Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Now that a corner has been turned

Now that we know the SWTOR beta will begin soon, it's time to begin (again?) thiking about the unanswered questions we want answered. What is the strategy of SWTOR? Some might not care over-much, but for others (like myself), I am keenly interested in this game shaping up to be a truly dominant force in the MMO market space. I want SWTOR to suceed, and suceed big. And I want to play this game.

The problem is, I think I want more from SWTOR than a lot of players do. And more importantly, I think I am expecting more from SWTOR than I think Bioware might be looking to provide. I would have expected a lot more information to have been forthcoming about the "end-game", possible sandbox elements (player created content - crafting/gather, player-based economy, etc), and PVP, to name just a few. Yet we've only been treated to the vaunted "Story-driven" aspect of the game. And that has a lot of people worried. I count myself among them.

I think Blizzard has shown the market what you have to do in order to prosper. You have to provide accessible content that suits various play-styles. You have to provide vibrant PVE and PVP content. You have to provide a means to "progress", through gear (power) and achievements (prestiege). And probably a host of other factors that I am neglecting. Many other MMO's have attempted to supplant WoW as the market leader, but they all failed because I don't believe that any one of them has yet delivered successfully on all aspects of what the market desires. The market clearly will not contenance a game that deliveres on one aspect, even if it does it very well. Truly, the market wants its cake, and wants to eat it too. Unfortunately for developers, this is not 2003, and they have to deal with the situation as it stands now. WoW is here, and players now see it as the bar against which all other games will be judged. Developers either meet that bar and succeed in the market space, or they don't meet the bar and will shamble along as an also-ran.

I personally will not be happy with a SWTOR that is completely "story-driven". Story-driven is just another word for PVE (questing), and in this case would mean SWTOR is nothing more than KOTOR with coop elements. MMO-ized as I've related it previously. All the fancy new combat abilities (cover!) won't change this for me, or for the vast majority of the player base, and I sincerely hope that Bioware understands this.

Do not misunderstand. I want the story-driven elements, though I am not all that excited about the voice overs. People do not want to have to stand around waiting for "quest text" to render in a bubble before they can accept the quest and be on their way. Only in this case it would be listening to quest text. I'll reserve final judgement on this until I can actually see it for myself instead of limited views in videos released thus far. Along with this, of course, means end-game progression.

That means different things in different MMO's, but I look at it from a WoW perspective because it's clearly been the most successful model to date. At first I had a hard time envisioning "raids" in a Star Wars setting, but then I realized I was wrong. It wouldn't be that hard to implement raid encounters that are unique and "Star Warsy". The truth of the matter is that how Bioware implements this (if at all) matters quite a bit, and whether they succeed or fail is entirely up to them.
Yes, I want the questing aspects in SWTOR, but I want so much more too.

I want a vibrant PVP aspect to SWTOR. What kind of Star Wars game are we really talking about if you can't act out the war? Fighting NPCs is one thing, and fighting against living, breathing players is quite another. I want the war to have meaning, and I want it to be pervasive. That being said, I think the market in general has spoken on the relative desire for full PVP versus an ability to PVP on demand. People want to be able to PVP but do not want to do it all the time, and most certainly do not want to thrust upon them. How will Bioware answer this, I wonder?

I want sand-box elements (player created content). I want a player created, and driven economy. Which of course means a strong crafting and gathering system. The crafting and gathering system was the only aspect of SWG that I still think of fondly. WoW is an example of a crafting system that is largely superfleous. Items crafted at lower levels are relatively worthless and are only crafted in order to level up. Items crafted at the highest levels of the profession can be worthwhile, but usually only if you haven't gotten something better through PVE raiding or PVP. It's perhaps the weakest aspect of WoW and an aspect I never cared for much. In fact the only crafting professions I would even recommend anyone take are Jewelcrafting, Enchanting, and perhaps Inscription. You can very easily ignore Leatherworking, Blacksmithing, and Tailoring and never blink and eye.

Instead I would like to see crafting professions that mean something within the construct of SWTOR. Craftable items should be useful and sought after at all levels of a profession, but perhaps also compete against items that are obtainable through PVE. Is that doable? Can it be balanced? I hope so.

