Monday, November 30, 2009

I. Want. This!



Just mouse over the stats of this weapon. Shadowmourn, the axe to end all axes! My Paladin would give his left kidney for this thing! Full details about the quest chain to obtain it is located here.

It's not the hours, its the roles

Tobold posted recently that he had crossed a milestone in WOW, having played 5000 hours of game time on his various characters. It got me thinking about the number of hours I’ve played over nearly five years (I actually go over five years in March 2010), but unlike him, I really don’t want to know the answer to that question. Personally I think it would only lead to an inevitable scolding from my wife were the truth of the matter to be officially known! Naturally I filed any thought of the number of hours played where it rightfully belongs—deep in the recesses of my mind, and skipped forward to thoughts of my alts and what, ultimately, I was trying to accomplish instead. The more I think about how I game, the more it leads me to thoughts about the gaming mentality I seem to have. I’m a “do’er” and I like things to do, which is perhaps one reason I am not so worried about the amount of time I play WoW, whereas my wife would probably wish it otherwise.

I’m a do’er, yet I’m seemingly an alt-a-holic, which if you think about it, is diametric. I was absolutely horrible in BC, though in the weeks leading up to the release of WotLK I told myself I would make a concerted effort to combat that. I’ve tried, though not always successfully, to keep my play confined to a small number of characters. As WotLK launched I was playing my Shaman as my main character, but benched him not very long into Wrath when I switched to my DK as my main. Now after many months of play on him, he is in the early stages of benching and I now consider my Paladin my main. Yet the Paladin is still not the only character I play on, and I despair of ever attaining that nirvana that others seemingly have found, and remain faithful to just one toon.

Tobold’s interest in WoW and what he’s doing in might revolve around his hours played, but mine revolves around accomplishing goals, and about filling roles. Let me lay it out for you as clearly as I can.

80 Paladin – Primarily I consider my specs to be Ret and Holy, though I often respec on weekends to Ret/Prot to finish older dungeons and level various reps. I’ll probably be spending more and more time as Ret/Prot as I look to finish up rep grinds for the main BC reps and start dipping into Karazhan for Violet Eye rep, and ZG for Zandalar rep. Not to mention farming for mounts in AQ40 and the like. I researched options that would make it easier for me to respec on the fly, and recently posted an entry about the mods I found, and as I think you can tell from my blog recently, have very much taken to the class. Raiding wise Ret is extremely powerful and offers group versatility like a range of buff and aura options, hand of salvation/freedom/protection, party mana regeneration through replenishment, and through the miracle of hybrid theory, a means to play a completely second role in the raid through a second talent spec. That for me is typically Holy. While Prot is my least favorite aspect of the class, I’m eminently happy with the class as a whole and find myself about as certain as I think I’m capable of being that this character will be my main over the long term.

80 Druid – I had great hope that I would return to my Druid, who was my “main” in BC and in Vanilla, but I’ve had great trouble mastering cat DPS. There are mods that could help with that, but Feral By Night appears to be the best of them, and I’m not all that taken with the centralized visuals that come with it. My UI is busy enough without all that being front and center in my view screen. I’ve begun looking into switching from Feral cat to Balance, but I’ve been somewhat disappointed with mana efficiency in preliminary testing. It may be that I simply need more spirit on my gear, or picking up Dream state, which I don’t currently have. I’ll keep looking into it, but whatever I do decide to do he will at the least remain a central character for me as I leveled Enchanting and Jewel crafting on him. I continue to love Feral tanking. Despite the range of nerfs to Bears early in WotLK, they remain fantastic tanks and my second spec will remain Feral bear for that purpose.

80 Death Knight – My DK is/was my miner/jewel crafter and was my Main for most of this year, but I’m in the process of benching him. Within a few weeks I do not expect to be playing on him much at all, except to mine ore. Ultimately it was the continuous series of nerfs, and my bent toward hybrid classes that did him in. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the class very much, but after consider testing between the DK and my Paladin, they, in the end, are very similar. At that point, I think the additional versatility that Paladin gives me simply outweighed my fondness for the DK class.

80 Shaman – I’ve played my Shaman for going on two years now, yet sadly he’s been on the bench most of this year and will undoubtedly remain there for the foreseeable future. Counting against my play on the Shaman is the fact I am not overly fond of the Elemental spec. It was fun enough while it lasted, but I really didn’t enjoy it much in a raiding capacity. I played him as Enhancement throughout BC, but I really hated the state of the class in a PVP perspective. Things have gotten somewhat better in WotLK, but not to a great extent. Switching from Elemental back to Enhancement for raiding simply is not very appealing at this point. Enhancement would offer me no benefit over what I already have with my Paladin, or had with my DK for that matter. I’d actually delete this character if I didn’t have some hope, however remote, that I might do something with him again some day.

80 Rogue – I created and leveled this character as an experiment. Back when I started playing my Druid again I was having even more trouble with competitive cat DPS than I’m having now and wanted to compare Rogue abilities and DPS against him. I commented a few times on my blog about the small annoyances of leveling the Rogue, but I did eventually get him to 80 and started doing some light raiding and PVP with him. Ultimately it was the complete lack of healing that really turned me off to the class. There are a few gimmicks that Rogues can do that are interesting, but in the large sense they and cat ferals are very similar in most ways, except that Druids can heal. I keep him around more out of continued general interest at this point, than any plans to resume playing him in the future. Besides, he’s a 450 Engineer and has access to the auction house right in Dalaran!

74 Warlock – my Lock, despite its languishing state this last year, is still a character I have some interest in. I had a goal at the release of WotLK to have one melee dps character, one caster, and perhaps one tank. I’ve actually had several melee characters at this point, though I believe the question of who that “one” will be is finally coming to fruition, but the question about a caster was thrown into doubt when I decided I really didn’t like raiding as a Elemental Shaman. I’ve given a bit of thought lately to reviving the Warlock to fill that role, however as I’m currently looking into Balance spec for my Druid, I’ve decided to hold off on this character a little while longer. If I find I like playing Balance well enough on the Druid, then my Druid will fill my ranged caster role, as well as my Tank role (Paladin also). I also have a baby Mage and Hunter in the offing to level should I decided I don’t like Balance enough. I’ve seen great things from Mages and Hunters the past several months, so if the Druid isn’t to be my ranged character, it would eventually come down to a competition between the Warlock, the Mage, and the Hunter

14 Hunter – There isn’t a lot that needs to be said about Hunters. I used to have a 70 Hunter, and my Hunter was actually my first high level (60) character, so I’ve got some experience with the class. I can very easily see myself leveling this character and using it as my ranged character, yet I just haven’t found the interest there to do it for whatever reason. The operative word is “yet”, because as I mentioned, it’s certainly one of my options for the ranged class I still want to have available to me.

12 Mage – as with the hunter class, I used to have a 70 Mage. Unlike the Hunter however, I used to raid on him. So it is still an option for me, though I continue to have issue with the squishiness of the class now that I had in BC. The same issue that caused me to stop raiding on him and stop playing the class all together. I would most likely finish leveling the Warlock, then the Hunter before I ever got around to the Mage (to be honest) and I’m not even sure how much of an option the Mage class is for me really. It’s certainly one, but how much of one is an open question in my mind.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cryptic could be the doom of STO

A friend of mine had scaled back his WoW playing time to play Champions Online, which he played in beta and paid for a life-time subscription. Is he playing Champions Online today? No. In fact, he canceled his life-time subscription and got his money back because of horrible customer service, and bait-and-switch tactics that Cryptic used during the release period. His experience was so bad with the company that he has vowed to me that he will never play another Cryptic developed game again. I have no experience with Cryptic, but I watched the hubbub over Champions Online with great interest as I looked forward to the release of Star Trek Online. And my worries about the game have become more manifest as I watched a very similar hubbub that occurred around the Champions Online release, happening in the STO beta. Let us just say that my hopes for this game are low at this point. Especially considering the extremely short beta period.

