Easter eggs, pop-culture references, and hidden encounter content like this:

I don't know anyone with a zergling sadly, but I do have Stinker and know plenty of people with the black cat.

Keep it up Blizz!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First SWTOR ingame footage

I have been somewhat reticent regarding Bioware's use of full in-game voice overs, because quite frankly who wants to stand around listening to quest text when what we all really just want to do is get the quest and head out to complete it. I'm still not entirely convinced voice overs will become burdensome and annoying, but the first released game footage does look promising.

The footage reveals the Bounty Hunter, Smuggler, and Sith Warrior classes and shows a few segments of various combat scenes. Of interesting note is that TOR's use of cover! I've never played an MMO that used it and find it's use here to be intriguing.

Blizzcon - Cataclysm

Blizzcon has come and gone, and as we found out the information leaked at MMO-Champion in couple week period before Blizzcon was entirely accurate, though not complete. The official Cataclysm site is now up, so you can read the full details there and at MMO-Champion (Day 2- Raids and Dungeons, Day 2 - Game Systems, Day 2 - Q&A, Class Discussion, Preview, FAQ).

Long story short is that everything about old Azeroth will change. Zones, quest chains/hubs, limitations (flight anyone?), and lots of class/stats will change. It's basically an answer to the many calls over the past couple years to allow flight in old Azeroth and to shake things up a bit. They didn't say this of course, but does anyone get the sense that they might really not know where to go from Wrath? I had assumed that the obvious next part of the story would lead us to the Titans and the Emerald Dream but it looks like they're putting that on hold for the time being, though perhaps not entirely. We have yet to see any information about the new zones and the quests and information we'll find there, so its quite possible we'll see some building blocks that would lead us to a story I still believe will inevitably lead us to the return of the Titans to Azeroth.

One thing that I am beginning to find alarming is yet another far ranging change to the stats system used in WoW. It'll essentially be the third major revision to the overall system in the past 2-3 year period when Cataclysm is released, and that doesn't speak well to me regarding Blizzards ability to make decisions about game play systems over the long term. It says to me they do not have a good handle on the consequences and outliers for the decisions they make. In BC they made far-ranging changes to every class in the game, and introduced new stats like Armor Penetration, combined stats like Hit and Crit, and then in Wrath went even further in combining Attack Power and Feral Attack Power, changing classes again and smoothing out gear differences between them (Rogue and Druids using same gear for instance). Now this -- Removal of Armor Pen, Defense, Attack Power, Spell Damage. They already laid some of the ground work for this in Wrath but they're going a great deal further than anything I think any of us anticipated and I am beginning to become troubled by it all where I wasn't previously.

Obviously we'll all be anxiously awaiting additional information in the coming weeks and months, as I expect Cataclysm to be released around the June 2010 time frame, which would mean they are already probably in Alpha and should be starting up Beta sometime in the next couple months. Lets see if I get a beta invite this time!!

This was the first Blizzcon I was actually able to attend, though virtually via the Direct TV internet feed. I had heard a great deal about the vibrancy and energy of previous Blizzcons but I didn't get a sense of that this time. I saw videos of the crowd when they first saw the BC trailer and there was an loud outburst of enthusiasm. Didn't see any of that this time. Nor did I get a sense of energy from the Blizzcon panel members either.

Still, I was glad to finally get to watch one and hear things first hand from the panel members. Here's hoping they continue doing that every year.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Post patch 3.2

I took a bit of a break from blogging, but have been playing WoW non-stop since patch 3.2 and have plenty to say about it all. Still hating the Unholy Blight change but lets move on. The big story about Patch 3.2 was in regards to alts. Patch 3.2 was a god send to people who are currently leveling alts or were planning on doing it in the near term. My wife is taking the opportunity to level a Paladin, and got the chest and shoulders, both of which offer 10% experience boost for kills and quest turn ins. Certainly nothing to sneeze at because that 20% experience boost effectively means you really no longer need to grind monsters in between quests and the odd instance run. All that running around is now also much easier to do as you can now get your non-epic land mount at level 20 and your epic land mount at level 40. That certainly helps in the various quest brackets that still have holes the size of buses and have as of yet, not been streamlined (See MMO-Champions explosive revelations of the upcoming Expansion -- CATACLYSM).

