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“Handicap Accessible” or “LFR = Looking for Rez”

January 9, 2012 6 comments

For those of you who played WoW from the very early days, do you remember when:

  • Attuning for Onyxia meant weeks of farming UBRS with 20 people
  • Clearing to Lucifron took a half hour and a wipe or two
  • We used to raid with 40 people
  • Paladins were Alliance-only, and Shamans were Horde-only
  • Since each boss dropped only two tokens, that meant a 40-man raid would get geared from MC (assuming nothing every got DE’ed), at least 20 weeks, or five months
  • Vendorstrike was the longest running joke since you could take out Sulfuron Harbinger

What these factors have in common was that the end-game was designed to be conquered by only the most hardcore of players. It took time, and skill, and effort and energy to coordinate a team of 40 people, and some how avoid any idiocy. Raiding, gearing, attuning took time, effort, energy and patience.There were no 25-mans, no 20-mans, no 10-mans. A raid was 40 people, period.

First the 40-mans were reduced to 25-mans. Then 10-mans were added, but the coordination required for 25-mans was rewarded by putting in gear of a slightly lower ilvl in 10-mans. Then they were balanced out as well, and heroic modes were added. And finally we have LFR. Today you can log in, queue for LFR, and be raiding with the now-largest raid size (25), in a matter of seconds. There is no skill requirement (unless you equate ilvl with skill), there is no filtering mechanism for determining if an individual knows what to do in a fight. The bosses hit like pussies, the loot drops like rain, and WoW’s much-elusive end-game is officially accessible to any and all M&S. Hell, bots could get better results.

My point is that WoW is no longer just accessible. It is now handicap accessible. People that have no propensity for raiding, who actually don’t mind AFK’ing through most of LFR and then rolling need on everything that drops are flourishing, their lives made easier. The world’s largest MMO has all the mechanisms in place to allow an individual to play the game as anti-socially as humanly possible. Skill is no longer a requirement. Decency is no longer a requirement. All you need is a level 85, and a heartbeat.

If this post is too negative, I apologize. I don’t mean to be. But if you join an LFR raid, score consistently in the top three for DPS with your crappy gear, and your group wipes time and again on Ultraxion trash, it tends to strike a nerve.

Image courtesy of The Death Knight Diaries.

(Sidenote: if you are on the EU servers, pop in Aggamagan server, Alliance side. I play on a Night Elf Hunter called “Jehangir”.)

“What do Adam Jensen and Warcraft Rogues Have in Common?” or “Stupid Freaking Boss Fights”

October 20, 2011 1 comment

Inspired by Klepsacovic, I just realized something.

Q: What do Adam Jensen of Deus Ex: Human Revolutions and Rogues from World of Warcraft have in common?

A: They are both sneaky.

They stick to shadows.

They use hit and run tactics.

They put out an incredible amount of damage in short bursts.

And they both get stuck with boss fights where the only way to fight is out in the open, and none of their penchant for sneaky antics gets leveraged in any way!

“Deus Ex: Human Choices” or “Online Gaming Overload”

October 7, 2011 3 comments

Deus Ex: Human Choices

I just finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution after my second time through. My save files were corrupted right after I completed everything in Hengsha the second time around (about 80% of the game completed). As much as that had sucked, that actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it turns out I had made some fairly silly augmentation choices.

Loved:

  • The various augmentations. Despite there being some really foolish augmentation choices, the overall system was well-thought out and true to the Deus Ex experience.
  • The stealth aspect was superb. I learned to take out entire groups of enemies using just single takedowns and the cover system (no double take-downs, no noise reduction, no forced distractions, no invisibility). You can upgrade your abilities to further augment the stealth play-style, eventually turning into an invisible killing machine. But I loved the fact that you could use stealth to your advantage from the very beginning.
  • The game offered multiple paths to reach your objective. I think it is a little misleading to say the game offers multiple options to complete an objective, because at the end of the day, you just need to get from point A to point B. The game does offer multiple paths to get there though. You can run and gun. You can use lethal takedowns and stick to the shadows. You can use non-lethal takedowns to pursue the path of being a pacifist. You can bypass most enemies en route to your objective.
  • The moral dilemma upon landing in Hengsha the second time. I had played as a pacifist the entire game, and I had to choose to remain a pacifist or to save a character’s life. I ended up choosing the later. It is moments like these that make great video games, when you are forced to make genuinely tough decisions, where the  option you choose isn’t the easiest or the most moral of the presented outcomes.

