Archive for the Diary Category

The Old Gods and their new toys

Posted in Diary, Fun, News, Roleplaying, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , on June 3, 2012 by Natarumah

Things are starting to get rolling in the Priest department, it seems. When MMO-Champion released a video of the new priest animations (check it out here) by Kit, the first thing that went through my head is “hey – I think I see a theme…” which is a good thing, definitely. While the Holy and Discipline priests have their clear and present feels, I posted before on how Shadowpriests need to be re-examined and have their theme pulled tight again.

When I look at these animations, however, I have to say that the ballpark seems to be squarely in the Old Gods department again. Let’s have a look at a few telling animations, and see what we can gather from it…or what may be yet in store.

Psyfiend

The Psyfiend looks like a strange mixture between the Sha (The spiritual manifestations of bad and twisted emotions in Pandaria) and an evolved Shadowfiend. As you can see, it has the Shadowfiend’s head and back (including gaping maw) with its lower half devolving into a legless form of spirit and Shadows.

Considering that the Sha represent emotions and are a major threat to Pandaria, I wouldn’t be surprised if this cemented the link between the Shadowfiend being a gift from the Old Gods and the Sha being the creations or manipulations by one. Of course, we’d have to follow through on the Mists of Pandaria storyline in order to find out for sure, but the chances are high that we may find some solid linking between the various concepts.

If you look at the Sha on WoWPedia, you will find that there’s a good resemblance between the Sha types and the Shadowfiend, as well as the ominous stained glass window that was revealed  (which is of course a representation of Yogg-Saron). If we will be eventually facing an Old God in this expansion, it’s therefore likely to be a shadowy one – perhaps finally revealing where the Shadowpriests of the Horde and Alliance are getting their powers from.

Void Tendrils

Of all of the new Priest abilities, this is the most no-brainer of them all. Tendrils that look like any used by the Old Gods and their servants. From Ch’tun to Yogg-Saron, from Vezzax to Zon’ozz, you can’t seem to fight these guys without tripping over tentacles. And right now, Priests can do that exact same thing. It’s possibly the most telling example of the connection between the Old Gods and Shadowpriests, but also the most iconic. Raise your hands if you have run Ch’tun and Yogg-Saron even in Wrath to get your hands on any of the tentacle trinkets?

Mindbender

And the last of the abilities I want to focus on is Mindbender, allowing us to control others’ minds. Where the Shadowfiends dutifully suck out all of that delicious mana for us to use from our enemies the Mindbenders pop out of whatever Shadowy hiding place they come from and give us more soldiers to use in our battles – and these Mindbenders are creatures we’ve seen before. One of them controls Erunak Stonespeaker in the Throne of the Tides, and will jump to party members to do the same.

And one large specimen of this creature controls a Flesh Giant in the Twilight Highlands (Julak-Doom) while Ozumat is likely the largest specimen of this type encountered near Azeroth. The fact that this race is aligned with, and probably spawned by, the Old Gods and now in service to Shadowpriests is telling of our allegiance in the great race between Order (Titans) and Chaos (Old Gods).

Conclusion

We are looking at a solid design element here, Old Gods. People have speculated about them for years now, and I would be delighted if Shadowpriests were actively part of that lore. It’d make us bad guys, sure – or at the very least anti-heroes, but it would give us plenty of visual elements to give us new toys with.

Imagine powers based on the Faceless Ones, such as shadowy globs that explode on impact or eye stalks that cast Mind Flay? Why not some form of buff that makes us bigger and turns out arms into tentacles (or have them grow out of our backs) to show the corruptive influences of our magics?

And if you ever want to remake the Shadowpriest (like what happened to Warlocks) I can offer up one suggestion: replace the mana bar with a Sanity bar. As we go along, many of our abilities reduce our Sanity, producing various nasty visual results, until we ran out of Sanity and can no longer cast spells. We regain Sanity by draining it from enemies (as we do now) or by casting spells that are helpful to our raid (Shadowy healing, buffs, and the like). It might be that certain powerful abilities – instead of being on a cooldown – require the Shadowpriest to be below a certain level of Sanity (thoroughly insane to grasp these terrible secrets) before they can be used.

