Wednesday, April 30, 2014

PvP Battleground Rotation

There are a lot of battlegrounds these days. Eleven in total. And Warlords may bring more.

In Vanilla, there were only three. While that may have been slightly monotonous, it was very good for learning the battlegrounds. People learned the strategies and even counter-strategies. With so many battlegrounds now, it's a lot harder to learn the nuances of every single battleground.

Perhaps part of the reason for faction dominance of specific battlegrounds is that there isn't enough time for strategies to evolve. Instead each side sticks to using the very basic initial strategy, which favors one side.

I propose the battlegrounds be organized into a rotation. Each period will be composed of one Warfare BG, one Capture the Flag BG, and two Resource Race BGs. These four will be the only battlegrounds available for that period. The period will last for about two months, then new battlegrounds will rotate in.

Obviously people would not be allowed to blacklist battlegrounds. As well, Blizzard would probably have to stop doing the weekend special battlegrounds. They also have to ensure that seasonal events with battleground achievements line up with the rotation.

I think that this focus will serve players better. They can learn and understand a smaller set of battlegrounds. However, they won't be doing the same content forever. After a while new battlegrounds will come in and mix things up. This is especially true for newer players.

This will also make it easier to add new battlegrounds. Unlike PvE instances, battlegrounds hang around forever. But simply adding new battlegrounds into the rotation keeps the cognitive overhead low. You only need to know the strategies for 4 battlegrounds.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Founder Packs

Lately a number of games, especially F2P games, have started selling "Founder Packs". These packs give some goodies, but mainly give you access to the Alpha and Beta tests.  Many people in the community see this as the game companies taking advantage of their players. However, I am generally okay with this practice. Here's my reasoning.

First, Founder Packs allow F2P games to sell time. Eventually they will open up the game for free. The Old Republic does something similar by giving subscribers early access to features. In my view, this is more or less the same as sales of regular games or hardcover books. A regular game is available for $60. In a couple of months, you might find it on sale for $40. In six months or more, it starts joining bundles and crazy Steam sales where you get for $10. Or consider books. A book is first released in hardcover for $40. A year or so later it comes out in paperback for $10. Or consider movies. You pay $15 to watch the movie in the theatre. If you wait 4 months, you can rent it for $5.

All these are roughly the same situation. The consumer chooses to pay to access the content earlier. If the consumer is willing to wait, she gets the content later, but cheaper. This is same thing for Founder Packs. If you wait three months, the content will be free.

Second, Founder Packs are strictly better than Pre-Orders. How many people have pre-ordered Warlords of Draenor?  That isn't coming out for months. What's better: pay upfront and get immediate access to alpha or beta, or pay up front and not get any access at all?

Third, it's good for the game company. I think that Founder Packs give the company a more realistic idea of who is interested in the game. I'm drawn to the example of The Secret World, which had over a million people in the beta, but only 100,000 or so at launch. As well, the people who are willing to pay are your core audience, and it's better to get feedback from them rather than get feedback from people who just signed up for fun, and aren't planning to play at all.

Perhaps a thousand Founders who paid for Alpha access would have done more for The Secret World than the million who signed up for free.

Of course, this can go too far, in that the devs are listening to very small minority. But it's a small minority that's proven their willingness to pay. In an age where people expect everything to be free, this is not to be taken for granted.

Not to mention that the company gets a little bit of cash flow, which is always helpful for an industry that runs on the edge.

Fourth, wanting access to Alpha/Beta can be rational. A lot of people dismiss Alpha/Beta access as "paying for the privilege of testing". And there is some truth to that. But Alpha and Beta are also the times when the games can be changed. Once the game hits release, change becomes a lot slower. If you want influence in how the game develops, Alpha/Beta access is your best chance. You can test things out, and arguments drawn directly from in-game testing, which makes it more likely that the devs will listen to you. Without Alpha/Beta access, it's just armchair theorycrafting.

Ideally we expect to play these games for a long time. If you're considering spending the next three years in MMO X, paying for Alpha/Beta access so you push the game in your desired direction is a rational choice.