Did not Love:

  • The damn boss fights. They sucked. They didn’t offer “choice” in how to handle the boss. Each boss fight was “pump boss full of lead till it keels over”. As a stealth player, I was sorely disappointed.
  • The story, though well-written, can be summarized in about seven sentences.
  • Stealth gameplay adds artificial length to the game. If you shoot your way through and don’t engage in side-quests, I don’t think the main story would take you more than 5-6 hours. Which is a little lame.
  • The choice at the end was to literally press one of four buttons to see a different ending. I felt cheated at the end. I felt like the game had engaged me to make all of these decisions during my adventures, and none of those decisions eventually mattered because in the end I could simply flick the switch for whichever ending I chose, regardless of the logistical or moral choices I had made up to that point. I didn’t like that one bit.

Overall it is a great game, and one I would recommend for any RPG/Stealth lover. It has it’s flaws, but they can be (largely) overlooked. Give it a try if you haven’t yet.

Online Gaming Overload

WoW Leveling

I had slight MMO overload over the last few days. I played WoW almost compulsively, because it was so easy to invest just another half hour into it and get another level for your character. I had a small episode of a burnout, so I decided to purposely stay away for a few days. It worked. It has been three days and I am itching to play it again.

Superhero Simulators

I have been dabbling a little into Champions Online. I am level 11 now, but the I am not quite happy with the Archetype I picked. I also read that this was probably the most balanced of the offered Archetypes, so if this is the best they have to offer without paying, then maybe I ought to focus my attention on City of Heroes, which has recently transitioned into an F2P model as well.

Global Agenda

Good game to start off in, the tutorial levels are very well laid out, and I had a lot of fun with the smaller skirmishes. But I have my hands rather full these days and something’s got to give. That something has turned out to be Global Agenda. Not that it matters, because where I dropped Global Agenda, I picked up…

League of Legends

God damn whoever made this game because it is addictive as hell. I have only played two games so far, but my DOTA flashbacks have effectively ensured I will be screwing around in this title for a while. I am going to try out all the free to play characters for now, just to get a better handle on the game, and I am not touching Dominion yet, simply because I must wrap my head around the basics first. I will also continue to research the paid characters and see which one best suits my play-style. All in all, good game, and I am glad (wroth) that I got coerced into giving it a try. Because now I am hooked. Damn it.

StarCraft II

I am steadily getting better as a Protoss player. I have made it a rule to get at least four to five 1v1 matches in a week so my macro game continues to improve. But my true love in StarCraft II right now is playing with a friend in ranked 2v2. It is a treat to play and I am very happy with everything it has to offer so far.

Image of the Day: “WoW Grammar Nazi” or “You Know How This Conversation Will End”

October 7, 2011 11 comments

Via Kotaku.

“Leveling at the Speed of Light” or “Two Toons, Two Servers, Two Factions”

October 5, 2011 8 comments

Leveling at the Speed of Light

As lonomonkey will tell you, and Rohan will corroborate, leveling in the post Cataclysm vanilla WoW areas is … well … speedy. I am playing on a completely new server. So unlike Rohan, I have no heirlooms to boost my XP gain, but I am now in a guild that gives the XP boost. Even without heirlooms, not only am I out-leveling the zones I am questing in faster than finish them, I am also gaining a level about every 20 minutes of play or so. I wonder how much faster I would level if I had all heirloom items.

My hunter is currently level 34.

Last Monday, I was level 5.

My /played is less than 13 hours.

That is ridiculous.

Rohan gives a few reasons why Heirlooms are unnecessary at this point:

  1. The XP gain is vastly increased in Cataclysm. You really don’t need heirloom items, at least not until level 60. I haven’t played much past level 61 yet to know how much of a difference it makes.
  2. Heirlooms take away the joy of the upgrading your equipment micro-game. I completely agree. I look forward to every boss because the beast might have a good upgrade for me.
  3. I will tack on a third reason. You work so hard to get the currency for buying out the heirloom items. You can now use them on something much more useful. Instead of squandering your resources on heirlooms.

Two Toons, Two Servers, Two Factions

My mage is comfortably sitting in Hellfire peninsula at level 61. The mage is Undead, whereas the Hunter is a Night Elf. They are also on different servers.

I started the mage because I wanted to experience the Horde story. I have been quite impressed by what I have come across so far. I chose the server because two of my friends played on it, and they have since quit, having started their university courses in the pursuit of a Master’s degree.

I started the hunter to be in Gevlon’s PuG guild. His guild is on the Alliance side, so I didn’t have a choice of faction there.
Both toons also have their own dedicated bank mules, though it seems to me that the hunter is making a lot more money than the mage did at his level.

I have decided I will level the hunter during the week, and the mage only over the weekends. With the hunter, the levels are still easy to come by. The mage will benefit greatly from a week’s worth of rested XP when I have a go at it this weekend. I think that is a good strategy.

Pro Gold Tip: Linen Cloth sells like hot pancakes. They are bought out faster than I can put then up.

