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Posts Tagged ‘Wrath of the Lich King’

Played Lately: “OpenRaiding” or “Reapers”

March 12, 2012 8 comments

I have been a little sick the last few weeks, and there has been a major regime change at work that has thrown a figurative monkey-wrench into everything work-related. This is not to say I haven’t been playing (or enjoying) video games, it simply means I have been severely pressed for time to write about them.

Mists of Pandaria Blues

World of Warcraft shambles on towards the new expansion. I say shambles not because the subscriptions numbers are struggling, because despite losing millions of subscribers, Blizzard still retains 10 million + players. I say shambles because the expansion blues have set in. Members of the guild have been logging fewer hours each day, and despite fairly decent success with Dragon Soul (1/8 HC for a PuG guild ain’t bad), fewer and fewer show up for raids, rBGs and group-play. I realized that my playtime had rapidly dwindled because aside from the aforementioned two activities, I did little else. So I decided to set a few (un)realistic goals for myself.

  • 1 million gold: I have crossed the 100K gold mark in the game, so the AH profiteering is going well. I don’t think I will hit a cool million before the expansion, but that is largely due to the fact that Agamaggan is a dead server. On reset day, at peak hour, it took a pug nearly two hours to put together a BH-25 from trade chat. That is just sad.
  • 50 Exalted Reputations: I think I will easily hit this benchmark before the expansion. I have been using a great resource to figure out what to do for each rep grind for the various faction spread out across the original game and it’s four expansions. The website is Wow JuJu, and their reputation calculator is phenomenal. I have 31 exalted reputations at the moment, and I should hit exalted with the Netherwing faction tonight. So 18 more shouldn’t be much of an issue. My guess is that we won’t see Mists of Pandaria before the (beginning of the) end of summer.
  • Mountain of Mounts: Getting 100 mounts in the game is a lot easier today than it was 2 expansions ago. I have 68 so far, and with minimal effort, it would seem. Here is a pro-tip for people trying to do this achievement. Go to your official armory page (mine is here). Click on “Companions and Mounts” in the menu on the left-hand side. Click on the mounts tabs up top. Click on Not Collected. On the top-right, beneath the Filter search box, click Show Advanced Filters. You can now sort mounts by vendor, quest, profession, drop etc. You can do the same on the companions tab.
  • Transmorgificate: Transmorgification is great not only in that it allows you to customize your character’s look, but also in that it has made old raids relevant again. Vanilla and The Burning Crusade raids are simple because my current gear vastly overpowers the encounters. However, Wrath of the Lich King (and, obviously, Cataclysm) is a different story altogether. I can’t run that with 1-2 friends in 25-player mode, and I certainly cannot run Tier 11 (Bastion of Twilight, Throne of the Four Winds, Blackwing Descent) or Tier 12 (Firelands) without help. This is where the titular “OpenRaiding” concept comes into play.
  • OpenRaiding: OpenRaid is a relatively new website that allows you to raid via Real ID. You don’t have to bark in trade chat for hours to get a team together (god knows that is a pain in the ass on a low population server), simply log into OpenRaid, post up a raid that you want to run, the time and date, the group composition you want and people sign up for it. Once they are signed up, you are given access to their RealID information. Add them, toss them an in-game invite and go raid! I have run close to 20 raids so far in the last two weeks, and so far it has been a massive help in getting things accomplished that we otherwise wouldn’t. Just two days ago, I joined a team that was hunting the harder achievements in 40-man raids (such as The Alterac Blitz, or Stormpike Perfection), and we got both during our playtime together, in addition to Mine in Isle of Conquest. If you are not on there yet, I highly recommend it. The ONLY thing you can’t raid with it, is Dragon Soul on Normal or Heroic. You can raid Dragon Soul in LFR mode, although I have seen no groups for it (for what some might call obvious reasons). I have one raid coming up tonight if you with to join, it is a rap/transmorg run of all TBC raids. You can find it here.
  • Primary Professions: My main, Jehangir, has Engineering and Blacksmithing maxed out. However, I desperately need a few other professions in order to fully capitalize on the market. I am leveling a Paladin (my first love), with Mining and Jewelcrafting. The mining part is primarily because it is a pain to find a smelter and most ore is half the price of its equivalent number of bars in the AH, which is more than a little ridiculous. I am also leveling a mage with Tailoring and Alchemy. I still need a Leatherworker. Inscription can bite me.

