A Mixed Beginning
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 January 2014, 12:53 pm
As I wrote my post that in part lamented the status of my paladin, I realized that my rogue main wasn't in such a great position either. Her guild isn't very active anymore. So why not play my paladin? I have nothing to lose.

So I hopped on over to level up. Eventually I'll finish the Jade Forest and write about my thoughts on the Alliance side of it. Pet battles meant that I hit 90 long before finishing the zone. Glorious 90.

I set off to the Temple of the White Tiger. I fought a legendary pet along the way, failing a couple times before recognizing that my pet selection needed some improving. The tiger let me into the Vale and in I went. Aha, a rare! I'd fought it before, a dangerous melee enemy. I wasn't geared for this. But paladins are not a melee-only class. I knew that with judgement, exorcism, and a lot of patience I could kill it.

I was interrupted in my kiting by a level 90 Horde paladin. A level 90 Horde paladin attacking the rare. I closed in to my now-safe melee range and killed it. The paladin did not kill me. I thanked him and looted the corpse. And then the third attack from the warlock landed and killed me.

PvP servers breed such paranoia.

Since it's the place to be, I went to the Timeless Isle. The shower of loot that my rogue had received was more like a trickle, but enough of a trickle that I was able to get into scenarios and heroics. Gear will come. Despite the slower pace, I might enjoy it more. Wearing plate rather than leather makes so much trouble so much easier to deal with; except those damn snakes. I'm also developing a healthy level of perpetual, comfortable, paranoia.

The giant groups aren't dangerous; those are the people farming rares or elites. They aren't going to cause trouble. Maybe they know that war is never in the best interests of the farmer. They know that a lone pissed-off enemy can be a major problem when fighting elites. It's the lone person who causes trouble, who sees that your health is barely higher than when you were 85, and who makes the economically rational decision to cause suffering to others.

And then there was the druid. I was fighting tigers near an ore node when he attacked me. I killed the tigers, stunned him, and ran away a bit. I bowed. If I could have said it, I'd have told him to take the ore, that he'd won it. I'd be a hypocrite to criticize him. He killed me anyway. I came back to find the node unmined and figured he was just a jerk. But then he started emoting sorry. Then I was just confused.

But that didn't mean I didn't use my cloaking device to get some distance before mounting up. I run with one on my belt, and if it's not on cooldown, another in my trinket slot. They've both come in handy. Damn it feels good to be an engineer.



An Immodest Proposal
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 January 2014, 4:15 pm
Ms. Sword and Glasses of Herding Cats is so happy about WildStar reducing the size of the breasts on their female characters. Even worse, she offers a terrible suggestion: putting the larger models in a cash shop. To top it off, she makes this insanely-biased, factless claim:
Most people either don’t care or are generally pleased with the decision, while a vocal minority are flipping out.
"Don't care" sounds a lot like "too scared to speak" while "vocal minority" sounds a lot like "the few who dared to stand up for having standards." I'm standing up. For too long we've had to deal with this nonsense and I've said nothing, beside some posts that I've probably written, but even if I have said anything, I'm going to say it again because it needs saying.

This is to you, Jessica Cook.

 I believe I speak for a lot of that "vocal minority" when I say this. Maybe they're afraid to say it, but someone has to say the words that are only being thought.

I think it is offensive that you would even suggest that a core gameplay element like absurd character models be stuck in the cash shop. Next thing all the armor skins (or lack of armor) to show off those absurd models will be placed in the cash shops. This is just a slippery slope toward needing to pay for the 'privilege' of sending creepy chat message. You can be sure I'll be boycotting this game until they fix their messaging toward women and make it a bit more against.



Pay attention to something other than your gear, such as yourself
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 January 2014, 11:36 am
Once I learned anything at all about gear there was never a time that I was not making fun of what people wear. I was provided endless amusement by the rogues in spirit gear, the non-troll warriors in spirit gear (back in the day a troll warrior who stacked spirit literally never needed healing). Sometimes I'd offer very basic advice on what to generally look for. Most of the time I'd just laugh to myself. But I did not insult them about it, unless they had revealed themselves to be worthy of insult, because I don't believe in being a useless jerk.

When it all comes down to it, it's their character.

Of course once they try to join a group with me then it is in my best interests to be sure that they aren't poorly geared, or worse, poorly played. I'll overlook a gem or a clearly outdated reforging, since I sometimes try to not be a hypocrite and those things are minor oversights, not fundamental problems. And what are a few ilevels between complete strangers?

It was a long time before I looked at a character and cared not just how they had geared, but also how much they had geared. I knew about better and worse gear, of course, but I also knew that content was designed for a particular level of gear and that level tended to be lower than what people had, particularly early in progression. I knew that player ability and attentiveness mattered more to the group. I was that person who would yell at people for watching TV while raiding.

In part, this may have been because gear could only go so far. If someone couldn't beat content level X, then they could not gear much higher than tier X. There were always ways to get ahead a little bit, but you couldn't get very far ahead of what your next boss dropped. I knew that gear wasn't the fundamental problem: the player's behavior was. Not the player; I don't like to separate players into good and bad. Of course there is variance in reaction times and visual perception, but I think the game is generally tuned such that those are rarely an issue. It is behavior that matters; checking out a fight ahead of time, paying attention to the fight, being mindful of how everything fits together.

Focusing too much on gear, demanding a particular gear level, runs counter to this. When people fail they blame gear, rather than behavior. One of those can change before the next attempt, the other cannot. In the short term, worrying about gear is pointless. While neither of these commands are diplomatic, surely "Pay attention!" is more useful in the long term than "Gear up!" After all, gear eventually comes just from playing, but paying attention to one's surroundings is a conscious decision. Gear will sort itself out, but only players can fix themselves.



Account-Based Advancement
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 January 2014, 1:17 pm
I've been doing a lot of pet battles recently. I must admit that I enjoy them. The collection, the searching, the little tactics, all fun to me. I also like that it is account-based. This has a few advantages.

It gives me greater flexibility on what character I play, and even where. Of course the pet battles don't really use my characters, so in effect it doesn't matter which character I play because I'm not playing one at all, during the battles. Ironically, this makes either my paladin or druid the best characters for this. My paladin has the benefit of extreme map mobility, having all manner of tricks for getting around the world. My druid has the benefit of extreme local mobility, what with having instant flight form and travel form for those few places where I cannot mount. Yet I cannot mind that the game accidentally encourages the use of particular characters, since all gain the benefits.

If I happen to get a pet on another character, perhaps while out questing, that's great. This sort of shared inventory is helpful for that. It also means that I can park characters all over the place to keep an eye out for those spawns that aren't common. In those cases, I grab the first pet I see and figure I'll use a battle stone. I hate the idea that someone was denied any shot at all because I felt the need to slaughter the few available spawns in a hopeless quest for an instant rare.

As this notion of multiclassing (no classing?) spreads like some sort of zombie-as-metaphor-for-Communism I find myself wondering, how far has it gone and how far would I want it to go? These account-based activities in WoW are perhaps a first step. I have many titles that I earned on that paladin, all available to a stable of alts. Mounts as well, though thankfully, not the engineering ones. I'd not like that. Some pets, no longer available, are now available thanks to this sharing. All of these things that I think of as secondary are all things that I am glad to see shared among my characters.