Ultimately, I think that most consumers are somewhat rational. If many of them are willing to pay for Alpha/Beta access, may as well let them. It's worth it to them. Those of us who are unwilling to pay can just wait for the game to be released.

Monday, April 28, 2014

PvP Gear: A Problem Worth Solving?

This is the current plan, as described by Olivia Grace of Wowhead, of how PvP gear will work in Warlords:

This is how PvP gear is going to work in Warlords of Draenor - it will have one lower item level for PvE content such as questing, dungeons or raids, as well as a higher item level for PvP. You can see that this piece's item level is 660 in PvE, and 690 in PvP.
The PvP/PvE gear split is getting excessively complicated. At this point, maybe we should take a step back and ask ourselves: Is this a problem worth solving?

Is it really important for PvE gear to be mechanically different from PvP gear?


The origins of the split comes from TBC. At that time, PvE was strict-progression, while PvP was seasonal. Thus as new PvP seasons appeared, it became easier for people to get gear from PvP, even if they were stuck on hard bosses in PvE.

But now PvE is seasonal, just like PvP. When a new raid comes out, everyone moves to the new raid and gets new gear. It is far less likely that someone will get "stuck" and have to resort to PvP to gear up.

There will be about 5 levels of PvE gear: LFR, Normal, Heroic, Mythic, Mythic-Warforged. Three levels of PvP gear, set at about LFR, Heroic, and Mythic-Warforged would be good, especially if the costs and requirements for that gear is set to match PvE.

With PvP and PvE gear being set at roughly the same level, people could more easily cross over and dip into both activities. I have very fond memories of working in Alterac Valley to get my [The Unstoppable Force], even though I was primarily a PvE player. However, since the gear-split, my desire and inclination to build multiple sets has really fallen.

Is it really so terrible that top PvP players have good enough gear to do high end PvE? Or vice-versa?

Really, the only items that caused significant imbalance were trinkets. Perhaps only trinkets would work differently in PvP and PvE. As for Best-In-Slot, the people who chase Best-In-Slot will always be crazy and go to extreme lengths. Is it really worth forcing the rest of us to navigate these complexities?

Basically, I just don't think it is worth jumping through hoops to maintain the PvP-PvE gear split any more. PvE has changed from progression to seasonal, matching PvP. Using the same gear for both activities would allow people to participate in both activities more easily. People could get away with maintaining one gear set per specialization.

The PvP-PvE gear split is complexity that we don't need anymore. As such, the game would be better off without it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More Thoughts on the Elder Scrolls Online

Rarely does any game leave me as conflicted as ESO. I like the questing, I like the stories, I like the exploration, I like the skill system, I like the crafting. I really like hunting skyshards, especially how they are listed in the Achievements section, but each is listed with a clue, and you can use the clues to hunt them down. That was very clever, and leveraged the Achievement system beautifully.

Almost every system in system in the game is enjoyable, save one. Unfortunately that one system I dislike is the combat.

Combat is just--I don't really know how to describe it well-- "doughy". It's not crisp, it's not satisfying. Fights don't seem to flow, like they should. I often feel like I am flailing rather than in control of the fight, with wild swings in health and resources. I guess it kind of works, and it is serviceable. But I really do not look forward to combat in this game.

Very often, I'll start a new quest, enter an area with many enemies and lots of combat ahead. My first instinct on these occasions is to log out.

Now, maybe it's my class. I'm playing a Templar with a 2H weapon and heavy armor. A little fire magic and healing, along with big melee hits. Maybe another playstyle would work better. I also haven't tried group combat. Perhaps that stabilizes things.

In so many ways, ESO is the mirror image of Tera. I can't help but think that if they could have been combined in some fashion, it would have been an amazing game.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Active Mana Regen for Healing

It's not in the patch notes, but the data-miners for Warlords of Draenor have discovered a plan to give all healers a form of active mana regen. For Holy Paladins, this means Divine Plea becomes a Holy Power finisher which returns mana:

Divine Plea
3 Holy Power
Instantly regain 4.5% of maximum mana.

Now I don't know if this is final, as it wasn't in the latest patch notes. But in my opinion, active mana regen is a bad idea for healers.

