Friday, October 01, 2021

Queue World

Like pretty much everyone else in the MMO-sphere, I picked up Amazon's New World and gave it a spin.

The queues are pretty crazy. My guild was initially going to play on Morrow, but that was almost immediately full. So we moved to Nune Chaha, and that filled up to the point where there are long queues in the evenings. I ended up making an alt on a random empty server to play around, but even that has small queues now.

Amusingly though, my work schedule actually matches well to the queues. I'm currently working 12-8, so I can play for a little bit in the mornings when there are no queues.

The queues are annoying, but once you get in game, everything is quite solid.

This time around I'm putting all my points into Constitution and just using whatever the best weapons I currently have. I'm only level 13, so I imagine that eventually I'll have to specialize and respec.

One thing Amazon got mostly right--which a lot of recent games haven't--is chat. It's really nice to see chat hopping. As well, since New World is a faction-based PvP game, there's faction chat, which is really enjoyable. There's people coordinating PvP assaults and defenses for various zones, random guild/personal drama, and lots of complaints about taxation.

Our server looks to be shaping up as a fight between Syndicate (Purple) and Marauders (Green). Covenant (Yellow) seems way behind, and unfortunately lost their only piece of territory last night. Hopefully they can recover.

I'm not really sure if New World does anything amazing, but it does a lot of small things right. As well, it feels like it is missing the "go, go, go" mentality of recently releases like WoW Classic. You can log in, maybe do some quests, go harvesting, do some actual PvP, do PvP quests to bolster your faction's standing for a territory takeover. At this point, there doesn't seem like a optimal path you have to follow or fall behind.

As well, the world does feel like a world that actually takes time to travel from one area to another. There are some people complaining about that, but I think it's probably important for strategic PvP.

On the MMO-Champion forums, someone posted:

when discussing the game with a friend last night it hit me... its fun, but I have no idea why. It just feels laid back and enjoyable and I think that is why but not sure. It was kinda cool last night watching PVP folks doing patrols and PVE folks relaying information/positions to the PVP crews. 

And:

Yeah theres something about NW that just hooks me in, cant pinpoint it 100% though. It may be the open world feel where everything you do contributes in one way or another and that you easily can get distracted without hurting your "progress". Like I may run for a quest area and get sidetracked by collecting stuff, pvp, killing some new mobs for skinning etc etc. So much going on. Then you have the pvp wars happening now and then.

I think it's a good summary of the game. Everything works well enough, and it's fun watching what's going on while doing your own thing. And eventually, maybe join in on the PvP war.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

New World Open Beta Impressions

Amazon's New World had an open beta this past weekend, so I gave it a whirl. A couple of people in my guild are really excited about it, so we'll probably try to play on the same server when it comes out.

New World's best comparison is probably Elder Scrolls Online, though with worse questing, but better combat. It's a "classless" game. Characters can use every weapon and equip any type of armor. You do have stats which you can apply points to, and different weapons scale off different stats (or combinations of stats). For example, 2H Axes scale off Strength, Bows off Dexterity, Fire Staff off Intelligence, and Life Staff off Focus.

Respecs are free before level 20, so you can play around and experiment easily. Each weapon has two talent trees, and level up separately as you use them. Each weapon tree has 3 active abilities on medium-term (20-30s) cooldowns and you can have 2 weapons equipped and switch between them. Each weapon has a left-click quick attack, hold left-click heavy attack, and right-click block. Shift causes you to dodge.

So combat is basically weave quick and heavy attacks while dodging or blocking and occasionally using your active abilities. Combat overall is pretty decent. It's not as good as TERA, but it's better than most of these types of games.

The trinity roles do exist in this game, though perhaps muted compared to other games. Healing appears to be straightforward: use a Life Staff. Tanking seems more complicated. Certain weapons vastly increase threat if you use a certain type of gem. So I guess if you want to PvE tank, you use this gem on your weapons. Healing is actually somewhat decent as your abilities "lock on" to the player you are pointing at.

Harvesting and crafting also plays a big part in the game. You can harvest and craft everything on one character, but each type of harvesting and crafting levels up separately.

Character creation is okay. The characters aren't very good looking though. The armor is interesting, and different than the normal fantasy games. But mixing and matching armor types always ends up looking weird to me.

All in all, I'm not really sure what to think of New World. It's certainly not a bad game, and is probably worth checking out if you are interested. At the same time, nothing really grabbed me. I did not feel compelled to keep playing.

Though, truthfully, it might just be because it's a classless game. I always feel like I'm flailing around in these types of games, and don't really have a vision of what I want my character to be. I prefer games with a strong, inspiring class identity and clear separation from the other classes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Sanctum of Domination, Second Half

With the various scandals, about four or so of our raid team decided to take a break from the game. So we're down to 12-14 raiders at the moment. Never the less, we have persisted and have finished Sanctum of Domination on Normal.

On the positive side, my healing parse issues have suddenly disappeared. This expansion I've been grey-parsing, with very occasionally going into green. But now suddenly I'm back to blue and purple parses. I think that we were running with slightly more healers than we needed. Two of the four who took a break were very good healers. I think I was just getting sniped a lot of the time. We were running 4 healers for 16-18, and now we're running 2 healers for 12-14. We'll probably bump that up to 3 healers for heroics though, maybe depending on the fight.

Painsmith was a pretty tough fight when learning. There's a lot of damage going out, especially to the chains. Once everyone gets the hang of targeting the correct ball quickly, it goes smoothly.

Guardian of the First Ones is the DPS check of the instance. A nice, straightforward fight.

Fatescribe Roh-Kalo is pretty weird. It feels fairly long, but once you get the hang of assigning ring teams, and the team knows whether or not to go counter-clockwise, the fight goes shortly after. We usually wipe a couple times because we forget that we sometimes get three rings and don't assign a third team. Overall, I think it's a good fight. I'm not a fan of the beams that go across the circle, but only one half is marked. The circle is just too big.

Kel'thuzad for us was easier than the previous two bosses. Though if you get an early death it's often a wipe because the person gets raised under enemy control and then it's a hassle.

Sylvanas Windrunner is a good fight, but rather long and technical. It feels annoying when you get to the second or third phase to have to repeat the first couple of phases. But on the plus side people get a lot better at those phases. We'll see what it's like in Heroic. The Sylvanas fight is not as good as Jaina, though. I think it's because there's a lot of other stuff going on in the fight, so she doesn't get to shine.

It was an interesting experiment in trying to progress the story in the middle of a boss fight. I'm not sure it was entirely successful. It may have been better to just have two separate boss fights and progress the story between the two.

Then there's the cutscene after the boss fight. I think I'll save that for a future post on the story of this patch.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Sanctum of Domination, First Half

The new raid, Sanctum of Domination, came out last week. We only had one raid day last week, since a large number of people went on vacation. As is our tradition we went in on Normal.

First, it must be said that this is the most annoying raid entrance in a long while. It's surrounded by elites, and there doesn't seem to be an easy path. I switch to tank spec and ride through. DPS players have started using [Comfortable Rider's Barding].

The instance itself is pretty nice. It's a bit drab with the Maw and Torghast colour scheme and architecture, but Blizzard has made the layout interesting as you wander through the different sections.

We killed the first five bosses in Normal. The Tarragrue was interesting with anima powers before hand. We had two accidental pulls and wipes because people took the power that makes you jump far distances. Personally I think it's better if you just stick with straightforward defensive and offensive powers, and avoid the unusual ones.

The Eye of the Jailer was a pretty good fight, especially with the jump behind the eye. Not very difficult.

The Nine was an interesting fight. The first phase was pretty fun, but it didn't last very long. It seemed like the majority of the fight was fighting the last Valkyr alone. As long as you handle the Fragment mechanic decently, the fight is straightforward.

Soulrender Dormazain wasn't too bad easier. It was a little hard at first to see which slice of the platform was clear, but after a while you got used to it. I did like the mechanic where you want people with the debuff to overlap the adds to make killing them easier.

There was a cutscene with Garrosh afterwards which was pretty neat. It's kind of funny, but it was pretty popular online. Garrosh was totally unrepentant, and I think the playerbase found that attitude refreshing compared to whatever is going on the main story.

The final fight we did was Remanent of Ner'zhul. As long as you don't get knocked off the platform, this fight is straightforward. Stay in the center area, and time the knockback so it happens after the Orb of Torment has its armor broken by the boss.

