Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Ny'alotha Achievements, Part I

My guild has decided to go after the Ny'alotha raid achievements over the next few weeks. We did the first five yesterday. We had about 12 raiders in the group (2 tanks, 2 healers, 8 dps) and we did it on Normal.

An invaluable tool for this is the Instance Achievement Tracker addon.  I strongly recommend this addon if you are trying for achievements.

Here are some thoughts on the achievements we did:

Wrathion

Every single person in the raid already had the achievement to destroy 10 spikes in 3 seconds. Judging by the dates of the achievements, we actually meet the requirements are every week in the regular raid.

Skitra

This was fairly easy. Just clear the trash before the boss. Have a tank run out and get the Disciple and drag it to the boss. Make sure everyone is in the raid is inside, pull the boss, and wait for the Disciple to split into 3 before attacking it.

Maut

We had our second tank hold an add in one of pools until the stoneskin phase. Then the tank got an orb to hit the add, we killed the add, and then finished attacking the boss. 

This one took us two tries. The first time, the orb accidentally hit the tank instead, and the add did some sort of self-sacrifice move before we could get it to hit a second orb.

Xanesh

This one was the hardest of the ones we did. You have to knock the ball into the goal in the last 3 seconds before the debuff expires, and do this 3 times in one fight. We had two people bounce the ball back and forth in front of the goal, and then they or the third person knocked it in at the 4-5 second mark.

The biggest problem here is that there is no feedback if you are successful or not. Blizzard should have had a chat line on a success or maybe have the fireworks that go off if you score be a different colour.

The one saving grace is the enrage timer on Xanesh is really long. We ended up doing about 6 ball phases, just to make sure we got three successes. There was a whole bunch of "Did that go in on time? I think it did, but I'm not sure." After the second ball phase, we had to stop dps entirely. The tank did get one-shot at some point, but I think we could have avoided that with better tank swaps.

Vexiona

Everyone in the raid needs to get hit with 30 stacks of the beam debuff. A lot of the guides emphasize stacking and using raid cooldowns. I think it's easier to just take your time, and hit everyone with a few stacks every beam, while doing other mechanics properly and avoiding death. 

IAT is a lifesaver here, as it notifies you when people reach the limit and who still needs stacks.

The plan is to do a few more achievements tomorrow and finish up over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Decisions in Vikings: Wolves of Midgard

Every so often in Vikings: Wolves of Midgard, the game presents you with a couple of dialogue options. For some reason, I thought these were just for flavor. But it turns out they actually change the story slightly!

For example, the crone Vala was urging my character to forge an alliance with the giant Simul, the enemy of my enemy. There was an option to say "Alliance? Doesn't she have any treasure?" I took the option on a whim. Then the next map turned out to be attacking Simul and stealing her ring Draupnir.

Once I stole the ring, Vala asked that I give it to her, so that she could return Draupnir to Odin. I chose the "No, I stole it. It is mine!" option. Vala informed me that I had succumbed to curse of the ring. The game then announced that I would get an extra 3000 gold per map, but could not sacrifice to Odin to level up anymore. This would last until I gave up the ring to my soothsayer.

The next quest text, narrated by Vala, then talked about how the "rapacious greed of the Ulfung she-wolf might doom us all." I was greatly amused!

I don't think the story greatly changes, I think we're still on track for an alliance of necessity with Simul. But I really like how the developers have woven a little bit of choice into the game.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

A Novel RPG Resolution Mechanic

I came across a homebrewed tabletop RPG based on Magic: the Gathering. In particular, it has a really neat resolution mechanic.

As background, there are five colours in Magic: White, Blue, Black, Red, Green. Each represents parts of the world. For example, among other elements, White is order, Blue is knowledge, Black is death, Red is raw emotion, and Green is nature. If you arrange the colours in a circle, adjacent colours are considered allies, and opposite colors are enemies. For example, White is allied with Blue and Green, and is enemies with Red and Black.

This RPG uses a Fate deck composed of 2 land cards of each colour, and 1 Wastes (colorless). If you attempt something difficult, the Game Master first chooses the color your challenge belongs to. You then draw a card from the Fate deck. If it matches the color of the challenge, it's a success. If it matches an allied color, it's a partial success. If the character you are playing belongs to the same color, you get an extra draw and you take the best result.

For example, if your character is attempting to research something, that's Blue. Drawing a Blue land is success. Drawing White or Black is a partial success. Red, Green, or the Wastes is a failure. If your character is Blue, you get two draws, making it likely you'll get a partial success at least.

This is a very clever mechanic. It matches Magic: the Gathering intuitively, especially the color wheel which all players know well. As well, it's an 18% change of full success, and 36% chance of partial success. I find the clean use of partial successes particularly interesting, because partial success often lead the players to solve additional problems and makes the story more memorable.

Of course, this mechanic isn't really suitable to a numbers-heavy type of game. It looks to be more appropriate for a lighter, story-telling game.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Heirloom Changes

Yesterday, it was announced that heirlooms in Shadowlands won't provide XP bonuses.

I think this is a great change. I am not a fan of heirlooms. One of the elements of leveling that I really enjoy is upgrading gear and watching your character's visuals change. But the XP bonus made heirlooms too advantageous.

This way, the people who don't want to upgrade gear can use heirlooms, while others can avoid them. Or maybe only use them for trinkets or weapons, if that's important enough.

I hope Blizzard does not add any other bonuses, and just makes them very optional.

Blizzard should also take the opportunity to simplify the heirloom system. Right now there's a complex series of upgrades with different prices and different sources in order to increase the maximum level of the heirloom item. It would be best if the concept of upgrading heirlooms was just removed entirely. All heirlooms simply scale to the max level before the expansion. When a new expansion is released, all heirlooms have their caps increased simultaneously.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Stealthed Enemies

In the last post I complained about a Classic quest where you have to kill some monsters who are in stealth.

The thing that makes these quests particularly annoying in Classic is that you can't even be sure that you are in the right area. If you can't find any mobs, it might be because:
  • You are in the wrong area. Classic directions are often somewhat vague.
  • You might not get close enough to the mob to detect it. This is especially true if you are under-leveled.
  • Someone else may have come through just before you and killed the mobs, so you're waiting for them to respawn, but you don't know that.
In retail, the minimap displays the area where you can find the mobs. So at the very least, you know where to search.

In Classic, there's just too little information, and that makes the whole thing a frustrating exercise. These sort of quests really need something to offset that loss of information. For example, a tracker that told you if you were hot or cold.

Or possibly if the geography was constrained to make finding the mobs easier. For example, stealthed mobs in an underground mine or complex. Here you can traverse the corridors, and be reasonably certain that you've found or not found any mobs in the paths that you've already taken.

But stealthed mobs out in the Classic open world are just overly frustrating.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Gaming Log - July 7

World of Warcraft

I did the first part of Heroic Nya'lotha with my Paladin. Also did a couple of Emissaries. Nothing really new happened.

I would like to finish up BfA Archeology, though. Perhaps I'll dedicate some play time to that goal.

World of Warcraft Classic

I've been doing quests in Wetlands with my Priest. This Fen Creeper quest is terribly annoying. I've been wandering up and down the waterways trying to catch a glimpse of these stealthed mobs. Actually, stealth mobs in Vanilla are really terrible quests.

General

I've been writing these Gaming Logs for about a month. I'm not sure what to think about them. On the one hand, I actually wrote more posts last month than I have in a couple years. On the other hand, I'm not sure if these posts are actually interesting or worthwhile.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Gaming Log - July 5

World of Warcraft

Did Heroic Nya'lotha on my Paladin again. We did Mythic Jaina afterwards. One of mounts went to a hunter in our guild. Oddly, of the five Mythic Jaina mounts our guild has, four of them have been won by hunters. Now we do have a lot of hunters--3 of 12 in the raid were hunters--but we also have a lot of mages--3 of 12 were mages--and none of them have won it. Makes me want to roll a hunter.

We also got a new tank who joined the guild/raid, but I don't think he's going to last. He's a good guy and a good tank, but he didn't realize the server/guild was PST. Unfortunately he's on the East Coast, so I think the raid times are just not going to match, and he's going to have to move on. 

