Friday, July 01, 2022

Canada Day Updates

Happy Canada Day,  everyone!

World of Warcraft

I haven't been playing much. I've pretty much just been logging in to send out missions. My convenant people are level 55/56, and I would like to get them all to 60.

Final Fantasy XIV

I finished leveling Red Mage and Dancer to 90. I did the final Shadowbringers role quests and capstone quest. It was quite good.

I also did the role quests for Endwalker. I really like these quests where the story goes back to the different nations and looks at the challenges of peace, of the repercussions for the changes that happened in the MSQ.

Lost Ark

I've also been playing a little Lost Ark, though I've kind of stopped recently. It's a fun ARPG MMO-style game from Korea. It has a variety of different classes (gender-locked, though). The gameplay is pretty good. The story is more or less what you would expect from a Korean game, but is decent enough.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Server Merges in WoW Classic

It looks like WoW Classic is actually going to do server merges in preparation for Wrath of the Lich King. Shintar has a good post on the changes. It's a pretty big change for Blizzard, as they've always avoided server merges in the past. 

It will be interesting to see how they handle names, especially for the people still playing on the smaller servers. It's quite likely that their names will already be taken on the larger server that they will be transferred to, possibly by a character who is no longer subscribed.

Hopefully they do something like the subscriber keeps the name if a non-subscriber has it. Still, for the subscriber vs subscriber case, I bet there will be a lot of complaints.

I'm generally in favour of experiments, so good for Blizzard for trying something different.

One experiment I'd like to see--maybe with the next Season of Mastery--is very strong faction and server balance restrictions. If the Horde or Alliance gets more than 1% larger, lock the larger faction, preventing new players to the server from making characters. Similarly keep the server populations in lockstep, and prevent mega-servers from forming. Disallow faction transfers. Have these restrictions be based on the number of accounts that played in the last week or so.

Blizzard has always shied away from things like this, except when a server is truly overloaded. They've felt that it's better to live with unbalanced servers than have friends be unable to play with each other. But I think Classic has shown that the playerbase will actively make balance problems worse. So I think it's worth experimenting and seeing what happens if balance is enforced, and mega-servers are prevented from coming into being.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

First Impressions of Diablo: Immortal

First off, I'm not going to discuss monetization in this post. I've observed before that F2P ends up poisoning the conversation around the game, and I'd like to to discuss the game itself. As well, I'm still pretty low level, and haven't reached a point where the monetization actually impacts me.

Diablo: Immortal is a Free-2-Play mobile phone/tablet game, though it does have a PC version. The PC version is technically a beta, but as character data is shared between mobile and PC, it's live for all intents and purposes.

Now, I don't actually play any games on my phone. But I decided to try D:I on the phone given that it's the native environment. I have an iPhone X, so a couple generations behind the very latest. The game ran pretty well. Controls are fairly straightforward and easy to use. Your left thumb controls a "joystick" for movement, and your right thumb presses the attack and ability buttons.

However, after about 5-10 minutes, my phone got uncomfortably hot. I'm not sure if this is normal, or if it's just a little too old, or if I should have turned down the settings. But in any case, I removed D:I from my phone and installed it on PC. Everything carried over, so I picked up where I left off.

Diablo: Immortal is a somewhat simplified Diablo III. Most of the classes and abilities are very similar to D3 abilities. However, there's only one primary attack, and 4 extra abilities, plus one ultimate ability. No runes modifying abilities so far. Abilities appear to be cooldown-based so far.

I'm playing a Crusader. Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Wizard, and Necromancer are also available.

The story is very Diablo, featuring many characters from the series. It's also rather grim, maybe aiming a little more towards Diablo II. It's pretty standard, you're chasing down and trying to destroy Shards of the Worldstone, which are being used by a variety of bad guys. For now I'm just following the main questline, but there are dungeons, bounties and a couple types of rifts you can also do.

