Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Mythic Champion of the Light

We had a weird raid last evening. First, we went and did Normal Crucible of Storms. I think we did this mainly to get another look at Uu'nat before we start working on the Heroic version.

Then we killed Heroic Restless Cabal again. Interestingly, this was harder than our previous kill because we were trying to fully use the Promise of Power mechanic, instead of just dispelling it early.

After Cabal, the raid leader noticed that we had exactly 20 people in the raid, so we tried the first boss of Mythic Dazar'Alor: Champion of the Light. She was fairly easy, and we actually one-shot her. I think that because it was Mythic, everyone paid a lot more attention to the mechanics.

Loot-wise, it was pretty lucrative, as I got a warforged i425 shield! I also realised that our raid does not have a single 2H Strength DPS character. No Warriors, Retribution Paladins, or Death Knights. As a result, there's no one for me to leech Retribution weapons from. I was wondering why I haven't replaced my Retribution mace since Uldir.

We then tried Mythic Jadefire Champions, but that was a big step up in difficulty and coordination. We made some decent progress, but then people had to leave. So we finished up the night with the first three bosses in Heroic Dazar'Alor.

Pretty good night, all in all. It's rather unlikely that we'll have exactly 20 people again, so that's probably our only foray into Mythic this tier. To be honest, I don't mind. I do kind of miss the intricacies of Mythic raiding, but that's more than outweighed by not having to worry about roster issues or the bench.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Heroic Jaina, Heroic Restless Cabal

Heroic Jaina Proudmoore

Last week, we killed Heroic Jaina and got the Ahead of the Curve feat for Battle of Daz'alor. The fight took us a fair amount of time overall, as we had a lot of problems with Phase 3.

We ended up switching to having most of the raid get frozen early during Bloodlust, and having a small group break people out. That proved to be the strategy which got us past P3, and Jaina went down shortly after.

I really like the Jaina Proudmoore fight. It feels like fighting a powerful frost mage. It matches the story quite well. There's a solid variety of mechanics, but nothing feels too contrived. Jaina using Iceblock in response to Bloodlust is simply hilarious, an outstanding mechanic.  Once you master each portion of the fight, you generally have it down. Wipes never feel arbitrary, but always because you made an identifiable mistake.

Heroic Restless Cabal

After we got Jaina, we still had an hour or two left in the raid, so we went back to Crucible of Storms, this time on Heroic. The first boss took us about an hour. It's basically the same as Normal, only this time you have to do all the mechanics correctly.

If you did the fight properly on Normal, and didn't try to overpower mechanics, Heroic is just more healing and damage required. It's less difficult than Jaina.

After Restless Cabal, we took a look at Heroic Uu'nat. This one looks a lot harder, and it looks like a fun challenge to finish the rest of the tier. I also think that--unlike Cabal--we didn't do half the mechanics properly in Normal, so we'll have to learn to do them correctly.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Torchlight II

Since I signed up for Origin Access Premium for Anthem, I decided to see if there were any other interesting games on the service that I might like to try. I noticed Torchlight II, and thought that it would be a good light game to play. I did play the original Torchlight back in the day.

Torchlight II is very much like Torchlight. An ARPG like Diablo, but much more light-hearted. There are more pets than just the dog this time around. I also believe that there is multi-player this time, though I am playing it as single-player.

Outlander, Embermage, Berserker, Engineer

There are four classes:
  • Outlander - Two pistols, traps
  • Embermage - pretty standard elemental mage
  • Berserker - Dual-wielding fast melee attacks
  • Engineer - 2H melee, cannon, or 1H+Shield, with tech special abilities like bots

I'm playing an Engineer, which feels a lot like a heavy hitting melee class. A Warrior who occasionally pulls out a bot.

In some ways, there are two types of RPGs: ones where you can respec freely (like Diablo III); and ones where character decisions are set in stone. Torchlight II is the latter type. In some ways it's a little restrictive, because it stops you from experimenting. I took a main attack and a healing bot, and have otherwise been putting my points into passives. You also have to put points into your stats.

There are some interesting elements here. Gear has either a level requirement or an ability requirement. So you can use the gear early if it matches the stats you are focusing on. Or you can wait a couple of levels and it will be fully unlocked. It's an interesting way of pushing you to choose specific types of gear without locking the gear to a specific class.

