Thursday, March 12, 2015

This Liebster Thing

I was "tagged" for this evil chain letter by the horrid Talarian at Gamer By Design.  I've actually been stewing over some stuff for the past few weeks and trying to figure out what I wanted to write (and what I'd be better off not writing).  So let's break the slump with this, shall we?

Unfortunately, I have no knowledge of this principle called "keeping it brief" or something like that.  So strap yourselves in!


1. What is your favourite game mechanic?

I think I'd have to say "persistent area modifiers."

By this I mean combat where the environment or things in the environment play a large role, whether it's due to the shape/features of the area or things that happen during combat.  In a lot of games, the combat "arena" for a boss fight might as well be infinitely large because ultimately it hardly matters where you are in it.  Every spot is basically the same as any other, except for the relative position of you and the enemies.  And this isn't referring to generic "cover" in a shooter (unless there's something like the boss/enemies destroying the cover so you have to plan out good paths to utilize as much of it as possible).  Talking about cases where the initial environment matters a lot or the boss fight winds up shaping it which is what I'm referring to.


Some examples?

Ganondorf from Ocarina of Time.  He destroys sections of the platform you're fighting on which can lead to making it harder to get to him and needing to remember where is safe to run.

Gyorg from Majora's Mask.  You're relatively safe on the platform (land), but he's in the water (his element).  You ultimately do need to enter the water to damage him (though you can stun him from land to help) but there's a dichotomy there that's interesting.

To mention (quite a few) WoW examples...


Darkmaster Gandling in Scholomance, where you get teleported to different rooms, have to fight your way out, and then get back to the boss.

Big Bad Wolf.  Getting chased by a boss is one thing.  Getting chased by a boss in very close quarters is another (a larger room would mean you could just flat out run away easily versus having to go in circles with speed boosts).

Prince Malchezaar.  Infernals block off sections of the battlefield.  Oh, and you still need to run away from the boss when Enfeebled.  Better be paying attention to where the current Infernals are or you'll run into one at 1 HP!

Lady Vashj.  Need to get the tainted cores that spawn to the generators...by tossing them because you can't move while holding one, plus the sporebats filling up the room with poison at the end.

Illidan.  Have to keep the Flames within their tether (while dealing with flames they leave behind) while the tanks and raid need to avoid the fire lines from Illidan himself.


Nefarian: skeletons (and people) need to stay outside of the Shadowflame and their positioning in phase 1 is extremely important to start phase 3 properly.  Oh, and Nefarian is still tail whipping and breathing while that's going on which denies even more room.

Ragnaros: people need to avoid the Living Meteors in limited space and handle those properly with the Breath of Frost combined with the Dreadflame filling up the room at end.


Elegon: need to disable the six conduits at the proper times, in vs out nature of the center energy field.


Lei Shen: need to handle the various quadrant abilities, split for intermission phases, figure out what abilities to have active at the end and thus what space can be used, etc.


Siegecrafter: obviously the conveyer belts which then determine what happens on the main platform, positioning of fire/sawblades, dealing with those and the magnet.

Hans and Frans: moving correctly for smart stampers, avoiding the fire sheets/stampers during those phases.

Blackhand: hiding behind debris piles, going up onto the balcony, slag bombs/smash craters in final phase.


Obviously skipping a lot (including basically all of Vanilla and WotLK as I wasn't really raiding in Vanilla and wasn't playing during WotLK), just naming a few.

One example in my projects, such as Siege of the Heavens, would be the Vrock lord who you need to have charge into a pillar or wall, which means not only positioning him in the right direction but also close enough to an obstacle to collide with it.

In general, they often provoke a sense of impending doom ("Whew, we managed to live...but we're running out of space here!") or a feeling of cleverness ("Ha! Used that boss's stuff against him!").

Runner up would probably be mechanics that instantly kill you if you mess up.


2. Is there a character did you think would be cool when announced or first encountered, but in practice turned out terrible? Who? Why? 

I don't think so?

If we're talking about movie/TV characters, I don't really form opinions of characters ahead of time, I'm pretty much just evaluating whether the movie/show looks interesting enough to watch.  No real expectations in terms of characters.

If we mean story/personality wise for video game characters...see above.


If we mean mechanically speaking for video games...I'm still not sure?  Part of the problem is I rarely pay attention to "Coming up!" stuff.  The only game in recent memory where I had any kind of expectations built up prior to it being released might be Overwatch when I saw it at Blizzcon, I suppose.  And when I tried Widowmaker out I recall being disappointed that her "assault rifle mode" was so weak.  But she's also meant to generally be a sniper or use things like her mines/vision so I didn't think she was suddenly terrible, just far weaker at closer quarters than it "appeared" she would be.  The trailer technically only has her "sniping" at the very start of the battle for a few seconds, during most of it she seems be holding her own in pitched combat.
 

