Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Overwatch League

You have to hand it to Blizzard. They went full-bore into eSports with the Overwatch League. Paid rosters, teams associated with cities, branding, professional sportscasting, even allowing fans to purchase team skins. They're really treating Overwatch League as a true professional sport.

The question, of course, is if this will work out. So far, it looks to be doing okay. I think they had 400,000 viewers for the first matches, and future matches seem to be about the 110,000 viewers mark. The real test is if they can attract significant advertisers and sponsors. That is what will make OWL profitable.

I've only seen part of one match: the last three games of the Los Angeles Gladiators versus the Philadelphia Fusion. LAG came back from being down 2 games, and won the last 3 games to win the match. It was reasonably interesting, more or less like watching regular sports on television. Blizzard integrating the stream into the Battle.net app was an excellent decision, as it made it very easy to check out.

The only issue I had with the actual broadcast is that it was sometimes hard to keep track when the camera switched to a different player. Adding a fast wipe or transition there would be really nice.

The structure of a match is pretty interesting. It's technically best-of-five games, but teams play at least 4 games. This gives it a similar feel to halves and quarters of a football or basketball game, with one possible period of overtime.

One thing I noticed is that OWL really validated Blizzard's decision to allow hero swapping in Overwatch. On the last game, LAG started with an unorthodox 3-damage lineup including a Widowmaker. They then switched to a 3-tank lineup when the Fusion reacted. It reminded me of matching lines in hockey. I was impressed by that, and am considering using my free currency on an LAG skin.

(Everyone gets some free OWL currency, enough for a skin for one character.)

I'm unlikely to really follow OWL, but it's definitely an intriguing experiment. I hope it proves successful for Blizzard. If you haven't seen a match, it's worth catching one just to see the league in action.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Patch 7.3.5 Tomorrow

Patch 7.3.5 comes out tomorrow. I've been really impressed with Blizzard's release discipline this expansion. Each patch has come out like clockwork 11 weeks apart.  Amazing job by the team, especially the project managers.

Now hopefully they can bring Battle for Azeroth in with the same discipline.

Patch notes for 7.3.5 can be found here.

From the notes, it looks like this patch is all about revamping the mechanics of the leveling game. Level scaling is being introduced everywhere, and there look to be lots of changes to improve that part of the game. I think it's about time. Out-leveling a zone while you're still questing in it is annoying.

The other part of the patch looks to continue to the story in Silithus. It will be interesting to see how the denouement of the Legion story plays out.

There's no mention of the Allied Races, so I imagine that they are saving them for BfA, or possibly as a pre-order unlock.

Finally, if you have authenticator, 4 extra bag slots! Blizzard CS even got in on the latest meme:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Heroic Kin'garoth and Varimathras Defeated

In this week's raid, we continued advancing, this time getting Heroic Kin'garoth and Varimathras down.


Here we made a couple of adjustments to our strategy. We aimed to kill an Annihilator robot first. We were having problems with having Ruiner targeting the people who were soaking the annihilation pools. The other change was to split the dps into 3 groups, and each group go after a different robot. The group going after Annihilator was weighted with more of the top dps players, to guarantee that robot died before the end.

It worked pretty well, as it minimized a lot of movement in that phase, and we got a kill a few attempts later.


This is kind of an easy fight, really only a challenge for the healers to keep everyone topped off before they have to run out of the group. It was really just a matter of getting everyone to recognize the two debuffs, and to stay in for Marked Prey, and run out for the Necrotic Embrace.

Coven of Shivarra

This is the fight we're working on. It's pretty crazy, with lots of abilities overlapping and coming in a random order. I think it will be our Avatar for this tier, as it hits a lot of our weaknesses with movement, positioning and dealing with multiple abilities simultaneously.

Loot-wise, I really need a helm, as I'm still using an i915 tier piece from Tomb of Sargeras. Other than that, everything is going well.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Last Jedi

This post contains significant spoilers for The Last Jedi. Seriously, I don't think there's anything that I do not spoil.