There is a big cutscene after the Sylvanas fight at the end. I haven't actually watched it yet, but it was all over the WoW community. I've been trying to avoid spoilers, but I'm not really sure it's worth the effort.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

First Impressions of Crowfall

Crowfall formally released today. It's been something like six years. I backed it on Kickstarter so long ago. I tried it out in early early alpha, but it was too early for me. So I haven't really looked at it for several years.

In any case, I installed it and gave it a whirl. So far, it's not too bad. The graphics are cartoony and pleasant. There's not a great deal of character customization, though there are quite a lot of races. Some of which are far more unusual than the standard human-type. There are centaurs!

I'm playing a Human Templar, a 2H paladin type, which working out pretty well. There seems to be a big emphasis on harvesting and crafting.

Combat is decent. I'm only in the very early tutorial stages so far. So far it's left-click for your main attack combo, right-click for dodge or a defensive (you can replace the default ability with class abilities) and hot bar abilities with cooldowns. There's also combos and context-specific abilities. For example, my Templar's Parry Defensive combos into a knockdown after the parry.

Classes have a decent size talent tree, and it looks like all your abilities come from that tree. So class customization might be very important. You also get points to improve your stats as you level. Since I have no idea what I'm doing, I'm just raising all 5 stats evenly. What's interesting is that some talents you take in the tree also adjust your stats significantly.

If I have any complaint, it's that I think they could have done one more round of simplification, especially in their UI. For example, if you kill a mob, you can loot it with the F key, or full loot with the G key. I'm constantly hitting the wrong button. I think they should have just gone with F key full loots, and maybe bring up the regular loot window if your bags are full. 

A lot of the UI feels like that, just a touch too complex, and one more pass of simplifying would smooth things out.

In any case, I'm rather enjoying this simple part of Crowfall. We'll see what it's like when the PvP games come into play. If you're looking for a new MMO, maybe give it a whirl. It is Buy-2-Play, not Free-2-Play. You can use my account name, "rohanv", as a referral code for a discount or some-such if you want.

One thing to keep in mind, Crowfall uses your account name for all your characters. The actual characters are more like disposable tools, which fits with the game's story. However, this means you should take care with your account name, including capitalization, as I haven't found a way to change it. My account name is "rohanv", because I made it so long ago. I don't really mind using my name, but I would have preferred to have it capitalized in game.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Korthia and Maw Assaults

I've continued working on Korthia. I'm not really farming anything, just casually doing dailies and the Maw Assaults.

 The first Assault was Ardenweald. This was pretty good for the most part. The sneaking section was a little weird because other people were in there with you. There were a couple times where someone else redirected the searchlights right on to me.

The second Assault was Revendreth. This one was a bit unusual because it had a kill 30 mobs quest combined with a "feed corpses to a critter". But then there were two other "vehicle" quests where you couldn't activate the critter, but could still kill mobs. It wasn't too bad, but it kind of felt that the quests were fighting each other. Like you didn't want to kill too many mobs while in a vehicle, because you'd have to kill extra to feed the critter.

Also the last boss of the Assault must have been terribly annoying if you didn't have an SSD, as there were 8 loading screens!

I also took a couple of alts to Korthia. The skip is really nice, taking you right to the dailies.

The story is getting a bit more interesting too, with the introduction of the Nathrazeim. Be interesting to see where this goes. I hope it doesn't go too far into "The Jailer was responsible for all the the previous Evils in Warcraft!" It's already pushing into that territory with the Lich King and the Helm of Domination and Frostmourne.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

The Old Republic: Legacy of the Sith Announced

SWTOR has announced it's latest expansion, Legacy of the Sith, coming at the end of the year. It also kicks off the 10th anniversary celebrations of the MMO, which seems to be mostly flying under the radar these days.

Legacy of the Sith has the standard SWTOR expansion features: a new planet, some new instances, 5 new levels, and a new raid or operation.

However, the big announcement is that Bioware has managed to separate mechanical classes from stories. Apparently starting from Legacy of the Sith, you will first pick a story, and then pick a class to use. The classes are separated into Force and Tech, but you can use any Force class for any Force story.

So for example, you could play the Jedi Knight story with the Inquisitor theming and mechanics. I imagine it will make more sense with the Tech classes. For example, a Sniper in the Republic Trooper story does seem reasonable.

Bioware has also been vague about this, but they're hinting that you can switch classes on one character. Maybe you can take your Sniper and switch to Commando. Shades of FFXIV's character and class situation. This isn't confirmed yet, but it's certainly possible. All the work that went into separating out class and story might have been enough to make switching classes easy from a technical perspective.

Finally, the other interesting possibility is that Bioware can now introduce new mechanical classes. Before, any new class would require a new 1-50 class story, with all the requisite cutscenes and voice acting. But now a new class could just attach to the existing stories.

In any case, it looks interesting, so we'll see what future reveals bring.

Friday, July 02, 2021

First Impressions of Patch 9.1

Patch 9.1 in World of Warcraft came out this week. I've been going to some lengths to avoid spoilers, so it was pretty much all new to me.

It looks like it is continuing the Shadowlands max level content strategy of having several areas of content with separate currencies, and the bulk of the rewards coming from weekly quests. I like this strategy a lot, and the resulting pacing, so I'm happy that 9.1 continues with it.

The new story line still isn't that good, but it's serviceable, I guess. We'll see if Blizz manages to improve in the next few chapters.

The new zone, Korthia, is interesting. It's not as bleak as the Maw, but still kind of drab. So far the quests seem okay. It feels a lot like Rustbolt from BfA. Though there seem to be a lot of unusual complaints on Reddit. Today everyone was complaining that doing one daily where you had to pick up some animal was impossible. I logged in and it seemed perfectly reasonable to me.

I did try level 9 of Torghast solo. I scored 2 out 5, but I died twice. If I hadn't died, it would have been 3/5. I guess I need to go faster to get the better scores. But then there's also this Deck of Many Things which boosts you as you fill it out. Probably end up like Horrible Visions where it gets significantly easier to score higher as you fill out the talent tree.

All in all, Patch 9.1 looks good so far. Nothing really stands out, but it continues the steady pace. I'm looking forward to the new raid and dungeon.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Sire Denathrius and the Lack of Titanforging

As one raid tier ends and we look forward to the next one, I've been thinking about the end boss of Castle Nathria, Sire Denathrius.

I think Sire Denathrius was an excellent end boss for a raid. He was a difficult fight, which took us many attempts to learn and master. But at the same time, Denathrius was a predictable fight. Abilities happened on schedule, and there were definite marks the raid aimed for and tried to hit. Once we killed him once, and knew we could kill him, we repeated the kill every week. If we failed to kill him on an attempt, it was always because we made a mistake somewhere in the fight.

At the same time, though, Sire Denathrius never really became easier to kill. Killing him every week felt as difficult as killing him the first time. We would always switch from alts to mains and make sure we had the full complement of healers. Heck, one of our tanks switched classes after the first kill to take less damage and make repeating the kill easier! We couldn't really carry anyone on the kill. We only got AOTC for our two casual raiders (who don't come for progression night) in the second-last week, even though they had been faithfully attending every week.

I think the primary cause of this was the lack of titanforging. As a raid group, we killed Sire Denathrius near the peak of our gear level. Obviously we got some better gear from Denathrius and filled out holes, but we didn't improve enough to really put him on farm. In the two previous expansions, titanforged pieces or corrupted items would continue to drop. The raid's power level continued to increasing, making farming the end boss easier and easier.

I think that aspect of titanforging was useful. It made farming less stressful and more casual. People could bring alts, or we could carry friends, or take non-optimal compositions. I'm pretty sure we were two-healing an 18-person heroic N'Zoth by the end of the tier.

Maybe taking advantage of the Vault would work. For example, if you killed Sire Denathrius, your vault would guarantee one piece of gear from the next tier. So if you killed Heroic Sire Denathrius, you would get a Mythic item in the Vault next week. A Normal kill guarantees a Heroic piece. I think that would be enough to preserve the challenge of the first kill, but still allow the raid to improve enough in three to four weeks to make farming the end boss more relaxing and allow for more slack.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Updates

This move has really caused me to fall out of the habit of posting regularly. Not that I was doing a great job before, but still.

Life is a little weird at the moment. I'm still working on Pacific time with my current company, so that's really 12 noon - 8 pm. Ontario is also still locked down, so the grocery stores close at 8, and most other stores are not open. So mornings are my time to get non-work chores done.

I'm also still raiding with my guild, which means 10 pm to 1 am on a couple nights.

