Archive for January, 2010

Took the Night Off – Go Jayhawks!

Posted in MMO on January 26, 2010 by Armada

For the first time in about 30 days I did not log into WoW, choosing instead to watch my Kansas Jayhawks thump the Missouri Tigers! I did however go ahead and pre-order my copy of Star Trek Online and am now awaiting my BETA key to be emailed. This in turn will tell me very quickly if I go ahead with my plans to purchase a lifetime subscription (stop calling me a sucker!).

Phasers set to stun! Standby.

Yankees Are Indeed Rude!

Posted in MMO, World of Warcraft on January 23, 2010 by Armada

Last night I did not get the opportunity to log into Warcraft due to getting home late and just flat out being tired. However going to bed early prompted me to also wake up at 4am. Knowing that I do not leave my house until 6am for my commute, I decided that perhaps I could complete the daily random dungeon quest on 1 or perhaps even 2 of my level 80s.

Upon login I start thinking to myself that perhaps the “pops” wont be very good due to the early nature of my play time. Lucky for me I was playing my Discipline Priest so I was in a dungeon in 5 minutes flat.

We had just completed the first boss in Gundrak when I noticed the party chat full of the word “mate”. Then realizing how it would make sense that most Americans were in bed, I asked my chatty party members if they were “euro”, to which they responded “Aussie” and that it was 7pm their time (5am mine).

By the time we finished the last boss, I had “connected” with this group of “aussies” (4 from 3 different servers mind you) more than I had connected with any pug before, so much so that I had wished they were on my server. These guys were genuinely friendly, good natured and polite (even in spite of my dingo eating babies ha-ha).

In truth, I genuinely felt sad that I may never run with these fine mates again! Their great attitudes made the run quick and enjoyable.

It was at that time I realized that Americans (myself included) tend to be very rude and impatient with strangers/pugs. Now do not get me wrong, in a guild situation with good friends and raid groups we “Yanks” can be the nicest people in the game but many Americans come with a low tolerance for most anything and are quick to berate others for any shortcoming.

Indeed this experience has inspired me to try and be nicer to pugs.

Glancing at the clock, I see that I could squeeze in one more run. So I hop on my resto druid and pop right into Forge of Souls… complete with a naked Orc dancing and telling me “yo kid, I gots no armor, but will seduce the boss with my slammin abs fo so” as he charges headlong into the mobs Jenkins style.

/facepalm
/leavegroup

Trekkie for Life or Just a Sucker?

Posted in MMO on January 20, 2010 by Armada

So I just learned that Cryptic Studios will be offering a lifetime subscription to its upcoming Star Trek Online game (STO) for the sizzling pre-order price of $239.99. Sounds like quite the deal! Now to be perfectly clear I am not even close to being a Star Trek fan. I cannot name any episodes, have not seen all the movies even once and have not memorized the Enterprise designation (I know its NCC something or other right)?

So why am I blogging about the game? Well I am a sucker for a lifetime subscription to just about any MMO despite the hard math that says it is a win for the developer and most generally not the player. Case in point, Champions Online. Now I am about as much of a comic fan as I am a Trekkie, which is to say I have not read a comic since I was 8. However I do love a good character generation tool and this CO has a character creation system rivaled by none. Seriously it is almost a game in and of itself.

So despite my lack of interest in comics, I went out and bought the game about 30 days after launch. Still that did not stop me from dropping $40 for the game and another $50 or so on character slots and costume pieces… oh yeah and I stopped playing after one month (although I stayed subbed and paying for 3 without a single login). Yet in the beginning I searched high and low for a way to buy a lifetime sub after the offer expired.

Lucky for me my search was in fruitless!

But now I am tempted again. The STO gameplay and character creation I have seen does look very good and I keep thinking it will be a nice diversion from Warcraft a few days a week. The kid side in me says “hey I pay for the sub with just one year’s worth of monthly charges! Heck I have already spent $3,960 on wow in 5+ years!” (yes thats right four grand, 4 subs, $15 a pop, 66 months… sigh).

But the adult side in me says “Hey Genius; Remember Hellgate?” (yes proud owner of a hellgate lifetime sub).

So surely after the preponderance of evidence listed above, I would certainly not succumb to such a temptation as to buy an STO lifetime sub as a non Trekkie?

