Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ima Roll A Jaina

We only got to play for about 45 minutes last night, but were able to knock out a pretty neat chain of quests in Hyjal. I won't spoil anything other than to say that we completed the Thrall-Aggra chain.

Did anyone else tear up a bit at the end?

Not that I did, mind you.  I'm a Warlock.  Warlocks don't cry.

Those shiny beads were actually souls.

Yeah, souls.  I was filled to the brim with souls.  I may have tested the new animation a bit too much.  The buggers were coming out of my eyes.

I think I'd love the new animation if it were a little less... pink.  Maybe that's just me though.  Does it look pink to anyone else?  Even so, I'll count it an improvement.

So, just to recap: I was not crying pink tears.  Those were souls.  Harvested souls. 

In similar news, loved this.  Different tears.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

4.2 Warlockery

I was going to reproduce the Warlock notes... and then I read them. There are four bullet point. Four. Druids gave me finger spasms on my iPhone. We got four.

I suppose we could view this as a good thing: we're not being f-ed with.  There is no need to change a whole lot as far as guides and such go.  It's going to killing as usual for 'locks in 4.2, with few notable exceptions.

Here's the big one:
Glyph of Soul Swap now applies a 30-second cooldown to Soul Swap, up from 15 seconds.
Holy fel!  Double?  Really?  Was it that OP?  Well, that sucks.  It already feels like years before the damned thing is off cooldown.  So much for having a cool, useful spell to make us not suck on trash.  I guess I'll go back to living for boss-meters now.  It may be worth dropping that glyph for something else now.  Not sure what.  I'm going to have to look into it I think.  You're basically only going to want to use it to preserve dots from one target to the next, and you probably will only be able to do that once.  Count me in for AoE on trash pulls because that's the only way I'm going to be helpful.

Otherwise, there's some bug fix (regarding leaving combat while channeling Drain Soul), Soul Fire is now available earlier (level 20), and Soul Harvest has a new spell effect.  That effect better be f-in awesome.  Like, purple lighting should shoot from my fingertips and burn holes in nearby Mage robes.

For Warlocks, this is a pretty boring patch.  I don't particularly like the major change (can you tell), but it's tolerable.  It's doesn't really effect most bosses and it basically just puts us solidly back in the "stays on boss" class brigade.  No more helping with the adds or anything useful like that.  I guess it's a PvP balance thing, so whatever.

Good news is that there's a lot of gear (and some new dailies) opening up.  Saga's got a great little list going rounding up the new stuff.  Check it out if you're looking for something to make you smile.  Gear sometimes has that effect, especially when patch notes fail.

Friday, June 24, 2011

As Time Goes By

"I congratulate you," Harrison says after a prolonged silence.  The piano continues its song, providing a pleasant background to the clinking of glasses and low murmur of conversation.  Every now and then, the high pitched laughter of an amused woman can be heard above it all, punctuated by the answering rumble of her companion.  Though the veneer of casual celebration remains unmarred, one can't help but notice the undercurrent of intrigue that hangs over each table.  Surely no one in the Ramkahen oasis is exactly what they seem.

Valentis sets his drink down and fixes the lone companion at his table with deep green eyes. "What for?"

Harrison tilts his glass casually. "Your job."

Valentis allows himself a satisfied smile. He nods toward the other man and replies, "I try."

A short laugh escapes Harrison's lips. "We all try.  You succeed!"

The two men continue to drink amicably, forcing no conversation between them.  They survey the room in turns, eyes alighting on a giggling couple here, a hushed conversation there.  Harrison notices that occasionally the Gilnean's eyes stray towards the doorway with a look of concern.  Who is he waiting for?

"Don't you sometimes wonder if it's all worth this?" Harrison asks.  He waves an expansive arm as if to take in the whole world.  "I mean, what you're fighting for."

Valentis leans forward.  "You might as well question why we breathe.  If we stop breathing, we'll die.  If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die."

"Well, what of it?  It'll be out of its misery."  Harrison drains his drink.

"You know how you sound, Mr. Jones?" Valentis snatches up his drink and sits back.  "Like a man who's trying to convince himself of something he doesn't believe in his heart."