Gaming-wise, nothing much is going on. I'm actually trying to avoid playing new games, as I have a couple other side-projects I want to finish. I'm just adding games to my Steam wishlist, and hopefully I'll remember about them in a couple of months.

I also feel like I missed some important news in the MMO space. Crowfall is coming out next month, which I found out about through a Kickstarter backer email. Then I went over to /r/mmorpg on Reddit--usually a mistake--and everyone there is claiming that it is a mistake to launch at the same time as so many other launches. (In addition to pronouncing the game dead-on-arrival, which is normal for that subreddit.)

I thought we were in an MMO drought? Where did all the other launches come from? Actually, what are the new MMOs launching?

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Gaming Log - May 12

With the move and everything, I haven't been playing a lot of games lately.

World of Warcraft

My guild got Ahead of the Curve: Sire Denathrius while I was away. So I got it when I was able to rejoin the raid. It's a pretty interesting fight and one where it seems relatively easy for things to fall apart quickly.

Heh, on one attempt, the raid leader called a wipe in P2 and we all jumped off the side of the platform. Just then Sire did his death grip, and pulled us all back to him.

Diablo

I'm casually leveling a Demon Hunter in Seasonal to try out the companion changes. The big problem is that I don't particularly like Lyndon the Scoundrel. I would prefer to use Kormac the Templar or Eirena the Enchantress. But the Scoundrel uses Dexterity, like the Demon Hunter. So almost all the gear that drops has Dexterity, and most of the weapons that drop are bows or crossbows.

Now, most of the time the D3 change to have most gear drops tailored to your character is a good decision. It's only the solo player who wants to use a different companion who has issues.

One amusing thing is that the armor inventory graphic changes based on your character's gender and class. It doesn't change when equipped on your follower. (The in-game character model doesn't change with gear.) So Lyndon's character sheet looks like he is wearing a leather corset!

Friday, May 07, 2021

The Burning Crusade Classic

Blizzard announced the launch details for The Burning Crusade Classic. June 1st launch, May 18th pre-patch.

The weird/interesting part is this:

Before that, however, every hero must make a choice. Beginning on May 18, after each regional scheduled maintenance, the Burning Crusade Classic Pre-expansion Patch will be released, and each character must choose whether to advance onward to Burning Crusade, move to a Classic Era realm, or use the Character Clone service to play in both games.

I have to say that I don't really understand the purpose behind this. People have played Classic for a couple of years now. They've gone through all the phases of content. I rather imagine that most players are ready for something new.

So splitting the playerbase seems like a bad choice. The classic servers will probably be pretty empty. Classic is a numbers-intensive game. Maybe all the guilds that have 5 or so people left on a Classic server will band together, and be able to farm content.

If it was up to me, I would have done something like:

  1. All current Classic Realms advance to The Burning Crusade Classic.
  2. Six months later, open a handful of fresh Classic realms (maybe with #SomeChanges) and start the content release cycle over again.

The other contentious part is the Deluxe Edition for $70, which many people think is too much. For me, I've already discussed the issue in Cosmetic Versus Content Pricing. Expensive cosmetics and cheap content makes the game more accessible, but offends our sense of value.

In any case, I didn't get very far in Classic, maybe level 30 on one class. I'll probably give TBC Classic a whirl, maybe with a Blood Elf Paladin. I kind of expect to end up stopping at about 30 as well.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Player Choice and Power in Shadowlands

In Shadowlands, there's a lot more player choice which has to do with power than in the previous couple of expansions. We have:

  • Covenants
  • Soulbinds
  • The path through the soulbind tree
  • Conduits
  • Legendaries

In contrast, Battle for Azeroth pretty much had:

  • Azerite powers
  • Corruptions (at the end of the expansion)

Legion had:

  • The path through the artifact weapon tree. This was a temporary choice, however, as you could fill in the entire tree.
  • Legendaries

If you look at what people are complaining about in Shadowlands, the biggest complaint I believe is about these choices, especially covenants. By and large, all the extra choices aren't really doing anything as most people are following the main theorycraft and guides.

I wonder how Shadowlands would have looked if Blizzard had offered less choice. For example, suppose your class dictated your covenant. All paladins and priests get sent to Bastion, all druids and hunters join the Night Fae, etc. 

Blizzard would only need to focus on tuning one ability. The soulbinds could have functioned more like Legion artifact weapons, with a temporary tree that could be completely filled in.

I don't think the results would look all that different from what we have now. Most classes have one definitive covenant, and people use alts to see the other covenant stories.

Of course, in that alternate reality, we'd probably be complaining that Blizzard should have allowed us to choose our own Covenant.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Moving Back To Ontario

It's been quite a while since I last posted. After spending around 15 years in Vancouver, British Columbia, I decided to move back east to Ontario. I took some time off work, and made the journey by driving across Canada, stopping at various motels (usually a Motel 8) for the night.

It was a pretty interesting trip. Here's a Google Maps showing the route I took. Mostly following the Trans-Canada Highway.

Day 1 - The moving company came and took my belongings around noon, and I left Vancouver shortly after that. I started in my old 2003 Nissan Sentra. I made it to Kamloops, BC.

Day 2 - Just after leaving Kamloops, the "Service Engine" light came on. When I got to Salmon Arm, I searched for the nearest Nissan dealership. There was one in Vernon, so I detoured south and asked them to take a look at it. They said there was leak in the fuel system, and it might catch fire. They also didn't have parts to fix it, and the parts were on back-order across North America.

In the end, I bought a new car! A rather unexpected purchase, but the old car was 18 years old, so it had a good run. I was debating between another Sentra and a Kicks (compact utility vehicle). In the end I went with the Kicks. Compared to my old car, it has a ton of gadgetry. I do like Car Play though. It is interesting how the car companies just let the phone take over.

Day 3 - I picked up the new car from the dealership at noon, and continued on. Pretty much lost a day and a half. I ended up having to take a detour down to Radium Hot Springs and then back up to Banff due to construction. Radium Hot Springs has some gorgeous scenery. Actually all of this part of British Columbia is quite beautiful. I ended up stopping for the night in Canmore, Alberta. This amused me because I used to watch Royal Canadian Air Farce back in the day, and one recurring character was "Mike from Canmore."

Day 4 - I drove to Calgary, and then stopped to visit with a friend from high school for an hour or so. Calgary is a really weird city. It has like a grid of "arteries", main roads which traverse the entire city. However within each square it's very suburb-like, with lots of curving roads and cul-de-sacs. For a stranger, it's kind of hard to tell if a large street is an artery, or just the entrance to the grid.

After Calgary I drove to Swift Current, Saskatchewan. I really should have stopped at Medicine Hat, but I pressed on. One of the hard things to judge on these long drives is when to stop, especially as the towns are so far apart.

Day 5 - I drove to Winnipeg, Manitoba. This drive was all prairies. The element you notice here is the sky. It dominates the view, as the land is so flat.

Day 6 - The stopping point here was Thunder Bay, Ontario. Northern Ontario is really big. As well, the speed limit was lower up here, around 90 km/h, where it had been 110 km/h for most of the western provinces.

Day 7 - I went around Lake Superior to Sault Ste. Marie. This part is all Canadian Shield, with the lake on your right, popping in and out of view. Quite pretty, but might be better in summer, rather than just coming out of winter. I probably could have kept driving to Sudbury, but stopped a little early.

Day 8 - Drove to my parent's place in Brantford. Toronto traffic was a less than pleasant experience after the previous seven days on the Trans-Canada Highway. Still, it was good to finally make it to my destination.

That was my trip across Canada. I've always wanted to drive it, so that's one item crossed off my list. It was very enjoyable. Sometime later, I would like to drive to the Maritimes, or maybe across the United States.

Having to get a new car was a bit disconcerting, but I really like the Kicks, and I think it worked out well in the end. Maybe I should make more decisions quickly, rather than contemplating for a long time.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Heroic Stone Legion Generals Down!

My guild killed Heroic Stone Legion Generals tonight! 9/10 Heroic Castle Nathria!

Actually, it was decided to drop Normal entirely, so we started on Heroic Tuesday. We got through the first 8 bosses fairly smoothly, even with a couple new people on Council and Sludgefist. We even got a few attempts on the Stone Legion, and laid down our strategy.

So tonight we went in focused on them. It took a few pulls, but we killed them after an hour or so. In Heroic at least, it's just a matter of doing all the mechanics, and making sure to clear the various bleeds that you can get.

Then we started doing Sire Denathrius attempts. Phase 1 is very finicky, so it took us quite a while to get that smoothly and start seeing Phase 2. On the last attempt of the night, we had a very clean pull, and ended up pushing him into Phase 3. Three-quarters of the raid was dead at that point, though, and the rest followed shortly.

