Friday, September 28, 2012

Mists Impressions

Pretty good so far. My expectations had dropped after the Theramore scenario, but they seem to have done a good job on the story side.

From a technical perspective, the servers have been completely stable, and I haven't encountered many bugs. A few interface glitches but that proved to be addons for me. I had one quest bug out and a relog fixed it.

The quest to get you going is pretty good. Not overly involved, and not high drama, but it sets the stage well. Things get going fairly quick once in Pandaria and thankfully it doesn't take too long to get something other than "Horde Smash" as quests.

There are varied types of quests, with some new mechanics so that's good, and the story is moving right along. There's a "make friends with the natives" plot that feels a little done before, but overall was OK. Also some genuinely funny moments as you go.

It's actually taken a little while to interact with more than just a few pandas which was a surprise, but it actually fits the story so I think it's working for me. Reserving judgement till I get a little further.

I just got to a point in the questing where I appear to have options and that has sort of opened the story up a bit. That can be tricky from a flowing story point of view so I'm curious to see how that works out.

Oh, and it's pretty. Really pretty. Didn't realize how much I missed that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Comments on WoW Raiding

The following is a response to Does World of Warcraft need to be more difficult?
There are a few points in here that I think are right on the money, but part of it gets lost in the discussion of difficulty.
Learning Curve - Many of us are quite familiar with basic encounter design at this point and certainly that plays into how raiding feels and how hard it is. The trick is how do you design content for the new people and veterans? Not to mention that this leads to ecounters with way too much stuff going on. Ever tried explaining Omnotron to a new player? Agreed that it's important not to underestimate how this affects our comparison of older content to now, and realize how it affects the game currently.
Learning as Content - Agreed on this part entirely. For all of Wrath I played in a guild that didn't read strats and it was glorious. About halfway through Cata that proved to be a problem, the ecounters had just become too complex to figure out in a timely fashion. I think they need to rethink the Beta testing of raid encounters and maybe only release the journal entries in raids slowly.
Accessibility - WoW is going through the process of splitting the "I want to see it all" group off from the "I want it to be x difficult" group. In the end I think that's a good thing, but there will be growing pains along the way. Some people were only "suffering through" raiding in order to see stuff, and now with the LFR, that's not longer required. All raiding guilds are dealing with the fallout of that.
The Journey - This one is tricky. I too felt defeating Deathwing on normal felt less special because I had already defeated him so many times in LFR. I imagine people heroic raiding have felt that way about normal for a while now. The first way to "fix" this is to not require multiple versions. LFR gear was useful to people decked out in Firelands normal gear and normal mode is required for heroic mode. That should probably change. My only other idea is maybe to release LFR a little slower? Hold it off for a week or release one boss a week or something.
Difficulty - "It's not simply a matter of the game's getting considerably easier" "In Cataclysm, the bosses presented didn't pose enough of a challenge" I think Sinestra, Heroic Rag, and Heroic Spine would like a word with you. Much of heroic raiding, pre-nerf, from the numbers I have seen, was plenty hard. Paragon said after killnig Sinestra "All in all, this tier of raiding in my opinion has been the hardest tier of raiding overall." Heroic Raiding is the successor to 25 man BC raids, so remember to compare apples to apples. 
Time to kill bosses - "The months that the video above discusses, between the release of The Burning Crusade and the first kill of Kael'thas? That doesn't exist anymore." Sure but part of that was due to attunements and remember Sinestra wasn't killed until 1.5 months after Cata release. Did the first tier of Wrath fall too fast? Possibly, and Blizzard later admitted Naxx was likely too easy. Let's try to keep all that in mind.
Change in Philosophy - Raiding (non-LFR) is at a cross roads. No longer is it the way to see content. It is there as a way to complete something difficult as a group. That's it. As such, a few adjustments should be made. Normal mode raiding should have a way of becoming slowly easier over time. Not through nerfing, which feels forced, but through gearing. To do so, enough gear needs to drop early, and ecounters need to not have one shot (or prett much one shot) abilities. Cata has been hit and miss here and missed more than it hit. For heroic raiding, there needs to be a way to compete on difficulty. Change it from I beat it on x date, to I beat it at 95%, or 105%, or 125%. Or maybe take the challange mode route and do time based runs. Give those who crave the difficult competition an outlet.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Me and LFR

My guild defeated Deathwing on 10man normal this week. Hooray! Due to that, I figured it was a good time to look back on Dragon Soul and how it all worked for me.