3. If your entire life turned out to be a simulation or part of a video game, would it change your outlook on life? How?

Absolutely.  I mean, for starters, the whole idea of "Leaving the world a better place" or "Helping raise the next generation" or anything similar becomes completely meaningless.  Either there is no next generation or anything you might do can/will be overwritten if the player/designer feels like it.  Even the past is irrelevant since there's no way for you to know that actually happened.  Could easily have happened in a different manner (but that was then changed by the player/designer) or not happened at all (and you were just data to make you think it did).  That doesn't mean morality is suddenly meaningless, as presumably each AI in the video game/simulation is a rational actor, but it does mean that a lot of long term stuff is meaningless.

I suppose "how" it would change my outlook on life is that I'd start spending my time seeing if I can "escape" the simulation while still trying to avoid "dying" in the simulation.  Can I get my personality/memories/etc uploaded to the "real" world?  Can others?  Is there any more information we can learn about the simulation/game and how long it will run?  Etc.

Saying such a thing would open up a can of worms would be an incredible understatement and this post is already long enough overall, so I'll stop there for now.


4. What is your favourite colour?

I'm always torn between red and blue.  Blue being calm, control, and beautiful snowy landscapes while red is power, pride, and perfect summer days.  Ice is cool, Fire is cool (sort of), Water is bleh.

5. If you were an astronaut and going to space for 6 months, what personal item would you bring with you?

I'm assuming I can bring stuff like pictures of family in a wallet or digitally on a phone/computer, so probably my saxophone?  Can picture looking down at Earth and playing some tunes (I'm assuming any added moisture to the air would either be insignificant and/or easily dealt with by the equipment).

It's only a minor hobby, I'm certainly not amazing, and I admit I'm having trouble coming up with other stuff that I'd actually want to bring to space.

6. Which of the Seven Deadly Sins is your favourite?

Pride.  To quote the bible...

"Pride. It is the most insidious of sha. It is good until it is bad. And then it is more dangerous than all the others combined."

Er...that should be "sins," not "sha."  Must have been a typo.


7. Is there a moment in your life where you felt you were finally "in the future"? What precipitated it?

I switched from a cell phone that flipped open and had an extendable antenna to a Blackberry.

Another moment would be switching from the Blackberry to an Android.  At this point the idea of NOT being able to access the internet and look stuff up on a phone seems weird.

8. Cliffhangers, good technique, or annoying technique? Why?

I think they're fine as long as I'm thinking "Yeah, that seems to be a logical point to take a break in the story" -- meaning that trying to resolve the revelation/disaster would take too much time in the current work.

That said, I think the "The hero is hanging onto the edge of the cliff, will he survive?  Find out next time!" stuff is nonsense.


9. Has there been a game mechanic that enraged you or felt supremely unfair? What was it and why?

Damage type resistances/immunity.

Now,  don't get me wrong.  I loved playing Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow and Silver/Gold/Crystal.  Y'know, back when we had 150 (and then 250) Pokemon and not 750 or whatever the count is up to now.  And our Pokemon fought one-on-one, not this "team battle" nonsense.  And we threw rocks at kids to get them off our durn lawns.  And...what was I saying again?

The whole premise of Pokemon, though, was that you needed to build a balanced team that could take on all comers and each member of the team was usually suited to countering specific enemy types.  For example, my Typhlosion (a pure Fire type Pokemon) counted Grass/Bug/Steel/Ice with Flamethrower.  He also countered Water/Flying with Thunderpunch.  He also countered Fire/Electric/Poison/Rock with Earthquake.  He still did full damage with a very, very strong Flamethrower to Normal/Fighting/Psychic/Ghost/Dark.  Only thing he was very weak against was Dragon.

Maybe that wasn't the best example...

The point, though, is that you collected a team of six different Pokemon that covered all your bases (like Fire/Water/Electric/Flying/Psychic/Dark) and specific Pokemon would take out specific threats (Fire takes out Grass/Bug/Steel, Water takes out Fire/Ground/Rock, etc).  But your Pyschic Pokemon didn't care if he wound up being useless for a section of the game that featured Dark Pokemon.  And since you were only fighting one on one at a time, it's not like your Pyschic Pokemon was involved in any of those fights, period, the game wasn't balanced around it.

But if you look at many RPGs, you often see problems.

First, you get situations often doesn't even give you the tools you need.  For example, in Dragon Age, the spell Inferno is a massive Fire AoE that does 10 damage + 10% of your spellpower every second.  Or...you have the spell Tempest which is a massive Electrical AoE that does 5 damage + 5% of your spellpower every second.  Or...you have the spell Blizzard which does 5 + 5% of your spellpower every second.

Hmm.

Similar thing with the cone attacks.  While sometimes you have things like Cold spells slowing/freezing enemies, they're less vulnerable to this stuff on higher difficulties and it's the tougher enemies which are usually the problem anyway.  Which means Fire spells are basically just better in nearly every situation.


Anyone want to take a guess what element the most (and usually toughest) enemies are immune to?  Yeah, it's Fire.  This would be like Pokemon making Flamethrower do 120 damage while Thunderbolt and Ice Beam did 60 damage or something (both Thunderbolt and Ice Beam have a chance to Paralyze and Freeze their targets respectively, but it's generally irrelevant).