Harrison snorts, but does not correct the Gilnean.

Across the room, Decedereful returns from outside.  Her eyes find Valentis, but then sweep over to his companion.  She stands frozen.  From her vantage point, she has a clear view of the side of Harrison's face.  Something close to panic clouds her face.  For a moment, it appears as if she is about to bolt like a frightened animal.  Valentis wrinkles his brows in confusion, his eyes darting from one to the other.  Harrison sips his drink, oblivious. 

Decedereful seems to have reached a decision.  She snaps out of it.  Instead of returning to the table, however, she weaves over to the piano.  The placard on the instrument names it's operator.  Sam, it reads.  She would have known his name without it.  He is a longtime friend of Harrison's.  It is a bittersweet memory that informs Dece.  A memory she thought she'd left behind in the Lost City.

"Hello, Sam," she says.  "It has been a while."

The notes falter for a moment as the pianist recognizes the voice.  Turning, he continues on, his blunder unnoticed by the patrons.  "Miss Dece.  Truly, it is a pleasure and a surprise.  Harrison will be overjoyed to see you."

"I'm afraid he won't be, Sam.  Things are... different."  She stares over at the table where the two men sit sipping drinks.  She bites her lower lip.  "It seems fate has a sense of humor."

Sam shrugs.  "If you say so."

With a deep breath, she seems to summon the resolve for a particularly difficult task.  "Play it once, Sam," she says.  "For old times' sake."

Sam frowns.  "I don't know what you mean, Miss Dece."

"Play it, Sam.  Play 'As Time Goes By.'"

Sam finishes the song he was playing and stops, looking worriedly around the room.  "Oh, I can't remember it," he lies.  "I'm a little rusty on it."

Decedereful favors him with a reassuring smile.  "I'll hum it for you."  She begins with the opening notes.

With a shrug, Sam joins in.

"Sing it, Sam."

The pianist continues in a deep, melodious voice,
"You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss 
A sigh is just a sigh 
The fundamental things apply 
As time goes by 
And when two lovers woo 
They still say, "I love you" 
On that you can rely 
No matter what the future brings-"
He is interrupted as Harrison rushes up, furious.  "Sam, I thought I told you never to play..." he trails off, seeing Decedereful for the first time.

The two stare at each other and its as if the rest of the room drops away.  Sam, excusing himself, stands up and heads to the bar for a drink.  The patrons clap politely, but neither Decedereful nor Harrison respond.  Sound drops away and everything seems slowed.  Light itself seems to dim, sucked into the air between the two figures at the piano.  They are locked in a pouring of souls, spilled through eyes.  No words pass between them, and yet volumes are communicated.

After a moment that seems to stretch to infinity, Decedereful smiles.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Regarding the Dungeon Journal

I was reminded today by WoW Insider of the impending implementation of the fabled Dungeon Journal.  For those that may not have caught it, here is a brief run down.  As I understand it, the journal is meant to give you data on raid/dungeon bosses.  It will be part of the default UI and allow you to pull up a window which describes the basics about each encounter.  How, exactly, this is done remains to be seen.

I am unable to click through to the preview that Blizzard has provided today.  See the link in the WoW Insider article for more information.  All may be made clear in there.  This is an opinion piece, not a patch note debrief. 

I have several off-the-cuff thoughts about this that I wanted to share.  First, I guess I should explain that I am under the impression that this is a controversial addition.  I believe there are a lot of folks that disagree with the journal and believe it spoon feeds content or goes too far in a dumbing down or ruins the progression race.  I can see their point.  Yet, very simply, what is the different between having an in-game journal and allowing one to minimize a window to pull up a web browser.  (Mind you, the bleeding edge may not have access to them, but, heck, even then someone usually has a guide up as soon as there's been a realm first).  Just because a resource is available does not take away the free will to use it.  Should Blizzard instead lock players into the game, not allowing minimazation in and effort to prevent dumbing down?  The strats, the info, they're all already out there.  As far as I'm concerned, the only thing this addition is doing is providing and in-game alternative.