First, it is an extra button. Right now, healers may have 5-6 dedicated heal buttons, and we'll have to allocate another button for mana regen. When Blizzard is trying to cut down on ability bloat, adding more buttons is not a good idea.

Second, the presence of active mana regen will invariably make fights more deadly, leading to a less fun healing environment.

Essentially, from a healing perspective, a raid fight is divided into periods of heavy damage and light damage. During heavy damage, mana consumption goes up. During light damage, mana consumption is minimal. A properly designed fight ensures that the healer uses all their mana.

As a heavily simplified example, let's say a healer has 1000 mana. During heavy damage, she spends about 10 mana/second. During light damage, she spends about 5 mana/second. So a perfect fight might require 60 seconds of heavy damage and 80 seconds of light damage.

Now add in active mana regen. Active mana regen means that during the light damage periods, the healer spends even less mana, and may even have positive mana gain. Let's say the healer moves to 0 mana/second because she's hitting her active mana button. That means that, in order to challenge the healer, the fight must now have 100 seconds of heavy damage and 40 seconds of light damage. Or alternatively, heavy damage must be more extreme, in order to make the healer spend more mana.

Both paths lead to deadlier fights, fights where mistakes are more likely to result in a death.

The history of WoW healing has been that whenever mana regen increases, throughput increases, and damage skyrockets to balance, and the healing environment becomes less forgiving, more spammy, and less fun. Adding active mana regen is just to trigger that cycle faster, and put another skill barrier between those who are the best at squeezing in regen abilities, and those who are not as good.

In my opinion, the best healing environments have resulted whenever "overheal" becomes important. When healers are focused on reducing their overheal and becoming more efficient, incoming damage is at a reasonable level and fights are simply more fun because people aren't getting destroyed in two or three global cooldowns. Whenever efficiency gets thrown out the window in favor of throughput, healing becomes less strategic and more frantic, and just less fun.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Auction Houses and Mega-Servers

MMOs are moving towards a single-server model. But this brings up an interesting wrinkle with Auction Houses or markets.

Markets with a very large number of participants are hyper-efficient. As Diablo 3 and Guild Wars 2 proved, they are so efficient that they cease to be fun.  Margins get rapidly driven towards zero. While that's great for buyers, it's not so much fun for sellers or traders. And we're all sellers at some point, if only to sell a neat Bind-On-Equip item we found while leveling.

I think what the last few years in MMOs have shown is that markets need to be somewhat inefficient to be fun. They can't be too inefficient, as in the case of too small servers, because there needs to be enough supply, and somewhat predictable prices.

It is interesting to see how the current single-server MMOs are handling this issue. The grand-daddy of this model is Eve Online. Eve has many markets. Every solar system is a separate market. These markets are separated by distance and time. This setup is pretty good. Some systems (Jita, for example) get known as trade hubs. Moving goods between trade hubs provides for arbitrage and interesting gameplay for the goblins among us. It's also a system which feels very natural and realistic.

However, this setup requires that your universe be set up in a certain way, with significant travel time between each hub, and a population spread out across the universe. It is not really a model for themepark games where people tend to follow the same "flow" as they move from zone to zone.

The Elder Scrolls Online handles things slightly differently. Each guild has its own auction house. Each guild is capped at 500 members. But a player can belong to up to 5 guilds at the same time. So most players will end up joining two or three "trade" guilds, which are dedicated to trading. This does give a decent selection, and also allows for a bit of arbitrage between guilds.

The downsides here are that it does seem a little weird to have these continent-spanning guilds which cannot talk to each other. As well, most guilds will want their 500 players to be active. I'm not sure how someone who plays very casually, maybe logging in once or twice a week, would fit into these guilds. Too many of these types of players, and your guild market becomes dead.

All in all, this is an intriguing problem. As more and more MMOs move towards the single-server model, it will be interesting to see what new solutions are brought forward.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The End of Side Quests?

There was a surprising tidbit on MMO-Champion yesterday:

  • The Jade Forest quests had a very clear story, but it also had a lot of side quests that could bog you down.
  • In Warlords of Draenor, your map will show you where to go to continue the main storyline, along with the locations of bonus objectives.
  • The bonus objectives no longer have any story text that go with them, just a list of objectives. Now when there is quest text, you will know that it is really worth reading.
I am more surprised and dismayed by this than anything else I've seen about WoD.