Taking Earth Back

Taking back earth is accomplished in Mass Effect 3, oddly, by spending the least amount of time on Earth. I am only about 5 hours into the story, and if my experience and the rave critic reviews are any indication, I am in for a hell of a ride. My favorite aspect of the game should be the combat, as it is an improved, visceral and brutal affair, but what I am truly impressed by is the music score. Mass Effect 3 has amazing music throughout, and it has an uncanny ability to tug at the emotional strings of my psyche. I have been playing Commander Shepard for (going on) five years now. This story feels personal, it feels real, and the threat palpable.

Of course they can’t get everything right, because today I came across this sad piece of news from an otherwise positive review:

In singleplayer, everything you do accumulates ‘war assets’. When you finish the game, how many of these you have determines how good an ending you get: how well the final fight goes for your side. Success in co-op multiplies your war assets, up to twice their normal value. That means that if you only play singleplayer, or want to finish singleplayer first, you’ll have to grind the living hell out of its most tedious fetch quests to get the best ending. – PC Gamer, Mass Effect 3 Review

Balls.

“Se7en Favorite Gaming Moments in 2010” or “Yes I Know This Post is Late, Shut Up!”

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Note: I know this post is very late, but hey, I started putting it together about two weeks back and constantly got sidetracked. The following are some gaming moments in 2010 that had me sit back and just marvel at the developers for putting together such incredible set-pieces.

Mass Effect 2 – The Ending Sequence

Despite a lackluster final-boss (what the hell was that all about anyway?), the ending of Mass Effect 2 was one of the greatest moments crafted in any game ever made. Granted the final cut-scene had zero input from the player, but you could see all of your actions over the course of the game reflected in that sequence. The fate of your teammates, crew-mates, and even your own survival would be revealed in a cut-scene that was crafted out of the very choices you made throughout the game. The final cacophony that leads to Shepard’s breathtaking leap of faith was the icing on the cake. Topped with a stellar musical score and superb dialogue, the ending of Mass Effect 2 continues to live on in memory as one of the most powerful video game endings in history. I had goosebumps!

World of Warcraft – Killing the Lich King

Nearly eight years in the making, the final blow to the Lich King was a triumphant moment in 2010. Even since his betrayal at Stratholme, and subsequent departure from humanity, every Warcraft fan prayed for the day when we would stand toe-to-toe with the arch-villain and sink in his fine-honed blades. Now I didn’t get to experience the moment on my main character, and I wasn’t there for the three week struggle against the fight that led to the eventual kill, but the moment was nevertheless cathartic. We had killed Arthas, and all was right with the world.

Little did we know…

StarCraft II – Fight To The Death

StarCraft II had very intelligent missions. I don’t think I have ever played a pure RTS where I never felt like I was playing an RTS. Allow me to explain. StarCraft II, for all intents and purposes, is a true RTS. You collect resources. You build a base. You pump units. You annihilate the other side. However, despite the fact that you do this in nearly all missions, each mission felt different and played out in a distinctly different tone. In each mission there is some gimmick or some additional obstacle that you must overcome to advance, and the RTS underpinnings are silently turning in the background, almost as if you aren’t even playing an RTS. When the truth of the matter is that you are playing an RTS all along! Do you see? Oh forget it! One of the most memorable moments in 2010 was a Protoss mission.

SPOILER START.

This is the final Protoss mission, a vision of the near-future where all intelligent life in the universe is being systematically annihilated. The Protoss make their last stand, with the Zerg pouring into a massive base from all directions. Your job as a player however, is not to win. Your job is to lose. You need to hold out the assault for some time, but eventually it will overwhelm you no matter how you do it, and then you need to fight till the last Protoss is alive, including the most iconic figureheads of the enigmatic race. The winning condition, you see, is to fight till the last Protoss and this eventually lose the base. That is awesome. I had a blast in that mission, and I had adrenaline pumping through my veins as I tried strenuously, albeit foolhardily, to stand my ground. Well done Blizzard, well done indeed!

