Thursday, June 27, 2019

8.2 Nazjatar

World of Warcraft released patch 8.2, Rise of Azshara, this week. It introduced two new zones, Nazjatar and Mechagon. You go to Nazjatar first. I haven't really started Mechagon, so these are just impressions of Nazjatar.

Nazjatar is an interesting zone. The story line unlocks a faction which you ally with. For Alliance, it's the Waveblade Ankoan, who are basically fish-men. There are a lot of quests, and things to find and unlock.

Gameplay-wise, the zone is a combination of dailies and world quests, which actually work fairly well together. A lot of the dailies are more general, like "kill 15 Naga", which you can do anywhere on the island. You also choose one of three Ankoan companions who fight alongside you, and have three specific daily quests to level up. So you try to do dailies and World Quests at the same time, completing the dailies on the way to and from the World Quests.

I chose the hunter companion, who honestly comes across as a bit emo. I think I'll try the shaman next.

The combination of having some quests which are tied to a specific location, and others which are more general, is very good. It allows you to play a mini-optimising game with your quests each day.

There's also lots of puzzle quests in Nazjatar. Everyone was complaining about this one where you have to rescue someone by bouncing on jellyfish. I thought it was pretty easy, as I one-shot it. Maybe it was beginner's luck, but all you need to do is turn and face the next platform/jellyfish as you are being bounced.

Nazjatar also has Benthic armour, which you can buy and upgrade with the currency found in the zone. I'm not entirely certain if it's something a raider should pursue, or if it's mostly for solo players, alts, and filling in holes. I blew most of my currency on fixing an Abyssal device, which doesn't seem to do anything, but might be used in crafting later. So gear is mostly moot for me at this point.

One thing is that the armour is random, but whatever stats it has is maintained as it upgrades. So it's possible that the ideal is gambling until you get a piece with the best secondaries and a socket, and then upgrading that. The initial armour is very cheap as well, which lends itself to this strategy.

Edit: Apparently the secondaries and special Benthic bonuses are fixed for each item slot. All belts have the same secondaries and Benthic bonus, etc. So if you want to gamble, it's really only for tertiary stats like leech and sockets.

Second Edit: Apparently the above is not quite right. Some slots have multiple "types" of Benthic armor. Each type has specific secondaries and bonuses. Like there are three different plate legs.

All in all, Nazjatar is a pretty interesting zone, with a variety of activities. It should be interesting to see how things unfold, especially as there is a second zone to balance it out.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

A Worrying Sign for Classic?

My latest experiences in the WoW Classic Beta have made me more pessimistic about the success of the WoW Classic. To wit, the early zones, Elywnn Forest and Westfall, are already dead. Honestly, they died faster than many of the other "failed" MMOs which I've tried.

I ended up deleting all the characters I made and started fresh with a Priest. There are very few (like on the order or 5 or less) people in Elywnn Forest. Local chat is completely dead.  I got up to Hogger, and then spent time on the weekend going, "LFG Hogger".  After three different sessions, I finally got a level 9 dwarf hunter to take pity on me and we teamed up and killed Hogger.

Westfall is pretty much the same. There isn't even anyone just hanging out in Goldshire. In Retail, there's always people dueling or jumping around in Goldshire.

Classic is a game which requires other people. If there are no other people around, it becomes a very frustrating experience.

Now, maybe everyone is on higher level characters, and focusing on them. Though Stormwind was pretty empty as well. Maybe people aren't playing because it is Beta, and they're saving their powder for when Classic launches.

I guess my advice to people thinking about Classic is to make sure you do not miss the initial wave of players. If you fall behind, Classic will rapidly become a lot less fun.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Classic Stress Test Thoughts

Blizzard started a stress test for Classic yesterday, where anyone in NA with a WoW subscription could try Classic. The servers will be up for a day or two, if you didn't get to try Classic out.

I found the test quite funny. Blizzard was clearly testing their server stability, as they put way too many people in the zone for game-play purposes. I made a mage, and I had a lot of trouble finishing the very first quest. I'd start casting a Fireball at a kobold, and someone would tag it before the cast finished.

In the end, I resorted to running up to the kobold, hitting it with my staff to tag it, and only then start casting Fireballs.

The conversation in the zone was very lively, and everyone was remarking how this was totally unlike retail servers where it's silent. That's true, but the Beta servers were like that at the start, and now they're dead silent.

If I was making an MMO, I would strongly consider adding a world chat channel that everyone on the server is in.  There's a critical mass of people necessary to get chat going. For zone chat, it really only exists in the starting zones, and really only at launch.

Or maybe, like Blizzard is having layers for the world, have "layers" for chat that expand and contract depending on the number of people. Maybe the game starts with one chat for the starting zone, and all the other zones have the same chat. Then as people starting levelling up, maybe the first two zones share the same chat, and so on.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Classes in an Alternate Burning Crusade

Continuing on from my previous post on races, another major mistake The Burning Crusade expansion made was with classes. Specifically allowing Alliance Shamans and Horde Paladins.