As of this point I don't see myself rushing out and buying this game at release. If I do play it now, I'm thinking I will wait for a good period of time after release in order to make sure I get a full view of the opinions out there. And most likely will wait for a free test period in any event. My opinion of Cryptic is just that low, and I really don't want to give them my $50 unless the game is just that fantastic.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

How MAXDPS.COM can help you

Are you an aspiring WoW player, just hit level 80, and want to know what gear you should be shooting for to step up your game? If you are, then you should look at MAXDPS.COM. MAXDPS is similar to other simulators available out there, but has a high level of polish and completeness that makes it a stand out in the crowd. And, as it covers all classes, and almost all specs, it's easy to see how it could be an invaluable tool for someone to help plan out their gear progression.

When you first visit the site you are treated to a page of news, with a bar across the top that contains links to the pages for the various classes and specs. To begin your explorations you simply need to click on the class link of your choice (hovering over the class produces a drop down menu of specific specs in each class that are available), which takes you to that classes page. The class page might look confusing at first, but it's actually well laid out and simple to understand once you know what is being asked of you. The site seeks to take your actual stats in game, and rank pieces of gear in order from the least helpful, to the most helpful in each slot. There are two input areas which you will need to complete before you can get those rankings however, and the first is along the left hand side, called "Item Options".

Item Options is simply asking you to determine which "levels" of gear you want to pull your rankings from and you can see there are sections for 25-man, 10-man, and other. Then a section for Gems under those. By default everything will be selected, though the default gems are blue. Simply deselect options you do not want considered, like 5-man dungeon or heroic loot as an example. Once you've decided which options you do and don't want considered, click the submit item options button at the bottom of that list.

The next section is "Input your stats" section, and is vastly more important. In this section you are going to be entering your unbuffed stats so that the site can then accurately rank items that would be beneficial to you. You can either use the import function in the upper right hand corner to directly import your stats, or you can enter them manually to suit specific circumstances. You should notice that there are three tabs for that section, so filling out the first tab is not the end of your task. Clicking to the second tabs allows you to set specific talents that affect your dps and abilities, and the third tab allows you to choose which buffs you want to affect the gear weightings. I normally deselect most of the buffs and choose only those which I give myself to come up with a specific solo gear weighting. This section is also why it's important to input unbuffed numbers on the first tab, because you should notice to the right there is "Current stats" section which will be off from what you see in-game if you didn't. Once you've filled out those three tabs, click the "Submit your stats" button.

At that point you can scroll down the screen and see a row of gear slot icons. Click on one to see a specifically generated list of gear weighted to your stats and options, with appropriate gems already pre-selected. Scrolling even further down should show you a list of the best enchants for that slot as well.

Realize the site doesn't include a character gear simulator, so it's not possible to "build" a character and have your available options update on-the-fly with the change in your stats, but it is quite useful for helping you decide which piece in each slot you might want to keep an eye out for as your next upgrade. What's more, you don't have to re-fill in all those options you already filled in the next time you visit. In the upper right corner you should notice an icon that says "save your settings". Clicking on that icon gives you a unique URL to come back to that has your settings pre-filled. If you change gear between now and then, simply update the settings, save the new settings, and click the save your settings icon again for a new URL.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tobold and Syncaine going at it again

I have to be honest when I say I enjoy the somewhat regular back and forth between Tobold and Syncaine. Yesterday Tobold began the tet-e-tet with an innocent post that asked if the MMO market was "rationale". You wouldn't know from reading the headline, but he was referring to WAR's recent announcement that they were shutting down two more servers, going on to theorize two reasons why WAR might have "failed". Having my own theory about how the game market acts akin to larger economic models, I replied

Like you, I was expecting WAR to do a bit better than it actually did (http://iggepsrealm.blogspot.com/2008/09/war-expects-1-mil-subs-in-year-3-mil-at.html). But not even I was anticipating just how far it's fallen, despite writing "Lets be honest here. What have we heard about WAR that we haven't heard about every other MMO that's debuted in the past two years? Nothing, really."

Like you, I believe theory number one personally. It didn't take me long once I did start playing to figure out there were a host of things I really didn't care for, or felt just weren't good enough to encourage me to stick with it. Theory number two has it's impetus in that there are many people (myself included) who are getting weary of WoW. But the problem with other games is what is keeping us in WoW. Not WoW that is keeping us from those other games.

I think a lot of the problem is that games are trying too hard to not "be" WoW, and are creating features which I look back on and say to myself "what were they thinking". Games don't have to be clones obviously, but why fix something that isn't broken. Obviously Blizzard figured out over time just what the market wanted, so why are other developers trying to disprove the point? Different features and mechnanics does not mean they should be changing the equation which Blizzard has proven.
As I said, it was an innocent enough post, and certainly worth discussing. But then Syncaine came along and posted his reply on his blog, postulating a ridiculous and unsupportable figure that he claims shows why WAR "failed". I have no idea what rock Syncaine pulled that 60% figure from, but he lost complete credibility with me in the dialogue. I'd railed against his "tourism" theories previously, but if you are simply going to pull numbers out of thin air and pass them off as if they are credible and supportable, then you really have nothing left to add to any meaningful conversation.

Tobold found his response lacking for other reasons as well. And I have to say I agree with him 100%. Trust me, I don't need a full month, let alone longer, to tell whether I'm having fun or not. And I think the market has shown it doesn't either.

Don't try this at home



This video was posted to the general WoW board yesterday to be met with the expected chorus of nerf calls, etc. It's a little ridiculous considering this is the same sort of thing that goes on well into each expansion. Gear progression eventually gives characters an ability to take on content solo that people thought wouldn't be possible until the next expansion. I'd be surprised if there isn't a video out there that shows a Paladin doing the same thing. Or a Death Knight for that matter.

At any rate, it's a fun video to watch. Might have to try that myself on my Druid.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Birthday WoW

WoW was released --some would say unleashed-- to the world five years ago! Congratulations on a good five year run thus far Blizzard!

WotLK - a year later

What a lot has transpired in the year since WotLK was released. Doesn’t it seem like such a long time ago? A year ago I was at Gamestop with my wife at midnight picking up our copies of WotLK, and I stayed up all night creating and leveling my DK through the starter area and into Outlands. In as much as I truly liked the starter area, and enjoyed the experience I was playing my Elemental Shaman at the time for raiding purposes, and had to halt progression on my DK the following morning to get back to leveling the Shaman for Naax raiding. It only took me about 10 days to hit 80 on my Shaman and start running the level 80 dungeons for some gear. And by mid-late November we all found ourselves in Naax, getting back into the swing of raiding. I wasn’t having all that much fun though because quite honestly I wasn’t enjoying Elemental all that much. In BC I was enhancement, but the raid needed me as ranged. I was also chomping at the bit to play my DK, and my break would come in late November when one of our raid members decided to leave and we found ourselves needing anther melee to replace him. I took the opportunity to drop the Shaman, and switch over to the DK who I had been stealing hours here and there to level and gear. And I’ve been raiding on him until just this last week when I finally made the decision to switch to my Paladin.

