Archive for June, 2009

30
Jun
09

Pandering or Providing?

News news news!  3.2 news is coming out faster than people can blog about it!  There’s changes to the quest system, discounts for epic flyers, homogenizing the tier tokens, making emblems of conquest the new standard emblem for lower level raids, all sorts of changes for the pre-existing systems.  There was even the announcement that in the future, not yet determined when, players will eventually be able to switch factions, which I believe will lead to a service allowing you to switch your race among your current faction as well.  I mean why not?  It seems as though lately whenever players ask for something or complain about something else enough, Blizzard will eventually make the change to placate them.

You see, part of what makes WoW great is that there is an increased amount of player input compared to MMOs back before WoW was the standard.  The devs listen and respond and try to make changes to the game so that they can give the players what they want and therefore ensure less frustration quits.  It’s a fantastic business plan because it demonstrates to players that they do have a voice in development and serves to endear the game further to them, keeping them playing and paying.  But there’s also the uglier side of that model, because though input from players is great, it’s usually not the most well thought out of plans for the game.

Nevertheless, every time Blizzard does implement a change that was called for by the masses, there’s inevitably the cry of pandering and the idea that Blizzard is trying to make things easier rather then better.  One player from my former guild referred to a lot of these upcoming changes as Blizzard’s own version of No Child Left Behind, because it was catering to the kids who play the game and want instant gratification.  The changes to the mount cost especially rankled him as I’m sure it did most people who had already purchased their epic flyers, possibly on multiple characters, only to now see the price drop depending on your faction.

Of course, there’s a small validity to that argument, but not as much as some of these guilds and people who play would have you believe.  It’s natural for people to feel it’s unfair that they had to do something to progress in the game that subsequent generations of players will not because in a way it’s not.  But most people will also be able to take pride in saying that they were there “back then” when men were men and and monsters roamed the land that you tamed with your bare hands while walking uphill in a blizzard to eat a single bowl of dirt for dinner that you were grateful for!  Damn kids these days don’t know how good they got it, with their rock music their Poke ee Mans.  I just don’t trust that lightning squirrel.

He's up to something

He's up to something

Ahem.  But though those may be valid points, there’s also the idea that this is actually a necessary step in the evolution of the game.  Is it truly pandering?  Look, I played Everquest, and I was an old schooler, buying the game back before the first expansion.  And one thing about leveling up and gearing out and doing almost anything in that game is that it took time and effort, and I mean a LOT of time and effort.  But no matter how much the player base complained that upper levels would take you hours and hours and excruciating hours of grinding away at mobs for measly experience rewards, the devs never made sweeping changes to improve it.

That was what eventually did it for me.  The world was too stagnant, other than maintenance and the occasional adding of quests or professions recipe, the old world never changed, the rules never changed, things were always what they were with maybe an addition thrown in.  Of course, I only played through the Planes of Power expansion, so I’m not sure how much they improved past making travel and auctioning easier.  Then came WoW, a world where if things were broken, not in the sense that the mechanics were bugged, but by the idea that players hated it in practice, then Blizzard changed it, tried to improve it and give their players what they want.

This sense of providing is what sealed the deal for me in the game.  After literally three months of playing, I could see that the devs were doing things to actively improve my play experience and the turnaround time on them doing that is only getting quicker lately.  I feel this improves my gameplay experience even though at times I do think they may go a little too far and make things a little too easy.  Though I will reap the benefits of the mount cost and level changes, I do think they may have trivialized mounts a little too much, but in for a penny, in for a pound seemed to be Blizzard’s thought process on that one.

Either way you look at it though, you must acknowledge that Blizzard tries damn hard to keep their players happy through new content and retooling of old class abilities and talents.  The game doesn’t just change, it evolves, constantly recreating itself to the point where WoW in Wrath of the Lich King context is not even the same game as Vanilla WoW, even in the old world.  This sense of dynamic change that involves not only ideas from the devs but from the players as well only serves to further cement the game as number one in the market today and possibly for a few years to come still.  Now maybe if I go complain about the upcoming priest nerfs…

-Dueg

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29
Jun
09

To be a Champion – How to Joust

This one's for Cadistra

This pic's for Cadistra

So it’s been a couple of months and except for a couple of weeks, I’ve pretty much made sure to log on every day and schlep on over to the Argent Tournament in order to do the dailies, gather up some rep and make about 150 gold in the process.  The whole thing takes approximately one hour to complete, give or take a few minutes.  However, there is one part in particular that can rankle the average WoW player.  A dark and hideous part that used to slow me down, causing no end of cursing, throwing my arms up in consideration and pondering at the necessity of this beloved game of mine.  I speak, of course, on jousting.