Except perhaps the Insane title. I used to find myself wishing I could use it elsewhere. Yet, now that I can, I find it to be a silly idea. But that too is silly. It was not my paladin who earned that title. Certainly my paladin was the Bloodsail Admiral, and the extremely persistent pirate-killer; so persistent that by killing a different pirate faction I managed to get her to a positive reputation with everyone except those stupid Southsail Pirates. But it was my druid who made the Darkmoon cards. It was my rogue who farmed the junkboxes. Without them I doubt the title would have been possible. Surely it makes sense that those characters would share the title. It was a group effort, after all. But why should that stupid hunter get anything? Or that imposter new paladin who is Kelpsacovic in name only? Obviously I can choose which characters to give the title, so it's not as if some alt stole the title; I'd have to have given it.

That's what irritates me about this entire discussion: it is ultimately about feelings and feelings tend to be a messy, changeable, illogical thing, often with no basis in reality. I'd prefer to make decisions based on something concrete. In games the cost of working off feelings can be a few subscribers. In real life it can be lives and rights. I suppose that's my response to Tesh's question on Twitter. And I still don't have an answer for myself.



PSA: Notepad is the greatest program ever created
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 January 2014, 6:32 pm
Did you know that Facebook stores unposted posts? Like many sites, it uses scripts to store what you type into its fields, even if you do not post. Some sites use this so you can recover from problems. Facebook uses it to gather more data about its users. I'm trying to develop the habit of writing everything elsewhere first, then post only the exact thing that I want.

Web pages in general, and blog comment sections in particular, are not perfectly reliable. They may fail to accept your comment, losing it in the process. Who hasn't run into an impossible or misloaded captcha and lost their comment as a result?

Excel can be finicky about the data it will import and the way it handles it, resulting in fun problems such as an entire spreadsheet contained in a single cell.

Games may have hidden preferences that are not easily changed from within the game, but are sometimes necessary. Or they may be of the sort that requires a game restart to change, so you have to launch it, change it, and relaunch it. If only you could directly edit those preferences

There is a solution to this: Notepad. It's a built-in bare-bones text editor. Use it to write your posts before you submit them. That way you can edit out all your unflattering grammatical mistakes before Facebook can use them for blackmail. Use it to save your comments before Blogger can devour them. Did you know that Google's servers are powered by the energy of failed posts? It's just like how you could hook up a battery to your landline and then write your number on bathroom stalls to get free electricity. Paste your oddly-formatted spreadsheets into Notepad and it can often strip out the problems. In my experience Excel can easily import text-based spreadsheets, even if you don't think you actually changed anything. And finally, preference files are often just long text files and may even have good labels, so edit away, on a copy.

Or as my grandmother sang to me as a child,

Posting can be,
a nightmare for me,
so remember the keys:
ctrl-a (pronouced cu-ter-ul)
ctrl-c
and post
happily!



"It makes no sense" What is a character?
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 January 2014, 5:03 pm
In response to Syl's Instant Class Switches - The Last Bastion of Character Restriction

What difference does it make to have one character that can do all things rather than many that can do one thing?

Kelpsacovic is the greatest character ever, at least for me. I have all manner of teleportation abilities, but not the silly city-based spells of a mage. Instead I have wormhole generators, dimensional rippers, a magical ring that takes me to Dalaran, and a remote control that takes me straight to the bar in Blackrock Depths. I don't know if they're useful, but they are interesting. I have a bank filled with odd gear, many items no longer available. Some look cool. Some are symbols of a time gone past: gear from Naxxramas, a sceptre to open the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj, a trinket that allows me to see the ghosts around Scholomance, the Brazier of Invocation, used to summon extra bosses in a few instances, part of the now long-gone Dungeon 2 upgrade quests. She is a paladin engineer, my first max-level paladin, made after Burning Crusade, tanking, healing, and wishing she were tanking through Karazhan.

Kelpsacovic sits alone on Ner'zhul. Her guild is a shell. My rogue, my new main, is on Zul'jin. Another paladin sits on Wildhammer, the result of a brief experiment with playing with real life friends. As usual, a bad idea; compatibility in MMOs is why we're friends.

Surely this is an argument for unified characters. Why should my paladin sit on some distant server, nearly discarded, held away by the ridiculously high cost of server and faction transfers? Yet anyone with a bit of sense can see that the problem here is not one of character, but of server. Greater server mobility, perhaps even unified servers, if such a thing is technically feasible, is the solution.

I have a rogue. I do not wish for her to be a paladin. Or like a paladin. Or even paladinish. Nor would I want my warrior to be the same as my druid. I am slightly sickened by the thought of switching classes as if they were mere specializations. What is the identity of that character? It is me. Of course it always is, but a class places boundaries on it, making it less me. Surely that is part of the enjoyment of many MMOs, to not be entirely oneself, but to take on a different identity. In real life I am no paladin, nor a rogue, lacking the personality traits needed for either. If I were offered a character that could be an amalgam of any classes in order to perfectly suit my personality, well that would be a terribly boring character. I do not think I would want to play it. It's a fine enough personality for real life, but these are games. To switch characters is to switch one's mask, but to merely respec into something else, well that is obviously just insanity.

Perhaps in some games that makes sense. If the class were merely a matter of armor or weapon choice then sure, switch them at will; you might even get away with not having separate progression for each. Yet when character is an innate characteristic, switching at will do not make sense. Are our avatars now some sort of gods who can take on particular forms, but never more than one, or any mixture of two? In that case, then there is no class, merely a fancy set of spells for a particular role, with no identity. To me, that sounds dull.

Of course it is always a bother when there are these little bits and pieces that don't quite work with separate characters. The old attunements could be bothersome, as are reputations. A little bit of the player creeps out and insists, "I already did that! What does it matter that I logged onto a different character?" And then the bags get all strange, wondering where you left your crafting materials: on the gathering character, the bank alt, the crafter, the bank of one of many? I once had an addon that would store my bank and bag contents so I could look at what I had on other characters, but eventually it was too out of date to function anymore. These would all be fixed by unified characters. Or would we just find new ways to create the problems? Perhaps I want to start over again, to try the leveling game. So I make a new character. Oh. There will never be a perfect way to do these things, but we can move toward a closer-to-perfect way; I'm just not convinced that removing class restrictions is the way to do that.

Maybe I will find myself proven wrong when a game catches my interest and executes this well, but until such time, I say, it still makes no sense. I wonder when they’ll notice.



The purpose of badges
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 January 2014, 3:02 pm
When I say badges I am referring to the ongoing system that began with badges of justice in Burning Crusade and now exists as justice and valor points. Honor and conquest points are a similar system, but I do not directly address them here. One could reasonably draw comparisons to the multi-class gear tokens of Ahn'Qiraj as well.

What is the purpose of this mechanic? That's the key question for everything in a game. Presumably a mechanic with no purpose at all would get thrown out. What if the answer isn't clear because it is meant to accomplish many things at once?

Clockwork may be the appropriate analogy here. A part that is used frequently will wear out faster than one that is used rarely. A constantly-spinning gear for a minute hand will wear out sooner than the track along which the cuckoo travels once an hour. Yet a part that is used constantly may also be simple and therefore easy to replace. Swap out the gears and it returns to operation. The clockmaker may have even anticipated this and designed the clock so that those parts that wear out soonest are also the most accessible. A part with multiple roles, that is pulled in many directions, will wear out faster. But with many duties, it is interconnected, and therefore harder to replace.

Consider mounts; they increase player speed and they serve as a conspicuous status symbol. These were once intertwined, when mounts were so expensive that simply having one at all was a status symbol. Blizzard eventually made the riding skill costly and basic mounts inexpensive. Fancier mounts are much more expensive or in some other way hard to acquire. The Mount part had been redesigned into two pieces: a simple Riding piece that just makes us go faster and a simple Show-Off piece that makes us look cool. These can now be easily changed as they wear out; Blizzard can produce an endless stream of expensive and exclusive mounts without needing to remake the entire mounting mechanic.