It certainly wasn’t that I don’t like the DK class, because if you look back through my blog for the past year I think you will find that I do. Ultimately there were two issues that I think sealed the fate of my DK for me, the first being the constant nerfs to the class. There have been a tremendous amount of nerfs over the past year, that were quite literally carried out over the course of every single patch that we’ve seen since release night. I can’t remember a single patch that didn’t have some kind of nerf to one ability or another. The main mechanics of the class have remained largely the same, but in total you are essentially playing a different class today than what you created on Nov 20 2008. I think I’ve been vocal enough about my disdain for how Blizzard carries out this kind of “class balance”, yet that isn’t the core reason I decided I wanted to switch. It really had more to do with my bent toward hybrid classes. I like greater flexibility and versatility than the DK class gave me so I started playing my Druid again over the Spring and Summer. As I love to PVP and heal I started thinking about getting back into PVP healing and a friend suggested I try out a Paladin instead of my Druid for that. I’d had plenty of experience healing with my Druid in BC, but had never played a Paladin before, so in May I rolled the Paladin and leveled him up very quickly. Believe it or not though, after I got to level 80 I decided I wasn’t all that taken with Ret, and it was disturbing to be so immobile as a healer after spending as much time healing on my Druid as I had done. So I shelved him and spent more time on my Druid, which I’ve recounted enough here on these pages. I started looking at my Paladin again and would you know that Ret had really begun to grow on me. And now I am definitely a proponent of Paladin healing. In fact I prefer it for PVE.

Beside my personal character foibles and travails, there has been a tremendous amount that has happened in and to the game as well. It was understood that Blizzard was going to be taking a slightly different tact with WotLK, from what they had taken with BC. Yet WotLK had a familiar feeling to it on release night. I still think it feels familiar to what we had in BC overall, but all the small things that have gone off in different directions add up. I think Blizzard has taken the game too far to the easy side of the spectrum and that has affected an overall sense of the game for the player base. That’s something I never would have thought a year ago, but now it’s something I think about a great deal.

PVP is probably the one area of the game that is least different from what we had at the end of BC. Though with two new battlegrounds, and the new Wintergrasp pvp zone in Northrend, the familiar grind for honor to buy PVP gear is exactly the same as it was in BC. Arena play is also largely the same as it was at the end of BC, with the same comps being variously effective in one season or another. Arena’s on the other hand have been a constant driver behind class and ability changes. If you look back over the course of the past year and look at all the various class changes, you can see the multitude that had their impetus in Arena play. Something I disdain and have been fairly vocal about at various points.

Raiding, on the other hand, is something that I think started off somewhat philosophically different than we had in BC and has continued to diverge from there. Blizzard took on the task of enabling greater access to raid content for more people in WotLK, which I whole-heartedly support. But as the months wore on, and Blizzard also made the decision to reward Emblems of Conquest, and them Emblems of Triumph from daily heroics, anyone and everyone could gain high level gear easily and quickly. The problem with that isn’t necessarily that it enables people to get the gear in the first place, but rather that it cheapens the experience of getting it. There is very little effort required to get a full set of Tier gear now and at the end of the day, after you are fully geared, what then? It’s a question a lot of people, including myself, have been asking themselves lately. In BC you had a strong linear progression that required a good deal of effort to get through, but which rewarded you well with upgrades that were significantly more powerful than what you had previously. Now the linear progression is not so linear, and the upgrades from one tier to another are very small. I skipped over T9 232 gear entirely for my Death Knight, who was outfitted in T8 gear from Ulduar because it wasn’t worth the expense of gemming and enchanting. Instead I waited until I had enough trophies and emblems to get the T9 245 gear instead. For newly minted level 80’s there is no reason to run the older raid instances, and you probably won’t have to care about the lower level emblems and emblem gear beyond an odd piece here and there because you can pick up a couple T9 pieces after running a couple weeks worth of daily heroics and get into an TOC-10 or 25 and work from there.

Say what you will about the relative ease of raid content now, but I don’t think anyone would argue with the assessment that the loot tables for hard mode encounters is tiny compared to the effort required to complete it. Under the current system, where all raiders are more or less afforded an opportunity to see entire raid instances, and the only real thing separating hard-core raiders from the more casual raider are the hard modes, the hard core raider is still going to get a preponderance of their gear from the normal loot tables. In Ulduar, hard modes were activated on a per-boss basis, which rewarded the players with extra loot. In TOC it’s somewhat different in that the Heroic versions of 25-man and 10-man are the hard modes. The loot is all the same, but upgraded to higher item levels. I think Blizzard was on the right track with that implementation, however they’ve indicated they’re going to revert to the system they used in Ulduar for Icecrown, taking us back to the question whether the rewards are substantial enough to meet the level of effort required to get them.

One of the saddest aspects of raiding now is how much of the player base that feels it’s lackluster. I’d commented on the blog recently how on my server (and others) top notch raid guilds were calling it quits. That might have occurred in BC with an occasional announcement by a guild here and there, but in the past year we’ve seen many guilds call it quits and it seems to be increasing recently. I haven’t lost my drive to raid, and my desire to see all the content, but I’ve begun to think more and more lately that Blizzard made a mistake with the emblem rewards from heroics. People need challenges. With the state of raiding now and the lack of real challenge for the average person, I wonder what is going to hold the multitude of players here in WoW. It certainly isn’t going to be Cataclysm. Even I, who is a true lover of this game, thought that Cataclysm was somewhat lame. If I am thinking about other games, it’s a sign that something is really wrong in WoW and I just don’t see Blizzard addressing the issues behind that.

Outside of PVP and raiding, the rest of the pieces that make up WoW are still largely the same as it was a year ago. The leveling experience is very similar to what we had in BC, and has remained exactly as it was established a year ago. In fact, I’d say WotLK is the high water mark that future expansions need to meet. There isn’t a single aspect of the leveling experience that I’d point to and say needed to be changed. Professions continue to follow the model established last year, with no outlandish advantages given to any. Unlike in BC, where blacksmiths, leatherworkers, and tailors had tremendous advantages over characters that did not have those profession, Blizzard decided to level the playing field somewhat. Professions now have smaller advantages, and the advantages between the professions are relatively equal. Not a great deal has changed, if you could truly say there are any real changes.

Daily quests are the last aspect I wanted to touch on, and those are largely the same as what we saw a year ago as well, though perhaps taking on a more centralized theme recently. I can remember thinking how annoying it was to have to travel as much as we did at WotLK launch to get your 25 daily quests completed. That changed with the introduction of the Argent Tournament, which served as a large central hub for questing, and it looks like Blizzard is going to carry that forward with the release of patch 3.3. There will be a new, large, quest hub in Icecrown to earn all that cold hard gold you’ll be needing for those upgrades that are soon to follow.

To make a long story short, WoW is in many respects a game that has yet to find it’s way in the past year. It’s new continuous morphing and updating is often disconcerting, yet something that is now more or less predictable in that respect. It’s still a very fun game, yet I don’t think it still commands the gaming market like it once did, and perhaps only remains atop the gaming market because no other truly good games have been released to date. I’ll still be here a year from now, but I am for the first time in my five years of playing, just how much I’ll be around and how much I’ll still feel WoW is the only game for me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pilgrim's Bounty

Pilgrim’s Bounty began yesterday, being the first new world event developed in quite a while, I’d have to say it captured the spirit of the week. My first impression of the event was that it was new and confusing, though it took very little time to come to grips with what I needed to do to start completing the achievements. My second impression was that all the travel involved with all the daily cooking quests was very annoying. Especially if you were like me, and hadn’t bothered to do any reading up on it all ahead of time and didn’t know you really wanted to pick up several stacks of pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and cranberries. Not to mention wild turkeys which I’ll discuss in a bit. So there I was yesterday delivering much needed food to Iron Forge and Darnassus, only to learn that each of those places wanted me to deliver food to Stormwind. I ended up making several trips between Stormwind, Ironforge, and Darnassus to get the ingredients I needed, then to actually deliver the completed food item. When I do my cooking quests today I’ll have several stacks of each available from the beginning, but it won’t alleviate all of the back and forth travel required to pick up the quests and then go and deliver the food. One would think with all the magic wielders available to the Alliance (or Horde) that someone would have thought about having portals available for all this. As you will probably have to do these quests for 2-3 days in order to get enough Turkey Shooters to complete the Turkey Lurky achievement, it’s making me wish I were a Mage.

