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Archive for September, 2011

“I Miss 40-man Raids” or “Vanilla Nostalgia”

September 30, 2011 13 comments

There was a time in World of Warcraft, when things weren’t as easy as they are today for the average player. There was no quest helper feature, areas weren’t marked on your map for quest objectives, you weren’t provided with handy arrows directing you to your next objective, you couldn’t track the quests. There was no option for floating combat text. There were no threat meters. There was no addon that told you which boss will do what and when. PvP was realm only, so an Arathi Basin queue could take up to an hour. You had to figure out everything on your own, and tough as it was, that was magical!

5-Mans: Then

If you were a raider, you needed up to 20 people just to run UBRS (now a 5-man instance). You ran Stratholme and the Blackrock Spire instances until you were blue in the face, just to have enough gear to be able to face off against the first set of Molten Giants in the Molten Core. There was a dungeon set (go go banana shoulders!), an actual matching set of gear that you could acquire for your class from dungeons that gave you enough of an advantage to be able to start raiding.

5-Mans: Now

You don’t need anyone to be able to queue for a 5-man instance any longer. The game will do the work for you in terms of finding four other sufficiently able people to party up with you. Sure there are some ilvl requirements to keep what Gevlon would call M&S out of the system, but that can be circumvented by donning readily available PvP sets of equal or better ilvl. There was a time when you would wait until four of your friends logged on, or ask people in the guild to help, or send messages in the trade or LFG channels to fill the last few spots. Now, all of you have to do is press “i” and join queue.

Raiding: Then

Raiding took a lot of coordination and effort. As a raid leader, you had command of 39 other people, with several others sitting outside the instance, because:

  • over three hours, a few individuals will need to leave for real life commitments or other reasons
  • you would need to switch some players based on what gear they needed
  • you had to switch them out because they were just not performing up to par
  • the raid needed to balance the classes (buffs)

Coordinating a fight with 40 people in the room, all from different backgrounds, countries, viewpoints, skill-levels and IQs was a massive undertaking. As a raid leader you had to be be patient, forgiving, thoughtful, resourceful, yet firm and resolute. You had to nip small quarrels in the bud. You had to keep respawn timers in check (18 minutes for Core Hounds, 22 minutes for Lava Surgers). You had to methodically and carefully explain fights every time, because with 60+ raiders in the guild, there was always someone who had not fought that particular fight before. You had to be strong. You had to be smart. And most of all, you had to be insanely patient.

But the sheer volume of people was not the only reason for why vanilla WoW raiding took so much effort and energy. There were several other factors as well. It was a time:

  • when Paladin blessing lasted 5 minutes, and you had to rebless every 4 minutes and 50 seconds.
  • when the buffs provided were class centric, and could not be provided by any other class.
  • when the only priests that could fear ward you were dwarfs.
  • with no heroic and normal versions. Everything was heroic.
  • when you needed oodles of fire-resistant gear to just survive the temperature in the room.
  • when you constantly needed to tell 39 people to loot the damn dog because the game didn’t tell you which mob was who’s loot!

Raiding: Now

There is a normal mode and a heroic mode, and you can chose the style that best reflects your guild’s willingness to conquer tougher content. You only need 10 people to raid. You can argue with me and say that you need 25 for the larger raids, but unlike Wrath of the Lich King, the same loot drops from both raid sizes, so that argument is now obsolete.

As of today, patch 4.3 will now also let you queue for raids. You don’t have to find 24 other people. The queue is cross-server, and it will put a team together for you with 2 tanks, 6 healers and 17 damage dealers. This will not be a replacement for normal raids though, as the encounters will be tuned to what can only be defined as “below normal” and the loot will be of a lower ilvl than normal mode raiding. Thus we have

  • 10-man (normal)
  • 10 man (heroic)
  • 25-man (pug)
  • 25-man (normal)
  • and 25-man (heroic)

Take your pick, whatever is easiest for you.

The point of this post isn’t to say that vanilla raiding was better, though I miss that era terribly. Nor is it meant to degrade the convenience of the WoW of today. I am just stating facts here. WoW has evolved immensely over the last seven odd years, and most of the changes have been to allow better access for more and more players. The point of this post is simply nostalgia, reminiscing over those initial years when everything took effort and energy and meticulous planning.

What do you think? Do you feel all this convenience is a good thing for MMO evolution, or are we diluting the genre?

