Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Audience Inconsistencies, Class Quests

Audience Inconsistencies

Sometimes I feel sorry for Blizzard. They get so many conflicting signals from the audience that it must be quite hard to figure out what the right thing to do is. For example, right now:

Players: Classic is amazing with it's difficulty and inconveniences. It's awesome when players have to be careful about what enemies they attack and avoid. Retail should be more like Classic

Blizzard: In Patch 8.2 absorbs will no longer prevent daze. You need to be more careful about avoiding enemies, and not just mounting up and running straight through them all.

Players: Why does Blizzard hate fun?!?

Class Quests

I hit level 12 in the Classic Beta yesterday. Apparently there's an entire quest around getting Resurrection that I completely forgot about!

I really enjoyed that quest. It's small, and involved a lot of running, and wasn't that difficult. But it was very paladin-specific. I also liked that it wasn't world-shaking, but first about providing linen to an orphanage for clothes, and then resurrecting someone who was investigating the Defias. It fit nicely with learning the Resurrection spell. Though that does raise questions about who you can actually resurrect or not resurrect story-wise.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Classic Westfall: Where Dreams Meet Reality

First Death

I finished Elwynn Forest and moved on to Westfall, where I had my first death. I got attacked by a Coyote and a Coyote Packleader and foolishly decided to fight when my bubble was on cooldown. It's interesting because if it had been three coyotes, I would ran away right at the start and survived.

I also had a second death a bit later, fighting a Defias Trapper, and not realizing that a Defias Smuggler was throwing knives at me from a distance.

Dreams meet Reality

If Elwynn Forest is the zone where you see all the advantages of Classic, Westfall is where you start to see some of the disadvantages. And you realize that there was a reason Blizzard changed things.

Like one of the first quests is to kill 30 Defias, 15 trappers and 15 smugglers. You have to make a circuit of several camps, killing one Defias at a time. You run away if two of them attack you. You sit and drink after killing three or four. The respawn time is long so you have to find multiple camps.

There are some advantages to this playstyle, though. You explore a lot of the map. You usually end up working on several quests at the same time. For example, kill a couple Defias in camp A, then kill some boars for livers on the way to camp B.

Truthfully, it is kind of boring. Another thing which made it worse is that Westfall chat wasn't working in the Beta. There's a saying that MMOs are glorified chat channels, and that's true to an extent. But the chat channels work with the slow pace. The slow pace gives you time to read chat and respond in between killing a mob or two. And the chat channel makes the slow pace bearable.

Another element is that the way paladins interact with a couple of mechanics pushes solo gameplay to be even less interesting. Mana regen in Classic is governed by something called the "5 second rule". Mana only starts regenerating a full 5 seconds after you last used an ability. For most classes, this isn't an issue, because you have to spend mana to deal damage. For paladins, though, the abilities are all front-loaded. If you Seal, Judge, Seal at the start of the fight, mana regen will kick in after 5 seconds. Then if you just auto-attack, you'll get most of your mana back during the fight. The only damage you are missing out on is Judgement, and it isn't that much. Especially if Judgement gets resisted, which is rage-inducing because you realize that you killed your mana regen for nothing.

Fights are slightly longer, but you don't have to sit and drink. But game-play is atrociously boring. Press three buttons at the start, and then auto-attack for 30 seconds.

Now, obviously, playing any other class might be more interesting.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

WoW Classic Beta!

I got a WoW Classic Beta invite, and it is hilarious!  I remade my paladin, and here she is at level 10.

Classic Coriel in Goldshire
You can see the Seals, Judgement and (5 minute!) Blessing of Might on the bars. I had forgotten just how few buttons the classic paladin uses. (The question mark is a mouseover macro for Holy Light that seems to have a bug with the tooltip. I have reported the bug.)

It feels very much like the vanilla WoW that I remember. It's pretty slow, level 10 took me maybe four or so hours. Lots of running around. Combat is somewhat dangerous. I haven't died yet, but I've had to use bubble and run away four times. Twice from gnolls, and twice from murlocs. I'm wearing a mix of leather and mail, and I've even been wearing greys!

The major difference so far between Classic and retail is how much interaction there is with other people, and how the mechanics push you to interact. For example, tagging is absolute here, there are no shared tags at all. So I've ended up making impromptu groups for almost every named quest mob with the others who are waiting for the mob.

People seem to make liberal use of buffs, randomly buffing people nearby. Priests and Mages give me Stamina and Intellect, and I give them Blessing of Might. Though, this may just be the beta crowd. If you get in over your head (very easy to do!), and someone is nearby, they'll often help out.

I even traded some linen to someone who was leveling tailoring in exchange for two six-slot bags.

It's a very interesting experience to see exactly what you miss, and what you don't miss from retail, and what you wish was in retail.