Now jousting is a new mechanic, introduced in 3.1 along with the Argent Tournament and is a form of mounted, vehicular combat.  When you first enter the tournament, you’ll be given a lance that you must equip and told to go take a ride.  When you right click on the animal you choose, you basically get into a mount shaped vehicle, complete with a vehicle bar and separate health for the vehicle you’re in.  You’ll gain six new abilities on this bar, a basic melee attack, a shield breaking ranged attack, a charge attack, a shield ability, health regen ability and the option to challenge others to a duel, all in that order on the bar.

Your health regen ability heals your mount back to full, but can only be used out of combat and has, I believe, a 1 minute cooldown, so it’s fairly straight forward and useless in a fight.  Your other defensive ability is your shield which stacks up to three times.  This should always be at full stacks before you start a fight, no exceptions.  The Melee attack is just that, a straight thrust dealing damage and it’s not very strong.  The shield breaker and charge are your two ranged attacks and possibly the most important.  A shield breaker is a thrown spear that will destroy one of your opponent’s shields and charge is where you gain a speed boost, charge your enemy and deal a big chunk of damage.

Now the secret to jousting is that it’s a game of finding your range.  You must find the range of your shield breaking ability while at the same time keeping your opponent from finding theirs.  Your charge is roughly the same range as well, but you’ll be using that a lot less often.  When a match begins, depending your opponent, you’ll have to deal with either breaking down two or three shield walls.  Your charge is extremely ineffectual unless your opponent has one or less shields, so you’ll want to start working with shield breakers first and worry about charging later.

One of the tricks to this is that you have to begin darting in and out of range quickly.  I prefer to do this by turning and running from the opponent, stopping once I enter range for the shield breaker, toss the spear, then dart back in to do some melee thrusts before repeating the process.  Something I learned only after a couple of painful weeks of jousting was that you must come to a complete stop and about-face your mount as quickly as possible before you toss the spear.  If you continue to run when you turn around, your mount will loop around, causing you to lose positioning, time and possibly shields as you opponent has time to toss a shield breaker at you.  If done quickly enough, you should be able to pull this move off without losing a shield most of the time.

Once you’ve done this a few times, you should be dealing with only one or maybe no shields.  At this point you want to continue your darting in and out of range, but instead of throwing a spear, you’ll need to try to make a charge.  Having no shields on the opponent will mean you deal a huge hit of damage and no jouster can take more then four or five of those unshielded before they’re done.  However, this will also put you in the one place you don’t want to be when facing an NPC jouster and that’s at max range.  You’ll want to try to turn around and come back within range of your opponent, but you most likely won’t make it before they can get a charge off on you.

This will bring you around to another key to jousting, which is shield management.  Ideally, you’ll want three shields up at all times, with another one waiting to be popped as soon as you lose one.  The best way to keep this up is to start with three shields, of course, but there are ways to keep it going for the most of the fight.  First off, if you can master the darting technique, your opponent will have issues being able to land a shield breaker on you since ideally you’ll be spending a minimal amount of time at range.  However, eventually, you will lose shields, and if you don’t repair them quickly, you will see your mount’s health begin to shrink alarmingly.

Something to keep in mind is that since the NPCs will have the reflexes of a computer, they can make attacks surprisingly fast.  If caught at range, they will almost always throw a shield breaker then charge immediately, which is enough to destroy two shields at the same time.  If you find your self in this situation, with one or less shields, avoid darting for the time being and simply try staying in melee range while attacking and building your shields back up again.  The shield has a cooldown ability of 5 seconds and remember that while you’re shielding up, so is your opponent.  Charging, however, will put you back at range and let your opponent continue to hit you with shield breakers and charges themselves.  If at any time you have no shields and your opponent has all three, you’re better off cutting and running and starting the fight over.

Once you can get darting down and get better about shield management, you’ll be able to knock out the jousting quests in about ten minutes and should even be able to take out the NPCs in front of Arthas’ fortress in Icecrown about as quickly.  A good tip for jousting the Boneguard Commander’s btw is to run them up the stairs towards the fortress’ door.  This will mean less adds start trying to kill you.  Hope these tips help anyone who needs it and don’t be afraid to post your own tips and tricks in the comments section.