Combat is fairly normal for this genre, with lots of potion-chugging. The story is decent enough, nothing too unique.

So far, Torchlight II has been a pretty fun game. It's not a game you'll play for years, but it's pretty solid. A good bonus for Origin Access, or if you find it on sale somewhere.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Crucible of Storms

Yesterday, the Crucible of Storms raid in WoW opened. It's a small raid with two bosses, with about the same difficulty and item level as the latter half of Battle For Daz'alor.  Similar to the Trial of Valour raid from Legion.

First off, there is a quest line leading to this raid. If you have not done so, do a Naga invasion. There's usually one active at all times. A mob will drop the item which starts the quest chain. It's a pretty neat quest, and actually leads into the mechanics used in the raid.

The items in particular seem to have less stats, but an equip effect which is somewhat double-edged. For example, I got a belt which heals you for 70k if you drop below 35%, but deals 60k damage to you over 6 seconds. I gave the belt to one of our tanks to try out.

We decided to try the new raid on Normal, and extend the Jaina lockout from last week. The raid was fairly easy on Normal difficulty.  The fights revolve around three artifacts. In the first fight you have work around the different artifact powers, and in the second fight you have to use those same powers to your advantage.

One very interesting mechanic introduced is effects that turn you hostile to the other people in the raid, but do not mind control you. So you're still attacking the boss, but you can't be healed, can't heal others, and you take damage from cleaves.

For Holy Paladins, you have to be careful with Holy Shock. It's very easy to accidentally Shock someone else in the raid for damage if you don't realise that they're hostile.

All in all, it was a fun raid, with some very unique mechanics. The loot is particularly interesting, with lots of weird effects.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Star Wars News

Apparently there was some sort of Star Wars celebration over the weekend, as several different announcements were made.

Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker

"The Rise of Skywalker"? Seriously? Is that really the best Disney could come up with?

I hope Rey doesn't turn out to be of the Skywalker bloodline. I really liked VIII's reveal that she had no special heritage. Hopefully "Skywalker" will turn out to be a title or name she assumes. Or maybe it refers to Kylo Ren, who is a Skywalker.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Is it just me, or are the game devs making better Star Wars movies than the movie people?

Apparently, Fallen Order is a pure single-player game, with no micro-transactions. A bold move for EA, we'll see how it pans out.

The trailer feels a little reminiscent of Kyle Katarn and the Jedi Knight games. I liked those games back in the day, so hopefully this one will turn out well.

The Old Republic: Onslaught

No snazzy trailer here, but SWTOR announced that the next expansion will launch in September. The quick feature list is:
  • New Storyline
  • New Planet - Onderon
  • New Planet - Mek-Sha
  • New Flashpoint - Corellia
  • New Operation - Dxun
  • New Species - Nautolan
  • New Level Cap - 75
It feels very much like the first two expansions, Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Reven. That Bioware is going back to more normal MMO style rather than extreme story-centric Eternal Empire expansions.

They also announced that they're trying to do some interesting things with gear, including more sets and items which changes your abilities. A little like the old Glyph system in WoW. It should be interesting to see how things turn out.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Random Thoughts on Battle For Azeroth

Just some thoughts about Battle For Azeroth which have been bouncing around in my head over the last little while.


A lot of people seem to think BFA is a "bad" expansion. I confess that I don't really see this. To me, BFA seems more or less like Legion. I liked Legion, and I like BFA.


The base zone stories in BFA are quite good. I do think that effectively requiring you to level both a Horde and an Alliance character will be deemed a mistake in hindsight. But as I have max level characters on both sides, it's not much of a barrier.

As for the faction war story, I didn't have very high expectations, thanks to my predictions about the nature of war. I think BFA has shown that the basic logic of those posts were sound and correct. However, Blizzard has managed to exceed my expectations in the handling of the war. So where many other people seem to be disappointed, I'm actually impressed that they did as good a job as they did.

Azerite Armor

Azerite armor was a decent attempt at fixing the issues with both artifact weapons and legendaries in Legion. However, Azerite armor really demonstrated that character power must be monotonically increasing, as mathematicians would put it. Players will not accept a temporary reduction of power now in exchange for future power later.

And as always, it falls victim to people theorycrafting the best options, and everyone ignoring all the others.