SPOILER END.

Red Dead Redemption – Rescue my Wife

Red Dead Redemption was a jewel in the gaming line-up of 2010.

I am riding on my horse down the dirt-path carved into the terrain by frequent travelers. I am minding my own business, on my way to meet a new contact who goes by the name of Irish. I am contemplating if I should just fast-travel to the location; in retrospect, I am glad I didn’t exercise that option. You’ll see why in just a second. Suddenly, I hear someone in the distance say:

“Please sir, would you help me? They’ve taken my wife!”

I pause, wondering if this was a mission marker that I missed on my map. The rider who has sought my help turns up as a blue circle on my mini-map. As I contemplate my response to this stranger’s query, he simply takes off in one direction, eager to get to his wife. As the blue circle grows distant, I get a message on my screen suggesting I follow the rider. I think a second longer and decide to follow the poor guy, and see what this random encounter has in store for me.

The man rides at top speed down bushy knolls and grass highlands for a little bit, and then he stops short of a posse of hooligans. His wife sits atop a horse, with a noose around her neck. Before I can even so much as gauge the situation, a firefight breaks out. I take out my trusty Winchester Repeater, and over the next few seconds, gun down the three perpetrators.

Then I realize I was too slow. They have already killed the husband, who lays crumpled next to his dead horse. I look over at the wife. The shooting has scared off the horse atop which she sat, and she is hanging from the tree branch. I panic. I run over to her increasingly limp body, but even as I am closing the distance I get a message on-screen that says matter-of-factly: “The victim has died.”

I am utterly devastated. Had I been a few seconds faster, both in the decision to follow the man and in the shootout, I could have saved their lives. I know they are digital beings in an artificial world, but the sense of loss is still palpable.

I came across this encounter a second and then a third time. The second time I ignored it altogether, because it was late and I just wanted to finish one last story mission before calling it a night. The third time I immediately followed the man, this time to a different location, with the kidnappers using a cart as cover, and the wife already hanging. I managed to save the husband, but the wife perished. The husband collapsed at the hanging, limp body of his wife and wailed.

A few things to remember:

  • The mission was completely optional
  • If you chose to take on the quest, you simply followed the husband, there was no mission log to keep track of the mission, and no prompt saying that you were now on this mission. In fact, you could abandon course at any point and just go your way if you so chose.
  • There were multiple outcomes: you could save both husband and wife; you could save just the wife; you could save just the husband
  • In any of the scenarios above, you weren’t penalized for failing (unless you take into account being emotionally penalized); if you failed, that family was dead, you were responsible for it, and there was nothing you could do to change that

A living breathing world indeed.

Lord of the Rings Online – The Joy of Deeds

In 2010, I also returned to LOTRO, after a brief stint with the original beta and a briefer stint with the live game. The game seems to be much more streamlined and the option to play for free is extremely tempting. After finishing the starter area for elves, I was questing near a lake when something popped up on my screen: “New Deed Unlocked”, it said. I was confused. Since I had not played the game in so long, I had no idea what they were talking about. When I looked it up, I realized how that tied into Turbine Points, and how much I actually enjoyed the idea of pursuing deeds to not only earn rewards, but also Turbine points for the store. As I have mentioned on a few occasions, I have a penchant for completing every last objective, title, achievement and knick-knack a game throws my way, so the discovery of deeds was a very joyous moment for me.

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood – My First Kill Streak


The third major installment in the series featured several improvements over the previous iteration, the most significant of which was offensive combat. Instead of sitting there with the block button pressed, you could actually attack offensively at will, and killing an opponent allowed you to unlock chain-killing enemies in rapid succession. When I first came across this ability, I couldn’t figure it out. The in-game prompt, and even websites where other people had posted their frustrations with the mechanic, suggested that I press LS to kill the next victim. I took me a whole week to realize that “press L2” does not equal “press L2 down”. You simply had to swivel the stick in direction of the opponent you wanted take out next, preferably close by, and then execute. The first time I accidentally figured this out was during a rescue mission where you engage a large army of guards to buy Catarina Sforza some time to get away. That first kill streak was orgasmic, because once I figured it out, I took out over 30 guards in a series of quick, fluid and outright sexy maneuvers without having to play defensively.

