Friday, March 15, 2019

8.1.5 Alliance War Campaign

The Alliance War Campaign for 8.1.5 is fairly reactive. Things are happening horde-side, and the Alliance is basically watching the fallout. Shades of this older post of mine:
Now in Pandaria, we see the end result of that. One side had to go evil to make the war "fit" with modern sensibilities. Thus one of Garrosh or Varian had to go bad, and Garrosh was the one chosen. 
That sets up two stories: a civil war within the Horde, and the Alliance attempts to finish Garrosh. Of those two stories, the civil war is always going to be the more interesting story.
There's a nice cutscene, though:


The writers' work with Jaina has been the major standout this expansion. They've done an excellent job with her all around.

I wasn't really on-board with all the "Garrosh 2.0" complaints about the storyline earlier. But it's looking more and more like this expansion will be a re-tread of the Pandaria story line. There's some differences, notably Sylvanas is treating the rest of the Horde much better. But her character and motivations are really mysterious. There's been no attempt to get Horde players to sympathise with her or her aims, even if you disagree. That lack makes it really seem like they're setting her up to be deposed.

Oh well, there's still plenty of time left in the story. Perhaps Blizzard will surprise us.

I think this story illustrates the disadvantages of "going big". If Sylvanas hadn't burned down Darnassus, there's actually a lot more room for the story to manoeuvre. But because she did, the story points in one direction. Though imagine a scenario where Sylvanas sues for a peace or truce that leaves her as Warchief still. Anduin agrees to this truce (as his nature inclines him to), and that causes a schism in the Alliance as the Night Elves, Worgen, and Kul Tirans strongly disagree. That would be an interesting turn of events, and move the "civil war" over to the Alliance side.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Patch 8.1.5, Heroic Conclave, Glimmer Build

Patch 8.1.5

Patch 8.1.5 launched yesterday. As it was raid night, I only did Magni's quest to get 10 ilvls for the Azerite necklace. That quest was pretty short, featuring a return to Uldir and a couple of cutscenes. It felt a bit more like set up for future developments (in 77 cycles, a nod to the 77 day patch cycle of Legion).

I'll probably continue the main campaign line next, though I'm considering making a Kul Tiran druid. Of course, I've never actually finished levelling an Allied race character. So it will probably languish as an alt.

Heroic Conclave

We got Heroic Conclave down tonight. Pretty fun fight, though I think we still aren't positioning the frog quite correctly. In particular, I use Avenging Crusader during the Paku phase, which means I have to be in melee on the edge, and inevitably I get bounced when the frog jumps there.

Also Conclave is a little annoying because you have to look through translucent mobs to marks on the ground beneath them. The translucent mobs don't actually do anything but act as timers (and a marker in the case of Paku), so it is unfortunate that they take up space in the arena.

Avenging Wrath Buff

Paladins got a small buff to Avenging Wrath in this patch:
Avenging Wrath now causes your next Holy Shock, Light of the Protector, Templar’s Verdict, or Divine Storm to critically strike.
A little unusual for a mid-expansion buff. I'm not really sure what prompted this change.

Edit: Apparently a bunch of cooldowns for different classes got a small effect on use. I guess Blizzard just wanted to add some "punch" to these abilities.

Glimmer Build

I tried the Glimmer build in the raid. My Retribution chest had Glimmer so I reforged that to try it out.

My verdict: I disliked the build.

I was performing a little worse than normal, but a lot of that was unfamiliarity with the build, and generally Holy Shocking the wrong target. In particular, the same people often took damage, and I would instinctively Holy Shock someone who already had Glimmer on them.

What I found, though, is I really disliked the number of Crusader Strikes you use. The priority is Holy Shock > Light of Dawn > Crusader Strike, and sometimes it felt like I was spending half my GCDs on Crusader Strikes instead of healing.

As well, it felt like you had to be stricter about staying in melee. The old build, you want to be in melee, but it's not strict about it. If the boss is moving, you can heal and then catch up to melee. I did do a fair bit more DPS with the Glimmer build than normal, though. And mana seemed much more forgiving with the Glimmer build.

In any case, I switched back when we took a break in the raid to the standard Judgment of Light build. Given that we did get Conclave after that, maybe I'll take it as a sign that the JoL build is the one for me.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Anthem Loot Issues

On Friday before the patch, there was a brief window where loot in Anthem dropped like crazy. The patch restored loot rates to normal. Since then the Anthem community has been clamouring for loot rates to return to that pre-patch state.