Second, you can often wind up in situations where one or more party members are completely (or effectively) useless.  In Dragon Age 2, a lot of enemies are immune to one or more damage types on the hardest difficulty.  For example, near the start of the game one quest involves fighting some thugs.  They are completely immune to Fire damage for some reason.  If you're playing a warrior or rogue, then your sister (a mage) is with you.  She has a staff that deals elemental damage (and so far you've had zero chance to get a different staff).  Would ANYONE like to guess what elemental damage her staff does?

Yeah, you guessed it, it does Fire damage.  Which those thugs are immune to.  Just...wow.
 
Despite that, this usually isn't the end of the world in single player stuff -- but it really sucks in multiplayer.  People don't like feeling like they might as well AFK for a part of the game because they can't contribute.  Vast difference between some people getting some time to shine or a moment of glory and having a chunk of the group feel like saying "Well, I'm going to go read a book, let me know once I can actually start contributing again."

And some of you might be thinking "Well, then those people should have been more well rounded!"  See first point.  Often the game doesn't give you the options to do that (either because it doesn't have the tools necessary or because you haven't reached the point in the game where you can have all those options).

Third...it just doesn't provide meaningful gameplay.  I mean, I can understand the appeal of the following: "Hero, the dragon will scorch you alive without protection!  You must gather these mystical reagents so we can craft you an amulet that will help protect you from his fiery breath!"  It gives you a sense that the dragon is a badass and you need to prepare in order to fight it.


But then what happens in the future (assume you've managed to acquire another amulet that protects you from electrical damage)?


"Hero, the fiery demon threatens our village!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from fire damage!"

"Hero, the storm giant threatens our castle!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from electric damage!"


"Hero, the pyromancer wants to burn this forest down!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from fire damage!"

"Hero, the blue dragon captured the princess!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from electric damage!"

"Hero, a fire elemental is loose in the wizard's tower!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from fire damage!"

"Hero, that cleric of the Thunder God wants to sacrifice those captives!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from electric damage!"

I mean, we're just switching back and forth between two damn amulets here.  Our gameplay is exactly the same.


It gets even worse when you have to get an entire set of equipment to protect against a specific damage type.  Again, you're just switching back and forth between items that don't actually affect your gameplay at all.  In some cases getting the sets initially and figuring that might be interesting...but switching back and forth 50 times is just...boring and dull.

The same goes for DEALING damage to enemies.  If you have spells that are the same thing except with different damage types then it's literally just the difference between hitting buttons one and two instead of buttons three and four.  They can't interact meaningfully because you have so many buttons for all the damage types already -- simply too many buttons to deal with effectively.


And then consider the reverse.  Say the buttons do interact meaningfully and the damage types have different playstyles.  For example, a mage in WoW with the specs of Arcane (limited movement and mana management), Fire (lots of crits and fiery DoT effects!), and Frost (water elemental pet and freeze/chill spell interaction).  You think "Wow, I really like the theme of Fire's playstyle" and then you run into Ragnaros (huge fire elemental for anyone not aware).  Well, tough luck for you, better go learn how to play another spec that you don't enjoy as much.

Now, you could even make an argument along the lines of "It's good to force spec switching like that so that players are forced to experience the different playstyles and get variety."  But I've *never* heard anyone make that argument.  Rather, they claim something along the lines of "Duh, the giant fire elemental being fought in the Molten Core of the world by mages, paladins, and warlocks HAS to be immune to fire or it just doesn't make any sense!"

Yeah.  There's a reason WoW moved away from this stuff.

The funny thing is that it actually works well on a managing level -- stuff like this makes complete sense in games likes Lords of Magic, HoMM3, Starcraft/Warcraft series (where you have different units with different attack and armor types), etc.  Army composition and bringing the appropriate units to counter the enemy is one of the major parts of the game (sound similar to Pokemon?).  But *being* one of those units that might be completely useless at times...that's the part that sucks.


Sitting stuff out because you can't contribute while others do all the work is simply not fun in a video game.  And the main goal is most of these games is to have fun.

10. Tortoise, or the Hare?

Tortoise.  For anything truly difficult, patience, planning, and learning is superior to gusto, arrogance, and initial ability.  And on a personal level I've been burned too many times in the past by unduly relying on my own ability and improvisation to get me through things.

Conclusion

At this point I think I'm supposed to "tag" more people and have 10 questions of my own.  And I'd love to, but the law has been laid down upon me:



So I guess I gotta do two.  With tagging and a set of questions in the second one.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Screw Those Mythic Raiders!

Highly amused by something I read (note: the following post far exceeds the healthy daily dose of snark -- you have been warned).

The Grumpy is upset that people don't have a strong incentive to repeatedly run dungeons once they start raiding or doing LFR:
So it got me to thinking about what would make dungeon more relevant for a longer period of time.

....

My idea would be this.  Dungeon gear that drops will be 630 basic and as you kill raid bosses it can go up.  Not like missions to the "next" level but to that level.  Like lets say you killed 15 highmaul bosses in LFR, when you do dungeons the gear that drops will be 645.  If you kill 15 highmaul bosses on normal it would drop 655, heroic, 670, and so on.

....