Categories: World of Warcraft

“I’ve Got Good News” or “I’ve Also Got Bad News”

September 29, 2011 2 comments

I’ve Got Good News

Via WoW Insider, this is an incredible video of World of Warcraft recreated in MineCraft, and appropriately titled: Mine of WorldCraft. It hits closer to the heart because the player transmorgifies into a T2 Judgement Paladin, and the starting zone is Northshire. Brilliant!

I’ve Also Got Bad News

Blizzard will not announce it’s MMO at Blizzcon, so M2 Research senior analyst Billy Pidgeon, who predicted that this would happen, can suck it.

They will likely announce a Diablo 3 release date though!

“Does Anyone Have Anything Nice to Say About WoW?” or “Are We WoW’s Biggest Problem?”

September 28, 2011 11 comments

11.2 million people still play World of Warcraft. Yet it seems to me lately that no one has anything positive to say about it.

Most MMO bloggers I follow and read have played it at some point or another (a lot of them still do), yet 9 times out of 10, if there is an opinion on something related to WoW, it is seems intrinsically married to some element of negativity, scorn or outright malice. I am not excusing myself from this barrage of endless negativity, I am as guilty of this phenomenon as the next guy. But it does make me think: does no one have anything nice to say about the most successful MMO in the world?

When Ragnaros was hit over the head with the nerf-bat, we all ripped Blizzard a new one. “They need to design content better”, said some (myself included). “The game is become too casual”, said others. “This is the final nail in Blizzard’s rapidly sinking coffin”, was one ambitious claim. Yet everyone continued to play it, and raid, and talk about the next raid. I was able to dig up a few (partially) positive responses to the nerf in Firelands (Variant Avatar and Manalicious), but aside from that, most of the feedback was deeply mired in barely-concealed hostility.

As an example, here are some of the reactions:

  • Kurn felt the “hardest part on Alysrazor was NOT killing her faster”. In all fairness, Kurn’s group seemed to have a lot more fun because the content wasn’t as brutal as it was pre-nerf. That being said, Kurn felt the nerf was a slap in the face this time.
  • Morynne felt that the Firelands bosses, particularly the first few, had started dropping like flies, making the content a little ridiculous.
  • Lonomonkey was upset that in “the end, our efforts were for nothing and no one told us”.
  • Coriel was felt that Blizzard was not tuning the nerfs well enough. For one thing, it seemed rushed, and second, Coriel’s guild was just recovering from a tough raiding summer only to realize content had been made dumber.
  • Ben’s sarcasm was barely masked: “After numerous complaints about fairness, Firelands Elementary is also changing its policy towards grades. Many parents apparently feel that grading children makes the stupid kids feel awkward and embarrassed, and as such, the new grading policy will reward all children with an automatic “A+++”, just for showing up.”
  • Matticus raised an interesting point, that it had been only 10 weeks since players had been in Firelands. The nerf-bat normally didn’t hit the main content for at least six months. He felt it was way too soon.
  • Vixsin echoed Matticus’ concerns, and felt that the nerfs came too soon, and they were too strong.
  • Gevlon, as one would expect, didn’t hold back, opening a scathing post with “…Blizzard practically accepted that their raid design has failed”.
  • Even Tobold was upset, saying he didn’t feel like Blizzard was sticking to their guns, primarily because they couldn’t identify which guns they wanted to stick to.

We complain that Blizzard takes too much time between content, artificially lengthening the life of the expansion. But if they bring out the nerf week in as little as 10 weeks, we still complain that it is too soon. Even Transmorgification, a really cool and rather well-received new feature, was not exempt from the criticism. Some people complained that Blizzard had implemented the system after seven years, and that was too little too late. I must admit I was a little upset. I had held on to the Tier 2 Judgement set for four years, and finally cleaned out my bank a few months prior to the Transmorgification announcement.

Seriously, does anyone have anything nice to say About WoW? And more importantly, is it possible that the problem isn’t Blizzard’s policies or rapidly changing gears in their core systems, but that no matter what they do, we as a group will never be satisfied?

Blog Post of the Day: “20 Excuses to Ditch Your Family for SWTOR” or “(10 really)”

September 27, 2011 3 comments

High Latency Life strikes pure comedic gold: 20 Excuses to Ditch Your Family for SWTOR

My favorite:

6. Your girlfriend is pregnant with twins. You didn’t have insurance to get an ultrasound, so you got your head stuck in her vagina trying to look for a heartbeat.