Of course I will… my wife says I get to make two bad financial decisions every year; my online games and my fantasy sports teams.

Beam me (or my wallet) up Crytpic!

The Name Game

Posted in World of Warcraft on January 15, 2010 by Armada

Let me preface this article by stating for the record that I am in no way, shape or form a role player. I certainly do not begrduge any player “RP’ing” but for me personally, I can barely keep from “lawling” every time someone addresses me with some Old English accent or uses the word “wench” more than once per year, yet alone actually talking in that style!

That said, I do have one steadfast requirement (or OCD according to my friends and family) with all my games, particularly MMOs. The naming of my characters. I must have my names or I am bugged to the point where I literally cannot play the game. This was most recently evident when I resisted the temptation to try Aion for the first month, then broke down, bought the game and upon creating characters found any and all names I wanted (I have a list of over 250 that I like) gone! Needless to say I never took a character past level 4 and now have a $50 game that collects dust.

But it goes farther than just the name, I actually have to be able to associate the name the character and his class/role. A healer class named “Crusher” would drive me nuts! As an example of this I will give you three of my alt character names and you try and guess what class/role that they play.

Ready?

1. Gigawattz
2. Banger
3. Sistine

If you guessed, Shaman Elemental, A Warrior and A Priest then you know exactly what I am talking about (to be fair if you said arcane mage, protection pally and any healer class you were in the ball park). Now contrary to this, I have a real life friend who sadly does not play so much anymore (come back Jer!) who is the exact opposite of me. Good old Jerry would name his character after the first thing that came to his mind when creating his in game avatar. Examples of these names include “chair” “redcup” “shoe” and “west” to name a few. And yes this drove me mad, but at least he few problems finding his names.

In fact this naming obession I have is so important to me that it actually decided what server I would play Warcraft on. I vividly remember rushing home with my son in the cold and snow at midnight on the day of launch (November 2004) just to reserve my already prepared name list. I did so on the first servers that caught my eye (having no knowledge at all of the lore beforehand I just picked the names that sounded cool like Burning Legion) and have never looked back (and could not even if I wanted to).

So is this an OCD? Yeah probably, but this my in game representation and I am not walking around with a character named “ipwnnoobz”.

Cameron a Warcraft Fan? Nah…

Posted in World of Warcraft on January 15, 2010 by Armada

So I finally went out and watched Avatar which I found to be a decent movie, if a little overhyped. The effects were very good, the story above average, the production polished. But what immediately struck me more than anything else, was how much the Na’vi looked like the Draenei race in our beloved World of Warcraft.

Could it be? James Cameron a WoW fan? Well no. Considering the script was written in 1994 among other differences such as the “space goats” having arrived via a space ship while the Na’vi are about as close to Conan in terms of a love of technology. I might also add that the Draenei look fat when compared to the sleek blue-skins in Avatar, but then again I do not much care for the Alliance (duck) so I am admittedly a wee bit biased.

No there is no correlation but the similarities are interesting. Heck maybe Cameron can be found roaming Northrend when he is not scouring the oceans floor and if he is is most certainly an Alliance Draenei.

Dungeon Finder Loses Sight of DPS

Posted in World of Warcraft on January 6, 2010 by Armada

As an experienced healer and an up and coming, ok aspiring, ok wannabe tank, I absolutely adore the new Dungeon Finder tool. If you had previously left the world of Azeroth due to boredoom and are not yet aware of this new mechanic introduced as part of the 3.3 patch, then suffice it to say that this amazing addition to the game has single handedly revived and refreshed the desire of millions of characters to revist old 5 man haunts.

However not all is well within the DPS community. My Warlock like many other DPS classes, has been shelved indefinitely and may not see the light of day anytime soon due in large part to the one weakness exposed by this new tool. You see the dungeon finder is great for healers and tanks who are now (and always have been) in high demand as you can literally join a random dungeon with a queue time of less than 10 seconds! However while for all intents and purposes healers and tanks have instant queues, DPS classes are left to wait… and wait; sometimes for 20-30 minutes depending upon your server.

But before I shelved my undead Warlock Livevil, I took part in a little informal experiment. Monday night, January 4, I logged into my 80 decently geared lock at 7pm server time and queued up with the dungeon finder tool. I did so with the expressed intent to run as many instances as I could in a 4 hour time period.