I know a lot of people skip quest text, but aren't there a fair number of us who don't? Back when it was still an option, I used to turn scrolling quest text back on when leveling so I could focus on the story.

I am not really thrilled with this decision. In fact, I thought a major complaint about Cataclysm was the extreme linearity of the zones. A single main storyline sounds like it will be even more linear than Cataclysm was.

I also liked side-quest stories because they would often give different perspectives on the situation. Maybe the three quest givers would send you to the same place, but each had different priorities. Now there will always be one quest and one priority.


What I find is that this lacks context, lacks those small stories that weave together. For example, in Elwynn Forest in WoW, I really enjoy the Young Lovers questline. It's nothing amazing, you take a note from Maybell Maclure to Tommy Joe Stonefield, get Grandma Stonefield to direct you to her old suitor, the alchemist William Pestle, kill some mulocs for ingredients for an invisibility potion, and give the potion to Maybell so she can elope. Nothing amazing, just a short little story. But I guess I'm a romantic at heart, so I always enjoy doing that questline. 
The thing is that, so far, the hearts in GW2 really lack that. They're just a bar on the screen to be filled with repetitive tasks. And the tasks don't really build on each other to form a story, except in the vaguest, most general sense. (There are bandits attacking the farm. You kill the bandits. The farm is saved.) It's also very UI-driven. At least normal questing has a semblance of interacting with the people in the world. 
Now, in the end, maybe normal questing is just the same. That the stories of side quests are just an illusion, a fig leaf over reality, and it's all about filling up many smaller bars instead of one bigger bar. But it turns out that I like--and maybe even need--that illusion. 
GW2 Hearts are quests for people who think that skipping through instant quest text is too much work.

Now WoW decides to follow in those footsteps. Apparently quests in WoD are quests for people who think that skipping through instant quest text is too much work.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Long Wait For Warlords of Draenor

It's pretty apparent to everyone that the current drought of content in WoW is going to be the longest since the game began.

It's rather interesting in light of how the expansion began. The first few patches came really fast. Almost too fast, in my opinion. Blizzard could have easily added another month to each of 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3. That would have spread out the content better.

But they didn't. At that point in time, Blizzard obviously believed that they would hit the deadline for the faster schedule. So I wonder what changed.

My theory is that they had to scrap a lot of already designed work and restart at some point. Maybe it wasn't up to their standards, or just wasn't working out.

Another possibility is that they wanted to make significant technical changes (perhaps the change to the new file format), and that ended up taking significantly longer than expected. Though I am not really certain that significant technical changes would have held up all the content generation.

I don't think, however, that Blizzard is delaying the expansion because they can, or because the "suits" felt it was the path to maximum revenue. Rather, I think something happened after the start of Mists, probably after 6.3, that made delaying the expansion the lesser of two evils.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Azeroth Choppers

I often find the MMO community to be rather snobbish and close-minded.

Take Blizzard's latest advertising venture, Azeroth Choppers:


It's an interesting effort to cross over into a market that may not have yet played WoW. At this point, the gaming community is probably saturated, with everyone at least having tried WoW.

Plus the existing mechano-hog/chopper in game are very popular mounts, especially since they were the first ones to allow passengers with the sidecar.

I think Blizzard should do more of this style of marketing. Some of it will work, some of it won't. But I think it shows some degree of inventiveness.

Heh, I think Blizzard should make an effort to sneak a Warcraft novel into the romance section of the bookstore. A full-out bodice-ripper. They could hire a recognized author in the romance genre. The trick would be to downplay the Warcraft part enough so that the bookstores don't automatically class the novel as fantasy. It would be interesting to see if they could pull that off.

Actually, to me, the most interesting part of Azeroth Choppers is that Blizzard is comfortable with giving a reward to only one faction. Or put another way, giving the reward to all players, but only allowing characters of one faction to use it. Both those formulations are the same thing, but they sound very different.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Holy Paladin Talents in Warlords

Let's take a look at the upcoming level 100 Holy Paladin talents in Warlords of Draenor.