One of the quests involves hunting wild turkeys and gives you an achievement called the Turkinator. I recall when I first looked into this thinking there was no way I was going to be able to kill enough turkeys in the time allotted to complete it, but quickly found that it really wasn’t going to be as hard as I thought it might be. In fact the only real obstacle to overcome to complete this is finding a space and a time where you are relatively alone because the turkeys are spread throughout Ellwyn Forest and Tirisfall Glade. The achievement requires you to kill 40 turkeys, but you have 30 seconds after killing one to kill the next. As the turkeys are fairly well populated in both zones, all you really need to do is find a corner some where that has no one else hunting in it to complete this successfully. They turkeys respawn fairly quickly, but not quickly enough that you won’t have to move around some in order to meet your quota. I did mine in Tirisfall Glade between the Bulwark and the farm. One thing that will make your task immensely easier to eat a Tracker Snack before hand, and set your tracking to nothing. The Tracker snack will enable you to track beasts for an hour and will make the turkeys show up as yellow dots on your mini-map. Simply run from one yellow dot to another.

One really nice treat from the event, outside of the pet of course, is that it affords you a very quick and painless way to level cooking from 1-300. Leveling 1-300 through the normal means isn't exactly difficult, provided you fish and/or are willing to travel all over hill and dale to collect all the recipes you need. But if you haven't leveled cooking yet, do it now! The Pilgrim's Bounty recipes afford you the easiest means of leveling cooking that you are ever likely to see. And once you get to 300 leveling to 450 is as simple and quick. Do not waste this opportunity.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yes, persistence

Tobold had an interesting question up yesterday. The sort of question I personally enjoy talking about, and something I touched on to one degree or another last month when I asked how much you invest in your characters. Perhaps not everyone identifies with their characters to the same degree, or at all. But I think a lot of MMO players do. I certainly do. In fact, character investment is the primary draw for me in a game, and is what keeps me over the long term.

I can remember well those waning weeks and months when I was still playing SWG back in 2005. And the day I finally made the decision to quit playing, how hard of a decision that was for me despite how much I hated CU and had really come to utter boredom in game because of the number of people abandoning SWG at the time. I had a fairly thriving Droid Engineering business on one account, and on my second account I had my Jedi and my Master Rifleman/Master Doctor. I had my home, my business hall and all my items and it was hard for me to simply turn my back on all that and walk away. Yet I did it, and I know many others were doing exactly the same thing around that time.

I've mentioned lately that I've been getting restless in WoW and have been looking forward to other games, yet I haven't made that decision to walk away. Why is that exactly? With SWG, it has to do with the strong connections I make with my characters, so yes, Tobold's question is something I think a lot of people just like me ask themselves at some point. I'm confident WoW will still be around for many years, but what would happen if WoW were to simply shutter tomorrow?
I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.
I don't think that quote would be too far from the truth of the matter.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

1+ Month till patch 3.3

I can't recall Blizzard having this much candor when discussing patches before. Normally questions pertaining to release dates are met with the ever famous "soon" response. However, now we know we have at least a month to get ready for Icecrown, and other monumental changes coming in the patch.

Like:

  • Quest Tracking Feature
    • Players can now track quest objectives on the map ('M' key).
    • Quest Log
      • A Show Map button has been added to the Quest Log. Selecting a quest and pressing this button will open the map for the zone in which the quest objective is located displaying the associated area of interest. Any other active quests in a player's Quest Log for that zone will also be displayed.
    • Map
      • The map interface has been separated into four separate panes: a map pane (left), a pane listing active quest names for the zone being viewed (right), a pane listing the full quest text for any highlighted quest (bottom left), and a pane listing the quest rewards for any highlighted quest (bottom right).
      • All active quests listed in the right pane for the zone being viewed on the map will be assigned a number. These numbers will be displayed on the map according to the areas of interest for each quest.
      • Highlighting a quest name in the right pane will highlight the corresponding area of interest on the map in the left pane, show its quest text in the lower left pane, and list the quest rewards in the lower right pane.
      • Given that some quest objectives can be achieved in multiple locations within a given zone, highlighting such a quest will highlight an area of interest closest in proximity to the character's current location.
      • This feature can be disabled by un-checking the Show Quest Objectives box in the bottom right corner of the new map interface, restoring the map to its standard full-screen display.
      • Clicking on the arrow in the top right corner of the new map interface will hide all but the map pane, bringing the map out of full-screen mode and allowing players to leave it open while navigating a zone or engaging in combat.
    • Objectives Tracking
      • This frame has been improved to offer new functionality and can be used with the new shrunken map option.
      • The Objectives frame is now docked below the mini-map next to the right 2 action bars and will track up to 10 quests for a zone.
      • Numbers have been added next to each quest name and objective corresponding with those areas of interest displayed on the map.
      • If a quest objective has been completed, the number will be replaced with a yellow question mark symbol.
      • The arrow button in the top right corner of the Objectives frame can be used to toggle between minimizing and maximizing the quest objective display.
    • Quest Difficulty Tracking
      • This feature is off by default and can be enabled in the Objectives window from the Interface Options menu. Turning this feature on will color-code all quest names displayed in the map interface according to difficulty (grey, green, yellow, orange, and red)

    • Dungeon Finder
      • Players can join as individuals, as a full group, or a partial group to look for additional party members.
      • Groups using this tool will be able to teleport directly to the selected instance. Upon leaving the instance, players will be returned to their original location. If any party member needs to temporarily leave the instance for reagents or repairs, they will have the option to teleport back to the instance.
      • Players can choose the Random Dungeon option.
        • The Heroic Wrath of the Lich King Daily Random Dungeon option will award two Emblems of Frost no more than once a day.
        • The normal Wrath of the Lich King Daily Random Dungeon option will award two Emblems of Triumph no more than once a day.
        • Continuing to complete Wrath of the Lich King Heroic instances using the Daily Random Dungeon option will award players two additional Emblems of Triumph each time.
        • Daily Heroic and normal dungeon quests have been removed. These quests have been replaced with weekly raid quests (see the "Quests" section for details).
        • Level-appropriate rewards will be offered to players who choose the Random Dungeon option for pre-Wrath of the Lich King dungeons.
        • Players can be placed in a group for a random dungeon no more than once every 15 minutes.
        • Random Dungeon rewards will be placed in each player's inventory automatically upon completion of the dungeon (final boss killed). A pop-up notification will display any rewards earned through the Dungeon Finder.
      • Instead of choosing a random dungeon, players can also choose specific dungeons appropriate for their level range. Multiple instances can be selected at one time. The feature no longer limits the choice to look for only 3 dungeon groups at one time.
      • Pick-Up Groups
        • Cross-realm instances are now available and use an improved matchmaking system to assist players in looking for additional party members. As with Battlegrounds, the realms in each Battlegroup are connected.
        • As part of the matchmaking system, some of the more difficult dungeons will have a minimum gear requirement. Players also need to meet the requirements for dungeons that require attunement, such as keys or quests. If a player does not meet the requirements for a particular dungeon, a lock icon will be displayed next to that dungeon. Hovering over this icon will display the requirements which have not been met.
        • Only conjured items and loot dropped in a dungeon for which other party members are eligible can be traded between players from different realms.
        • A Vote Kick feature will be available in the event a member of a party is not performing to the expectations of the other members.
        • Players who leave the group prematurely are subject to a Deserter debuff preventing them from using the Dungeon Finder for 15 minutes.
        • If an existing group loses a member, the leader will be asked if he or she wants to continue the dungeon. Choosing to continue will automatically place the group back into the Dungeon Finder queue.
        • A Player will not be placed in a group with people on his or her Ignore list.
        • Players who take part in groups who have one or more members who have been matched with them randomly from within the Dungeon Finder will receive extra rewards, up to and including the coveted Perky Pug non-combat pet. The more random players with whom one groups, the faster the pet can be obtained.
        • The Need Before Greed loot system will be the unalterable default looting system for pick-up groups in the Dungeon Finder and has been updated.
          • Need Before Greed will now recognize gear appropriate for a class in three ways: the class must be able to equip the item, pure melee will be unable to roll on spell power items, and classes are limited to their dominant armor type (ex. paladins for plate). All items will still be available via Greed rolls as well as the new Disenchant option should no member be able to use the item.
          • Players will be able to roll on items with a required minimum level higher than a player's current level.
    • Looking For Raid
      • Players will be able to browse the system manually for any other players looking for a raid dungeon group.
      • While browsing LFR players may sort the list ascending or descending by left-clicking the following headers: Name, Level, Class, Tank Role, Healer Role, and Damage Role. The crown is the Leader Role (representing a raid group with 2 or more people). Players can left-click on this header to sort the list with groups at the top or at the bottom.
      • Hovering over players listed in LFR will display their name, class, level, roles and comments. Hovering over a raid/group will display the leader's name, the raid information (number of people in the raid), comments, if there are any bosses dead (and which ones), and if there are any friends from your Friends list or ignored players from your Ignore list in the raid group.
    • The Looking For Group chat channel has returned and can be accessed in all major cities (similar to the Trade chat channel) without the use of the Dungeon Finder interface.
    • Players may only be queued or listed in one of the following systems at a time: Dungeons, LFR, Battlegrounds, or Arenas