D:I is kind of an MMO, but one where playing with others is very optional (at least so far). For example, you see other people when running around in the world, and you can opt to do dungeons and rifts with others using automated match-making. But if you don't want to play with others, you can do the dungeons and rifts solo.

The UI is interesting. It's obviously meant for mobile. So for example, there's no right-click or drag-and-drop in the UI. Everything is button-based. It does have a nice feature where gear and menu items have a red gem on them if you can do something with them.

You can upgrade rare items and gems. In a nice twist, if you equip a new item, you can automatically "transfer" the upgraded level and gems.

Diablo: Immortal is clearly a mobile game. The graphics are decent enough, but obviously meant for mobile. It's lacking a lot of the bells and whistles that a PC game would have. For example, it doesn't have destructible barrels and jars, which is pretty traditional for Diablo.

If you feel like playing more Diablo, give Diablo:Immortal a whirl.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

The Creation Catalyst

This tier, Blizzard introduced a mechanic to help with Tier gear: the Creation Catalyst.

Previously, the problem with Tier sets was that you could be unlucky and never get Tier to drop for you. Or perhaps worse, you have Tier shoulders, and a higher item-level non-Tier shoulders drop, and you have to choose between the set bonus or discarding the higher level item.

The Creation Catalyst pretty much solves all the issues with Tier. Once a week, you can transform a non-Tier item into the Tier item of the same item level. It's pretty much the equivalent of allowing you to purchase a Tier item of any slot at the rate of one per week.

So the first couple of times you use the Creation Catalyst, it's to finish off your 4-piece set bonus. Then after that, you can start transforming upgrades, always keeping your set bonus.

It even allows solo-players or non-raiders to get their Tier set bonus. You can transform the Zerith Mortis rewards into Tier, so you should get your set bonus in 4 weeks.

All in all, the Creation Catalyst was an excellent mechanic that solves many of the issues with Tier set bonuses. I hope it is carried forward for future content.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

The Return of Master Loot?

In an interview, Game Director Ion Hazzikostas said that the Dev Team is interested in bringing back Master Loot. He specifically called out the problems around clarity which items are actually tradable. 

I'll be honest, I have zero idea how trading Tier tokens actually works in this tier. I just look for the blue text on the item if I don't want it.

In any case, I've long held that the current iteration of Personal Loot is a corrupted system. It was created to reduce drama in automatic group content, and then adapted for premade group content. I've posted my ideal loot system suite before, but it might be a little complex.

What I think Blizzard should work towards is the following:

  • Two systems: Personal Loot and Master Loot.
  • Personal Loot cannot be traded at all.
  • Master Loot has the standard "Tradable for 2 hours to people in the group"
  • Automatic Group Content uses Personal Loot and it cannot be changed.
  • Premade Groups can choose between Personal Loot and Master Loot.
  • Switching the Loot System requires everyone in the group to agree to the change. You can do a Ready Check style thing, where everyone has to click Yes for the switch to happen. (Maybe change the look/feel of the popup so people don't mistake it for a Ready Check.)
  • Master Loot is deactivated in new raids/dungeons for the first month. This is mostly to cut down the degeneracy of split runs in the World First race.

I think that would be good enough. Personal Loot is for no-drama Automatic Group Runs. Master Loot is for when you create the group from scratch and want control over how loot is handed out.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Ya Boy Kongming!

For some reason, Google is not letting me sign in and reply to comments. Not sure what's going on there.

In any case, there's a pretty good anime airing this season: Ya Boy Kongming! The ancient Chinese strategist Zhuge Liang (also called Kongming) reincarnates in modern Japan and decides to help a young singer achieve stardom.

I rather enjoy these shows that start with a wacky concept and and then commit to it. Additionally, Ya Boy Kongming is actually a decent show, and uses its conceit well.

Also, it has an amazing opening! The really weird part is that the opening is actually a good reflection of the show.


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Dungeon Finder in Classic

Blizzard announced that there would be no Dungeon Finder in Wrath of the Lich King Classic. The Classic community promptly exploded into a state of civil war.