The first thing to note is that Blizzard is effectively making different talents for each spec. The three Holy talents are completely different than the Retribution and Protection talents. Retribution and Protection do share two talents, but have a different third talent.

Beacon of Faith - Mark a second target as a Beacon, mimicking the effects of Beacon of Light.

Pretty straightforward, but also very easy to use and understand. Great in raids where you can simply beacon both tanks. In 5-mans, it's probably weaker, but you can always beacon yourself and not have to worry about your own health.

Note that if AoE healing becomes significantly weaker, this might prove to be quite powerful, as you are now healing three people at the same time with your single-target spells.

Beacon of Insight - Places a beacon of insight on an ally, increasing their healing received from your next direct single-target heal within 1 min by 30%. When consumed, or when the target reaches full health, it moves to the most injured ally within 40 yards. Limit 1.

One of your injured allies will always have a buff giving a boost to your heal. However, it is a little unpredictable in practice, as it will bounce around the group. But as it always bounces to the the most-injured ally, that probably is the one you should heal.

Heh, in some respects, this reminds me of that old Vanilla mod which would arrange players by health, and the healer would just heal the top bar. You could probably do a semi-decent job just by chasing the beacon around.

One open question is how Blizzard defines "most injured". Is it most injured as percent of health, as absolute amount of health remaining, or absolute amount of health lost? Each of those scenarios results in slightly different patterns in the bouncing. For example, absolute amount of health lost means the beacon will usually jump to a tank. Absolute amount of health remaining means it will probably bounce around the dps.

Saved by the Light - When you or your Beacon of Light target drop below 30% health, you instantly grant the injured target a protective shield, absorbing up to 30% of their maximum health for 10 sec. You cannot shield the same person this way twice within 1 min.

I will assume that this means that if you drop below 30%, you get a shield. If the beacon target drops below 30%, she gets a shield.

This is excellent for single tank fights, giving your tank another emergency cooldown. I don't think the personal shield will see much use in PvE, but it's always helpful to have. I can see this being the talent of choice in PvP, though.

The thing about this talent is that if things go well, it will never be used. But it might also be the factor which prevents a wipe and results in a successful kill. It's very strong against unexpected spikes.

On the other hand, the other two talents will straight up increase your throughput. That increased throughput might prevent the tank from ever getting that low in the first place.

Conclusions

I think all three talents are pretty interesting. I would probably use Beacon of Faith for raids, and one of the other two for 5-mans. But I can see it depending a lot on the fight and what your assignment is.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

First Impressions of The Elder Scrolls Online

I am not yet sure if The Elder Scrolls Online is a good game. But if you have any interest in MMOs from an observational or theoretical point of view, you really should give this game a spin.

ESO does so many things differently from what has become the norm. It is worth seeing exactly how things change.

For example, there is no minimap. I found this to be a surprisingly huge change. Apparently I primarily navigate by minimap, rather than looking at the world. The loss of the minimap seems to force you into the world a bit more, make you navigate by recognizing landmarks.

It's also amusing that your character uses a map animation when you bring up the map. So a very common sight is seeing other adventurers standing around looking at their map. Everyone is slightly lost and trying to figure out where they are.

ESO is the first game in a while that feels like it is in a world once again, rather than a highly-choreographed play or façade.

Character Creation

Character creation is pretty extensive. There are 9 races (though most are variants of human and elf) that give you a base to work with. There's a billion sliders where you can change your face and body shape.

I'm beginning to hate these slider-based character creators. I'm terrible with them. I simply cannot make a decent-looking character. I'll get something that is not bad, but then I'll log in a day later and it just looks worse and worse.

Sadly, I'm beginning to look at extensive character creators as a negative. The game company artists are much better than me at this sort of stuff, and I would prefer to leverage their expertise.

Basics

The game can be played in first or third person. I switched to third person pretty quickly, mostly because it is what I am used to. The mouse is locked to the center of the screen, and pretty much everything is handled by targeting the element and pressing E.

The color scheme is more towards the realistic, rather than the cartoony. It seems fine to me.