I hope Blizzard will stick with the Old Gods theme, because as you can see there is so much that can still be done and left to explore. It certainly would keep me playing my Shadowpriest!

Why I am looking forward to Mists of Pandaria

Posted in Diary, Roleplaying, Theory with tags , , on January 26, 2012 by Natarumah

Currently, I am debating the game more than I am actually playing it. The current content is sparse, to say the least, and the economist in me speaks. I am currently raiding 25mans with Unity, we have a 10man Alts run going on as well and I gear up whatever alt I favor at the moment through LFR. This seems sound, but for some reason I cannot escape the feeling that I am bogged down somehow.

That sinking feeling

It probably is safe to say that the success of an expansion hinges not on how much content is released, but how much is perceived to still be “up Blizzard’s sleeve”. By that token, Cataclysm was a short and ironically uneventful expansion. It shouldn’t be that you hit the final raid of the expansion to find the bosses quite easy on Normal mode and then proceed to beat around the bush with hard modes because that’s all you have left. Hard modes are awesome, but once we clear them, the expansion’s just about over.

Over – with no sign in sight for Mists of Pandaria.

Yes, there will be a beta where 90% of the WoW population will join (mind you, when you signed for that annual pass they didn’t promise you what stage beta you’d be joining) and daily snippets of Blizzcon footage are wound off their reels again to keep people interested. Logical, in the light of quite a few contenders in the MMO territory for the more casual player – which is exactly what MoP seems to be targetting.

Taking it easy for a change

After a plethora of world-shattering bosses (Illidan, Kil’jaeden, the Lich King, Deathwing) it will be a breath of fresh air to enter an expansion where we aren’t immediately rushed into doom and gloom. After all, that’s what it felt like and it echoed through every sliver of Cataclysm. Deathwing’s coming, hit 85 quickly, assist the Molten Front with post-haste, quickly defeat Ragnaros and then face Deathwing. Time for a change of pace.

Exploration, discovery and lore matter quite a bit in any story. Finding Pandaria and its mysterious inhabitants, magic and monsters will give us a new insight into Azeroth and its secrets. This way, Blizzard can slowly up the tension to the level of mid-TBC and prepare for another expansion or two before another world-shattering incident.

The joy is in the eating

One of the greatest changes in WoW currently is a shift in focus from the hardcore players from Classic to the people in Cataclysm who are, effectively, playing a lifestyle. It’s a lot less about the cutting edge gear, split-second tactics and perseverance. World-first raiders and upper-echelon PvP masters are now part of the e-sports celebrity community and thereby elevated far above even the UNcommon player.

This means that aside of raiding, PvP and collection games (Archeology, achievements, reputations, mounts, pets, Transmog gear) more needs to be done to capture and entertain the audience. A few of these things are announced for MoP and while derided as childish by some, I am quite looking forward to it.

  • Pandaren represent a first option for a race in both factions, and I am interested how they build on the sparse lore from before (which states nothing more than them being fun-loving ale-guzzling martial artists).
  • The Monk class will, if it resembles the form it was announced in at Blizzcon, a new avenue in class design. More active abilities, requiring a different set of skills and with no one who has mastered it opening it up as a new choice for many. Like DKs, many will fail before it will be embraced by the community.
  • Pandaren and its evil spirits are dear to me because of the imagery, use of color and having an area that deviates from the more traditional heavy-handed High Fantasy. While you could taste this in an Asian MMO, it’s nice to have a change-over on the scenery.
  • Pet Battles may resemble a certain collection game a lot, but in the end it’s just a fun little diversion while you wait for your other raid members to arrive (or your LFR/LFG queue to pop). With Blizzard’s intent to lessen our desire to all cramp together in one city and lazily wait for our next adventure-on-demand window to pop up, this can only improve.
  • A new expansion means a new chance to give our opinions and influence the way the game will be. A game can only be a success if everyone’s desires are met in one way or the other. And as much as people have been moping about it (hah!) fact remains that this is still a wildly popular game – and probably will remain (one of) the largest until the release of Titan.

Right now it feels like we, as players, carefully ration ourselves with the current content. Likely we will have to wai thalf a year at least before the new expansion hits our welcome mat, and we will have to make do with the content we have. Currently the lore has “run dry”. There might be a few more big bads to run on (At least two old gods, C’thun is still not dead again I believe, and at the end of the road is Sargeras) but as sad a state as Deathwing has been reduced to in terms of a fight, having him be topped in his own expansion a la Kil’jaeden topping Illidan would be even more of a slap in the face.

