Archive for Fun

How the East was won

Posted in Fun, News, Shadowpriest with tags , , , , on May 27, 2012 by Natarumah

Since there are little to no changes to the Shadowpriest on the beta of note (just continuous shuffling of abilities) it’s about time to look beyond the Shadowpriest itself, and look at the expansion as a whole. From what I’ve seen and what I’ve been told, Mists of Pandaria is going to be quite a different expansion to what we’re used to, as attested to by what the Devs claimed were their intentions and what’s on the Beta right now.

There will be more exploration in Mists

One of the key things here is that the vistas are grand, and areas are huge. There is so much to see, and a lot of detail in the terrain. There are also things scattered around the area from carts to boxes to tea sets still giving off steam. The visual experience is powerful, colors are bold and models are well-made and animated. Where once WoW’s cartoony graphics may have been an anti-aging method, here they actually look like they’re “in place” and meaningful.

Exploration also comes into play with the quests. Where Cataclysm led you by the nose, some quests and events in Mists you won’t find unless you go off the beaten path and beyond the area you are questing in. If you follow the quest lines alone you will level just fine, but to see all that Pandaria has to offer you will have to go down unused paths into the jungle or find long-lost caves and ruins.

Another nice touch is how the quests involving a dungeon actually take place in and around that area, instead of just leading up to it and then stopping cold of the instance portal. It makes the world feel that much more real, thought-out and immersive.

Mists of Pandaria will be more Casual-friendly

Unless the raiding model will be much improved from Cataclysm, and Blizzard gets their raid buffs sorted, it’s likely you will find the number of hard-mode raiders dropping severely (again). With the raid finder, the complexity of 25mans without the additional reward and the heavy focus put on 10man raiding, you will see that Hard Modes are going to be for an ever shrinking group of players.

On the flip side, WoW will be very inviting to more casual play. Pet battles and exploration for those who like them, the ability to farm your own plot of land (like done so beautifully in Lotro before – expect the pipeweed is missing) and the removal of the daily quests cap means that there is plenty to do even if you are not a raider. And if you fancy yourself a good player, you can always test yourself in the 5man challenge modes.

Blizzard seems to head for a Dynamic Server Model

There seems to be a lot of pressure on cross-realm interaction, especially in leveling zones. This seems great for people who want to do that Elite quests (which will make a comeback in Mists) but it does introduce one problem: cross-realm asshattery. Since there is zero responsibility or capacity for punishing people who misbehave on cross-realm areas, we can only hope that the improved reporting system (made quicker and more efficient) will actually curb leechers, trainers, kill-stealers, ninjas and pottymouths.

This is of course nice for people who are leveling, but do not discount the economic effects. Servers that are hardly used because no one was leveling in their zones (I am talking about the physical/virtual servers now, and not realms) can now be merged onto a single virtual server (the crossrealm leveling zone) meaning greater efficiency. This will cut costs and makes sure there’s a lot of backup capacity. This might also help with calamities and stability issues, not to mention look good on the next annual report.

Crossrealm leveling zones will still have their normal trading restrictions (like in random dungeons and raids today) but this might change in the future. And from there it’s only a step up to a truly dynamic server model, where your choice of realm is a choice when logging in, or even a click away (like in Champions Online). This would make the debate about merging realms and dying realms obsolete, as people could be dynamically redistributed. The only stable location would have to be the capital cities, where your guild and friend would be able to meet you when needed and you could organize your 5mans, raids and PvP.

If Fun>Profit run Game else Quit

Yes, an equation. Not very elegant but it proves a point: while some people play for challenge, most just play for fun. Where WoW was once a game where the elite few raided or PvP’d while the rest just stuck to 5mans, it’s now is a game where the casual player is the audience. Those people who want challenging raid mechanics, gear and titles as actual status symbols and truly diabolocial achievements to gain will probably need to look for another game. And let’s face it, it makes sense.

The top raiders once were teenagers, but they are now adults with responsibilities and jobs (for the most part), with the influx into the game being modern-day teenagers who (thanks to the Facebook era) don’t want to spend that amount of time on a game – especially if the same is offered by the free online and FB games of today.

But if you can adapt to the more casual mind-set, where maths are much simpler and gameplay is more set in stone, then Mists of Pandaria still has a lot to offer. I may not personally like how much the game has been made more simple, but it does allow for more expansions to follow and balance to be maintained more easily. And a game that can be upgraded and maintained more easily, and attracts a greater audience, will have a longer lifespan. It also will have more subscribers, which feed into R&D and Design, making the game more shiny. And I cannot find fault in that.