There are tons of barrels and bags that you can ransack. Most of them have pretty useless stuff, but this seems traditional for an Elder Scrolls game.

Abilities

The ability system is pretty interesting. It's a cross between a point-based system and a use-based system.  Basically skills come from a lot of different areas. Some come from your class, some come from the type of weapon you use, some from armor, some from your race, etc. You can invest points in picking up skills, and put 5-6 skills on your bar. Those 5-6 skills level up as you do stuff.

The skill system is a bit wide open. You can take healing abilities as any class, or tanking abilities. Of course, the class skills emphasize the role, so I don't know how effective going against type will be.

Combat

Combat consists of your hotkeys, plus left-click to attack, hold left-click to do a big attack, right-click to block, right-click + left-click to interrupt.  It is certainly serviceable, and is "good enough".

However, my first thought after engaging in combat was "I wish the TERA team had done this combat." Combat is very similar to TERA combat, only TERA combat is far superior in performance and responsiveness.

Heh, in a lot of ways, ESO world-building and design, combined with TERA combat, would have been an amazing game.

Questing

Quests are interesting. There are relatively few of them, but they are long, multi-stage affairs. You can only track one quest at a time, which somewhat forces you to focus.

As well, there's lots of activities that aren't tied into the formal questing system. For example, I found a treasure map on a pirate I killed. It showed a sketch of a tower on a hill, with several large rocks in the foreground. As I was wandering around, I saw the tower. I found the correct perspective that matched the sketch, and dug where the map was marked. And I found treasure!

All that didn't involve the formal quest system at all.

Conclusions

I am not very far in yet. I cannot tell you whether The Elder Scrolls Online is a good game or a bad game. But I can say for certain that it is an interesting game. And sometimes, that's enough.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Draenor Perks

From the patch notes:

Draenor Perks is a new feature that adds rewards for leveling. Over levels 91 to 99, you will earn these 9 new Draenor Perk in a random order. Each class and specialization has a different set of 9 Draenor Perks.
The perks for Holy Paladins are:

  • Empowered Beacon of Light - Your single-target heals heal your Beacon of Light target for 10% more.
  • Improved Daybreak - Increases the healing from Daybreak by 100%.
  • Improved Holy Light - Increases the healing from Holy Light by 20%.
  • Improved Denounce - Increases the damage done by Denounce by 20%.
  • Empowered Holy Shock - Increases the damage done by Holy Shock by 20%.
  • Enhanced Holy Shock - Your Holy Light and Flash of Light have a 10% chance to cause your next Holy Shock to not trigger a cooldown.
  • Improved Flash of Light - Increases the healing Flash of Light by 20%.

As you can see, these are small passives that boost your abilities. Something to make up for missing talents while leveling. Something you gain at each level. Yet at max level, every character will have all the perks.

The only problem I have is with the fact that the perks will be given out randomly. I don't think this is a good idea. It will lead to more disappointment.

To see what I mean, imagine you are a masochist and leveling as Holy during the expac. You look at the perks at level 90, and you really hope that you get Improved Denounce or Empowered Holy Shock at 91, as those two will greatly help with questing.  However, you only have a 2/9 or 22% chance of getting what you want. 88% of the time, you will be disappointed.

Randomness is not a good idea for one-time rewards. Imagine that there is a quest which rewarded 1 of 3 different mounts. But the mount a player gets is randomly determined from those three. There would be great unhappiness, as 66% of the population would not get the mount they wanted.

Another example happened to me in Diablo 3 a couple days ago. The first time you kill the last boss in D3, you are guaranteed a Legendary. I got an amazing staff, with 50% more DPS than my current weapon, gobs of intellect, and two other much-desired stats. Unfortunately, I was playing a Crusader.

(At least my Enchantress follower is happy. On paper she now does twice as much damage as my Crusader.)

The same principle was involved. A one-time reward was determined randomly, and the potential for disappointment was higher because of it. Randomness really only works when content is repeatable.