    And those are but a few of the changes. Not included in that list, of course, is the addition of new 5-man dungeons, a section of the new Icecrown raid dungeon, and a controversial change that would allow players in groups to utilize another players disenchanting ability without his/her permission. Full patch notes can be found here.

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Anyone else think this?

    I noticed on Massively last night that Cryptic has announced when the public, open-beta would take place for STO. I was already thinking that the beta period was far too short, and the announced release date was perhaps too aggressive, but this public open-beta period of 12-26 January makes me really wonder how STO is going to look on release day. Lets be honest here, Cryptic isn't the company with the best reputation, so I'm thinking cutting a beta period that short isn't going to work in their favor.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Raiding and unintended consequences

    I spoke over the Summer about the unusual pattern of Malaise, often called the “Doldrums”, that set in a bit early this year. In years past the pattern was very predictable, but not this year. This year the pattern is unusual with people starting their doldrum early, and some not even coming back in the Fall when we would typically begin to see those players again. There also seems to be aspects to the equation that weren’t present in years past. I’ve been in favor of Blizzard’s actions to make raids more accessible to the general WoW player-base, but most of the older raid guilds have taken diametric stances. Some of the best raid guilds from previous years – like Death and Taxes of Korgath fame have folded entirely, citing the dumbed down raid content. Ensidia has also often posted very publicly about their disdain for it as well. And while my own server, Kargath, is by no means a bastion of raiding power, our own top raiding guilds are having many of the issues with current content that the more well known raid guilds in WoW have spoken about. But the problems go even further than simply disagreeing with how raid content is developed and presented. Because many people feel raid content is simply too easy there seems to be a relatively wide-spread dis-interest in raiding. If not dis-interest, then lets simply say that the level of drive that I think most raiders had up to BC is no longer there. People raid, but I don’t think I see the fire there any more. And that plays out in new and unexpected ways on many servers.

    One unexpected consequence is that in years past the better known raid guilds on a server would have a queue of applicants as long as someone’s arm. It was a well known fact that the larger raid guilds ate the younger or smaller raid guilds. Meaning a lot of people would guild hop. Many players would level up in a guild, and get somewhat decently geared, then app to a larger, more advanced raid guild in order to get into content their present guild had no chance of getting to. It was something that was complained about bitterly by many, yet it was simply an extension of human nature. People are out for themselves, first and foremost, and they looked to their best interest over their present groups. However the masses complained that raid content was too difficult and many players objected to paying the same price as anyone else, but effectively being denied access to in-game content. There is, and was, a certain point to be made there and Blizzard heard and responded to what we currently see in WotLK. Blizzard changed the paradigm, instead designing content that was “accessible” to all, and enabling levels of content within the same raid dungeon through “hard modes”. By doing this however, they’ve brought something similar to WoW that we see in the NFL during the present age where talent is spread across the entire league, instead of being concentrated on a small number of teams that can then dominate. Where in years past you effectively had a funnel for raid talent, that talent now is spread across the entire realm. Like on many realms, the larger raid guilds on my realm are having trouble recruiting to replace the players dropping out of raiding these days. One of the best known raid guilds on my server recently decided to stop raiding all together, which is a monumental hit considering it was the top progression guild through BC. And it’s hardly in a unique position.

    While the larger raid guilds are having problems recruiting, so are the smaller guilds. Yet they’re probably in worse shape overall because they simply don’t have the greater concentration of hard core raiders than the older, larger guilds do. The smaller guilds are more apt to have what would typically be talked about as casual raiders, meaning they most likely don’t raid every raid evening each week and generally have less experience than someone who does raid every raid evening during a week. While these smaller guilds might slog through raids, they probably have little chance of getting into hard-modes. And for the raid content that is more akin to what we would see back in BC like the Yogg fight in Ulduar, those smaller guilds are probably as bad off now as they were in BC. Which is to say that most smaller guilds still haven’t completed Ulduar. Especially now that TOC is out. TOC is easier than Ulduar overall, and most guilds I know on my realm have stopped running Ulduar, in order to concentrate on TOC. A smaller guild might struggle for a bit in TOC, but eventually they figure things out and get to a point where they can clear it in 40-60 minutes. Then what? Do they go back into Ulduar? If most guilds are like mine, the answer is no. When the guild leader in my guild posts that we’re going to go back into Ulduar to finish off Yogg we suddenly find people are unavailable. It’s the same thing on those nights where we’re going to attempt Heroic TOC. People are suffering from lack of challenge but because there is less concentration of talent in most guilds, they have little opportunity to get to the levels of content in a raid dungeon they haven’t yet seen. And they speak with their gold purses by opting to not participate on those nights that are undoubtedly going to be more expensive for them. It’s the classic catch-22.

    Unfortunately in a lot of cases people get to a point where they just give up and quit WoW. We’ve had a rash of that in my guild recently, where I would expect from years past that the Fall was a very fertile raid period. I’m expecting that patch 3.3 will bring about something similar to what we saw in Ulduar. Ulduar was vastly more difficult than Naax was, and I’d expect Icecrown to be vastly more difficult than TOC is. Whether we get to the same point toward the end of Icecrown that we find our self in right now, and toward the end of Ulduar is something to be determined.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Two mods that all hybrids need to know about

    Hybrid classes have the best of all worlds, do they not? They typically can DPS, tank, and/or heal in one spec, to one extent or another. I myself have been playing hybrid classes predominantly for years because I like being able to directly heal myself. But I’ve also found I really like to heal as a primary ability in raids and instances as well. Back in BC I was the main tank in my guild from Karazhan up through TK, then switched to Resto on my Druid and healed through Black Temple. At the time we didn’t have secondary specs, so you were either a DPS, tank, or healer. Fast forward to WotLK and we now have dual specs. No longer does a poor Druid or Paladin have to decide that they want to be X or Y. Now, they can literally be X on one fight and Y on another by simply switching to your alternate spec. Yet, hybrid classes typically have three different specs available to them. Shaman can be Elemental, Enhancement, and Resto. Druids can be Balance, Feral (Cat and Bear feral specs are distinct specs in the same tree), and Resto. Paladins can be Holy, Retribution, and Prot. It’s easy to switch between two defined specs, but what happens if you want more flexibility than that? What happens if you want to be able to tap that third tree in your talents? Not so easy, as it would typically mean a lengthy process of heading to your trainer and unlearning your talents, applying a new talent build, then spending time putting all your new buttons on your bars.