Three.

I ran three instances in that time period and the third did not pop for me until 9:50pm, which I finished at 11:30pm. I should also note that this waiting included a nice little 40 minute respite for the third and final run.

Not encouraging indeed!

Tuesday night, January 5, I proceeded with the same experiment, this time using my Resto Druid, Deadwood. Same rules, 7-11pm server time. Outcome?

Six… Seven?

I finished my 6th run at 10:35pm and went to bed knowing the 7th would have popped again immediately, allowing me to complete my run in about the same time as my Warlocks 3rd. To make matters worse (or better depending upon your class), at no time did I wait longer than 10 minutes and that was just one time, the remaining 5 runs all had my queued time at less than 3-5 minutes.  Hell I had a hard time repairing and restocking before the next pop! Nice problem to have indeed.

All indications are that Tanks wait even less, which begs two questions; if people are shelving their DPS characters then why are the queues still so high and what else can be done about it? The answer to the first is easy, while many people are indeed placing their DPS classes on the back burner and playing tanks and healers, not enough of them are and a not insignificant portion of those may not be leveled or geared yet to offset the heavy amounts of DPSers that are in the queue.

As for the second question of what can be done about it, I believe some relief will come when all these undergeared and/or underleveled healers and tanks (previous alts or rerolls in many cases) finally reach “end game”.

Take heart lifelong DPSers, it will get better. Make no mistake, many people have permanently become tanks and healers because of this tool, but seeing the ripple effect will take another month or so.

Is there anything Blizzard can do to mitigate this deficiency? /shrug… you tell me, I welcome your comments.

Gearscore – A Duality of Purpose

Posted in World of Warcraft on January 6, 2010 by Armada

Gearscore for those of you that might not be aware, is a convenient and booming Warcraft mod that takes into account the gear of a character/raider and compiles that into a tidy little all encompassing number by which a raid leader, or really any player can surmize the power of your character.

Sounds great! Yeah it is… sorta.

There are some flaws in the Gearscore mod, which we will discuss in a bit, but the real and overarching concern that I and others see with the mod is what it cannot ever account for, a players skill.  

As a primary healer and a shade tree tank (read not so good) I can tell you that a Gearscore barely tells half the story. Have you ever been in a raid with a player, say a tank, who has lights out type gear but could not hold aggro? Yeah me too, it is called skill.

We generally label those players with great “characters” but no “character” as ebayers as we despise them. Conversely I have seen several undergeared players perform very well in all roles. Too bad for them, because Gearscore has created an environment where guilds spam for minimum scores for entry and raid leaders set limits on scores raid invites without knowing anything about the player.

Now while it sounds like I am bashing and calling for the end of Gearscore, I am not. I actually like the tool and enjoy using it for a benchmark on my gear acquisition. As a long time min/maxer it hits me right in my sweet spot. However this does not mean that I do not see the problems it is causing.

The mod itself could be improved upon, for example it does not take any enchants or gems into account for scoring (seeing a healer stack stamina gems tells me he is either a) clueless or b) not primarily a healer, both of which mean I do not want him healing in my raid!

But as stated, Gearscore can never account for the skill or even of a player, sure you could add achievement points to the equation, but that just muddies the waters with complication and still does not adjust for the person behind the avatar, his skill, his experience and even his attitude.

No the solution is for guild, raid and party leaders to use the Gearscore as a component of and not as the single determining factor in the assessment of a player. Take the time to talk to a player and you universally find the best candidates and in the end, the best experience.

A Call for Diversity!

Posted in World of Warcraft on January 6, 2010 by Armada

In my now 5+ years in Azeroth, I would be remiss if I did not state categorically that Blizzard has, by almost all accounts, done a tremendous job of making the game more and more accessible. The most recent example of this being the dungeon finder tool which is quite simply perfect. However I cannot help but think that the game is lacking in one critical facet, diversity.

I will explain by first recounting to you, a recent encounter that really brought this to the forefront of my thoughts.  Just this week, I resurrected and transferred two very old characters from another server that had not been played in almost 3 years (yes I am an altoholic despite my four level 80s). I did so explicitly to enjoy the new and exceptional dungeon finder tool, released in patch 3.3.

