Tuesday, March 30, 2010

ICC10: Don't It Just Figure

In our Monday night ICC 10 we got the 2 plague essences from Rotface and Festergut. Normally we can now one shot Rotface and we're iffy on Feseter. So of course, we FD reset Rotface to get his mark--and I wipe the raid as the 8 stack-of-gastric-bloat OT and eventually my 20k shield slams tear agro off the MT. This wasn't so bad but for the fact that he hit me with a 9th gastric and reset my timer.

We got him down to 8% before the tanks exploded.

The second time one of the 3 out people dies and Fester made the melee group--including both tanks---yak. Wipe.

Third time we actually got him, FD-reset Rotface and turned in the quest.

Then we one shot Rotface. Doesn't it just figure?

We've started on Professor Putricide--we were getting some P2 time but we need more practice. Looks like a tough movement fight.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lum Is The Mad One: On The Star Wars MMO

Scott Jennings wrote over at http://www.mmorpg.com/showFeature.cfm/feature/4115/Scott-Jennings-Great-Expectations-SWTOR.html">MMORPG.com that he was afraid for the MMO part of the gaming industry because EA seamed to be willing to stake $150,000,000 on the project (going from the fact that EA felt they needed 2 million subs to make a profit).

I think there are some great analogies to be made between the Hollywood studio system for creating movies and the studio system we are developing with games and their most recent and expensive iteration MMOs. Scott wonders if EA has priced all but a few top players out of the MMO market.

I say the answer is no--and that is obvious. We are learning how to run and price F2P games. WOW created a market is 20 times larger than anyone though possible. Remember that people though WoW would eat all of EQ and EQ2's player base. In fact both are still going concerns. Before WoW, if you had a niche game that might appeal to 1% of the MMO crowd, you were looking at 4,000 players. Now, post WoW you are looking at 80,000. I suspect that Star Trek, if it has legs, well help grow the MMOsphere with more new players. Star Wars: The Old Republic is, indeed, swinging for the bleachers--but the $150 million Scott projects requires a real marketing campaign and a mass media presence. Should SW:TOR meet a reasonable proportion of its expectations it to will make more room in the MMOsphere for the little games, the mid-market games and even the AAA tent pole games.

MMOs are a very new phenomenon and we are just learning how to segment the market and what expectations to have for a release. I don't think the MMO market is any less capable of supporting a range of experiences than the movie industry: think on Clerks, The Hurt Locker and Avatar.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Reading The BlizCon Tea Leaves

I think we can now confidently say that Cataclysm won't come out before Tuesday, October 26th of this year. You hold an event like BlizCon to build up the excitement for your product rather than just after you have released it when excitement is high. Besides you have serious WoW players paying serious money to go. You wouldn't want to conflict those fans with the choice of go or play.

I mean can you imagine Blizzard scheduling BlizCon for the weekend after release? Might not every dev there want to be working on bug fixes the? I would think its an all hands on deck period.

We haven't seen any leaked details on Cataclysm yet either so that makes me doubt that they are going to have it ready to go in less than 6 months.

I suspect though, that BlizCon will see the announcement of the launch date for some 4-6 months in the future-February to April of 2011--and the soon after BlizCon release of a 3.4 patch for Wrath with a raid instance.

Catastrophic Cataclysm Fatigue Already?

I am noticing it already--far, far fewer sign ups for raids.

I think I have to officially declare that the pre-expansion blahs are hitting WoW--and it seems to me sooner and harder than either of the first 2 bouts of fatigue.

This is something I never really noticed in EQ--but there was not point in EQ where I was so well geared that the next upgrade was marginally useless expect in ICC. With my 245ish Fury gear mobs last maybe 10 seconds when soloing. In prot gear they lasted longer, but I have tested since I got 2 piece bonus on the Tier 10 prot warrior armor (20% DPS increase to shield slam and shockwave) and the massive buff to revenge.

This weeks Naxx 25 had a 40% absentee rate, and failed to finish going 20 man--too many alts. ToC25 was short. Our 10 is holding up nicely.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What 3.3.3 means for me

About 1200 HP (if the Vitality change I had read about went through, from 6 to 9%).

And probably tailoring 450 since I had stalled out at 445 and absolutely didn't want to do the ridiculous transforms for cloth for the last 5 point on my up to now unmentioned 80 priest.

