Sep 192014
 

After finishing up all the Brawler’s Guild achievements last night, I’d like to type up a quick guide for those looking to get this done before 6.0 drops and they are no longer obtainable. It’s very doable if you’ve got some decent LFR/Timeless Burden gear, so let’s get to it!

Getting Started and General Tips

To get in, you need a Brawler’s Pass or a Blood-Soaked Invitation. Easiest way is AH, but if you’re unlucky, they’re always on the BMAH, and have a chance to drop from the PvP rares in Krasarang Wilds. (It also has a 100% chance to drop from Willy Wilder, if you’re willing to camp for a while.)

The format is simple. After queueing, you’ll be dropped into the ring, and have to fight a boss enemy (or enemies) and defeat him within 2 minutes. The main ladder has 36 bosses that must be defeated in order; after every 4 you defeat, you go up one Rank. There are also 16 “special” bosses that can be fought at any time; however, 12 of them require you do various things to unlock the card needed to battle them.

You will want to buff up. A vendor at the Guild sells cheap DPS potions, which are essential, but you’ll want a flask as well. Heroism drums are also nice, as are buffs from any other players around. If you want to completely trivialize some of the fights, you can also go farm some Faintly-Glowing Herbs from the Timeless Isle, which will work in Brawler’s Guild and have no cooldown.

Ranks 1-6

None of these bosses should be difficult, a few just have some tricks. Dippy (Rank 2) has a one-shot attack, but every attack from you knocks him back; you’re fine as long as you don’t corner him. Ixx (Rank 3)’s attack is best avoided by sitting directly on top of him while DPS’ing, but with good gear you may be able to burst him down without ever seeing it. Deeken (Rank 4) is your first “avoid tons of stuff” boss, and is a good sample of what awaits you at higher ranks.   You might have to try them once in order to see all the things you need to avoid, but that’s it. There’s a decent guide here.

Rank 7

Now is when things start to get interesting. GG Engineering is likely your first challenge. There’s a gnome who shoots you and a goblin you launches rockets at you; stay on top of the gnome so that he takes damage from the rocket blasts.

Dark Summoner is simple in theory. The Summoner brings in ghosts, which have an instakill melee attack, but you get a “flashlight” (cone attack) that stuns them. Killing a ghost drops Summoner’s shield for 20 sec. With good gear, you should be able to burn Summoner in 1 ghost sequence; just keep away from other ghosts that spawn. Turn on nameplates (V key).

Battletron will test your ability to DPS while moving. The boss summons 8 bombs that orbit him constantly and blow up when touched. You’ll want to run into 2 of them with a damage-reduction cooldown up (like Survival Instincts) to give you a window. After that, stay in that window circle-strafing around him until he dies. Beat him, enjoy the next joke boss, and get ready for the hardest fight of them all.

Rank 8

YOU FACE HEXOS, ROTATION LORD OF THE GEOMETRY LEGION!

If you’re not prepared for him, Hexos will make you rage-quit. The mechanic is brutally simple: You’re stuck in the middle of the arena, Hexos is stuck to your face, and waves of laser beams come at you. All you have to do is quickly and accurately rotate the camera to “steer” through the lasers while executing a DPS rotation at the same time.

There’s no way to make this easy, and you can’t really outgear the fight to the extent needed to avoid the mechanic. In lieu of a walkthrough explanation, then, here’s a list of tips that helped me, which may or may not help you.

  • Enable Mouselook. This will let you rotate without the mouse without having to hold-down right click the whole time. (Make a macro with the command below, and bind it to a key; the key will toggle it on and off.)
    /run if IsMouselooking() then MouselookStop() else MouselookStart() end
  • Put a raid mark on yourself. I found it much easier to steer the mark through the maze, ignoring Hexos.
  • Untalent Faerie Swarm; slowing Hexos before he attaches to you can occasionally bug out the fight.
  • As soon as you zone into the arena, turn on Mouselook, pop a damage potion, then Savage Roar. From that point, focus purely on survival. Simplify the rotation as much as possible; use Soul of the Forest and Heart of the Wild, don’t worry about Thrashing, etc. Heck, spamming Rake as a combo point builder and alternating between Rip and Savage Roar is probably enough.
  • Consider tweaking your mouse sensitivity in the WoW options menu. I found myself frequently over-rotating for the rapid 180 spins until I turned it down a bit.
  • If you have a flaky network connection or mouse, you’ll definitely find out about it now. I moved my computer to a different room in my house recently, and my previously-fine wireless started dropping out and giving me little lag-blips. (It’s darkly funny when you see the lasers hit the center and then start heading back *out.*) I bought a powerline networking kit and killed Hexos on the next few attempts after switching to it.

Compared to Hexos, the rest of the Rank 8 bosses are a breeze. For Tyson Sanders, just play hit-and-run, keeping him dotted as you evade chickens. For the T440, run out of melee at 15 stacks of the debuff, let it drop, reengage and repeat. Finally, Anthracite is similar to Dark Summoner; use your special action (water spray) to make the boss vulnerable, DPS him, then kill one of the adds to recharge your spray and repeat. Note the spray points rearward (insert joke here) so face away from Anthracite when firing.

Rank 9

Big Badda Boom is your first fight, and a good appetizer for the much harder boss to follow. When you kill him, he explodes and spawns 2 smaller versions of him. Those likewise split and spawn 2 versions, etc, until you suddenly have 20+ hitting you. Not too tough as long as you take the fight slow and don’t kill too many adds at once; use Ysera‘s Gift and Predatory Swiftness procs to keep up your health, and pop SI + Barkskin + Berserk for the final burst.