“Will SWTOR Fix the Companions System?” or “My Only Friend in the World is a Moron”

September 27, 2011 11 comments

Companionship

MMOs are supposed to all about companionship, the thrill of being a part of something larger than your self, the adrenaline rush that comes from working together as a team, and overcoming a common obstacle. Companionship, at least for me, is one of the key components of an MMO. You and your friends, out in the world, seeking adventure, defying death, having a blast.

Most MMOs, in their incessant hunt for additional subscription numbers, have allowed for the ultra-casual-model, that allows one to level practically the entire game without ever having to interact with another human being. I don’t get that. Remember when you needed to group for elite mobs in WoW? Yeah, that golden time is long gone. If you are one of those players, perhaps you should stick to single-player games to begin with, but that is not the purpose of this post, just a sidenote.

Companions

One sub-system that exists in MMOs today is companions. MMOs throw all kinds of companions at you, from mounts to pets to vanity pets and temporary, quest-related NPCs. Companions are an essential component of MMOs. Everyone wants them. People will pay ridiculous amounts of money, even for a vanity pet, just so they can say they own it.

But companions are an oddity in MMOs. Despite their apparent function, they suffer from two intrinsic flaws:

  1. They are two-dimensional.
  2. They don’t serve their core function of being a “companion”.

Allow me to elaborate.

Two-dimensional: Companions in MMOs today have no personality. It is almost as if they see the world through this twisted lens that allows them to see only two individuals: you and whatever is attacking you. In the case of vanity pets, it actually boils down to just you. They have no backgrounds, they have no history in the world, their purpose is unclear and their future uncertain. No one else, apart from you, ever interacts with them, they certainly don’t interact with anyone, and most of the time they have nothing to say.

Failing the core function: A companion is someone you can jointly undertake a task with, be it a quest, a dungeon, a battleground, an arena, or just simple daily quests. A companion is someone who should augment your skills and abilities (granted this happens most of the time with fighting pets – if the AI isn’t terrible), share their experience, reply with something meaningful when you try and talk to them (even if it is scripted), provide company in the dark dreary dungeons of your brand of MMO poison, and exist beyond the confines of your character. MMOs today feature mute, obedient, dumb companions that don’t really give you a sense of true companionship.

But maybe Star Wars: The Old Republic is taking steps in the right direction. If their recent companion reveal is to be believed, companions will have backgrounds, complex personalities, and in-depth personal needs and objectives. You can go about ignoring them, only interacting with them as needed in the heat of battle, an option that will cater to the mindless MMO player, trained for years to treat companions as meaningless pixels on a screen. Or you can choose to interact with them, dig a little deeper into what makes them tick, and through the acceptance system (yes, it involves ‘gifts’ *groan*) eventually unlock additional dialogue options, as well as unique quests and rewards.

They will provide commentary, information on the plots of the various missions you undertake, they will also try to influence your decisions. They can become your closest friends, lovers or even enemies. You get your first companion early on, but more will rally to your cause as you progress further into the game.

Maybe, just maybe, Star Wars: The Old republic will succeed in creating a solid, meaningful companion system, where so many others have failed.

Categories: World of Warcraft

Quote of the Day: “A Positive Outlook on Firelands Nerf” or “The Rest of Us”

September 26, 2011 1 comment

As for the challenge, look if your guild was hardcore you probably finished Firelands early, you earned your stripes and can say I cleared it before the nerfs, even some of you on heroic mode.  Then there is the rest of us, we work, we go to school we have little time to dedicate to being as focused as the other hardcore players but still want to see the content completed.  That is what this nerf represents, a way for the rest of the community to see the content.

Why the Firelands nerfs aren’t that horrific, Variant Avatar

Categories: Quote of the Day

Spam Comment of the Day: “Your Site Open My Idea” or “You Can See… Many Video Guide”

September 26, 2011 3 comments

You Site Open My idea..
Master Your Mind Power!
Unleash The Power of Subconcious Mind to Achieve Success in Your Life.
You can see ..Many Video Guide

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Watt

Categories: Bronte

“Why I am Glad Diablo 3 is Delayed” or “EA Won’t Let Me Play SW:TOR”

September 25, 2011 6 comments

Why I am Glad Diablo 3 is Delayed

There are a lot of high-profile titles coming in the next few months that will keep me quite occupied. Dead Island and Gears of War 3, two titles that I’d like to play, are already out. I just haven’t had the time to play anything else, so I have not bothered purchasing these titles yet. I am still working through my second run through Deus Ex: Human Revolution, still leveling my scantily clad made in WoW, and tinkering with the stupidly cute Shakes and Fidget browser game.