What I intend to do

My personal look at Mists is that I will definitely play. Question is whether it will be as a Hard Mode Raider, and whether it will be as Shadowpriest. So far Shadowpriests are solid in terms of rotations (since we don’t really get anything new anyway) but severely lack in fun (latest addition: a glyph to give your noncombat pet Shadowform – yeah, pass). Warlocks and Death Knights get a lot of shinies and look equally solid. So it may be that I decide to switch mains, or go Casual.

But I do know that I will be playing in the next expansion, and that’s a better outlook than I had a month ago.

Ennui and the Coming Days

Posted in Diary, Fun with tags , on August 30, 2010 by Natarumah

Well, it seems that even I am not immune to the “End of Expansion Fatigue”, despite my best efforts to keep myself entertained. PvE-wise, all I could hope to gain is Heroic Lich King or Halion, and to be honest it does not draw me half as much as the earlier content. It seems a lot of hassle for little gain. Leveling Alts also seems more like a chore, and without access to the Beta, all I can report is second-hand info – but mind you. I will report it if it’s awesome.

Perhaps then, it might be an idea to devote some time to the other online games I play or have played, give my view on them and why I keep returning to WoW…

Guild Wars (GW)

Having bought all expansion packs for GW and having played it off and on for five years, I must say that this is a great “time waster” game. There’s very little pressure, balance is merciless, and the game is huge. I quite enjoy the Ranger with its traps, supporting my team with a Warrior/Paragon or destroying my foes with my Necromancer/Ritualist.

The downside of the game is that it is not very graphically impressive, and that some of the missions leave you quite easily destroyed if you happen to take the wrong combination of henchmen with you. Worse still, some players display worse AI than the henchmen…

All in all it’s a game I play once every few months, since it’s free anyway, to kill a few hours on. The lack of pressure and the shorter size of dungeons also makes that I don’t have to worry about raiding guilds, progression, or better loot. At max level gear, that’s what it is and has been for three expansions.

Age of Conan (AoC)

To me, this is a completely mixed bag. I love the class design, the graphics are very good and the atmosphere of the place simply oozes through its pores. But fighting is very frustrating using the combo system. Clicking your ability and then directional arrows is very uncomfortable. I leveled an Assassin to 50 and found to be not quite as daunting as people warned me it would be, although you could feel the lack of survivability even with Lotus abilities. When you hit 50 you get another level 50 character for free, which became my Tempest of Set. This was AoE and Survivability heaven, but I could not help but feel my performance was lacklustre.

I decided not to renew my subscription, because it simply wasn’t involving enough to keep me in. It was great for wasting some time, but it was not worth paying the money for. The dungeons were uninspired for the most part, just dungeon maps with mobs in them, with little interaction or puzzles. The few dungeons with more challenging content just seemed to be that way because there was no guidance whatsoever.

So if the game ever went Free to Play I might consider going for it again – I love the graphics and the atmosphere – but it did not draw me in with regard to the Dungeons. Also, the Guild system where you have to build a keep for which someone has to devote a profession to build, as well as enormous Guild resources, seemed to me a waste of time. The advantage of no Guild Housing is that you can join and leave Guilds as you wish in WoW, instead of feeling remorse on how many resources you put into your pretty castle.

Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO)

Lotro is a different league altogether. The graphics are very good for the environment, but players and NPCs are pretty damn ugly. It was impossible for me to build a character that was beyond “passable I guess” in looks. The number of options to customize your character with was also very limited, and hair styles seemed to be shared between all toons of all races.

The gameplay itself is pretty easy to learn, although it takes some time to learn to handle the more difficult classes. The learning curve is pretty forgiving, but by the time you start running into Elite Undead you discover that you might want to stick in the lower level areas for just a little longer. So far my favorites have been the Champion and the Minstrel.

I haven’t played Lotro long enough to glimpse more than the first fourteen or so levels of Champion, but it did get repetitive quite soon already. Fortunately, if you are a Roleplayer this game has tons of goodies for you! You can actually play musical instruments, and you can sometimes find a band of PCs playing in front of the Prancing Pony in Bree, recreating the Middle-Earth variety of the latest pop songs. There’s a million outfits, and a clever system that allows you to look the way you want, but have the gear you need. Imagine wearing T10 but looking like T6? That’s what is in there, and it’s a great way of handling look and feel of a character.