The raid weekly is Patchwerk, IIRC which is good, I can probably grab 10 extra frost badges for eventually getting enough primal saronite for Guthammer's boots. Primal saronite slaves for the win.

Umm...apparently I had missed the fact that Revenge is back.

Not a small change. And TankingTips is a great blog.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ICC 10 Progress: 5% or A Change

We are on a real roll in Pride and Joy's ICC 10. We tweaked our line up, having one of our druids go boomkin while our regular hunter has been bringing his shaman and our regular DK brings his hunter. And it seems to be working. The hunter was undergeared the first week, but got some nice drops last week and this week got the bow off Lady Deathwhisper.

Our regular group is fun, but ugh, our composition. 3 warriors, 2 druids, 2 shaman, no paladins, no warlocks, no rogues, 1 mage alt (sometimes),

But we are meeting with great success. We got Festergut for the second time this week, and Rotface fell to us for the first time this week. We tweaked our Festergut strategy a bit, holding Heroism until we have done our first tank transition, so that I (since I am the first Fester tank and Rawlnos takes the first round of 175% damage hits) have 8 stacks of Gastric Bloat and because 18k shield slams are yummy.

Rotface took no more than 2-3 tries and that was after a couple of weeks of not playing with him. Very satisfying. On a normal raid night we would have even had some time for Professor Putricide, but we had to call it 30 minutes early. So 3 hours, 6 bosses down including a first kill (and a small dinner break).

Friday, March 19, 2010

FF13: Choice and the Illision of Choice

I have been playing some Final Fantasy 13. I just got into disc 2 on the 360. So far I have had to make lots of choices. Some of them interesting, most not so much. Few, I think, that will effect the story line that FF is taking me through.

Spending XP--CP in this game, at the moment at least, is an illusionnary choice. So far the choices are none, in that I can afford to fully develop everything I have access to on a character, or the choice is so blindingly bad (a tier 3 buff in a main spec for 220 XP, or that other off, off spec tier 1 ability for 330) that only the impaired will buy them before they have completely maxed out the character.

The game is real time and the basic decision unit is the 1 action bubble attack--though the normal mode of game play is to let the bar build up completely (to a number ranging from 2 to 6) and let all those commands execute at once. You can decide to interrupt your bar buildup to perform partial bar attacks.

Now there is a lot of rote button pushing. Most trash combat--so far--is just repeatedly hit A button (X for all you PS/3 types). Very dull. A good thing/bad thing is the AI is smart, choosing well among the moves you have, to maximize damage/stun/chain. Its good because the battles are timed and real time, bad because there aren't many decisions to be made in the game and taking most of the basic decision making out of the players hands for such a basic unit of interaction is bad.

The heart of the combat system, and where it gets interesting is stance dancing--paradigms in this game. Actually, to put it in more WoW like terms, you can respec on the fly, in combat--and you have groups of nothing but druids. A character can melee (commando), DPS (ravager--more ranged), heal, tank (sentinel), buff (synergist) or debuff (saboteur) . Any given character will probably be good at 2-3 of the roles and sub optimal for the others. Choosing which roles to do when and how is the real heart of the combat system. The one downside is that there very little time to make those decisions in and you are limited to more than 6 stances at once.

So the one place where choice shines in FF13 which, I think, is enough to keep me engaged for a while yet. The utterly weird Japanese (or over-engineered German) weapon XP system might be another place where there is some meaningfulish? choices to be made, but mostly the system is just weird.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Breakfast Club Special

My 25-man LO charter is Breakfast Club. Silver Hand is a PST server and I am an EST player and Breakfast Club starts our raids at 7 AM server. I am also a child of the 80s and, as I recall, I saw the movie in the theaters too. It seems an appropriate name.

BC has always been more about teaching and gearing up that progression--I mean why else would we /still/ be running Naxx?

We also seem to find new ways to wipe. Some weeks ago, on Thaddious I called a "go". One of the platforms wipes because the tank does nothing--they DCed just as I called go.

Last week, with 4 mages and a shaman in the raid we're fighting Noth. And bringing him down at a tremendous rate. Just as I wonder if we are going to down him before he teleports. BANG! 19 players dead. No one in the raid got rid of Noth's debuff. We could only laugh.

The Tank's Conundrum

I want to see ICC25. I have a tank who is geared for it--39k HP unbuffed almost all ToC25 or ICC10 gear. I know the fights and I am at least a fair to middling raid tank and experienced raid leader.