My advice when looking for a guild is to determine what times you want to play, and make sure the prospective guild matches. It should be your first consideration, before anything else. There's not much point in being in a guild if you can't play with other guild members.

World of Warcraft Classic

In the constant rotation of Classic characters, I've been focusing on my Warlock lately. On this one, I made an effort to go to Loch Modan early. Bouncing between the Human and Dwarf zones has made questing a lot easier.

Warlock is an interesting class in Classic. Between Life Tap, DoTs, Demons, and Drains, it's a little more intricate than most of the others at low level. It's a real pity it devolves into Shadowbolt spam at max level.

Vikings: Wolves of Midgard

I did a second map fighting the Roman Imperium, this time killing a Bishop with a funny hat. The game made a big deal about the hat. Now my character is off to Utgard, to forge an Alliance with a rival Frost Giant. Or possibly to kill her and steal her treasure, the ring Draupnir. To be fair, the Frost Giant stole Draupnir from Odin first.

In any case, I loaded in the new zone at level 10, and the enemies were level 13 and higher. I'm reaching the point where gear and talents makes up for level, but I decided to do a side map to gain another level first.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

My installation is doing something weird, where the game believes that it is not installed and you can only play on the starter planets with a new character. I looked online, and the fix is to disable the Bitraider streaming client, and basically download and reinstall the game again. I'll probably end up doing that, but maybe Bioware will issue a fix this week.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Swoop Racing

The Old Republic's latest patch introduced Swoop Racing! There are courses set up on Dantooine, Onderon, and Tatooine. It's pretty neat.

There are three team, each focused on a different aspect. One likes explosions, one likes flair and jumps, and one is about speed. Though they all use the same course, it changes slightly for each team.

Basically you're on a vehicle that is always moving faster. You can slow down or speed up a bit, but it isn't very hard to maneuver. Bioware made good use of SWTOR's optional mission directives. The base mission just requires you to complete the course and do a few of the team's specials. A timed run is optional.

You also aren't racing against anyone, but everyone else is all on the same track and going in the same direction. So it feels active and a bit like an actual race.

Apparently Bioware has tied some story to the faction reputation, and it is supposed to advance as you gain reputation. I think this is the first time Bioware has done this, so we'll see how it works out. Reputation is shared between your characters, though there is a cap on how much can be earned each week. Bioware also puts the bulk of the reward into weekly quests, further reducing the grind.

All in all, I found it pretty fun. It's a nice change of pace.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Gaming Log - June 29

World of Warcraft

I did some Emissaries on my Paladin. I also did a few digsites for archaeology. I do want to max it out before Shadowlands.

I also did the Nazjatar introductory quests on my Mage. I really like the way the base Fire mage plays.

World of Warcraft Classic

I decided to play my Warlock for a bit. I trekked to Loch Modan and started doing quests there. Eventually I came back to Westfall. My Warlock got to level 17.

I think I'm going to give up on dungeons in Classic. Now everyone is selling boosts, and the whole scene is weird, in addition to being difficult to find groups. Maybe I'll see how far I get with just questing.

Vikings: Wolves of Midgard

The Roman Imperium showed up! These Romans appear to be from after the conversion to Christianity, though they also worship the Vanir as well. Or possibly the Vanir substitute for Christianity in this mythology. In any case, they have catapults and paladins in addition to legionnaires.

So far, the Romans appear to be side enemies, and not directly involved in the main quest with the Jotun. But I've only done one mission with them so far, and maybe they will play a greater role.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Gaming Log - June 26

This post contains minor spoilers for the early part of Vikings: Wolves of Midgard.

World of Warcraft

I finished the Broken Shore questline on my Priest, and got the class mount. The Priest mount, the Seeker, is a bit weird looking. It's like a gryphon, but with an owl's head instead.

[Edit: Not really sure what went wrong with the picture here. I've removed it for now.]

I think I'm going to shelve the Priest for now. I'm not really enjoying healing with it for some reason.

On my Paladin, we finished Heroic Nya'lotha like normal. We did Mythic Jaina again. This time it only took us two tries, and two guildies won the mount.

Vikings: Wolves of Midgard

This game is pretty fun. So far, my character, jarl of the Ulfung tribe, has subjugated two neighboring tribes, which pay tribute in gold and iron. She's discovered that her skald is really the daughter of a troll witch and a human runeseeker, and accidentally killed the skald's brother, a full troll. (To be fair, he attacked first.) And finally she led a raid on a Jotun fortress in retaliation for the Jotun's razing of her village. And she's only level 8.

The names the NPCs use for your character are also greatly amusing. Other games go with "hero", "champion", or "Outlander". This game uses "she-wolf". At least the friendly NPCs do. Enemies are more likely to call her "Ulfung bitch".

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

First Impressions of Vikings: Wolves of Midgard


On a whim I picked up Vikings: Wolves of Midgard from Steam. It's an ARPG like Diablo where you play a Viking. It's set in a Norse mythology setting with Frost Giants trying to bring about Ragnarok.

It's not a AAA game, but it's pretty decent. The developers put a lot of effort into the Norse setting and themed the mechanics of the game to match.

There are no classes, but weapon-styles are tied to the Norse gods. For example, 2H is Thor, 1H+Shield is Tyr, Dual-Wield is Loki, etc. As you kill things you gain Blood (basically XP). Once you have enough Blood, you can sacrifice at an altar, level up and gain Gift points. Each God has a skill tree where you spend your Gift points for abilities and bonuses. The important part here is that each tree is only active while you wield a weapon of the matching type. You have two weapon sets, and can switch sets with X. For now, I'm just putting all my points in Tyr's tree, 1H + Shield.

There are 3 resource types: Gold, Iron, and Wood. You collect resources to upgrade your village. One interesting thing is that each map has 3 secondary objects (kill X goblins, break 10 flags, etc) that reward a large amount of materials and encourage you to explore the map.

For gear, you can wear all armor types, but different type have different properties. Cloth gear has less armor, but faster cooldowns. For healing you have a totem (which is an item like the others), which acts like a potion. It has three charges, but can be refilled at cauldrons on the map. There's also a dedicated 'relic' item which has a special effect, but only a few charges and a minute cooldown. For example, my current relic freezes enemies and deals damage, and started with 9 charges.

Another mechanic is that in the wilderness maps, you are exposed to the cold and can only survive for so long before you freeze to death. This is shown as an icy-blue bar under your health. You can warm up at campfires across the map. The locations of the fires are shown. As you get colder, your character starts commenting on the cold and screen takes on a frosty tint. So the map plays in an interesting fashion where you move from campfire to campfire, and you have to judge if you will make it to the next fire in time, or if you should go back to the previous fire.

The best thing about the game is that it leans heavily into the Viking mythos. For example, in the first main quest you rescue a shipwright. He builds you a longship, and you promptly set out to raid a neighboring village. No reason other than the fact that it is there. Your character even yells out, "Time to bathe in the blood of fisherfolk!"

I was quite taken aback at that. It is certainly very Viking.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Mythic Jaina

Apparently there was a quasi-exploit Horde-side where you could skip to the end of Mythic Daz'alor and only fight Jaina Proudmoore. Surprisingly, instead of removing the skip, Blizzard added an NPC for both sides that takes you directly to Jaina. This is unlocked if one character in the raid has beaten Mythic Jaina previously. This has become the newest activity in organized raiding, farming Mythic Jaina for the Mythic-only mounts.

Jaina drops two mounts for the raid, distributed via Personal Loot to people who don't have the mount yet.

The factor that makes this really viable is that there is a "cheese" strategy where you only have to do Phase 1 on the boat. You then run to Jaina, and do not interrupt her cast. Instead you just dps as hard as you can and you kill her before the cast ends. Now, at the end of expansion, a geared raid can do enough damage to make this viable.

The hard part, though, is having everyone in the raid avoid interrupting. Somewhat ironic, given all the trouble it takes to get people to interrupt when necessary.

Our guild decided to try this out after our alt raid. We only had about 10 guild members online, so we had to PuG 10 others through Party Finder. Our first couple of attempts went somewhat badly, as we had to learn Phase 1.

