Archive for November, 2009

ToR fanboy wishlist

Warning, this post will go deep into Star Wars geekery. You have been warned.

There’s three things that turned me into a geek when I was young. Video games, fighting fantasy books and Star Wars. I was 6 I think when I saw the first Star Wars and it burned into my mind an image so strong that all I could dream of was to become a rebel pilot to fly an X-Wing right into the Death Star trench. I wasn’t big on the Jedi, my heroes where the more gritty pilots, Han Solo and Boba Fett. Guns where so much better than swords. Over the years I’ve always fed the Star Wars geek inside of me. I’ve read books, comic books, encyclopedias, rewatched every movie to the point I can quote them by heart, played and still play Tie Fighter, the greatest Star Wars game ever made and have hours upon hours of tabletop roleplaying done in the setting.

As I got older however my interest for the pilots of Star Wars shifted to something darker, the Empire and over time the Sith and most especially Emperor Palpatine(played by the awesome Ian McDarmid). If you know the Star Wars mythos Palpatine is the greatest Sith of all since he actually succeeded in taking over the galaxy only to die later the way all true Sith must die, betrayed by their own apprentice.

Thanks to Syp, I learned that the Sith Inquisitor class in ToR(The old republic) will have a specialisation that is a master of lightning and control. Oh yeah!! I can get my Palpatine on! It’s official now! This game went from “will probably be awesome” to  “I need it!!! NOW!!!!”. But as a loyal and dedicated fanboy here’s my wish list of features to Bioware, please get my class right!

Murder my master
The “Rule of two” is not yet in effect at the time of the Old republic but still, murdering your own master to show your superiority over the old fool is an important milestone in any Sith life. It should even be part of the quest chain to specialize your class.

Betrayed by your apprentice
Any Sith worth anything will die betrayed by his or her own apprentice. History will only remember you if die this way. It is the most important sign of success among Sith lords. Of course you’ll crush the weakling for even thinking about killing you but deep down inside you’ll know you did something right.

Make force lightning awesome
Since throwing lightning is our weapon of choice when it comes to dealing with trouble it needs to look awesome! Please abstain from goofy looking skeleton electrocutions.

Give us an ace in the hole
If anything defines a Sith lord besides looking awesome is that they are devious in the extreme. Palpatine would go to great lengths to make sure everyone tought he was old and weak but he did cut down 3 jedi masters in as many seconds when it came to it. I want to have that little something I can pull out that nobody expects.

Awesome evil look
I don’t want emo-evil look with lots of makeup and moppy hair. I want good old evil black robes. It doesn’t need to be complicated but it should radiate dark side.

Allow us to be truly evil
And last but not least allow us to be truly evil. I don’t want evil-light, I want pure, let’s burn the galaxy evil.

So dear  Santa Bioware, I’ve been a good boy this year, I bought Dragon Age and even some DLC for it. Please bring me good Sith gameplay next year.

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First of all a happy Thanksgiving weekend to all my readers from south of the border (I’m canadian). Not much to say right now since I’m still stuck without a computer. It’s been five whole damn weeks since I sent my computer in for repairs and I only just learned now that the fix will be done as soon as they get the new card delivered. I can swear to you that it’s the last time I take a warranty on computer parts and that I’m having it assembled by someone else. Next time I’m buying the parts and assembling it myself.

If I’m lucky I might get it tonight if not it’s going to be a whole other week…

So just a quick update to let everyone know how it’s going. Also, I’ve been asked for my XBox Live name so here it is: HLono . If you want to add me feel free to but please send me a message also so I know who you are since I usually turn down invites from people I don’t know.

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Can we all be friends?

Yesterday I shouted at the hardcore complaining that casuals are ruining the game for them. Mojeaux quite rightly commented that it’s normal that my limitations (time) will dictate  what I can and cannot do in a MMOrpg. After all if I only put 15 minutes of play a week I should not expect to be able to do the big raids. This got me thinking a lot and even lost some sleep as I was writing and rewriting this post. I have no less than 6 posts half-written because of this!

There’s a problem right now in most MMOrpgs, the nerfing of content to make it more  accessible to the “casual” crowd. Most companies have figured out that making the game easier and less grindy = more subscribers = more money. And a lot of hardcore players, and some casuals are horrified that their beloved game is becoming easier and trivial. Encounters that took weeks to master are now taken down in a single night by a half asleep noob.

I believe the root of the problem is bad game design but first let’s look at 5 types of  gamers you will encounter in MMOs.

