Thursday, May 30, 2019

Revisiting Tera Online

I've been playing Tera Online over the last few weeks. It's pretty interesting to see what they've changed.

They've streamlined leveling a fair bit. You just follow the main story quests and you don't have to do any of the zone quests. The story quests give you armor, and special relic weapons drop at certain level ranges which gives you a good weapon. Monsters are a bit easier to defeat while leveling. Most leveling dungeons have been repurposed for 3-people of any class, rather than needing a tank or healer.

I leveled a Castanic Valkyrie to 65, the start of current content. The Valkyrie is a spear-wielding class with several AoE moves, so her combo chains have lots of spins. She also builds combo points on enemies, and detonates them for large amounts of damage.

For the most part following the story quests worked well, though there were a couple of points near the end where they ended up in a dungeon for which I had outlevelled the instance finder, but was tedious to solo. That was fine for the most part, I just went back and finished up when I reached 65.

Technically, 65 isn't the cap, the real cap is 70. But apparently it takes weeks to level up from this point. Current content is a long grind, I guess.

For the most part, I really enjoyed my time in Tera. I still think the combat is excellent. The stories were not exactly good, but they were fun in a cheesy way. It was nice to see the conclusions to all those stories I started so long ago.

If you treat it as kind of a quasi-single-player game, levelling a character to 65 in Tera Online is a lot of fun. I don't know if I'll continue playing, or if I will try out a new character, but I really enjoyed the time I spent in the game these last few weeks.

In any case, here's the highlight of all Tera Online posts. Let's see what sort of ludicrous armor my character has to wear. Actually, I find this the most hilarious part of Tera, seeing the different, shameless, armor styles. Here's my Valkyrie in her current armor (from the login screen):

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Classic Thoughts, Part II

Other People in Classic

A long time ago, I observed that:
It's a little unfair to the developers, but the best reason to play WoW instead of other MMOs is that you don't have to listen to people talking about WoW.
Well, now you can play WoW while listening to people constantly talk about WoW. Either castigating Battle for Azeroth or reminiscing about 15 years ago. It's non-stop, and it's like these people don't have any other conversation.

Truthfully, it makes me less inclined to play Classic.

Grouping and Questing

Regarding the discussion of grouping and questing, I came across this old post of mine from TBC days: Is Questing Anti-Social. An excerpt:
I think people don't group because they are ambivalent about approaching strangers. Maybe it's fear of rejection, a desire not to impose on someone else, or feeling bad about asking for help. But my experience is that a lot of people are perfectly willing to group up, they just don't want to be the one to ask. And because you can solo most quests, they don't ask unless they have to.
I think we are already seeing this issue in the Beta. Classic is a game which works best when groups are formed easily. But people simply don't like to group.

Will Classic Weaken Guilds on Live?

My current guess is that Classic will attract a great deal of attention on launch. But over the next three months, it will lose 90% of its audience. It will still stabilise at a few hundred thousand, numbers any other MMO would envy.

I don't think that Live will lose significant numbers to Classic. However, I wonder if the "type" of people who switch from Live to Classic will matter.

Basically, the type of people who will be very attracted to Classic are the highly social and the organizers. They'll be the ones who will be able to handle the grouping, who have a rolodex of friendly tanks or healers. In Live, though, these are the people who form the strong core of guilds. Guild leaders, officers, etc.

Numerically, these people are outnumbered by the rank-and-file. But they're the type of people who's loss hurts the most. I look at my current guild, and I think I have a general sense of who would be most interested in Classic. If we lost half of them at the same time, it would hurt us a lot.

I think something similar happened before, when 10-man raids were introduced. The core of many existing raid teams focused on 10-mans, but a lot of the rank-and-file ended up dropping away.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Classic Thoughts From The Weekend

More observations and thoughts on WoW Classic, from the Beta:
  • I am really unsure how successful Classic will be. Sometimes I think it will do well, but then I see three groups going "LF Tank for DM" in Westfall chat, and I become more sceptical.
  • One group even offered to pay the tank 15 silver. It's been years since I've seen that. Also, it is amusing how 15 silver is a valuable reward in Classic.
  • I made a whole bunch of alts and tried the various classes up to level 7 or so. Paladin is the most boring, all the other classes are reasonable.
  • Rogue is the one class which feels the most similar to modern classes, and you can see how many classes have become more like the Rogue over time.
  • I think the best way to play Classic is to be super-aggressive about grouping. Someone is in the same area as you doing the same quest? Send them an invite, do the quest, and then say good bye.
  • This is especially important for paladins. Add a single group member and game-play smooths out and efficiency spikes.
  • In some ways, I think Classic levelling is a better game than Live when in a group, but a significantly worse game when solo. When you're in a group in Classic, even at very low levels, there is a noticeable feeling of the group being stronger than the sum of its parts.
  • The question then becomes how easy is it to get a group while levelling.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Classic Updates, Heroic Mekkatorque Woes

WoW Classic Beta

I haven't had much time with the Classic Beta. I got up to the quest with the Defias Pillagers, who have killed me multiple times so far. I think I'm a bit underlevelled. I probably should have gone and done the quests in the dwarf area.

I'm really not feeling the paladin, though. Currently Classic Beta feels very lonely and paladin game-play is very boring. I think I'm going to try out a few different classes this weekend.

I did roll a Tauren Druid, but have only reached level 3 with it.

Heroic Mekkatorque

We're still having a lot of trouble with Heroic Mekkatorque. We can beat it every week, but it always takes us five or more pulls every week. It's simply not on farm status. Unlike all the other fights, it feels like we haven't improved on that fight even after killing it several times. In contrast, we can one-shot Heroic Jaina now.

Because Heroic Mekkatorque can take us up to two hours, it's in an awkward position for completing all the content, and actually getting both Daza'lor and Crucible down in one week.

I think there must be a better strategy out there, though I'm not sure what we're doing wrong. My guess is that our tank movement and raid positioning is ad-hoc, and makes things more difficult than it has to be. Like maybe there's a better way to position the group that makes the fight more standard and less variable.

If anyone can link me a particularly clean H-Mekkatorque kill video, I would be grateful. All the videos I can find have messy kills, usually because they're first kills.

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


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.


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.