And guess what?  You can still choose not to use it!

Now, if it pops up automagically when you enter the room or something, then count me among the detractors.  So long as we are not forced to see anything but another button down there with the rest of them, I don't really think anyone can voice a true complaint.  Heck, I'll bet someone could/will make an addon that simply disables or removes the button from the a custom UI. 

From someone who is often looked upon to lead (be it in dungeons or raids), this is a godsend.  Depending on the actual information, of course.  I would love to have concrete data with regards to the range and nature of abilities.  Is it conic?  5 yard? 8? 10?  Avoidable or non?  It would be great if we're allowed to add our own notes.  Heck, it'd be great if we could share those too, but I think that's probably asking for too much.

Even if we just have a basic picture: "this is what he looks like and he does fire based attacks," I consider it a good thing.  You know we all tab out to wowhead or wowwiki or tankspot anyway.  Why not have something in-game?  In fact, I'd even wager that there are going to be key components missing that I wish were integrated that will still force raiders to minimize and use third party options.  Most of us will probably not even use it.  (This is based on the assumption that if you're out here, reading my blog, checking out stuff about the game... you probably are already comfortable with certain outside resources.  And what do the people purely in-game even care?)

There is one argument I could get on board with, and it's thus: there is absolutely no immersion to a dungeon journal.  I don't really see how it fits in lore-wise or any-other-wise.  How did we get all these sweet journals with all this great information?  Brann's been busy?  Thrall finally got a more detailed answer?  I'm not sure that this is a big issue though.  After all, immersion in WoW hasn't been dependent on things "making sense" for a long time.  It's just not a core concern of the game.  I'm okay with that.  If you're not, I doubt it's going to change in this MMO.  Look elsewhere.

There are some neat things I think they could do that might help with immersion (and maybe that bleeding edge thing).  What if the journal filled in over time, over the course of a server's progression.  Think about it.  Maybe right when the new stuff is release you only have, like, a message from Thrall saying: "Big fiery dude... go get 'em!"  Then, as we start getting realm firsts, it fills in.  Blizzard could even do clever notes from key characters in the story like from Jaina: "Guy sprays a cone like I did when Theramore was flooding."  Or Harrison Jones: "Watch the tail, kid."  Or Random Goblin #7: "Time is death, friend.  Better kill him in 8 minutes!"

Perhaps we could tie it to the individual.  Maybe the page is blank until you enter, then it fills out.  Maybe each time you enter you "discover" a new boss ability via "observation."  Maybe you give Warlocks the Libra spell from Final Fantasy.  Why not a spell?  Just sayin'. 

Anyway, I guess my point is that the base idea shouldn't really be that big of a deal.  Yet, I'm sure there are ways we'll all think of that could possibly provide for a smoother integration.  On the other hand, it's just another button.  If you don't like it, don't use it.  There are already better resources out there.  And if you want to go in blind and wipe a few times in trial and error, well... gl hf and all that jazz.  I have those days too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Skim 'Locks

Now that we're on the cusp of the next content patch, I feel like I can go ahead and ponder my more immediate warlocky future.  I'm wading through somewhere around 400 blog posts that I missed in four days of vacation.  I'll be honest, even if you wrote a Pullitzer, I'm probably only going to skim your post.  Sorry.

In my skimming, I noticed some vague feedback from the devs.  I believe Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street wrote about it on the whole water-cooler thing.  Basically, Warlock changes were boiled down to a two things:
  • We nerfed the Glyph of Soul Swap to reduce the ease of applying multiple DoTs in PvP.
  • We nerfed Drain Life because Affliction was forsaking Shadowbolt in PvE, which wasn’t intended. We want Drain Life to be for utility, not primarily for damage, and we want all casters to have to hard cast at least some of the time. This was done via hotfix and players won’t see a change in 4.2.
I guess we should be thankful that we have only two things to begin with.  This serves to reinforce my belief that Warlocks, in general, are in a pretty good place right now.  In fact, I can't help but groan when I see our name on the list.  Last patch we saw buffs.  Of course we're going to see nerfs this time.