Poseur hardcore: These guys are hardcore only to show off and show the more casuals that they are better than them. They are the ones clamoring for exclusive content because it reinforce their superiority over others. They probably have sad lives but at this point I don’t care.  I simply cannot stand this attitude.

True hardcore: These guys are in it for the challenge. For them the whole point is to do  the most insane and crazy stuff. They want difficulty for the sense of fulfilment they get for doing the hardest stuff in the game. The constant nerfing of content is killing them since they feel it lessens what they accomplished.

Casual hardcore: The group I’d consider myself part of now. We’re pretty much the same as the “true hardcore” except we want to be able to do the content at our own pace. We are not interested in the content being nerfed since we want the same accomplishment as the hardcore. The nerfing is killing us too.

Casual: These people are mostly doing their own stuff. Most of the time you barely notice they are there and they don’t disturb the game. They want mainly to be able to experience different content but are not interested in completing it. When it comes to raiding they want a raid where they can go but have no need for the whole raiding experience. A simple entry raid or two is enough to entertain them.

Poseur casual: And they are here again! Same as the “poseur hardcore” but for some reason they can’t get into raiding. So they’ll amass rare pets and mounts and make a point of  showing them off to you. They are the ones clamoring for ever easier raids since they panic at the idea that someone might have a mount they don’t.

See something interesting here? Besides the 2 poseur groups the three other ones can live together easily. None of them want content nerfed, and the casuals just want to do it at their own pace. There’s nothing in there that lessens the hardcore since everyone has to do it the same way. In fact, if it was not for the nerfs the 10/25 raids of WoW would  work perfectly for everyone. Tiered difficulty where everyone can move along according to their schedule. We had that in BC and it worked wonderfully. 

Testing a player organisational skills, bad game design

I wanted to talk again about time management but I realized it goes deeper that this. Try to remember if you can Everquest of Vanilla WoW when we needed 40 peoples to raid. Back then the main difficulty to raid was not the encounters but rather how good you where at finding the right guild, fitting enough time in your schedule and finding 39 other people of the right classes.

According to the game designers raiding is supposed to be about working as a team and mastering difficult encounters. Organisational skills are part of the equation of working as a team but they went overboard with this. In an effort to make things difficult the only way they figured out was this, requiring a lot of people and time. So to raid you needed to be able to sit in front of your computer for extended period and find other people who tought like you.

And it was rightly pointed out as a bad idea. At some point down the road Blizzard realised that to be difficult an encounter didn’t need to be about organisational skills but could be about the actual difficulty and complexity of the encounter, as they did in BC.

The answer?

The answer is really simple. They simply need to keep the experience the same and stop nerfing stuff or providing shortcuts. In short, make the raids take less organisation is fine, but keep them the same for all. This way I may take 6 months to complete something  a hardcore player did in 1 but everyone had the same challenge and experience.

We nearly had it perfect back in BC, they need to go back to that model and keep the 10/25  man scheme of Wotlk and we’re good!

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Elitism denied

To prevent the monkey from bursting your eardrums the direction has taken the liberty of firing a few tranquilizer darts beforehand. Thank you for your understanding.

I was happy this morning, well-rested, good breakfast and the sun was shinning. This all changed rapidly while I was doing my morning rounds of blogs and forums. One of the hot  topics is still the changes in WoW regarding the next patch. To be more precise the changes to the newest raid that I’ve already talked about. I was reading a well-written post nerd rage about how Activision has taken over Blizzard and ruined everything good in WoW to cater to casuals. This got the blood pumping a bit because I am very tired of elitist kids who have nothing to worry about besides playing WoW and complaining how the “evil” casuals are destroying everything. Then I started reading the comments and a reply  caught my attention:

I’ve been arguing for a long time that casuals don’t deserve the same experience as people who devote more time and effort,..

I think something in my brain tilted at that moment because I then brutally murdered the person sitting next to me.

I may have imagined that last part.

Deserve???? What makes you think you deserve anything you little brat! What have you done that is so incredible that we need to bow down at your feet? You’ve risen the dead? Walked on water? You save puppies from fires for a living? God!!! Get over yourself!

Let’s talk first about what makes the difference between a hardcore and a casual in the sense that most people understand it when talking about MMOs. A hardcore player is someone who is doing top end content on a regular basis and who is very well-informed about the mechanics of the game. And how do you do both these things? Time.

Besides a desire to do said content, the main difference between a hardcore and a casual player is how much time they have available to devote to the game. Many players like me would love to play “hardcore” but can’t because of real life and other interests. So basically the arguments boils down to this :

Because I have more time than you to devote to this game I deserve more content than you do and you don’t deserve access to the content I have already completed. You have to play the same way I do if you want that.