Still, quite good progress. A couple more weeks of practice, and we should get him down.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Magic: Universes Beyond

Magic: the Gathering is introducing "Universes Beyond", a new initiative to go heavily into cross-overs with other franchises. The first new products will be Warhammer 40k and Lord of the Rings.

Here's the announcement.

Such cards will be mechanically unique, look exactly like regular Magic cards and will be tournament-legal, at least in the non-rotating formats. Wizards did this last year with a special package of 5 cards from the television show The Walking Dead.

Needless to say, the enfranchised fans on in the internet are not happy.

I don't know, maybe it will work out for Wizards. Maybe they'll get more new people to buy in on the strength of the external IP, and most enfranchised players will stick with it.

Personally, though, this feels to me like the moment Magic jumps the shark.

A funny comic from Cardboard Crack:


 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Heroic Sludgefist Down!

So last raid night we were working on Heroic Sludgefist. Our raid leader used Exorsus Raid Tools to make this neat note with a list of healer cooldowns and the time to use them. What was particularly cool is that times in the note would count down as the fight went on. Then they would grey out as the time went past. So you'd see the who the next CD was, and how long it would take.

Still, though, Sludgefist was pretty hard. The thing is that almost every death is from chains in some fashion, so every death actually takes out two people. It's also a fight where it comes down to whether you have enough people survive to the end. We had some heart-breaking wipes. We wiped at 5%, 2%, and 1%, among others.

Finally on our very last attempt of the night we got him down. We had most people survive past the fourth pillar, and that was enough to kill him even as we lost many people in that last phase. I was chained to another healer in that phase, and we both moved in opposite directions and broke the chain. Must have given our raid leader a heart attack to lose half the healers at the very end of the fight. Luckily, the raid was able to hang on for another 30 seconds and kill him.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Diablo 3 Follower Revamp

In a complete surprise, Diablo 3 is revamping Followers next patch:

Follower System Revamp: The Follower system for Diablo III has been revamped and will be made permanently available for Seasonal and Non-Seasonal play! Players can now equip Followers with a total of 14 different item slots which include the Follower Relic Item, Helm, Shoulders, Chest, Gloves, Bracers, Belt, 2 Rings, Neck, Pants, Boots, main-hand weapon, and off-hand. We're introducing a new Follower feature into Diablo III called Emanate, which allows the player to gain the intended effect of certain Legendary Powers and Set Bonuses when equipped on the hired Follower.

It's a pretty big buff to solo play, as well as getting a lot of use out of secondary or utility items. Blizzard is also revamping many of the Follower abilities.

As someone who plays D3 solo, I'm quite looking forward to the next patch. The only real issue remaining with followers is that it is difficult to use a follower with a different main stat than yours. D3 loot revamp meant that if you're a Strength class, most of the loot that drops for you is Strength. Personally, I like using a follower which is different, like Crusader + Enchantress, so gearing them well is always a pain.

The most amusing thing about this change is how it took the forums completely by surprise. It's a bigger change than expected for such an old game with 2 new entries on the horizon.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Diablo IV Rogue Reveal

At Blizzcon, Blizzard revealed the fourth class in Diablo IV: the Rogue.

The Rogue is your typical Dexterity-based character. Interestingly enough, it covers both ranged and melee, making it unlikely we'll see another class focused on one type. I think it looks pretty good, with a nice back-to-basics vibe, rather than something exotic.

The classes previously revealed are Barbarian, Druid and Wizard. So naturally enough, everyone is speculating about the fifth class. The two big archetypes missing are the heavy plate wearer with a shield, or a summoner class.

I'm hoping for the Paladin, or a similar class like Crusader or Templar. Alternatively, I'd like something new. Though not a Death Knight variant. So far Blizzard is playing it really safe with Diablo IV, and I would like to see at least a little bit of innovation.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Chains of Domination Trailer

Not a huge amount announced at Blizzcon this year. For WoW, we got the trailer for Patch 9.1: Chains of Domination.

So it looks like Anduin is being controlled by the Jailer into a quasi-Death Knight. The Covenants will be going on the offensive, attacking the Maw. The new raid will be attacking the Sanctum of Domination in Torghast. There's also a new long Mythic dungeon like Karazhan or Mechagon.

Nothing unexpected, but it all looks pretty decent.

Regarding the story, and Anduin being mind-controlled, I was amused to recall the start of Pandaria. In the Jade Forest questline, Anduin mind-controls Sully into letting him escape. Maybe a touch of karma there.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Short Raid Night

Apparently WoW is having server issues as we were having odd lag and delays during the raid tonight. Regardless we did the skip in Normal, killing the last bosses, and then went on to Heroic.

We got up to Lady Inerva, and then saw the dreaded "Server Restart in 15:00". So we pulled her.

Luckily the fight went well, we got her down on the first attempt. We looted quickly, ran out of the instance and logged out.

It looks like the servers will be offline for a while, so we called the raid early. None the less, we are in a good position for our next raid night. Hopefully this will translate into a lot of time to practice Sludgefist.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Slide Into the Void

I came across a really well done fan music video for Remedy's Control. It's by The Stupendium, called Slide Into the Void:

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Heroic Xy'mox and Council of Blood Down!

 Two new Heroic bosses down this week! We killed both Xy'mox and Council of Blood for the first time.

Xy'mox was pretty funny. We started the attempt with a hunter misdirecting onto our top healer, getting a critical aimed shot, and Xy'mox killing the priest instantly, who then had to be battle-ressed. But after that, the fight settled down and we went through phase 1 and 2 really well, lost some people in phase 3, but had enough alive to finish him off. No fuss was made, as half the raid (including me) thought we had already killed him last week, but we had only gotten into phase 3.

Council of Blood took a few attempts, mostly to handle the partner mechanic properly. We did it in a slightly different order than Normal, going Stavros-Niklaus-Frieda, so that we got rid of the partner mechanic first.

Otherwise it was much the same as Normal, only with 2 more dance steps and adds for the ranged to kill in the second phase.

Then we tried Sludgefist and got wrecked a lot. It will probably take some time to handle the new chain mechanic. We have an unfortunate amount of people who kept using speed boosts on that part.

Still, now we're 7/10. We really need to look at shortening our time in Normal now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Return of Valor Points

Yesterday Blizzard announced that in the upcoming Patch 9.0.5, Valor points will make a return in Mythic Keystone dungeons and allow you to upgrade Mythic Keystone gear.

I have mixed feelings about this.

The one really good thing about Mythic Keystones is that there is a constant push to do higher and higher Keystones. Better gear from the dungeons, better gear from the Vault, a higher Raider.io score so you will be accepted into better groups, everything pushes you to keep climbing.

That is actually pretty rare historically. Whenever quality of reward scales with difficulty in repeatable content, players target the highest difficulty they can do. However, whenever quantity of reward scales with difficulty in repeatable content, players instead go after the easiest content they can do quickly, optimizing for reward per unit time. And Valor is pure quantity of reward.

We saw this every time Valor was introduced previously, from Mechanar onwards. We see it in Diablo III, where players farm the easiest Torment they can do in 5 minutes instead of the difficult ones.

The worst thing that can happen to Mythic Keystone dungeons is if players stop pushing high keys, and start running low keys incessantly just to get Valor quickly.

I think the Torghast model of rewarding Soul Ash might be a good fit. Let's say you get a 100 Valor per level of Mythic Keystone. So if you do a +2, you get 200 Valor, a +6 is 600 Valor, and so on. If you did a low level and then a high level, you only get the difference. So you only need to do the high level. You could do it for each dungeon, like Torghast does for each wing, encouraging people to get a spread of high keys.

I guess we'll see what model Blizzard goes with. But from my point of view, Valor points are dangerous, encouraging a spammy, non-challenging playstyle which brings out the worst in the playerbase.

Monday, February 08, 2021

FFXIV: Endwalker Announced

To the Moon! Apparently that's a tradition in the Final Fantasy series. 

The trailer is a bit opaque, as the main thrust of the story is more that it finishes the major Zodiark/Hydaelyn story that has been ongoing since launch. Apparently a new story will start with Patch 6.1. As well, I think what's actually going on is a bit murky in-game.

The new class is Sage, which looks like some sort of sci-fi Healer. I understand it will be a shield healer along with Scholar. Meanwhile Astrologian will be reworked to be closer to White Mage as a regular healer, giving two of each type.