Next is Nibbleh, who’s the next “ugh dammit” boss.

The video encapsulates the fight strategy pretty well. Nibbleh leaves a trail that will buff him to a level where he will one-shot you, so you have to keep him moving around a rapidly-closing spiral. He also occasionally spits a bit of trail to a random sport in the arena. This is the frustrating part, not for the spit, but because he’ll sometimes stand still long enough from spitting to gain his buff, and there’s nothing you can do.

You can try the strat in the vid (turn on walk and constantly backpedal) but it didn’t work for me, perhaps due to Cat Form’s built-in speed increase. He constantly enraged in the corners. After that, I switched to running and constantly tapping back, and that worked well enough.

Doctor FIST, after Nibbleh, is essentially a joke boss; just stay close to him to evade his clearly marked attacks, and use Bash/Typhoon to interrupt his fifth attack, Hammer Fist.

Ahoo’ru is the final fight between you and Rank 10, and a worthy challenge.

It’s a two-phase fight. In P1, Ahoo’ru will walk to the middle, put up a shield, and fill the room with sparks that move randomly and hit for about 200k. He’ll also send out three larger flashes (1 at a time), which will be extra sparkly. Touching these will spawn an Angel; DPSing the Angel to 50% will cause him to start casting a Charge. Run to the other side of Ahoo’ru, let the Charge hit him, and repeat twice more to trigger P2, which is mostly a straight burn phase. Ahoo’ru’s only abilities here are summoning a ring of circles around you (run out, you’ll take about 200k damage as long as you only touch 1 circle) and casting one full-heal, which must be interrupted.

Phase 1 is the key; the better gear you have, the more time you can afford to take there. Well-geared players can use the strategy depicted in the video, touching each spark and killing each Angel in turn. Lesser-geared players will need to trigger all 3 Angels together, then AoE them to trigger 3 charges at once. Either way, push hard in P2 (don’t forget to pot) and collect your mount + achievement!

Optional Bosses

Aside from the ranking bosses, there are the original Rank 8 bosses (now called “special bosses” that can be fought. They were all quite difficult back in 5.0/5.1, but gear has trivialized them all to Battletron level, with the strategy for each being summarized as “stay out of bad, and AoE to start (Zen’shar)/jump a lot (Disruptron)/interrupt Blue Crush (Epicus).” Milhouse is a bit different; he summons energy sources that charge him via beam; you’ll want to stand in the beam and charge yourself instead. Let the first set of beams charge both you and him, and them start killing one source and standing in the other.

There are also 12 “challenge” bosses, that are found by doing various tasks to unlock hidden quests. Instead of reciting everything here, I’ll just link you to a guide by Pwuebear on wowhead that excellently covers how to unlock them and strategies for the fight. None are especially difficult as long as you follow the strat. Best of luck, enjoy your achievement, and stay tuned for my Proving Grounds guide to come soon!TM

 Posted by at 12:49 pm
Sep 082014
 

George_McGovern2About 40 years ago, there was a presidential election. It wasn’t much of a contest; on one side was a popular incumbent who had just signed peace agreements with two other major world powers, while the other had a candidate who barely scraped through his primary. Following the primary, the upstart challenger continued to make several political missteps, dumped his VP candidate for health reasons three days after stating that “he backed him 1000 percent,” and was widely perceived as a lock to lose heavily.

There was no Cinderella story; the challenger did indeed lose the vote by 23 percentage points. That’s not the interesting part. Here’s what is: after the election results were announced, a prominent journalist who supported the challenger was quoted as saying “How could he lose? Everyone I know voted for him!”

The year was 1972; the incumbent was President Richard Nixon, the challenger (pictured here) was George McGovern, and the quote, though more of a paraphrase, is completely real.

(“Alaron, what does an old white guy have to do with an Internet scandal in 2014?” “Shh, I’m expositing.”)

Gamergate

…it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. -Macbeth, Act V, Scene V

In case you’ve (wisely) been ignoring the whole thing, the entire gaming world has been rocked by controversy over…dudes behaving badly. Okay, it’s more than that, but that’s basically what’s been going on. Dudes sexually harassing a female game developer after her ex-boyfriend accuses her of sleeping with game journalists for favorable press. Other dudes sexually harassing a female media critic after she posted a video on Youtube criticizing how women are portrayed in games. Another group of dudes calling in bomb threats to ground a plane because the president of SOE was onboard, and temporarily shutting down PSN, Xbox Live, and Battle.net just because. Someone else, probably a dude, calling in SWAT to raid the house of a popular Youtube streamer.

This has led to counter-dude. Numerous online sites have written tons of editorials criticizing the vicious misogyny and general boorish behavior being shown my those self-identifying as gamers. Several sites took it a step further, however, declaring an “end to gamers,” such as with these editorials on Gamasutra and Ars Technica.

Naturally, the dudes didn’t take this calmly, declaring this wasn’t about misogyny, this was an issue of journalistic ethics and corruption! A guy by the name of InternetArchitect made a few youtube videos making this point, actor Adam Baldwin tweeted out the videos along with the hashtag #Gamergate, and that’s when the Internet exploded.