Or to put it simpler:

Playing WoW, ur doin it wrong!

Access to content

Before bringing up the “I pay 15$ a month” defence of the casuals (wich isn’t false in itself), let’s talk about access to content. The main point of the casuals since WoW launched is  this:

I don’t want to be penalized for having a life. I want the choice of whether of not I want to raid and not be locked out of content because I can’t/ don’t want to commit to a raider life style. Real life will dictate how much time I can give to WoW, not the other way around.

Here’s the main point a lot of hardcore players seems to be missing. Casuals don’t want to have content handed over to them or made easier, they want access to it. Just like I have access to Arena. Hardcore players get way more out of it but I still can choose to participate if I want to, I have access to it.

Raiding however doesn’t work that way. If I want to have access to the latest dungeon I need to find a guild who can complete the lower tiers of content. If I don’t I am stuck. And to find said guild, which will almost always be hardcore I need to change my real life schedule around that, something I cannot do. Thus I don’t have access to the newer content and I don’t have a choice.

I’m not asking for easier content, nerfs or any other change to the content but there’s need to be a way for me to have access. Blizzard did that with the changes in the latest expansion wich made sure I can get on my own gear appropriate to start raiding at the current tier if I make the effort to farm it.

To all those who say I don’t deserve access or the same rewards I ask again what have you done that makes you deserving of exclusive content? We pay the same price each month and like I said the only difference between us is time. You do get rewarded for it too by getting to do hard modes wich leads to better gear, exclusive mounts and titles. The very thing you asked for in Burning Crusade.

I fully agree that Blizzard could have found another way, that the latest expansion isn’t that great and that the constant nerfing of content sucks. But I’m also really happy that for once I’ll get to at least see the big bad boss without having to kiss my life good-bye like I had to back in vanilla WoW.

Edit: For the new readers of this blog I suggest you go check out this post also wich is a follow up to this one where I address a lot of the comments here.

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Are we all lying hypocrites ?

Way back in june 2005 I started playing a game called World of Warcraft, when there was no flight path to camp Taurajo and Dire Maul was all new and shiny. I was all young and innocent, had a troll warrior who I leveled up to 34 with a shield and a one-hander thinking a shield spike did good damage… I was a noob without any knowledge of how things truly worked. I had played UO before but skipped Everquest so it was all new to me. I did not read blogs, forums or anything and Thotbott was the best source of knowledge I knew of. Over time of course, I found myself seeking more information and found the forums and blogs, asked questions, gave comments and just like everyone else gave my opinion on what I tought was working and not working in the game.

If you follow blogs talking about WoW you know they intend to put a maximum number of attempts each week you can try to kill a boss. For example if you can’t kill boss X in 5 tries then your done for the week. Also, they are adding a buff that will increase over time to make the raid easier and more accessible. Both Larìsa and Spinks have written excellent posts on the matter.

Going back to my little story from the beginning I used to be a hardcore player who couldn’t commit to a hardcore raiding schedule. I wanted really bad to go down all those big raids but I just couldn’t commit 6 hours raiding 4 or 5 times a week wich was always happening too late it seemed. I was one of those back in 2005 that argued that raids should not take 6 hours, that 40 people for a raid was unreasonable and that I should not be penalized because I had a life. I eventually did the hardcore, 7 days a week raiding for a short while.

Well I wasn’t the only one saying Naxxramas being seen by 1% of the player base was ridiculous and Blizzard listened. When they released Burning Crusade they dropped the raids to 25 mans, made the raids and instances shorter and generally improved the game in ways the player wanted to. Fast forward to the current patch and I can’t help but see the recent changes as a way to answer player complaints.

Limited number of tries? Helps makes the hardcore feel more “elite” for a longer time since the less advanced guilds will take many more weeks to complete the content. Also, puts the  emphasis on skill instead of bashing one’s head until success. For the more casual? It puts a limit on the torture of long raids where you keep wiping on a boss your raid as no chance  of taking down. Helps limit the maximum time a raid can take.

Buff that makes the raid easier after a while? Gives a chance to every player to finish the content and protects the hardcore achievement of being able to do it without the buff. Not unlike current achievements where you get a mount for not dying.

In fact if you look at every single patch and expansion you can see Blizzard answering players complaints and concerns. Some patches are successes but others like the Argent tournament are disasters. The point here is that these changes are brought by “us”, the players. In many ways we dictate how the game will evolve and the current WoW is no less that the sum of everything we asked Blizzard to do.