In my opinion, Anthem loot rates are correct up to Grandmaster 1. Every difficulty should have a purpose:
  • Easy - for people who find Normal too hard, or perhaps people soloing
  • Normal - go through the initial story
  • Hard - finish levelling to max, equip Javelin with epics
  • GM1 - replace epics with masterworks
  • GM2+ - replace masterworks with better versions
I think that GM1 loot rates are fine for that primary job. It won't take you very long get masterworks for most of your slots. At which point you should move up to the next level.

It's like Torment I in Diablo 3. Torment I doesn't actually drop that many legendaries, probably a bit less than one per rift. You farm Torment I until you have legendaries for most slots, and then you move up.

Anthem, however, does make that last stage, where you are chasing better versions of your masterworks, more difficult than it needs to be. I do think that drop rates in GM2 and especially GM3 could be increased a fair bit.

I also think the community outcry is excessive. It's been two days, over a weekend. I think it's unreasonable to expect a response on an issue like this so soon. 

In some ways, maybe this is Bioware's fault for trying to respond to earlier issues so quickly. Rather than giving them credit for that fast response time, it's just conditioned the audience to expect that, and become upset when responses don't appear that fast.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

New Holy Paladin Glimmer Build

A new Holy Paladin healing build has popped up recently, one based around the new Azerite trait introduced in 8.2: Glimmer of Light:
Holy Shock leaves a Glimmer of Light on the target for 30 sec.  When you Holy Shock, all targets with Glimmer of Light are damaged for 1076 or healed for 1587.
The basic idea is that you get 3x Glimmer of Light traits on your Azerite gear, and then use your talents to get as many Holy Shocks as possible. You try to put Glimmer on as many people as possible, and each Holy Shock then acts like a mini-Beacon of Light to all your Glimmered targets. You also have to be in melee and using Crusader Strike to get more Holy Shocks.

Here's a more detailed article: A Glimmer of Hope for Holy Paladins in BFA.

Apparently, the build plays more like a druid putting HoTs on the raid than a traditional paladin build. It's also quite powerful, as many of the top parses are using it.

There's all sorts of interesting nuances to this build. You eschew Judgment of Light, which has been a staple for so long. You go back to a single Beacon. You don't use Avenging Crusader, though you have to be in melee more.

You even want to take one Retribution Azerite trait, Light's Decree. I admit I was very confused when I saw people in the Holy Discord channel asking about that.

I haven't tried the build yet, as I think I only have 2x Glimmers. But maybe I'll try and pick up that third Glimmer and give it a whirl.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Guild Updates, Server Transfers and Names

As you may remember, the guild I was in for Legion and BFA imploded in the beginning of February. The remaining officers and a few others from that guild transferred to a new server and went Horde.

The previous guild leaders came back, and formed a new guild from the remaining players. We've been raiding with another guild on Doomhammer for the past couple of weeks. They're a pretty good group and are around our age, skill level, and preferred schedule. We've picked up Heroic Grong and Heroic Opulence, and are working on Heroic Conclave.

In any case, the Doomhammer guild asked us to server transfer and join up with them. Our guild leaders want to step back from the work of recruitment and building up the new guild to a point where we could raid on our own. So they, and most of the other people in our new guild have decided to transfer.

I'm probably going to join them, but there's one thing holding me back. My main name, Coriel, is taken on Doomhammer. It's taken by a level 90 blood elf paladin, who I think left the game in Mists of Pandaria.

I am rather loathe to change names, since that character has had that name since Vanilla. But I guess I'll have to do so. If it was a low level alt, I'd try and get it released, but it looks like someone's endgame main.

Several of the secondary names I use are free on that server, so it's not a huge deal. It's not like I'll have to resort to alternate characters. Though, amusingly, one person who was trying to invite me to a group recently asked what the code was for the "i" in Coriel, automatically assuming it was something special.

The other thing I'm considering is, since I have to change names anyways, is switching to a male character. I don't talk a lot in Discord, and I think some people have started assuming I'm female. It's kind of unusual, because in the past the default assumption has always been male. But maybe it's the combination of healer + female character + not talking. Either way, it's a little awkward, so I'm thinking of switching.