Game of Thrones: Genesis also comes out in four days. But I am not sure about that one. I am a hardcore fan of the excellent series by George R.R. Martin, and from what I have seen in the trailers, I have a bad feeling about this in my gut. Over the course of time, I have learned to trust my gut.

October will bring id Software’s latest foray into first person shooters in the form of Rage, the much-anticipated and pre-ordered Battlefield 3, and Batman: Arkham City. Rage is exciting because the studio is finally going for a new IP after so long. Battlefield 3 just looks sick, and Batman: Arkham Asylum was too good to pass up City.

In addition, one of the MMOs that I have always wanted to play extensively but the monthly subscription cost kept me away was Fallen Earth. The MMO is going free-to-play on October 12, so I will definitely be checking it out.

November will be hell month. We have Modern Warfare 3, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will release within the span of about a week. This, coupled with the releases in September and October (along with Champions Online, WoW and Fallen Earth) will keep me quite busy through the holiday season.

Hence, I am glad Diablo 3 has been delayed!

EA Won’t Let Me Play SW:TOR

“Hi EA, would you like my money?”

“No, we don’t like where you live.”

QQ, etc.

“And SW:TOR has an Official Launch Date!” or “Is There too Much to do in Star Wars at Launch?”

September 24, 2011 3 comments

Say goodbye to your loved ones. Those vacation days you have been saving, better put in the leave application for them as well. Get ready to get fat, and stock up on caffeine pills and energy drinks.

Via Massively, Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk (co-Grand Poobahs of Bioware) announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic will officially launch on December 20th, 2011 for North America and December 22, 2011 for Europe.

Just yesterday BioWare released some information, including a seven minute dev diary,  on the companion system in Star Ware: The Old Republic, and provided some additional details today. They seem like a cool new addition to the game. There will be over 40 different companions of all kinds of background representing various races in the universe. Some will be driods. They are all completely customizable. You can change they way they look, the abilities they use and the their tactics. Interacting with them through the affection system unlocks additional dialogue options and allows you to get to know your companions a little better. They all have complex pasts and personal motivations and storys.

All of this is well and good. Syp had a nice post up yesterday about how he loves companions in his MMOs, and how he is really excited about their inclusion in SW:TOR. I had a question for him, which I asked him in the comments section, but busy as he is, he hasn’t found the time to reply yet. I will copy-paste said comment below:

I have to ask you one thing though. Do you think BioWare is putting too much into it? I mean when WoW launched, it was an elementary MMO. The WoW of today in all it’s complexity with all its mechanics, systems and sub-systems is a result of years and years of evolution in the MMO genre. It just seems to me that SW:TOR has too many things in it at launch. Every time I turn around, some new feature is being announced, be it companions or crafting, or interactive cut-scenes, or personal ships, or space combat. Do you think its wise to throw so much at a new player, and you know there will be a lot of new players that will get attracted by the SW brand who have no idea of MMOs?
What do you think? Do you think Star Wars: The Old Republic will be too unforgiving to a new player at launch? Or do you feel that all these new features will instead provide the player with a much more comprehensive and holistic MMO experience?

“Any MMO Players in EU?” or “Time to Congregate and Coalesce”

September 24, 2011 3 comments

Are there any bloggers or others readers that play in on EU servers? What games? What servers? What characters?

Kindly let me know!

Categories: Bronte

“Starting Anew” or “A Case of False Guild Advertising”

September 23, 2011 9 comments

Starting Anew

As I have mentioned a few times, I have started playing World of Warcraft again, but this time, I am trying something new:

  1. I am playing on the EU servers. I had been playing on the US servers, despite moving halfway across the world, and the latency was barely manageable. I have a latency of about 100ms, which spikes occasionally to a maximum of 150ms. Very manageable.
  2. I am starting from scratch. I have a new account and as such no money, no resources, no BoA items.
  3. I am playing as Horde. I have never played as a Horde character before, save a Tauren Hunter that I got to level 20 on launch day back in November of 2004.