I have been unable to access the beta signup form, but I will continue to attempt to do so. Outside of WoW's expansions, I have not concerned myself too much with traying to access other MMO's betas. But I feel a very strong desire to participate in this one. You hear that Bioware? Hook a brother up!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Testing Soon to Begin

Oh yeah! Yet there are still so many questions left unanswered. Perhaps in the beta we'll actually begin to get some of our answers. Too bad the site is offline at the moment.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Aion initial thoughts

I bought Aion last week and spent a few hours creating characters and playing. Unfortunately the long queue times prohibited me from playing more, so I haven't gotten very far yet. In fact I'm not even level 10, so my thoughts all surround the starter zones which are visibly beautiful. However, they are also colored by my experiences in other MMOs. Massively believes every MMO should be judged on it's own merits, yet that simply isn't possible. The very act of judgment is learned, and it's based upon previous experiences. Hence our MMO desires, likes and dislikes are factors of our previous experiences.

As I said, AION is quite beautiful. Not only the landscapes, but the characters are quite nice but I wasn't able to access any content where I could judge what the lag would be like later on. One thing I did notice right away however, was in the relative difference between the low level WoW experience and Aion's. In WoW you start off relatively powerful against anything you experience. You basically walk through quests and kill everything without much effort. In Aion it's not much different in that all the initial quests are brain-numbingly simple. Collect 4 of this, kill 6 of that sort of thing. But there was a surprising difference in the amount of damage you take from creatures. I was very surprised to see myself at half life on my Scout after killing two creatures.

Perhaps I am not using the movement bonus system properly, yet when I would try to give myself defensive bonuses by moving backward I quickly found myself out of range of the creatures I was attacking because I could back up faster than they could close the distance with me. And strafing to the sides to give myself avoidance bonuses didn't seem to matter much either. In the end I found it more simple to just stand at a creature and bang away at it. I'll continue to try to make some sense of the system, but thus far I see no real benefit from the contextual bonus system what so ever.

Thus far Aion reminds me much more of Warhammer than it does WoW. In WoW the zones are generally large and the questing is more non-linear, than linear in nature. You gain access to several quests at any point and can do them in any order you desire. Completing a quest will often lead to another quest (chain) and so forth. But in Aion the questing is akin to what I experienced in Warhammer where you have quest chains that you are more or less ushered to and are meant to follow those along. The quests also move you geographically along linear paths in each zone. I don't mind that per se, because there were plenty of times in WoW where I wish something similar had been implemented. WoW players often miss many quests in a zone because they simply don't know they are there, hidden away in some nook.

I appreciate that NCSoft is being cautious about rolling out new servers, but I wonder how many people like me they are turning off because they can't log into the game to play?

Remember how I said I hadn't experienced any lag yet? Well I just logged on to excruciating lag. And everyone in general chat was complaining about it. Happens to every game from time to time though, so I wonder how much of that was due to the many people in the zone, or whether it was a server issue non-related to my specific zone. In any regard, there goes my opportunity to play Aion for the afternoon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I fought Onyxia, and I won

We finally ventured into Onyxia's lair last night and had a fun time reliving that all over again. I am tremendously upbeat about Blizzard revisiting old content like this--even ahead of Cataclysm. There are many people who never played during Vanilla WoW, and it constantly amazes me when I see guild members, or random strangers asking about this instance, or that encounter. Even in our raid last night there were a handful that had never raided Ony, and had never been to Molten Core. Such stalwarts of WoW deserve their time in the sun yet again.

The fight is nearly the same as it was in Vanilla, so she should be as much of loot pinata as she ever was. One warning however--I found it simply impossible to hit her in phase 2. I tried many times at various locations under her and couldn't hit her regardless of what I did, which means groups will probably want to ensure they have enough ranged DPS to bring her down so phase 3 can begin.

I got the 22-slot bag incidentally.

What do players really want?

It's that time again in the MMO market place where restive players are looking for new vistas. As luck would have it AION has just launched and there have been many spirited exchanges on WoW's forum over the weekend and through Tuesday's troublesome patch rollout in WoW. All of it got me thinking what is it MMO players in general really want. Obviously the community is an amlgamation and probably no two players want exactly the same thing, but I think we can still take away some lessons.

First and foremost I believe most players want a bit of freedom, with an ability to play solo. Vanilla WoW was much more centered around group play than I think we see today. For the most part a player can quest, complete dailies, craft or play the economy, and PVP entirely solo. You really only need to group if you want to run a dungeon or raid.

Secondly I believe most players want an ability to have access to all content, and I think Blizzard has done a fairly remarkable job at enabling that in Wrath. Creation of hardmodes in raids and dungeons has enabled them to tailor raid and dungeon content so that newly minted level 80s can walk into the same content as the hardest hardcore players and have different experiences.