In the end, this is really vindication for J. Allen Brack when he said that "You think you do, but you don't". For better or worse, Dungeon Finder is the dividing line between Classic and Retail. Now basically we have the Retail audience plus a significant minority (maybe even a majority) of the Classic audience wanting to go down the same path that the Retail devs took a decade ago.

A reader reminded me of the posts I wrote when Dungeon Finder first came out. I've always been reasonably happy with Dungeon Finder. I like running dungeons, especially at low levels. And my groups have not been particularly toxic. Though these days I do lend more credence to the idea that healers are drama-prone, which I don't see since I heal.

I generally like the Dungeon Finder, but at the same time, I'm a Retail player, not really a Classic player. I pretty much only dabble in Soul of Iron in Classic Season of Mastery. I'm not really sure it would be fair to apply my preferences to the Classic audience who really want something different than Retail. After all, if you want to play WoW with Dungeon Finder, you can always play Retail. There's something to be said for the idea that two different games should offer two different experiences.

Still, it's possible that there are two ideas in play here, both true at the same time:
  1. Dungeon Finder makes it easier for players to run dungeons.
  2. Dungeon Finder destroys the server community.
I do believe that Dungeon Finder hurts the server community. I once defined social fabric as "the bonds created by repeated, positive interactions between the same set of people." Dungeon Finder cuts directly against this. You no longer do the most common repeatable action with the same set of people. You don't see the same people or the same guilds regularly.

But maybe being able to do content whenever you want is more important than server community. Maybe Classic is really about the content and class systems that was lost with Cataclysm than about nebulous notions like community.

The real irony here is that Retail sees far less use of the Dungeon Finder than Classic would. Mythic and Mythic Keystone dungeons don't use the Dungeon Finder and automatic group creation, they use the Premade Group Finder. So really, the only people using the Dungeon Finder are people levelling, people doing dungeons to finish quests, or people gearing up a little at the very start of an expansion. Otherwise everyone is doing dungeons the old-fashioned way, even having to travel to the instance entrance in the world.

So should Classic Wrath have the Dungeon Finder? I don't really know. I do think that it would worth experimenting with the Premade Group Finder first. See if being able to post and apply to groups in a nice format with requirements listed where you can see what roles are needed. Getting notified when someone applies to your group instead of having to post advertisements in an LFG channel every minute or so.

Perhaps that would end up balancing the ability to run dungeons with server community better than the Dungeon Finder did.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Trailer

In 2004, Wizards of the Coast released the Kamigawa block, sets inspired by traditional Japanese mythology. By every measure, they were a failure.

The original Kamigawa was a "deep cut" into Japanese mythology and spirit lore. Too deep, it turns out. Most of the audience didn't get the references and concepts. It didn't help that it was much less powerful than the sets immediately before.

This year, WotC took another crack at Kamigawa. 

I do admire this about Wizards of the Coast, they are willing to revisit their failed mechanics and settings. They even brought back phasing in the last couple of years, which stunned old-timers. It's now something you can do temporarily to targets, to remove a threat, or save one of your creatures. "Target creature phases out." 

In the intervening years, manga and anime has become much more popular, especially in Magic's target demographic. So the new Kamigawa set, Neon Dynasty, jumped forward in time, and leaned heavily into a lot of recognizable anime/manga tropes.

And naturally enough, WotC made an anime trailer for the set, featuring two of their new planeswalkers, Kaito and the Wanderer:


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Dracthyr Evoker

The one element of Dragonflight which going over very poorly is the new race-class combo Dracthyr Evoker.

It's a ranged DPS or healer class. Only Dracthyr can be Evokers, and only Evokers can be Dracythr. Perhaps a little bit like demon hunters only being elves.

The class part seems to be okay, but a lot of people don't really like the look. It's seen as very scrawny, more lizard than dragon. Apparently people really wanted more bulky D&D dragonborne types of dragons. Something which exudes power.