There's another new class as well, but it will be revealed in May. I believe the expansion proper is launching in September.

Truthfully, though, I haven't played FFXIV since 5.3, so I'm probably not up-to-date on what is happening. On the one hand, it probably would be good to finish the complete story. On the other hand, I don't really like the current main villain, Zenos. I wish he had stayed dead in Stormblood.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Heroic Sun King Down!

It was our Heroic raid night, so we continued on from where we left off. We recleared fairly quickly and then settled down to practice Sun King.

Heroic Sun King is a lot more, well finicky might be the best word, than Normal. It seems to want pretty precise timing on things, as we try to transition phases at just the right time. We're doing a strategy where we move Kael down the sides of the room, side-stepping out of the cone and fire blast. Overall it works pretty well, though it took a fair number of tries before we were able to get out of that phase without too many deaths.

In the end though, we killed healed him up and beat the fight. 5/10 Heroic!

Then we moved on to Xy'Mox. I think we figured out phase 1 and phase 2 on heroic, so we just have to get the timing right on phase 3. We only got past phase 2 on our last try of the night. I think if we get a decent amount of time on him next week, we'll get him down.

In some ways this is the weirdest part of the raid tier. We have to decide on when we should drop Normal so that we can get enough time to focus on the last half of Heroic.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Gaming Log - February 2

Raid night again. We went through Castle Nathria Normal fairly quickly, with only 1 wipe on Sludgefist. We even had a flawless Sire Denathrius, where everyone did mechanics correctly and no one died. Pretty solid raid, all in all.

I got a i207 trinket off Denathrius which replaced my lowest piece of gear, an i184 trinket. The old trinket did have Leech on it, which is why I kept it for so long. Otherwise I did not get anything from the Vault. All three pieces were sidegrades or downgrades. I probably should have done a Mythic Keystone last week though. Oh well, I picked up the extra Stygia, which I expect I will lose by accidentally dying in some unreachable part of Perdition's Hold in the Maw.

Otherwise I'm mostly working on trying to get caught up on Renown on my paladin. I got 3 Renown from the raid, which unlocks more of the story. The plan is to finish that off this week, hopefully.

Oh, I also got the Chinese New Year mount today, the golden bull. I forgot I had a 6-month subscription. It's actually quite well done and looks very good. Not like the Bastion mounts which have a wider back than normal. My Paladin's legs stick out straight way to the sides, kind of like a Barbie doll forced on the back of toy creature. Looks wrong and rather painful, so I'm sticking with the Legion Highlord charger.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Gaming Log - January 31

Not much happened this weekend. I did another chapter in the Bastion story on my paladin, visiting Ardenweald this time. Decent enough. I'm about Renown 16 or 17. Maybe I'll be able to catch up next week.

On my priest I did some callings and some quests in the Maw. I've currently upgraded all my Covenant gear to Rank 6 of 7. On the other hand, I've built very little of the Sanctum upgrades. I wonder if the Anima drought will end in the next patch.

I also finished Maldraxxus on my Rogue. I went Night Fae with Threads of Fate. The Night Fae Rogue ability, Sepsis, is interesting. It's a DoT that, when it finishes, gives you a big burst of damage. If the mob dies before the DoT finishes, the cooldown is reduced by 30 seconds. It's a pretty good way of not penalizing you for using it on regular mobs, rather than making you save it for bosses.

Friday, January 29, 2021

PuG Bad Behaviour

Tonight, I ran a mythic Spires of Ascension for a covenant quest. I have pugged a handful of times this expansion, and every time it has gone badly. This time around the tank said that since he didn't need any items from the last boss, and he disliked the warlock in the group for some reason, he left right before the last boss. I think he disliked the warlock because the warlock didn't put down a summoning stone when the priest disconnected. Not sure why that was an issue, though. So I switched to tank (from DPS) and invited someone from my guild and we killed the last boss.

There are a couple of FFXIV discussion boards I follow, where there is a vocal contingent of skilled players who are unhappy that FFXIV severely punishes people for suggesting that other players are not playing well enough. They feel that this causes people to slack off and play badly (with the biggest complaint being healers who don't deal damage). While there is a grain of truth in that, the alternative seems to be how people behave in WoW, where they use elitism to justify bad behavior.

Given the two options, I would much rather have the FFXIV behavior in random groups.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Gaming Log - January 28

Raid day again. This time we were in Castle Nathria Heroic. 

We killed Shriekwing and Huntsman fairly quickly, but then wiped a bunch of times on Hungering Devourer. Not entirely sure why. We did have some people who had not been there last week. In any case, we killed it after a few pulls.

We took another couple of pulls on Darkvein, but killed her in the end. People dying on the triangle mechanic mostly, which is pretty much a wipe. I actually healed from range on this one, just so I could reach people going to the back of the room.

Ee spent the last hour learning Heroic Kael'thas. We're still trying to master phase 2, as it just falls apart quite quickly. Oh well, this one might take us a few nights. Or it could just click.

There is a Holy Light build that uses a different Legendary and Conduit that I am considering trying. You can play it more ranged, which might be useful on certain fights.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

First Chapter of the Kyrian Covenant Campaign

 I did the first chapter of the Kyrian campaign today. It's quite good, but also kind of weird.

Basically you're following one of the Aspirants around as she prepares for ascension. The two of you go to Azeroth to escort a soul back to the Shadowlands. In Azeroth, you meet the soul of Ben Howell and relive his last day.

It's a pretty cool quest, one where you're just a good, average man with a family. I won't spoil how he dies, but it was pretty touching and tied in with the original story back in Azeroth. However, once you finish that part, you escort the Ben's soul back to Oribos where he is promptly thrown into the Maw!

It kind of illustrates how wrong the Kyrian are. If the Forsworn were a pure third-party faction, then it would be very tempting to join them. But instead they're allied with the obvious bad guy, which just makes them seem stupid as well.

I guess we'll see how Blizzard resolves this in future chapters, but so far I think the execution of the Kyrian parts of the story have been pretty poor, and greatly hurt the faction.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Gaming Log - January 26

Normal Castle Nathria raid night again. This was my first raid as Kyrian, so I was looking forward to see how it worked.

In addition to its raw power, Divine Toll feels very good. Light of Dawn to get to zero Holy Power, Divine Toll to 5 Holy Power and 5 Holy Shocks and 5 Glimmer of Lights, then Light of Dawn again, is super strong just on its own.

I parsed quite a bit better--well, blue and green parses, but better than grey--on several fights, though there's a few I still need to work on. I did manage to get chained every single time on Sludgefist, which was annoying. I never really used the Steward potions, but now that I think about it, I probably could have in Stone Generals to remove a bleed.

I'm up to Renown 7 or 8 already. I did get a couple renown ranks from the raid itself, which I wasn't expecting. I think the full catch up will take a couple of weeks, though.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Switching Covenants

I bit the bullet and switched my paladin to Kyrian. I didn't really want to, but I'm parsing so low that's it's probably best to follow the theorycraft exactly until I figure out and fix whatever the issue is. I do have an alt rogue which I will put in Night Fae.

Divine Toll is really, really powerful. Even on Retribution and Protection it's pretty insane. Full Holy power and large amounts of damage to start the fight. I tanked a Spires of Ascension +4 after I switched, and it was pretty awesome. Multiple shields bouncing everywhere on pretty much every other pull. Though I did accidentally pull one extra pack with it before the third boss.

It is a bit interesting what carried over from the previous covenant. Neutral adventurers like Meatball and Croman come over with their same level. Covenant adventurers that you've previously rescued in Torghast can be found in the central Torghast area, though they start at level 1. You can use armor from your previous covenant, but you can't use the transmog. You can't use the previous covenant mounts, though. You do keep your conduits and their levels, but you have to unlock the soulbinds again as you gain renown.  Otherwise, you pretty much start from scratch.

Oh well, I do like the Kyrian plate armor, mount and classical Greek aesthetics. Let's hope the story is interesting.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A Redistricting Toy Problem

This is a non-gaming post.

I've been thinking about drawing electoral districts and gerrymandering lately. I came up with a simple toy problem that I cannot decide on an answer for. So I'll throw it out for any readers to comment on.

Imagine we have a small, square town. There are two parties here, the Blues and the Greens. Most people lean Blue or lean Green. However, partisanship is not extreme, and some people will vote for a particularly charismatic or competent candidate from the other party. For various reasons about 2/3 of the people lean Blue and live on the west side of town. 1/3 lean Green and live on the east side. Like so:

B | B | G

B | B | G

B | B | G

The city has a council with 3 councilors. What's the best way to draw three districts for this town?