Alan Wake – The First Miniboss

Alan Wake was not on my top list for games in 2010, mostly because the game became too formulaic with its gimmicks after the first hour or two. That being said, it had some truly eerie and at times downright creepy moments. One of these moments was the final ‘boss fight’ at the end of Chapter One. This was the being that zipped around at a frightening speed, only to stop a mere few feet from you, when your eyes haven’t even adjusted to the sudden change in momentum, and attack! That was a terrifying encounter, and set the mood for several of the following hours of gameplay. Aside from Dead Space, that is the only game to date that truly shivers me timbers!

That’s my list, what were your favorite gaming moments in 2010?

Quote of the Day: “Why GearScore is a Terribad Idea” or “Couldn’t Agree With You More WoW.com”

July 20, 2010 Leave a comment

How can you tell a good raider from a bad raider?

GearScore? NO. Often times, people will rely on a numerical gear score, but this is not a good way to judge player quality. Very good players will have low gear scores when starting out, and very bad players who have been persistent or been carried can have very high scores. GearScore  is not an indicator of goodness or badness; it’s purely an indication of how much time and luck the person has had on that character.

– Jim Dalton, Guest Post: Vetting puggers — beyond GearScore and achievements

Categories: They said whaaaat?

“The Biggest PvPenis” or “Static vs. Dynamic”

June 20, 2010 7 comments

Returning to WoW

Since I came back to WoW, I have enjoyed a few key features introduced since I last weathered Azeroth’s tribulations. The Dungeon Finder is one such tool, and though I will religiously do a 5-man daily to accumulate those precious Emblems of Frost, the novelty wore off after a while, and the unused 400 Emblems of Triumph in my backpack became enough of an indication that the Dungeon Finder tool had outlived his functionality for my main.

So I started looking for alternate means to enjoy various other aspects of WoW. One of these was the leveling of a new character, a mage called Septimus (he was created originally as a bank alt on the 7th of July, 2007; hence Septimus). That too has it’s charms, as I am taking the time to explore each story and side-quest in WoW, trying to take in the breathing world before Deathwing comes along and fucks everything up.

Arathi Basin and The Burning Crusade

One other element that I have dabbled into with increasingly frequency is PvP. I have played World of Warcraft off and on for almost six years now. In those six years, I have PvP’ed during those lull moments in the game’s history, with varying degrees of success. It started with AB-premades. Our guild had killed C’Thun 4 months prior. We had 7/15 on farm in Naxx-60, and with The Burning Crusade looming around the corner, raiding became more of a chore with every passing day. People stopped showing up, those that showed up didn’t have their heart in the game. I was beginning to feel like I was losing all semblance of a cohesive guild identity. At first I was comfortable with the idea. After all, The Burning Crusade would necessitate that we remove 15 players from our ranks as it supported the 25-man raid structure and not the 40-man raid structure. But then I saw less than 10 people log on a primary raiding night, and I knew something had to be done.

And so the Arathi Basin farm group was created. There were close to 25 of us, rotating in and out, depending on who was online at the time, and we started learning the ropes of Arathi Basin. In the beginning one or two days, the battleground was a sweet and sour experience. We 5-capped a game, which gave us great confidence and momentum… to survive and regroup after we were 5-capped a few games later. By the end of December 2006, we were rampaging through Arathi Basin. The raid was divided into 5 parties as follows:

  • Group 1: Stables – 1 individual (preferably a rogue or cat)
  • Group 2: Lumber Mill – 3 individuals (two DPS, one healer)
  • Group 3: Gold Mine – 3 individuals (two DPS, one healer)
  • Group 4: Blacksmith – 4 individuals (three DPS, one healer)
  • Group 5: Hit Squad – 4 individuals (three DPS, one healer OR four DPS with a hybrid class that could heal moderately).