I am having a blast going back to the basics. But even as I marvel at the fluidity of quest design and quest-hub-hopping (that should be a term), I am painfully aware that soon I will hit level 60, and then I will have to bear through the endless field of perpetual depression that is Hellfire Peninsula.

I am already level 50, an Undead Frost Mage called Cladtyrant. Bronte was already taken, and I didn’t feel like naming myself Brôñtë, because that is just foolish. The amount of experience needed to get to level 50 seems to have been cut by three-quarters from the vanilla WoW days. I remember the time when getting to level 60 was a marathon endurance test of your mental capabilities, as your reservoirs of patience ran thin and you trudged along painfully to the end.

A Case of False Guild Advertising

In my teen levels I was approached by the guild master of the guild I am currently in. “Join us”, he said. “We are a social guild that believe in helping one another and working together toward common goals. We can help you level and provide you with necessary guidance.” Up until that point, I was leveling solo, and I was in uncharted territory (Horde), so I asked a few questions pertaining to requirements and rules/regulations, and finding everything quite “casual” in nature, I agreed to join.

At this point, that seems to have been a mistake. The guild was level 1 when I joined. It is now level 4, so its not like I am benefiting immensely from perks. Every time I have asked a question in guild chat, be it quest-related, a plea for help with a particular area, or just a random comment, I have been met with resounding silence. The irritating aspect is that whenever I see a question in guild chat, I respond 9even do my own research on WowHead if needed) to try and be helpful. Even then there is no response, no “thank you”, or “hey I didn’t think of that!”, or even an “OK.” There is just silence, and silence, in this case, is pretty far from golden.

The “grouping” phenomenon seems to have permeated every aspect of the guild and people only seem to talk to certain other people if they are part of their sub-culture. I feel like I am playing a single-player game with guildmates who could easily be mistaken for well-scripted NPCs with their own lives. They simply don’t acknowledge my existence. And that is not how a massively multiplayer game is supposed to function.

You know there is a problem with your guild if you have a more meaningful conversation with people you randomly group with in instances than your own guild mates.

I want to confront the guild leader, asking him (her?) if they feel the least bit remorseful for completely misleading me. More recently, raiding seems to be getting into the picture and the guild is putting resources together towards forming a dedicated 10-man. That is cool, and whoever has the time should certainly get to use it as they see fit. Except it seems the guild is increasingly branching away from a casual to a raiding guild. Hell, they are even completing guild challenges on a daily basis.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Should I confront the guild leader? Or should I bide my time and see how things go?

“Deus Ex: Augmentations Guide” or “Professor Bronte in the Hizzouse!”

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Are you having trouble with augmentations?

Investing in that useless cone of vision keeping you up at night?

Do you wish someone had an awesome guide which could have warned you of what to invest in and what to skip?

Well then you’re in luck, because Professor Bronte now presents his detailed guide to hacking, now featured on Hooked Gamers!

Image of the Day: “Various Accounts Need All Fulfill” or “Fullest Fun in WoW”

September 22, 2011 5 comments

Click to enlarge

Categories: Image of the Day

Quote of the Day: “5-Mans, Redefined” or “A Summer Job Analogy”

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Are 5-mans legitimate content, somewhere players are supposed to be? Currently they are the equivalent of teenage summer jobs. Sure, go there for a little while, but only to save up for college or a car or because you parents won’t stop nagging you otherwise. If you’re not in high school, or at least college, if you are somehow a 40-year-old man with a family and you are still working at McDonalds or the local park district, something is wrong. That’s what 5-mans are currently. You are expected to do them, but also to be done with them and if you have to go back, it is not a nice feeling.

What would get me to resub to WoW: Part 2, Troll Racials are Overpowered

Categories: Quote of the Day

Se7en of my Greatest Vanilla WoW Memories, Part I: “The Essence of Brotherhood” or “There is no School Like Old School”

September 21, 2011 21 comments

Note 1: This is a shout out to the old-school. You know who you are. 😀

Note 2: Part II can be found here. It contains our bid to become the richest guild on the server (we did!), and the opening of the Ahn’Qiraj gates. This is a 3-part series.

1. Lucifron

For a lot of you new kids, Lucifron is but a vestige of a distant past, so obscure now, that if you heard the name, you wouldn’t know who he was, or what his function may be. Lucifron, flamewalker extraordinaire, was the first boss in the Molten Core, and as such, the first raid boss in World of Warcraft.

And it took us four weeks to kill him.