I'll reproduce the patch notes proper when it goes live, but we can assume we're simply going to see a version of the above.  I don't like that SS keeps being mucked with, as I really like the spell and am afraid they are determined to make it un-useful.  I'd almost rather take nerfs elsewhere and keep SS badass.

I'm not very surprised about the DL hotfix.  The explanation aligns with what I had thought about the spell's purpose.  Still, it was nice having it as a option to lose and not feel like your damage was suffering.  I was never fully on-board with any DL filler spec, so it's not going to be an issue for me.  I'm not sure if I like that it was a hotfix.  Hotfixes just scream "stealth nerf" to me.  I don't like it when rogues creep around and I don't like it when nerfs are slid beneath my robes.  It just gives me the heeby-jeebies, and I'm supposed to be the one doling those out.

I guess what I'm saying is just... why the rush?  It would seem to me like hotfixing is adding another variable to the change pot, and it's one that, by nature, isn't communicated very well.  Why not just wait until, like, the patch?

Anyway, Warlocks of the World... of Warcraft, what do you think?  Are you, like me, generally happy with our class?  What would you see changed?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jet Lag

So we're back from our little trip out west. Hit up wine country in Walla Walla, WA. Good times. Now we're paying the price of a three hour time shift. Woke up at noon today and through it was nine. Then had to go to work. Ugh.

I'll feel clever again in a day or two.  Until then, I took a picture for y'all.  Fuu was looking at some clothes in one of the local shops (in between wine tastings, of course), and we came across this:

I thought it fitting.  Not as in the clothes fitting.  I'm not sure if I could fit in the clothes (though the epic one IS tempting), but the sign.  Apparently Affliction gives you like +100 sexy or something (if the price tag was any indication). 

In any case, I wanted the sign but, sadly, it was not for sale. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

And Then There Were Two

Major Strasser’s frown continues to deepen as those around him make small talk until his green face sports a canyon. Participation does not appear to interest him. Nor does wasted time. The Goblin can hear the gold clattering on the floor with each note in the frivolous song pounded out on the club’s piano.

“I am needed elsevhere,” he says suddenly.

Rising, his eyes can barely be seen past the plane of the table. Captain Renault gets up. Harrison and Valentis do not.

“I shall be along shortly,” Renault promises.

“Wery good. Zhere are ozher places to inwestigate.” The Major turns to Harrison. “Be careful vho you trust, Mr. Jones.” He looks pointedly at the Gilnean. “You vould not vant to end up on zhe vrong side and lose zhis… establishment.” He favors them all with a curt nod before marching away.

“Pleasant chap,” Valentis notes.

Harrison chuckles. “His type come through here every month or so. Do not let him bother you. This club steers clear of affairs outside her walls.”

“So long as we remain friends, eh?” Renault smiles.

“Yes, of course.”

“You know,” Renault continues, still standing, “I've often speculated why you don't return to Stormwind. Did you abscond with the church funds? Have a dalliance with Jaina Proudmoore?” He ran his fingers across his thin mustache. “I like to think you killed a man. It's the Romantic in me.”

“It was a combination of all three,” Harrison replies with a straight face.

Renault frowns and leans in close. “This man is here for exit papers,” he whispers so that only Harrison can hear. “No matter how clever he may seem, he still needs papers… for two.” The look he gives Harrison is dripping with meaning. For a moment, Jones is sure that the Captain knows that the Rogue passed the papers to Harrison before his untimely demise.

No matter, the good Captain has always been agreeable in the past… so long as he’s properly paid.  “Why two?”

“He is traveling with a lady.”

“He’ll take papers for one.” Harrison mumbles back. Much easier to deal with a single transaction what with Strasser sniffing around. There was no way Harrison was going to stick his neck out, even for the Gilnean.

“I think not. I have seen the lady.” Renault stands with a plastered smile. “Good evening, gentlemen,” he says more loudly.