I kind of see Blizzard's thought process here, though. These are caster dragons. There are a lot of complaints about the human (and draenei) male mages being overly buff. Muscle wizards. If Dracthyr were bulky, I rather think that people would be complaining that they were a ranged class. There would be a huge volume of calls for Dracthyr Warriors and Paladins. Buff Dragon Paladins would be amazing, now that I think about it!

On the other hand, I still agree that the current Dracthyr aren't a particularly exciting or inspiring race.

Perhaps Blizzard should have swung for the fences here, and done something really outside the box. Imagine if the new race was basically a dragon whelp, or maybe a slightly bigger but still draconic form of a whelp (a dragonet?). They would still be casters, because whelps and dragonets are always casters in WoW. But it would be more like Bear form for druids.

Maybe that would be too much, not being able to see armor. But bears and cats are still moderately popular in WoW, and the current Dracthyr don't look like they wear all the armor. Then have the whelps get a humanoid form, either at the start or as part of the starting area. Alliance dragons could shift into human or gnome forms, Horde dragons into blood elves or tauren, with a few light draconic customizations.

I think the "must be able to see armor" directive is too restricting, and there's room for a little experimentation outside that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Affectionate Memes

This whole topic of discussion is hilarious to me:

(From Reddit.)

Honestly, this is a good sign for Dragonflight. I think you see these affectionate, tongue-in-cheek memes when players are generally happy. When you have weird oddities like the Age of Mortals only lasting 10 years, but the players just roll with it.

Another example recently was from FFXIV. If you missed it, FFXIV royally screwed up the rollout of their housing lottery. YoshiP did an excellent job explaining and apologizing. (Long story short, it looks like results from one service never made it to another service. Ahh, microservices.) 

The fanbase, at least after the initial torches and pitchforks, went on to post memes like:

From Reddit. The crying elf is Francel, the NPC who was in charge of Ishgard restoration (where the the new housing is). The blue elephant is Ser Aymeric, leader of Ishgard. Not really sure why he's in a blue elephant costume, but apparently that's in-game too.

In any case, I see community memes in response to "mistakes" like these to be a good sign that the community is happy with things overall.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Dragonflight

WoW unveiled the next expansion today: Dragonflight.

The stone Titan Watcher was pretty cool. Hope he appears in the actual expansion.

Overall a much quieter trailer than the last few ones. Hopefully that means this expansion is more grounded. I would rather like to see another Mists of Pandaria.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Soul of Iron Failed!

There are two great dangers in the Soul of Iron challenge: murlocs; and other players.

Soul of Iron is the "hardcore" challenge in WoW Classic Season of Mastery. You can talk to an NPC in Ironforge to get a Soul of Iron buff. The buff doesn't actually do anything, it's mostly for display purposes. If you ever die, you get a debuff that says what level you died at.

My priest, Vespertine, fell in Uldaman at level 42.

I was healing, but we accidentally pulled the entire room with the Steward Keeper boss. The one with the whirlwinds that slow you down. Between the boss, two extra golems, and five or six Earthen, we quickly wiped.

In hindsight, the fact that the tank was in the guild <UWU> was probably a warning sign.

(That's probably a little unfair, the tank was generally good, just cut a few too many corners.)

I was even in a Soul of Iron guild--unimaginatively called <Souls of Iron>--and sadly had to leave it. Even worse, another guildie was in that run, so he lost SoI as well. Ah well, those were the rules, and guild chat was full of "F" to salute the fallen, as per the tradition.

I'm not really sure what to do now. I could keep going with this character, playing normally. But I'm not very interested in endgame in Season of Mastery. I could delete the priest and reuse the name to make a new character, probably with a different class, and rejoin the guild and try again. I suppose I could just make a second character and put off the decision.

I did enjoy the Soul of Iron experience, especially being in a guild of people all trying the same challenge. If you want to try Soul of Iron, I recommend <Souls of Iron> of Shadowstrike.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Would You Recommend a Work With a Disappointing Ending?