There’s even a profession or two devoted to the leisurely gamer – fishing has its rewards, most of it being as relaxing as the real-life sport. Then again, you can also choose to farm vegetables or pipe weed and become famous at the market! There’s always something to do if you want it. This game tops WoW in the immersion department, but has far less excitement.

Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO)

This is a recent addition to my little addictions. Until it went Free to Play, all I could see was D&D ported to the PC like a half-brained copy of Neverwinter Nights. In addition, the most awesome things of Eberron were either removed (Artificers) or were premium options (Warforged, Drow).

Well, when it did go Free, I decided to give it a go. I mean, what the heck, I love D&D and it is still Eberron, so I am sure something good will come of it. Well, it did, sort of. Kept me from logging on to WoW this week it did. You see, despite its initial appearances, it is not a “fun little game”. It is a statmonster worthy spreadsheet on legs with a two-handed axe. It’s a minmaxer’s heaven. And if you feel like a curmudgeon, you can do most of it alone.

First off, building your character will take half an hour at least. Between choosing class, skills and feats (most of which cannot be changed later on barring high-level options) you will spend 10, and then you will spend another 20 getting your toon’s appearance just right. It may seem odd, but there are quite a few faces that can be built using just the limited number of options you have to choose from.

As a Free player, I can only have 2 characters – currently a Level 4 Rogue and a Level 1 Cleric. My Rogue’s pretty much a gearmonkey which I am moving towards getting the Assassin prestige enhancement. My damage is not too awesome on the whole, but when I get behind foes or my Bluff check comes through, they drop like flies. The best part about the game are the dungeons, which have a lot of mobility in them, traps and little puzzles. It made me feel like I was playing Tomb Raider crossed with Tenchu.

The bad part about the game is that Guild system is, again, horrible. Guilds gain levels, you spend oodles of cash on an airship, only to find out you have to pay gigantic upkeeps to keep your crew and facilities – not fun. If your Guild is not large and active, forget about that awesome airship.

So what’s to come?

When Cataclysm comes, I am sure my enthusiasm will be rekindled. Whatever I fancy to play, I have enough level 75+ characters on my Server to pick from. Plus I will make space for a Goblin – a mean one. And I will probably love Archaeology as well, so at least my time-wasting is covered too.

So far it seems that GW and DDO will be my standbys in time of boredom for now, especially now that I have figured out in DDO I can do dungeons to gain favor to gain Turbine Points to buy more dungeons *wheezes* to gain enough favor to unlock the Drow race on my server. Whew.

I did the math (honestly, I have a spreadsheet!) and I will need to build six characters on five servers and level them to twenty to do it (including using True Reincarnation on my Main three times) so I will have quite some work ahead of me in the coming years. Yay!

So what do you pass the time with when not on WoW? I heard Aion is the pretty blonde with no brain (err, no Game I mean) and that Warhammer is a rather unfriendly game, so haven’t tried those. Star Trek online seems to me like it could never beat the Next Generation series, but convince me and I’ll give it a go.

I’m always looking for some less-grindy and less-pressure games to keep me occupied in between.

Classic Achievements: Scarlet Monastery

Posted in Fun with tags , , on August 9, 2010 by Natarumah

Inspired by another Shared Topic over at Blogazeroth, where the basic question is: “What if achievements had been around since classic?” The challenge here is to design a meta-achievement and its rewards such as exists today from Naxx onward, and imagine what achievements it would get you.

Caveat Blogger

The meta-achievement here is based around the idea that you would be running the instance at level and in appropriate gear – so while it would be easy to do (or perhaps even solo) at level 80 and with current gear, it’s more fun to imagine this doing it when it was still hard (you know, an achievement).

Meta Achievement: Scarlet Monsterary

“Complete all the meta-achievements listed below”

Reward: Scarlet Charger (A white horse with gold barding and red cloth drapings with the Scarlet Crusade logo in gold)

Cadfael’ed – Complete the Graveyard, Armory, Library and Cathedral wings of Scarlet Monastery.
Dug up too soon
– Complete the Graveyard wing of Scarlet Monastery within 30 minutes and without anyone dying.
Rotten and Rare
– Kill Aszhir the Sleepless, Ironspine and the Fallen Champion in the Graveyard wing of Scarlet Monastery.
Let loose the dogs of War!
– Kill Houndsmaster Loksley without killing any of his dogs.
Target Practice
– Defeat Arcanist Doan after each member of your party has been targeted by Polymorph at least once.
The Better Part of Valor
– Defeat Herod in the Armory without anyone in the party taking more than 500 damage from Whirlwind.
Tabbed Hard
– Loot and equip the Tabard of the Scarlet Crusade.
No one expects the Scarlet Inquisition! – Kill High Inquisitor Fairbanks and High Inquisitor Whitemane in the Cathedral wing of Scarlet Monastery within 1 minute of each other.
Kiss and Tell – Give High Inquisitor Whitemane a /kiss after she puts your party to sleep and then kill her without dying.