When the DVDs for The Last Jedi come out, someone will immediately make an abridged version where pretty much every scene of Finn's is cut. And that version will be superior to the theater version.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Darth Jadus

I saw The Last Jedi tonight. I'll try to have a full post on it tomorrow.

But every time I see one of these movies, I wonder why we can't get a villain like Darth Jadus. Here's a clip from Chaper 1 of the Imperial Agent story of The Old Republic.

Now this is a Sith Lord. Truly scary, almost reasonable until you realize that he's insane, and powerful enough to make his insanity real.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Defensive Passive Talents in Path of Exile

A friend of mine sent me some advice on Path of Exile:
I played for years with terrible defenses and a lot of deaths. Always took offensive passives and built glass cannons that always hit a wall. The passive tree really needs to be more depth than breadth first, as you seek out life nodes in other starting areas, only taking some offensive passives along the way. I think the general rule is something like 400 life per act with capped resistances (preferably from gear, but temporarily from passives if necessary). Offensive power generally comes more from appropriate support gems in linked gear, with some relatively few on the passive tree. Game became way more fun when I built defensively on the passive tree, even though it seems weird bypassing so many offensive nodes related to your skills (at least early on). 
My favorite defensive base for a Ranger (Raider) is taking the life nodes and rushing Phase Acrobatics, Arrow Dancing, and then stretching across the bottom to the Marauder and up to the Scion Life nodes. “Cast When Damage Taken + Immortal Call” helps a lot too even if you lack endurance charges. At least one point of energy shield for stun avoidance, and a little bit of armour (diminishing returns) from armour-evasion hybrid gear. It’s very solid. Same idea for other classes, I’m sure. 
I do wish there were an easier way to respec, but fortunately it doesn’t take long to rush the first several acts (no need to full-clear zones or really focus too heavily on gear early on). Especially if you saved some leveling uniques/rares from your first run.
I ended up deleting my existing characters and starting again, this time focusing solely on defensives. I'm playing a Scion, so we'll see how that goes.

It is a little weird ignoring most of the tree. There are lots and lots of offensive talents, and they're often the interesting talents, the ones you "want" to take. However, it is very nice to take much less damage and survive more.

One of the interesting things about a defensive build is that it gives you a lot more options for play style. Offensive talents often "lock" you into a build. For example, taking talents which boost your Fire damage makes you dependent on Fire.  But if you only take defensive talents, your attacks depend solely on your gear and gems. You can switch styles and abilities freely.

In that respect, defensive builds are really good for new players, as they give a lot more room for experimentation during the game.

The current structure is a bit of trap for new players. I rather wonder if the skill tree in Path of Exile would benefit from a different structure. Perhaps something where the inner ring of talents are all defensives, while all offensives are in the outer ring. This would nudge new players into taking defensives early, while they are still learning the game.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Fishing Legendary!

I got the Fishing Legendary Artifact Weapon, the Underlight Angler, today!

Coriel with the Underlight Angler at the Fountain in Dalaran
It wasn't that hard to get. I got 20 Arcane Lures from Conjuror Margoss (in the pool near Dalaran) and then went from zone to zone, fishing in the pools until I got all the rare fish. It didn't really take that long.

After that you fish up a Pearl from a pool, and then eventually get a quick scenario from Nat Pagle. Kill some murlocs, fish in some pools, kill a giant murloc, and then the skeleton gets fashioned into a fishing pole. Now that I think about it, it's kind of creepy.

I also found a useful macro for fishing:
/cast [nomod] Fishing
/equip [noequipped:Fishing Poles, mod] Underlight Angler;[spec:1, mod] The Silver Hand;[spec:2, mod] Truthguard;[spec:3, mod] Ashbringer;
Normally, it acts as the fishing cast. But if you hold down a modifier button like Shift or Alt, it switches weapons between your fishing pole and the correct weapon for your specialization (substitute different weapons for different classes, the spec order is as listed in the specialization window).

I have to say that this took a lot less time than I was expecting. Perhaps there's a lesson there.