    However, there are two mods out there that will make this process light years easier for you, and which I highly recommend any hybrid player use immediately. The first is called Talented. Talented replaces the default talent tree window and allows you to create and save defined talent specs. Not only for the class you happen to be playing at the time, but for any class. Once you set up a talent spec and save it, it’s available for use literally at a moments notice. From that point forward, in order to use a talent spec you do not currently have set, you only need to visit your trainer to unlearn the talent spec you currently have. Then you open Talented, drill down to your saved talent spec, and apply it. With no other mods it would still mean you’d need to set up all your buttons manually for your new spec.

    With Active Bar Saver you only need to define your bars once, then save it. From that point forward any time you want to respect, you simply need to run a simple command and voila, your bars are set up for you. If you want to change button positions, you simply need to run another simple command to save the new button positions. Whats more, Active Bar Saver will work with the default UI, or other custom bar mods up to 121 buttons.

    Using Talented and Active Bar Saver, the only thing you need to do manually after respeccing is to manually re-glyph. A typical total respec using these two mods takes about 2-3 minutes from beginning to end and involves you hearthing back to Dalaran (probably) then walking through a city portal and heading to your training; unlearning your current spec you want to replace; then using talented to apply a pre-saved talent spec; running Active Bar Saver to restore your pre-saved buttons; then manually re-glyphing. If you were going to do this in the middle of a raid, you’d most likely have a lock standing by to summon you back in.

    Even if this wasn’t something you would do in a raid, you can still see the benefits here. Take myself as an example. I’m in the process of changing my main from my Death Knight to my Paladin and I’ve been getting as much experience in all three talent trees as possible. During the week I typically walk around as Retribution as my primary spec, and Holy as my secondary spec. It’s no problem to swap between the two specs as needed, but on the weekends I’ve been working my way through older instances for the achievements, and for that I replace my Holy spec with Prot. And as soon as I’m done with those I’ll be looking to get some tanking experience in WotLK instances. Completely respeccing one of my two normal specs to Prot is something I do at least twice every weekend, if not more in order to do whatever the guild needs me to do. Without the two mods it would simply be too much of a tedious process to have to set up my bars that many times, let alone do it every weekend. And these two mods are the keys to other hybrid players being able to tap into perhaps here-to-fore untapped character potential.

    Much of the fun of hybrid classes is their vast array of abilities. Now you don’t have to limit yourself to only two of those in order to avoid the tedium.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Annoying tanks and the benefits of patience

    One aspect of game play that Blizzard wanted to address head on in WotLK was the "tank shortage" in BC. Not only did they introduce the Death Knight class, which has a very strong tanking ability and bringing the total of available classes that could tank to four, but they also vastly improved the Warrior and Paladin classes either through tweaks or out right buffs to core tanking abilities. Some would say they vastly reduced Druid tanking ability, which might account for the fact that you rarely see a tanking Druid these days. Or at least I rarely see them on my server, where they were every where in BC. I'm relatively happy with my own Feral Druid, but the fact remains that Druids are simply no where to be found on my server.

    I can remember well the days in BC when people were complaining bitterly about the supposed "tank shortage". Point in fact there weren't any fewer tanks then than there are now, and many people who played tanking classes addressed these rumors on the forum. Essentially the replies ran along the line that once a tank gets into serious raiding there was little or no incentive to run heroics. Especially if you factor in the typical pug where it's often an experience in exasperation. Not a great deal has changed now, however Blizzard went further in WotLK than they ever did in BC to ensure people had incentives to run heroics, and that was in awarding high level emblems for turning in the daily heroic quest. Looking through LFG these days I still think the old problem regarding incentive for tanks to run heroics holds sway, because I typically see more healers in LFG than I do tanks. Which is perhaps what has been leading to the topic of this post.

    First let us just say that there is an expected progression that players are meant to progress through. And it holds sway regardless of whether you are a DPS, healer, or tank class. That progression is typically to start running the level 80 normal dungeons when you first hit 80 and to pick up some gear through those as well as perhaps get some crafted gear. At which point you would then start running heroics, and start getting gear through those before you then run off to start running raids of various sorts. The change in the reward for the daily heroic to badges of Triumph last patch greatly assists players in obtaining much higher gear that they other wise would have access to at the beginner stages of your gear progression, but what I have been noticed lately -- a lot lately, are brand new level 80s that can pack on plate thinking they are automatically tanks. A lot of these "tanks" are extremely poorly geared, with health down around the 22-24k range (which frankly is about the same health my Paladin has in my ret set) who want to run not just heroics, but the more challenging heroics at that.

    One "tank" I saw the other day was a Death Knight with 22k health, who was looking to "tank" the heroic in Unholy spec, and without any of the tanking talents at the top of the trees, like Anticipation, Toughness, and Blade Barrier. He also had only 400 defense, which tells you all you need to know about the type of gear he was looking to run Heroic HoL in, which is to say he hadn't a chance of surviving the run. Yet he was insistent and began cursing out the healer who was questioning his ability to tank. That attitude is emblematic of what I am see lately, and I find it very disturbing. The attitude of entitlement--the attitude that leads to people turning their backs on the accepted progression of things--is doing much more harm to the PUG system than ever did occur in BC. People have such bad experiences with these "tanks" that they stop pugging and simply run with guild mates, or establish static groups with friends instead.

    I'm in the process of switching my main from my DK to my Paladin, and I typically walk around as Ret / Holy. I heal heroics every day, and have been getting considerable experience healing raids. But I also swap to Prot on the weekends to get some experience tanking. I had picked up tanking pieces along the way and was able to assemble a very good initial tanking set from H-ToC, other heroics, and crafted gear than got me to 540 defense, 32k health, 47% avoidance and 81% total mitigation. Not too shabby, and it really didn't take all that long to assemble, so I have little sympathy for these so called "tanks" that are basically asking healers specifically, and the groups they get into in general, to run them through content. I find it quite annoying.

    It's one thing for a newly minted character that is poorly geared to come along as a DPS on a run, but something entirely different -- an unacceptable situation -- to be a tank or a healer that is clearly not ready for the role they are looking fill. Take the time to work through the accepted progression and obtain the gear you need in order to get where you want to go. Or just get carried as a DPS in a Naax or TOC raid where the gear you really want is plentiful and available.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    I was wrong

    My last post should have been titled something else. Because this is perhaps the most obvious topic of conversation ever to have been had. Ever. I think a very large portion of the WoW player base has been trying to tell them this for a very, very, long time now and it is nice to finally see them acknowledge what so many already knew.

    Arena's were a monumental mistake.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Captain obvious to the rescue

    It's been all over the place that Star Trek Online will be released in Feb 2010. That after STO beta recentaly began. Which I might add, I still have not received a beta invite to. Today, my good friends at Cryptic send me this email just to make sure I had seen this tid bit of information.

    Coming February, 2010

    Greetings Captain!
    We at Cryptic Studios just wanted to share the good news with you: Star Trek Online has an official release date!

    You can begin boldly going where no one has gone before on February 2, 2010, in North America, and February 5, 2010, in Europe.

    Be sure to drop by www.StarTrekOnline.com for more information, and for the latest Star Trek Online updates from across the universe.