Then there are badges. What is their purpose?

In BC they started off as a way to fill in for missing gear; they helped insulate players from the cruelty of the RNG. At this, they failed. The badge gear was inferior. Worse, it created a cruel choice. Do you spend your badges to fill in for a missing slot, which may then be filled the very next raid? Which slot? The RNG could not only torment you by withholding loot, it could do the same by giving it and making the badge purchase seem foolish. Badge gear fell behind raid drops, so another tier of badge gear was released, without any restrictions. This meant that players could use it to gear past their raid experience. Were badges meant to be an RNG fixer, an alternative progression path, or a way for players to overgear in order to reach otherwise inaccessible content? Or all three at once? Doing multiple things with a single mechanic is dangerous, as any change creates that many more ripples.

Wrath of the Lich King seemed to carry on this system, until badges became necessary for buying tier tokens. They became a gating mechanism. Or a way to fill up heroic groups, by pushing high-end raiders into trivial content. They were used for five purposes (or more, I may have missed some), doing none of them well, and causing all manner of other social problems.

Now Blizzard has simplified things. Badges can give some early gear for a bit of a boost to get into LFR, because in contrast with Wrath and Cataclysm, running LFD is now apparently a terrifying thing that the developers want players to avoid. This badge-based gear skip is redundant now that the Timeless Isle exists, but that's not causing any problems.

Badges can be used for very expensive and very tiny gear upgrades. I find this terribly unexciting, and yet, brilliant. Your fruitless RNG attempts still yield the badges that can upgrade gear. As long as you have an item that isn't going to be instantly replaced by the RNG (surely you've gotten something) and it isn't maxed out (good thing the upgrades are so expensive), then you can keep getting something from those wasted kills. It isn't the loot you wanted, but it is some advancement, some sense that you're getting somewhere, however slowly.

Badges have been simplified, trimmed down to a nice, compact, extremely slow treadmill. What more could a developer want from an MMO mechanic?



Bottled Bad Luck
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 January 2014, 2:37 pm
"Bottled Bad Luck - Don't drop it!"

Belghast brought up the idea of Bad Luck Tokens, patent pending, as a way to deal with long strings of bad loot luck. When a boss drops nothing for you, you get one. Save up enough of them, and you can mail them in for a cool prize, just like when you'd collect box tops from the cereal that didn't come with a toy, only to cruelly find at that those were "box tops for education", not "box tops for entertainment", which you didn't realize because you'd not yet sent in enough box tops to learn to read, and then everyone at the breakfast table laughs and laughs and you can't leave the table until you're excused and they won't excuse you because they're too busy laughing that you can't read and squandered your box tops on stupid things like notebooks.

Getting the item you wanted sounds nice, in theory. But in terms of the actual player experience it is a terrible waste. You want the item the first few attempts. Getting it is just fine. But eventually it's not about the item. It's about revenge. Simply getting the item is like when the villain releases the hostages and escapes justice. Or worse, they're caught and sent to prison and you never get to punch them in the face even once, while they gloat at you and get out for good behavior and Dexter isn't a real person.

I propose that, rather than a simple campaign of mailing in the tokens for the item, you instead get the item directly. Using a Bottled Bad Luck causes the targeted boss to shrink to player size, deal no damage, and die in only a few hits. And respawn instantly until you leave. Now you're free to kill it until the item drops, or all the items, without a week of it taunting you. Or just kill it until you're bored. Or don't kill it and leave it attacking you, fruitlessly, while you type mean emotes.

On the first kill the boss would drop normal loot, gold, and reputation. After that it would only drops items. Any particular item can only show up once and it is lootable only by the player who used the bottled bad luck. Bottled bad luck would only be usable on bosses that have been killed at least four times in any mode.

After the player is done killing the boss an NPC shows up and asks, "Was that justice?" You may answer either "Yes" or "No, it was vengeance". Either answer triggers a cinematic in which your character throws aside their lit cigarette into a line of gasoline that ignites the boss's corpse, and then walks away with a grim look (the line of gasoline, not your character).



Bring back the necromancers
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 January 2014, 12:34 pm
I have a rather paladinish perspective on things. I believe in helping those who need a hand and beating the crap out of the undead. Yet today's undead are so... dull. All the zombies now are essentially just humans that have ended up on another team. That certainly has some interesting implications and comments to make on tribalism and paranoia, but the zombies themselves are still dull. Part of the problem is realism and the misguided attempt to have it. We end up with diseases of some sort, which can only do so much to distort the human form. What ever happened to good old fashioned necromancy? It gives so much more possibility.

Of course it can bring up your usual dead people walking around, and even use some mundane chemical or biological explanation for it. That can get the scientists in the story and reading very excited. Think of when the Plague of Undeath first appeared in Warcraft 3 and it seemed to be just that, a plague, to be contained with quarantine and inspections. It turned out to be more. In the modern telling it starts as some disease that turns out to be much worse than we thought and then society collapses. But that's just "bad thing gets worse". That's not a story, that's a physical process, like fire, or plate tectonics.

Necromacy allows for a villain: the necromancer, or his cult. Now you have the story of the people who created it and spread it. This isn't just "scientist was reckless and made a big oops." This is evil, and toward what ends? Maybe it is power, knowledge, revenge. There can be an even greater power behind it. This also helps reduce some of the nonsense about how every time someone dies it's another enemy, since raising the corpses does take some effort on the part of the necromancer. If it isn't much effort, well then that's terrifying. It's one thing for a recent graveyard to wake up again, quite another for the ancient kings to arise with a wave of the hand.

These undead aren't stupid; they are mindless, being controlled by another intelligence. This means that a zombie survival story isn't a glorified version of "stranded in the wildness surrounded by really stupid wolves". Killing one means that your presence is noticed. You can sneak around, but you have to truly sneak, totally unseen and unnoticed. If you fight, you fight them all.

These undead don't have to be plain humans. They can be rearranged and rebuilt into other terrifying creations. They can be joined by other evil things, such as gargoyles, or reanimated t-rex. Who wouldn't want to see some evil wizard go into the museums and after a lot of weird yelling and lights a herd of skeletal dinosaurs come rampaging out?

The classic line in the zombies movies is that you can't join them. The book (good) version of World War Z had quislings, insane people who tried to join the zombies, but that was literally impossible. But people can join a necromancer's cult. Bandits cannot compare to the evil of the person who helped create the problem in the first place. The societal exploration can be expanded further when people can join the evil. What could make them turn their backs on society? How did they even find out about the possibility? Why didn't Twitter shut down @evilnecromancer? How will the courts and legislatures handle soul stealing?

Bring back the magic and get all your ridiculous scienceish zombies out of here.



Revolution 9
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 January 2014, 8:00 am
For years, the zero has reigned supreme over WoW. 60, 70, 80, 90, all part of Club Zero. 85 snuck in, but that was the worst expansion in WoW, so that somehow supports my point if you squint a lot. All the raids were tied to the zeros. Starting at 60, you hit a zero and you got a raid. Without that zero you got nothing but hints and suggestions of something to come.

Shintar raised a good point the other day:
Oh, and I really wish they'd make the Shattrath cooking and fishing dailies available at level sixty. That "must be level seventy" restriction is very out of touch with the way the game works now, only giving people access to something that is effectively leveling content just as they are leaving for the next expansion.
The zeros used to be the cap. You stayed at them and therefore they were the ideal place for content you spent a lot of time in: dailies, raids, reputation. But these days the zeros aren't the highest, but the lowest. 60 isn't the big number after 59, but the smallest number in the 60s.