A few things to keep in mind. My guild raids normal only and really has no interest in heroic mode. I'm only talking about my experiences here. I might bring up a few larger questions but I'm well aware that I'm but one voice among millions and by no means do I believe my preferences should dictate game design for anyone else. That being said ...

LFR ruined raiding for me.

Dragon Soul being the first raid available in the LFR format, it's hard to talk about one without talking about the other. Now, I'm not saying the LFR in and of itself is bad. It's not. Many many more people are using the LFR than I would have predicted, and large numbers of people are getting to see the content that Blizzard has spent all this time producing. That's a good thing. Is it raiding though? I'm not so sure. It's more than five people, so game mechanics wise it's a raid, but most of us have come to associate raiding with some sort of challenge, some sort of difficulty and LFR, correctly, doesn't have that. Other games call it story mode. I think that's a good way of thinking of it.

So why did LFR ruin Dragon Soul for me? By seeing the fights and cinematics in the LFR before I saw them in normal mode, it cheapened the experience for me. I didn't feel like I had accomplished as much because it was something I had already seen. Silly? Maybe. I'm still going over it all in my head, but I can't deny how I feel. Some would say the easy answer here is to not do the LFR and just stick to normal mode, however, due to the gear upgrades in LFR, and the gear requirements for fights in normal mode DS, I would be doing the guild a disservice by not going after all the upgrades I could. I also think the nerfs came a little quick, and I'd love a way to set them granularly, but that had more to do with our declining attendance, and really it's a minor point.

What can be done? In single player games, you often see a better ending or experience something different by playing at a higher difficulty level. The heroic-mode only boss idea. I'm not sure this is a good way to go. If the idea of the LFR is to give a story mode, hiding story behind higher difficulty level defeats the purpose. To me, the only way to make it work, is to make it such that there is no reason to raid any other difficulty level than the one you want to. Heroic mode raiders shouldn't have to raid normal. Normal mode raiders shouldn't have to raid LFR. There should be no point in doing so. I understand Blizzard wanting to give us all a reason to raid LFR when it started. They had no idea if people would take to it and wanted to give it every possible chance to succeed. But now that it has been proven to be successful, I think they should incentive it less for raiders of other difficulty levels.

What of Dragon Soul apart from the LFR? It's wasn't my favorite raid, but it wasn't terrible. I'd rather more bosses and more optional bosses, basically Ulduar, but for what it was it was fine. Seems like a lot of people felt it borrowed art and reused models, but none of that bothered me really. The dragons fighting over Wyrmrest Temple made sense. As did the lieutenants of the Old Gods getting involved. The top of the temple, the gun ship, the back of the dragon, the maelstrom, it all worked for me. If I had to nitpick, I'd say, the bouncing ball on Zon'ozz was a little wonky. And the way the camera works in WoW didn't do the final two encounters any favors. Riding the back of a giant dragon should be epic and yet it felt claustrophobic. I only ever saw the sky flying by when I died. Madness also should in theory be epic, dragon falling apart, attacking aspects, but your view of it is so limited, it takes away from it. Not entirely sure how to fix that though.

Now if we could only kill Ragnaros.

Edited to Add - What's making me happy this week: Three bosses down in the last two weeks. Hard to beat that. Also enjoying Circadia on my phone. Bought Bang and Ticket to Ride for the iPad this week with the intent of playing them with the family over Easter and am pretty excited about that.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mists Info

The big news this past week was the information coming out of the press tour Blizzard did for Mists, and then the start of the beta. I have to say, after being a little ho-hum about the expansion at first, I'm more cautiously optimistic now.

A few things jumped out to me when going over all the released information. The first was they seem to have added a lot to do at max level. The whole Night in Mists thing to me showed that they understood a big problem with Cata was the lack of things to do at 85. So now we have scenarios, challenge mode, pet battles, farming, and not to mention more zones with the design intent of doing some zones either at max level or on an alt. The questing zone model in particular worked for me in BC and Wrath so I'm happy about that.

Next up is the expansion being it's own continent. The developers talked about not liking how that worked in Cata and so again returned to the continent model much like BC and Wrath. While at first not really caring much about this change, the more I think about it, the more I like it. The sense of exploration, especially without being able to fly at first, is part of what makes an expansion fun. The fact that some of the new zones look absolutely gorgeous should help.

The raiding information seemed a little light. Then mentioned having 14 bosses to start (and two world bosses?) in I think three different zones, fairly similar to Tier 11. I actually think that's a little high, but after Firelands and Dragon Soul, I won't complain. In later interviews they mentioned still talking about the raiding philosophy and whether they wanted to change it, specifically referring to tier tokens, shared lockouts, and valor points. I was actually starting to think raiding mechanics would receive no changes at all so it's nice to see them talking about tweaking things, but it's hard to talk too much about without knowing more.