The other problem might be that people would, or could, gear up too quickly that way.  Once you down 15 bosses at a specific raid level just spam dungeons until you have all gear of that level.  I can see that point and I believe I have a solution for that as well.  Instead of the gear they "drop" being equal to your current raid level, have a bag at the end of the run for everyone, a bag they can only get once per day and that bag would contain 1 piece of gear, guaranteed, for your current raiding level.  So the dungeon would still drop 630 gear otherwise, but once a day you have a chance to get something that very possibly could be an upgrade.

I know I would still do it that way.
I left a comment responding to that last line in particular:
Yeah, everyone would. In fact, every raider would kill 15 bosses on heroic the first day or two of content and then do a heroic dungeon every day.

Why do you think forcing Mythic/Heroic raiders to do a heroic dungeon every day is a good thing? They're already likely spending 8+ hours a week working through the raid zone. You think that'll make them happier or be constructive for the game somehow?
His response?

I don't think it matters what they think, it is not for them, it is for the other 99% of the player base. You can't design the game around the few. So do I think mythic raiders would be happy about it? Don't know, don't care.

They would be no more "forced" to do it as a mythic raider as I am forced to change servers if I want to raid mythic.

I choose not to, they can choose not to. Choice, it is a wonderful thing. Something blizzard does not have right now. This would offer it.

Bottom line is blizzard can do something to make dungeons more relevant past the first week of the expansion and this is the only idea I can personally think of that could breathe life into it.

If you have any other ideas I would love to hear them. But reward needs to matter and once raids come out I can't see any other reward they could offer.
So let's break this down.

First, his original idea: can you imagine killing 15 bosses in Heroic Highmaul and then having every single heroic dungeon boss dropping 670 gear?  Thankfully, Grumpy managed to realize this *might* be a tad problematic and thus came up with a major improvement to his suggestion -- now you can "only" get one guaranteed 670 piece per day from a random dungeon.


Let's do some math...you basically get 0.2 items per boss you kill, on average, in the best case scenario.  So during Highmaul, that means you should expect to pick up 1.4 items per week from clearing it on heroic.  On *top* of that, you should also get seven additional guaranteed items from running a heroic dungeon!  Let's see...that's a 500% increase in gearing rate by doing heroic dungeons.  Or, in other words, 83% of your gear would come from heroic dungeons.


Now, to be fair, that's not counting the 3 coins per week (another 0.6 items) or the possibly of killing a mythic boss or two...let's say 2 mythic bosses for 0.4 items for 2.4 items per week counting 7/7H, 2/7M, and three coins spent.  That's still a 291% increase in gearing rate from Grumpy's idea.  Or 74% of your gear coming from heroic dungeons.

Yeah.  That's probably not a good idea.  Not even remotely.  Facerolling dungeons tuned for 610 ilvl with an ilvl of 650-660 to get nearly 75% of your gear?  Just...no.  I hope I don't have to explain why that's such a bad idea (and that's not even getting into the issue of how you could stop even doing heroic raids and still get 7 heroic raid drops per week).

To put things in perspective, the garrison mission gives one raid drop every 14 days (and yes, it's technically a tier higher (unless you're a mythic raider already)).

Second, screw those mythic raiders.  Or, quite frankly, any heroic or mythic raider (I guarantee you 90%+ of heroic raiders would be doing that daily heroic for a guaranteed 670 item).  We can't design parts of the game around them.  Along those lines, let's also change the following:

  • No more weekly raid lockouts.  99% (note: heroic and mythic raiders make up more like 10% of the playerbase but we'll go with his number) of players won't run raids like crazy anyway.
  • No more limited stacking of consumables.  99% of players won't bother having 20 potions and elixirs active.
  • No more being limited to three seals per week.  99% of players won't bother getting more than three or so anyway because it keeps getting more expensive per seal.
  • No more "belated" LFR release.  99% of players won't feel compelled to run it to maximize their gear.
  • No more removing default tier and trinkets from LFR.  99% of players won't care about trying to snag those.
That's just off the top of my head -- I'm sure you can think of more examples of things we can change once we stop caring about that 1%.

Finally, the mythic raiders have a choice and wouldn't be forced to do it, eh?  You might say it was completely optional?  Or maybe, just maybe, that's not actually true.

But hey, Grumpy wants dungeons to be relevant and the only way he sees this as being possible is for them to drop raid gear.  Pets?  Nope, doesn't care.  Mounts?  Nope, doesn't care.  Gold?  Nope, doesn't care.  Transmog?  Nope, doesn't care.  Rep?  Nope, doesn't care.  Crafting materials/bonuses?  Nope, doesn't care.  Achievements?  Nope, doesn't care.  Garrison bonuses?  Nope, doesn't care.

Gotta get more epicz.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Being Permanently Banned For 143 Minutes

At 4:28 PM on Sunday, January 25th I received this email:
 

And no, it wasn't a fake email that was actually done superbly well or something:


The good news is that 65 minutes after being able to initially contact Blizzard about the situation I was able to get the ban reversed.  That may be a world record.



The bad news is that this ban should never have happened at all and the "compensation" for Blizzard's mistake was absolutely pitiful.