Once you do finally get to level 80 you can then immediately start to get Emblems of Conquest which gives you access to Tier 8 (and below) level gear. Not bad for never having stepped foot in a raid instance and similar to what happened with the badges of justice in the Burning Crusade when the Sunwell was released to the world. One I'm taking advantage of to the fullest extent with three different alts at the moment.

The other story about patch 3.2 was the release of the Trial of the Champion (5-man instance) and Trial of the Crusader (10/25-man raid with a Heroic version called Trial of the Grand Crusader with its own 10/25-man version) where Tier 9 gear can be found. It still uses the motif first release with the Argent tournament some months ago, though all grown up now. It's also short--along the line of the old Gruul's or Mags lair, so it's something that most raids will run on one night and then move back into Ulduar. And with new Tier 9 loot in tow.

Not to ignore those who love the PVP side of WoW, Blizzard also release a new battleground -- Isle of Conquest. Fully instanced, it's the first 40v40 BG since AV was released 4 years ago and as far as I can see is a tremendous success. It offers a range of objectives to fight over, vehicle combat, and keeps. I think I still love AV more, but it's a very close choice at this point. BTW Blizzard your changes to Wintergrasp didn't do much in regards to the lag and has some weird side effects like auto-grouping mining bots and once filling the full 40-man raid seems to leave anyone else that didn't get in the raid out on their own. I actually had a raid the other night where a known mining bot was the raid leader. We had openings but couldn't get anyone that popped in after the battle started because the bot simply wasn't inviting. Blizzard definitely has some tweaking to do in order to get all the kinks worked out.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Patch 3.2 goes live today

We speculated last week that patch 3.2 would go live today. Low and behold it is, and there are a ton of changes that I'm sure we'll be discussing in the very near future. Obviously the first such are the changes (nerfs) to the Death Knight class. I've spent the last few nights doing research and spending some time thinking about what spec I might want to switch to after today. I didn't get onto the PTR to check any of this out personally (I hate the laggy PTR and having to run an entirely new client to get there), so all I have to go on at this point is what I've been reading and spreadsheets.

I switched to Unholy several months ago for raiding and have more or less come to enjoy it. As many of the "changes" to the DK class are being visited upon the Unholy tree I obviously am not going to be able to simply remain with the same spec and doing things the way I was before. Since Scourge Strike got nerfed (WHY?????) and the nice changes to Blood Strike got rolled back (without them buffing Scourge Strike again to account for it I might add) it looks like I might have to dip into the frost tree to buff shadow and frost damage (this spec) in order to make up for it. I'll end up losing attack power, crit on some hits, and raw damage with two-handed weapons to do it though. What's worse is I'm reading that because of the nerf to Scourge Strike, Unholy Obliterate builds are actually scaling better now, but require 20%+ armor penetration. I'm sitting at 14.53% at the moment, so it would take a little work before I could switch to an Oblit build. And that of course is contingent upong Blizzard not buffing Scourge Strike again soon to change that.