By the 8s or 9s players might be sick of an expansion. They were probably cherry-picking the best zones and have run out, unless they really like old content. Or with the odd leveling curves they've finally finished a second zone and need just a little tiny bit of a third, and then they'll run off partway in and spend a day trying to not fill up their quest logs before they finally dump the old zone in frustration.

Why not lower the raid requirements to the 9s? It's not like the old days when special abilities arrived at the 0s or new ranks every 2 levels. Odds are you won't even get a new talent point with those only appearing every 15 levels. With the raid requirements lowered and the already-functioning cross-realm raid-formation tool players could easily do a few raids during their last level before starting a new expansion. Players who want to raid at that level would see more players, of slightly lower power, but more than offset by significantly faster queues.



Heart of the Swarm gameplay
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 December 2013, 7:00 am
Starting points: Everything I did was on normal difficulty. I only repeated a mission once when I realized that I'd missed a Xel'naga crystal while killing primal zerg. I played to see the story, not to hunt achievements or for speed.

Wings of Liberty seemed a lot harder. Some of those final missions against hybrids felt almost impossible, but I got through them, with some difficulty. Maybe that's because it was primarily a Terran game and then suddenly had strange new units thrown in at the end. Maybe I've gotten better since then, considering I've done some multiplayer since then and that's pretty good training for aggressive play and a good economy.

I did get a little nervous when trying to pop more scourge nests, possibly because I've never quite gotten used to dealing with creep tumors. And Odin (super-Thor unit from the first game) was a bit of a surprise. As a result, I didn't have any lurkers ready and entirely forgot about them. That was stupid and made things much harder, since I'd picked the type that was strong against heavily armored enemies. Don't use mutalisk spam to deal with Thors.

This isn't a criticism of Heart of the Swarm. If anything, normal mode in Wings of Liberty was perhaps too difficult. Normal shouldn't be a walk in the park, but the player should retain at least 99% of their hair during each mission. It should push you a bit, make you nervous, but should not overwhelm the player or make them want to cheat just to get past a mission. Heart of the Swarm made me nervous, made me step up my game a little, but never made me want to break any computer hardware.

The missions themselves were a mixed bag of mixed things in bags. There were some standard "build lots of big units and blow up everything". There were some of the indoor missions where you use Kerrigan and a few handfuls of units (these are the zerg, after all; even their sneaking groups are in the dozens). There were some odd one-time mechanics, such as the freezes, which were then strangely absent in the very next mission on the same planet. There were many fights that made me glad I'd raided in WoW; they were dances of keeping the important people moving and out of the bad stuff. From that perspective, the primal zerg were essentially a lot of trash followed by a few small raid boss fights. But maybe that's just the old saying, "when you need to nail something in, then everything looks like a hammer."

I enjoyed all of the missions. None felt like the same thing as the one before. Only once, when dealing with the scourge nests, did I feel as if the entire thing was just a gimmick dressed up like an RTS. Each mission had its own problem to solve, yet they weren't all quite the same, except for the common thread that tied them all together.

There was a common theme: Kerrigan at the front of the swarm leading a gigantic army. Wings of Liberty tempted me with all sorts of fancy things such as cloaking units and nuclear weapons. I guess that's the Terran way. The Zerg way was a whole lot of units. Maybe they were zerglings with an evolution mission to spawn three instead of only two, though I went with the hopping variant instead. Maybe it was my fleet of mutalisks or my not-as-vulnerable-to-missile-turrets army of hydralisks.

Whatever it was, I had a lot of it and I always had more of it coming. I didn't smash into my enemy once and then retreat. I'd smash into them and keep pushing. I don't know if it is more experience with the game or from playing zerg instead of Terrans, but I didn't care about causalities. If I took massive casualties but destroyed an important base, that was just fine. I had reserves. That was fun! It's all well and good to win with a superior strategy, but why not win with a superior economy?

It sounds silly, but I liked that the way I won was the way they'd win in the story: with a Zerg rush. Of course Kerrigan taught her brood mothers a bit of cunning, but ultimately the Zerg prevails through numbers and a complete disregard for casualties.



What is it with the damsel getting mad at her rescuer?
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 December 2013, 8:00 am
As the armies battle outside for control of the prison, the hero bursts into the cell where his love his held. She sees him enter and is, for a moment, filled with joy that he has returned to rescue him. Then she sees him. He's scarred and wearied, his mind and body burdened by the violence he has used to get here. He's not the man she knew. She storms out, disgusted by what he has become.

What a stupid woman, right? I mean, sure he did some bad things, but they were necessary and for her. She should be grateful!

He lets her go stay with her friends while he meets back with his war counsel. While she's off moping he continues the fight against their enemy. Is it vengeance? Justice? Is he doing it to protect her? Regardless, he's the one in the action. Of course in previous stories she was tough, and still plays the part, but now she's just a prisoner to be rescued, a ship to be protected in the final battle, and overall a burden with all her unreasonable emotions.

I might have my gendered pronouns backward in all that. The dark hero is Sarah Kerrigan while the damsel in distress in James Raynor. Of course there is nuance; it would be a terribly boring story otherwise. But there's the overall narrative: the gender-flipped but otherwise classic story of the stoic hero who does what needs to be done and the emotionally-torn damsel in need of saving.



Unlimited equipment slots: A wizard did it
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 December 2013, 7:30 am
Oblivion had staff as weapons, so you could have a spell and a staff. Skyrim uses them as spells, so you can have a staff or a spell, or two staffs, despite the fact that the only guy who uses two staffs is Saruman. On the plus side, you could have two spells equipped, which allowed for more flexibility and creativity.

And then I realized that it was all nonsense. I can equip telekinesis. Therefore I can equip anything, and with training, everything. Who has not struggled through the mishmash of disconnected plots to reach the end of Knights of the Old Republic 2 to see Kreia fight with four lightsabers using only her mind? Why can we not do the same? But with swords? And if with swords, why not hold armor as well.

We already carry unreasonable large amounts of armor in our bags. Why not carry them with our minds? Layer them, one over the next, levitate ourselves so we can carry the boots. No longer will the mage be a glass cannon, but instead he will be a magical robot, surrounded by shining shells of levitated armor, with a whirling corona of swords. Bring on your pitiful warriors, let them bounce off my armored shell of invincibility. If one item breaks, I will tear replacements from the corpses of my foes and with every one that falls I grow bigger and stronger.

Bow before me, mortals, bow before your doom!

OOM.

Oops.



The Recovery: Unfinished Business: A Story
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 December 2013, 11:44 am
In response to Rock, Paper, Shotgun:
 
The President wasn't happy about it. He didn't care how much everyone loved the guy, he wasn't going to allow Chris Hadfield, astronaut extraordinaire, and Canadian, to lead America's most important mission. Yet he remained calm. All he had left were calmness and two dogs suitable for kids with allergies, and any day now someone might leave a door open and they'd be gone.

With a string of profanity he threw it all away and threw open a door. The dogs would explore and so would he. And dammit, this mission was too important. Wasn't he always talking about international cooperation? What was that peace prize for if not for this?

President Obama; Chris Hadfield, astronaut extraordinaire; and SEAL Team Six boarded the ship. Fifty seconds later it launched. No one had their seat belts on, despite everyone taking turns yelling, "Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy fucking ride!"

Space isn't actually that bumpy. At least it wasn't usually.

Three missiles had already hit and shields were at 10%. They'd thought Valve Voyager was going for speed. It wasn't. They were outgunned and outrun. It was all over.