Dueling Narratives

Here’s the thing. In a lot of these cases, the Gamergate folk have somewhat of a point. (Not the hackers and the SWATters, though, those guys are just assholes.) There’s a legitimate discussion that could be had over whether games journalists are too close to game developers to report ohjectively. Lord knows there’s plenty of examples of game developers crossing the line; from cutting back advertising after receiving a poor review, to a writer being fired for giving a poor review to a title that had prime advertising space; to the 2012 Games Media Awards, where journalists were given free PS3’s, among other things (and subsequent firing of the person who wrote that critical article).

Unfortunately, though, the argument never gets made like that. Gamergate supporters like to complain about a giant “conspiracy.”

The reason many websites have turned off comments, deleted/blocked threads, etc. is not to be gleefully conspiratorial; it’s because the discourse is 80% toxic misogyny. It’s like that Tide commercial; if you have a big stain on your shirt when you get up to speak at the big company presentation, nobody’s going to listen to you, they’re going to sit there and think “Man, if this dude can’t even dress professionally, why should I take his words seriously?”

I’d like to dig a little deeper, though. I think there’s an indictment of our culture to be made here. When insults are your normal discourse, you don’t know what’s professional speech and what’s not, and you don’t know how to have a civilized debate.

Modern Tribalism

Look. I’m in the Army. The attitude, language, and threats that you see people spew online is nothing compared to your average military barracks bay. We (gently) abuse people during basic training deliberately in order to build up a sense of brotherhood. (Or, alternatively, to gauge their level of bullshit tolerance prior to giving them things that go bang bang.) I’m not too far removed from going through a version of that myself, and I see it in my soldiers every day.

What these guys do know, however, is their audience. They give each other shit all the time, but when an officer comes by? “Good evening, sir. What are we talking about? Um, some strategies for doing better at Call of Duty, sir. Roger, sir, we’ll keep it down. Have a good night, sir.” …officer walks away… “Dammit Jones you fu*king faggot you TK’ed me again!” “Haha, pwned you bitch just like I did your mom last week.”

This is not a new thing. I’m sure Roman soldiers pretended their hasta were dicks and poked each other with them too when their superiors weren’t around. They grew up, became those superiors, and similarly got frustrated at their new soldiers who were now pretending their new pila were dicks.

What has changed, however, is the Internet, and how it has connected and divided us at the same time.

Echodit

That journalist I cited in the introduction lived in an early “echo chamber.” Everyone she interacted with had similar opinions and beliefs, so the opinions and beliefs that diverged from the group consensus were automatically rejected.

What the Internet has done, however, is to narrowly cleave groups into thousands or millions of these chambers. Reddit is the perfect example of this. Fan of something? There’s a discussion group dedicated to it! Others exist that have the same tastes you do! There’s never any reason to go anywhere else!

Unfortunately, living in an echo chamber gives you no skills to respond effectively when something challenges those views. Instead, you respond as the group does; harassing the outsider until they go away, and coming up with crazy stories to justify why those outsiders’ views are wrong. Combine that learned behavior with the assumed anonymity of the Internet and you have the perfect recipe for jackassery.

Is there an easy solution? I don’t think so. We’re conditioned to think in terms of fast, instinctive decisions, which games only accentuate. Friend! Enemy! Fight! Run! Somehow, “well, both sides have valid points, let’s talk this through and find consensus” doesn’t enter the gamer consciousness very often.

Kill ‘em with Kindness

I’m not going to propose some bullshit Synthesis ending here that wraps everything up neatly; if there was an easy solution, it would’ve been done already. (Seriously, ME3, come on.)

Most of you are familiar with John Gabriel (Penny Arcade) and his Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. According to the GIFT, it takes 3 A’s: average person + anonymity + audience = fuckwad.

He’s right, but there’s one term missing: acceptance. Fuckwads act like fuckwads because they get away with it. Want to curb the behavior? Start checking it at every turn.

Now, this doesn’t mean stooping to their level and throwing insults; that’s what they’re used to, and that just confirms that this kind of discourse is effective. (That’s partly why this thing is such a ugly mess, because some of the people criticizing the misogynists for their language are condemning them with their own language. Pot, meet kettle?) Instead, find the lever. It might take some work to do, but it’s always there.

Let me share a quick story. I was putting together a public 25-man raid for Onyxia, back in 2009, when she had just been re-designed and was current content. As was my luck, I got one of those; a decked-out raider who insisted on repeatedly wiping the group by feigning death in the egg piles. Other members of the group started berating him, and he laughed at us, calling us “noobs and casuals.” Did I rage at him? No. I found a lever.

I tabbed out to wow-progress, looked up his guild, and found his guild master’s name. Tabbed back and whispered him “Hey, I know XXX, the leader of <Your Guild>. I’ve been logging your actions and chat, and I’ve got it all typed up to send his way. Want me to send it?” Instantly, he shut up, apologized in /raid, apologized privately to me in a reply, begged me not to tell his guild, and dropped group.

Is that going to work every time? Of course not. Sadly, sometimes you can’t reach the lever, or it’s broken. Sometimes it’s a lot of work to find it. Sometimes the only thing you can do is leave and come back another day, because the griefers own the whole map. Do it. Remember, games are supposed to be fun. Stand up to the boors if you can do so lovingly; otherwise withdraw peacefully. Either way, make the point that you won’t tolerate that kind of behavior around you.

And with that, I’m done with ranting about social issues. Anyone up for a game?