Over the weekend I read a childrens/young adult fantasy series by Ysabeau S. Wilce, Flora Segunda. I'm trying to decide if I would recommend the series to someone. On the plus side, the setting is really interesting and unique. It has:

  • Set in roughly 1880s California, with that level of tech
  • With interesting magic
  • The USA appears to have never formed
  • The Aztec Empire never fell, and is still full-on sacrificing people to its gods
  • California is a rebellious client-state of the Aztec Empire

The first two books are quite good. The third book, however, is deeply unsatisfying. The main character doesn't really accomplish anything. In fact it feels like she ended the book in a worse place than when she started it. Perhaps the author was hoping write more novels in the series, but never got the chance, so just labeled the book as the ending of the trilogy.

It got me thinking about whether I would recommend this series to someone else. On the one hand, I think you could say to read the first two books only and pretend the third doesn't exist.

But I don't know how that would work for other series. The canonical example in gaming is Mass Effect. I don't think I'd recommend only playing ME1 and ME2. Maybe one could say that you should play the series, even though the ending is very disappointing.

Television-wise, I understand Game of Thrones had a similar issue. I did not watch it, but many fans disliked the last season. Would you still recommend the show?

Endings are pretty important. I am more likely to recommend a series with a rough start but decent finish than the other way around.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Side Quests in Endwalker

I finished the Tank Job (?) quest line for Endwalker. It was interesting how they paired you with one of the realm leaders, and it looks to be a complementary class. For tanks, it was Kan-E-Senna of Gridania, who is basically a White Mage, and it was a nice look into the workings of Gridania.

I also did some of the side quests in Zone 6. One thing about side-quests in Endwalker is that they are very optional this time around. I think the MSQ by itself gives enough XP, and the side-quests scale for the most part.

Personally, I like doing side-quests alongside the MSQ, as they give you a better picture about the zone, and fill out a lot of the small details. This time around, I did most of the quests as a Paladin, which is what I was doing the MSQ as, but I switched to Red Mage right before turning the quest in. I started doing this in about Zone 4, but I wish I had done it a bit earlier. I hit 90 on the Paladin relatively earlier, and probably could have gotten another couple of levels on my Red Mage. 

The accessory gear rewards also come in a box, so you can switch back to your main class before opening it.

So for those of you who haven't done Endwalker yet, that's my recommendation:

  1. Do the side-quests alongside the MSQ, 
  2. Turn in the side-quests as a secondary class. You'll get several levels on that second class.
  3. Open the rewards as your main class to keep upgrading accessories.

In my opinion, that gives the best combination of story, gear and XP efficiency.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Gaming Log - January 1

Happy New Year, everyone!

In an effort to get back into the habit of writing posts, I'm resurrecting the gaming logs.

Final Fantasy XIV

Queues are still a thing, though significantly reduced on the holiday weekend. I logged in a couple times. I did a roulette on my White Mage, to start leveling towards max. I'm also just picking up all the quests that were left undone or unlock things.

One thing is that the queues are very hostile to my preferred style of play. I find I don't play long sessions anymore. Instead I'll log in, do something for 30 minutes to an hour, and log off. Then log back in a bit later. This basically does not work any more.

WoW: Season of Mastery

I continued leveling my Priest. She's now level 16, and working on Westfall and Loch Modan quests. I have to do the running around for the Defias quests, but I've been avoiding that.

I've also been leveling professions and made a wand and some cloth armor which has been pretty helpful. One thing about Classic is that loot is pretty scarce, so you're often wandering around with pieces which are quite out of date. So professions like tailoring are pretty valuable while leveling. In contrast, the retail game takes great pains to make sure you get a full set of gear in each leveling zone, making it hard to professions to keep up.

To be fair, FFXIV does the same thing for your run through the Main Story Quest. You get a full set of quality gear every two levels (with accessories if you do sidequests). But FFXIV does nothing on subsequent classes, creating an opening for the crafting classes. (Well, you can purchase normal-quality leveling sets, but you really want the High-Quality stuff from crafters. And I suppose dungeon runs also gear you up.)