We were a new guild then, and although other guilds on the server were well into the instance by the time we started, it took us four arduous long weeks of learning the Molten Giants, The Lava Surgers and the Corehound Respawn timers to make it to the bastard’s cave in one piece. And then there were the wipes. Each wipe implied fighting through another round of Corehounds, Lava Surgers, and Imps, and if it had been two hours since we cleared the front, the rest of he instance to boot.

Lucifron was a great victory. Not just because we finally killed a boss in the biggest instance in the game, but because it established our identity as a hardcore raiding guild. Confidence soared, additional bosses fell, and although it took us so long to kill Lucifron, it took us only three to kill…

2. … Ragnaros

The lord of fire, lava, and everything in between was a long road. Night after night of clearing bosses, trash mobs, dousing runes and fighting the relentless armies of the denizens of the Molten Core, just to get one goddamn shot at Ragnaros and the tier two leg items he dropped.

Every time we attempted Ragnaros for those two weeks, we didn’t know if we would succeed or fail. Actually that’s a lie. I think most of us were convinced we would fail, but failing is a very important of the learning process. So we gave the bastard his due time. We fought his sons, we got knocked into burning lava, we crafted a million pieces of fire resistant gear. Week after week we butted heads with Ragnaros. Yet oddly the night we killed him, we knew we would.

The previous night of attempts had seen Ragnaros at 1% health before the final wipe of the night. The night we killed him, I prepared a speech to rally the troops. I told them about the importance of brotherhood and all that we had accomplished in our short time together. I reminded them that Razorgore had sat unchallenged in Blackwing Lair for months and his time will come if we down the lord of fire himself. TeamSpeak (yes we used that back then *shudder*) was quiet, but the guild chat pane was alive with rallying cries, with every last one of the 39 people in my group, as well as those sitting outside the instance, and the casual players hanging on to every word. We had worked hard to get here.

We engaged, and without a single wipe, with 18/40 raid alive, we vanquished the fiery demon. We scream in TeamSpeak. We typed in all-caps. Tier 2 (Judgment) Paladin Legs dropped, and although I had the least amount of DKP among the Paladins, every one of the six other Paladins in the raid refused to bid on it. Despite my insistence for them to bid, I took the prize home for the minimum DKP bet, a testament to the camaraderie of our group.

3. World Bosses

We were a raiding guild on Bloodhoof. There were several other major raiding guilds on Bloodhoof on the Alliance, and a few on the Horde. There was MUSA, Harbingers of Death, Crusaders of Aegwyn, and one other guild that was the bane of everyone’s existence. Fury of War was a guild that specialized in dominating endgame content, and rubbing everyone’s nose in their triumphs. They were the top dogs, the unrivaled server champions, they cleared raids faster than anyone else, and they were the first ones to get to, tag and down world bosses.

For those of you that may be new to this, world bosses were a phenomenon that existed in vanilla WoW and to some extent The Burning Crusade. These were raid bosses that spawned in designated locations in the world, free for anyone to tag them. They could never be killed by a party, let alone solo’ed and it took a lot of coordination to get guild members to rally together and go after a world boss because as soon as they were up, it was a race against time to see who could get to it first.

On Bloodhoof, the race was mostly one-sided, because Fury of War would normally get to the world bosses before the rest of the server even knew about it. And if they didn’t have the numbers, the bosses would normally be up by the time they had enough members. So they reigned as world boss killers for a while.

Until Cross of Vengeance decided to give it a whirl.

Over the next several weeks we strategist on how to kill world bosses. We realized that it was a three-step process:

  • First, we needed to know exactly when a world boss would be up.
  • Second, we needed to rally the troops, regardless of the time of the day.
  • Third, we needed to research. This included approximate spawn times, as well as strategy.

To fulfill the first, every member in the guild created alts and we spread them to the six possible spawn locations. Level 1 alts could be used for the stake outs for Lord Kazzak and the four Green Dragons. A mid-level character (40+ – so they’d have a mount – yes, you got your first mount at 40, not 20 in those days), so they could roam Azshara looking for the Blue Dragon Azuregos.

Most of us had exchanged IM contact information, so we created a separate account that everyone added, and that account would “sound the alarm” whenever a world boss was up to everyone online. This would ensure the maximum number of people could respond to the world event in a timely manner.