 Posted by at 11:54 am
Sep 032014
 

In an effort to shake off the doldrums, a banal post of what I’ve been up to lately.

Hearthstone

I’m still playing and thinking about Hearthstone a fair bit. I’d play more, but the game has a couple of disincentives that’ve caused me to cut back my play time significantly.

First, the ranked mode has two reward “tiers.” Every season, which resets monthly, you can earn a card back by achieving rank 20, which is trivial. After that, the next “reward” isn’t until you reach Legend (aka Rank 0) where you can actually see how you stack up against all the other Legendeers that month. Unfortunately, the grind to get to Legend is pretty rough.

Based on anecdotal data and some math, I figure it takes most between 300-450 games to get to Legend, for those that are capable of achieving it. That roughly correlates to a winrate between 55-60%. (Theoretically, a 50% player could get it, but they’d have to get very lucky from Rank 5-Legend, where the bonus win for winning two games or more in a row goes away.)

If a game averages 10 minutes, that’s 50-75 hours of play. Could I do it? Probably, but I’d have to play exclusively Hearthstone for the entire month. I just don’t see the appeal of something that’s going to reset so quickly.

Second, Blizzard allowed players to buy Naxxramas (the first expansion) with in-game gold. As someone who has most of the cards in the game already, it doesn’t make sense for me to spend money on additional packs when they’ve already revealed 100+ cards coming in the expansion, likely with a new pack type.

Kingdom of Amalur

Remember this company-killer? I played it for a while on Xbox when it came out, but it didn’t hold my interest, due to significant scaling problems. I purchased it for PC during the last sale, and spent an hour getting the “YSA” trainer working to significantly up the difficulty and lower the XP/gold gain.

It’s been wonderful; kind of a Dark Souls-lite, but with quicksaves. All the systems that I ignored the first time I played, like blocking (heh) are now much more relevant, and I’m constantly running low on potions and the gold to buy them. I’m currently stuck on the Maid of Windemere, but I think if I go farm a few alchemy mats, I should be able to buff up enough to burst her down.

WoW

I haven’t touched the live game, and have no real desire to at this point pre-Warlords. Trying to nail down uninterrupted time remains difficult, which eliminates things like challenge modes and raiding. I never did finish Brawler’s Guild, however, so I’d like to give that a go pre-6.0, as well as taking another shot at the Doing It Wrong achievement for Proving Grounds.

As for the beta, it’s been fun, but I’m actively curtailing playing it because, per my usual, I’d like to save the discovery process for the live realms. Pretty much, all I’ve done is create premade druids for testing abilities. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’ll be doing a full guide for feral for 6.0, as well as short guides for the other 3 druid specs. With stats being shared between gear, it’ll be easier than ever for druids to respec, so I need to teach myself how to be fluid (TM) again. :)

Site Updates

Last but not least, I’m poking around at updating the blog. WordPress 4 will be released soon, and with that, I’m looking to make some improvements to readability. Don’t really have a clear idea as to what I’ll be doing yet theme-wise, so you may see a few things change if you’re visiting the blog directly and not subscribing via a feed. Always interested in suggestions, so send them in.

I also need blogroll updates! If you have a druid blog (or there’s one you read regularly), then I want to know about it so I can plug them in. I’ll also take any general WoW sites, anything you think is cool. Let me know!

 Posted by at 4:47 pm
Aug 142014
 

EDIT: Didn’t realize it, but November will be WoW’s 10th anniversary, and WoW was released on Warcraft I’s 10th anniversary, so it makes sense they’d keep that going. If this keeps up, we’ll see WoW 2 in November 2024.

13:20 That’s it, folks. Some quick mental math gives us 428 days (ish) between 5.4’s release and the expansion, which will rate as the longest time between tiers ever. So much for attempting to avoid that. (ICC was 343, Dragon Soul was 301.)

13:17 November 13th, 2014 listed at end of trailer!

13:12 WoD cinematic trailer starting.

13:11 Metzen gives a shoutout to the guy who was first in line to get in to the theater, awkward camera zoom ensues.

13:10 Gameplay trailer over, Metzen back out to introduce the cinematic trailer.

13:08 Leeroy Jenkins sighting!

13:06 Blizzard really needs to stop showing in-game NPC swordplay in the trailers, as it just looks ridiculous.

13:05 Watters back out, gameplay trailer coming up.

13:03 Four more LoW eps coming out. Showing teaser now.

13:02 Cinematic over. Nice Metzen line, “No more whimsical pandas!”

13:00 (LoW) If only jump attacks worked as well in real life as they do in cinema.

12:59 (LoW) Maraad pressuring Varian, okay. whatever. Setup to talk about Kargath.

12:57 First episode of Lords of War (animated shorts) starting.

12:55 Lost connection for a sec.

12:54 Metzen asking how many people saw Burdens of Shaohao, says it went well. (Note: he didn’t say it was “popular.”)

12:53 Chris Metzen comes out to introduce the new animated series. Must every presenter do a Horde/Alliance shoutout?

12:52 Some talk about the new version of Draenor.

12:51 Temporary Level 90 version of UBRS. Cool!

12:50 6.0 patch – initial Iron Horde invasion to Blasted Lands and UBRS, you respond.

12:48 Back to Hazzikostas talking about the Dark Portal. Ion, you lost the audience at “existential.”

12:47 Mild crowd response to being able to loot Ashran Fragments from other players.