And thirdly I believe most players want personal progression in the form of gear and equipment upgrades. Again I think Blizzard has done a good job at enabling this, and there are multiple venues through which players can achieve upward progression for their characters. The recent emblem change instituted in patch 3.1 enables players earn 4 pieces or Tier 8/7 gear relatively quickly, while simultaneously enabling players to earn Tier 9 pieces to replace those through completion of the Daily Heroic. And all without ever having to step foot in a raid instance. There is also considerable upgrade potential through PVP for those who like to PVP and a plethora of craftable gear that players have access to at various levels as well.

The threads I read through yesterday on the WoW forum are mostly in the vein of "Aion rules" and "Aion is so much better than WoW" which all point to the primary differences in that player base. The dreaded "Hardcore" vs "Casual" depiction. Hardcore players seem to be more and more despondant with WoW as each successive patch rolls out, while casual players seem to be more satisfied. Aion seems to offer those harder core players an out from WoW because it offers what WoW does not currently, for the most part. And that is that it is more centered on group effort and also makes PVP a more central aspect of the game. In other words they can "pwn noobs" and can gain access to content and gear that other less deserving people can not.

It'll be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next few weeks and months. A few friends have purchased Aion and of course my son has too. I might jump on myself this weekend to check it out, but there have been fairly harrowing tales of how long it's taking people to actually get in the game (hours). I'm hoping that NCsoft will have made some adjustments to that by the weekend otherwise I'll be skiping that party.

One of my friends told me NCSoft rolled out only 12 servers for AION initially, which is surprising considering the number of pre-orders alone. Yet I think they are being smart. How damaging was information to Mythic regarding their server consolidations? NCSoft appears to be on top of the situation, ensuring racial balance is enforced by locking some servers to new players entirely, and opening others to only a specific race. Again, it'll be interesting to see how that works out over the next few weeks or months because the last thing I think NCSoft would want is to open a bunch of servers now only to have to announce consolidations in 2-3 months.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Unfortunately it did not

Back when I was anticipating XP in battlegrounds I had grand ideals of how nice it could be. The the hordes of noobish morons who watched movies or did home work while cave camping, or tree hugging, or what have you, ruined it. Clearly their apathy overpowered my optimism.

If you have not heard the news yet, XP in AV got a 50% nerf today which was not in the patch notes. I was slowly leveling my 74 Warlock in AV. Obviously won't be doing that now. Thanks guys!

Ahh Europe....

And we think Political Correctness is intolerable here in the States.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

DK's receive yet another nerf

No big surprise here, right? After all there hasn't been a single patch since Wrath was released that didn't contain at least one nerf to the class. The latest though simply baffles me. When I initially leveled my DK I did it mostly as blood. And I loved the spec. I switched to Unholy when I began raiding because at the time it was clearly the Superior spec, with AOE damage off the charts. Blizzard felt that too many DKs were speccing into Unholy and decided to take a series of steps to "incentivize" players to spec into other builds. It culminated in patch 3.1 where they nerfed Unholy to a considerable degree which caused me to look again to my old favorite, Blood.

Unholy and Frost are still unquestionably the AOE kings, so when I read that Blizzard is nerfing the tree's primary strike (Heart Strike: Secondary targets of Heart Strike now take half as much damage) by reducing it's AOE component, I simply have to wonder what they are thinking. Coupled with the 13% Armor Penetration nerf, which incidentally will affect Blood spec the most, I am really not sure what to expect my DPS drop to be.

What's worse is I have yet to see a proper explanation from Blizzard as to why this is being done. Ghostcrawler has commented that Heartstike either needs to be balanced around single target, or double target capability. If it is to be balanced around double target, then that would undoubtedly caused Blood DKs to use Bloodstike on single targets instead and make the trees primary attack into a niche attack. I agree with him in that regard, but he is glossing over why heart stike was buff in the first place--as an incentive to encourage DKs to spec back into Blood from Unholy. Unholy got hit hard with the nerf bat in patch 3.1, but it's getting some buffs again in 3.2.2.

Subversion: Now also increases the critical strike chance of Scourge Strike by 3/6/9%.
Dirge: This talent no longer grants additional runic power from using Obliterate.

The Subversion change clearly means Unholy will want to spec into Blood vice Frost, and the buff to Scourge Stike will again make it better than Obliterate. Especially when the change to Dirge is factored in. The change to Dirge will reduce runic power creation just enough to ensure that not enough Obliterates can be used in any rotation to make it more powerful than Scourge Stike.