-Dueg

28
Jun
09

The Sunday Cop-out, Wherein Bad was the First Album I ever Bought

Michael Joseph Jackson
August 29th, 1958 – June 25th 2009
Rest in Peace, King of Pop

-Dueg

27
Jun
09

Saturday RP – Obstacles

Scrat grasped at his head, still groggy from being informed so recently, but for the most part feeling like his old self save for the occasional dizzy spell.  Dueg turned to look at him, an eyebrow raised as the troll simply shook his head and leaned heavily upon a large boulder jutting from the wall of the ravine, allowing the dizzy spell to pass as his body continued it’s uphill climb in expunging his system fully.  For the better part of a day the companions had been moving, ever since Scrat was strong enough to stand.  If not for the spirits who answered his call for aid, he most likely would still be sitting at the cliff at the top of the chasm, waiting for his health to completely stabilize.

Though rest would have been nice, the four had had to move quickly, knowing that the Alliance agents had a head start upon them.  With the afternoon had come a loud explosion and rumbling noise from the direction of their destination, driving them to a higher speed, aware that their time was ever shrinking.  More than once Scrat had compelled them to leave him behind and he would catch up, but with the chance for their counterparts to dig in and create a defensible position, Reyk insisted they would need all their resources.  So they had moved slowly but surely throughout the day, finally finding the entrance to their goal.

At first they were unaware of anything wrong other than the apparent landslide caused by an explosion to reveal the entrance to the cave.  The long shadows cast from the sinking sun served to mask the patina of frost coating the entirety of the cave entrance until Reyk took a misstep and tumble, frowning in consternation as he stood.  Noxt moved forward and laid a hand upon the line of frost, drawing his thin, mummified lips into a close approximation of a frown.  “Magical frost, I can melt it, but it will take a while to burn enough for a path.”

Reyk called upon the light to manifest itself, making his hand glow a pure brightness and holding it up, seeing that the patina spread even further into the cave, summoning forth a particularly violent curse upon the Alliance’s future generations and punctuating it by spitting.  “Do it,” he said grimly, “and we will finish this when we catch these fools.”

* * * * *

Ignat ran his fingers along the smooth wall that stood at the end of the cavern they had spent the last hour descending into.  “The issue is closed, Finegal, what’s done is done,” he said with a steady authority as he examined what he knew must be a door.

“She’s a deserter, Ignat, I don’t care that she told us where to find this wretch.  Running off like that after allowing the prisoners to escape and then just showing up in the middle night and telling us where to go, but refusing to come with us.  I swear, once we return to Wildervar, I’m going to report her, I’ll have a warrant issu-“

“If it wasn’t for her,” murmured the gnome distractedly as he turned to the wall besides the smooth wall of stone, running his fingers along the cavern wall, “we’d still be stumbling around blindly along the mountain paths.  She’s done her part.  You’re just upset because she caught you unawares while you were on guard duty.  Now stop blustering and help me get this door open.”

The human priest snorted, but turned to the opposite wall anyways and began to run his fingers in a similar fashion to the gnome, searching for any irregularities as the two lapsed into silence and deep concentration.  After a few long minutes, Ignat made a slight grunt as he detected a magical screen covering a tiny, finger sized portion of the wall.  After pinpointing the location of enchantment, he slipped a slender finger into the groove and felt a small latch, flipping it up.  Smoothly and with only a slight whisper to announce it’s movement, the door slid up, revealing still more cavern beyond.  But one step closer to their goal still.

After allowing Finegal to move through door, Ignat whispered a word of elemental power, touching his finger to the base of the wall below the magically concealed switch.  In a smooth motion he reached up and flipped the switch, then rolled beneath the swiftly descending door.  A puff of smoke slowly rose up from where it landed, leaving behind silence except for the sound of frost ascending up the wall of the cavern and coating the switch, freezing it fast in place.

* * * * *

The lich moved hurriedly among the three restrained cultists who were weeping and whispering with joy at being chosen for sacrifice.  Except for the occasional gasp of pleasure from the sudden jab of a needle or slice along their flesh, they remained relatively quiet, causing the undead thing no end of frustration.  Willing victims are never any fun it thought to itself, wishing it had had time to do things right and capture a few of the insect races crawling around Naxxramas’ outer territories.  But time had been of the essence, wanting to murder it’s quarry soon so it could focus on bigger plans.