That’s why I’m wondering if we’re not hypocrites with the complains. Sure it’s a given right for us to complain about a game, especially one we keep paying 15$ a month to play but at the same time we are complaining about what we asked them to do. Yes, the game is probably  too casual now but we all asked for that. At least I know I wanted them to make it more  accessible and more casual at one point. Wether or not the latest change will be for the  better or worse for the game only time will tell. But I’ll try to stay quiet if it’s “too easy”.

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Teaching monkeys to dance

 This post has been last updated on July 14th 2011. While it was written at the time of Wrath of the Lich King, the information is still relevant. I’ve adjusted the wipe part to better reflect Cataclysm raiding scene.

You’re stuck in raid, again… some burst of fever(H1N1) caused you to accept an invite to a Naxxramas raid of all places. You figured it would easy badges for alt no.381 but instead you got kidnapped by some sort of friend and family guild raid. You could swear it was a  raid for the mentally disabled but they insist it’s not the case, they’re all having fun and it’s their first raid! They’re doing a big boy raid and everyone is happy and cheery. You’re starting to think ritual suicide might be the only way out here. Eventually, you make it to Four horsemen and the raid leader start explaining some kind of voodoo ritual involving a monkey, a bowl of rice and your mother… wait… must be the fever speaking again. Anyway! you can’t take it anymore and you speak up, “I know this fight. Done it a ton of times.”.  Suddenly the vent grows quiet and everyone is listening to you. The raid leader, relieved ask you to explain the strategy since he doesn’t know it very well. You’ve been had and you know it… if you want your loot you’re going to have to teach this group of first timers how to raid…

Teaching to dance

I’ve talked before about my views on raid leading so this post is a follow-up.I intend to write a few of these posts about raid leading since I seems to have a different style than most styles I’ve read about on blogs and websites.

Not unlike real dancing or martial arts katas the first step you need to teach your monkeys is the actual “dance”. Notice I did not say inspect raid members gear or check Recount to see who’s doing damage, you’re in there and you have to work with whoever it is you got. You actually want to build confidence as relaxed players tend to make fewer mistakes than stressed out ones.

Every single raid fight I have encountered has a “dance” to it. By dance I mean the way the raid needs to move around during the fight to answer different abilities, adds,  terrain, etc… Until the raid has mastered the dance then the boss won’t die no matter what happens, in fact a raid that really master this can pull a boss down even if they are way less geared. Gear allows for more room for error but the first order of business remains to teach everyone how the boss works and how they need to move.

One of the best way to do this I find is to insist on a few small key elements. Every fight have a few small important details that if not handled will wipe your raid. It’s those you need to talk about before engaging the boss. In the case of the four horsemen for example it would be explaining the tank switch and how the debuffs affect the player. Keep things simple so you don’t overload anyone. It’s okay at this point to skip over some points since the goal is that everyone gets the big picture.
The first wipe (attempt)

Unless the boss is ridiculously simple, or you have a miracle happening you’re going to wipe on the first try. This is why I say not to spend too much time in explanation before. There will be time after the first wipe and everyone will have a better idea of what to expect.

The important thing on this first wipe for you, the raid leader, is to see if everyone learned the dance properly. Sure you will have Recount and a few others add ons to help you but until the raid gets that part down the boss will not fall. So its your job to check who’s not getting “it”. If the boss switch doesn’t happen fast enough for example then you need to explain that part. Explain the points that need addressing as you get back to the boss and try to make it as fast as possible. You want to keep everyone attention as long as possible and nothing kills raids better than waiting 15 minutes between each attempt.

Early attempts, we’re still learning this!

These attempts should be used to refine the strategy and learn the few missing points. You should still be focusing on the dance and iron out the last details. By the end of the third attempt the raid should be doing most of the steps right. Simple bosses or raids with really good gear and reaction will be able to kill the boss by the third attempt.

Middle attemps, we learned the dance!

This is where most raids will pull down a boss. The “dance” has been learned and these  attempts are there to iron out a few details not directly related to the dance. For example a healer might be having trouble landing a critical heal at the right time, a dps is not interrupting the right ability, etc… The funny part is that I have seen a lot of raid leaders jump directly to this step. Don’t fall into this trap and wait until you are sure your raid has learned the basics of the fight, then you go into troubleshooting.

Late attempts… guys?! Why is this thing not dead yet? We know this fight!

If you get this far without the boss dying then your in one of 3 situations.

A: you’re doing hardcore, server first, no one knows this fight anywhere raiding. In wich case this whole post probably doesn’t concern you.
B: your fighting a really complex and/or hard boss. For example expect to spend quite a few nights trying to do Mimiron hard mode(firefighter).
C: something is wrong with the raid.