Unfortunately the change to Heartstrike also affects my gear choice. I had been holding off on upgrading to Tier 9 pieces in order to hang onto my 4-piece Tier 8 bonus because it is so much better than the lack luster Tier 9 bonuses. But now that the nerf is going live I am clearly being forced to upgrade. That being said, the ilevel 232 gear is not enough of an upgrade for me to jump at, so I will be replacing pieces as soon as I can get enough trophies for the ilevel 245 gear. Since I'm still waiting on my Axe to drop of the faction champions, it's likely to be a while before I get enough trophies. Which means I am likely to see a dip in my DPS, which will last a period of time before I can bring it back up though weapon and gear upgrades.

Patch 3.2 goes live today

The long awaited patch 3.2 goes live today, and I predeict Onyxia's head will once again be hanging over Stormwind! MORE DOTS!!


* The Brood Mother Returns
o After years of lurking in her lair battling the many brave adventurers who travelled from afar to challenge her, Onyxia returns stronger than before to commemorate World of Warcraft's five-year anniversary.
+ Onyxia has been scaled to offer new challenges to level 80 players and is now available for testing in 10- and 25-player modes.
+ Adjusted for modern raiding, but with the fundamental experience of fighting the Brood Mother still in effect, including the horrors of her Deep Breaths!
+ Onyxia will now drop level 80 item versions of some classic loot items from the level 60 encounter.
+ Brood of Onyxia, a very rare 310%-speed mount modeled after Onyxia herself will be available for the luckiest of challengers.
* Armor Penetration Rating: The amount of armor penetration gained per point of this rating has been reduced by 12%.
* Copied Test Realm characters will no longer be copied with their achievement history in order to better facilitate the character copy process.


* Battlegrounds
o Players level 11 and higher will now always see a daily Battleground quest, as the quest giver will only offer daily quests for a Battleground in which a player is eligible to participate according to level bracket (i.e. players levels 11-20 will always be offered a Warsong Gulch daily quest, while players levels 11-50 will be offered either an Arathi Basin or a Warsong Gulch daily quest, etc.).

Death Knights

* Frost Presence: The damage reduction granted by this ability has been increased from 5% to 8%.
* Pets
o Gnaw: This death knight ghoul ability now has a 1-minute cooldown.
* Talents
o Blood
+ Heart Strike: Secondary targets of Heart Strike now take half as much damage.
+ Subversion: Now also increases the critical strike chance of Scourge Strike by 3/6/9%.
+ Vampiric Blood: Cooldown reduced to 1 minute and duration reduced to 10 seconds.
o Frost
+ Threat of Thassarian now also causes Rune Strike to use both weapons when dual-wielding.
+ Unbreakable Armor: Cooldown reduced to 1 minute and changed back to granting 25% additional armor while active instead of flat damage reduction based on armor. The amount of strength granted has been reduced to 10%.
o Unholy
+ Bone Shield: This ability now has 3 charges instead of 4. Cooldown reduced to 1 minute.
+ Dirge: This talent no longer grants additional runic power from using Obliterate.


* Talents
o Balance
+ Moonkin Form: This form now also reduces the damage the druid takes while stunned by 15%.
+ Typhoon: The daze duration has been increased from 3 seconds to 6 seconds.
o Feral Combat
+ Infected Wounds: The debuff generated by this talent no longer stacks and instead causes the full effect with a single application.
+ Predatory Strikes: This talent now also causes the druid's finishing moves to provide a 7/13/20% chance per combo point to make the next Nature spell with a cast time below 10 seconds instant cast.


* Talents
o Beast Mastery
+ The Beast Within: The duration of this talent has been reduced to 10 seconds. In addition, hunters with this talent will do 10% additional damage at all times.
+ Bestial Wrath: The duration of this talent has been reduced to 10 seconds.


* Arcane Blast: The buff from using this ability now stacks up to 4 times instead of 3, and each application increases mana cost by 175% instead of 200%. In addition, the duration of the buff has been reduced to 6 seconds.
* Arcane Missiles: Casting this spell while both Missile Barrage and Clearcasting are active will cause only Missile Barrage to be consumed.
* Talents
o Arcane
+ Missile Barrage: The effect from triggering this talent now removes the mana cost of Arcane Missiles. In addition, the chance for Arcane Blast to trigger this talent is now 8/16/24/32/40%. All other listed spells continue to have a 4/8/12/16/20% chance to trigger it. This talent no longer has a chance to be triggered when spells miss.
o Fire
+ Combustion: This talent now also increases the critical strike damage bonus of Fire spells by 50% while it is active. In addition, Living Bomb periodic ticks will no longer interact with the count or the charges on the talent.