My chances of seeing ICC 25 are low though due to the fact that the tanking core of any guild (or charter in the Leftovers system) are among the most reliable players and, often, like me leaders. Bringing in a new tank to a raid for the first time is almost a guaranteed wipe somewhere in the instance to do different styles of doing encounter fights. Its likely that new tanks will have real costs on raids unless you massively over gear the place.

The one thing that makes is more likely for me to see ICC 25 is that Cataclysm burnout seems to be hitting WOW hard and early (we don't even have a release date--a bad sign if you ask me) and since there are so man 25 mans running ICC can sub in somewhere sometime soon.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The 5% Buff

So this week our group of ICC 10 raiders finally got to do ICC 10 with the buffs and their raid leads--last week our firewall/router was giving us 2+ second (2000MS) lag and we called in a friend to lead and got out of our raider's way.

This week Pride and Joy (my 10 man charter) got everyone in and up and going more or less on time. Speaking as a tank, the 5% buff was fairly invisible. As a raid lead the 5% made our raid feel like it was one of the days on which we were clicking and things going well. Marrowgar was 2 healed--the healers (She Who Speaks Horde and a leafy friend) said that the 5% was hugely visible to them. On Lady Deathwhisper I was noticing that the 5% was giving us an 5 to 10 seconds of DPS time on the mana shield--we seemed to average about 25-30 seconds of DPS time between adds.

Sourfang punished us for sloppy execution went down after we adjusted. We also downed Festergut for the first time and downed the extra frost badge boss. Assuming the performance is repeatable that puts me right on 30 badges a week if I am consistent. I picked up the tanking hat too and now have the 2 piece warrior bonus--a 20% bonus to shield slam and shock wave!

Friday, March 12, 2010

SAN 1 to 10 Project: Dwarf Paladin

Trying (and not doubt failing, since I am a 10 year MMO player and 30+ year computer gamer) to put myself into the shoes of a new player and leveling a dwarf paladin from 1 to 8 left me distinctly unimpressed. Paladins are about as interactive as Farmville. Paladin powers are as bad as hunter’s 1-10—when hunters have no pets.

Level 1 starts a paladin with auto attack and…heal! Not needed at all 1-5 when the mobs aren’t agro, I have no AE attacks and we still have the massive HP and mana regen power. Level 2 got me devotion aura—something I have cast once so far, as I haven’t died. It was cast out of combat at that.

As a quick side note, I dinged 2 before I even completed my first wolf quest and had 0 copper. I couldn’t have trained had I gone back to the trainer. 3 and 4 came on nearly as quickly—in a way that I think would have left me slightly disoriented and thinking the effort to level was too easy. Adding to the out of control feeling I had was that some quests were auto-accepting. I had no clue if I still needed to read the quest text, or what the heck was going on. I know I ran out of coin at least 2 more times before 8th.

Level 4 got me 2 powers, Judgment—which I don’t recall here at work—and—the 50% shield wall type ability. Judgment, 1-8, looks like a second button to push in combat, but you would be wrong. You can, and should start your attack with judgment, but that turns on auto attack. Most 1-6 mobs are dead before the 8 second cool down is up, so there isn’t even a second button to push (or decision to be made) in combat.

Here, economically I am barely making it. There are very few small bag drops for the Alliance, and I certainly don’t have the coin to spend before on some extra bag space. Once I learned blacksmithing and was running around with quest items, it wasn’t unusual for me to leave the in with 5—or fewer!-- open bag spots.

The culmination of Anvilmar used to be a big, dangerous confusing cave with a named troll in the back. The mobs, at least for non-peak use conditions, are closely packed, social and, IIRC, have some casters mixed in. Getting the book at 5th or 6th was a non-trivial task—and the first real hurtle a player had to cross.

Now that the cave is non-agro, its just a big, confusing, boring cave that has no risk it. You find Waldo, bonk him on his head, while his non-aggro guards watch, and you leave. While the whole confusing/dangerous cave is problematical (and the comments can equally apply to the orc/troll starting cave, and maybe even the first night elf cave quests) the big, confusing, boring cave is even worse.

By 8th level I finally learned a second ability I might be able to use in combat—the paladin stun. Only to find its on a one minute cool down. I think, after training 8th, I would have strongly considered walking away. I have 2 ways to start auto-attacking, and if the fight goes long I might be able to hit one of those buttons again. Once every 4 or 5 fights I can hit an extra button for a stun.