Blizzard should either allow us to choose which perk we get as we level, or give out the perks in a set order. The perks are not an appropriate place for randomness. People will end up associating Draenor Perks with disappointment. It is very unlikely that they will be lucky enough to get the Perks they want when they want them.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Tank Vengeance and Resolve

Most of the WoD patch notes are fairly straightforward. But there is one part I don't really understand:

  • Vengeance has been removed and replaced with a new passive ability, Resolve. 
  • Resolve: Increases your healing and absorption done to yourself, based on Stamina and damage taken (before avoidance and mitigation) in the last 10 seconds.
I understood Vengeance. Vengeance boosted the damage and threat of the tank who is actually tanking, not one acting as DPS. It was important to differentiate between the two types, in order to prevent tanks from pushing out actual DPS characters from the raid.

However, as I understand it, Resolve means that a tank who is not taking damage is squishier than a tank who is taking damage.

But if the tank is not taking damage, does it really matter that she is squishier?

Or to put it another way, there's an equation that should balance in a successful fight:

Incoming Damage = Healing from Others + Self Healing/Mitigation + Healing/Mitigation from Resolve

Why not just remove the Resolve term?  You could directly boost the self healing/mitigation or lower the incoming damage, and the equation would still balance. Removing Resolve would simplify things, and not create weird situations like a successful parry/dodge streak that causes Resolve to drop off.

I understood the purpose of Vengeance, and why it was structured the way it was. But I don't understand the purpose of Resolve. I don't see what it adds to the game.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Warlords Alpha Patch Notes

Blizzard released the Alpha patch notes for Warlords of Draenor, yesterday.

There are lots of changes. In particular, they are ruthlessly purging a lot of abilities. They also look to be separating out the specializations a bit more, with more abilities become specialization-specific upgrades.

Crowd control is getting significantly scaled back, with many CC abilities getting the axe. Healing is seeing a large reduction in instant spells and smart heals. Some cooldowns and debuffs are being combined with others into fewer abilities.

There aren't really a lot of paladin-specific changes, though, other than the above. It looks like the paladin will be more or less the same as it was it in Mists.

I do like the change to Major Glyphs. Getting a few default ones while leveling will make using glyphs so much easier when making a new character.

Really, there's so many changes in these notes that it is somewhat overwhelming. It might be better to just read through them and let them digest for a couple of days.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Thoughts on Wildstar

I've been in the Wildstar beta since December, though I haven't really played it in the last month. I didn't really like Wildstar, for several reasons. I never got particularly far in the game either, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

First, you know how everyone in PvP runs around in circles like a madman? Wildstar is bringing that to PvE. I don't see this as a positive.  Maybe I'm just getting old, but going nuts with the telegraphs like Carbine did made it a very tiring game.

And to a degree, Wildstar is a more difficult game than I think people will accept. I look at their dungeons, and I have zero desire to throw myself at that. In some respects, I think I'm just not skilled enough for Wildstar, so I may as well stick with more forgiving games.

Second, I never found a class that I enjoyed. I'm not really sure why. Just none of the classes seemed to have that factor which made me want to play them. The closest were the stalker and the engineer, but even they were missing something.

I don't really know how to explain it, but it feels very much like the classes in Warhammer Online. Those were well-crafted classes mechanically, but they just left me cold. Perhaps it is a matter of archetypes, of not having literary characters that match up to the class. Perhaps I play paladins because of Paksennarion, Michael Carpenter, and Uther, and not because of the mechanics associated with the class.

Finally, this is a very small thing, but in some ways it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I really, really do not like to be sworn at. It's just a reflexive distaste. So when the level up effect involves profanity, it just puts me off completely.

As well, if you think swearing is necessary, at least have the courage to swear. Bleeped swearing is a poseur's game. All it says is "we're trying to be edgy, but not too edgy." If you have to bleep your swearing, you really should just rewrite your content to avoid profanity.

So those are the main reasons I disliked Wildstar. I did not like their combat system, their classes left me cold, and the swearing on level up was a complete turn off.

Wildstar does have several good points. The graphics are colorful and cartoony. The game performance was good. The factions were reasonably interesting. The questing was pretty decent.

I also really liked the Settler path. I really enjoyed upgrading each quest hub with buff stations and building up the fences, and generally making the camp look better. The other paths were okay, but didn't really have the pull of the Settler path.