12:45 More on Ashran, the tech to keeps things faction balanced, and some of the cool abilities they give to classes. I’m not much of a PvPer, but PvEvP (if that’s a thing) is something I enjoy, so I might give it a shot.

12:43 Holinka now talking Ashran PvP. Comparing it to the long-running AV’s of yore.

12:42 Have to raise an army to defeat the Iron Horde. Yawn. Wake me when I can take my army into the raid zone.

12:40 Talking about cleaning up action bars, better graphics. Very ho-hum so far.

12:39 Talking up the boost to lvl 90. (EDIT: Nobody ever gets stuck in Grizzly Hills, that zone was awesome.)

12:38 Waters brings out Holinka and Hazzikostas.

12:36 Back to the call outs of Horde and Alliance, yawn.

12:34 Mike Morhaime out in an interesting shirt. Blue stripe down the right-hand side, mmkay. Looks like a Windows 8 Snap.

12:34 First accidental calling it Worlds of Draenor.

12:33 Chris Watters out to talk now. Also, the person who was responsible for the overuse of ellipses has been sacked.

12:32 That…was a very short cinematic. I’m guessing that’s just the intro.

12:31 War is the lifeblood…yay.

12:30 Lovely ESRB Rating…thanks, guys.

Just happen to have the day off from work at the same time of the cinematic! (Times in EST)

 Posted by at 12:31 pm
Jul 102014
 

With my move complete(-ish, opening boxes in RL is much less fun then in-game), I’ve had some time to check back into the gaming scene. With the majority of my guild hooked on Wildstar and tons of people singing its praises on Twitter, I figured it was worth a shot. Thanks to a Guest Pass hookup from @vosskah, I’ve been playing extensively for the past week. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much here to convince me this game will survive long-term.

Annoying/weird animations, especially female

All I wanted was a cool Stalker (aka Rogue). I came away from an hour of character creation wondering exactly what the Carbine animators were going for, as every race had at least one animation that just looked bizarre, especially the stealth movement animations. As for the females…well, let’s say that every female character (excepting Aurin) has Sir Mix-a-Lot jiggle, which probably plays well with a younger demographic but to me just feels totally tasteless. There’s no way, as a happily married man, that I could play Wildstar with a female character and live.

Tone-deaf storylines

A lot of people skip WoW’s quest text and go right for the killing of the ten whatsits, but there’s generally a very coherent storyline to be found for each zone. Humor is there in the occasional quest, but in general, things are played pretty straight.

Borderlands (and especially Borderlands 2) is the opposite. It goes for maximum zany/crazy, gleefully subverting plot elements at every turn. It works because you know nothing is serious, with makes the few elements that ARE played straight more impactful.

I bring up these two games because Wildstar can’t decide which approach it wants to go for. The Dominion are cartoonishly evil; hell, you’re (minor spoiler) pressing buttons to execute groups of people within the first five minutes. That’s almost preferable to the Exiles, though, who get the sterotypical and insufferable cowboy/environmental archetypes. I get that it’s not worth writing a good storyline when most people skip it, but I can hardly remember the zones I just played through, which is not a good sign. I’m sure lots of people will tell me “it gets better later,” but as it stands, I just can’t see myself identifying with any of the characters.

Unsupportable PvE endgame

A lot of people are calling it a World of Warcraft clone…and it is, but it’s a bit more complicated then that. The vision for WoW pivoted significantly after the Burning Crusade expansion to making the game more accessible to a wider audience, as anyone who remembers the frequent invocations of “bring the player, not the class” can attest. Wildstar looks to revert that change, as this 12-step(!) guide to attuning for the first raid shows.

While this gives you the opportunity to design more…unique…challenges, it also means that you’re significantly limiting your audience to the more hardcore players. This works for a game like EvE because of its sandbox nature, but I foresee Carbine having great difficulty pushing out PvE content updates at the speed demanded by said-hardcore players. THAT means subscription numbers falling off drastically, which means the client will eventually be free to drive subscription sales. Lock it in – I’m predicting at least levels 1-20 will be F2P within a year.

Now, Wildstar does have a lot going for it. The Path system, in where you pick one of four sub-classes (Explorer, Scientist, Settler, or Soldier) to give you bits of extra content in each zone, is clever and reasonably well done. Addons are well-supported out of the box. Challenges spice up questing a good bit, tossing in random jumping puzzles and timed-kill bonuses. The combat system itself is also very well done – being able to see and dodge enemy attacks remains fun.

Overall – the game is competent, but in today’s PC gaming environment where competent games are nearly given away, it needed to be more, and it doesn’t quite get there. If you’re playing with a good group, it’s fine…but then, if you’re playing with a good group, all of the major MMO’s are fine, so pick your flavor and have fun. :)

 Posted by at 7:06 pm
Apr 012014
 

In case you missed it, Tinderhoof wrote the feral class guide for Wowhead. A good start for those who are new to the class. Really appreciate how it breaks down how X rotation is for new people, while Y rotation is for experts…too many people jump right to GIEF MAX DPS ROTATION PLOX with no consideration of the complexities involved.