Finally, the feature that has me the most excited is challenge modes. I mentioned them briefly above, but to me it's not just the something-to-do-at-max-level aspect that has me excited. The idea of normalizing gear to make content that in theory never stops being relevant, that's intriguing. Gear won't help you do better, and gear isn't the reward, well not stat gear anyway. The gear rewards for transmog look pretty nice. I think this is a feature to watch. If it is successful, it could change future MMO designs a bit.

What's making me happy this week: This is sort of cheating since it happened last week but, I really enjoyed heading into BRC with a five man group on a failed raid night and tackling the achievements in there. Brought home to me that challenging content with other people is one of the main things I enjoy about gaming. We even made our own achievement, killing Beauty after she got stuck in Berserk mode.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dungeon Finder and Guilds

Much has been written about the dungeon finder in World of Warcraft and it's effect on the game ranging from "it killed server community" to "best feature for people with little time." Today I wanted to share the effect it had on me and my guild and to speculate on it's effects on other guilds.

Here's a little background first. I started WoW late in vanilla. I've been in the same guild, pretty much, since I first started playing. Some guildies are real life friends, some are friends I've met purely through the game. I'm not really someone who pugs content, though I did do a little in Wrath for Wintergrasp and alt character dungeon runs. I enjoy the five man dungeons and I like running them with guildies.

When I first reached the level cap in Cata, I avoided the dungeon finder like the plague. I mean surem once I had a guild group formed we used the finder to get the additional point rewards, but we weren't using it to fill in random people. Trouble was, not everyone was doing the same thing. The guild was pretty much split 50/50 on who would queue solo in the finder and who wouldn't. Over time, this lead to some people having all the gear they really needed from the dungeons, capping out on points early in the week, and for some even burning out on dungeons completely, while the rest of us still needed to run them both for gear/points and for the joy of doing new (to us) content. Worse still, with the tank queues are short as they were, it was one of our tanks who was able to burnout quickly and was pretty much done with dungeons.

This had not happened in BC and had not happened in Wrath and has everything to do with the dungeon finder. It used to be that being in a guild was, in part, a way to get groups faster for dungeons, raids, group quests, etc. With the tool, your only limit was your time. You could now grind out whatever you wanted on your own schedule.

Eventually I started queuing with whoever I could find and just crossing my fingers for a good group. I quickly decided healing was too stressful in that environment, so switched to dps, even though what I really liked to do was heal. All this in order to gear up for raiding. Along the way, how I ran dungeons changed. While I used to try to arrange times per week for people to be on at the same time in order to more easily form a group, now, I just got on whenever I felt like and queued solo. My transformation was complete. While I still in theory wanted to play with people I know, the convenience of the tool won out.

Things only got worse when they added a bonus for being in a group of strangers. At the time I understood the theory, things are harder with people you don't know so we'll give you a small buff. Well, once people figured out how to do the content efficiently, and as it turns out the buff was not so small, it became much easier/faster/efficient to do the dungeons with strangers.

With the current state of the tool, I feel it forces a conflict in how you want to run dungeons. Since the rewards are the same no matter how you do them, the decision is to do them slower and harder with a group of people you know, or do them quicker and easier with a group of strangers. Overall, I believe that model is not good for guilds. It sure wasn't good for mine.

Open questions: Can anything be done to fix this? How did it affect other guilds?

Friday, January 13, 2012


Before I get to the first meaty post of the blog (hopefully), I wanted to give a shout out to the gaming blogs I've been reading recently that inspired me to start one of my own. Tobold would be my main influence followed by Azuriel more recently. Gevlon drives me crazy but I keep going back for the occasional good points made in a way only he can. Syncaine and Nils also get occasional views but not often. Unsurprisingly, I tend to regularly read the blogs I agree with.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


For the first post of this blog, even though it's a few days late (surprise), I figured I'd list out what games I've played over the last month or so. The current list is all video games, but if I wind up playing any interesting card games or board game I'd consider that appropriate for this blog as well.

PC - World of Warcraft, Dragon Age: Origins, Star Wars: The Old Republic
Wii - Skyward Sword
PS3 - (none)
iPhone - Tiny Wings, Temple Run, Jetpack

I only played a little of Skyward Sword when my cousin was over, haven't played DA:O in almost a month, and the iPhone games are usually for distraction on a bus ride or something. My evening gaming has been balanced between WOW and SW:TOR.