There you go, a classic take on the achievement system. I am sure you will find that some other bloggers gave their own take on what achievements would be like for Classic dungeons, such as Ryyus at IGemCrit on Molten Core. Enjoy!

Changes we will see in Cataclysm

Posted in Fun, News, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , on March 2, 2010 by Natarumah

Today Blizzard gave us the news on how they intend to change gear (and by extension, some talents) for the various classes in Azeroth. Most of these were already known of course, but it never hurts to get a good overview of what we can expect to gain (and lose) once we put that shiny disc in our CD-drives.

  • Stamina on non-plate gear will be slightly increased, to create less of a difference between cloth and plate DPS characters. This should allow us a few more hits as well, meaning more leeway in raids.
  • Spirit will be found only on healing gear – DPS casters will not need it. Considering that at least one of our glyphs and some major talents we have revolve around Spirit, I can see this as being a bit of a problem. Either our talents are changed to use some other stat instead (Stamina or a %-based proc off existing spellpower) we are going to be needing on the healing kit. Sorry! It also means bye bye Prayer of Spirit.
  • Haste will allow us to increase our mana regeneration as well as casting speed. This will lead to some interesting maths as we try to figure out the perfect curve between casting our mana bars dry and having infinite mana.
  • Intellect will provide Spellpower, there will be no more spellpower on gear. It will also provide less mana per point of Intellect. This means we will be looking to stack Intellect before anything else, closely resembling a Discipline priest.
  • Mastery is a new stat which simply governs how good you are in doing what you do – it will rack up as you put more points into your favored talent tree.
  • Resilience now works only against players.

Well, that’s quite something. There’s a few spots where we will hit a snag, especially if pieces we have that are designated as “healer gear” suddenly become of lesser value to us. And then, there’s a few talent issues:

  • Spirit Tap and Improved Spirit Tap will not affect Spirit anymore, since Blizzard says we shouldn’t need it anymore. My guess is this will be flat mana regeneration increased by critical hits and killing opponents.
  • Twisted Faith allows Spirit to contribute to your Spellpower – my guess is this talent would be based on Intellect instead or (more warlock-like) on our Stamina.
  • Meditation would be strictly healer-only I guess. I’d imagine that to prevent such a talent to be useful to non-healers, it would be an ability deep in the Holy and/or Discipline trees. Fortunately, this would give us quite some extra talent points to play with in the Shadow tree as well.
  • Glyph of Shadow: This glyph currently increases our spellpower by 30% of our Spirit for a time after scoring a critical hit with a direct damage spell. This dovetails nicely with (Improved) Spirit Tap, which probably will be changed as well. In my opinion this could either be a passive %buff to damage (5% for instance) or become based on a percentage of our Stamina instead.

You might be wondering why I’d suggest Stamina as a useful stat for DPS by coupling it with these talents. Well, Shadowpriests have a history of being quite survivable and having a lot of health for a clothie, so it would make sense. If you’d be looking at complete rewrites of abilities, I ‘d love to see something like the following:

  • Spirit Tap: When you kill an opponent that gives honor or experience, you instantly regain 2% of your maximum mana.
  • Improved Spirit Tap: When you score a critical hit on Mind Blast, Mind Flay or Shadow Word: Death, you gain a bonus to Haste equal to 10% of your Intellect.
  • Twisted Faith: Damage done by your Mind Blast and Mind Flay is increased by 2-10% while your target is afflicted with Shadow Word: Pain. In addition, it increases your Spellpower by 4-20% of your Stamina.
  • Glyph of Shadow: When you score a critical strike with a non-periodic spell, you have a 25% chance to cause the next Shadow spell you cast cost no mana.
  • Dark Whispers (New talent): When Power Word: Shield on you is dispelled or completely used up, your next Mind Blast will become instant cast. (Or could be combined with Shadowguard, as below, making that a prerequisite)
  • Shadowguard (Old troll racial): Creates a ward of Shadows around you with 3 charges. Each time a melee hit is scored against you, one of the orbs discharges, dealing X Shadow damage to the attacker. This damage causes no threat.