Then John Aaron's voice crackled over the radio. He calmly rattled off orders, everyone panicking except him and Chris Hadfield, astronaut extraordinaire. A few more switches flipped and shields were online.

Even better, Valve Voyager had slowed down to power its tractor beam. They were trying to trap the President!

But that was the plan all along. The hatch blew open and bullets flew. Valve agents were hopelessly outmatched. Their bunny hopping was useless. They couldn't see anything in first-person view. Defense Pattern Delta wasn't actually a thing, just a morale booster and an intimidating thing to yell.
 
"Hold your fire. Ganymede, Gabe?"
"Our own world to make, Mr. President. It could be anything!"
"You already had your own world. It was one of the best FPS experiences I've ever had. The characters were like actual people, the story was complex but understandable, the twists and turns and... dammit, you have unfinished business!"
"I have no idea what you're talking about!"
"No? Do the words 'Episode Three' mean anything to you?"
"Noooooooo?"
"Nice try."
"Okay okay, but we were to never speak of it again! It was forbidden. We made it, but it never got past the prototype stage. It's too dangerous!"
"Danger is my middle name."
"Isn't it Hussein?"
"Hand over the game. Now. Or I'll be playing a different FPS."

Gabe moved slowly, carefully, to the computer. With a few keyboard presses, no mouse, and far too much steam to make any sense at all, he copied the files to a flash drive.

The American ship, piloted by Chris Hadfield, astronaut extraordinaire, detached and turned toward the Sun.

"My fellow Americans, it is time to go home. Let me be clear, that does not mean that the Canadian astronaut extraordinaire is going to be stranded here as well. He gets to come home with us, but to Canada."

On the largest moon in the solar system two words were written on a whiteboard, barely visible in the distant sun: "Episode Four."

Weeks later, a man wheeled the flash drive down the hallway toward the President's computer. Men in suits watched, joined by one extra. Steam finished checking for already downloaded content, found it all, and began first time set up. There was a flash of green light.



No more crises in the sandbox
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 December 2013, 7:30 am
I like urgency in games. I like sandboxes or other non-linear games. I don't like them combined on a large scale. Full disclosure: I used the word sandbox because it sounds better than "No more crises in the non-linear game that also features structured quests" and I'm a paid lobbyist for a national sand and box chain. In related news, silica exposure is an imaginary problem, why do you think crabs don't get lung cancer?

Imagine that a cult is summoning a demon and that this demon is going to more or less destroy the world when it gets here. Certainly you're no going to jump right into saving the world; you are an exceptionally weak mage after all. But after a bit of practice you'd be out there investigating, turning in amulets, and finding bastard offspring. Oblivion is my reference point here, but the general notion is widely applicable in games that allow you to explore while using a crisis as a central plot point. The combination ends up being completely absurd.

The crisis isn't just rumor; it is often directly explained to you. In Oblivion it is what gets you released: the Emperor thinks you're the one who is going to save the world. The world could end tomorrow without your intervention. You opt to join a murder cult and hunt down old trinkets for the nobility. That never showed up in any training montage. Though I suppose it is a bit more directly applicable than painting fences or picking up coats.

Maybe Fallout 3 works better, at being ridiculous. Your father has ditched you and you've been kicked out of your formerly safe home. You set out to find him. But before you save your dad from potential death / reunite with your only family, you first do some things along the way. Some of these make sense: someone has information and wants something in return. There's not much you can do about that. A detour to slaughter a town of slavers or disarm an atomic bomb, that's just what anyone else would do, given the ability. Other things, don't make much sense. Do you leave your dad out there so you can find Future Coke for an addict? What about tackling a housing discrimination case? At some point I started to wonder if my character had an attachment to his father at all, or the reverse, given some of the dialog.

Far Cry 3 features a similar level of insanity. Your friends and one brother have been kidnapped, the other brother killed while you were escaping. Since you're just a jackass frat boy you're not a very good hero for a rescue mission, so logically you spend some time getting tattoos, which in this universe makes you more powerful, so it makes sense. Yet there comes a point when it becomes absurd; you're driving all over the first island for days, capturing pirate outposts, fixing radio towers, and going hunting, and doing nothing at all to rescue your friends or gather intelligence on your enemies. This would at least make some sense if it seemed as if it was the result of the player shaping events through decisions, trying to help the island as a whole before worrying about his friends. The delay is never addressed, and in fact doesn't seem to have happened.

That's one of the persistent oddities in open-world games: what you do in the sandbox stays in the sandbox, while sometimes your actions in the little time bubbles leak out into the sandbox, even undoing your progress or canceling out what you have done.

This is when a more personal (by which I mean selfish) story can come to the rescue, a story based only on the player. In Fallout: New Vegas you get shot in the head and that's about it as far as the main plot goes. You're not destined to save the world. You're just a guy who got shot in the head and probably wants a bit of revenge. Given the difficulty of travel, it's not as if the other guy is going to escape; he thinks you're dead anyway. In this scenario there is no rush at all, so why not go exploring? The world isn't going to wait for you and that's just fine, because as far as you know, you're completely irrelevant.

Or consider a game such as Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl. You have amnesia and a quest to kill a man, and you don't know from whom. Given that beginning it is not surprising that you'd end up doing some wandering and searching for odd jobs. You're lost in a terribly dangerous place, so making yourself useful to nearby people with information and guns is sensible. Eventually you discover a big mystery and pursue that, but at no point is there a sense that if you're not acting toward goal A, then you're putting your life and the existence of the entire world at risk. Though, it turns out the entire world is at risk, and you might have made things a lot worse, or better, or who can really tell given the strangeness of events in the Zone.

Adding some sort of stagnation/stalemate can help as well. One of my favorite game series ever, Escape Velocity, featured all manner of ongoing wars. But they were stalemates and therefore we could expect them to keep going about as they are without our influence. It helps that in fictional universes outside of Civ IV there is no such thing as war weariness. If the war isn't changing one way or another and you're just another small-time shuttle pilot, why wouldn't you go out and see the galaxy?

We could also look at most MMOs in which something is busily trying to destroy the world, yet for some reason we're off picking apples. Surely the locals would be telling us to get out there and fight. The government would be throwing piles of gold at us to get us back out there. Imagine if General Patton had decided that fighting Rommel just wasn't that pressing and took a detour to go hiking in Peru? We'd have put him in an asylum, or at least threatened to turn the whole operation over to Montgomery, unless the Englishman was off learning the bagpipes as a way to scare rats away from grain silos (if that quest does not yet exist, it should).

I love non-linear games, games where I can choose what to do and when. But when the game is overshadowed by an imminent threat, well that tends to overshadow everything else. It turns side quests from fun distractions into absurd detours that no sane person would start. Yet insanity isn't really an option either, because the games never acknowledge that you were doing anything other than what they told you to do. Instead you're apparently some sort of transubstantialmultidimensionaltwoinone being who is simultaneously inspecting caves for bandits while also not doing so, at either the same time as, before, or after, saving the world.



Escort Quests and Cargo Quests
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 December 2013, 7:30 am
Here's a organizational scheme to consider: escort quests and cargo quests.

Escort quests are what they sound like: you escort someone through some dangerous area. Sometimes they're just passing through. Other times they're doing something along the way. They might ask you to take the lead, though never as often as they should, or run out themselves. The main takeaway is that the thing or person being escorted could take the journey without you, but with far more risk to themselves. For example, someone gathering measurements of local deadly wildlife . You are a helper, not a mover.

Cargo quests are also what they sound like: you transport cargo through some area, which is potentially dangerous as well. This can be an item, or a person. This can be a kidnapping quest or a kid-carrying quest. The main takeaway is that the thing or person being escorted cannot take the journey without you, not because of risk, but because they cannot even move on their own. For example, any prisoner will at least start off as cargo. You are the mover, and quite possibly not a helper.