 Posted by at 1:06 am
Mar 202014
 

Last weekend, my wife was out of town visiting family, so I had the unexpected chance to pretty much do nothing but play games all day. I played a good bit of Diablo 3 and realized two things: first, the changes made in ver2.0 fix the vast majority of what’s wrong with the game; second, the fact that it’s still permanently online for single-player (and laggy/flaky, when I was playing)  makes me still not want to play it. Eventually, I decided to attempt to trim down my Steam indie game backlog as much as possible by trialing as many games as I could. Here’s what I thought, in no particular order:

Sequence Okay, I cheated on the first one; I just replayed Sequence because I played it pre-Steam cards. Still an amazing game (it’s a DDR-like rhythm game with RPG progression) and you can pick it up for a buck during the current Humble Bundle sale. Highly recommended.

Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons This game reminds me quite a bit of the movie Lost in Translation–critics and auteurs call it a masterpiece, but I just call it a nice nap. Seriously, this game has a very distinct narrative tone and focus, but after finishing it (it’s short, took me about 3 hours), I didn’t feel touched, I felt “well, that’s over.” I admire the dedication to the setting to have the characters speak a gibberish language, but it sure didn’t help my immersion any. I’d rather go back and play Ico instead.

Gone Home Now, THIS is how you tell a story. The genre can best be described as “first-person story;” the story starts and ends with you exploring a house and learning about the lives of the occupants. The story itself is a bit trite, but the attention to detail is amazing; just about every object in the house can be picked up and examined, and has setting-appropriate art. There’s no action whatsoever, but if you love storytelling and/or metafiction, this game’s got it.

Bionic Commando Rearmed I never played the original, but after hearing it frequently referenced and seeing good reviews of the remake, I figured I’d try it. Not bad, but I have to feel comfortable with a platformer’s controls to have any enjoyment, and I was still struggling with the grappling hook after more than an hour. Uninstalled.

Thomas Was Alone This game doesn’t look like much, but it’s surprisingly well-polished. Sure, all you’re doing is moving around shapes to fit them into various holes, but they’re all voiced by charming English accents, and the play itself is solid. Definitely worth a look.

Guacamelee! Remember what I said above about solid platformer controls? Guacamelee nails it. One of the best Metroidvania-style games I’ve played in a long time. Fairly difficult, though.  Definitely a game I’m coming back to.

Starseed Pilgrim This game falls into the newish genre of “the game is figuring out how to play the game.” I figured out how to play it, and didn’t like it much. Worth a look if you’re into procedurally-generated stuff, otherwise, stay away.

A Valley Without Wind I think every game designer has this dream where they have unlimited time and money to add as many features into their games as they want, and never have to cut anything. This platformer  feels like the result of that dream. It’s kinda like Terraria, except there’s no building, and there’s no fun. Sure, there’s 27 million things to do, but if your game doesn’t pass the basic “is it fun?” test, there’s not much point.

A Virus Named TOM I got a good chuckle out of this game’s art. It’s a puzzle game, though, with a mechanic we’ve all seen before (spin the tiles to connect the pipe…err, “circuits”). Not my thing.

Antichamber This is a Portal-ish first-person puzzler, and yet another game where you have to discover the rules (and then figure out which rules can currently be broken). It’s good, but at the time I played it, it just made my brain hurt.

Rock of Ages I totally dig the style of the game. The concept is simple; you and an opponent roll boulders down a steep hill, attempting to smash down their gate. While “reloading,” you have the opportunity to set up defenses to slow/shrink the enemy boulder. Sounds great; unfortunately, the decision to do everything in real-time makes it hard to get feedback on how well everything is going. When you’re rolling your boulder, you get a picture-in-picture view of your opponent’s boulder so you can sort of see how your defenses worked out, but you’re likely too busy dodging your opponent’s defenses to notice. I played a few matches, won/lost and had no idea why I won/lost, and then stopped.

Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians I like games with music/rhythm elements (Pata-Pata-Pata-PON!). This game – not so much. It seems like they started out trying to make a music-based puzzle platformer, struck out, and ended up with a music-themed puzzle platformer. It’s not terrible, but ir’s kinda generic, and I quit after one level. Definitely worth a look if you’re into electronic music.

Hack, Slash, Loot Install, Try, Uninstall. A very bad roguelike. I see no reason to play this when there are other strictly better roguelikes out there.

Paranautical Activity I’m not really into FPS’s, though I play a few from time to time. This is a roguelike FPS; pretty much first-person Binding of Isaac (which I greatly enjoyed, btw).  For what it’s worth, it seemed pretty well designed, but after dying on the (randomly generated) first level repeatedly, decided that this was not the game for me.

Master Reboot Of all the games on the list, this is the one that I have no idea how to categorize. It’s a first-person…exploration? Puzzle? Horror? Mystery? All of these. The sound design is GREAT. Unfortunately, the graphics frequently cross the line from “darkly symbolic” to “looks like shitty first-generation 3D” and it seemed pretty buggy. Good concept and story but could have used some more polish.

Retrovirus Hi, Descent! I’ve long wondered why nobody tried to make a modern Descent, which I had a lot of fun with as a kid (only the shareware version, though). Well, this is here, and this is pretty good, but the pacing/level design isn’t as tight as Descent and the sound is meh. As I write this review, I realize I have no idea what happened story-wise; something about a virus that I’m chasing through a computer when I started, then lots of shooting glowy pink bits. Okay, not great.

Space Pirates and Zombies My current jam. I’m massively conflicted about it, really; there’s lots of design nitpicks I could throw at it, but it’s in one of my favorite genres (top-down space shooter/adventure, aka Elite) so I let it get away with a lot.