I transferred a 60 human alliance paladin and a 60 horde undead rogue (I am horde for life but back in 04 I had no way of sampling the Paladin playstyle other than to dance with the enemy). The rogue had the original and complete nightslayer set (which was pretty epic in its day) and the paladin had the full lightforge set (not nearly as epic and absolutely hilarious to look at now).

So I set out to sample the level 60 instances, healing my way through the random dungeon finder to the tune of about 35 instances and 7 levels. This has been great fun no doubt, but then it hit me early and often; how great, dare I say amazing, were the weapon and armor sets of days past! All this creative art in the game and yet all but forgotten. Sadly most if not all of this wicked, creative and downright legendary looking gear has little to zero use in the game today.

Most of this old “epic” gear is very diverse, attractive and unique looking while being completely useless, and that is a shame. In fact my lightforge set was so truly worthless now (even at 60) that I nearly tripled my healing power with basic run of the mill outland greens. So this really got me thinking… why doesn’t Blizzard create a mechanic to reintroduce these items into the end game? Think of the effort by the players that went into obtaining these items. Think of the work completed by many talented artists. Wasted? Why?

In fact I saw a guy in one run with the legendary “Thunderfury” sword which if memory serves me correctly was the first actual in game legendary weapon (orange > purple) and took entire guilds months to achieve. This legendary dishes out a pathetic 40dps and is now completely and utterly outclassed even by level 60 green drops. I can only imagine my disgust if I had gone to the trouble and expense of obtaining this weapon for it to not only be unusable at current end game, but even outpaced almost two-fold by a green weapon I can obtain off an outland boar!

Just taking a look at any WoW database you can see that some of the best looking gear in game is now rendered obsolete. What would you do or say if a level 80 Warlock jumped into your party or raid wearing the absolutely wicked looking Season 2 PvP set? You would, at best, laugh your ass off and at worst kick him for being gimp. Indeed, that great looking armor set is now merely a flashing beacon of inadequacy.

The same can be said for all the gear from MC, BT, BWL, AQ, Kara et al, some of which was really amazing looking, now most generally unseen, deleted or relegated to being stored in a bank or an an alt somewhere. Old school Skullflame shield anyone? Now, think of how different the end game would look if everyone could choose their gear and not worry so much about being gimped! I want to see a tank running with an enhanced “Wall of the Dead” shield and a “Hand of Ragnaros” or a Rogue in “Nightslayer” wielding a “Core Hound Tooth”.

So I present a solution. Blizzard, why not create a number of specific NPCs that would initiate a quest line and/or gold sink to “reforge” or “enchant” these items scaling in quest difficulty, time spent and gold cost based upon your current level? In this way a level 60, 70, 80 and so on could bring their “Blessed Thunderfury” or “Hand of Ragnaros” at least in line or perhaps even 1/2 tier BELOW the current “end game items of that level”.

Yes this is possible and no it will not take a ton of resources away from future content. First, the art assets are already in place. Second, even the mechanic is, to a degree, in already in place (see heirloom items). This development could be done at a reasonable resource cost. As a developer I, to a degree, understand what it would take and can tell you that the art is almost always the resource hog (although of course, I am not prevy to their tool sets).

Lets take it even a step further; make the upgrade/enchantment quests involve going back into the raid dungeon from which the gear came from (Black Temple for example) to complete a quest (say killing end boss and getting a trophy) this would have so many benefits to the game:

1. We have resurrected hundreds or even thousands of art assets to be used at end game
2. People and even entire guilds start to run older raids often
3. We have achieved diversity!
4. The new /lfr tool actually has people in it!

It gets tiresome seeing EVERYONE in your class either look identical or know that they are working toward that ONE setup. The idea that in 3 months my Triumph and Frost emblem gear will not be viable leads to dismay. Finally to those that would say thats the point, the treadmill, I am not arguing that, I am just asking Blizzard to give the treadmill another path. Those that like it they way it is are not effected. Those that wish to can sink time and gold into upgrading older gear (perhaps with a small penalty, meaning it will never be quite as good as the “best”).

This will lead to immense diversity and uniqueness which would very welcomed by most. Let each players tastes and creativity be the driving force in thier look, not the linear drive to a singularity.