Categories: World of Warcraft

Image of the Day: “The Eastern Plaguelands Experience” or “Fiona’s Folly”

October 2, 2011 4 comments

This is one of my favorite new zones in the revamped vanilla zones. Eastern Plaguelands is tied together by a caravan of simple individuals, led by one Fiona. They travel from tower to tower in the Plaguelands, stopping at each location to attempt to fix the local pest problems, en route to Light’s Hope Chapel. Well done Blizzard!

See? I can say something positive about World of Warcraft!

Categories: World of Warcraft

“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?

“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

“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?

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!

“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.

“Transmorgificate my Fist in Your Face” or “Too Little Too Late”

August 29, 2011 6 comments

The Tier 2 paladin set was probably the best looking set Blizzard managed to come up with for the paladin class.

The tier took some effort to obtain, especially considering that all the pieces were given out in two separate content patches. The helm dropped from Onyxia and the legs from Ragnaros. But you had to wait until the release of Blackwing Lair to get the remaining six pieces. The set looked awesome, and at the time could only be worn by Humans and Dwarfs. No the Draenei’s stupid spaceship hadn’t crashed yet, and the Horde did not have Paladins (as the Alliance did not have Shamans – I know new players, I know that sounds frightening).

I had all eight pieces of the armor, and with each raiding tier, we hoped that we would get a set that would be as badass-looking as Tier 2, but to no avail. We got sets that made us look like a cross between Gundam and a retarded Transformer, but never anything that was as impressive as Tier 2. The Burning Crusade brought with it some hope and a purple (ugh!) version of the same set, but that was quickly replaced by high-end raiders such as myself.

For five years the Tier 2 set collected dust in my bank. I would take it out infrequently when we had a retro-vanilla-WoW party in Ironforge, but other than that it just remained in my bank, unwanted, useless, sad.

Two months prior to quitting WoW in May, I deleted the set to make space for a lot of other items I was stock-piling. Two months after I quit, Transmorgification was announced.

You can understand if I want to high-five Blizzard in the face with a frying pan right about now.

“Champions Online: Superhero Simulator” or “Global Agenda: Superagent Simulator”

August 10, 2011 2 comments

The wait for the next generation of MMOs is unbearable at this point. I have quit WoW. World of Tanks simply wasn’t my cup of tea. I dabbled in Lord of the Rings Online, but it was a barren wasteland, and I rarely came across any players in the first 22 levels in a “well-populated” server, so eventually I just got tired of playing solo and quit LOTRO as well.

I have now downloaded both Champions Online: Free For All, and Global Agenda: Free Agent, partly because I am itching to play an MMO, and partly because they were in my Steam “free to play” section, and it was just convenient to download and install both clients.

Superhero Simulator

I had a lot of issues, I mean a LOT of issues, with Champions Online. I despised the title to the point that I could not bear to play the game a month past the initial “free” month. Even back then, must have been September/October of 2009 or thereabouts, I thought Champions Online would have benefited greatly if it was a free-to-play title, because it had a lot of things going for it. I am not saying free-to-play titles are allowed to have broken game mechanics or unpolished gameplay, not at all. I am just saying that it didn’t make sense to call it a AAA title when the game was dramatically and drastically altered on launch day itself because of blatant balance issues.

When I logged in this time, using the same username/password that I had used nearly two years prior, I was surprised to find my original characters still intact. Now because those characters no longer fit into the free archetypes that free accounts have access to, I could not load the world with those characters and play to my heart’s content, but I was grateful that my old characters were still intact after all that time.

I made a new character. I should rephrase, I am in the process of making a new character.  had actually forgotten how incredible complex, deep and fun the hero builder tools could be in Champions Online. With literally thousands of combinations, even with in the free account, you can create a truly unique looking hero.

Superagent Simulator

A lot of people who play this game had remarked that you could play Global Agenda for any length of time without feeling like you are tied down to a raid or dungeon run at a designated time. You could jump in and out of missions on the fly and play as your schedule suits you, not the other way around. Given the sheer shortage of time that has become the bane of my existence lately, this was a major plus point for me.

I have only played the tutorial of this game so far, and I have been quite impressed with the way the single-player (near) obligatory tutorial section is designed. It has a cool storyline, plenty of interesting cut-scenes and it introduces gameplay mechanics in interesting and unique ways. So far I have had a blast and I will continue to play it until I have a good enough handle on the game to start tackling mission and get into the MM part of this MMO.