If you slice vertically, then you guarantee representation. There will be 2 Blue councilors, and 1 Green. However, the districts are not competitive at all, and there's no real possibility that Green will ever get a majority.

If you slice horizontally, then you guarantee competitiveness. However, it's quite possible that Green will lose all three elections, and have no representation at all. But if the Green party is particularly good one year, then they could take 2 or even 3 seats and have a majority.

So I don't know what the best solution is. Maybe the solution is to ignore district composition entirely and use strictly geographical borders.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Gaming Log - January 23

Not a lot done today. I woke up to find that one of the pipes in my apartment had sprung a leak, so my morning was preoccupied with cleaning up and getting the superintendent to fix it. Luckily it was a pretty small leak.

I did a couple of callings on my Paladin, then did the souls weekly and a Maw weekly + daily combo that was in the same area.

I then did a couple callings on my Priest, and upgraded another slot. It's kind of funny, I have almost none of the Sanctum upgrades on my Priest, as all my anima has been put into upgrading armor.

Finally I did a few more quests in Revendreth and got to level 53. Though, I have the suspicion that I'm getting more XP from mining than actual quests and combat.

Friday, January 22, 2021

An Interesting View of Gear in Shadowlands

Wrathofkublakhan at Coffee Cakes and Crits has an interesting way of looking at gear in Shadowlands:

Visiting the Wow Community Forums, I see all-in-caps complaining about the low loot drops in dungeons and raids. I think that they are looking at it wrong. The right way, it seems to me, is to look at your own ilevel. Mine is about 200 with a 9/10 clear so far of the current raid. That is about perfect.

I have gear pieces above and below 200 and a chest piece and/or weapon drop at 200 would be welcome. This is good. The game is working. I remember in BfA out-gearing the raid before we even started. The same in Legion, there would be times when we’d start a raid and all eyes were on the final bosses for chances of an upgrade.

I think this is a good way of looking at gear. I'm i205, and we're 4/10 Heroic Nathria. That's just about perfect. Loot is scarce, but every item that drops in new and challenging content is an upgrade. Most likely an upgrade for me, but guaranteed for someone in the raid. I have some high pieces (Legendary and rings, for some reason) and some pieces that could still use a Normal Nathria upgrade (bracers, as is tradition ever since Cho'gall).

I really like how loot is handled in Shadowlands. Loot is scare and thus valuable. I know there's a lot of complaints on places like Reddit, but I strongly hope that Blizzard holds the line.

About the only thing that might need a look is collecting raid sets for transmog. And even that might be fine after a couple more months.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Gaming Log - January 21

Raid night again. This time we're going into Heroic.

I changed my keybinds to more closely match last expansion. As well, I decided to lean on Light of Dawn instead of Word of Glory. I think those changes helped a bit, but I'm still parsing very low.

In any case, it was a pretty productive raid, as we killed Huntsman Altimor, Hungering Destroyer and Lady Inerva Darkvein, making us 4/10 for the raid.

On Huntsman we wiped 5 times, always at the same point when we had to switch to and kill the shades in P2. Sometimes we switched too late, so they became immune to CC and got their casts off. But once we got past that phase, it was a pretty clean kill.

Hungering Destroyer had 3 wipes, mostly getting used to the strategy. We set up in a box around him in the middle of the room, with 4 groups on the corners. Then we make sure one miasma person goes to each group. The wipes mainly came from multiple beams moving out to the same place.

Finally, we had 6 wipes on Lady Inerva Darkvein, including a wipe at 5%. This was mostly refining the strategy and making sure that everyone did the orbs quickly. Our kill was going well until the last 10% and then everyone started dying. I think we killed her with 5 people left alive. Though I was in a Podtender cocoon, and a priest was in angel form.

Still, a pretty good raid. This part of heroic raiding is still the best, where you wipe steadily until you succeed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Wave to Gor'goroth

I'm a Guide on my main, and it's pretty interesting to see what questions pop up in Newcomer chat. The most common thing people seem to be having trouble with is using emotes. Or possibly that's just a mistake which ends up in chat, while other mistakes are invisible. The other major mistake, which is also visible, is talking in the wrong channel.

For background, one of the quests in the new introductory area of Exile's Reach asks you to /wave to an ogre (and then to /dance with him). It's very common to see newbies type "wave" or "wave to Gor'goroth" in newcomer chat (which appears to be the default for new players).

Slash commands are second nature to experienced players, so it's enlightening to see how foreign they are at first. It's possibly even more foreign nowadays in the age of phone and tablet apps, where everything is done through taps and gestures.

I wonder if WoW should follow FFXIV's lead and create an emote menu, with icons you can drag to your bars. You can do this now with macros (memories of /kneel macros to get the achievement for Fandral Staghelm in Firelands), but you can't expect a beginner to handle macros.

I do like WoW's implementation of the guide system a little bit better than FFXIV's mentor system. There's no visible marker for guides, unlike the crown in FFXIV. Guides can identify new players (murloc marker), and new players can identify guides (green flag marker), and both have access to Newcomer chat, but that's it. As a result, I think Newcomer chat is pretty helpful and sensible.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Gaming Log - January 19

Raid night tonight. We went through all of Normal Castle Nathria and the first boss of Heroic. There was only one wipe on Sludgefist, and one wipe on trash. We tried to get too clever and avoid one trash pack, but ended up pulling it and the next at the same time.

But otherwise it was a really good raid. DPS stepped it up a notch, and all of our kills were guild records my a significant amount.

I added a WeakAura to show me when Holy Shock is up, but I don't think it helped that much. Maybe I'll try adding WeakAuras for the full priority list.

Loot-wise, I got i213 shoulders from the Great Vault, and then an i200 shield from the raid. I also got two boots for transmog. One thing about the scarcity of loot is that it does make collecting the set much harder. I only have three pieces of the Castle Nathria set.

Other than the raid, both the world boss and the daily calling were in the same area of Revendreth, so I did them together. A cool 500 anima, half the weekly quest in one go.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Soulshape Quality of Life Improvement

The main Night Fae ability is Soulshape. It transforms you into the shape of a creature, and blinks you forward. The blink is on a four second cooldown. You also move faster while in Soulshape form. In the regular world, Soulshape lasts for a few seconds, so it's a temporary speed boost/blink combination. Soulshape is on a 1.5 minute cooldown.

There are many different shapes that you can collect or find. You get two more, stag and moth, through the story. I spent 1500 anima on a tiger shape from the mushroom network NPC. (In hindsight, perhaps not the best use of anima.)

The other interesting element of Soulshape is that if you use it in a rest area, it has an infinite duration. This is especially useful in places where you cannot mount. So you can freely run around Oribos or the Heart of the Forest in Soulshape form and it is faster than walking.

However, one issue with Soulshape is that if you go through a portal, it will pop you out of Soulshape. There are two such portals in the Night Fae headquarters, one to the mushroom network and one to the Queen's Conservatory. It's pretty common to go through the portal, come back out, and still have Soulshape still be on cooldown.

A small quality-of-life improvement would be for Soulshape to have no cooldown if used in a rest area. It already lasts forever, and this would just clean up the few rough spots where you get forced out of Soulshape.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Gaming Log - January 17

I played my priest for a fair bit yesterday and today. I finished the second-last chapter of the Maldraxxus campaign. It's a pretty good campaign, and seems far more focused on the main story of Shadowlands.

I also did a Layer 4 of Torghast with a beast companion, mostly to finish one of the daily callings. The beast companion worked pretty well. It could taunt and hold aggro, which made it a little easier to play a Shadow Priest. I rather wish this wasn't a temporary event, but a full-time one. Though really, I could always go with a group if I really needed to.

I think I'm going to stop at Layer 4 with my priest. It's easy enough, and you get the lion's share of Soul Ash. Given that I haven't even made one legendary for the priest, I'm not really worried about it. Right now my goals for the priest are to finish the covenant campaign and get enough anima to fully upgrade the covenant set.

I also started my Horde Warrior. This time I went for Threads of Fate, and started with Revendreth. Revendreth gives warriors an improved Execute, and honestly, I don't see how any of the other covenants can compete with that. Threads of Fate itself is interesting. It feels very much like Adventure Mode from Diablo 3. About the only complaint I have is that some of the area quests where you fill a bar are a bit too long. I was killing things, looked at my bar, and was a bit shocked to see that I was only at 40%.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Torghast Beasts

This week there's a special event in Torghast where you can get a beast companion at the start of the instance and then improve it with anima powers instead of your own. This is the regular wings, not Twisting Corridors

I did a couple of Layer 8s, and as I was the healer, I gave the beasts a whirl. They seemed okay to me. I got this combo where the beast did 100% extra damage, but lost health every second, and a power where if the beast dropped to low health, it would explode. When the combo went off, it did a lot of damage.