Server transfers are annoying, though. They're simultaneously too easy and too difficult. They're easy enough so that people don't really bat an eye at transferring a single main to join a specific guild on a different server. But it's also annoying to have characters spread out on multiple servers.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Solution to A Makes B Worse

There's one interesting mistake pattern that Bioware has made a couple of times so far in Anthem.

Basically, Bioware predicted that Situation A would be problematic and devised a solution for A. However, in practice, it turns out that Situation B is more common, and that solution actually makes B worse.

For example, take tethering in missions. If you get too far away from the group, a warning pops up and then the game will automatically port you to the group (unfortunately, this requires a loading screen). It's clearly intended for people who go the wrong way, or get turned around, or just get lost. Porting that player to the group is a great solution for this situation.

However, it turns out that the more common scenario is for one player to be a little bit slower than the group, and she falls behind a little bit. Maybe she's not as good at flight, or took a few seconds to look around before taking off. She's still going in the right direction, and will catch up eventually. However, the tethering mechanic triggers and can port her, which is very annoying.

Bioware made the mechanic more forgiving in the Day One patch. However, the basic issue remains. There are too many false positives with the tethering mechanic.

A similar thing is happening in quick-play. If someone leaves a mission, then the spot is back-filled from the quick-play queue. This is a great solution to handle people who just leave missions for arbitrary reasons. But it turns out that the reason most people don't leave missions arbitrarily. Most of the time they leave missions is because the mission is bugged, which is a really good reason to leave. Then quick-play people get back-filled into the instance and can't do anything, end up leaving as well, and the cycle continues. Even if only a tiny percentage of missions bug out, those are the ones that people will always see in quick-play.

One has to wonder if it would have been better if Anthem just did not back-fill at all. If someone leaves, well, you carry on with three people. Quick-play always starts you with a fresh mission.

The main thing here is that the "effectiveness" of the solution depends on the frequency of the problem. If getting lost was more common than falling behind, there would be minimal complaints about tethering. If people leaving was more common than bugged missions, quick-play back-filling would be a great solution.

Of course, these issues will get fixed by narrowing the solution. Maybe tethering will consider if you are moving in the right direction before triggering. Or back-filling might put a cap on the number of people that fill. Like the queue will fill 2 empty spots, but after that it will mark the mission as unsalvageable, so no more people cycle in.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Community Reaction to Anthem

The gaming community's reaction to Anthem is really harsh. It's getting savaged in press and reviews, and on the internet.

I think the reaction is excessively harsh. Anthem's moment-to-moment game play is superb. It has some issues, that's true. But it's about what you would expect from a game like this. It isn't a "You must play this!!!" game. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who had no interest in looter-shooters. But if the general idea of the game attracts you, you'll probably enjoy it a lot.

The best explanation I've seen for the scale of the reaction is that Anthem is the "last straw" for a lot of gamers. There's been a whole host of AAA games which have disappointed recently, especially with regards to polish, and Anthem is just the point where the crowd decided to make a stand. It's a particularly attractive target as EA is so hated, and thus the community can indulge in the narrative that EA ruined the once-great Bioware.

One thing that concerns me, though, is that there is one game cited as "Anthem should have been more like this": Monster Hunter World.  Now, it might be true that MHW was much more polished on release. But MHW was released on consoles in January 2018, and the PC release was months later, in August 2018.

An awful lot of the "polish" problems are PC problems which only occur on some setups. Differing loading times, that sound cutting out bug people keep complaining about, occasional crashes, etc. Absolutely none of which have happened to me. From my perspective, the game is rock-solid performance-wise. Even the lack of text chat is really a PC problem, and doesn't really apply to consoles.

I'm concerned that the lesson EA and the games industry will take from the contrast between MHW and Anthem is that the simultaneous launch on PC and console was a mistake. That Bioware should have just released a polished console-only game, and launched the PC version months later.  If that console version had played how Anthem plays on my computer, then I think the reviews would be 10 to 20 points higher. But as a PC player, I'd rather not see that future.

In any case, I don't think Anthem is as bad as much of the online reaction is making it appear to be. Even if much of the complaints are rooted in reality, it feels like they are not weighing the sheer fun of the game. If you're interested in the game, I strongly recommend the Origin Access subscription route to try it out.