    Thanks, and we’ll see you soon!
    - The Star Trek Online Team
    Thanks Cryptic! I'd really love to be in there now seeing what the beta is all about, particularly because of the very speedy process Cryptic is using to push this MMO out the door. Some would say too quickly, but proof is to be had in the beta right now. I wonder how much news of other MMOs and expansions that are to be released in 2010 are driving this? In any regard, though I would love to be seeing for myself the answers to all the questions we've posed about STO on this blog over the past many weeks, but I guess letting me know what I already knew is close enough :)

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    And I thought I was burned out

    I’ve mentioned many times here on the blog that I’m somewhat of an alt-a-holic, and that I have generally been playing three main toons in WoW, with a few others for short periods here and there. Generally though, I spend the lion’s share of my time on my Death Knight, my Druid, and my Paladin. I raid on my Death Knight as a member of the core team, and spend the rest of my time on my other two toons for everything else. In fact I had planned on switching to my Druid as my raid toon and retiring my Death Knight but I saw very quickly that it was going to be excruciatingly difficult to catch up gear wise the way our loot system works. It would actually be easier for me to replace my Death Knight with my Paladin, and raid as Ret/Holy than to gear up my Druid with all the people currently in the raid that wear leather or want agility stacked weapons. In any event I’ve been pounding away for the past couple weeks trying to catch my Paladin up to my Druid and my Death Knight, and I’m having a blast doing it. Surprisingly so since I had thought I was completely burned out on achievements. Seems along with my strong push to gear up my Paladin I’ve come into something of a achievement revitalization.

    I used to main tank on my Druid in BC up through Tempest Keep, and then healed as Resto through Black Temple and Mt. Hyjal. While I think I still do prefer tanking on my Druid, I greatly prefer Paladin healing for PVE content. I knew Paladins were terrific healers but I never realized just how nice they truly were until recently. My desire to start healing again was the reason that I rolled and leveled a Paladin in the first place. A friend recommended that I try out Paladin healing instead of continuing to heal on my Druid, and now that I’ve been doing it for some time I simply can not thank him enough for turning me onto this.

    What is it that makes Paladin healing so enjoyable? Two things in my opinion. The extreme mana efficiency, with three ways of regenerating mana; and Beacon of light. Even after all the nerfs to Paladin mana efficiency that have taken place in WotLK, Paladins are still eminently mana efficient. I’m by no means an expert in the area (yet) but I have healed as Resto Druid, Resto Shaman, and Holy Paladin and I have far fewer mana issues as a Paladin than I ever did with either of the other two. Gear is obviously part of that, but of the three types of healers, Druid mechanics emphasize periodic mana regeneration via innervate which has a three minute cool down. And requires you to use that Innervate at precise times in order to maintain a full mana bar.

    Resto Shamans are closer to the continuous mana regeneration style of the Paladin through use of their mana totems but I don’t think it can keep pace with a Paladin continuously judging and using Divine Plea. My own spec and glyphs emphasize Flash of Light spamming, so I really only begin to see any whittling down of my mana pool if I start to use Holy Light for the big heals. But I’ve yet to run into any trouble where I could not very easily regenerate my mana from judging and divine plea. Even after death and a battle rez, where I come out with little mana I can very quickly get back to healing and regenerating mana without the need for an innervate. It’s simply amazing and I find I enjoy it very much.

    Then we have Beacon of Light. Lets face it, Paladin healers were not designed to be AOE healers. However Beacon of Light goes a good ways toward making Paladin healers viable as raid healers. Placing your Beacon on the MT and healing the OT or raid members as they take splash damage effectively means double healing as any healing you do to anyone also heals the person you put the Beacon on. A single Paladin can easily heal two tanks. Two Paladin healers on a typical two tank boss fight are pretty much everything you need. One spamming FoL and one spamming HL. Even healing an OT with my beacon on the MT, I’m able to assist with raid healing most of the time.

    In as much as I truly enjoy Pally healing, I am even more taken with Retribution. I can remember thinking how amazing it was to be able to take on elites with impunity as I was leveling. Very very few elites gave me any problems what so ever, and it was something that Ret had in common with my DK as I leveled him in Blood spec. Leveling and playing a Ret Pally is the closest thing to “god like” I think you can have in WoW. There simply isn’t anything that you really have to sweat through, and out side of a few specific instances, you can easily solo anything and everything you come up against. The Ret Pally experience is remarkably like what I have experienced with my DK. Obviously mechanics and abilities are different, so it boils down to emphasis. DKs heal while doing damage, and depending on spec have a couple oh shit buttons to push to help with their self healing. Yet I prefer direct healing, which of course explains my love of and penchant for playing hybrid classes. Mileage may vary, but I definitely prefer being able to directly heal. And the Pallys Lay on Hands ability, bubble, cleanse, and insta-heals off Art of War procs only add value to the mix. To be quite honest the only ability from my DK that I miss when I’m playing on my Pally is Path of Frost. I can not tell you how handy PoF is, and if I could just bring one ability over from my DK to my Pally it would be that. I’d never play my DK again.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    L O L

    OMG I can't stop laughing. Leave it to Syncaine when you want a real good belly rumbler! Thanks man!

    In other news Syncaine goes completely insane. Film at 11:00.

    MMO’s are serious business

    No, really, they are. And in China there are currently two government bureaucracies that are fighting a very public turf war right now over the fate of WoW there. See this, this, this, this, this, and this about it. Fortunately the war hasn’t progressed past the initial very public declaration from GAPP, so WoW is still up and running there. It’ll be interesting to watch this unfold further, though I’d expect things to meld back into the background. After all, this is something of an embarrassment for the Chinese government, and we know how Communist governments typically take to embarrassment.

    And all this over the very recent previous WoW troubles there.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Oh

    Apparently I'm a ASEK. I got a bit of a laugh out of how high my social trait was.

    Psychology of the gamer mind and Syncaine

    I've spoken recently about my restlessness and my vacillations in which MMOs I play. I still play WoW, but in the Spring I played EVE seriously for about two months, and again stopped by to teach a friend a thing or two and to continue training. In the Fall I gave WAR another go, but found I liked it no better than I did at its initial release, and I tried out AION which was quite visually appealing, but had little other hold on me. Particularly as I found out more and more about the game. I'm extremely happy that I wasted as little time on it as I did now, because by many accounts things are beginning to look grim for the game and I would have hated to have invested a lot of time and effort into character development only to see it virtually wasted as the game all but died. And finally, lately I have been following two up and coming games--Star Trek Online, and The Old Republic. Both of which have just entered Beta, or in the case of the Old Republic, may be conducting limited closed testing.

    In years past I was not even tempted to play other games. Despite being a rabid Tolkien fan there was nothing in LotRO that tempted me from WoW. And despite growing up on Conan; having read every Conan book ever written, and the fact that Conan the Barbarian was the first movie I ever purchased and owned, AOC did not tempt me away from WoW either. Neither of which did I track during their development or beta phases either. So why have I been so restless this year when in years past I have not? Simple, and it has lessons that Syncaine needs to learn.

    When you listen to people talk about Politics, or games as an example, they very often talk about “this”, or “that” as if it was a black and white example. Take the casual vs. hardcore debate for instance. What is casual? What is hardcore? Some people believe that the difference between hardcore and casual is in the number of hours they play, yet I can tell you of numerous examples of people that play 30+ hours per week and would by no means ever be considered a hardcore player. Other people believe that the difference relates to the tenacity by which the player pursues a goal, or by a level of ruthlessness. Yet I can again tell you of numerous players that I know who are quite laid back, but whom I would consider to be very hardcore. Instead I think it better if people would understand that nothing in this world is truly black and white. Often distinctions are representative from points of view, making things truly grey. Things are more a spectrum than linear comparisons.