Then we got through to the second phase. But halfway through a PuG hunter accidently fired Countershot, interrupting Jaina's cast and putting us into the next phase where she promptly wiped us. Everyone was very unhappy. Our raid lead started insisting that people remove their interrupts from their bars, to eliminate even the possibility of interrupts.

The next attempts went pretty badly, wiping on the boat, and half the PuGs left. We replaced the PuGs and tried again. This time everything went cleanly and we got to Jaina. Everything was going smoothly, until one of the new people accidentally interrupted the cast!

After more insisting on removing the abilities on the bars, we tried again. This time was a great attempt, everyone got to Jaina alive, and we just grouped up and cleaved down people who got frozen. We beat the timer, defeating Jaina on that attempt!

Two of the PuGs got the mount.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Gaming Log - June 21

World of Warcraft

Been playing my Paladin mostly. Not doing anything special, just invasions and emissaries.

World of Warcraft Classic

I took my Rogue to Stranglethorn Vale and started working on the quests there. Mostly the Kurzen and early Nessingwary quests.

Control

I booted up Control for the first time in a couple of weeks. I'm at the last boss of the Foundation DLC, but I'm a little stuck. The problem, of course, is that I'm out of practice now, so I die even quicker than normal. I lasted about four attempts before I gave up.

This boss is also a little different in that the boss fight is in an open room without a lot of hiding spots. Normally Control (or at least how I play) involves a lot of ducking behind walls to avoid attacks. This fight, I think is going be more about using Levitate and Shield to avoid damage.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Gaming Log - June 17

World of Warcraft Classic

I played a fair bit with the Shaman. I grouped with someone to do the troll quests on Echo Island, then finished a lot of the remaining Durotar quests.

I also did the Shaman Fire Totem quests. It took me forever to find the main NPC, because I was looking up and down the main road from Crossroads to Ashenvale. I really enjoy class quests, even simple ones like this one.

In the end the Shaman got to level 11.

World of Warcraft

I decided to play my Paladin today, doing the Pandaria invasion. I realised that I enjoy playing the Paladin much more than the Priest. Maybe it's long familiarity, but it just "flows" better than the priest. I think I don't really care for dropping in and out of Void Form. I'll probably leave the priest on the backburner for now.

As well, it turned out that the Holy Paladin Best-in-Slot Corruption, Ineffable Truth I, was up for sale. I picked up 2 of those. Unfortunately, I haven't been playing the Paladin very much since Echos were introduced, so I couldn't afford more.

Surprisingly, I'm still at negative corruption on the Paladin. I haven't had a lot of luck with corruption drops.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Gaming Log - June 16

World of Warcraft

I took the Priest to Heroic Nyalotha. We did the first 7 bosses like normal. For some reason, 4 healers showed up tonight when we normally 2-heal. So healing was fairly light and easy. I replaced both my blue trinkets and got to full epics. I think my averaged item level jumped a full 10 ilvls. I basically leeched loot from several regular cloth raiders.

I also did the Uldum invasion and World Boss on the Priest.

World of Warcraft Classic

Did a few more quests in Durotar on my Shaman, including the somewhat-hidden quest to get a bag. It's not really hidden, but it is out of the way on the tower above Razor Hill. The Shaman is now level 8.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Gaming Log - June 15

World of Warcraft Classic

I did the early quest to fight the Theramore marines in Durotar on my Shaman. I teamed up with a mage and hunter to do so. I find I'm using the Earthbind totem a lot. Of course, I'm only level 7.

World of Warcraft

I got a i445 off-hand with some corruption on my Priest. Unfortunately, it put me into the Thing from Beyond zone. I tried to do a Vision, going for the Dwarf District in Stormwind. It went well for a bit, then two Things From Beyond spawned in the middle of the fight and killed me.

I ended up going back to my previous off-hand (a blue i415 one), and this time I finished the district. Rank 6 cloak so far.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Gaming Log - June 14

World of Warcraft

Did some invasions with my Priest. Also did the Nazmir foothold. Otherwise I didn't really accomplish much. Our alt raid didn't fire, as only four people showed up.

I have a Horde Paladin which I boosted for the sole purpose of doing the rebel story in BFA. My main Horde character, a Warrior, is a Sylvanas loyalist. I never actually finished the story on my Horde paladin, so I finished up Voldun and continued on for a couple of chapters.

I think one of the biggest problems with the WoW writers is that they are just not consistent. For example, a major part of the early Horde BFA story is Thomas Zelling, a dying Kul Tiras Tidesage who becomes Forsaken in order to provide for his family. Only to be rejected by the family as a monster. Perfectly in-line with all the Forsaken themes thus far.

But then Derek Proudmoore becomes Forsaken, and he isn't rejected by his family. Maybe that's the difference between major and minor NPCs, but it feels like the different writers are just not on the same page.

World of Warcraft Classic

For some reason, I made a Orc Shaman on a different server. I got to level 5 and logged out in Razor Hill.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Gaming Log - June 11

World of Warcraft

Raid day again. We killed the last 5 bosses of Nyalotha. A pretty smooth raid, though both tanks brought alts. So we had a Demon Hunter and Warrior combo. I'm never sure which tank to Beacon when we have this combo. You want to avoid healing the Beacon tank, so it's always a guessing game about which tank will need less direct heals.

I also did Emissary Quests and N'Zoth invasions with my Priest. Ended up filling out Azerite Essences for both Holy and Shadow. Now I just need to replace my blue trinkets.

World of Warcraft Classic

Just ran around turning in quests from that Stockades run. It's a little amusing how just cleaning up can take a lot of time in Classic. I had to turn in quests in Stormwind, Lakeshire and Darkshire. I do like how quests can cross zones. In retail WoW, it often feels like zones are overly self-contained, except for the breadcrumb quest which takes you to the next zone.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Healing in WoW Classic and FFXIV

I healed a Stockades with my Priest. Another paladin tank, it looks like there are many people creating paladin tank alts. You can tell that they're alts, because they all go up the Holy tree for Consecration first.

I really like healing in Classic. It's pretty basic. The damage is moderate, but it's all about managing mana. In fact, you don't necessarily have to cast a lot of healing spells. I get by with Renew for a lot of it. The 5-second rule for mana regeneration means that you try to "batch" your healing together and then wand for a while.

It's interesting to compare to FFXIV, because you probably spend the same amount of GCDs on heals. But FFXIV doesn't really tax your mana, and their DPS spells are cheap. So you end up spending most of your GCDs on damage rather than healing.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Holy Priest Healing

I took my Priest to an "alt run" of Nyalotha Normal. We had to PuG a couple of people, but it was mostly a guild group. Thankfully the other healer was pretty geared to cover for me.

Holy Priest is a lot different from Holy Paladin. The first major change is that there are a lot more buttons. As well, most of the heals are targeted. Unlike my paladin, I found it was easier to heal by just targeting friendlies.

I find the "Word" mechanic hard to get used to. I need to get better at using those spells on cooldown. Instead of treating them as part of the rotation, I treated them as cooldowns, and didn't cast them nearly as much as I should have. WoWAnalyzer scolded me for this.

I think I've mentioned this before, but I find spells with cooldowns in the 30 to 90 second range harder to keep in mind. It's short enough that you should use them on cooldown, but long enough that they fall out of memory and are easy to forget about.

One thing, though. I thought Holy Priest was a mana-thirsty spec, but it didn't seem like it to me. I even cast a lot of Flash Heal, which is more than I should have. Maybe I'm not casting enough, or perhaps I'm supposed to be spamming the AoE heal. I did check WoWHead's Holy Priest guide beforehand, and I was trying to follow that.

Maybe I'll see if I can take the Priest to the first three bosses of Nyalotha Heroic this week, and see how healing is in the harder environment.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

A Failed Gnomeregan

I joined a Gnomeregan group on my Rogue in WoW Classic. The group was pretty good, but ultimately unsuccessful. Warrior tank, Priest healer, Rogue (me), Mage, and Warlock. We did quite well up until the final hallway before Mekkatorque. The one with the Dark Irons.

We accidentally pulled too many and wiped. We rushed back in and got past the respawns to the hallway. This time, in the middle of the fight, the mage accidentally blinked into a group of enemies and pulled them. Another wipe, but this time the priest had Soulstone on him. He ressed us, but he was low level and got too close to enemies and they came and wiped us for a third time. At this point we gave up because of all the respawns.