* Righteous Fury: The bonus threat from Holy spells caused by this talent has been reduced from 90% to 80%.
* Seal of Corruption and Seal of Vengeance: These seals will now only use the debuff stacks generated by the attacking paladin to determine the damage done by the seal and by the judgement.
* Talents
o Protection
+ Ardent Defender: This talent now reduces damage taken below 35% health by 7/13/20% instead of 10/20/30%.
+ Blessing of Sanctuary: This blessing now grants 10% strength in addition to its current effects. Also, the strength and stamina bonuses from this blessing will no longer be lost when Blessing of Kings is removed.
+ Judgements of the Just: The reduction in cooldown to Hammer of Justice provided by this talent has been reduced to 5/10 seconds instead of 10/20 seconds.
+ Touched by the Light: This talent now provides 20/40/60% of the paladin's strength as spell power instead of 10/20/30% of the paladin's stamina.
o Retribution
+ Seal of Command: This ability now chains to strike up to 2 additional targets when it is triggered by an attack that can only strike a single target.


* Talents
o Shadow
+ Improved Spirit Tap: Mind Flay periodic critical strikes now have a 50% chance to trigger this talent.
+ Twisted Faith now grants spell power equal to 4/8/12/16/20% of spirit, up from 2/4/6/8/10%.


* Envenom's scaling has been increased from 7% to 9% of attack power per combo point.
* Fan of Knives: The damage done by this ability has been reduced by 30%.
* Talents
o Assassination
+ Master Poisoner: No longer increases the Deadly Poison application rate following a successful Envenom and instead now provides a 33/66/100% chance of preventing Envenom from consuming Deadly Poison.
o Combat
+ Throwing Specialization: This talent no longer causes Fan of Knives to interrupt spellcasting.
o Subtlety
+ Honor Among Thieves: A 1-second cooldown is now enforced on how often a rogue can gain combo points from his party via this talent.


* Cleansing Totem: No longer pulses instantly when dropped.
* Flame Shock: The duration of all ranks has been increased by 6 seconds.
* Lava Burst: This ability no longer ever consumes a Flame Shock debuff off of the target.
* Talents
o Elemental Combat
+ Shamanism: Your Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning spells gain an additional 3/6/9/12/15% and your Lava Burst gains an additional 4/8/12/16/20% of your bonus damage effects.
o Enhancement
+ Earthen Power: No longer causes Earthbind to pulse a persistent snare immunity aura. It does still remove snares from allies as an instant pulse, but there is no lingering immunity. Earthen Power now also brings Earth Shock's melee attack speed reduction up to -15%/-20% (with 1 or 2 points in it, respectively).


* Talents
o Arms
+ Sword Specialization: Now has a 2/4/6/8/10% chance to proc an extra attack, up from 1/2/3/4/5%.
o Protection
+ Critical Block: This talent now grants a 20/40/60% chance to block double the normal amount instead of 10/20/30%.

Dungeons & Raids

* Shadowfang Keep
o Wailing Guardsman: Screams of the Past will no longer have multiple applications on a target. Recast time has been increased.
* Ulduar
o Increased the cooldown on Immortal Guardians' Drain Life ability in the Yogg-Saron encounter.


* The Achievement "Iron, Dwarf Medium Rare (25 player)" now requires 25 kills, down from 50.
* The Frostwolf Howler and Stormpike Battle Charger Achievements will now be awarded when a player learns the respective mount spells.


* The blacksmiths of Orgrimmar grew tired of running to the rear of the city to craft items and have installed a new anvil & forge at the General Store in the Valley of Strength.
* Engineering
o The Mind Amplification Dish no longer changes the appearance of your helmet.
* Inscription
o Added a recipe for Runescroll of Fortitude. This item grants a stamina buff equal to the highest rank of Power Word: Fortitude (untalented) to all players in the raid. The effect of this runescroll is exclusive with other stamina scrolls and Power Word: Fortitude.
* Leatherworking
o Added a recipe for Drums of Forgotten Kings. These drums increase all stats by 8% for all players in a raid. The effect of these drums is exclusive with Blessing of Kings.
o Added a recipe for Drums of the Wild. These drums grant a buff equal to the highest rank of Mark of the Wild (untalented) to all players in a raid. The effect of these drums is exclusive with Mark of the Wild.