That said, the tone of this post is going to be significantly more positive than it was originally going to be.  You see, I GM a Mythic guild that is currently working on Mythic Imperator Mar'gok.  We only raid two nights a week.  Those two nights are Sunday and Monday.  So you might see how being banned on Sunday night for potentially a few days while it got sorted out *might* have been a minor problem for my entire guild.

Thankfully (and unfortunately mostly through persistence on my part) that situation did not come to pass.  I was unbanned 40 minutes before our raid time started.  Woo hoo.  Yay.  Or something.  It has resulted in this, though:


If you can't tell, that's my guildmates writing "Free Balk 2015" with Savage Feasts in Mythic Imperator's room (the magic sparks in the bottom left are him floating in mid-air just off camera).  And now I'm the butt of many jokes such as that slogan being repeated a lot, comments about how people aren't sure they want to risk their Steam account (or insert other game service) by playing with me (since apparently I'm a priority target to ban), and how they're uncomfortable with having an identified exploiter as their GM, etc.

So how did this happen, anyway?

Well, as soon as I saw the email I had a strong suspicion of what triggered it.  You see, I have a guildmate (who also happens to be an officer in my guild and a friend -- though you can't ever tell him I said that last part) who had both Horde and Alliance characters on Illidan and wanted to transfer gold across factions.  The catch is that you can't mail gold cross-faction and you can't buy AH items any character on your account listed.

So Bury (that's his BTag) asked me to help him out and I agreed.  I made a level 1 Orc Warrior named Smashbury (incredibly clever, right?), he met up with me, flew me to Orgrimmar, gave me 30k gold, and I used the 30k gold to buy 3 Copper Bars his Alliance character had put up on the AH.  Which meant that his Alliance character then got 28.5k in the mail from the auction (5% AH cut).  All perfectly legal under WoW's Terms of Service, no in-game items/currency being exchanged for out-of-game currency.

Apparently the fact that a level 1 spent 30k to buy an AH item triggered some kind of flag and I was banned less than a day later.  This was confirmed to me by Blizzard representatives.  I am severely hoping it was an automated ban because the situation involved the following:

1. The gold being transferred wound up back on the same account.  From Bury's account to my account to his account in 5-10 minutes.

2. The person I was transferring the gold to had been on my BTag's friends list for probably at least a year.

3. Even ignoring the friends list, his characters are an officer rank in the guild that I GM -- so chances are we probably know each other.

4. The character doing the transfer was a Warrior named Smashbury and the account getting transferred to was named Bury.  I'll admit I have no idea how gold buying or other exploitative services work but I am *guessing* that they don't involve silly jokes like that.  The spammers you see in trade are all random letters thrown together.

On the flip side, the fact that I might have had my account *permanently* banned by an automated system (not a temporary lockdown for investigation or some kind of warning for a first offense) is also a disturbing idea.

But what did I have to do to resolve this, you ask?

Well, first of all, I messed up.

I went to the support center to submit a ticket and selected "Account Management Issue" (other options being "10-Year Physical Gift," "Account Hacked," "Purchase or payment," "Can't log in," "Technical, Computer, Connection," "In-game issue," TCG Loot Card Issue," and "Recruit a Friend issue") and then proceeded to "Other Account Management Issue" (other options being "Started Edition upgrade issue," "Error when entering game key," "Remove SMS Protect," "Parental Controls," and "Change account information").  This allowed me to submit a "Phone Callback" request/ticket which said I would be contacted by a Blizzard representative in 5-10 minutes.  I submitted this ticket at 5:46 PM.

I did in fact get a call in that time-frame, the agent confirmed my suspicion that my level 1 Orc Warrior caused this ban, and I explained the situation.  He said that he unfortunately was not in a position to make a decision or change anything and that I would need to submit a ticket to some kind of Appeal Review.  Apparently I was supposed to select "Can't log in" initially which would lead to "Banned, suspended, appeal request" as an option.

I mentioned that I was the GM of a Mythic guild progressing on Mythic Imperator and that we raided in less than two hours, so getting this resolved quickly was kind of a high priority.  I then asked what the length of the appeal process was when using the ticket.  The agent said he couldn't really say.  I asked (pretty much word for word): "Are we talking an hour?  A day?  A week?"  The agent said he still couldn't say.

So I asked if he had a superior I could speak to -- he said yes but that the superior couldn't do anything either.  I said I understood and that I wanted to speak to his superior anyway.  He left to go talk to his superior while I waited.

A few minutes later the agent got back to the phone and said his superior would look the case over and get back to me within an hour.  He mentioned something about checking the IPs as part of it (which also disturbs me -- the automated system didn't bother to check the IP when it banned me?  It thought someone was logging onto my account from China or something to exploit the economy but didn't even check the IP at the time?  Really?) and I thanked him for his time.

Sure enough, at 6:51 PM I received a notification saying my ban had been lifted (keep in mind that was still under an hour from the point the superior got involved) which you saw at the top of this post.  I even had a free game day of time thrown in for the inconvenience!

But..let's talk about that last part.

Worst case a WoW subscription is $15 a month which is basically $0.50 a day.  Which means Blizzard considers unjustly *permanently* banning me, freaking me out (both about the ban and the situation my guild would be in), and having me waste an hour of my time to get it reversed to be worth...about $0.50.