What I hope to see

There’s a few more checks-in-the-box for things I’d love to see in Mists of Pandaria. Things that would make me happy and (among them) continue blogging about. It’s no secret that one of the reasons I am writing less is because there simply is less to write about – and I’d like to see that changed.

  • An epic opening cinematic for MoP, and preferably a half-time moment of jaw-dropping awesomeness (a la Wrath Gate)
  • The Monk class being exciting, dynamic and difficult – but with corresponding rewards in visual displays and feel-good moves
  • Pet battles becoming secretly embraced by people who detract it currently, leading to a new brand of e-sports
  • A storyline that slowly ramps up in scope, not breaking out of its box in the first 30 minutes of play
  • Monk/Martial Art training tools that actually work and allow you to show off your WoW-Fu – danger room, please
  • Emphasis on quality raids with doable LFR, challenging normal modes and fiendish hard modes
  • Loot that does not look like it was taken out of a Slaine comic book
  • Lore revealed which meshes with existing lore, yet gives us inrigueing insight into an isolated culture
  • Classes which have a stronger theme as foundation, meaning less stepping on other’s toes in terms of lore, looks and feel
  • Content being paced properly, allowing us to not have “expansion left at the end of the content”

All in all I have a good feeling about MoP – but the risk remains that watering down the game for the benefit of too large a group will cause it to go stale. I mean, look at a very successful family game like Wizard 101 which is very fun for kids - but not challenging at all for (most) adults.

Warhammer fell into the trap of catering to a single group (PvPers), Age of Conan offered too little content and meandered all over the place, RIFT simply was too complex and its shiny exterior hid a multiple-personality syndrome, D&D Online simply didn’t live up anywhere to its legendary tabletop origins and the various superhero MMOs (Champions Online, DC Universe, City of Heroes/Villains) coped with a serious image problem when it came to more mainstream gamers.

Currently the main contender for my personal attention is Star Wars: The Old Republic. It features strong lore, clever storytelling and class-personalized quest lines. Sure it will be old hat after the second time or so, but for now it feels very clever and well-made. Endgame is still a question, as a lot of bugs have been removed only recently. It does feature reasonably balanced classes with a strong theme – which is one of the things WoW is in danger of losing.

My hope is that in the run towards Mists of Pandaria classes will have a stronger theme, balanced visuals and a unique selling point. Without it, people may burn out on frustration.

Without epic class quests (Paladin and Warlock Mount, Anathema/Benediction, Warlock Doomguard and Infernal, the epic quest line for Hunters, and so on) and the continued attempts and balance through homogenization we currently have a situation where classes are in some cases cardboard cutouts for each other, where you can practically see the “cut along the lines” indications on abilities.

Conclusion

Even though WoW is a old workhorse of an MMO, it is by far the most popular and has shown much innovation in its time. Now it will have to make a great metamorphosis, evolving to endure the coming onslaught of next-gen MMOs. Mists of Pandaria might be the chance the game developers need to show that they can cater to the newer, more casual gamer while still honoring the time-old veteran’s tradition of elbow grease and theorycraft.

Comparison: Shadowpriest vs Sith Inquisitor

Posted in Diary, Fun, Roleplaying, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , , on January 6, 2012 by Natarumah

It’s one of those things that seems unavoidable; when I played Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR) beta, the first thing I rolled was a Sith Sorceror. Guess you can’t deny your true nature – and now that the game’s out, my Sith Sorceror is almost level 50, so time to do some comparisons on playstyle between it and my favorite pastime: the Shadowpriest.

Look and feel

The theme of the Sith code is very strong, and is represented in everything a Sorceror does. Dark sided social options, quests that promise *unlimited powerrrr* and Lightning as primary source of damage. Every second of play, every encounter with NPCs, underlines that you are dangerous and unpredictable, demanding of respect. It’s really well done, and mirrors my earlier post about class design: a strong theme, a strong feel makes half a class.