I did get a couple of quests done, but I still have five or so left. This is the point where finding a group becomes a lot harder, especially as the main wave of leveling characters finished so long ago. Part of me feels like it would be faster or better to just ignore dungeons and focus on solo quests.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Gaming Log - June 5

The Old Republic

I finished Onslaught with my Inquisitor. I did the Meridian Complex instance, and then the final conversations. I rejoined the Empire, killed Darth Anathiel and retook the Dark Council seat.

I really enjoyed how they referenced the original story here. Made a lot of sense for a Sith lord. It was really nice being called Darth Occulus again.

So that's Imperial Agent, Jedi Knight, and Sith Inquisitor all caught up. I'm not sure which class I will level next, though it will probably be a Republic class. However, maybe I'll take a break from The Old Republic for a bit.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Gaming Log - June 4

World of Warcraft

Raid night. We finished up Heroic Nyalotha. Nothing really unusual happened. We had a few less people than normal, only 13, so healing was pretty easy.

Now that I'm recalling the instance, I think I forgot to get Seals this week. I don't remember seeing a bonus loot roll pop up at any time.

The Old Republic

I finished up Mek-sha. This time around I sided with the rogue Mandalorians, since that was the Dark Side option.

I know that you can kill Vowrawn for playing Sith games instead of focusing on his mission, but he doesn't seem to be playing any games. His plan focuses on beating the Republic and it works well. If he solidifies control of Mek-sha as well, that's just a bonus. I wonder if there's a conversation path which makes it more obvious, or if it's just something that doesn't come across.

Oh well, on to the Meridian Complex.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Gaming Log - June 3

World of Warcraft

Not much here. Did the Stormsong dailies with my Priest as the Emissary reward was gear. Then did the Uldum invasion and initial quest.

World of Warcraft Classic

Did an elite quest for the Thandol Span bridge on my Rogue. I partnered with a gnome mage. At some point, the mage hopped up on the chain at the side of bridge. He then promptly fell off, all the way to the river below! In the end, we got the quest finished and I got the breadcrumb quest for Arathi Highlands. I reached level 32 in all that.

The Old Republic

About half-way through Mek-sha with the Sith Inquistor. It is quite amusing playing a more arrogant and cruel character.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Gaming Log - June 2

World of Warcraft

Raid night again. We did the first 7 bosses of Heroic Nyalotha again. A little bit off our usual game, as we wiped once on Xaneth, had several wipes on Vexiona, and a couple wipes on Ra-Den. We had a pretty unusual raid composition as well, with only 2 melee, but 4 Mages and 4 Hunters.

I did shift my cooldown usage on Vexiona. Normally I pop Avenging Wrath on cooldown, usually at the beginning of each dragon phase, and once in Phase 3. But since we've been going faster with higher DPS, AW usually doesn't come up again until after the second Heart of Darkness. On the kill, I saved Avenging Wrath so I could use it after the first Heart of Darkness. I think that helped stabilise Phase 3 a lot.

The Old Republic

My Inquistor finished Odessen, and is set for Mek-sha. Mostly Dark Side, though I left the king alive. Almost caught up to the current end of the story.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Gaming Log - June 1

World of Warcraft Classic

I did a Deadmines run with my Paladin. I healed it. It was actually a pretty good group: 2 Paladins, 2 Warriors, and a Warlock. Naturally, only cloth armor dropped, and the warlock made out like a bandit.

The group played well. They pulled back, dealt with patrols, and didn't rush ahead. It was a smooth, clean, and enjoyable run. About the only thing that could have gone better would have been better focus-fire, instead of splitting damage.

In some ways, these types of dungeon runs are a better experience than Retail dungeons. But even in Classic they are a bit rare, and inevitably get overtaken by boosting and other nonsense.

The Old Republic

My Inquisistor is continuing through Onslaught. She's my first Dark Side character I've taken through this, and it's amusing so far. As far as Dark Side goes, I enjoy being ruthless to my enemies. I can't, however, be ruthless to my allies. I always end up going Light Side with those choices.

Also, I got Khem Val back, which is great. There was a [Flirt] dialogue option in the conversation, which was rather concerning. I did not take that, but I'm sure it's on YouTube.

Monday, June 01, 2020

The Centralized Internet

A few days ago, I saw a discussion on Hacker News bemoaning the centralisation of the internet, and the loss of blogs and other independent sites. Most of the comments blamed Google and the other giant tech companies for this.

I don't really agree with this perspective. I'm not a big fan of the giant tech companies, but I don't think they were directly responsible for the centralisation of the internet.

In my view, the centralisation of the internet had too major causes: spam; and the fact that creators are drawn to audiences, and only rarely the other way around.

The hard truth is that there is no decentralised solution to spam. If you allow other people to post comments or content to your site, you will get inundated with spam. Only the large tech companies have managed to reduce the problem to manageable levels.

The other factor pushing centralisation is that creators are drawn to audiences, and not vice versa. 

One of the blogs I follow is Arnold Kling's Askblog. It's a nice blog on economics and politics with a lot of good commenters. Indeed, most of his posts get between 10 and 30 comments of high quality, which is quite excellent. In some ways, it's the "beau ideal" of blogs that the Hacker News people were mourning.

Yet last year, Mr. Kling started posting essays on Medium.com instead of his own site. His reasoning was basically that he wanted a larger audience.

The lesson here is that creators go where the audience is. If everyone watches videos on Youtube, then creators will make videos on Youtube.

I think that between spam and audiences, it was inevitable that the internet would centralise. A de facto carrot and the stick, one which the tech giants took advantage of.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Gaming Log - May 31

World of Warcraft

I finished the Legion Priest Order Hall story. It was enjoyable. I remember reading complaints that the Paladins stole all the glory, but I thought it was pretty sensible. The priest story was all about finding and unifying allies, and recruiting the paladins to their cause fit in with that.

I've started the Broken Isles campaign for the priest mount, and am in the middle of it. I've done it fairly recently on my warlock, though, so I'm not very enthusiastic about it.

World of Warcraft Classic
  • Rogue - Did another run of Stockades to finish a quest from Dun Modr. This time with a paladin tank with Consecrate. He was a pretty good tank, though he did have to drink to recover mana a lot.
  • Priest - Did a few quests to kill ghouls in Duskwood. Hit level 25.
  • Paladin - Did a couple of the early quests in Lakeshire to kill gnolls. Hit level 20, where you get the Verigan's Fist quest. So I guess I'll be trying for that.
One thing about Classic is that leveling after the main rush is a little unappealing. So many people are selling dungeon carries, or asking to buy carries that it is a little off-putting. In some ways, I wish Blizzard would release a brand-new server with no transfers allowed.

The Old Republic

My Sith Inquistor finished Nathema. Despite being Dark Side, I couldn't bring myself to do anything bad to the traitor.

I then finished Ossus with the Inquistor as well. I actually hit max level right at the start, so it's been interesting getting max-level gear randomly while going through the story.

Wolcen

I haven't played Wolcen in about a month, so I've uninstalled it. I really enjoyed the campaign, and I think the game is worth the money just for that. However, I think redoing the campaign for online play--especially with a build that wasn't my primary interest--had the effect of using up a lot of enthusiasm for the game, and I never really got into the endgame.

All in all, though, Wolcen was charming.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Gaming Log - May 28

World of Warcraft

Raid night again. We finished off the last five bosses in N'yalotha Heroic. It was a short night, as all were one-shots. We came close to wiping on N'Zoth, though. It was going perfectly fine when suddenly three quarters of the raid died near the end of phase 3. I'm still not sure what happened there. Luckily the last quarter of the raid was able to finish off the boss before they all died.

After that, I switched to the Priest. I remembered what I really wanted to do with this character, which was finish the Legion class order hall story. So back to Dalaran to continue onwards. The priest story is pretty interesting, sending you all over the place. To Northrend, to recruit a priest from the Scarlet Crusade. To Duskwood, to recruit a Shadow priest. Then it intertwines with the paladin story. I ended up stopping at a point where you get sent to the Paladin order hall. Sadly, you can't take the shortcut in Dalaran, and instead have to go all the way to Eastern Plaguelands.