Since both quests can involve people, which do you think includes characters with greater autonomy?



Civilization IV vs. V
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 December 2013, 7:30 am
I tend to go back and forth with these games. I'll play one for a while, then the other. As I play one I see the relative flaws and remember why I was previously playing the other. It's a perpetual motion machine based on greener grass. What is it that makes me ping pong like this anyway? I mean, what's so different and so much so that I'd actually care.

Something that is different about which I don't care is workers. In IV they can cross rivers without movement cost, making them more flexible. In IV they use food, the same way settlers do, so it is tempting to delay them until city size is maxed (ignore this temptation; improved land is what helps your city grow).

Onward to the big things that make me prefer one game over the other, at least temporarily.

Vassals are better than puppets
Puppet cities don't make much sense. They're clearly part of your empire, giving you territorial control, gold, culture, and science. They have a happiness cost. They can be conquered by anyone at war with you without your enemy needing to be at war with another entity. These aren't puppets so much as poorly-managed normal cities.

While some measures were taken to reduce the habit, it's still easy to end up with an empire that is 90% puppet cities. These cities never revolt, under any circumstances. This looks absurd.

Contrast that with vassals, specifically those won through capitulation. A civilization recognizes that it is going to be wiped out, so it cedes some sovereignty to you in exchange for avoiding annihilation. You do not occupy their cities except those which you have actually conquered and kept. They are the closer thing to a puppet, being free to direct their internal affairs but following the foreign policy of their master. Under certain circumstances they can break free, sometimes with the result of war with their former masters. Puppets magically remain loyal to the very end and a civilization can even find itself with only puppets, clearly a ridiculous state of affairs.

For the player vassals also offer some advantages in terms of management. A vassal will defend itself with its own army. That makes them useful as buffers and distractions for the enemy. They will build their own infrastructure. A puppet city is entirely dependent on your army and workers. This means more distractions and more areas needing management. All they save relative to a annexed city is the production orders, but that comes at the cost of being unable to manage population; I'll trade some more micromanagement for the ability to avoid the AI-run city growing out of control. Though, I could use my workers to remove all food-producing improvements around the puppet, so then I've not saved any micromanagement after all.

Finally, I don't like having to keep playing after I've clearly won. Capitulation means that you can deal with a civilization and be done with it without needing to slog through every single city to make an empire of puppets. When you're the dominant power civilizations will tend to capitulate faster, so that again you don't need to slog through every single city to win. You can return captured cities to their civilizations rather than waste effort and resources to develop them to be useful to you.

On this one I have to give the clear advantage to IV.

Tactical combat is fun, but clearly cheating
I prefer the tactical combat of V. It's more interesting to me than smashing stacks into each other. However, it also feels like cheating. The AI is not very good at it. I can't say that the AI in IV is brilliant, but the stack nature means that there are limits to how much I can run circles around it. Economics are much more important in IV as well, since I am going to lose units; even with air superiority there is only so much I can do before I have to risk actual units. Nuclear weapons can eliminate causalities (on my side by making them 100% on the other), but they are automatically killed, so it's not entirely accurate to say that there are no losses.

Any time I've found myself facing multiple economically-superior opponents in IV I find myself longing for the tactical combat of V. It's a handy crutch for bad economic policy, or bad luck. Yet is that crutch a good thing?

I can't quite point to one being better than the other with combat. Combat in V is more fun, but in IV it is more balanced for the AI and makes economic decisions more important.

City States and Trade Routes
I like city states. They give us something to do to hurt other civilizations that aren't war. However, the AI isn't very aggressive about keeping them on their side, so these tend to screw up the diplomatic victory, which is terrible in both games, and the congress in general. The AI used to try harder to keep them but that changed at some point, I suspect because people got mad at perpetual coups and the AI's bottomless treasuries. City States also give us friends of last resort, meaning trading partners of last resort, and can act a bit like the vassals of IV in terms of acting as buffers and distractions.

Trade routes, though fairly recent, make it feel like a more complete game. They add more layers to diplomacy: losing a trading partner is to be avoided, as is having none at all. They offer some interesting choices: maximize gold, science, or spread of religion, or use them internally to boost production and growth.

Obviously this goes to V.

Gold
V gives the player something to do with it. Bribe city states, buy units, buy buildings, and so on. It is a currency that changes how you play depending on how much you have. However, buildings carry a non-trivial maintenance cost, making infrastructure a risky investment. IV instead allows you to trade gold for science or culture production, giving greater flexibility. You can sell off the buildings in V, but that is a ridiculous level of micromanagement for something that used to be a straightforward tradeoff.

This one is going to V. While the science-gold trade is a less-annoying mechanic, the general uselessness of gold in IV has bugged me. If players could generate a lot more with the rush function from universal suffrage, then gold would be worthwhile.


Interface and graphics
 I group these together because the usefulness of information depends on how it is displayed, which is in turn affected by how it can be displayed, meaning the graphical limitations.

The outdated maps (meaning that they don't update until you buy a map or send a unit to look) of IV tend to bug me. Expansion is hard to manage when it is not clear where the borders are. Keeping scouts out there is expensive with the supply cost and a general annoyance. It's harder to see civilization borders in general on the map, perhaps because of the graphical limits. On the other hand, V has a bad habit of not diplaying units or updating tiles to reflect roads and rail, so I'm frequently using f10 to get the hex display, which is ugly and a stupid thing to have to do.

On the other hand, IV has far superior production and happiness management. Being able to queue up multiple buildings is a great thing. Being able to queue up an endless run of a unit makes it easier to manage the logistical side of war. Not having three tiers of what are essentially just barracks means fewer hassles when gearing up for war. Of course needing to switch civics might sound like a hassle as well, but it makes more sense to have political changes to support war than to have, for thousands of years, been on a cultural war-footing.

The combat log in IV is pretty useful for figuring out what happened after dozens of battles scattered across the world. Even better, clicking on a note in it will center the screen on that location.

IV puts AI conversations at the start of the turn rather than the end. This means that if you misclick you can load the autosave and none of your decisions are lost. V places the AI conversations at the end, so you're stuck with either redoing an entire turn or saving the game at the end of every turn. Neither of those are good.

IV tends to look universally ugly regardless of the circumstances, partly due to the graphics quality and partly due to the mess of roads and rail. V is prettier and more nuanced. It shines and sparkles, but cities also burns, the pillaged landscapes are charred and smoking, and nuclear fallout adds a haunting glow. Fallout in IV just looks like any other ugly tile with a patch of ugly layered on top.

Perhaps I should not have combined these. Interface goes to IV, graphics to V.

Performance
IV loads a game in seconds, V can take several minutes. Given how much a misclick can screw things up in either game, but particularly in the tactical combat of V, loading a turn is a huge deal and not an uncommon occurrence. Turns in IV can take very little time, particularly if there are no enemy movements to watch, while they can drag on in V. The start times are much different between the two as well. The only performance issue that I see in IV is when calculating damage from nukes, and since those tend to come out near the end of the game, if ever, this is rarely an issue.

This one obviously goes to IV.

Conclusion
All things considered, there are parts that I like in both of them. Since it is the newer title, V is going to get more developer attention and will most likely continue to gain relative to IV; in its initial state IV was clearly the superior game. If V ran better, and perhaps with a newer computer I'd see significant gains, then I think it would become the superior game by a non-trivial margin. Until then, I think it is entirely a matter of personal preference.