That's rather insulting, actually.  I mean, seriously, just keep your "free day."  I'd rather have nothing under the circumstances, $0.50 is in no way some kind of reasonable compensation for unjustly *permanently* banning someone.

Unless Blizzard thinks that's really no big deal, of course, but that's disturbing in its own right.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Too Soon, Blackhand, Too Soon!

We found out a few days ago that Blackrock Foundry will open on February 3rd.  This has me extremely frustrated for several reasons.

1, we only had eight weeks from Mythic unlocking in Highmaul to Blackrock Foundry opening (and we'll need to clear Heroic Blackrock Foundry the week it opens so that week is shot).  Not only does that mean we had to basically average a boss per week, we had to do so with finals for students, work schedule changes due to the holidays, and family events/trips that go along with the end of the year.  Realistically we only had about six weeks to clear Mythic Highmaul.

2, Blizzard indicated they wanted to do this differently than how they handled Mogu'shan Vaults and Heart of Fear/Terrace of Endless Spring.  They said they didn't like how MSV wasn't out for nearly long enough.  Well, guess what?  They're doing it again.  MSV was out for a month with six bosses, HM will be out for a month and a half with seven bosses.  Not exactly much difference there.

3, based on the last two expansions (Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria), I feel like my guild has had a stable pattern: we clear the hardest difficulty with a month or two left in a typical raid tier while only raiding two nights a week. Our general ranking in the US/world has stayed roughly the same, so that's another metric to go by -- not like we're suddenly doing much worse or much better relatively speaking.  Yet we're only 5/7M at the moment with six more raid days to go.  Which means we'll hope to kill Ko'ragh this week (haven't even pulled him yet) and then extend our Mythic lockout for the next two weeks to try to get Imperator.  Hopefully we'll manage to get 7/7M but it's going to be close regardless.  This is also reminding me of the launch of Throne of Thunder (that Blizzard also said was much too soon) where we killed Heroic Sha of Fear the night before ToT hit.  In this case I understood that it was a mini-tier and that we wouldn't be farming for a month or two before BRF hit, but I expected us to be able to clear 7/7M without extending at a minimum.

4, speaking of extending, Blizzard is on the record saying they don't want people to be extending!  They want people to get some more gear each week to help make the bosses easier and did not like how people felt compelled to extend to try to finish in time before the next tier (believe this was in tier 14, aka MSV/HoF/ToES).  But guess what?  Extension time!

5, between the extension and lack of farm time, we're also going to be behind on gear.  The typical pattern is the guilds raiding more per week race ahead and finish faster, then we eventually catch up in progress and then have time to at least mostly catch up in gear before the next tier hits.  But we're going to be severely behind in gear for BRF this time around.  So we're at a further disadvantage than usual.

I am definitely not happy with the situation.  Even another week or two would make a huge difference -- when they said BRF was coming out in February I didn't imagine it would be the very first week!  Not after what they said about wanting to avoid repeating the mistake of MSV.

Yet here we are.

TOO SOON, BLACKHAND, TOO SOON.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Racist and Proud of It

Or should I say...HUMANIST.


I mean, I suppose I could carefully mix and match abilities to counter threats...

...OR, and bear with me here, I could just apply human supremacy to the problem and solve it without any thought.  Even the Ogron bow to the power of their human overlords.

As you've hopefully figured out by now, the idea is to use racial preferences to make it significantly easier to counter threats on Garrison missions -- to the point where with the right set-up you can literally ignore two of the six abilities on a raid mission and still have 100% success rate (or very close to it).  This indeed means I'm making a team of humanists and aiming to pick up human humanists if possible.  Yes, I'm racist.

Blook is particularly useful since he not only provides the humanist trait (which is why I'm doing humans -- my warrior's Blook is Child of the Moon so I'm going night elf squad) but also the unique Combat Experience trait.  Two racial preferences will cancel out an ability, and a racial preference plus Burst of Power/High Stamina/Combat Experience/Environmental Preference/Enemy Preference will nearly cancel out an ability.

What you can't see from that screenshot is that Soulare actually managed to pick up Child of the Moon when he became rare, which is super amazing.  That means if I get a night elf with Humanist (and use them instead of Blook) then this squad will have four racial preferences -- which completely cancels out two abilities.

And, yes, this means a team of something like a human with Dwarvenborn and Child of the Moon, a dwarf with Humanist and Child of the Moon, and a night elf with Humanist and Dwarvenborn could cancel out three abilities.  Of course, that's insanely difficult to get...but canceling out two abilities is quite feasible.

It's a good time to be a racist.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I've Been Playing Games and Having Fun...Mostly

It's been a while.  Things have been busy in RL.  When they aren't, things have been busy in WoW.  When they aren't, things have been busy in other games.  You get the gist of it.  Things are calming down more and hopefully I will be able to start getting out a post or two per week, at least.

Today's post is really just going to be more of a taste of upcoming stuff that I'll be posting about (and a recap of some of the things I've been doing).  These are listed in no particular order, mind you.