Harrison and Valentis sip their drinks as the Captain departs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Another Weekend, Another Wedding

Yes, we are firmly ensconced in the "wedding" stage of life. That's the one where everyone you ever knew is getting married... and you're invited! In any case, this one requires travel, so we're going to be gone for the next few days. Back on Tuesday.  Thus, here are some short thoughts to tide you over.
  • Hot Topic 1 has been the changes to Valor Points - Lodur wrote a bit about it.  My view: I don't really care.  I don't come close to hitting cap anyway, nor do I feel the need to.  We're casual.  From that POV, it doesn't matter a whole lot.  I guess maybe it'll function so that we won't end up being as far "behind?"
  • Hot Topic 2 has been the changes to PvP Conquest Points - Cynwise composed a novella about this.  I made it most of the way through.  Sometimes I feel the urge to berate Cyn because he makes me read far over my quota of words for the day.  It baffles me how he keeps me engaged even when I DON'T REALLY GIVE A SHIT.  I mean, I've only been able to nab like 700 Conquest Points in six months.  I'm too casual in PvP.  I don't do Arenas or Rated BG's (I'd like to do the second one, but there's just not enough interest in my small PvE-centric guild.)  Still, it's a great article as always.  My view: I hope some of the prevailing attitudes change for the better soon.  Seems like there's a lot of PvP-angst out there (justified too). 
  • Hot Topic 3 is the whole flaming kitty thing -  My view: just one more reason to level my damn Druid. Still waiting on my Warlock flying mount.  Druids are so OP in the random fun shit stat.  But I don't advocate nerfing them to fix this... rather, buff the rest of us with cool class-specific stuff!  Why can't we all be on fire?  What about kitty screams "FLAMES" that a Destro 'lock is lacking?  Ugh.  I agree with BBB in principle though, and I totally remember the tentacle monster staff (as well as the fight... loved the SoC fight).
  • Finally, I'm going to try like hell to get a story post up on both this blog and my writing blog by the end of the week (this one scheduled for Friday, obvi).  Some of that may depend on the success/failure of hotel internet.  Wish me luck.
See y'all on the flip-side.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Polar Review For Portal Two

Polar because I'm going to gush. I'm obviously late to the party anyway. The cake has already been eaten. They already used the good confetti.  Still, gush I must.

After denying myself cake for so long, I decided over the weekend to pick up the Portal bundle on Steam.  I'd been holding off for a long time.  At first, it was because it was simply a "add-on" game with Orange Box.  It's not that I didn't believe people that it was "worth it."  More that my gaming time is pretty limited (self-imposed), so I try to wait for good stretches of time before I embark on anything new.

I'm the type of gamer that, if I like a game, I can't wait to play it.  I guess we're all probably like that, but the force is stronger in some than others.  For me, it swiftly becomes a compulsion.  I spend my days thinking about the game, and plotting about the game, and playing the game in my mind.  It was this way when I was in school.  Is there any surprise that I'm still this way at work?

Needless to say, gaming compulsions are bad for productivity.  Especially with a particularly engaging game.  Thus, I've cultivated the ability to set limits for myself.  This is why MMO's work well for me (WoW in particular).  I can play at a slow pace over a long period of time.  It's sort of what you're "supposed" to do.  I don't need to do it all (there's too much to ever do it all), so I can relax a bit.  Sure, when expansions hit, I'll experience a flurry of activity, but it calms down eventually.  Point being, I try to moderate my gaming.

Then there are times when you just want to binge.  This summer has been busy, but I finally got a weekend to myself.  My reward for, you know, dealing with life is to allow myself a short gaming binge.  The whole "I'm not doing anything this weekend but gaming."  Hence, I decided it was a good time to pick up the Portal games and attempt a play-through.

I knocked off 1 quickly enough and am on Chapter 8 in 2 (one chapter from the end, I'm told).  So, I think I did a pretty good job.  Now, before you think I was unhealthy about this... I got full nights of sleep, I didn't stock up on Mountain Dew, and we still made our wedding this weekend.  (Not my wedding.  A friend's wedding.  But we have a wedding every weekend from now until, like, August.  'Tis the season...)  Thus, it wasn't a complete binge.

This is supposed to be a review, I know.  Sorry.  I'll focus on the game.  I'm a horrible person.  She already told me.