World of Warcraft Classic

I did one quest on my Rogue to kill some cursed sailors in Wetlands. Still level 31. 

It is interesting how just doing a single quest in Classic is a satisfying use of time. Needing to be careful and pull one mob at a time makes questing take much more effort. Thankfully, the few times I pulled two at once, I had Blade Flurry available.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Gaming Log - May 27

World of Warcraft Classic

I play Classic in a weird (at least, weird to me) fashion. I play multiple characters, but do very little on each character.
  • Priest - did one quest to collect Rot Blossoms from skeletons in Darkshire. Still level 24.
  • Hunter - did one quest to investigate a Red Crystal in Darkshore. Had to fight through a lot of moonkins. Still level 14.
  • Rogue - joined a group and did the Dun Modr elite quests in Wetlands. Hit level 31.
That's basically 15 minutes on each character (maybe 30 min on the Rogue) before I decide I'm finished with that character for the night.

World of Warcraft

I did the first Vision with my Priest. For some reason, I did it as Holy. It was a straight shot to Alleria just to get the first cloak upgrade.  I also did the N'Zoth invasion in Uldum. For some reason, the last boss seemed much more annoying when I do it on a melee character. I then went to Nazjatar for a bit. I have two unfilled Essence slots, so I need to at least pick up Rank 1 versions from somewhere.

I need to decide what I want to do with this Priest. Do I want to heal, to dps, to do group content, or just mess around with solo content? Her item level is now around 420, so it's starting to get into the group content range.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Gaming Log - May 26

I need to get back into the habit of writing posts. I'm going to try simple log or diary-style posts.

Final Fantasy XIV

I finished the level 80 Red Mage quest. 

Shadowbringers did something different with class quests than previous expansions. Instead of have a separate quest chain for each class, each of the five roles had a shared quest chain which tied into the expansion story. I've done the Tank, Healer, and Magic DPS chains.

However at level 80, there is a small class quest which is basically just checking back in with the main NPCs for the class. The Red Mage was pretty short, but enjoyable.

World of Warcraft Classic

I just logged in with my bank alt and put up some materials on the Auction House. I'm up to 17 gold, which isn't bad considering my highest-level character is only 30. I've mostly been levelling low-level alts, but I've been consistently sending all the white and green loot to the bank alt to sell.

The bank alt also got invited to a guild, Bankers of Azeroth! Pretty amusing, I guess the officer or GM just threw me an invite when he noticed the character name was 'Coribank'.

World of Warcraft

It was raid night. We've taken to doing the first seven bosses of Nyalotha on Tuesday (top 2 wings), and doing the last 5 bosses on Thursday. Basically raiding half the time of our normal raids, but keeping the 2-day a week schedule. We did attempt to finish the raid in one night, but it was inconsistent, and we usually ended up having to leave N'Zoth to Thursday. And then logging in for just one boss was unsatisfying.

I healed with my paladin. We've taken to two-healing most of the instance with about 16 to 18 people. It's not that bad, except that it is hard to recover if mistakes are made early. We do have a couple of other raiders who switch specs if we need a third healer. Usually N'Zoth and Drest'agath. N'Zoth because wiping in phase 3 and having to redo the entire fight is annoying. Drest'agath mostly to have a healer in the obscuring vision clouds just in case the melee needs heals.

Loot-wise, I got Leech corruption boots, but I already have gemmed corruption boots, so I gave them up. We use an addon called LootRaffle to distribute unwanted loot, and it is pretty nice.

I've also gotten my Priest to 120 over the last week, got the cloak and her item level up to i412 or so. I need to decide what I want to do with this character. She's currently Shadow for solo questing, but maybe it would be better to have another healer and do some group content.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Finally Past Iokath Sentinals!

In SWTOR, my Sith Inquisitor has been stuck on one mission for the last couple of months. It's one of those vehicle combat missions. Basically, you're in a Walker on Iokath, and you have to kill three giant Sentinels.

I don't know if Bioware changed the scaling, but it was much more difficult than when I did it on my Imperial Agent and Jedi Knight a year ago. I've been hoping to see a Patch Note fixing it but nothing was coming out.

I finally did a Google search and came across an alternate strategy that was said to work. Basically have the Walker stand in the middle and use the Heavy Stomp on cooldown.

I gave that a try, and it worked like a charm! A bit cheesy, but what can you do?

According to various commenters, the vehicle missions work correctly if you are at the expected level for the mission. But if you are a higher level and are scaled down, it is much harder. Which was pretty much the exact situation I was in.

But thankfully my Inquisitor is now past that, and into the Traitor arc. There's an option to forgive the traitor at the end of the arc, which I took on both my Agent and Knight. However, doing the chapters in rapid succession has made me far less likely to forgive. The traitor causes a lot of grief early on that was easy to discount or forget about when each chapter in the arc came out a month or two apart.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Eden's Verse

Recently, I finished the Normal version of the latest 8-man raid, Eden's Verse, in Final Fantasy XIV.

I think FFXIV is pushing the limits of reasonable complexity, even if the raids aren't super difficult. Take a look at this video guide to the 3rd boss:


I watched this video in a mild state of disbelief. It's actually a little better in-game, because you generally only have to move one square, so you can do with minimal movement if you stand on the borders.

The other thing that FFXIV does is that failing mechanics is usually not an instant kill. Instead, you get a debuff called "Vulnerability" which makes you take more damage, and lasts for a minute. So you can make a few mistakes and survive, but too many will cause you to die.

The actual raid story is quite good. The other three fights are a little more reasonable. All in all, Eden's Verse is a good raid. I am a little worried that SE is leaning too much on a somewhat "artificial" way of making the fights hard, rather than a more traditional "organic" difficulty. Though I suppose what's "artificial" is in the eye of the beholder.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Legion Warlock Mount

I took my Warlock through the Legion Class campaign and then through the Broken Shore questline to get my warlock mount:

A very dark screenshot, but it's a void elf in grey robes on a dark mount.

It was fun campaign. I enjoyed the warlock class campaign, and the mount quest had a lot of callbacks to the original mount quests.

I can see the Broken Shore questline becoming annoying if you try to do it too often, but since I haven't done it in a long while, it was pretty good. The only real blockers are the two points where you have to wait for a Legion invasion in order to proceed.

Also, the Sentinax step was a bit annoying. Since everyone outlevels the zone, the demons die very quickly. If you don't have spammable AoE, (preferrably instant cast), it can be hard to tag demons coming out of the portals. It's especially annoying when you are the person who actually summoned the portal.

In any case, with the Warlock done, I'm now working on a Priest. The truth, though, is that I'm not really enjoying any of the priest specs in solo play. Holy is fine in groups, but there is something I just don't like about the Shadow rotation. I think I find going into Voidform to be more of a chore than fun, but Shadow is balanced around Voidform.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Corruption and Raid Healing

Tonight we only had two healers in a 15-person Heroic N'Zoth raid. It took us a few tries, but we got it down in the end. But it was a good fight to reflect on how corruption affects healing.

The thing about corruption is that the healer doesn't really see it happening. All you see is someone's health suddenly dropping, with no relationship to mechanics. Honestly, it's a little weird. It makes healing rather unpredictable and more reactive than normal.

It's actually a really good fit for Glimmer paladins, because you can immediately Shock the person who just dropped.

Another odd thing is that it's suddenly your best players who need attention. Normally, in a raid, you have the usually suspects who are a bit slow to move out of the fire, and so you have to pay extra attention to them. But now, it's likely you have to pay more attention to the better players, because they're pushing the edge on corruption.

I can't decide how I feel about it. One the one hand, it's better than the heavy raid-wide damage auras that past tiers used to challenge healers. And it's not really that different from a mechanic where the boss blasts random raid members.

However, it might have contributed to the lower difficulty of Heroic raiding this tier. When we first went through Heroic, people had relatively low corruption. So our dps was lower, but people weren't taking random damage. Instead damage was very predictable and and not as severe. That made it easier to survive and learn the fights. Compare to something like Heroic Kil'jaeden where people would die left and right while learning.