Island Expeditions, Warfronts

In my opinion, the last two expansions gave us several solid "evergreen" systems. For example, Warlords gave us the modern LFR/Normal/Heroic/Mythic raiding structure, which is quite good. Legion replaced dailies with World Quests and Emissaries.  Legion also gave use Mythic Keystones, which are excellent small-group content for players in the higher tiers.

I believe that Blizzard is looking for a new system or mechanic for players below that tier, for whom Mythic Keystones are not a good fit. Players who are casual, and primarily use Group Finder to make groups instead of guilds or Party Finder. Basically the type of player who currently tops out in Heroic Dungeons or LFR.

Blizzard basically took two cracks at the problem with Island Expeditions and Warfronts. I'm not sure either was entirely successful. Though here, it's hard to tell. The vocal part of the WoW player base, the people who post on the forums, are not the target audience, they're in the tier above. Overall, Warfronts have probably been better received than Island Expeditions.

I think Blizzard has been looking for something for this group of players for a long while. Their last attempt was Scenarios in Mists of Pandaria, and given that Scenarios never appeared again, we can gather that they weren't successful.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Epic's Digital Storefront

Lately, one problem I've been having with the gaming community is that so many issues go like this:

A pretty lame "surpised pikachu" meme.
My foray into outdated memes

Case in point is Epic's new digital storefront. Everyone is complaining about games being exclusive on Epic's store. But this was entirely predictable and expected.

When Epic announced the store, the major point which set them apart from Steam was that Epic's cut would be 12%, compared to Steam's 30%. Developers would get 88 cents of every dollar instead of 70 cents.

But developers are not Epic's customers. Developers are Epic's suppliers!

The only point in giving a supplier a better price is so that they will sell the product to you instead of selling it to your competitors. Or in other words, exclusives. Epic's entire strategy is centred around exclusives, and has been from the very beginning.

It is an interesting strategy, certainly. Steam is so consumer-focused that it is hard to see what Epic could have offered that could compete consumer-side. They could have offered a lower average price. Of every Steam dollar, give the developer 70 cents, take 12 cents, and effectively "give" the consumer 18 cents. But Steam sales are so steep that pretty much all the cost-conscious consumers would probably wait for those rather than buy at the default Epic price.

There is the curation issue, I suppose. People complain that there's a lot of junk on Steam. But is this a real problem for consumers, given that you can search for the specific game you want? I don't think Steam has gotten to the point where search fails, which is where curation becomes really valuable.

Ultimately, I think Epic's exclusives strategy was entirely predictable. It's also possibly the only strategy with a chance of breaking Steam's hold on the market. I expect that while Epic may pay lip service to complaints about exclusives, they're going to ignore the community clamour, and follow this strategy until they get established.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Anthem's Development

Jason Schreier has written an article on Anthem's development: How Bioware's Anthem Went Wrong. It's a very interesting read, and explains a lot about why Anthem is as it is.

In particular, there's a saying, "It's better to make a bad decision than no decision at all" which I think really applies here. It seems like until Mark Darrah came on board, the leadership kept flip-flopping. The whole going back and forth on flight, which is a core game system, is a real indicator of problems.

As the article states, you have to design your entire world very differently if you can fly. Think of the current Anthem world, which is very vertical to take full advantage of the ability to fly.

EA comes off surprisingly well in this. Other than the directive to use Frostbite, which is not unreasonable, they seemed very hands-off until presented with an unacceptable product. They seemed to be the only adults in the room willing to exercise judgement.

One thing that I've seen a lot of people talk about is that Bioware did not like referencing Destiny, preferring Diablo 3. I don't think this is as bad as people are making it out to be. The problem with referencing something too close to your project is that you'll often just end up making a slightly-better version. Of course, if you ignore that game, you might end up making the same mistakes as the first game. It's a hard line to judge. I think the decision to avoid looking at Destiny is defensible.

I do like Anthem, though. I enjoyed levelling through the story, and the basically game play is very fun. It's a good secondary game. I play for about an hour every other day or so. Log in, go through all the dailies, slowly improve my Javelins.

The fact that the team managed to put this together after such a rough development process is actually somewhat heartening. Hopefully they will be given enough resources to improve it further. The fact that they have a clearer identity and vision now should be very helpful.