However, I think it might have worked better solo. With a full group, we were killing things pretty quickly, so nothing lasted long enough. The beast did do the majority of my damage. And I mean I was a healer, so it's not like I would have done high damage if I hadn't taken the beast.

I've done both wings, so I probably won't do Torghast again this week. But the next time it comes around, I might try doing a wing solo with the beast companion.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Gaming Log - January 15

I finished the daily Calling in Revendreth, then a weekly quest in the Maw, healed a De Other Side +7, and then did Torghast Twisted Corridors Layer 2 in a group of 5.

This is what I like about Shadowlands. A lot of bouncing around from place to place and activity to activity.

Sadly we didn't time De Other Side. We wiped twice, once on the Manastorms and once on the Broker, and that was enough for us to miss the timer by about a minute or so.

Twisting Corridors was a little insane. I was Retribution and I did 242k DPS on the final boss! Even so, I came in third on the meters. The final boss just fell over. We used a Ravenous Cell to get extra currency from skeletons, so by the end we had over 2000 currency to spare. Pretty crazy run.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Need to Improve My Healing

I'm not really sure what happened, but my healing in raids has suddenly become abysmal. Last raid tier, I could regularly parse about 80% of similar item level. Tonight, I managed 12%. 12%! That's like basically not healing at all! My other guild healers are carrying me at this point.

(It's not totally bad. We killed Sire Denathrius on Normal, and killed Shriekwing on Heroic for the first time.)

I'm not really sure what I'm doing wrong this tier. As far as I can tell from the guides and theorycraft, the Paladin healing style this expansion is similar to last tier. Holy Shock, Crusader Strike, keep Glimmer up, etc. Maybe Holy Power and Word of Glory are throwing me off rhythm. Maybe I'm trying to use Word of Glory too much instead of relying on Holy Shock.

I know I'm losing a bit from not being Kyrian, but not this much. Still though, maybe I should change. Though one problem with changing is that I'm currently wearing three pieces of covenant armor, and I don't have replacements.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Gaming Log - January 13

A mage in my guild wanted to start Torghast Twisting Corridors, so I ran Layer 1 with him. I went as Protection paladin and he was a Frost Mage.

It went pretty well, though no absolutely crazy combinations of powers for me. Just steady build up of all the paladin powers and tank health. I did take the power that doesn't allow you to move backwards, which was kind of weird. I usually mouse-move, so it wasn't a huge deal.

I did die once, on the last boss at 1%. I think I had stopped paying attention, and then took his special directly instead of avoiding it. Luckily the mage was able to finish him off.

Twisting Corridors is pretty long. That run took us almost two hours. Though to be fair, we probably could have pulled more aggressively and done multiple groups at a time. I am glad Twisting Corridors is thoroughly optional, though.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Gaming Log - January 12

Raid night again. This time we got the first 9 bosses down, and even had time for 2 pulls on Sire Denathrius. We have some new people who need to learn the fight though, so it will probably take another few pulls on Thursday.

I did change up my build slightly. I switched from Holy Prism to Judgment of Light, and from Sanctified Wrath to Awakening. I'm not sure it really changed much though. I need to find or make a Weak Aura to ensure that I cast Holy Shock on cooldown, and not delay it a GCD or so.

I'm also considering switching Covenants to Bastion. I don't really want to, because I like Night Fae. But the Bastion paladin ability, Divine Toll, is extremely strong. The Night Fae Blessings of the Season are fun, but not very powerful and also a bit clunky to use.

It was also Vault day. I got a i213 ring, courtesy of that crazy Plaguefall run yesterday. I guess that made it worth it in the end.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Mythic Keystone Monday

Monday night, so everyone in guild was doing a few Mythic Keystones to round out tomorrows Vault. I healed a Mists of Tirna Scithes +4, then dps'd a Halls of Atonement +6. Finally I tanked a Plaguefall +7.

Or perhaps "attempted" to tank Plaguefall would be a better description of that run. The first two groups were timed, but that Plaguefall had 40+ deaths. Part of it was that it was unfamiliar to some people in the group, part was my noob tanking, and part was that it was Plaguefall. Quaking and Sanguine made it even harder, as there's not a lot of space and many mechanics encourage you to stay close.

Another problem was that I had forgotten I had got [Dreamer's Mending] last week some time, and had decided to try it in my tank set. Our most experienced guild tank had warned me against it, but it was an item level upgrade, and I thought it could be helpful. 

He was right, and I was completely wrong. 

All through the first half of the dungeon I kept wondering why I was getting stunned. Was this some special tank mechanic I never heard about? I realized what was causing it at the second boss, but you can't change gear in a Mythic Keystone. So we just struggled through it.

I vendored the trinket the moment I left the dungeon.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Profession Dailies

Profession dailies in Shadowlands really should reward the zone-specific material. That at least would make them worthwhile. Instead they just give the baseline material which is present in very zone, and thus very easy to pick up through your general playtime.

If you visit all four zones equally to do quests, you might end up with 4 stacks of baseline, and a stack each of the zone-specific material.

If a Maldraxxus mining daily gave 20 oxxein instead of 20 laestrite, they would be much more enticing, while not really being overpowered. It would also tie the daily to the zone more strongly, which I think would be good.

I think this would be a small tweak which would improve profession world quests significantly.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Gaming Log - January 9

I did the latest chapter of the Night Fae story on my paladin. This time it was all about Bwonsamdi, and trying to retcon Vol'jin's decision to make Sylvanas the Warchief at the beginning of Legion. As far as retcons go, It was pretty good. Having Muzahela be corrupt allows Bwonsamdi to be the hero (well, as much as Bwonsamdi can be). Since Bwonsamdi is extremely popular, this works out well.

One interesting mechanical note is that if you've be gaining renown every week, this week you complete the covenant armor set, and are able to upgrade all the pieces to be better than regular Mythic gear. That seems like a pretty good curve for more casual players who do not group.

On my priest, I got some more renown and did another chapter of the Maldraxxus story. Maldraxxus is very focused on the current Shadowlands situation, with quests involving first Bastion and now Revendreth. It's quite different from the Night Fae who are focused on finishing up existing Azeroth stories like Tyrande. I think I'm now one chapter away from being caught up. I might actually be able to catch up if I finish the 1000 anima quest. Not really sure that's going to happen.

Mechanically, I've been putting all my priest's anima into upgrading the covenant armor. It's worked out pretty well, with most pieces being around i177.

Also, I did the second layer of Torghast as a priest. I underestimated all the Psychic Scream powers. I was avoiding taking them because using Psychic Scream on trash just meant that they ran away and came back with friends. But it turns out that the final boss can be feared! So those are boss fight powers. 

I still think that the majority of priest powers don't flow very well. Many of them seem way too niche. Part of the problem might be that very few of the powers are spec-specific, and most seem to be class-specific or more general instead. For a class where a specialization like Shadow is very different from the others, this causes issues.

Friday, January 08, 2021

More Thoughts on Torghast

Today a couple of guildmates and I did Layer 8 of Torghast Skoldus Halls. Then, not knowing what we were getting into, we tried Layer 1 of Twisting Corridors. 18 floors is a lot of Torghast!

It was pretty fun, though. By the 18th floor I was doing almost 100k dps as Retribution. A buffed Wings, multiple charges of Hammer of Wrath, HoW extending Wings, HoW boosting Templar's Verdict, Forbearance buffing damage. It was pretty crazy.

It's interesting to look at how the community views Torghast versus what I think was Blizzard's original design intention. I think Blizzard wanted to make challenging solo content. The original complaint about Torghast was that the bosses were too difficult. That you'd spend a hour clearing to the boss, and then get nuked.

Blizzard responded by making the lower floors of Torghast more difficult. I believe this meant that Blizzard saw the difficulty of the end bosses as correct, and increased the difficulty of the lower floors to ramp up more smoothly to the end boss. That's the correct response for content which is meant to be a challenge. If someone is not yet ready, they should wash out earlier.

However, the community sees Torghast as a "Rextroy simulator". Rextroy is a content creator who finds crazy combinations of abilities, then makes a video one-shotting everyone in PvP, and Blizzard issues a hotfix.