Either way, time will tell what our gear and talents shall look like come Cataclysm. Rest assured that Blizzard will probably be taking a good look at Shadowpriests and Warlocks (as they have with Boomkins) to make sure that the Spirit disparity will be solved. I can’t wait to see what changes for character races will be in store! ^_^

Pugs with Wolves – a best seller

Posted in Fun, Raids and Instances with tags , on January 6, 2010 by Natarumah

Alright, so it’s not. Well, it might be if the book would not be comprised of 30-second sketches with uneducated, new, illiterate, abusive or downright clownesque characters. Time to share a few tidbits of fun and agony I have come across while pugging random classic dungeons on my little healadin:

Razorfen Downs – the neverending tank

Brushing through unending tangles of thorns, murderous pigs and heaps of mud, our tank pulled us through – literally. He did not speak, did not wait, did not buff, did not discuss tactics. He ran through all the mobs, kept aggro and pulled the next group right as the last mob died. When we got to the timed boss (an event following a captured mage leading to an altar) he started the event as the rest of the group came rushing into the room. Pigs spawned immediately. After three minutes of waves of adds, I was out of mana and people started to die. I bandaged who I could, then proceeded to be clobbered by a particularly vicious specimen of pigman.

The tank left the group straight after, leaving us stranded. The group disbanded minutes later, since two of them did not know how to get back to the instance and gave up.

Scarlet Monastery (Armory) – the wave of surprise

This run actually went very well; the paladin tank knew his taunts, kept aggro very well and managed to buff and pause regularly for mana. The fun happened when Herod was pulled. First off, no one moved away from Blades of Light (AoE is hard amirite?) making my job pretty tough. Our warlock was doing very good DPS, but was standing way out of healing range, on the stairs.

As Herod neared the 5% mark I rushed up the stairs (no one was likely to die)…only to see the warlock AoE-pull the wave of adds coming at Herod’s death, instead of jumping down to the tank. The warlock died quicker than I could cast a Flash of Light, with the tank rushing in just in time to pick up most of them.

The warlock was not too pleased with this, but it was the end of the instance anyway – lesson to the wise: always run to the tank, not out of the tank’s range.

Scarlet Monastery (Cathedral) – Lolwut?

The start of this instance was heralded with a Dwarf Paladin bearing a Night Elf Mohawk face – and seemingly unconcerned about this. “Is dis doo rait dungon?” he asked. “Well,” I said, “you queued for it, so you should now.” The reply “kk” instantly classified him as a Type-A genetic illiterate. “Hauw doo I make the thingies go away wen I sae Shit. Shit.”

Our hunter replied: “Are you serious? You are either stupid or need to go back to school.” The Paladin was not amazed by this attack: “Yeah.”

We proceeded to pull, and clear the instance mostly intact, with the Paladin doing a whopping 60 DPS at level 39. I envied his ability to stand around and pick his nose, as well as pick up friends to take home…I mean, aggro mobs. Either way, we weren’t planning to wait for a new member, so we kept him in.

Our tank had little experience, but managed to get the cornerpulls and addpulls down without a hitch, and we had the main hall cleared in minutes. Of course, the inevitable happened as the tank pulled Mograine with half the instance still alive. My slow-motion outburst of “Noooooo!” fell on deaf ears amid weapons clatter and adds coming from all sides.

Healing was light a freight train, and I was very happy to have invested in the Glyph of Holy Light to get some splash heals on the group as I kept the tank alive by the skin of his/my teeth. Somewhere, feebly in the corner, the word “Shit! Shit! Help!” echoed through the cathedral, as the aforementioned illiterate paladin ran out the cathedral, chased by a dozen mobs.

He died soon, out of line of sight of tank and healer, but buying us enough time to clear the rest. Thanks!

When the loot dropped I opened my Satchel of Helpful goods; Ah, a ring of the Bandit, how…useful. Of course, the newly rezzed paladin immediately wanted to buy it off me, taking precious years of my life away as I tried to explain him that this did not work, that I could not trade him.

I left that group feeling both sorry for the player’s ineptitude and somewhat pissed at his ability to grasp the basic concepts of the game/class: like Hand of Protection, using Blessings and Judgments, or that wanting Whitemane’s Hat is not a sign of being cool. Ah well.

So far for now, will add more to this post as the pain continues!