Yay! So…20ish games down with one or two I’ll come back to, which leaves me with still more than 100. Whee.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 11:54 pm
Mar 092014
 

This is somewhat embarrassing. I’ve been gushing about Hearthstone, planning to write guides and things for it…and now, I can’t be bothered to log in. Just jumping on to knock out quests feels like a chore now, when a few months ago, I vividly remember staying up until the daily quest reset a few months ago to get one more in.

So what happened? Well, I thought about it for a bit, and there’s three main factors:

  1. Lack of extrinsic progression. Otherwise described as “nothing-to-do” syndrome. WoW players are intimately familiar with this; once you’ve ran all the content in the current tier and gotten most of the drops you need, there’s no real reason to keep coming back. (Excepting raiders, who have a whole set of group dynamics that non-raiders do not.) Same thing for Hearthstone; once you’ve unlocked the majority of the cards, there’s no more meaningful progression. That would be fine, except…
  2. Lack of skill progression. My progression in Hearthstone reminds me a lot of my progression playing online poker. If you study, you go from being completely clueless to being reasonably good pretty quickly. However, further improvement past that point gets more and more challenging, and becomes extremely hard to quantify. For Hearthstone, once you’ve figured out the basic flow of the game, researched deckbuilding (or Arena drafting for value) online, and made all the the common newbie mistakes, there’s not really anywhere else to go.  I’ve realized that any further progression on my part revolves around anticipating draws (both mine and my opponents) and adjusting current play to account for that, but that’s pretty fiddly. I’d still play anyway, though, if it wasn’t for…
  3. Speed. The current turn limit is pretty slow. There are a few turns where you need 90 seconds (either due to a complex situation, or just waiting for all the animations to play out if you have lots of moves to make) but for the most part, 30 seconds is plenty. I’m not sure how to change this, though, as I did need that time as a new player to read card descriptions and things. Currently, I’m doing something else in a second browser window or on the phone while I’m waiting for the opponent to take his turn. When I’m enjoying that other activity more than playing Hearthstone, that’s a problem. My way of fixing this in online poker was playing multiple tables at once; that’d be really cool for Hearthstone, but will never happen.

Note that I’m not really complaining – I’ve definitely enjoyed my time in Hearthstone, and it’s completely unrealistic to consider a game that has still not been officially released unworthy because it can’t be my go-to game forever. I do hope that the upcoming patch with the live release addresses at least the speed issue, though, and gives me something else to work towards. (Grinding out Legend rank seems off-putting to me with the current rapid rank resets.) I’ve got about 2000 gold and 3000 dust saved up hoping for something new to come along.

In the meantime, I’m dabbling in a bunch of games. I’ve gotten hooked on Marvel: Puzzle Quest on my phone; if you liked the previous PQ’s at all, give it a shot; it’s F2P, and the limitations of playing for free aren’t that restrictive. I may write up a one-off guide post for it, as there’s some interesting depth to the mechanics of the asynchronous multiplayer. I’m also working through my Steam backlog, though I have no hopes of ever finishing that. :)

 Posted by at 10:57 am
Feb 282014
 

WoW Insider announced today (though we’ve known for a bit) that a large budget cut is coming, which means all the freelancer class columnists (like me) have been cut loose from writing. Truthfully, I haven’t written anything for WoWI in a long time, but I had always been planning a comeback somewhere in the back of my mind. Now that that door has been closed, I’m somewhat at a loss. I’ll get back to that point, though; right now, I’m going to reminisce a bit.

My first post

One of my favorite screenshots.

It was January of 2011, Cataclysm was in full swing,  and as you might have expected, it was a feral DPS guide. I do so like writing guides, for some reason. Skim it if you want a blast from the past– Keep up the Mangle debuff! Spec 0/32/9! We can bearcat! :) I was much more into WoW then; I hadn’t hit burnout, my family was still doing okay, and I wanted to know all the things so I could be the very best that ever was.

Believe it or not, I actually deployed to Iraq during this time period. Somehow, I managed to keep churning out a column for WoWI every week or two; I was in a part of Iraq that had reasonably good internet (in context) and I was actually able to keep playing the game. I got kicked from one PUG because they didn’t believe me that my AFK was due to ducking and covering from artillery fire. :) As things ended up, Iraq was pretty dull for my unit once we got settled, and being on my own meant plenty of writing time. I actually hacked out my first attempt at creative writing for the Blizzcon writing contest in 2011; it’s here, if you want to indulge yourself in some bad fanfiction.  I also put in hours upon hours before finally successfully soloing Kael’Thas in Tempest Keep; he’s a pushover now, of course, but he was no joke at level 85 in Firelands gear.  I also knocked off Naxxramas and Ulduar later in the expansion, though my attention was quickly distracted by the new shiny; monks.

Sleep, write, work; pick two

I played monks extensively during the MoP beta, and enjoyed them a good bit. (All the druids were busy arguing about whether Heart of the Wild and Symbiosis were the end of the game as we knew it, or something.) I got this crazy idea; I’ll start up a monk blog! It’ll be awesome! I’ll be the go-to guy for monks and feral druids! Yeah.