In some ways, healing actually feels a little more difficult now than it was when we first did the fights. But damage has significantly increased, so the fights are over faster.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Warlock Finished, Current Roster

I finished leveling a Void Elf Warlock to 120 and went through the legendary cloak quest line. It was pretty enjoyable. I leveled mostly as Affliction, as I've always been fond of the DoTs and Drains playstyle.

My current max-level roster:

Alliance:
  • Human Paladin
  • Human Mage
  • Night Elf Demon Hunter
  • Draenei Shaman
  • Void Elf Warlock
Horde:
  • Blood Elf Warrior
  • Blood Elf Paladin
I kind of regret the Horde Paladin. I played the Warror as a Sylvanas Loyalist, so I boosted the Paladin to see the Saurfang side of the Horde War Campaign in Battle for Azeroth. However, I haven't actually played through the campaign again.

The bigger problem, though, is that my main, the Human Paladin is on the Doomhamer server, and all the others are on Lightbringer. So really, I got them to 120, and pretty much let them languish. I kind of wish Blizzard would do a one-time sale and let you rearrange all your characters. I'd consolidate Alliance on Doomhammer and Horde on Lightbringer. (Which sounds backwards, now that I'm typing it out.)

I'm not sure if I should level another alt, or just leave it as is and wait for Shadowlands.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

No Warforging in Shadowlands

Blizzard revealed today that there will be no Warforging, Titanforging, or Corruption for loot in Shadowlands. Essentially, we will be going back to the static items as in previous expansions before Legion.

I personally did not mind these mechanics. Blizzard gave out more loot, so that it was easier to hit the baseline, but harder to get Best-in-Slot. Now they will revert that, and we will go back to a more Classic feel where there is less loot overall, and upgrades are rarer, but if you get a piece, you're not going to replace it again until a new tier comes out.

That does mean that the variance will be higher. I remember some tiers where one time simply never dropped for us.

On the positive side, this means that class sets can come back. You won't have to choose between set bonuses and warforged items.

Overall, it's probably a positive change. I think that there was a significant faction of the audience who had troubles dealing with the fact that you could not "finish" a character in Legion/BfA. That you could not say, "this character has the best gear possible, I can put him aside and move on to a different character".

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

FFXIV: Save the Queen Relic Weapons

Final Fantasy XIV released it's latest patch, 5.25, yesterday. This isn't a full story patch, but contains the start of the current expansion's Relic weapon quest line.

Relic weapons are an interesting item. They're the second-best weapons in the game, but they will require a lot of steady grinding to get them to their highest form. A reward for pure dedication. I rather think they're a good fit for MMOs, which thrive on steady progress.

On the other hand, for games with alts, there will be a lot of unhappiness because the alts have to regrind their weapons. Surprisingly, though, FFXIV makes you grind each weapon separately, and no one complains about that. I wonder why.

In any case, the new story was pretty good. It featured a solo scenario that turned into the equivalent of a trial at the end. Indeed, an Extreme version of trial, for 8-man groups, was also released. The story hinted at a lot of future developments.

I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes. However, I've never actually finished any of the relic weapons from the previous expansions, so I'm not sure how this will go. At least the current version is enough to get my item level up so that I can finish a couple of pieces of content from the previous patch.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Shadowlands Class Update

Blizzard has released a Shadowlands Class Update, discussing changes coming to the classes in the next expansion. For the most part, they look to be drawing back on specializations, creating a more common base that all specializations share.

For paladins, we have:

Devoted servants of the Light, Paladins tap into its holy power to protect their friends and vanquish their enemies. In the original version of the game, Paladins had several categories of spells that transcended their specializations, such as Seals, Blessings, and Auras. While we feel that not all of these categories of spells make sense for the modern game, having those categories defined the Paladin class. We want to restore that feeling of shared spell categories with the unification of the Paladin resource system, and the restoration of several iconic abilities including Auras. While a few of these abilities are situational utility, they play well into the Paladin’s archetype as a holy avenger and bane of the undead.

General Changes
Blessing of Sacrifice, Hammer of Wrath, Sense Undead, Shield of the Righteous, Turn Evil, and Word of Glory will be available to all Paladins, regardless of their specialization.

Holy Power returns as a resource for all Paladins to use to fight off attackers and defend their allies. Abilities such as Crusader Strike and Hammer of Wrath grant Holy Power on use, which can then be spent to call upon the most powerful forms of the Light—including Word of Glory and Shield of the Righteous—to vanquish foes and protect allies.

As champions of the Light, all Paladins can use powerful Auras to safeguard and enhance their allies. Concentration Aura returns to all Paladins, reducing the duration of interrupts and silences. A redesigned Retribution Aura allows Paladins to avenge fallen allies with a short burst of Avenging Wrath, giving these holy warriors the strength to vanquish evil or keep their remaining allies on their feet. Crusader and Devotion Auras are also available to all Paladins.

All Paladins will also have access to more Talents that allow them to manipulate and spend Holy Power. The Divine Purpose Talent will be available for all Paladins to select and standardized for all specializations, allowing their abilities that spend Holy Power to have a decent chance to make the next Holy Power-spending ability free and increase its damage or healing output. Holy Avenger allows the generation of huge bursts of Holy Power in a short window, while Seraphim allows the Paladin to spend their Holy Power to increase their secondary stats for a moderate amount of time.

Holy
The Azerite Trait Glimmer of Light moves to a space in the Level 50 Talent row, competing with powerful existing options such as Beacon of Faith. While Holy Paladins’ Aura Talent row has been replaced by the class-wide Aura bar, Aura Mastery continues to give Holy Paladins the unique ability to give any Aura a special empowerment.

Protection
To better uphold their oath to protect the innocent, Protection Paladins now exude Shining Light—a new passive that makes the next cast of Word of Glory free whenever Judgment critically strikes a target, enabling Protection Paladins to shield themselves and defend their allies from attackers.

Retribution
The darkest places within the Shadowlands inspire Retribution Paladins to perform valorous acts in the name of the Light. Wake of Ashes is available to all Retribution Paladins instead of needing to be picked as a Talent, allowing these holy warriors to vanquish evil with a blow so powerful it damages all foes close to its impact and reduces any survivors’ movement speed significantly. Demon and Undead enemies are further crippled with a substantial stun when struck with the ability.

Empyrean Power (previously an Azerite Trait) will be available as a Talent, giving Crusader Strike a moderate chance to make the next Divine Storm cost no Holy Power and increase the damage dealt by a significant amount.
The big change is Auras and Holy Power (and Hammer of Wrath!). While getting back Auras is very nice, I have a much more mixed reaction to Holy Power.

Holy Power does not quite work with healing. Last time around, all I really remember is blanketing the raid in 1-HP Eternal Flame HoTs. It was really weird, and ended up making the paladin feel more like a druid than anything else.

As well, Holy Paladin healing was excellent this expansion. Both builds (Glimmer and Judgment of Light) were fun to play and felt paladin-like. We are getting Glimmer as a talent in the expansion, which is good. However, significantly changing paladin healing at this point feels like fixing something which isn't broken.

Well, we'll see what the system feels like in the Alpha and Beta.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Control: Foundation - First Impressions

Control's first DLC, Foundation, was released last week. I picked it up and have been slowly working my way through it. I'm not very far in, though.

It looks like the difficulty has picked up a bit. Or possibly it's just that there is a new type of enemy, and I haven't figured out how to handle them well yet. Control was mostly a ranged game, but the new enemies are melee who rush you with pickaxes. If you try to pick them off from heights, they start throwing dynamite at you.

Control also continues its pattern of having the main story line be reasonably hard, but having the side mission bosses be a difficult challenge. It's a pretty good pattern, because you never get stuck entirely. Since the side missions are independent, you can go after them in any order. Or skill up through the main story line first.

The story appears to be filling out some of the history behind the Federal Bureau of Control, investigating the time period before the main cast of Control.

In any case, Control was an excellent game, and Foundation is a worthy continuation.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

My First WoW Addon: Minimap Coordinates

A couple of months ago, I decided to try to learn how to make a World of Warcraft Addons. Here's my first addon: MinimapCoordinates. MinimapCoordinates is a very simple addon that only does one thing: puts your current location in the text above the Minimap.