One member online
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 December 2013, 10:19 pm
I logged on to an empty guild.
An empty glass is not half filled.
Many things to do,
No one to group.
Maybe in LFG you'll meet someone new
Yet they're only there for the rep
And any loot that you might get,
Will seem meaningless.
Walking alone among the crowd
Makes me wonder if I should just log out



A Timeless Problem
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 December 2013, 7:30 am
/w Want to group up for rep?
/1 lf rep group
raretimer huolon
RareCoordinator: hulon died 500 weeks ago
RareCoordinator: huolon died 5 minutes ago
rartimer hulon
when is huolon back?
raretimer Huolon
/w may I join your rep group?

The Timeless Isle is a nice place. It's sunny. The flight path isn't too far. It showers players and their alts with gear. I was glad Chromie sent me there, as it got my newly-90 rogue into LFR much more quickly than waiting on LFG queues as DPS. My DK will be geared up in no time at all with all the plate drops I've gotten.

I like the rare mechanic. Everyone who gets a hit gets a hit. The only problems are ones that I wouldn't directly attribute to Blizzard, though perhaps they could help with. First, it makes me very sad when a rare dies when I'm a second away. That is why I try to just get my hit in and then wait it out, particularly if there aren't many people attacking yet. Second, I get annoyed by rare timer spam. I'd prefer if the addons used a separate channel.

Then there are the rep mobs. First off, Kilnmasters are ridiculous. Get hit and you die. For hunters this is a trivial matter, maybe because of the reduced AoE damage to pets. I can solo them, but to do so requires either perfect rhythm back and forth or spinning it in circles. The former is hard to keep up for the entire fight while the latter means that I'm causing random instant death to anyone nearby. I hate it when people bring their kilnmasters near others for this exact reason.

The bigger problem is with grouping. Since the loot is so generous it makes no sense at all to try to hoard it by taking your own kills. Rep is the same whether soloing or in a group, so grouping means that you have that much higher chance of being tagged on a kill, plus a much faster kill rate. If someone in the group is a hunter, well then everything is wonderful.

Yet people don't group up. Every person who is there for rep should be in a five-man group. To do otherwise is just stupid. Every time I am there I try to form groups. Sometimes I succeed. If I see more people, I try to bring them in too. If I could get rep in a raid I'd do that, once the daily elite kill is done, of course. Though even then, I suspect it would be worth missing out on the quest in exchange for having a tag and five-second kill time on every mob in sight.

I wonder if there is another mainstream title that has a solution to this. Not automatic grouping, but something like what Blizzard already does with the rares.



In defense of big, bright exclamation points
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 December 2013, 5:30 pm
QUEST HERE! I HAVE A QUEST FOR YOU! MAKE SURE YOU GET MY QUEST HERE BECAUSE I HAVE A QUEST!
are you done yet? you don't look done. maybe you need to kill some more bears.
YOU'RE DONE! THAT'S SO GREAT! I AM VERY HAPPY THAT YOU ARE DONE AND I AM GOING TO GIVE YOU A REWARD IF YOU COME TALK TO ME!

Let's ditch that weirdo and instead get into the world, yea! Let's go talk to this guy, see what's up with him. It is nice weather indeed. That's cool. It's like a world. In the real world no one has quest markers, you have to talk to them to get a job. How about this guy? Kids died in the war. That's sad. I wonder if I can visit his kids' graves and drop off flowers for him or something? No? I guess I am a complete stranger. That's realistic that he has nothing for me. Maybe this guy. How's it going? Need to me to shoot any bears? Yes? Great, I'll get right on that.

Yep, these bears are so dead and this world is so awesome. I mean, none of those weirdos with the shouting and then whispering and then shouting some more. Pretty great. I kill those bears, sir. Thanks for the firewood, I mean family heirloom.

Hi! I'm an adventurer in search of adventure. Do you have any for me? No? Okay. Hello over there. You don't talk, got it. You, fellow, how are you today? Winter is coming? Yes sir, it is. Hello ma'am, do you need any help with anything? Going to the well? I could carry some buckets for you? No, you have it covered? No one fell in?

*unsheathes sword*

LISTEN TO ME: I am not here to socialize with a bunch of scripted idiots. I am here to get excuses to kill stuff. Unless you are going to give me something in exchange for killing something else, I do not want to talk to you. I'd prefer to not even look in your direction. The next person who looks at me and doesn't have a quest to kill stuff or carry stuff past people who I get to kill will die.

QUEST HERE! I HAVE A QUEST FOR YOU! MAKE SURE YOU GET MY QUEST HERE BECAUSE I HAVE A QUEST!

Thank you, insane shouting man.




Pet battles, the solution to Cataclysm
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 December 2013, 7:00 am
I admit it, I like pet battles. I like them more than I like doing Mount Hyjal more than once. It turns out they give a decent bit of xp. It's not a fast way to level, but it's a non-Hyjal way to level.

I don't like the PvP, mind you. My pets don't seem to be very good yet, since while I have a good selection of pets, my level 25 selection is limited. Someday though, I may enjoy it. I have this notion that I'll be able to watch what I tend to face and adapt accordingly. A bit of vorfreude.

In the meantime, I've been fighting NPC battles. It's been a romp around the world. At fight I'd think of what pet I was lacking and fly out to get it. Then I got all efficiency-oriented. Optimization is, for me, a form of fun, particularly when I'm the one working out the method. I like puzzles.

I switched methods to instead going to a zone and identifying those pets that are at their highest level in that zone. Once I have one of each of those I move on to the next. This minimizes leveling, since that can be somewhat tedious if done for its own sake. If I happen to get a rare that isn't of the highest level I still capture it, since a rat in the hand is worth ten thousand poor qualities in the bush. As I move along I switch pets in and out to fit the zone, thereby pushing everyone upward a little bit each time.

I've learned that strong against and weak against aren't absolutes. Thorns might have lower damage against critters, but critters often do lots of small attacks, meaning lots of triggers. They are strong against mechanicals, but mechanicals often use single large attacks. Similarly, while fliers are strong against aquatics, their rapid, small attacks can be greatly reduced by a shell shield. A critter fighting something with a shell shield is a joke, with swarms entirely negated.

As with all things that involve moving around a lot, a druid is great to have, popping in and out of flight form in an instant to hop over enemies and hop to pets. I pick up herbs along the way, which give a whopping more than 100 experience each. Astounding, I know. But it all adds up. It all adds up to my druid being 81 and a quarter without yet recovering Frandral from the cave, though I did do everything up to that. A few instances might help too. I rather enjoy Blackrock Caverns.



Quote of the Day: Where's Waldo and the MMO
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 November 2013, 4:51 pm
I found this in a recent Slate column about using analysis to optimize the search for Waldo. With just a few word changes it would apply perfectly to MMOs.
If you’re foolish enough to pull out your tape measure and use my guide to Waldo-hunting you’ll not only subject yourself to confused stares—trust me—you’ll also be missing out on hundreds of clever visual jokes (the finish line of a race with runners approaching from both sides, an ark filled with two of every animal floating away from a zoo), which are as much a part of the Where’s Waldo experience as finding the man himself.



Great guilds are more important than great raids
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 November 2013, 7:00 am
Not too long ago, Doone made his list of the top five raids in WoW. I tried to make my own little list, but I was hindered by a few things. First, while I've seen and finished all but one pre-Cataclysm raid, I'd done many of those during the next expansion and therefore with a different experience. Naxx at 70 is not the same as Naxx at 60, and of course neither are like new Naxx at 80.

Why wasn't I in those raids? Because I wasn't in guilds that were doing them. In Cataclysm I was almost never in a guild and consequently did almost no raiding. Ditto for Pandaria. LFR was raiding in visuals only.