Talents

I am currently playing a hybrid between the Lightning and Madness trees, but you could go for more Madness (more DoTs) or fully into Lightning (more Direct Damage). Strong points of the Sorceror are their mix of healing and damage (even the healers deal damage to keep their Force regeneration up), ability to shield allies and their good CC. Whirlwind allows you to keep an opponent out of the fight indefinitely, and you can talent it for a reduced cooldown or CC’ing more than one mob at a time.

Damage-wise, there’s a lot of synergy in talents. Lightning Strike (Say, Shadowbolt) ups your Force Regeneration. Affliction (SW:P) makes your Force Lightning tick faster. Thundering Blast crits automatically on targets with Affliction on it and feels a lot like Mind Blast currently is. Force Lightning is a dead ringer for Mind Flay – it even has the Slowing component. All in all, people who play Shadowpriests will find that the Sorceror is a wealth of rediscovery.

Playstyle

When playing solo, the Sorceror plays a bit like a Warlock, using your companion Khem Val as a tank and healing him while you blast opponents to pieces. This is quite challenging to do, because Khem Val is not so bright and has a lot of AoE, breaking your careful CC. You can turn off his AoE abilities (he has a full pet bar) but to be honest it seems to spring back one every time (most likely a bug).

You have a lot of short-term control (as do most classes). You can Interrupt, you have a Stun (Electrocute) but even your Shock will stun weaker targets. If you are swarmed, you can knock your foes back. All in all, an enormous toolbox of abilities. Like the classic Shadowpriest, you also have quite some healing power – and be expected to use it. A Flashpoint can be healed even without a healing spec, but it will be a challenge. More to the point, you will get a lot of healing practice keeping your companions up on some of the more challenging class quests.

The flipside of the Sorceror (the Assassin) is my girlfriend’s weapon of choice – a combination of Death Knight, Rogue and (TBC-style) Tankadin. All in all ironic since her main’s been a Paladin since TBC, and she instantly recognized the playstyle from way back when. In fact, a lot of the feel of the classes and abilities are reminiscent of TBC-era World of Warcraft. And here too, a tank/healer combo is the bomb. Between the two of us, 4-man quests are relatively easy because we carry healing power, enough CC to control 2-3 targets and 2 additional companions.

Mind you that you will need it – this game is definitely more challenging than WoW. Mobs will need CC, positioning is important and the game does not pull punches in your class quests. Adapt or die, seems to be the buzz word.

Conclusion

For players of a Shadowpriest, the Sorceror feels like the Shadowpriest should: dark, powerful, commanding respect. There’s a lot of support for your group, and a lot of ways to screw over your enemies. The only complaint would be that you have too much to do, and are fighting bar space to fit it all in.

For Blizzard, I’d recommend a similar treatment for the Shadowpriest – don’t be afraid of the CC (we lack it anyway), the stuns/control (smart players need a challenge, on either side of the fence) and damage potential. In the end, the feeling of the class determines its popularity.

In a forest, even the trees fall alone

Posted in Diary, News, Shadowpriest with tags , , , on May 25, 2011 by Natarumah

For some time I have been running low on steam – my WoW time was less, there was little of interest for me to write about, and I was procrastinating the hell out of myself. So today I decided that step by step I’d update the various sections of Twisted Faith, and ready myself for one day getting this production going with a more professional look.

While I was checking my blogroll, it occurred to me just how many of the people I’d put in there have quit the game, stopped blogging or simply…vanished. It had been a while since I made the rounds of all my favorite blogs, and I found a lot of tumbleweed and pages where the last post from 2010 was still proudly displayed.

To be honest, this made me a bit said. It’s the natural way of things, I mean – nothing last forever. People start playing the game, get involved, grow into it. They make blogs, fill up forums and raid calendars, and eventually outgrow it all and leave it behind.

This made me more determined than ever to put some new steam in this old beast and get it rolling. Twisted Faith’s been around for almost three years now, and some time I am going to have my behind called on for seniority. As part of the renovation project, I am now making a list of things I’d like to see improved. Some might be easy to do, others might take a lot of time, or maybe money. But Shadowpriest blogs are more rare now than ever before, so I feel that every little contribution I can make counts, so the info has to get out there, easily available.