Torghast is that for a normal player. They get crazy combinations of abilities and get to go hog-wild, while not really affecting anything of real importance. There's no gear, just Soul Ash, which is fairly easy to get. It's PvE, so you aren't even destroying other players. You can even do it in groups, so classes with less powerful combinations can still come along. Of course, it would be better for Blizzard to give them some interesting options too.

As a result, the players do not really want Torghast to be a true challenge. It's not really compatible with their Rextroy simulator.

To their credit, Blizzard backtracked quickly on their original goal, and made Torghast more in-line with what the community thinks it is. I imagine that when they expand on it in future patches, the emphasize will be put on new quirky and unusual combinations of abilities.

I don't think I'll ever do a huge amount of Torghast. But I think that doing one or two Layers a week is a fun change of pace, and is a great addition in Shadowlands.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Normal Castle Nathria Complete!

We killed the last two bosses in Normal Castle Nathria tonight!

Stone Generals

The Stone Generals took us about 3 pulls. Surprisingly quick, compared to Sludgefist. Not a particularly clean kill, I think we stunned the tanks and one of them died. So our other tank had to tank both for the last few percent.

Sire Denathrius

This was a pretty cool fight. We struggled a lot on the first phase, until we healers settled on a healing CD rotation and managed to stabilize it. We had 3 healers rotate CDs on the adds, and a druids use Tranquility after each Pride attack.

The second and third phases were much easier in comparison. Our only problem was that four or five of our hunters were Beastmaster, and their pets couldn't reach the ranged adds. We did cut it close, actually getting a second Heroism in, and Denathrius had shattered all four corners so we killed him while standing on the bad zones.

All in all, it was a pretty good raid. I'm looking forward to starting Heroic eventually. Maybe as soon as next week, if we manage to clear quickly enough.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Consols in Eve Online

Wilhelm at The Ancient Gaming Noob mentions that the Imperium (Goons, etc) have started issuing war bonds in Eve Online:

Then there was the fact that the Imperium began issuing war bonds to support the fight.  This has been viewed by PAPI as a sign of weakness, a last desperate attempt to stay in the fight, a sign that we were on the brink.  But it raised more than a trillion ISK in the first hours of issue, so it will sustain us for a bit.  One billion ISK will buy you one bond with a return rate of 10% per year, with payments due on the first of the month.  That one bond will earn you about 8.4 million ISK every time the first rolls around.

Spreadsheets in Space comes full circle!

These types of perpetual bonds are traditionally called Consols, famously issued by the British government from the 1700s to the early 1900s. An important financial mainstay of the Regency genre.

What's interesting to me is that the Imperium issued bonds at 10%, which is quite high. The British issued consols at 3-4%. Is the extra premium because it's a game? I confess I would have offered it at 6%, just to make the math easier (0.5% payment each month).

Also, if bondholders stop playing, then it's free money for the Imperium.

Of course, Eve being Eve, there's a reasonably large possibility that this is all a scam and the Imperium will default a year or two down the line.

I wonder if the Imperium will allow people to trade these bonds. Put it on the blockchain, Goons!

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Normal Sludgefist Down

Today was our first raid of the new year. We still have quite a few people, with around 25 in the raid.

We went through the first seven bosses on Normal fairly easily, now that the majority of people understand the fights. Then we started attempts on Sludgefist. We had gotten to him last Tuesday, but really only pulled him twice.

This time he took us several tries, but we got closer and closer on each try until we finally downed him at the end of the night.

It's an interesting fight because there are a couple of instant-kill mechanics that interact. Two people are chained together, and if they move too far apart, they die. But there's also falling rocks where you have to move or die. The fight--on Normal at least--is really about how many people you lose to those mechanics.

My problem as a healer is that I'm usually chained to a melee dps when the crash happens and huge raid damage happens. I forget that the melee wants to run in for the damage window, and just start healing. Then the melee runs too far from me and we both die. I just need to remember to run in before starting to heal.

Still a pretty interesting fight. Looking forward to the next boss, which we haven't seen yet.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Gaming Log - January 4

I'm pretty much just playing Shadowlands these days.

World of Warcraft

I healed a Sanguine Depths +2 in a guild group. Our tank was a new guild member, a friend of another guildmate. This was his first Mythic Keystone, but he was a really good tank. Pulled cleanly and steadily. We wiped once on the easy third boss somehow, but otherwise the run was really smooth. We finished with a good 8 minutes on the timer, even with that wipe.

I've been working on my Shadow Priest on the side. She joined the Maldraxxi covenant, which is actually pretty neat. Lots of interesting NPCs, aside from Draka. It's been interesting doing the catch-up. A lot of the daily callings give Renown, so you speed through fairly quickly. Meanwhile the covenant gear (with upgrading) is quite good for keeping yourself geared while playing solo.

Shadow Priest Torghast powers are quite boring. The Paladin powers are also basic, but they build on each other and boost your basic rotation so it feels quite good. Shadow Priest powers meanwhile, don't seem to flow well. I find myself taking the general boosts more.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Shadowlands Max Level Content Strategy

Blizzard is pursuing a new strategy for max level content in Shadowlands. I think it's working quite well, so I'd like to take a look at what I believe the strategy is.

The main strategy consists of:

  1. Multiple areas of content
  2. Low, front-loaded weekly caps
  3. Separate currencies for each area

 Let's take Torghast as an example. You get the bulk of the reward by running each of two open wings. The main reward is Soul Ash for legendaries, and Torghast is the major source. The bulk of Soul Ash comes from the lower levels, making it less necessary to run the highest level. Last week, I ran a Layer 8 and a Layer 4 (helping a guildmate who is still climbing). That's good enough.

The same pattern is there with the Maw. It's the only source of Stygia and Venari reputation. But the bulk of the reward is the two or three weekly quests. You can do the dailies and rares if you want, but the reward is much lower. Then there is also a soft/hard cap in the Jailer's Eye.

This even extends to story. Blizzard has been steadily releasing a chapter each week.

I think this is a pretty solid system. You bounce around the various activities trying to do the major items. The caps are very low, which allows you to spend minimal time in the areas you don't like. Having separate currencies for each area means that players can't just spam the most efficient content.

The biggest change is that Blizzard simply had to ignore all the players who complain about "gating", about being unable to spend more time to earn more power. Shadowlands has the strongest gating in WoW's history, and I think the majority of players seem to be happy with that.

We'll have to see if this strategy is good enough for the expansion's lifetime, but so far it seems quite good, and will probably be the model going forward.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Tanking Mythic Keystones

We have fair number of people in guild who are online these days. Our raids have regularly had 25 people or more. However, there's only two raid tanks. So on non-raid nights, we've been scrounging for tanks to run Mythics and Mythic Keystones. I've volunteered to tank some of the lower keys.

It's quite a change from last expansion. In Battle for Azeroth, I barely touched Mythic Keystone dungeons, even to heal.

I think the scarcity of loot has made a lot more people willing to run regular Mythics for gear and then lower Keystones, rather than jumping right into the deep end. I've been running +2 to +5 keys, pretty much with guildmates only. 

I've been using my healing armor--with healing Legendary!--and a couple of Ret/Prot trinkets, along with a Str sword. I've also just been using the simplest all-left-side Protection Paladin build and just trying to keep Shield of the Righteous up as much as possible.

I've healed for our raid tanks in Mythics, and they're pretty hardcore people who know skips and which packs you can pull together. Tanking was a little intimidating after watching them.

What I've found is that steady pulling of one pack at a time works pretty well. In Keystones especially, you need to kill a certain amount of non-boss enemies, so just clearing to them normally and avoiding fancy skips is good enough.

In my experience, wipes are what cause you to fail the timer, both from the time lost due to deaths and the run back and set up again. Pulling multiple packs, well, if you survive you gain some time, but if you wipe you lose a lot of time. One pack at a time, with minimal time in-between, seems good enough for now.

One tip is that some consumables, weapon oils and the lesser Desolate chest armor, are really cheap and last through death. So it's worthwhile just using those casually.

Tanking Mythic Keystones has been fun, and an interesting experience. I doubt I'd want to do it for randoms, but it's been enjoyable with guildmates.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I was on a decent posting pace until December hit. I did start a new job, so that probably didn't help. But still, I would like to do better this year.

Otherwise, everything seems to be going okay. My guild only raided on Tuesday these last couple of weeks, but we are now 7/10 in Normal Nathria. I think we'll make more rapid progress once we start our regular schedule next week.

In any case, I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and are prepared for a fresh new year of gaming!