Edit: Just realized I made a mistake. It's not a Legendary, it's an Artifact Weapon with a talent tree. You have to fish up rare fish to get Artifact Power.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Progress in Heroic Antorus

With the holidays over, my guild has returned to Heroic Antorus. We've moved Normal Antorus off to an optional or with alts weeknight. We did leave Normal Argus alive, and killed him first, so that all of our heroic raiders would get the Argus trinket upgrade item.

This week was a pretty good week. We got first kills on Heroic Antoran High Command, Essence of Eonar, Portal Keeper Hasabel, and Imonar the Soulhunter.

Antoran High Command

I rather like this fight. It's not so bad once people get the hang of the pods. The only thing is that a guild coming from Normal might have only one or two people who regularly do pods. And now you suddenly need six, so it's possible to have a learning curve. Especially for the first guy into the Engineer's pod who has to drop a shield device asap.

I'm the healer who gets to activate the shields, which I find very fun for some reason. Wait for the voice line, activate the device, shield comes up and protects everyone.

Essence of Eonar

We actually had more trouble with this fight than with Antoran High Command, mostly because we kept getting mixed up where to go. Once we get the activation sequence down, it should become a lot smoother.

This fight is kind of annoying as a healer because everyone is taking constant damage, but people are in and out of range and line-of-sight all the time.

Portal Keeper Hasabel

Not much to say about this fight. I was the healer who went up with the portals. The first two portals were pretty easy, but the third one was very confusing with all the debuffs. To be honest, I don't really understand why our kill attempt was so much smoother than the preceding wipes. We must have fixed some mistake, but I have no clue what the mistake was.

Imonar the Soulhunter

This fight was pretty amusing. After working out the P1 and P2 kinks, we made several good attempts.  But after phase 2, as we were roughly in the middle of the bridge, Imonar would suddenly appear and start attacking. In the confusion, we kept losing half the raid. We were wondering if we weren't going fast enough, or if tripping one of the traps caused him to come after us, or even if it was bugged.

We were leaning towards bugged, because on some of our earlier attempts with a lot of early deaths people could get across the bridge fine. After looking through logs, the cause was finally tracked down. Our feral druid was wearing a mythic+ Ember of Nullification, which has:
Equip: Taking magic damage has a chance to apply Choking Flames to the attacker, silencing them for 2 sec.
So taking incidental damage while crossing the bridge triggered the trinket, and it interrupted Imonar from very far away. On the early attempts, the druid had died, so the trinket didn't come into play. Once the trinket was removed, Imonar died in short order.

All in all, a pretty good week. Hopefully next week we can get everything down quickly and get some decent attempts in on Kin'garoth.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Fishing in Legion

For a secondary goal, I've decided to take up fishing in Legion. Today, I did the fisher friend in Suramar. I rather like the reputation mechanic used.

For those who don't know, there are several fishing NPCs scattered around the world. To gain reputation with them, you need to fish up a special item nearby and turn the items in. Every so often, you will get a special item which summons a boss. Killing the boss gives you about 25 of the reputation item.

So what happens is that there will be raid going. Everyone fishes peacefully until someone summons the boss. Then the raid kills the boss and everyone gets the reward. The infrequent combat breaks up the monotony of just fishing. For the most part you're doing your own thing, but you come together as a group. There's also a sense of camaraderie with all your fellow fishermen.

It's a simple mechanic, but I think it works quite well. It's also a perfect fit for the fishing profession.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

WoW Videos: Eternal Legend

I was wandering around YouTube, and I ran across this old video. I'm posting it in anticipation of WoW Classic.

It certainly drips with that Vanilla WoW flavor. It's probably the lack of shoulder pads.

One thing about this video is that it really gives a sense of many different smaller stories happening. A modern WoW expansion is really focused on one major story line. Now, Blizzard does a pretty good job with that one story line, but I kind of miss the old way where each story was somewhat separate from the others. I suppose Pandaria was the last expansion like this, at least before the Garrosh story kicked into gear.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

A Hard Time With Secondary Goals

I'm currently having a hard time choosing a secondary goal in WoW. There's many options, but I'm not really enthusiastic about them.

My main goal is raiding of course, but that's reserved for a couple of specific nights a week.