I’ll keep you all updated on how it goes. As I said, today was blogroll-day, and I’ve filed those who’ve gone out of business under “retired”. I am not deleting them outright, since they are now part of the history of Shadowpriest Blogging, but I’ll be out hunting for fresh blood and new insights to link to.

Not giving up until Shadowpriests are removed from the game. Rawr!

While I was away…

Posted in Diary, Shadowpriest with tags , , , on March 21, 2011 by Natarumah

You may have noticed by now that I haven’t been posting much lately. This has been caused by many factors, including busy work schedules and (in some cases) the lack of Shadowpriest-specific information. There simply hasn’t been much going on and I, like many it seems, have been suffering from a bit of a WoW-burnout.

What happened

One weekend, I simply didn’t feel like playing. It happens sometimes, at least once a year. It’s a sign that I need to relax a bit, level some alts or the like – nothing to worry about. But I soon discovered that it went a bit deeper than I thought. I didn’t feel like leveling alts, doing heroics, grinding rep, playing the AH or discovering the “new old world”. In fact, I didn’t feel like logging in at all!

Raiding on the other hand, was no problem for me. I love the raids and I had banked enough resources to last me a year even if I would log in only to raid – and that was what I turned out doing.

But I wasn’t alone

We have a great guild, with easily 100+ accounts and generally there was always at least a handful of people online. But over the course of a month, that number dwindled to at most 10 during the weekends. It was (and still is) a cause for concern, because it seems strange for so many people to lose interest in such a short period of time.

From MMO-Champion and the forums, as well as people I knew personally who played, I quickly learned that loss of interest in the game seemed a rather wide-spread phenomenon. Granted, the more hardcore raiders and PvPers were less affected by the look of it, but most of the casuals had either vacated the game, or become uber-casual.

What could it be?

I am currently trying to find out what could have happened – that pivotal moment that changed the game. Many people pointed to RIFT as the culprit – but the decline started before RIFT was announced and while I do play the game, I play it even less that I play WoW. And I haven’t seen many of the people who vanished show up in the game either, only a handful of people joined on the shard where I play.

A second reason I imagined could be the massive changes announced for Cataclysm not paying off. Leveling characters is a very fast experience now, but even leveling a character from 80-85 is so quick, that it’s not much work. Gearing them for raids, however, is. The new “hard heroics” are not the most challenging content, but I know that if you catch a new person in your group, they can take up to 2 hours. With experienced folks, it’s 30 minutes. This means I have to keep a block of time open for up to 2 hours if I want to run a heroic, and I usually just decide against it. I hit my valor point cap while raiding anyway, so I don’t need the heroics.

The continuous rounds of balancing could also be part of the issue. I heard people getting very tired of the retirement of favored abilities, the jo-jo effect of being buffed in one area then nerfed in another, as well as PvP being balanced for PvE reasons and vice versa. I can imagine it’s a nightmare for the developers, but don’t discount the psychological effects it has on the players.

Some of us have had to relearn the class (Paladins, Hunters) or have suffered greatly from being balanced left, right and center (Death Knights, Mages, Warlocks) or being forced to adopt new abilities to reach the same effect, only to have those nerfed in favor of the developers believing we need more buttons to push (that would be us, Priests, and Druids).

My plans for the future

Despite all of this, I love the game and my character. I love raiding and the immersive storyline that WoW has enjoyed for over 5 years now (albeit Cataclysm being the weaker son here with mostly re-used story concepts and wrapping old content up). I enjoy raiding a great deal, even though the other aspects of the game draw me less at this point.

I am part of a great guild and a great raiding community. I would walk through fire for many of these people, and it is the most balanced and sensible (albeit not always sane) group I have been part of for most of my playtime. I don’t intend to abandon them, or the game, although I did share my doubts and issues with them.

As for this blog, I do not intend to stop blogging. But like with many linked activities, reduced play means reduced writing impetus. In an effort to change this, I will find new avenues of the game I enjoy to bring to the fore, and try and expand the focus a bit to provide more reading tidbits.

That said, if any of you ever have specific subjects you would like more information about or would like to see me write on, don’t hesitate to comment here or drop me a mail. Even in my absence the visits to Twisted Faith have been massively stable, and I would like to thank you all for your continued interest.

Soon there will be regular programming again on this blog (and that’s not a Blizzard Soon [tm])

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 92 other followers