Tim Buckley cracks me up!

The function of groups 1-4 is fairly obvious. They would cap their targets and stay at the node to defend. The work, however, was cut out for the Hit Squad. They would ride with group 4 (Blacksmith), and depending on the scenario, several things could happen:

  • No (or light) opposition at Blacksmith, Gold Mine and Lumber Mill fight in deadlock or leaning towards us – charge Farm
  • No (or light) opposition at Blacksmith, Gold Mine or Lumber Mill in trouble – hit the respective node (if both in trouble, hit Lumber Mill) and reinforce
  • Heavy opposition at Blacksmith, reinforce Blacksmith team

The Hit Squad basic function was to serve as a traveling band of miscreants, bringing death and destruction to any and all challengers in our four primary nodes. If we secured all four nodes, then we would call up four additional reserves (1 from Lumber Mill, 1 from Gold Mine, 2 from Blacksmith), add them to the Hit Squad, and all eight would endlessly hit Farm, even if it meant endless deaths, because as long as you kept the enemy focused on holding the Farm, the pressure was taken off of the other nodes. In extreme cases or really dumb opposition, we even left just one person to defend each node, with eleven individuals taking on their farm. If we got four nodes in the first 90 seconds of combat, we normally ended up with a 5-cap win.

If, however, the Horde was moderately organized, and we could get only three nodes, the focus would be to get Blacksmith, Lumber Mill, and Stables. Lumber Mill, especially with the distance slider turned up, served as a warning system for the other two nodes, a liberty you cannot enjoy with the Mine. The groups would remain the same, except group 3 (Gold Mine) would split, with one member from the group reinforcing Group 1, 2 and 4 at Stables, Lumber Mill and Blacksmith. The Hit Squad would continue to reinforce nodes as needed or bum-rush into certain death at Farm, or utter uncertainty at the Gold Mine, the objective being to keep applying pressure to the Horde-held nodes so they never got a chance to attack ours. In a game like that we got a lot of HKs, and almost always came out with a 3-cap, drawn-out win.

The group had to be very tightly controlled and the slightest deviation from the plan could mean the difference between capping or losing a node. With such strict rules for PvP, morale management was a fairly major aspect of the pre-made. I had to rotate people between nodes to try and ensure everyone would see each node as everyone got cycled through it. While I tried to make it fun for everyone, I didn’t enjoy it as much because of the sheer level of organization that went into it. That is part of the reason I have such respect for Gevlon’s now-defunct PvP project and Bee’s notion that PvP cannot be fun.

Our win:lose ration over the course of 5 weeks of Arathi Basin PvP was 108:3. We lose 3 games in all, and we lost all three in the first two days.

PvP and Wrath of the Lich King

I can’t afford to do the afore-mentioned any longer. Partly because I am no longer the GM of a guild with 200-odd members. And partly because I simply can’t be bothered to lead anything anymore. Being a guild leader for three years does that to you. That being said, I have been PvP’ing with increasing frequency in the last few weeks, and it is remarkable how much more complex the game has become since those early days in Arathi Basin.

I started small, participating in a few Wintergrasp battles. And that was important, because it taught me the importance of group strategy and resilience. I got absolutely slaughtered by any rogue that could sink his daggers into me. More times than I care to remember, I was stun-locked from 100%-0% with both my lolbubble and trinket on cooldown. After that I invested my 1,500 or so Stonekeeper Shards and accumulated honor to get myself a full set of PvP gear, getting my resilience just above 900. I do much better now, and I can’t recall the last time I was stunlocked 100%-0% by an undead rogue named “Afkbathroom” (you bastard).

From there I went on to queuing for random battlegrounds. I know it is hard to believe, but up until three weeks ago, I didn’t even know what Island of Conquest or Strand of the Ancients looked like. I also started a 2v2 team called ‘Turban of Vengeance’, an homage to my old beloved guild, ‘Cross of Vengeance’. My partner in crime, Valisa, is a veteran PvP’er with several titles and accolades under his belt. Our initial run was last week, and in 14 games, we were 8 wins to 6 losses. Not bad for the first week, I think.