Slowly the blood from the cultists pooled into the awaiting bins below them, slowly dripping into tubes the sucked hungrily at the crimson fluid and fed them at a steady drip onto the sapphire that fueled it’s diabolical machine.  For over an hour now the jewel had been fed, ravenously drawing in as much life force as it could from the blood.  The ball of gold held within the latticework glowed brightly, ready for the words that would cause it to once more become a magical conduit.  Soon, all things would be ready and it could work at a safe distance in order to kill those four fools who had dared to trespass along it’s territory.

Suddenly the lich stopped, noting a distinct change in the laboratory that indicated a second undead being of power had arrived.  Slowly it turned, hissing threateningly at the new arrival before recognizing what it was that stood before him.  Letting the noise die, it quickly bowed as it recognizing the power and rank of the diminutive floating figure before it, though it only rose to about three feet off the ground.  Slowly a second figure formed from the blackness, a ghostly banshee coalescing behind it, the ever present bodyguard of this particularly powerful lich.  Wrapped in deep velvet robes that trailed to just inches above the floor, the thing spoke from deep within the blackness of it’s cowl, “Daedry, your project is at a close, the quarry you pursue are marked for other plans.”

The human lich’s eyes bulged in sudden anger at the statement and stood, beginning to sputter at the tiny lich before it held up a small finger in warning, silence once more settling over the laboratory as the gnomish lich floated gently over to the intricate machine powered by the sapphire, examining it closely, “Fascinating, Daedry.  You don’t mind if I make use of this since it no longer serves your purposes, do you?  No, I expect not.”  The lich turned to it’s ghostly bodyguard, “Please remove him from my new laboratory.”

The human lich stepped forward, “You cannot!” it cried before the gnome turned and pointed, causing the lich to go rigid for a moment before it simply flipped it’s tiny finger up.  Immediately the empty vessel that was the human lich collapsed to the floor, rotted bones and skin that had once been animated by it’s corrupted soul finally allowed to rest.  The gnome turned to banshee once more, pulling back it’s cowl.  “Find the phylactery and destroy it, we don’t need an enemy with an agenda.”  Slowly it turned back to the machine, whispering the words that caused it to flare to life as the gold turned an oily black before resolving onto Duegathalas and the three others waiting for the frost to melt.  “We are so very close to our goals after all, aren’t we?”

-Dueg

25
Jun
09

Tier 9 Separation Anxiety

3.2 speculation is on the way!  With the PTR up and running and new changes filtering down to us as quickly as people can find it out, we’re all being treated to a wealth of changes upcoming for WoW.  One of the major points that regular raiders are looking at with those hungry, wild eyes is the new tier of loot that’s dropping.  First off, this is a full tier of loot, but unlike the previous ones, this one is separated into three distinct ilevels instead of just two.  When I heard this, I immediately began to wonder as to how they were planning on distributing this with the new normal / heroic system that they’re doing for the raids.

The popular and most likely theory, as espoused by WoW.com, is that you’re going to have the lowest level of igear awarded for running the normal raid.  You’ll then have the middle level awarded for heroic ten man and normal 25 man and finally, heroic 25 man will award the highest level of loot available.  Simple enough and this is most likely the way that things will be done.  But is this the way it should be done?

Maybe it’s because I’ve decided that I’m done with 25 mans for the foreseeable future and that I’m such an unapologetic loot whore to boot, but I’m beginning to wonder why Blizzard has this need for separating loot like this.  Well, I suppose that’s a bit of a lie, I understand that you have to give incentive to players to run 25 mans or else every raiding guild would shrink down to about 15 solid people for ten mans.  So I can understand why they had to make 25 man loot better.  I also get that often enough 25 mans are tuned up to the point where though you have more people in better gear, it can be tougher and take longer to progress at it.  I get all that.

But have you noticed the new items coming out?  Have you checked the ilevels separating the different sub tiers of this gear?  In Ulduar, each item sub tier was separated by 7 ilevels.  Enough to know there was a difference, but not enough to really be too concerned about it.  Someone decked out in full Ulduar 10 gear was never really too far behind someone decked out in a comparable Ulduar 25 set.  Now, however, you’re looking at a separation of 13 ilevels per set with noticeable differences between each sub tier.  This means that the difference between running the 10 and 25 mans has once more increased.