* The Black Heart: This item's animation has been changed and no longer resembles Hand of Protection.
* Death Knight Tier-9 Tanking 4-Piece Set Bonus: Now decreases the cooldown on Vampiric Blood, Unbreakable Armor, and Bone Shield by 10 seconds instead of 20.
* Druid Tier-8 Healer 4-Piece Set Bonus: The amount of healing this set bonus grants on the initial cast of Rejuvenation has been reduced by 50%. In addition, this set bonus no longer has strange interactions with Harold's Rejuvenating Broach.
* Glyphs
o Glyph of Bone Shield: This glyph now grants 1 additional charge instead of 2.
o Glyph of Flame Shock: Redesigned. This glyph now makes Flame Shock periodic damage able to be critical strikes.
o Glyph of Mind Flay: This glyph no longer reduces the magnitude of the movement reduction on the Mind Flay victim.
o Glyph of Scourge Strike: Redesigned. This glyph now causes Scourge Strike to extend the duration of Frost Fever and Blood Plague by 3 seconds each time Scourge Strike is used on a target, up to a maximum of 9 seconds.
o Glyph of Typhoon: This glyph now increases the range on Typhoon by 10 yards in addition to its current effects.
o Glyph of Unbreakable Armor: Now increases the armor gained from Unbreakable Armor by 20%.
o Glyph of Vampiric Blood: The glyph now increases the duration of Vampiric Blood by 5 seconds instead of 10.
* Libram of Obstruction: The buff to block value from this relic is now exclusive with the buff to block value from Libram of the Sacred Shield; it is impossible to have both buffs at once.
* Libram of the Sacred Shield: The block value buff from this relic has been increased to match its item level.
* Relics: All buffs provided by relics (idols, librams, totems and sigils) now share an exclusive category such that gaining a buff from one of these items will remove all other buffs gained from items in this category.
* Totem of Quaking Earth: Attack power value increased to 400.

User Interface

* Battleground Queuing
o Players may now only queue for no more than two Battlegrounds at a time.
o The dialog box for entering a Battleground match has been changed to reflect the following options: "Enter Battle," "Leave Queue," and "Minimize."
o The time a player has to enter a battle when selected has been reduced to 40 seconds when not already in a Battleground and 20 seconds when in a Battleground.
o Players already in a Battleground can now choose "Enter Battle" for a new Battleground under any circumstance (i.e. while dead, in combat, falling, etc.).
o A new Battleground will not launch until the maximum number of players on each side are in the queue (i.e. 40 players per side for Alterac Valley).
* The size of the Focus Frame can now be adjusted via the Interface Options menu.
* Mail System Auto-Complete Feature
o The inline auto-complete feature for the mail system has been added back into the game. The mail system will now have both the pre- and post-3.2.0 auto-complete features available.
o Added a label to notify players that the Tab key will allow players to navigate through the character names listed via the auto-complete feature.
* For additional notes on Lua and XML changes please visit the UI & Macros forum.

Bug Fixes

* Death Knight
o Rune of Razorice: The frost vulnerability granted by this enchantment will now increase the damage done by Frost Fever as intended.
* Druid
o Balance of Power: Misleading tooltip reworded. The tooltip previously reported an incorrect value for the increased chance to hit with spells. The actual benefit of the talent is unchanged.
* Hunter
o Master's Call: This ability now correctly removes the snaring component of Infected Wounds, Frostfire Bolt, and Slow.
o Trap Mastery's (Survival) tooltip now states the correct amount of snakes summoned.
* Mage
o Arcane Missiles: Ranks 12 and 13 will now properly cause players to enter combat.
* Paladin
o Hand of Freedom: This ability now correctly removes the snaring component of Infected Wounds and Frostfire Bolt.
* Priest
o Divine Aegis: Ranks 1 and 2 will now work with Holy Nova.
o Glyph of Power Word: Shield now correctly uses the Priest's spell critical chance instead of the target's.
* Rogue
o Vanish: This ability now correctly removes the snaring component of Frostfire Bolt.
o Honor Among Thieves: This talent will now work properly again if two rogues with different ranks of the talent are in the same party.
* Shaman
o Grounding Totem will now properly protect against the Death Grip spell.
o Lava Burst can no longer deal critical damage to targets who are immune to critical strikes (due to, e.g. Roar of Sacrifice, Blessed Resilience).
o Lightning Shield: This spell will no longer set off some trinkets when it is cast.
o Stoneclaw Totem's pulses will no longer break stealth on nearby hostile units.
o Thunderstorm and Shamanistic Rage can no longer be used while Frozen, Cycloned, Sapped, or Incapacitated.
* Warlock
o Demonic Circle: This ability now correctly removes the snaring component of Frostfire Bolt.
o Fel Armor: This spell was unable to set off trinkets and other effects. That has been corrected.
o When using Shadowbolt or Incinerate while having Backlash and Backdraft active, only Backlash will now be properly consumed.
* Coliseum Trinkets: Some spells that should have triggered these trinkets will now trigger them (such as Holy Nova and Fel Armor).
* Death Knight Tier-9 DPS 4-Piece Set Bonus: Now grants the correct chance for disease damage ticks to be critical strikes.
* Hunter Tier-9 2-Piece Set Bonus: Critical damage from Serpent Sting will now work properly with the Mortal Shots and Expose Weakness talents.
* Lightweave Embroidery: This tailoring item enhancement will no longer trigger from the periodic healing granted by the warlock spell Fel Armor.
* Mote of Flame: Corrected a typo in the tooltip.
* Paladin Tier-9 DPS 2-Piece Set Bonus: Now grants the correct chance for Righteous Vengeance ticks to be critical strikes.
* Shard of Flame: Corrected a typo in the tooltip.
* Val'anyr, Hammer of The Ancient Kings: Healing from Prayer of Mending now triggers the shield from this item. In addition, a bug was corrected which would cause the shield points to be overwritten rather than stack up as intended.