Sid Meier said that a good game is a series of interesting decisions. The first 8 levels of being a paladin misses making almost any decisions at all.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Modest Proposal: 1 to 10 SAN Project.

The proposal springs from the fact that we know 2 things, rather recently: that 70% of the players never make it past level 10 and that we know a lot of bloggers are rolling new alts for SAN. And conveniently we have Horde and Alliance side SANs.

While I am sure that Blizzard is more than capable of reviewing the 1-10 experience themselves, I am sure they would love to hear what we think. So, I suggest we SANners start a blog project--if you roll up a newbie on Argent Dawn try thinking like a newbie and see what you think of the experience. Would you keep on playing WoW?

I suggest we call it the SAN 1 to 10 Project. You can even tag the race and class combo at the end of the title.

Since my blog has all of 1 follower and not too many readers I will forward this on to Tamirand and Miss Medicina.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Single Abstract Noun

I have joined it, at least for some alting, over on Alliance, Argent Dawn US.

Rolled up a paladin, Guthammer, to see if I can learn pally tanking.

I think it's also going to turn into a review of the first couple of levels of auto-attacking, er paladinning.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Would Have an Insightful Post About Wynns Battle Song

Or whatever the proper name of the ICC buff is but Cablevision continued to be completely buttheads and I bailed out of the raid with well over 2 seconds of lag.

It looks like the raid, lacking the normal leaders, still managed to down the first 3 bosses with undergeared walkons.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Threat-Capped DPS

Caer Morrighan pulled out some interesting points from the latest Dev Twitter Chat.

Here's a real gem:

Q. You talk a lot about changing how we heal tanks, but will aggro ever come back as a challenging part of the game?

A. Not sure. This is something we discuss a lot. I even had a meeting on it this week! On the one hand, some tanks really felt like the way to distinguish themselves was to generate maximum threat per second. On the other hand, threat is a pretty invisibile part of the game (it’s limited to the UI at best), and I know when I tank that I always feel pretty emasculated when someone actually pulls off of me. It’s challenging, but is it really fun? This is the kind of thing we’d love to get more feedback on. Please include your feedback on large banners to be shown in the background during the Olympics. Failing that, the forums would work too.

As a tank I think the raids lost something when optimal DPS stopped being about managing aggro and resources and became about twitch reactions to not standing in the fire and and banging out your priority queue properly.

I also think--though I would really want more feedback from DPSers on this--that new tank--who threat cap the T10 geared DPSers anyway--suffer more now than they would if even their T10 geared tank threat capped them.

I think--I mean no matter what a well geared DPSer (unless he is willing to solo a mob (something I encourage in HHoR as a warrior)) is going to have to throttle DPS way more with a new tank than a well geared one.

There is a negative flipside though too--raids are already potentially blocked by tanks not being survivable enough for an encounter--adding a threat cap to raidwide DPS would put huge pressures on tanks to up threat and give them first crack at gear.

Ultimately new tanks are always going to threat cap well geared DPS and I think making all DPSers in most situations aware of their threat and teaching them how to control their aggro would do more to help new tanks than not.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So Long Defense

There have been many electrons spilled talking about the stat changes coming in Cataclysm. Tobold has a great little post on defense--and points to the fact that the defense cap is a "hidden" requirement for tanks. Considering how important it is--don't get slotted for raids without 540, and lots of group grief under 535 in 5 mans--there is nothing, I repeat nothing in game to teach a tank about the importance of the stat--or even clue you into the fact that it makes you crit immune.

Yes, I think there should be some interesting stats on gear, but when you need to run out of game simulators, or massive amounts of theorycrafting and excel spread sheets from hell to figure out if you want ArP or Haste or whathave you stat, there is something wrong.

An informed player (one who has been informed by the game no less-not outside sources) should be able to identify best or near best gear choices with a little bit of thought--but no longer than the decision cycle that Blizzard imposes in the looting process.

Monday, March 1, 2010

O RLY? Authenticator Hacked?

MMO Crunch is apparently reporting that account with authenticators have been hacked with confirmation from blue.

This is actually crappy title making--Tobold's guilty of among others.

There is a key logger out there that will intercept what you type into authenticator dialog box and forward it to the secret masters--while forwarding a bad code to Blizzard. The authenticator is till perfectly secure and the black hats still don't know what number will come up on your authenticator when you hit the button. It is a hack of your PC and the login process not, NOT, the authenticator.