I have nothing but good things to say.  Every now and then, game developers get a great concept and then really knock it out of the park.  I must stress that I believe there are two keys to a successful game.  The first is the idea, the second is the execution.  Very broadly, if you don't execute a good idea, you won't have a good game.  The Valve team continues to hit home runs with Portal 2.

The writing is top notch.  Laugh out loud funny... pretty much all the time.  I find myself shushing anything else in the room so that I don't miss a tidbit of dialog.  When was the last time I did that?  Normally I at least have iTunes on in the background.

The story is engaging too.  It's almost subtle, if I can say that.  I mean, the game is at the base a puzzle game.  A nearly lost genre that these games have single-handedly breathed new life into.  Nothing about puzzle games generally screams "story mode."  Still, I find myself engrossed in the lore, raptly attentive as Cave Johnson ages into a cranky old man.  The time capsules in 2 are just an amazing touch.  I feel as if I'm at Disney World... there is that attention to detail.

To me, writing and story are two of the most important things.  I'm all about them.  It's sort of what I do.  I think pretty much everyone else would give the #1 slot to what is probably most important: Gameplay.

The beauty here is that Portal is so simple.  You pretty much only ever use three buttons.  Blue portal.  Orange portal.  Pick up object.  That's it.  Yeah, you have the typical "wasd" walking scheme and... zomg... a space key to jump, but the controls are minimal.  You'd have to really work to F them up.  Even so, the game feels fluid and intuitive.  They took simple and made it elegant.

On top of that, the pacing is perfect.  Just about the time I'm thinking "Oh yeah, I'm the gel master!" BAM!  Anti-gravity fields.  The mechanics keep you guessing.  No single mechanic is overused to the point where you become bored with it.  If anything, I almost find myself wanting more.  "Damn, no more lasers.  I was setting things on fire."

Finally, perhaps that most impressive feat in my mind, is the sense of immersion.  We hear about that all the time these days.  Immersion this, immersion that.  But what is it, really?  Is it 3d?  Is it motion controls?  Are we wanting full-blow virtual reality?

Games like Portal and Assassin's Creed (to name another favorite) have gone "old school" with immersion.  They're not relying on advanced technologies or new controls.  Instead, they're flipping the tables and simply providing you with a valid, logical reason to suspend disbelief.  And, oh, how it works!  I would love more developers to take this lesson to heart.  We don't need super open worlds or visor control systems or wacky crap like that... what we need, simply, is a believable excuse to get lost in your world.  In AC, they use the animus.  It provides the reason for walls and interactions.  In Portal, it's as simple as "you're a test subject."  Now they can do all kinds of contrived things and it makes sense because "hey, I'm just a rat in a cage."  Alternatively, it's what made me say "of course there is a bouncing blue gel now.   It makes perfect sense!"

Don't get me wrong, I'm as excited for a true virtual reality as the next guy.  However, there will always be a place for simple controller games so long as the developers occupy our minds.  Gamers like me, we're completely willing to forget we're wielding a keyboard and mouse so long as you give us a reason to.  It doesn't even have to be a great reason.  It can be as simple as "oh yeah, you're in a genetic memory device" or "you're just a test subject in an evil corporation in the future."  What will they think of next?

(Note to game devs: All we want is just for your game to make sense.  Generally speaking, gamers are "outside the box" thinkers.  We'll get on board with your crazy idea, so long as you get on board yourself.  Too many devs fail and flail because they're unwilling to totally commit to the illusion.)

So anyway.  Yeah.  Portal bundle.  Totally worth it.  I went with Steam and the computer platform (despite owning a PS3) simply because it seems the most reliable platform right now.  Console world has been rough lately.  I'm in no way associated with anyone mentioned above.  Want a good binge?  Buy Portal.  You won't want to put it down.  It's joyride.  The cake is not a lie.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ever The Diplomatist

"I believe I need some air," Decedereful announces before standing up.  Valentis makes to join her, but with a simple shake of her head, she gets him to sit back down.  "Please, do not stop on my behalf."

Far more than six eyes watch the beautiful woman weave her way toward the door.  As she exits, a door opposite the entrance swings open.  Harrison Jones returns from the back.  His studies the room and then heads for the bar.