So far, things I miss from retail:
  • AOE looting. I kill two murlocs and I always forget to loot the second one.
  • The bag clean up button. Apparently I use this constantly in retail. I open my bags, and reach for the button before I remember that it doesn't exist.
Things I don't miss from retail:
  • Quest markers and sparkles. The map and mini-map in Classic are very basic, and don't do very much. The mini-map doesn't even show new quests. After playing Classic, it's clear that I pay more attention to the map in retail rather than the actual world. In Classic, bringing up the map doesn't really add any information, so you pay more attention to the world. I am beginning to think that the balance between map and world in retail has tilted too far towards the map, and the map simply does too much.
Things I want from Classic back in retail:
  • The spinning uppercut animation for Hammer of Justice. It's so much better than the current animation. Every time I use Hammer of Justice in Classic, it annoys me that it got removed from retail.
Overall, WoW Classic has clearly got that vanilla feel, with all the advantages and disadvantages thereof. It's a unique opportunity to compare and contrast the two versions, rather than relying on nostalgia and unreliable memories.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

WoW Classic and Layers

When WoW Classic launches (Aug 27!) it will use a new tech for managing server populations called "layers". From BlizzardWatch:
Called “Layering,” the new system will help reduce queue times and improve server stability for the launch of WoW Classic. Layering is tough to explain without a metaphor, and thankfully Blizzard came up with a good one while explaining it to press and content creators recently. 
Imagine a tray with an empty glass. The tray is a single server in WoW Classic. The empty glass is a layer. When you log into the game on launch day, you’ll be with a flood other players: the water that we’re going to pour into the glass. Once the glass is full, we add another empty glass and start filling it up with water, or players, too. Each new glass is a new layer that consists of two to three thousand players — which means any single server could handle tens of thousands of players at the same time but without all of them being crowded into the same place in-game. The only way to see players from another layer is to group up with them —otherwise they don’t interact.
A layer is basically an invisible server. You get assigned to an invisible layer, and you only see other people who are assigned to that same layer. If you join a guild, you get transferred to that guild's layer. So you should see the same guilds and characters over time.

If the population of two layers drops down, the layers are merged, just like a server merge. Only because the original and final layer ids are unknown, and character names are unique across both layers, the merge should be unnoticeable. Other than seeing a bunch of new people running around Stormwind.

The interesting thing will be to see how many traditional "servers" WoW Classic launches with. Perhaps it's theoretically possible that WoW Classic could have a single server (or maybe 3 for PvE, PvP, and RP) and have 1000 layers.

Of course, naming characters would rapidly become very, very hard. And I wonder if there is value in having a named subcommunity, rather than everyone thrown into one giant pot. Is it good to feel like you belong on Lightbringer, while others belong to Skywall?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Cinematic: Safe Haven

Blizzard dropped a new cinematic on us in the lead up to patch 8.2 titled Safe Haven.


It's a pretty good cinematic. It looks like Thrall is coming back to the Horde.

I really wonder what Blizzard is planning for Sylvanas. They said she won't be Garrosh 2.0, but she's sure looking like it. I also don't think they're handling her character very well. She's supposed to be the cool-headed, competent archetype, but she seems to be making rash and foolish decisions all through this expansion.

Ah well, we'll see how this turns out in the patch.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Ahead of the Curve: Uu'nat

Heh, I thought it would take another couple of weeks, but we tweaked our strategy and how we handled the Tears and got a kill!

Defiant-Doomhammer kills Heroic Uu'nat
  Here's a screenshot from our Jaina kill which I never posted:

Defiant-Doomhammer defeats Heroic Jaina

Uu'nat was a pretty decent fight. Using the same three artifacts with the same double-edged powers in both fights of Crucible was an interesting twist. Ultimately, though, I think it was a touch gimmicky. I still think Jaina Proudmoore was the best designed fight this tier (and probably the best from the last several tiers).

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Updates

World of Warcraft

We're working on Heroic Uu'nat at the moment. It will probably take a couple more weeks, I think. We're currently working on steadying Phase 2 and figuring out Phase 3.

Otherwise, things are pretty steady in WoW. One thing about the server transfer is now all my other characters are stuck on the old server, and it's a bit of pain to switch servers. So they're basically gathering dust now.

I am very slowly leveling a Shadow Priest. I decided to do questing-only, with no heirlooms. I like upgrading gear and watching my character change appearance as I level. But it's quite slow without heirlooms. I think I would like Blizzard to separate out the XP gain from the heirlooms. Since quest gear now scales with level, you don't really need heirlooms unless you don't want to bother with gearing entirely. Perhaps XP gain while leveling becomes a stat that you could permanently increase through various mechanics, including heirlooms.

Final Fantasy FFXIV

I'm pretty much done with Stormblood, and waiting for the next expansion. I've been leveling Ninja using the AI Squadron in dungeons. It's not bad, but it can be tricky to force the tank to take aggro on everything.

The only thing I have really left undone in Stormblood is Eureka. But I'm at an awkward stage in Pagos where I'm too low level for the bosses, but I find it hard to get a smaller challenge log group going. Content that requires groups is really hard to do if you can't find groups.

Torchlight II

I ended up deleting this. The problem here was that Torchlight is one of those games which doesn't allow you to respec. I was putting all my points into one main ability and a bunch of passives. This worked well, but got boring. I really wanted to try different builds, but that would have required making new characters. The story wasn't really gripping me, so I eventually decided that I wasn't interested in finishing the game.

Anthem

I haven't played much since the patch. I did log in and do some missions and a stronghold for the daily one day. It was actually a pretty good day in terms of loot, with two Legendaries and four or five Masterworks. I haven't tried the new stronghold yet, though.