Sunday, March 31, 2019

War of the Spark Trailer

Wizards of the Coast unveiled the trailer today for the latest Magic: the Gathering set, War of the Spark. This is the culmination of the story for the last seven years or so. The trailer quite quickly hit 4 million views, so it's clearly struck a chord in the gaming community.

You know, if someone had described this trailer to me, I would have been skeptical. Time flowing backwards, showing events in reverse. The unironic use of a cover of Linkin Park's In the End. And yet, it works.

Perhaps the aspect that makes it work is that the central character is Lilliana Vess, the necromancer planeswalker who represents the color Black. Black is selfish and ruthless, and Lilliana is all of those things. In the Magic community, Black's tagline is "Greatness, at any cost."

Yet Lilliana is still very popular, and is perhaps the character that WotC has done the best job with.

Friday, March 29, 2019

8.1.5 Horde War Campaign, Heroic Mekkatorque, Heroic Blockade

Horde War Campaign

I finished the Horde War Campaign. It's basically the prequel to Alliance-side. I do like how Blizzard is implementing the choices. It's not a huge change, but my Blood Elf Warrior is a Sylvanas loyalist, so it's fun setting it up as an infiltrator into the rebel's plans, and reporting to Nathanos. In essence, your character is directly responsible for the last cutscene where Zelling is killed and Baine arrested.

The more interesting part of the Horde quests was the continuing Vol'jin story. This was actually very extensive. I'm not really sure where this is going, perhaps Vol'jin will become a loa in Rezan's place. But if you don't have a max level Horde character, I strongly recommend levelling one to see this story.

I've mentioned this before, but you really need both an Alliance character and a Horde character to get the full impact of the BFA story. I'm still not sure that this was the best of ideas on Blizzard's part.

Heroic Mekkatorque

We had multiple sub-5% wipes on Mekkatorque on Tuesday. So last night, we jumped right back into it and killed him within two pulls. It was a very messy kill, with only the two tanks and a healer alive at the end.

I'm not sure why we have so much trouble with that last phase. We go into it with a full raid, and then just start getting picked off. I think part of it might be tank movement. We drag the boss around quite a lot, instead of moving him in a predictable manner. I think adjusting to that is where we lose people at the end.

Heroic Stormwall Blockade

In contrast, Blockade was much easier. We spent an hour and a half, and got a fairly clean kill. Really, the only difference is that you have to know how to do both boats, as the tidesages switch at 50%. Otherwise, it's very similar to normal, just with a bit more damage, and a bit stricter timing.

We even got to spend an hour on Heroic Jaina. That fight is going to take us some time to learn, I think. We got to phase 2 though it all falls apart quite quickly. Haven't made it to the ice wall yet.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

FFXIV Tokyo Fanfest

It's been a while since I've checked into FFXIV. SE had the Tokyo Fanfest last weekend, where they revealed most of the details about the next expansion: Shadowbringers.  Here's the full trailer:

SE also revealed details about the new jobs and races in the expansion, and the reveals were surprising controversial.

Other than the previously revealed Gunbreaker, the second new job will be Dancer. Dancer is going to be a ranged DPS class that uses throwing weapons. It's in the same category as Bards and Machinists. FFXIV differentiates between "ranged DPS" and "caster DPS". Ranged DPS are usually more support oriented.

Apparently a lot of people were expecting Dancer to be a healer. The forums are full of salt from disappointed healers.

SE also revealed the new races: Hrothgar (male-only bestial cat people); and Viera (female bunny girls). There's only one of each gender, and that decision is even more controversial than Dancer.

SE's reasoning was pretty logical from their point of view. Apparently they only wanted to make two more rigs because of the amount of work multiple races cause. They wanted to do Hrothgar, but they knew that players would be extremely disappointed if Viera were never made. So they swapped female Hrothgar for female Viera.

Personally, I'm okay with having races with only a single gender represented, especially in a game where race is mostly cosmetic. Gender-locked classes are more annoying.

All in all, Shadowbringers is looking pretty good. The final Main Story Quest installment for Stormblood just came out yesterday. I haven't done it yet, but hopefully I'll be able to get to it soon.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Level Squish and Zones Done

The WoW development team is discussing a potential "level squish", reducing the maximum level to something much lower. With 120 levels, new abilities are spread out, and there are large gaps where nothing much changes when you level up.

One of the problems I have these days with blogging is that it seems I've already written about the topic of the day. This time we have a post from 2009: Time to Max Level. In that post, I propose that the time to max level should be roughly the same, regardless of what the maximum level is.

Rather than looking at time, though, let's take a look at a different angle:

How many zones should a new character complete before you reach the current expansion?

I suggest that this should be a constant. That a new character should do about eight zones before reaching the current expansion. That's enough time to level up, see several different stories and feel that you are ready to take on the latest content.

However, there are far more than 8 zones in the current levelling path. It would be better to construct multiple paths from beginning to the current expansion, then allow a new character to pick her path at the start.  The current options would be something like:
  1. Kalimdor
  2. Eastern Kingdoms
  3. Outlands and Northrend
  4. Cataclysm and Pandaria
  5. Draenor and The Broken Isles
You start an new character and can choose to go to Outlands or Cataclysm zones or Draenor right away. The first continent gets you about half-way, and the second continent gets you to the current expansion.  That's about enough time that you'll be satisfied with leveling, and the multiple paths means that each alt can have a different experience.

When Battle for Azeroth is done, maybe it becomes a second-half zone, and when the expansion after that is done, the two of them become a sixth path for alts.

Another advantage this would have is that it breaks up the weirdness in timelines that happens with Outlands and Northrend. You don't suddenly go back into the past after doing post-Cataclysm Azeroth.

The biggest problem, though, is that if you're a completely new player, you'll only see a small fraction of the total story on your way to the current expansion. On the other hand, it won't take you forever to get there either. And each zone can be paced appropriately and not go by in a blur.

Other people's posts on level squish:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Kul Tiran Recruitment, Heroic Rastakhan

Kul Tiran Recruitment

The quest line to unlock the Kul Tiran Allied Race was really well done. It had you revist all the zones in Kul Tiras, and had several callbacks to the levelling experience.

Being able to name the new Alliance flagship was a very nice touch, especially as Blizzard got the location names to match what you picked. I went with Tiffin's Melody.

The only issue I had is that Blizzard tried too hard to "surprise" you with the fact that shipwright was female. In fact, it was really obvious because a lot of the sentence construction and word choices used were unusual, and served no purpose beyond veiling the shipwright's gender. And whenever writers do this, they invariably make the character female.

Whenever authors do this it feels as though they are condescending to the audience. Like the audience is so obviously prejudiced that they cannot possibly conceive of a female shipwright, and so it falls to the enlightened writer to educate the audience.

Heroic Rastakhan

We also killed Heroic Rastakhan. Surprisingly, this was the first night we attempted him, and the previous boss had taken a while. But Heroic Rastakhan isn't that different from Normal. We actually tried a different strategy to start, but then we gave up and went back to our Normal positioning.

The only real difficulty is the phase where the raid is split in two, and once you have that down, the fight is pretty much done.

We then tried Heroic Mekkatorque for an hour or so. I think that fight may take us a few nights. It seems pretty obvious that we aren't executing correctly on Normal, as we had a lot of gigavolt charges blowing up in the middle of the raid. That should have been a mechanic we mastered previously.

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 8.1: 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.