It's so simple, it actually caused me problems when I first tried to submit it to Curseforge. They rejected it until I could say something about why someone would want to use this Addon. Apparently, "They want to see their location above the minimap" was not good enough. So I called it "minimalistic and light-weight", and that passed.

I made it primarily to learn a bit about Lua, the WoW Addon API, and to how set up the infrastructure around Addons. The code is hosted on Github. There's some neat integration where pushing a Git version tag automatically notifies Curseforge and packages up the Addon for download.

MinimapCoordinates is available for both Battle For Azeroth and WoW Classic.

I'm trying to decide what to tackle next. Ideally, it's more complex than this, but not too crazy.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Winds of Wisdom Buff and Heirlooms

Due to the coronavirus, Blizzard has enable a buff, Winds of Wisdom, which increases XP by 100%. Naturally, this is encouraging people to level alts.

I have been leveling a Void Elf Warlock. I'm up to 112 and into Battle for Azeroth. The Legion Warlock campaign was really good. I haven't finished it, as the next part requires dungeons, so I'll go back and finish it at 120.

I'm kind of regretting not leveling one of each class during Legion. The class campaigns are really enjoyable.

In any case, one of the interesting things about Winds of Wisdom is that it stacks with heirlooms. So you can zoom through levels. Or alternatively, you can stop using heirlooms and still level at quite a rapid pace.

I've realized that I really enjoy upgrading gear when leveling. You get a new piece of gear, you equip it, and your character's look slowly changes. Without the gear treadmill, you're just filling in a bar and your level increases every so often. Nothing really changes, especially since Blizzard front-loads most of your rotation.

I wish the XP gain on heirlooms wasn't tied to the piece of gear. Maybe it should be always active once unlocked.

In any case, the Winds of Wisdom buff offers a good opportunity to combine fast leveling with upgrading gear.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Grand Empress Shek'zara

Wow, this World Boss is terrible. The week in between causes me to forget how bad this boss is.

It isn't even that bad of a boss, but the lag is really, really bad during this fight. The lag combines with with the special where you have to run to the safe zones to deadly effect. I think that most people just don't register as being in the safe zone and thus they all die. I lost half the raid today even while Aura Mastery was active.

At least your ghost spawns right next to the fight.

The devs probably should have given that ability to the other world boss, and left Shek'zara without any heavy raid-wide damage moves. Though they probably didn't predict the amount of lag.

Actually, Vale in general is much laggier than the rest of the zones. I wonder what is causing the issues in that one zone?

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Jewelcrafting in Battle For Azeroth

My paladin is a Jewelcrafter. This expansion was very weird for that profession.

On the demand-side, sockets became part of titan-forging. There's a small chance that any piece of gear drops with a socket on it. But it's pretty rare. I think I have one piece (other than my crafted ring) with a socket at the moment. So not very many people were buying gems this expansion.

On the supply-side, jewelcrafters were flooded with gems. The number of raw materials gained per unit of ore was very high, much higher than in previous expansions. I think I have over 100 of each rare gem in my inventory, just left over from crafting the rings.

That combination of low demand and high supply drove gem prices very low, and made the profession very disappointing.

For solutions, on the demand-side, I would have liked to see a socket be the "first level" of titan-forging. If a piece of gear titan-forges, it always gets a socket. It may get additional bonuses after, but it starts with a socket. This would make the demand for gems higher and more consistent. In addition, it would also smooth out the power of titan-forging. Socketed pieces were generally considered better than 10-15 extra item levels.

Another idea is to allow jewelcrafters (or maybe blacksmiths) to make an item which adds a socket to a weapon. Like Ramaladni's Gift from Diablo 3. This would also make it a little easier to use the main stat gems for hybrid classes, as weapons don't often share primary stats in endgame.

On the supply-side, simply produce less raw materials per ore. Also instead of having special colors that weren't used for stat gems, have those recipes use two or more regular gems.

Jewelcrafting in Battle For Azeroth was a disappointing profession. Let's hope that Shadowlands makes it more useful.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Ahead of the Curve: N'Zoth

My guild killed Heroic N'Zoth a couple of weeks ago. Here's some screenshots of us celebrating with the mount:
Group photo at Proudmoore Keep

Parade in Boralus
It's a really nice mount, an excellent reward for the last boss of the expansion.

Ny'alotha, The Waking City, itself was a good raid. Having the raid entrance switch between zones was very weird and very fitting. The fights were pretty good. There weren't any clear-cut outstanding fights, though.

I did like the ending cutscene. Blizzard incorporating your character into the capstone event of the expansion was very well done.

If I have a complaint about Ny'alotha, it's that Heroic felt oddly easy. It was tuned correctly, but the Heroic-only mechanics didn't really change anything. If you master the fight in Normal, you've mastered the fight in Heroic. About the only real difference is that in Heroic, multiple people have to do mechanics, while in Normal, you can have the stronger members of your team carry the rest of the group. For example, soccer in Dark Inquistor Xanesh or the lower realm in N'Zoth. You didn't have to learn the fight again.

As an aside, "soccer" in Xanesh is a misleading term. "Billiards" or "pool" is a better and more intuitive description of how the mechanic works.

Ny'alotha, The Waking City, was a pretty solid raid to end the tier. It was not as good as Battle For Dazar'lor, but it was on par with Eternal Palace. Blizzard should put some more effort into mechanically differentiating Normal and Heroic versions of the fights. The point of raiding is to wipe, and slowly master the new encounters. But there was very little wiping in Heroic Ny'alotha.

On the whole, I think Jaina Proudmoore was the best raid fight this expansion. A superb encounter, and quite fitting for the expansion.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Updates, Back To WoW

It's been a long time since I last posted. No real reason why, I just fell out of the habit. I really should make more of an effort to post on a consistent schedule. Maybe I'll try to designate a specific time to write.

How is everyone doing with the coronavirus? Here it is very quiet. Many things are closed, all restaurants are take-out only. Many people are working from home. I've been working from home for the last little while, occasionally going into the office to fix problems.

Gaming-wise, I started playing World of Warcraft again. Yeah, probably not the best of decisions, but I really missed raiding with my guild.

I'm also playing a bit of Wolcen. I played through the story in offline mode, using a sword-and-shield tank character. Then I played through it with a friend in online mode, this time using an elemental mage.

I dip into Final Fantasy XIV every now and again, mostly to see the new content.

The final game I'm playing is the Control DLC, Foundation, which was just released on the weekend. I've just started on it, but so far it's great, and has everything which made the original Control such a great game.

I also ended up not renewing the EA Access subscription. I tried Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, which turned out to be the type of game that I am really, really bad at. I just could not beat the second boss, so I gave up on it. There wasn't anything else I was really interested in, so I stopped the subscription. However, I still think it was good value for the money. If EA releases another new game that I am interested in, I anticipate signing up again.

Hopefully everything is going well with all of you in this unusual time.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem

I picked up Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem last week, and I am enjoying it a lot. Wolcen is an ARPG, and it's clear that its developers intended it to be the "Goldilocks" of ARPGs. If Diablo III is too simple, and Path of Exile is too complicated and rigid, Wolcen is clearly aimed at the sweet spot between the two. Wolcen has done a marvelous job hitting its mark.



Wolcen is technically class-less, but there are three main archetypes: caster, rogue/archer, and warrior. Your character can equip any type of gear. You can learn every spell and ability, but abilities require specific weapons to use. For example, you can only cast spells if you use a staff or catalyst. The clever part here is that Wolcen has at least one 1H and 2H version for each archetype. So if you focus on one archetype, say pure caster, you can use the 2H weapon. But you can also combine 1H from two archetypes and use abilities from both. For example, if you use a pistol and a catalyst, you can use both archer abilities and spells. It's a very simple and intuitive system.

Abilities drop from mobs, sort of like POE gems, but you learn them permanently. If they drop again, you gain special currency when you learn them. You can equip 5 or so abilities. Equipped abilities gain experience and level up. As they level up, you unlock talents to modify the abilities like D3 runes. However, these options cost 1, 2, or 3 points (points available depend on ability level). This makes for a lot of different combinations. You can swap abilities and talents whenever you are out of combat.