We figured out that most bosses spawned within a 24-36 hour window of a server reset (or crash), with a few minor exceptions. The only thing left was strategy, and although we could read up on Kazzak, the green dragons had just been released and they were going to be more trail and error than anything else.

By the time we left the server (Eitrigg opened up with free transfers), we gave Fury of War a run for their money. More often than not, we would tag and kill a world boss before they rallied enough people to kill the boss. We even killed Azuregos once with a mere 7 people in the group, and nearly 30 of their members watching silently from their mounts as they followed us around the zone.

That was one of our greatest accomplishments.

Categories: Bronte, World of Warcraft

Patch 4.3: “Loving the Lore” or “Hating the Lore”

September 20, 2011 15 comments

I didn’t think I would like WoW again, but the leveling game has been so well improved, I can’t help but marvel at the fluidity of it all. I am also trying something new altogether. I played a Dwarf Paladin for nearly six years, always on the Alliance side, on the US servers. Now I am on the EU servers, playing an Undead Mage, trying out the horde faction. And I have to admit, despite being primarily a solo journey, I am very pleasantly surprised by the ebb and flow of level progression in the lower levels. I am level 38 now, and so far it’s been a blast.

But I am digressing. Patch 4.3 is around the corner. The heroes of Azeroth must once again band together to defeat a worldly threat. And although that has happened countless times before, this time, things seem a little different:

Pros

  • The lore in Cataclysm has a very fluid structure. The story lines flows from starting zones into adjacent and non-adjacent zones, and at least until level 60, there seems to be a harmony to the central narrative.
  • The story takes into account the hero’s progression (that’s you). Arthas has been killed, and Cataclysm areas (both 1-60 and 81-85) consistently allude to the fact that he no longer threatens the world.
  • This progression is further taken into account with the lore for the three 5-mans and the raid encounter in patch 4.3, as the Al’Akir, Ragnaros, and Deathwing’s immediate family: Lady Sinestra, Onyxia and Nefarion have all been struck down. The forces of Deathwing have dwindled.
  • You can’t just kill Deathwing, he has contingencies in place, and he seems to have thought of everything. Even traveling to the past to recover the Dragon Soul to defeat him is impossible, and you must first travel to the future to remove said obstacle. In short, the lore is tied together very well in the four new instances.
  • You get to see the future, what Azeroth will become, should you fail.
  • You get to see the events 10,000 years in the past, events that shaped the today of Azeroth, events that we always heard of in lore conversation, or read about in books. But now you get to experience them first-hand. You fought Illidan in The Burning Crusade, but this time you can with alongside him, you know, before he turned into a massive dick.
  • Transmorgification: Hooray!

Cons

  • There will be three difficulty levels. Blizzard has already started nerfing the Ragnaros encounter. They also say that after the top seed guilds have downed Deathwing, he will be toned down as well. This is all part of the macro-strategy Blizzard is deploying to ensure that a large percentage of their player-base gets to see, experience and vanquish endgame content. I have mentioned before why this strategy may be a mistake, but it appears Blizzard will not change gears in content design in this expansion.
  • Despite the content re-design, Outlands and Northrend were left untouched. So at level 10, when the lore for the Undead storyline is speaking of Arthas being killed by the heroes of Azeoth, at level 70+, you will face him again in Northrend. Lame.
  • There are whole new bosses in the raid encounter, allies of Deathwing that we have never heard of before. That is a little weak. We played Cataclysm for nearly a year, systematically eliminating all that sided with Deathwing one after another. After so much, we get six new bosses thrown at us, ones that (mostly) never entered the fray before.
  • Benedictus was a minion of Deathwing all along? Oh come on!
  • Transmorgification: Couldn’t you have released this feature a little sooner? Only took you seven years!

Images of the Day: “Full of Fail” or “Full of Win”

September 19, 2011 4 comments

Can you guess which is which?

Looks like the balance of power lies somewhere around the crotch area.

Click to enlarge

Categories: MineCraft

“Deus Ex: Hacking Revolution” or “How to Hack in DE:HR”

September 18, 2011 2 comments

Anyone having trouble with the hacking minigame in Deus Ex: Human Revolution?

Check out my extensive hacking guide on Hooked Gamers!