World of Warcraft
You may not have heard, but there was a new expansion released about a month ago called Warlords of Draenor.  Things are generally going well overall right now, guild is 7/7 normal and 6/7 heroic on two nights a week.  We'll be starting Mythic this upcoming Sunday.

First of all, Draenor is beautiful.


And I mean that.


Did I mention it was pretty yet?


Seriously.


All right, nearly done.


Last one incoming!


Suffice to say I really, really do not understand how people complain about WoW's graphics.  Sure, it's not photorealistic...but does that mean that animated movies like Monsters, Inc, Frozen, etc have terrible graphics?  We're in a world of magic and dragons -- sure, it should look GOOD but I don't see why it really needs to look REALISTIC.

On the non-graphical side, some of the stuff near launch was a bit...wonky.  Like this quest:
 

Uh...yeah...he's totally gone.  Right.  Moving right along...

...to a rather overzealous Postmaster.



Thanks, Postmaster.  You make us proud.

Then I had another fun issue.  Being the lore nut that I am, I did every quest in every zone as I leveled (or tried to, at least, apparently I did miss a few along the way).  This resulted in me hitting level 100 in Spires of Arak and still wearing mostly SoO mythic gear since even an item with a few more ilevels didn't outweigh the enchants and sockets on the SoO gear.

I knew heroic dungeons required 610 ilvl to queue, though obviously you could walk in on foot if needed, so I decided to go and do some normal dungeons for 615 gear.  Slight problem: you apparently needed 600 ilvl to queue for NORMALS.

Well, I remembered that you needed Silver Proving Grounds as well to queue for heroics, so I figured I'd go and see how difficult that was.

That led to this:


Well then.


Needless to say, I was not very happy with the situation (note that while Proving Grounds does scale with your gear (more health with higher ilvl) it does not scale below 615 -- and I was 27 ilvls below that).

What wound up happening is that I manually walked straight into HEROICS with my guild at <590 ilvl.  I'm 650ish ilvl now and have still never done a normal dungeon at max level.  Blizzard has since lowered the required ilvl to 595 to queue and presumably most people would have some gear from Nagrand (or be using the slightly higher ilvl pieces I discarded due to them being worse than mythic SoO gear) so it's less of an issue now...but it was still pretty stupid.

Speaking of dungeons, we were also doing the daily Challenge Mode for 640 gear.  Some of the bosses were a bit crazy, notably the second boss in Skyreach.


Yes, that is 37.5k HPS sustained for the fight.  Fun times.

One of the benefits of doing Challenge Modes early on was getting the Feat of Strength (and thus unique title) for realm best times, sometimes because we WERE the very first group to complete it.





And my favorite one...


Along the way we also picked up all Silvers without too much trouble, leading to...


Those yetis are HUGE!


In total we managed seven realm best times out of the eight dungeons -- some group had gotten a pretty good time in Skyreach and that's the only one we didn't want to dedicate the time to getting quite yet.  And a personal goal of mine is to possess the Lord of Blackrock title again -- it's my favorite of the titles (though most of my group seems to prefer Grimrail Suplexer).

Last but not least on the WoW front, sometimes we see interesting things on Garrison missions.


Yeah.

Civilization V
I've also been playing Civilization V a bit (a lot), though I'm past the initial craze and more interested in playing with friends at this point.  For those not aware, Civ V is what's called a 4X game (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate).  You start with a simple settler and some warriors with clubs and try to leverage that into an empire while advancing through human history.  You don't necessarily need to win by fighting and can indeed sometimes avoid fighting at all -- can win through domination, culture, science, or diplomacy.  It's turn based as well which is interesting to adjust to and also makes it more about good strategy than APM -- which means if you struggle with playing SC2, for example, because it seems like there's too much going on at once, you might particularly love Civ V.

I've been playing this with a variety of people including half a dozen people in my guild, Stubborn, and Talarian.  Fun times.  One game I was playing with a RL friend (his first time out of the tutorial) resulted in me deciding to go culture focused.  The results:



I realize that doesn't mean much to people not familiar with Civ V, but believe me when I say that is an INSANE amount of culture/tourism.  I bet Stubborn is feeling rather jealous at the moment.

I am also playing a single player game a bit in an effort to improve my earlier warfare -- I'm quite good once artillery and planes arrive on the scene but am less comfortable with going on the offensive early on.  So I decided to pick up the Mongols and give that a whirl (as you might guess, they have some bonuses towards trying to dominate during the medieval period -- specifically a ranged Knight unit called the Keshik which specializes in hit and run attacks).  My offensive spree went well, conquered half the world during the Keshik's prime period, then I sat back to rebuild my economy and consolidate my holdings.

Unfortunately, Austria decided they weren't happy with my taking their capital earlier and declared war on me.  They brought hordes of Calvary, Riflemen, Cannons, and Gatling Guns.  And my half dozen Keshiks were half the globe away.


Yes, that's 15 military units plus a Great General while my army of half a dozen Keshiks were down in the south middle of the map.  I guess they figured they could take their time and try to surround my capital to try to avoid unneeded losses by zerging it immediately.  That was a bad idea on their part.


Four turns later, my Keshik's arrive (hurry for having 2.5 times the movement of most units due to being mounted and a Mongol special ability -- and then having a good road system to improve their movement even further).