"Vhould it surprise you to learn zhat zhe Rogue vas a murderer?" Major Strasser asks after a moment.  "Zhat he killed a pair of my men for zhere papers?"

"Strikes me as a popular pass-time these days," Valentis returns.

The Goblin scowls.  "A deadly pass-time."

"And what if you track down these men and kill them?" Valentis asks.  "What if you kill all of us?  From every corner of the Alliance, hundreds, thousands would rise up to take our places.  Even Schnottzies can't kill that fast."

"Are you admitting to zhe crime?" Strasser responds, his eyes burning into the Gilnean's.

Valentis snarls.  "The only crime is what your leader is doing."

Captain Renault's eyes widen to the size of saucers.  He fears that the two are about to leap across the table at each other.  The thought is very unpleasant.  There would be paperwork, and questions asked.  Besides, there is no actual evidence that the Gilnean has made arrangements with the Rogue.  It would be far better to catch him in the act, scooping up the broker as well.  Renault needs to defuse the situation, but how?  Either way he could offend someone and shatter his carefully constructed position of neutrality.

"I don't like distrubances in my place."  The voice, of course, is Harrison's.

He has sidled up unnoticed, with a fresh set of drinks in his hands.  Casually, he slips into the seat that had recently been vacated by Decedereful.  He slides the drinks across the table even as the two would-be combatants ease back into their chairs.

"Either lay off the politics, or get out," Harrison says.  "I run a peaceful establishment."

The Goblin frowns at the club's owner, but says nothing.  Valentis inclines his head respectfully.  A pent-up breath whistles through Renault's lips.  Bless the man and his uncanny timing.

"Are you one of zhose people vho cannot imagine zhe great Commander Schnottz in zheir beloved Uldum?"  Strasser asks.

"It's not particularly my beloved Uldum," Harrison replies.

"Can you imagine us in Stormwind?" the Goblin presses.

"When you get there, ask me."

Renault jumps in.  "Hmm!  Diplomatist!"

"Vhat about Goldshire?"  Strasser asks with an evil smile.

Harrison holds up a finger.  "Well, there are certain sections of Goldshire, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try and invade."

The Goblin leans back with a puzzled look while Renault and Harrison share a laugh.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

QotD: Has E3 Coverage Made You Think?

With E3 going on, we've seen a lot of talk and news about other games in general recently. Since Blizzard only does Blizzcon, and we're in a holding pattern for 4.2, WoW is sort of taking a back seat.  I mentioned the summer slump last week, and it's already begun to color our raiding schedule.  Basically, we can expect from now until September to have at least one household away on a trip any given raid day.  This tends to hurt us more than your average raid crew on account that we have a good smattering of couples.  Thus, the absences tend to come in pairs.

Fortunately, we've not had to cancel any raids yet.  We've been able to find subs.  Which brings up the traditional question of whether to learn new bosses when you're down a regular raider, or to simply farm content with the subs.  So far, we're farming.  Changing a group make up even slightly can totally throw a new curve to old strategies.  Like Maloriak.  Hunter is on vacation, so we have no frost trap.  I suppose we didn't realize how hard it is to kite without a frost trap.  We'd had that fight down pat, but the removal of just one person saw us spending a few wipes on it.  Nothing major, but enough to be moderately annoying.  Still, I'll be extremely happy if we simply don't have to cancel any raids this summer, even if it means we don't progress very far because we're just gearing up.  If you're able to weather the summer slump, you stand a good chance of hitting the fall in full stride and closing up a lot of content.  I think we experienced that in ICC (coming off ToC during the summer slump).

Other than raid woes, WoW isn't really a full time job right now.  I think even the more casual among us have had plenty of time to exhaust the content on a single, or even two toons.  If you have a stable, you might still be working on stuff.  The one thing all this E3 coverage does, especially in a lull, is whet your desire to "see other games."

There are several games on my to-play list that I'm not sure I'll get to (our summer is quite busy with weddings and travel).  First, I'm extremely anxious about Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I plan to get in on the ground floor there.  I'd love to play with some other readers/bloggers, so when it hits, let me know what servers you're on.  Fuu and I would love the company. 