Of course, this was the way of things when Wrath first hit, with a separation of 13 ilevels between 10 and 25 man dungeons.  Things were also notably easier back then, with people able to PuG Naxx 25 and OS 25 and eventually even Maly 25 to the point where you didn’t need a guild in order to grab the better gear.  Now, however, Ulduar 10 is difficult to PuG, though not impossible, and if you want to be seeing Ulduar 25, you better know 24 other good people in order to get past the first few bosses.  I can only assume that the new Crusader’s Coliseum will also scale in difficulty, meaning you’ll need guilds and solid raiders to see the content.

So what’s my issue with 25 man raids getting better gear than 10 mans?  None, really.  What I take issue with is the huge difference in gear you’ll be seeing in the ilevels.  I’m not saying that 10 man groups are punished gear wise, because how can someone be punished when you’re given something, but by making such a huge difference in the gear levels, you feel a sense of incompleteness.  Though you’re not being punished for running ten mans, you’re not being rewarded like 25 mans are.  It’s like your group is handed a 50 dollar bill each for working all day, then seeing a bigger group each being handed a 100 dollar bill for the same amount of work.

Of course, nothing’s set in stone at the moment.  There are three sub tiers, but no one knows for sure how they would be distributed, we just have a good idea based on how things have worked in the past.  We also know that at the moment, the middle sub tier is the one that will have tokens available for purchase through emblems.  So it looks as though they’re creating a system where the most hardcore 10 man raiders will only ever be as good as the average 25 man raider gear-wise.  This is where I get a little rankled by the whole system and the idea that though I’m doing more content and achieving more things, I don’t have the ilevels to show it.

In the end though, I suppose it will be what it is.  Truth be told, I’d rather do ten mans and avoid the frustration of unmotivated 25 mans.  It makes you feel more elite and I always had more fun wiping on hard modes than I did while looting high level gear.  Perhaps the new tribute run mechanic will allow heroic raids to loot the same type of gear regardless of whether you’re in 10 or 25 man mode.  Though I doubt it, because Blizzard wants and probably needs a defined line between the loot tables of 10 and 25 man raids.  I just wish it didn’t make the loot whore in me cry so much.

-Dueg

24
Jun
09

We Don’t Need no Water

All the fire ladies want to dance in Dueg's brazier

All the fire ladies want to dance in Dueg's brazier

So the Midsummer Fire Festival is in full swing, with people running around and playing with fire all over the place.  There’s even some new locations in Northrend that you can go to honor fire, which I can say is something my mother most certainly would not approve of.  This holiday involves doing a few daily quests, running back through the old world and even killing a level 70 mob from Outland in order to complete the meta-achievement and get the Flame Keeper title and one step closer to the overall holiday meta-achievement.

Pretty much one word summed up this holiday for me: Easy.  It was easy gold, easy achievements and an easy title.  I spaced it out over a couple of days in order to work on my UI, but I pretty much could’ve knocked out the achievement beginning to end in about 4 hours, maybe less.  I won’t argue though, I made about a K off of it and I also picked up a cool little vanity pet.  So all in all, I’m satisfied with this holiday for the sheer easiness of getting it done.  I pretty much just picked up a map of the fire locations at WoWhead, checked the strats for the fight for Ahune and became an instant expert.

In fact, I’m such an expert on this now, that I figured I’d make a little PSA for the Horde.  Hope you all enjoy it!  Now get out there and play with some fire!

How is that even comfortable?

How is that even comfortable?

-Dueg

24
Jun
09

This One’s for the Spacegoat

So anyone who surfed on over to Holy Discipline this morning saw that Anea posted some pics of the Argent Tourney’s Alliance tent.  She has provided us with valuable intelligence which I shall cleverly use to crush the Alliance at a time that they least expect it.  However, never let it be said that I am not a benevolent future ruler of all Alliance as she has asked to see a set up of the Horde tent.  I don’t see why not, it’s not like she could use it to cleverly crush the Horde when we least expect it or anything.  So for anyone who’s curious, starting from left to right, here’s the Horde tent at the Argent Tournament in Icecrown:Argent Blood ElvesArgent ForsakenArgent OrcsArgent TaurenArgent TrollsI noticed a funny thing while uploading these pics.  Anea pointed out that the Alliance tent seems to be set up in order of descending height from left to right.  The Horde tent, on the other hand, seems to be set up in alphabetical order of race from left to right.  Blizzard’s odd.  Anyways, stay tuned for my post later today, I’ll be reviewing this crazy fire festival going on right now in Azeroth.  Till then, keep on chasing those Argent dreams, Anea!

-Dueg




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