Death Knights

  • Due to significant talent changes, all death knight talents will be reset for players.
  • Blood Plague: Damage done increased by 15%.
  • Chains of Ice: Now reduces movement by 95% instead of 100%. The main effect of this change will be that targets of Chains of Ice will not have to re-issue a movement command to continue moving.
  • Frost Fever: Damage done increased by 15%.
  • Frost Presence: 10% bonus health reduced to 6% bonus stamina.
  • Frost Strike: This ability can now be dodged, parried, or blocked. Weapon damage bonus reduced to 55%, down from 60%.
  • Icebound Fortitude: Cooldown increased to 2 minutes.
  • Talents
    • Blood
      • Bloody Strikes: This talent now provides 5/10/15% increased damage to Blood Strike instead of 15/30/45%.
      • Dancing Rune Weapon: This ability now has a fixed duration of 12 seconds (which can still be modified by its glyph) and a fixed cost of 60 runic power.
      • Veteran of the Third War: Stamina bonus reduced to 1/2/3%.
    • Frost
      • Blood of the North: Reduced to a 3-point talent. Increases Blood Strike and Frost Strike damage by 3/6/10%. There is now a 33/66/100% chance whenever you hit with Blood Strike or Pestilence that the Blood Rune will become a Death Rune when it activates.
      • Lichborne: Duration reduced to 10 seconds, and cooldown reduced to 2 minutes.
      • Threat of Thassarian: New 3-point talent. When dual-wielding, your Death Strikes, Obliterates, Plague Strikes, Blood Strikes and Frost Strikes have a 30/60/100% chance to also deal damage with your off-hand weapon. Off-hand strikes are roughly one half the effect of the original strike.
      • Toughness: This talent now grants 2/4/6/8/10% armor instead of 3/6/9/12/15%, placing it in line with similar abilities of other classes.
    • Unholy
      • Desecration: This talent has been reduced to 2 points for 25/50% snare and no longer increases damage done by the death knight. It has also been moved one tier earlier in the tree and its spell effect has been made more transparent.
      • Desolation: New talent. This talent is in the position formerly occupied by Desecration. It causes Blood Strikes to increase all damage the death knight deals by 1/2/3/4/5% for 12 seconds.
      • Scourge Strike: Weapon damage bonus reduced to 40%, down from 45%. Damage increased by 10% per disease on the target, down from 11%.
      • Summon Gargoyle: The gargoyle now flies lower to the ground, making it susceptible to melee attacks. This ability now has a fixed duration of 30 seconds and a fixed cost of 60 runic power.
      • Unholy Blight: This talent has been redesigned. It no longer deals damage to nearby targets. Instead, when you deal damage with Death Coil, the target will take periodic damage for 10 seconds equal to 20% of the damage done by Death Coil. This damage accumulates in the same way as Ignite and Deep Wounds.
Of all the changes, the Unholy Blight change I think was the most unwarranted. That change is definitely going to take a bit of a bite out of my AOE damage capability. The Scourge Strike nerf is not very large, but large enough to wonder why it was made in the first place. It certainly wasn't in the same league as Frost Strike, which got a nerf in the last patch (again, attributable from arena whining), so I'm at a loss as to why Blizzard felt the need to nerf 5% raw damage from it, and lower an additional 3% damage from diseases in addition.
I'm going to be extremely interested to see what my numbers look like on target dummies, and in our raid tonight. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Could it be?

Vanish will finally be fixed soon?

Q. Vanish, as you know, is one of the class's staple abilities that sets it apart from other classes. However, there are times when Vanish doesn't execute quite as the rogue intends, especially when they vanish right in the middle of some kind of enemy channeling spell or when a class sends their pet after the rogue "mid-vanish." Do we feel that, in its current rendition, Vanish is working properly in this respect? What variables should be considered when Rogues decide to utilize Vanish to avoid it being negated?

A. No, Vanish isn't working properly and breaks when you breathe on the rogue funny. There are two problems with fixing it. One is that technically it's just not easy. We would need to change the ways spells are resolved on the server side. Now that is something we can do, but the outcome would be taking a powerful ability and making it more powerful. We need to solve the frustration part of the ability, but not also greatly buff rogue survivability or damage potential when doing it. The solution we like the most is something like Vanish puts you in stealth for 1 second minimum no matter what else happens.

Rest of it can be found here. Long story short -- Rogues are fine (I agree, except for Vanish which is clearly broken).