Friday, September 18, 2009

NCSoft, meet Mythic

Do they not learn from one another? Mythic launched the "most anticipated" MMO of 2008 only to fall so low that all the pre-release trumpeting caused great embarrassment within a month after release. One would think that developers would be more wary about how the marketing babble they use to attract players can come back to haunt them after release when people figure out the latest MMO isn't the "WoW Killer" after all.

As with WAR, my son convinced me to check out AION. I am apparently one of the 400,000 people who have now pre-ordered it, but NCSoft would be greatly mistaken if they believe my pre-order means anything other than I am just going to be checking it out. I already hate the size of the client, which is even larger than WARs was. All the pretty graphics don't mean a damn thing if it leads to greater lag. And it will.

Though I have had my beta access for several weeks now, I haven't been all that interested to log in and try it out. From what I hear AION is a nice MMO, but will it be enough to drag me away from WoW? Perhaps this weekend I will see.

He said what?

I've spoke about my experiences in WAR before. Though I am by no means an expert on that game, I saw enough to know that I had zero interest in ever playing it again. When I saw this quote today --"ease of PvE gameplay and a game that doesn't inspire social interactions." -- I just couldn't help but think, no wonder WAR tanked. They haven't a bloody clue as to what the problems are with it.

You mean to tell me that making WAR require more group effort is the means through which they will resurrect it? Are you kidding?

Good luck with that Mythic.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Here a bot, there a bot

Everywhere a bot, bot. If you play WoW and pay attention even the remotest of the time, then you will have already have realized that bots are again overrunning Azeroth. The last big ban wave was May 2008, though there have been mini-waves since, the latest apparently having taken place in the first week on September. But botters and the gold sellers that ever present with them are still a growing problem that Blizzard seems all too helpless against.

I come across bots every day and report them, then put them on my friends list to keep track of how long it takes Blizzard to finally deal with them each. Through last Fall there was nary a bot on my list, but that began to change in the Spring and into the Summer. During the Spring and Summer it could take as little as 2-3 days to a week for Blizzard to investigate my reports and then I assume, ban the account because that bot would go off line and not return. I keep them on my list for as long as 45-60 days after they go offline, so while it's certainly possible they are just idling, I assume they have been dealt with and remove them from my friends list.

But the past two months I have seen what used to be a week long process now take 3 or more weeks, if at all. I have bots that have now been on my friends list for two months and been reported by me several times only to see them continue around the clock botting in the same locations for weeks. It either signals that Blizzard is utterly inundated with investigations, or that Warden has fallen behind in the war, and they can no longer detect the third party applications regularly.

No one outside of Blizzard has any true knowledge of the procedures Blizzard goes through while investigating complaints, but I think it clear that they need to step outside of those and rely more heavily on the human element than they apparently are doing now. The human eye can often see what Warden isn't. Give us back Azeroth Blizzard.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I have no idea why it took me this long to realize, but I had the epiphany I needed regarding Druid DPS "rotations". I guess it's because I'm so used to doing direct damage with my attacks as a primary consideration, rather than the "dot" damage Feral damage is largely based on. My problem before was that I was burning through my energy trying to put out as much damage as possible and wasn't able to keep up Rip, Rake, and Savage Roar at the same time. Boy did I feel foolish when I realized I needed to think of the direct damage as incidental to the overall damage I could be doing in a given fight. As soon as I slowed down and used my Shreds to apply combo points I increased my DPS by over 1k.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Remember that dilemma?