There are no "primary" attributes. Instead there are 4 secondary attributes: Ferocity which modifies crit chance, Toughness for health, Agility for attack speed, and Wisdom for applying ailments (debuffs). Basically every weapon can do multiple types of damage, and you have a chance to apply an ailment based on the type of damage. You get an overall damage boost from your top 3 attributes. Every level, you get 10 points to distribute. You can reset this for a gold cost.

Wolcen has a skill tree very much like Path of Exile. Only it is much smaller and more focused. Fewer points, and easier to get to the edge, but each point feels like it does more. Wolcen also has the tree divided into rings, and you can rotate the rings so that you can pick which sections you want to focus on. Skills can be completely reset as well, for a secondary currency cost.

I am very happy that Wolcen allows you to respec and change abilities and talents easily. It makes it much easier to experiment, rather than having to start over all the time. I am terrified that Diablo IV will decide to be more like Diablo II and be a lot harder to change things.

There are some other interesting facets. The gem system is a bit more complicated, with specific socket types to get different effects. There's a built-in roll when you press space, which allows you to evade attacks and move around quickly. The basic attack has a built-in charge (which you can turn on and off if you don't want to charge). I really like these options because it means that movement abilities aren't "required", and you can take other abilities if you prefer.

Gameplay is pretty good. It's not quite as smooth as D3, but it's quite enjoyable. The bosses at the end of Acts I and II were pretty difficult. However, you can set the difficulty down to Story mode for just those fights, if you want.

I really like the story. I haven't finished it, I'm just starting Act III. But so far it's been solid, with pretty good voice acting. The female character models are a little weird (super long legs), but they look better in armor and in gameplay. Speaking of armor, I really like the armor design in this game. The cosmetic system is superb.

I'm currently playing a sword-and-shield tank, putting most of my points into Toughness, with a variety of buffs and debuffs. It's a lot of fun.

I should note that Wolcen has had a lot of server issues on launch. Most of which seems to have calmed down now. However, there's an offline mode which is completely functional. I've been playing in offline mode for the most part.

I don't know what the endgame is like, though. Apparently there's some sort of mode where you build up a city or something? I figure I'll worry about that when I get to it.

I am really enjoying Wolcen and highly recommend it. They've hit the sweet spot between simplicity and complexity almost perfectly. It's fun to fiddle around with all the options, try out different talents and builds, but still being able to respec whenever something isn't working out. The game looks good, plays well, and the story is interesting.

For me, the single player campaign is worth the money. If the endgame turns out good, that will be the cherry on top.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Reviewing the EA Origin Access Premier Subscription

My EA Origin Access Premier subscription is coming up for renewal, and I thought I would look back and see whether it was worth it. I originally picked it up a year ago for Anthem.

Perhaps surprisingly, I didn't actually play many games on Origin. But then again, I usually play MMOs, which have their own setup. Games I played:
  • Anthem - Maybe it didn't have the longevity people (and Bioware) wanted but I really enjoyed the campaign, leveling, and messing around for a bit at max level.
  • Torchlight 2 - In the end, I did not like Torchlight 2. On the other hand, I might have purchased it and regretted the purchase.
  • Vampyr - Great game. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
  • Jedi: Fallen Order - A great Star Wars game. An excellent story.
So four games, two of which were AAA games that I played at launch, which would have cost me the full price. Vampyr, I think I could have found on sale for about 60%, and Torchlight 2 would have been very cheap.

All in all, I think was good value for the money, but not by a whole lot. In hindsight, I think I should have made an effort to play at least one more game from the back catalog. For example, Dragon Age 2 or similar.

So should I renew the subscription? Unlike when I purchased it, there's no major EA game I am anticipating. On the other hand, the track record of the past year seems pretty good. I don't regret purchasing the subscription in the least.

Taking a look at what's new, I see they just put in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. I was thinking about trying that, so maybe I'll just stick with the subscription for now. They're also saying something about making Origin available on Steam, which would simplify things, assuming I can manage to connect the two services.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Control Complete!

This post contains spoilers for Control.

I finished Control the other day. I loved it!

The world-building and atmosphere is superb. The game was just a joy to watch the story unfurl. The characters are varied and great.

The mechanics were pretty good, and they played well. It has just enough customization so that you can pick a playstyle, but not so much that you can mess up your build, and the game becomes unplayable. I ended up using the basic pistol and Launch for most of the game.

Two cautionary notes: first, there is no difficulty setting, and some of the bosses are hard. It seems to be optional side bosses mostly, however. I don't think there were major blockers in the main line. As well, bosses tend to be difficult because they deal a lot of damage in one or two hits. So you have to get good at avoiding taking hits. A fight which is going well can go south quite quickly.

Second, the game is clearly setting up for an expansion, DLC, or sequel. The ending, while tying up the main story and seeing Jesse grow into her position, leaves several important threads dangling. Honestly, though, I'm really looking forward to any new story content.

Control is a great game, and I highly recommend it!

Sunday, January 05, 2020

The Rise of Skywalker

This post contains major spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker. I discuss the ending and everything.

After watching The Rise of Skywalker, my first thought is that the story in Jedi: Fallen Order was a thousand times better than this movie.

I came across a forum post suggesting that The Rise of Skywalker would have been a better movie if Jar-Jar had been in it. After recovering from the shock of such rank heresy, I read the reasoning, and it actually made some sense! The thought was that RoS really needed a single designated comic relief character. That would have had allowed the other characters to be more serious, which would have improved their part in the movie. Instead, everyone other than Rey is trying to be witty and tossing one-liners around, most of which simply do not work. The worst was when C3P0's gallant sacrifice got undercut with a snarky one-liner.

Rise of Skywalker is best summed by this Simpsons clip of Sideshow Bob. RoS is Sideshow Bob, and the rakes are mistakes. The movie just steps from one mistake to the next. Palpatine is a mistake. Palpatine having a thousand Star Destroyers is a mistake. Each of those Star Destroyers being a planet-killer is a mistake. Rey being Palpatine's granddaughter is a mistake. General Hux getting dispatched ignominiously was a huge mistake. (Hux is my favorite character from the trilogy, and it was galling to see him go out like that. Such a waste.) And so on throughout the entire movie.

Truthfully, I just don't like J.J. Abrams movies. I haven't since Star Trek: Into Darkness. It's all "action sequence, one-liner, action sequence, one-liner, etc." Sometimes I really wonder how the same man wrote Alias.

J.J. Abrams also doesn't have a sense of space and time. It feels like this entire movie took place in a small city instead of a galaxy. Instead of people moving across a galaxy, they're merely going up the street to a different neighborhood. That's why it seems like their paths cross all the time. The Force Awakens had a very similar problem.

Heh, I think Finn/Rose must have done extremely badly in China. It's super-conspicuous how Finn gets paired with a black woman this time around.

The one thing I did like was the relationship between Rey and Kylo/Ben. I really liked how their realities bled into each others. It was a superb effect executed beautifully. And they simply did not bother explaining it. They didn't know why it was happening, just that it was, and then they started taking advantage of it. For me, Rey's "crowning moment of awesome" was when she dropped her lightsaber behind her back to Ben.

The ending itself violates Sanderson's First Law of Magics. There's no real reason Rey should be the winner. She just is, because the Jedi are simply more powerful than the Sith for some unknown reason. As such, it is an unfulfilling ending. Rey should have won because Ben was redeemed, because there were two Jedi at the end. Something like Rey holding Palpatine in place with the lightning sabers, and Ben finishing him.

I don't really have an opinion on the kiss, which seems to be controversial for some reason. The connection between the two of them is pretty much the only good part of the trilogy.

I do think having Ben die was a mistake. This was the final movie in a trilogy of trilogies. Let it end well, with hope and redemption and forgiveness. Have the last link to the original movies, Leia and Han's son, survive. This idea that redemption is only allowable if the bad guy immediately sacrifices himself--that needing to forgive the living is not necessary or desirable--is a weakness in modern Western storytelling.

Ultimately, I feel like you could take the three movies in this trilogy, and cut out everything but Rey and Kylo's story. Reduce Finn and Poe to side characters who only occasionally appear. The resulting movie might actually be pretty decent.