    Any discussion such as this would not be complete without also dipping into the Bartle test of Gamer Psychology. There is debate regarding how accurate Bartle’s test truly is, but I think it accurate enough as long as one thing is understood. The test predicts the gamers’ psychology as a point in time. Others would say that the test accounts for that, offering a glimpse at the predilection of the individual taking it, but I believe people’s predilections change over time, and also believe that no test can accurately account for people’s conscious desires over their subconscious desires. In other words, someone saying they are “hardcore” does not make one so. Take me for example. For hours, or days, or even weeks I may be keenly interested in something specific, and I will most likely doggedly pursue it. Achievements for example, either in general or specifically. Or I might be interested in raising a particular reputation, or perhaps several. Either for the achievement in and of itself, or for some reward. That might seem on the face of it to fit into the Bartle Psychology Achiever’s category as my major trait. But I invariably change and will forgo that entire line of game play and will instead pursue something in the Killer category. Depending on how I answer questions and during which period I answer them I can get different predictions of my predilections. I am but an example of what I believe is truly in the heart of most people.

    People are invariably driven by a need for challenge and that challenge differs from person to person. The “social” player challenges him or herself to create networks of friends, though that hardly looks like a challenge at all to someone that is more driven to a directly confrontational play style that a “killer” would represent. Yet it’s a distinction that is very real. I have been restless this year because the challenge I most often seek is lacking. I’m not driven to the utmost of lengths to complete every achievement, but I do like to achieve goals. I like to raid, though I lose little sleep if I am not able to complete all hard mode encounters in a raid dungeon. Despite my lack of getting into hard modes because of my guild, I personally find the raid encounters in WotLK to be very easy comparatably to what we’ve seen previously. It’s a mantra that a lot of “hardcore” raiders have put forth over the year. It lead to the resurgence of my alt-a-holism, but the restlessness has only increased as I got more and more achievements completed under my alts. I was dissatisfied with some of my alts and moved onto a next one, until finally I think I have a mix of characters that I am fairly happy with – that being my DK, my Druid, and my Paladin. At the moment I have things I want to accomplish on these toons, but they’re achievements that I would term as the low, or lower hanging fruit. Once I get all or most of those done I’m aware I’m likely to start feeling restless again. Not because I do not like the characters, but rather because of other content in the game that I can participate in isn’t challenging enough for me.

    Games like WoW that are termed as “theme-parks” are popular in the market place, but over the long term I think they individually have to find a level of difficulty that caters to their players. Remember when you used to play regular PC games back in the day? And you used to use cheat codes to breeze through content? Same concept here. I would bang my head against some encounter, then eventually grow tired of it and use a cheat code to breeze through. That was the beginning of the end right there because things became simply too easy. Despite my own lack of discipline, the game received the “punishment” by my abandonment of it. WoW, and other theme-parks could suffer the same fate if they go too far along the spectrum that leads to content becoming too easy. On the other hand people like Syncaine are of the mind that we need to be on the other side of the spectrum where MMOs are brutally impartial. He desires an MMO where he can impose his sense of fun onto you, regardless of your own desires. But that type of game often has mechanics that are far removed from what I think most people find acceptable these days. If it were not the case, would not the market had answered? Would not the market have decided that Darkfall is “better” than Wow? The people are speaking, though Syncaine does not want to listen.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Sorry

    I call B.S. Just ask my wife if she thinks that randomness was "fine". I tried for two previous years and didn't get the squashling. Got it on a character I wasn't even trying to get it on last year, then all of a sudden got it on two different characters I was trying to get it on this year. My son got it three times on the same character.

    It is completely indefensible when we're discussing content that takes a full year to compelete, if you don't run into problems caused by this "fine" RNG.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    When will people learn?

    Seriously. If there is just one aspect of our lives that you would truly think people would learn from, it would be the MMO market. Considering how much time we all spend within it. Yet, every new MMO that comes down the pike is trumpeted to the tunes of the "WoW-killer" or the "best MMO evah!", or the like. Every. One. I would like to point the community to the dictionary and ask that you all look up the word "lemming". Then I would like to direct your attention to the axiom that a "fool and their money are soon parted".

    Aion is apparently beginning to feel what other games have experienced in the recent past, if you believe what players are saying. Games such as WAR, LotRO, AOC, and Aion were marketed at a fanatical pace, and game sites and blogs galore spoke glowingly about each of them . Seldom was heard a disparaging word about any of these games in the months leading up to their release, and the people who frequent those game sites and blogs ate up the praise like it was mana from heaven.

    Though the community at large bears a very healthy helping of responsibility for the mess that is now the MMO market, I think another healthy helping belongs to sites like Massively, MMORPG, Ten Ton Hammer, Eurogamer, and others. These sites quite often act as mouth pieces for the developers and hardly ever critique or offer critical analysis of a game during development or beta. True, many things often change during development, but the point is the community at large do not think critically and if you are going to take on the roll of a journalist, then you must also take on the responsibility of one as well. You have a responsibility to point out the downside while also pointing out the upside or else, in my view, you lose a level of credibility.

    And that is something I strive very hard to maintain here at Iggeps Realm. Despite my love for the Star Wars franchise, I have been quite vocal about my concerns with the Old Republic. Likewise with Star Trek Online. And anyone can see my often scathing criticism of Blizzard for it's handling of various issues with WoW. I may not be as large, or command a following of loyal readers like many other blogs out there, but I can assure you that no level of notoriety will ever change my core beliefs. I will not sell glowing coverage of any game for a free beta pass or comp subscription.

    Syncaine has one interpretation

    I have another. He's said it before, though I think the situation is greatly more complicated than I've seen him allude to, and that is the whole debate surrounding hardcore vs. casual. Or more apropos, "sand-box" vs. "theme-park". The gaming market is but a microcosm of larger society, though in this case it's complicated by the international nature of it. Peoples in geographic regions so far apart often have very different views on things, because apparently grindy MMO's are all the rage in Asia. Not so here in the U.S. where we prefer a little more refinement from our entertainment.

    And this portion of the international market has seemingly spoken as to the casual vs. hardcore debate. Games that Syncaine favor -- Darkfall for one, do not have the mass appeal that he would like them to have, and he's blaming all the wrong things for that. It's not that people run off to test out Aion that cause the problems in his type of games, rather it's the problems in his type of games that cause people to run off to test other games. Factor in that any number of people who say they are hard core players, aren't really hard core. Either they are fooling themselves, or fooling someone else. At least part of the time. Games that offer sand-box elements, but other more casual elements tend to do reasonably well in the U.S., though what that level is no one can really say. It's all hearsay and innuendo after all. Especially because no two developers definitions on what an account is, seem to match.

    The raw hard reality of sand-box MMOs is that they strictly rely on a certain population level because its the population that creates the vast majority of the entertainment. Whereas in theme-park MMOs the majority of entertainment is provided, and usually only supplemented by sand-box elements. If the population falls below a level where you will be able to sustain a reasonable level of activity in the game, then boredom quickly sets in and people look elsewhere for entertainment. The less hardcore leave quickly, and the more hardcore tend to stick around for longer. Syncaine is in the habit of blaming other games, and WoW specifically, for the ills that befall other MMOs. Like WAR, and Darkfall.

    That simply isn't the case. The market always speaks, though not in a single voice, and not all at once. And the market is never wrong.

    Certainly not her

    The RNG gods might have smiled upon me this year, but they certainly didn't for my wife who tried in vain to loot the Sinister Squashling on her main toon throughout the two week Hallow's End world event. Which of course means she now has to wait an entire additional year, and hope she loots the squashling next year (she didn't get it last Octobr either) in order to complete her "What a long strange trip its been" meta achievement for her purple Proto-Drake mount. We were curious, and she put in a ticket, to find out just how many attempts she made to trick-or-treat, and how many times she actually killed the Horseman. It'll be interesting to see if, or when, Blizzard responds to that because it is simply ridiculous to put that kind of RNG into a process that takes a full year to complete.

    And if she doesn't loot it again next year?