The most likely situation is that your are in the third scenario and something is just plain not working with the raid. Notice I did not say you are raiding with a bunch of noobs. Maybe you are dealing with only a single noob. Maybe the raid is truly undergeared, maybe it’s the  tank, maybe… There’s not easy solution here but to troubleshoot the raid.

Troubleshooting a raid

Putting your finger on the real problem of a raid can be a very hard thing to do. There’s so many things that can go wrong that it can take a while to figure out the real problem. One of the first thing to look for however is if the fight is controlled. If the fight is controlled but you are wiping it is probably a small detail. If the fight is not controlled it is most probably a problem with your raid still not having learned the fight. Here’s a few frequent situations you are likely to encounter and the usual guilty suspects.

Player X is not skilled enough
Almost every single problem/wipe can be attributed to someone not being skilled enough. Since I don’t want to repeat myself I’ll write this first. Lack of skill should be the absolute last thing you consider as the cause of your problem. Why? Because if for example the tank dies it’s easy to say to the healers “L2P” when in fact the problem might me the tank not  handling the boss the right way.

The raid just dies when the boss does ability X.
Learn to dance! Anytime your raid simply disappears when the boss does X it means your raid still hasn’t learned to deal with it. Re-explain this part and the solution until you stop dying.

The tank keeps dying.
First, are your healers healing him and can they keep up? If they are not healing him when he needs healing, then scream at the healers. If they are healing him but cannot keep up its most often the tank taking too much damage.Check to see if your tank is reacting well to the various boss abilities, if he is then it might be a gear problem. Tanks are the class wich will be the most affected by the gear they have and a not geared enough tank can put a huge strain on the healers. So to recap, ask your healers what is going on and work from there.

The healers are running out of mana.
Again your first question should be to ask the healers what is going on. A healer lacking  mana will be either because the tanks are taking too much damage, the raid is taking too  much damage or the fight is lasting too long. A tank taking too much damage will be gear or not having learned the fight. However a raid taking too much damage is often a sign that you still need to work on your “dance”.

The fight is lasting too long.
Often a sign of a fight going too long is the healers and mana users complaining about running out of mana often or hitting the enrage timer. In both cases it’s a clear indicator that the DPS classes need to do more of it. This is the only case where I would recommend  pulling out a dps meter like Recount to see who is low on dps relative to his/her gear and work from there. It can also be an indicator of a generally undergeared raid. Beside skills look to gear or better management of the fight to give the dps a better chance to do their job.
That’s it for now! I could go into a lot more detail as there’s an incredible amount of things that can happen but my philosophy boils down to this: learn to dance, fix the tank, then the healers and finally the Dps.  Hope you enjoyed and feel free to add to this in the  comments below.

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Ever got that feeling that you were past your gaming prime? Years ago you could pick up a game,  any game, and within minutes you were pwning noobs left and right and just beating the crap out of that game. My childhood memories are made of days spent in basements playing video games me and my friends had rented with money we scrapped from picking up cans at the local park. We would play these games non stop until we finally beat them. I was an expert, no boss was too strong and 3 lives was more than enough for me to finish any game.

So it’s a hard blow to my ego when my little cousin who’s half my age can kill me effortlessly over and over again. As I wrote last week I got Modern warfare 2 for the Xbox360 and have been playing quite a lot online, probably some misplaced urge to get back to a real MMOrpg. More often than not the little dude (my cousin) is playing also so we get together in games in a classic duel of the old vs the young. I’m lucky if I can hold a 1:1 ratio (1 kill for 1 death) in a game with him around as he makes a point of headshotting me from across the map.

It’s not just in online shooters too! You can see them too in your PuGs, kids with super human reflexes, barely able to write a coherent sentence because they are so hyped on whatever it is they take. I too would have trouble typing coherently if I was as pumped as they are. I can just imagine them, crazy look in the eyes, foam at the mouth, near insane but reflexes so fast it borders on prescience. Or maybe its just me having trouble accepting I just died again without realizing what was happening. Maybe it’s me getting old and needing to realize I need to step down and let the younger generation take the spotlight.

Anyway, I kept at it for the better part of the weekend and finally managed to find some kind of a technique to beat the young ones. You see they may be faster than me but they are so very predictable. They have their favorites spots on the map and way of playing and once you figure them out you can pretty much outmaneuver them every time. I still die a lot but at least I managed to get best player in two games so there might still be some hope for this old monkey.

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