“WoW Evolved” or “The Problem with Overtuning Content”

September 15, 2011 8 comments

The Game is Evolving, But the Players are Not

The problem with WoW’s current raid progression is that it simply isn’t accessible. Innovation after seven years of being the market leader implies that boss fights need to continue to evolve beyond tank-and-spanks and massive-mob-rushes, but it also has the added drawback of increased complexity. Ordinarily this shouldn’t be an issue, as players continue to learn the more they play and the more they encounter more complex fights. But WoW is an MMO, and that implies players come and go, and the average skill level fluctuates.

I read recently that there are several times more inactive WoW subscribers that once played WoW, than currently active (10 million +) WoW subscribers. I myself have unsubscribed four or five times. This effectively implies that aside from a few hardcore players, most of WoW’s core players continue to rotate. Raids see new players (or older players that haven’t played in a while) returning to newer, scarier, bigger, crazier boss fights. What I am trying to say is, the game is evolving and metamorphosing, but perhaps the player isn’t.

“Overtuning” Content

A very tiny percentage of the raiding population in WoW (which itself is a small portion of the overall population, I’d imagine) has conquered the Firelands raid, a fact most bloggers, including Spinks, agrees with. When most of the player base in your MMO is unable to even see (let alone down) the last boss of a raid instance before you are gearing up for the next raid tier, there is a problem. I have no factual information to support this, but this heavy-duty overtuning may well be the reason WoW has been losing a steady (not worrisome, but steady nonetheless) stream of subscribers since Cataclysm released.

The solution does not lie in nerfing the instance to make it more accessible to more players (as is apparently due, this very week), or introducing a “lower difficulty” setting (*groan*), it is to revisit your design principles and ensure that your instances are more accessible to the raiding population to begin with. This straddling the fence with content that is ridiculously difficult, then incredibly easy, and then painfully difficult again has us all confused. Hell even Tobold would like Blizzard to stick to their guns for once.

Blizzard recently said the Deathwing encounter will be the longest and the  most complex encounter in-game. So clearly the message isn’t getting through, but until the instance is actually released, I suppose there is always hope.

“Treating F2P With Some Respect” or “The F2P Gold Rush Continues”

September 13, 2011 2 comments

End of Nations is an MMORTS, one of the first of its kind, and has generated a fair bit of press because of its decision to go free-to-play. Davis Luehmann, Executive Producer for the game says they decided to go with a free-to-play model because the game focuses on large-scale multiplayer, and as such, the game’s fun factor will be directly tied to the number of people playing. As such, the team decided to “minimize the barrier to entry and maximize the fun.”

It is a flimsy response, born out of an inherent need to justify the free-to-play model, and mired in the inconsistency of it’s own premise. Time and again I see similar responses from developers who cannot bring themselves to openly admit that F2P has proven itself to be a financially sound business decision, one that has netted several other studios profits despite an initially abysmal response via other business models. I don’t understand why it is not acceptable for developers to simply state that they don’t feel a subscription-based model will be in their best interest, and they feel their product will be financially sustainable, even profitable, if they followed the F2P model.

You could argue that I am reading too much into this statement, but then I present to you the rest of this interview over at Massively. The “pay-to-win” argument is the first thing that pops into my head (and, I am guessing, the minds of most others familiar with MMOs and the rise of F2P in general) and another free-to-play title emerges in the market. When asked about “pay-to-win”, Luehmann was quick to point out that the game “will not be selling pay-to-win items that give one player a significant gameplay advantage over another”.

He also added that many of these items will be available for purchase via the in-game currency. But the game also features an “optional subscription option”. This is where the argument starts to fall apart. If the model is truly F2P, and the cash shops only provides cosmetic benefits, why have a subscription option? Surely the number of players that would like to decorate their tanks with that perfectly colored purple frill are too few to merit the option. Despite the claim that subscription players will have no advantages over free-to-play players, Luehmann says the subscription option will yield “significant value and convenience extras.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am one of the people actually looking forward to a decent MMORTS, and End of Nations if a strong contender. I just find it mildly insulting that developers continue to use rhetoric and poorly formed reasoning to justify their payment models. Just come out and say it:

We are a small studio, we don’t think subscription-based retention will be a possibility for us. We are thus offering a free-to-play model because it has proven to be successful, and because we would like to be profitable, which is our right as an independent business. However, in order to ensure we are not missing out on anyone who does want to pay a monthly fee, we are keeping the subscription option open.

That would have been an honest statement, one that would have netted my confidence and not made the developers sound like pretentious dicks who think players are too dumb to read between the lines and understand what is truly at stake.

Categories: End of Nations, F2P