But the one thing I have noticed consistently in PvP is that no matter how many times you run a battleground, it is never the same. Every time you enter the skirmish, the experience is different, there are no pre-determined set of abilities that the boss character uses, there are no rules, there are series of events that define the experience (e.g., Kel’Thuzad will sodomize you at 35% health etc.) Each time I enter a PvP zone, I am unsure of the outcome, I have to react to the situation dynamically and on the fly, and I have to respond to threats in a logical manner, not in any pre-conceived pattern dictated by static variables and triggered by player actions. And in that, I completely agree with Christopher Cavelle’s assessment, that “the true test of any player’s skill is pvp”. I have been a PvE player for a very long time, and I know I am a fantastic healer. But there is just something about the dynamic, volatile, utter madness nature of PvP that piques my curiosity and gives my e-peen an e-boner. And in all bluntness, PvE, in my humble opinion, does not even come close to the sheer level of skill needed to be a capable PvP player, especially a healer.

“Health Bar Watching for the Serious Enthusiast” or “Healers Have the Worst View of Fights”

June 8, 2010 3 comments

I have played a Paladin all six years of World of Warcraft. I have also played a few alts:

  • A mage: Pantheon
  • A Hunter: Xanthus
  • A Warlock: Tereminus
  • A few other lower levels alts just to get an idea of the other classes

But at the end of the day, home base has always been the Paladin class. It is where I feel the most secure, it is the class I enjoy the most, and despite my frustrations with the lack of love for the class from Blizzard in the past, I continue to cling on to it like a desperate Republican supporting the likes of Sarah Palin for fear of the Democrats taking office.

I digress. Within the Paladin class, I have clung on to the Holy tree like socks on Velcro. In fact, I have played the Holy Paladin with such singular devotion and dedication that I have have absolutely no idea how to play either of the other two specs. Being an old-schooler, and despite ample evidence to the contrary, the phrase ‘Paladin DPS’ always strikes me as a bit of an oxymoron, so much so in fact, that I have never had a Retribution spec. I used to tank a little in The Burning Crusade, when Paladin tanking actually became viable, but that too was sparse, and completely abandoned in Wrath of the Lich King.

Larisa’s article (Why Tanks Have the Best View in the Game and other Summertime Musings) jolted me out of my perpetual need to stick to the Holy Paladin class, and made me realize that WoW has a lot more to offer in this highly versatile class than I give it credit for. The most convincing aspect of this realization is what Larisa points out in her entry: tanks have the best view in the game, and by contrast, healers have the worst view.

Yeah, you try enjoying the scenery with THAT!

I can’t recall most of what any instance looks like. I have a vague idea, but the fact of the matter is that I couldn’t tell you if Onyxia looks any different from Sartharion. Or if the Anub’Rekan in the 5-man instances looks the same as he does in 10/25 version of the encounter. Or what the inside of Lord Marrowgar’s room looks like. I have a vague idea, but I just don’t know for sure. And the primary reason for this is the fact that I am almost always looking at one part of my UI: the health bars of all the idiots relying on me to keep them alive.

In any given fight my eye never leaves that portion of the screen. Sure I move if there is AoE in the area, or if the fight dynamics require me to haul ass to ensure success and phat lewts, but at this point that has become more of a muscle memory than anything else. I hear “BONESTORM!”, I keep my eye on the health bars while trying to keep away from Lord Marrowgar using peripheral vision. I see walls of fire approaching in the distance, I relocate to a safer location, and even during that movement, toss out a Holy Shock to someone in need, hoping for a crit, so that my next Flash of Light will be an instant, and none of those precious, precious health bars would suffer.

Other factors notwithstanding, this is one of the biggest reasons why being a healer in WoW sucks more balls than a Bubble Tea addict on a binge: watching those godforsaken bars for hours on end, never taking in the sceneary, or enjoying the smaller pleasures of endgame raiding in the game.

Time for a spec/class change? You betcha.

More on this in upcoming posts.