“Why I Quit WoW, Again” or “The Endless Cycle”

August 2, 2011 9 comments

I have “quit” WoW a grand total of… well actually I have lost count at this point. It is a great game, one that has been the cause of many a triumphs and digital glories, but also one that stagnates over time and becomes too “casual-unfriendly”. I have also come to realize that WoW is a great game if you are at the top of the food pile, the 10% or so of guilds that raid regularly, accomplish goals and manage to dent the world in their own way. If you don’t have a guild to run things with, you’re either on your own, or you are playing with a rather large contingent of blithering idiots who can’t tell their two handed mace from their short sword.

Over the course of time I have started to run out of time. In college, I could get back from classes, do a bit of work, raid for four hours on a stretch, play a little more, and still have time to go out with friends for a couple of drinks. Now there are several days when I can’t play anything because everything is packed in so tightly, there is no wiggle room. It has been brought to my attention on a few occasions that I “need to learn how to say ‘no'”, and I “need to lessen the load on my plate.” But all of that is easier said than done when you are involved in as many things as I am.

The ‘gain’ vs. ‘fun’ Debate

WoW, by the end of it had become a chore. I logged in every day, and because of the lack of time, I would try to maximize my ‘gain’ in the game. Veteran MMO players will understand this. There is a very thin line between maximizing your gain from the game (be it loot, gold, experience, or anything else that somehow advances your character in some dimension), and just having fun. Years ago, leading a guild, downing the toughest raid bosses was fun, because I had all the time in the world to spare. Now everything was centered around the maximum gain. I realized soon that I hated what I was doing in WoW. I would log in every day, finish the compulsory dailies, and try strenuously to find a half-competent group to run a 5-man with, followed by some AH manipulation and then log off till the next day.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It was monotonous, boring, and more than a little tedious. By the end I was just trying to justify paying for the subscription in-game, because I somehow owed it to those measly $15 to put in my time and advance my character in whichever small way possible. And during all this, I wasn’t having any fun at all.

So that is why I quit.

Categories: Opinion, World of Warcraft

“Melmoth Strikes Again” or “Level 45 Hunters are Nubs”

July 21, 2011 2 comments

Read this post.

Then read the following comment (incidentally also the first response to said post).

“Instance Control. Champion Heavy Six Zero. Requesting permission to dungeon run.”

“Roger Champion Heavy Six Zero. Please change your character level to six five and then proceed on instance two three.”

“Level six five, and instance two three. Thank you. Champion Heavy Six Zero”

“Champion Heavy Six Zero, be advised you have a Guardian and Minstrel ahead of you at a level of six five, please maintain separation and do not attempt to join their formation.”

“Roger. We have them in sight, will maintain separation. Champion Heavy Six Zero.”

“Instance Control. Hunter Medium Four Five. Requesting permission to join formation.”

“Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha Hunter Medium Four Five. Ah ha ha.”

Categories: World of Warcraft

“You Can Donate to Japan’s Relief Efforts!” or “Why That Pisses Me Off!”

May 3, 2011 4 comments

Via GamePolitics (and later via MMO-Champion and WoW.com) I came across a news item today that stated that Blizzard is offering a non-combat pet, the Cenarion Hatchling for $10 in the Blizzard Store. The nice thing, apart from having a cute little pet follow you around, is that 100% of the profits will be used to help victims in the wake of the recent earthquakes that resulted and tsunamis in the Pacific region as well as devastating flooding in Japan.

And that pisses me off.

Too often I see giant conglomerates starting a venture to ‘help out’ in a cause, all of the cost associated is forked over to the end-user. In this case if we want to help through this option, we must spend $10 and that money goes straight to the relief efforts. Blizzard practically mints money. Why couldn’t it be that they donate cent for cent, dime for dime, and dollar for dollar? Or better yet, donate directly without ‘donating’ a digital pet in a video game?

If you make the argument that some players are pet-collectors and they would be grateful to know their money was actually helping someone, then bear in mind that those people aren’t your primary donors to begin with. As someone who has sunk significant capital into the flood relief work in Pakistan, earthquake relief work in Haiti, and tsunami relief work in Japan, it irks me to no end that a massive money-minting company like Blizzard can’t be bothered to spend any of its own money for the cause.

Maybe I am overreacting, and you can hate me for the argument, but I am sticking to my guns. I love Blizzard and the fantastic worlds that they create, but the above really pisses me off.

Categories: World of Warcraft

“Paladin Tier 12 Preview” or “It Only Took 10 Tiers!”

May 2, 2011 5 comments

The last time I was really excited about a Paladin raiding tier set was in the BWL days of vanilla WoW. I managed to acquire a full Tier 2 set, and it looked bloody sexy. Not since then have I been excited about any other raid sets for Paladins.

Until now.

Tier 12 looks sick. I know some will disagree, but I love it. I am not even playing properly any more, let alone raiding, but I am tempted to get back into it just to get my hands on this set! See a comparison below between Tier 2 (Judgement) and Tier 12.

Categories: World of Warcraft