Well I was wrong about a few things. Since I posted that not only did I complete leveling my Rogue and start to get some gear for him (two pieces of T8, and various Naax-10/25 and Heroic gear) but I also leveled mining and engineering up for him as well. But it kept bothering me that I chose the Rogue over the Druid. You see, I'm very attached to my Druid, so I shelved the Rogue for a while and went back and finished leveling the Druid.

Weeks later my Druid now has two pieces of T8, some Naax-25 gear, and a few pieces of the new ToC Heroic gear. I should also have my first piece of T9 today as well. As with the Rogue I've now had opportunity to raid a few times on him and I can say definitively that I was indeed wrong on a few things. Rogues do not, in any way, have an advantage in AOE. I was simply doing it all wrong on the Druid before, and Rogues obviously can not spam FoK as much as I had originally thought they could. Point of fact, Cat Swipe hits a hell of a lot harder than FoK does and there is no way any Rogue is going to keep up with Swipe on Berserk (1 min cooldown). I hit 19k dps on a trash pull in Naax-25, and regularly hit between 12-14k. Wow is right.

I've pretty much gone back to playing my Druid as my "alt" for the past few weeks but I'm still struggling with the "rotation". Cat DPS is a lot like Ret Paladin in that there isn't really a rotation at all, just a priority list. You have a set pattern for opening (Mangle > Rake > Savage Roar > Shred > Tigers Fury then > Shred/Shred > Rip). According to all the research I've read I am supposed to keep Mangle up (if no other Feral Druid or Arms Warrior), Rake up, 5-cp Shred then Rip, as well as Savage Roar. I haven't figured out how. I have nearly 50% crit and I just do not get enough combo points in order to keep Savage Roar up all the time. In fact if I waste CPs on Savage Roar I find there are periods where Rake and Rip are off and I have to wait to build back up to them. Very frustrating. I'll get it eventually.

However, tanking on a Druid is now even easier than it was in BC. I'm absolutely loving omni-directional Swipe, and threat is really a non-issue in WotLK so good tanking comes back even more to the abilities that separated good tanks from great tanks in BC -- Situational awareness, an ability to adapt on the fly, and mental agility. People have fallen out of the practice of waiting to DPS on trash or bosses, so you need to be able to gather up trash groups and establish threat on everything within 1-2 seconds, as well as be able to keep a look out for patrols or strays at the same time.

I have a long way to go yet. In the DPS vein specifically, but if things start working out in the way I'm hoping they will I am seriously looking to supplant my Death Knight and make my Druid my main once again.

Now that is a space battle

When one thinks of space combat, I would find it hard to believe that most people don't have Star Trek come to mind. Having been a Star Trek fan all my life I've watched the news about the impending Star Trek MMO with great interest. And when I saw this video I was very much relieved that the visual and visceral aspects of space combat are well in hand there.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Building community is often counter-productive

The Star Wars: The Old Republic drama is so apropos to a general feeling I've had on this subject that I simply couldn't pass it up as a discussion point. Take a gander at the general forum over at SWTOR for a moment. You'll find that in their "need" and desire to build a community for their MMO, Bioware has also possibly done themselves a huge disservice at the same time. Despite being in the latter stages of their development cycle--supposedly to be released in 2010--they have released remarkably little information about the game and how players will be able to interact within it. The only substantive information released thus far is that SW:TOR will embody a "fourth" leg of the MMO Triangle. The much vaunted "story-driven" environment. Story-driven equals PVE Questing in MMO lingo folks.

That has lead to numerous threads by fans questioning the direction of the game that so many of us are anxiously waiting for. Has lead to charges that SW:TOR is simply a KOTOR clone with "co-op" play. I like to think of it as "MMO-ized". And none of the charges, questions, pleas for information, and diatribes have been answered in so far as I can tell leaving their fans to further work themselves up over the matter in a virtual black-hole of information.

I simply don't see this working in Bioware's favor over the long term. To be certain more information will be forthcoming over the coming weeks and months, but in the mean time Bioware is allowing bad publicity to spread virally with nothing to stop it. Not only can this tamp down expectations and desire for the game, but it could also lead to disappointment when or if they do release information that contradicts what people have come to expect.

Bioware would be wise, in my view, to get ahead of this now by releasing a full vision statement. Tell us exactly what the game will be like, and how it will differ from other competitors in the market. And other developers should take note and not show their hands too early. Do not set up "shop" so to speak, and create a community before you have real details to feed to your rabid fans. Those same rabid fans can and will bite the hand that feeds it.