If asked about the greatest raid ever, of all time, I will answer Karazhan. Why? Well it certainly was a great raid. The bosses were varied. Some were made-up for the raid, but many were straight out of the stories we'd hastily clicked past to get our quest reward or the games that made Warcraft a title that could sell millions of copies of a game in a completely different genre. Kara introduced many innovations such as tokens that reduced the tendency to get completely screwed by the RNG; a small, accessible raid; and polite ghosts.

Yet, why don't I say Ulduar? That was a place with a nifty story, varied bosses, and all manner of neat new tricks such as getting to punch a tank. It was perfectly tied into Storm Peaks and if there is one thing I love it is when instances are tied to their locations. The short reason is that I was in a different guild. I still enjoyed their company and stuck with them for a while after, but it wasn't the guild that I ran Kara with. I ran Kara with my guild, founded by my friends and me, filled with people of a similar mindset. Ulduar was someone else's guild that I was let into. Though in retrospect, when I took another shot at playing again in Cataclysm they were the ones I ran with, even giving up playing my paladin (it was on another server, this wasn't one of those "I quit my main to get into a raiding guild" stories). Just writing that was enough to make me start looking for them again. This is a dark road. :)

Anyway, there's the general trend: While Ulduar was on par with Karazhan, even a little difference in guild attachment can dramatically tip the scales. There is another issue though: I never finished Ulduar. We were stuck so close to the end, and I think slowly getting there and I would have gladly fought it out. Then someone set up a circus in Icecrown and we were off for some of the most forgettable bosses since Molten Core. My WoW experience was downhill from there, struggling through ICC, with Ulduar still bugging me, all because Blizzard yanked guilds away.

That brings me to my happiest time in Cataclysm. It wasn't a long time, but for a few brief moments I was back raiding with them again. I wasn't on my paladin. I don't think Dragon Soul was all that great of a raid. But I was with friends. About a week and a half ago I went looking for them, eventually going with the straightforward method of resubbing. Sadly, many of them are inactive now (not gquit), but a few are around and maybe more will come back. In the meantime, some low-key MoP is fun.

But about my top five raids...
Molten Core
Karazhan
Zul'Gurub
Gruul's Lair
Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj (20-man)
These are in no particular order. Nor do I suffer from the delusion that these are the Top Five Raids. They are only mine and are almost entirely due to my situation at the time.

Molten Core was my first raid. I have fond memories of fighting Garr, a fight which required many warlocks, and during which I demonstrated my creativity, figuring out, in a time before many guides were around, a better way to banish. Perhaps it was a small thing, but it was fun. While it was an amateurish raid design, it was also perfectly integrated into Blackrock Mountain, a place filled with instances and raids, all connected in one way or another, making it a prime destination for players 50-60. That made it a fun, or frustrating, place on a PvP server.

Karazhan was a hard-earned victory, fought through with my own guild of friends. It was there that my paladin went from alt to main, a position that would only be lost because of The Great Betrayal. There was such variety, such strange things to find.

Zul'Gurub was strange place. There are multiple optional bosses. One boss was different depending on the week, and somewhat difficult to summon, needing an alchemist and some odd ingredients. Another boss was fished up. Where MC was dull, ZG was bizarre and outlandish. Players could loot voodoo piles for a chance at voodoo dolls, needed for trinkets, a rare thing in those days, but they'd be mind-controlled for a while. The 'correct' response was to CC them, but why not kill them instead? In an era of 40-man raids, ZG only needed 20. Its loot was an unusual mix of purples and oddly-powerful blues, seemingly scattered at random. Even that long ago Blizzard was doing strange things with its raiding.

Gruul's Lair consisted of one incredibly hard pull and a somewhat pushover final boss. The Council was based on a good pull: get the mobs where they needed to be, attacking the right people, and things could go fairly smoothly. Screw it up and it's a horrible mess of everyone dying. The final boss, Gruul, was a fight about spreading out: he'd slowly turn players to stone, then shatter them, hurting those nearby, so spreading out 25 people just right was sometimes difficult. I'd recently joined a new guild, merging our fading one with another that needed a boost. They reluctantly let me tank Gruul, but called for a lot of misdirects, because "paladins have trouble with aggro." I proceeded to double everyone else, at a time when aggro wasn't a matter of sneezing with righteous fury on. That was a source of endless amusement for me. Even beside that, those were still days when paladin tanking was still in doubt, it wasn't that long ago that paladins were mostly just exceptionally mana-efficient healbots. Of course we were recognized as good trash and five-man tanks, with our mechanics perfectly suited to holding aggro on unlimited enemies, but handling just one was apparently in doubt. And, of course, I always pulled with my goblin rocket launcher, because if you're going to make a tank, why not do it in style?



If You Log On to an Alt
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 November 2013, 7:54 pm
If you log on to an alt he's going to want to run the new content.
Before he moves on he's going to want to have his professions up to date.
To get his professions up to date he'll need to farm some materials.
While he farms some materials he's going to want a zapthrottle mote extractor.
The mote extractor requires a delicate arcanite converter.
Since no one makes many of those anymore, he's going to need to fly to Winterspring.
When he can make the converter he'll see that he needs an arcanite bar.
To make an arcanite bar you need to log on to your alchemist alt...



Why does the Jade Forest anger me?
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 November 2013, 7:16 pm
I think I've finally narrowed down about half of my problems with Mists of Pandaria to one place: the Jade Forest. It's simply a stupid, terrible, awful place that sets up a negative vibe for everything else.

To begin: I do not like the hozen. I would have preferred that we killed all of them. Ditto for the fish people that the Alliance get stuck with. These are not new local allies. They are instead a collection of villages of idiots and are of debatable usefulness. Maybe things are better for the Alliance.

Jade. Everything's about jade. Jade this, jade that. The local pandaren don't seem to grow any food, despite eating constantly. They gather no resources beside jade and fresh flower petals. I've found no mentions of food caravans from the valley. The only useful export is its fighting pandas, who then go off to protect areas that are actually worth protecting. And, of course, lots of jade. There's a line between a theme and a total lack of creativity.

The Timeless Isle is not part of this, due to it being its own, not-terrible place. That's for another post.

Any zone will tend to get worn out when it is the only one available. Hellfire Peninsula wore out. Wrath of the Lich King had two zones to start with, which helped. Cataclysm had two, except one was underwater and therefore I hated it, so Mount Hyjal has gotten very old for me. Level 80 has turned into something of a parking lot for alts. And now there is the Jade Forest. Somehow it has worn out sooner than others. I blame the hozen.

In the run up to Mists of Pandaria many people complained that a "joke race", that is, the Pandaren, were being made into an entire expansion. They have not turned out to be a joke race. They've been given a history, a culture, and even some bits of nuance, such as the divide between the big brewers and the small wanderers. Even the Sha works well, as it can function the same as the classic "they went insane and now we have to kill them" procedure for generating bosses, yet it offers something closer to a reason. Granted, I am still a bit bothered by the notion of fighting the physical manifestations of things like anger and violence.

Instead it is the hozen who are the joke race. They're an absurd lot of stupid monkeys who talk like idiots. And that's all they are. They're central to the plot of the starting zone, heavily involved in the faction-based quests. It turns what could have been a great story of two invading forces struggling to survive, and if they're lucky, conquer, into a long-running joke. This is why I've concluded that the single biggest problem with Mists of Pandaria was that it was founded on a joke race, not the Pandaren, but the hozen. Though it might have helped if our introduction to the Pandaren didn't involve so much kung fu and jade.



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