Trying to keep up two class columns on WoWI and two personal blogs took its toll; the quality of my work started falling off significantly. Even so, I had a bunch of things prepared for when MoP was to go live…then this happened. That was pretty much the end of my freelance writing career. I kept it going for a while, but after that incident, I was burned out and just going through the motions, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I don’t want to rehash that again, so I’ll stop there – instead I’ll say that some of the internal email WoWI threads were incredibly epic/funny discussions, usually spurred by epic/trolling comments or “suggestions.” (The suggestion box? Whatever you sent in to WoWI was visible to every writer on the site. If you said something extremely foolish in there, we were likely all talking about you. :) Some highlights (of course, none of these are verifiable and could’ve been someone trolling, but still):

  • The MANY people who confused WoWI with Blizz and sent in personal info/CC #’s to try to get their accounts restored/fixed/etc
  • The people who wrote in saying “writer X should be fired because (insert poorly-written rant here)
  • The girl who wanted to be a booth…”model” for Blizzcon
  • The guy who complained because he was being shown diet pill ads on the sidebar
  •  The guy who repeatedly asked us to feature his website/stream which was nothing but him ganking newbies (and when we refused, created several false identities to also suggest his site)
What now?

I’ve pretty much come full circle; I loved WoW, hated WoW, and am now coming back around to thinking about resubscribing. :) Now that things have stabilized in the family life some, I’ve got a chance to come back and do some things; I just have to accept that I can’t do everything, which is really tough for me to do. I’d like to reconnect with my guild, re-make some friends, and just generally rejoin the community without being focused 100% on “raiding or GTFO.” I’m not sure I’m at the point where I can do that, as I have a huge overachiever streak in games. We’ll see – garrisons are looking mighty interesting…

 Posted by at 12:03 am
Dec 312013
 

15732588-happy-new-year-2014-message-over-black-backgroundI already talked about the personal stuff in the last post. So, what did I play this year?

Winter (is coming…yeah, it’s old now)

I was still very into WoW at this point. I rejoined a raid team for Throne of Thunder (a decision that, in retrospect, was probably foolish) and did quite a bit of soloing old raid content (25m Naxx for green Druid T7, which is the best looking armor you can still get). I also really enjoyed Isle of Thunder, which is my favorite zone of the expansion. The gating was well done, the introduction of random rares for VP was great, and dat Saurok jump.

Outside of WoW, I played Dishonored, but quit it early on. I need to give it another try – the game itself was fascinating, but I 1. don’t like stealth games very much and 2. always feel compelled to play the “good” side for morality-choice games, which quickly led to frustration. The world-building was excellent, though. I also played some Secret World, which was entertaining, but the hotbar combat felt too close to what I was already doing at the time. That’s on my list for another look.

Spring

WoW in this season was more ToT raiding  (polished off Lei Shen around June/July) and getting into pet battling. I got REALLY into pet battles for about a month, but once I had a good selection of pets at level 25 and had finished the quests, I was basically done. I mean, I get the concept of horizontal progression, but once you get more than ~50 pets, I felt I was fighting the UI more then actually having fun battling.

Other games included Borderlands 2, which was stellar, and Bioshock Infinite, which was less so. BI was visually spectacular, but the gameplay was meh and the storyline took a few too many leaps. BL2, meanwhile, hit the perfect combination of number geekery and action. I also got my son into Skylanders, which was a great time. (Though the Skylanders rubber-band system of co-op was incredibly frustrating, especially with no jumping.)

Summer

I essentially retired from WoW after ToT was over; I hadn’t planned on it that way, but my wife and I a big fight over continuing to raid. She had a valid point – being as she’s wheelchair-bound, asking her to keep an eye on our son while I raid is stressful. I made a few quick sojourns later to Timeless Isle (decent, but no IoT) and Proving Grounds, but that basically finished off my WoW playing.

Otherwise, this was BL2 and Indie season. Played some Gunpoint, Rogue Legacy, and Dust; also spent a few mindless days embroiled in idlegames (Cookie Clicker, Candy Box, Anti-Idle, etc) and flash games on Kongregate.

Fall

Birthday time! Since I was feely overly depressed, I threw my usual financial caution to the winds and dropped about $1000 on a new desktop PC and monitor. Of course, I then got into the Hearthstone beta and have been mainly playing that nonstop, which definitely required that power. :) This month, I picked up Skyrim for $6 and Tomb Raider for $5 during the Steam sales, so I finally have something pretty to play on my new 1440p screen. Don’t really like Skyrim (blasphemy, I know) but I’ve been enjoying Tomb Raider so far. Apparently, I need a runny jumpy shooty stabby game at least once a year. (I had the Assassin’s Creed games on my short list of games to pay full price for, but ACIII ended that trend.)

Looking ahead to 2014

Blizzard-wise, I’m eagerly anticipating the Hearthstone open beta and then release, to bring more players into the game and hopefully some non-PvP content (which I would happily pay for). This may be the first year I don’t pick up a WoW expansion pack on relea….*snort* yeah, I’ll still buy it Day 1, even if I’m not raiding anything. I’m very hopeful for more of a difficulty range for 1-player content that isn’t just a one-off gimmick (Brawler’s Guild, hey). Otherwise, I’ve felt zero compulsion to go back to Diablo 3 since abandoning a character in Act 2 of Inferno a few weeks after release; I’ll probably put some time in with the new gameplay systems there and see if I feel Reaper of Souls is worth a purchase. Still don’t own any Starcraft games. :)

I don’t get excited about upcoming games anymore, really (odds are I’m waiting for a sale anyway), but if I had to pick a quick list, I’d say Transistor, Watch Dogs, Child of Light, and the further progression of Star Citizen, though I don’t expect a release there until 2015.

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year!

 

 

 Posted by at 10:54 pm