So those are my thoughts on Wildstar. I did not like the game, but it is not a bad game. If you like the combat, and find a class you enjoy, it will be a fun ride.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Flying and Warlords of Draenor

Blizzard is being awfully reticent to say how flying will work in the next expansion. This is leading some people to speculate that we may not be able to fly at all in the expansion.

I thought it might be instructive to look back at the past to see how flying was handled.

Burning Crusade - No flying while leveling. Able to fly at max level. No flying in Sunwell Plateau.

Wrath of the Lich King - No flying while leveling. Able to fly at max level. No flying in PvP zone.

Cataclysm - Can fly any time. Old world remade to allow flying. No flying in PvP zone.

Mists of Pandaria - No flying while leveling. Able to fly at max level. No flying in Isle of Thunder or Timeless Isle.

Mists is actually more interesting than that. Ignore leveling, and look at where max level characters are supposed to spend their time outside instanced content.

5.0 - Dailies across the continent. Flying allowed.
5.1 - Karasang Wilds. Flying allowed.
5.2 - Isle of Thunder. No flying.
5.3 - Battlefield Barrens. Flying allowed.
5.4 - Timeless Isle. No flying.

I think Blizzard has decided that these "max level areas" are better off without flying. And it's hard to argue with that. Isle of Thunder and Timeless Isle were the best max level areas in the expansion.

Then add to that a new PvP zone, which traditionally does not allow flying, and a problem begins to emerge. If Blizzard allows flight in WoD, they have to sequester off the new max level areas. They can't use the main area of the continent. Instead we'll get something like:

6.1 - Isle of No Flying 1
6.2 - Isle of No Flying 2
6.3 - Isle of No Flying 3
6.4 - Isle of No Flying 4

All connected to the main continent by portals or similar.

So I think Blizzard is at something of an impasse here if they want to avoid this. Either make substandard max level areas that allow flying or disallow flying on the new continent. Disallowing flying will make a lot of people very unhappy in the immediate term.

I think Blizzard's best strategy would be to say that there will be no flying until 6.3. Then in 6.1 and 6.2, they can use the continent for max level areas. In 6.3 and up, they can make new content be on the islands of no flying, and allow you to fly in the old max level areas.

Giving a definite time after which flying will resume will quiet the fears that flying will be taken away. It probably won't stop the complaints, but I think that most people will be willing to settle down and wait for it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Back!

April 1st is probably not the most auspicious day to resume blogging. But whatever. I missed writing a lot actually, rather more than I expected to.

I did join Twitter, but 140 chars is pointless. You can't say anything interesting. Details matter.

My other project didn't really work out. Work got unexpectedly crazy right after the new year, so I spent much of my time there. I just ended up playing games again when I got back from work. Perhaps I'll try again in a little while.

What I'm currently playing:

The Old Republic

A rash of absences caused my raid team to miss several days. That in turn pushed several people to retire. We're trying to recover, and merged with another guild team which went through much the same thing. But we're still on the edge of viability. We're trying to recruit, but I'm not sure I hold out much hope.

Final Fantasy XIV

I finally got my relic weapon. It took me effectively two months of trying to beat Titan (Hard Mode), though I started near the end of November. Of course, this was because I was signing up in Duty Finder. I would sign up once a day, fail, and then go do something else. I finally ended up in a pre-made group that was able to down him.

It's interesting, because in some respects that experience has broken me in the game. I have not even tried the fights after that (King Moogle, Ultima Hard, Coil). I think about signing up, but then I go and do random other stuff in the game.

Right now, I'm basically leveling other classes and doing other easy content like dailies.

Diablo III

I'm currently playing through Reaper of Souls. I started a Crusader when RoS launched and have finally got her to Act V, where I'm a little ways in. I rather like the Crusader and RoS, and will probably write a full post on it soon.

I'm actually leveling her using my D3 ability challenge, where I am always using the latest ability and rune to be acquired. I'm only playing on Hard, but it's been an interesting experience. Every level requires you to adjust tactics slightly, and you get a good feel for all the abilities. (I groan whenever I see a Smite rune come up.)

Conclusions

It's good to be writing again. I hope to write several posts in the near future, rehashing all the controversies that I missed.