I've discussed this before, but I think that the Alliance in particular lost a lot of its identity when the Horde got paladins. Especially as the Silver Hand opened up to both factions, but the Horde had separate orders for the Blood Knights and Sunwalkers.

In an alternate TBC, paladins could stay Alliance, and shamans could stay Horde. As long as Blessing of Salvation (and the equivalent totem) is removed, there would be no real imbalance.

Then, assuming an alternate Wrath comes along, perhaps the Horde could get Death Knights, and the Alliance gets Demon Hunters (since both Night Elves and Blood Elves are Alliance in my alternate timeline).

I think reinforcing the faction division mechanically, with different classes that play significantly different, would be a much better path. WoW chose to homogenise the factions. In the long run, I think that was not a good decision.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Personal Loot Needs an 'Any Specialization' Option

Quick thought from raiding tonight. Personal Loot needs an 'Any Specialization' option.

Right now, you can choose 'Current Specialization' or pick a specific specialization. But at this point in farming, an 'Any' option would be really nice. If you're a Holy Paladin, you might get a Ret weapon, or a Prot trinket, without giving up the chance to get a Warforged Holy item.

The other option is basically switching loot specializations on all the different bosses, which is rather fiddly. As well, it's unfortunate when one specific boss has items from different specs, and you have choose which spec to forego.

Perhaps a small change, but I think it would make Personal Loot a bit better.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Graehl's FFXIV Videos

I came across Graehl on Youtube. He makes FFXIV informational videos which are absolutely superb. They're clean and efficient, and present new data beautifully.

Check out his video introducing the new Dancer class:

The class looks really cool. The "dance" mechanic is quite novel for MMOs (even if it is just Simon Says), and I'm quite intrigued as to how it will work in actual group content.

Speaking of FFXIV, I'm really excited about Shadowbringers, especially the class overhauls. However, I don't really want to play FFXIV right now, and level classes with the old mechanics. Ironic.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Revisiting the Deadmines

I finally reached a point where I could take on the first Alliance dungeon, the Deadmines. Luckily a guildie was looking for a final DPS spot, and I was the quickest to respond. The group was a warrior tank, a paladin healer, a rogue, a hunter, and my paladin. All about level 17 or 18.

The run was ... interesting.

It wasn't bad. People generally knew what they were doing. But we didn't use any crowd control. The warrior tank didn't really have any AoE threat, but played as if she did. So the rogue and I often ended up tanking individual mobs.  The warrior also didn't have any ranged weapons, likely because she had not gone to Darnassus to train them yet. So every pull was a body pull or a charge.

I did enjoy playing the old-style paladin. Mostly dealing damage, tanking the occasional mob, throwing out a heal every so often. Especially on VanCleef, when the healer went out-of-mana at about 30%, so I healed the last bit.

We did wipe once in the middle, too many goblin runners.  The hunter had run out of ammo, so he took a spirit res to buy some more. Then the others ran out of the dungeon to help him get back, though he did die once on the way. I stayed in the dungeon to make sure it didn't reset.

Most of the bosses were fairly easy. After VanCleef, we jumped down to get Cookie, but pulled too many mobs and died. At that point the healer called it, and the group disbanded. In total, the run took about an hour and half.

I'm not really sure what to think about that run. On the one hand, it wasn't entirely successful. We wiped twice. It took a fairly long time. We didn't even clear the entire dungeon.

On the other hand, it was memorable. It made for a better story than the fast, efficient, successful runs of modern WoW. Is that valuable? It's good for your first run of a dungeon to be memorable, but I rather expect you want your hundredth run of that same dungeon to be fast, efficient and successful.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Races in an Alternate Burning Crusade

Assuming Classic is a success, what is the future of Classic servers? The most probable option is that Blizzard releases The Burning Crusade for Classic, following the same path as Classic.

But playing with Classic Beta has lead me to believe that TBC made several big mistakes, which weakened the setup of Classic WoW. In some ways, an alternate TBC, with several changes and essentially new content, would be a better future. Of course, Classic would have to be spectacularly successful for Blizzard to green-light something like this. And even then, they may not, believing that fidelity to what was released is more important.

The biggest mistake, in my opinion, was having the Blood Elves join the Horde.

In Classic, the Horde has a very strong identity. They are the monsters, banding together for survival. In the immortal words of Zangief from Wreck-It Ralph, "You are bad guy, but this does not mean you are bad guy."

The blood elves really weaken this. They're pretty elves. Blizzard tried their best to give them a dark backstory, but when you join a group where 4 of 5 characters are blood elves, it just doesn't feel like the Horde, not the way a Classic Horde group does. Now, maybe Blizzard did need a pretty race to balance the factions numerically, but that balance came at the cost of the Horde's identity.

What I would suggest is that the Alliance gets the Blood Elves, and the Horde gets the Worgen. Werewolves are classic monsters, and would fit in with the Horde. Of course, this would invalidate pretty much all of current WoW's story lines.

A later expansion could give the Horde goblins, and the Alliance draenei. Keeping the Horde's identity as the "monstrous" faction, and keeping the Alliance as the "normal RPG" faction would serve make the factions more distinct.