Possible goals:

  • Finish the mage tower challenge. I've tried it about 4-5 times. I usually get up to the point where you have to heal the ghosts, and then I die there. I'm really not used to healing outside of the UI. I probably should practice and finish this though.
  • Get the Retribution and Protection hidden artifact weapon appearances. Retribution in particular is supposed to be an interesting quest line.
  • Get the artifact fishing rod. I have leveled fishing to 800, so I could continue on and get the Underlight Angler.
  • Get the PvP Prestige rank 1, or whatever they call it. I only have about half the PvP talents unlocked.
  • Continue working on one of my other max-level characters. I have a mage, warrior, demon hunter and shaman at 110, but I haven't really concentrated on any single one. Instead I desultorily play one or the other at random.
  • Level a new character. I'm waiting for 7.3.5 and all the changes to leveling before trying leveling again. 

The thing is that I don't really value one of these options more than the others. So I try different options and random, and don't really make any real progress.

What goals are you working on in WoW (or any other game)?

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Revisiting Gevlon's "4 fun ppl" Theory

A couple of years ago, Gevlon proposed a "4 fun ppl" theory of toxicity[1]:
Those we consider trolls are people with honest intention to positively socialize, but their extremely low social skills cause them to post hurtful or annoying things instead. 
I was recently reminded of this theory when Jeff Kaplan of the Overwatch team posted a "takedown" of a player complaining that he had been banned unfairly:
You have over 220 reports for harassment. Looking at your chat logs, these reports are verified. Here are some examples: 
now im dont give a [expletive]
they can [expletive] my [expletive]too
you deranged addicted nerd
and this community is ignorant and insane
im the reason for anything good
good morning you sad sad dumb generation
LONG WALK FOR A PILE OF [expletive] 
Plus you continually accuse other players of hacking -- we're seeing this in a significant percentage of your games played. The players you are accusing are not hacking, they are just performing at a high level. 
Also, you repeatedly spam lines such as:
Our community has made it clear to us that Toxicity is one of the top issues that needs to be addressed in this game. As a result, we're getting stricter and that means people are going to get suspended and banned for poor behavior. You've fallen into that category.
I'm not denying that this player is toxic. However, looking at the examples, it really feels like he's one of Gevlon's "4 fun ppl", rather than an intentional troll. Probably someone with poor impulse control, and who swears a lot in real life, rather than someone who intends to be toxic. Someone trying to socialize and be "fun", but failing at it.

(To be honest, even I find the idea of a Tobjorn player spamming "TOrbrbrbrbBrbrbrBrBrBRBBRBRBRBRbRBRBRbRB" kind of funny after the fact, though I don't doubt it was annoying in the match.)

As Gevlon noted, these are the types of players who really suffer from a lack of clear rules. "Don't be toxic" is not a clear rule. In my opinion, multiplayer games would be far better served by concrete rules like "no swearing" or "don't call out people for hacking".

You could even add a popup whenever someone swears or uses the work "hacks" in chat. Something like "Swearing is considered toxic and you may be suspended. Send Message or Cancel" and have Cancel selected as the default option. That way, the popups train people not to swear. And if they continue through the popup, that's evidence that they intend to be toxic.

[1] My previous posts on Gevlon's "4 fun ppl" theory:

Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!

I'm still working my way through Path of Exile. I'm now in Act 5. Unfortunately, I don't think my character has enough defensives, so I'm dying a lot more. Given that the game doesn't really offer much in the way of respecs, this is beginning to cause my interest to drop. I really don't want to restart with a new character and redo everything.

In WoW, my guild is 2/11 Heroic Antorus. We pretty much only did Normal mode over the holidays though. We start Heroic in earnest this weekend.

Looking at last year, I didn't post a lot. Less than a post a week. I'm not sure if I have nothing new to say, if I'm getting tired of writing, or if I just fell out of the habit. Or maybe the MMO industry is just dying like normal.

At the beginning of the year, I changed to threaded comments on this blog. There's only one level of replies. I did this primarily so I could reply to each comment. But I'm not sure it really worked out. I'm leaning towards going back to a flat comment thread. If anyone has any opinions on this, let me know in the comments.