Yes, I am going against Riflemen, Calvary (with rifles), Gatling Guns, and Cannons with archers on horseback.  It's hardly fair...TO AUSTRIA.


The result five turns later.  Never bring a rifle to a bow fight, sheesh.

To be clear, I was able to do these for three main reasons.  One, Keshiks.  Two, Keshiks have a special ability that makes them earn experience 50% faster, and gaining experience lets you gain promotions to improve the unit (such as attacking twice in one turn, 15% bonus for fighting on a certain terrain type, gaining an extra range, etc) -- which meant my Keshiks had something like the following:
  • 45% more damage to targets in rough terrain
  • 45% more damage to targets in open terrain
  • Attack twice
  • +1 range
  • Heal every turn even while attacking
  • 66% more defense versus ranged attacks

That's a total of 11 promotions right there -- which takes a very, very long time to rack up (3 experience per bow shot, need 10 XP for first promotion, another 20 for second promotion, a further 30 for third promotion, etc).  Good thing I used those Keshiks to conquer the world with their experience bonuses so they had all those bonuses.  If I trained a new Keshik with experience providing training buildings it would start with like...

  • 30% more damage to targets in rough terrain

So you can see there's a *slight* difference there.

Also, the third reason?  Keshiks.

(In all fairness, the Khan (Mongol special great general) also helped a lot -- Great Generals give combat bonuses to nearby units and Khans are mounted and can thus keep up with the Keshiks, unlike a standard Great General).

I do want to point out that at the next tier of units the Keshiks would simply not be strong enough -- they'll get slaughtered by Great War Infantry, Landships, and Great War Bombers (think WWI stuff).  But during the Mongols heydey, they wreck.  And thus the idea of the Mongols is to use those units to get a massive advantage while Keshiks are relevant in order to win long term.  Other civilizations, such as Korea, get large science bonuses.  Others, like Egypt, get bonuses to building world wonders.  Etc.  While a few civilizations are just flat out weaker and a few are basically god tier, most of them are pretty balanced in their own unique way -- if you take advantage of their bonuses at the appropriate time.

Final thing -- I picked up some extra copies of Civ V Complete at 75% off during the Steam Thanksgiving sale.  If anyone is seriously interested in playing it (as in will actually play it and not "Oh, I'll fiddle around with it for fifteen minutes or maybe just let it sit in my Steam library and never actually touch it") then I'd be happy to send you one of the copies.  Can play single player or multiplayer, I just want you to actually play it!  Can email me about that.

Neverwinter Nights
I've also been playing NWN a little bit, shocking news.  It's also on sale again right now, so if you email me while it remains on sale I'll get you a copy to promote the game -- I WANT more people to be playing it!  I'd sing its praises more but you have that link if you want to read about it.

Mainly been working my way through the Darkness Over Daggerford custom campaign: "To many, the town of Daggerford is of little consequence. To others, however, it is of immeasurable value. The nearby great cities of Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate would do well to look over their shoulders at what is brewing in this once sleepy town. Prepare to delve into the dark mysteries surrounding Daggerford..."

You start as a somewhat experienced adventurer (level 8) and work to unravel the dark plots surrounding the town and threatening the region.


While the game is certainly older at this point, it still looks more than good enough for me to enjoy it.

I also played the custom module "Small Village Woes," which was a lot of fun and I hope to make a post proper about it in the near future.  Note that there are dozens of custom campaigns which are quite good (in addition to the three official campaigns which range from decent to good) and at least half a dozen campaigns which are much BETTER than the official campaigns (and better than Dragon Age, Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect, or Mass Effect 3).

Starcraft 2
I also usually play SC2 once every week or two with a friend -- we play with him having an AI ally two levels of difficulty above an AI ally of my own and we see how it goes.  I usually win anyway but he's managed to pull off some wins and is getting better.  Happy to play some games with people if they so feel inclined.

Conclusion

I'm pretty sure this is longer than War and Peace at this point, but that's what I've been up to lately.  Hope it was at least interesting reading about it and cross your fingers for more regular posts going forward.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

So I'm at BlizzCon...

Yeah, yeah, I've basically been a ghost for three months.  RL has kept me very busy.  When that wasn't the case, WoW guild business has kept me very busy.  When that hasn't been the case, finishing some NWN projects before deadlines has kept me very busy.  In whatever free time I had left, I just had no desire to write for the blog and mainly filled it with Civ V (which I seem to have a love/hate relationship with since I picked it up like 2 months ago).

Anyway, to the important stuff...

I'm at BlizzCon for the first time ever!  Should be a blast, managed to already get my pass for tomorrow, and excited for the charity dinner tonight.  I imagine this is the part where you're hoping I'll say something about how I'll write about the stuff that happens at BlizzCon.  And perhaps I will (no guarantees), depending on how things go.

But more importantly, I wanted to throw this information out there in case anyone wanted to meet up.  I happen to have about 4 hours right now prior to the charity dinner and obviously can meet people over the next two days as well.

So if you're in the neighborhood and want to say hello, drop me a line!  Can leave a comment here or email me at balkothwarcraft at gmail dot com.