After that, Portal 2 is high on my list.  It's probably sacrilege that I've even waited this long, but I want to give the game justice if I'm going to play it.  That is to say, I need a good string of several days to immerse myself in it, because I suspect I won't want to come up for air. 

The announced Assassin's Creed expansion is supposed to come this fall.  I'll be awaiting that one as well.  I'm a huge fan of that franchise and look forward to experiencing the next part of the story.  It's another one where I'll want to have significant free time to spend with it.

Finally, right now we're actually playing a bit of Aion.  Crazy, I know, but Aion has a free 10 days going on right now.  Good timing on their part seeing as how I'm in a mini-lull.  Can't beat free for some casual play.  Fuu is loving the new pet system they put in.  I've appreciated a good smattering of added quests.  I don't think we'll be re-upping a sub, but it is nice to be able to dip your toes back in the water and see how things are.  They seem to have fixed a lot of problems since we last played.  (For example, bots seems to be all but exterminated, at least in the areas where I'm questing.  And I love what they've done with the map interface.  WoW should take some notes there). 

My experience with Aion makes me wonder: maybe MMO's should shoot to release on a smaller scale.  I think part of Aion's problem was trying to release 50 levels of polished content to immediately compete with the large games.  What if they'd just started with 10 (the initial ten levels were awesome!) and then released another 5 levels every month?  I've talked about being a fan of quicker, shorter patching.  Maybe there's a lesson there for a new kind of MMO.  Instead of large patches, what about very small, but very focused patching.  More like a "serial" story than an epic adventure.  From what I know of software development, I would think that such an approach would yield better results.  I don't know, just a random idea.

Has E3 elicited any random general gaming thoughts from you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

There is No "Acquiring Target" in Team

Ima go all Hot Topic on you guys again since, other than what's a-brewin' in the blogosphere, I don't have a whole lot to say. (a.k.a. 4.2-be-doo, Where are you?) In this case, the topic, filched from MMO Melting Pot, happens to revolve around raiding being a "closed club."  Now, I'm not going to deal with this topic head on.  Actually, I'd rather talk about the sort of side note that was brought up.  First, though, let's establish where I stand on the overall issue.

The whole "closed club" thing is, from what I can see, basically amounts to folks claiming that raiders are raiders.  That is, you could go from WoW to Rift, and the same people will be raiding.  New folks have a hard time getting into raiding.  The claims are that this is because that is how the raiders want it to be.  It's the old "No Girls Allowed" sign on the tree house door.  The people they don't want in aren't allowed passed the threshold.  Things like checking gearscores and achievements play into it. 

I'm not sure I follow the whole argument.  I've certainly never felt barred from raiding, and my group operates under some very unique circumstances.  We're completely as casual as you can get and still say you're "raiding."  Heck, most of us probably wouldn't even call ourselves raiders.  I wouldn't say we're "in" with the "in crowd," but that's the way we wanted it.  I'm not sure if that excludes us from the discussion.  Are we just talking about being a "raider" as defined by your peers?  In that case, of course it's going to seem "closed."  It's up to your peers.  That's sort of how social characterizations work.  Some group draws lines in the sand, others follow, and then the majority rules.  The majority of that group, mind you.  If the majority of raiders want to be exclusionary, they'll certainly find ways to do it. 

If we're simply talking about being able to experience raiding content, then I have to disagree.  Your experience is only, then, as closed as you make it.  I'm not the most social guy in the world, but if you poke your head around enough and put yourself out there enough, I believe you'll find some people of similar interests.  It took us probably two years to find a solid group of friends in-game that we could count on, but we did it.  You always have the option to form your own guild.  You can always start your own raid group.  I've done it in the past.  It's pretty hard work.  So maybe from that perspective it's closed too.  However, if you start to say things in life are "closed" just because they're difficult, well, we could make a really long list of "closed clubs."  To be fair, a lot of people already do.  Maybe that's just sort of how humans work.  We like having our own protected spheres.  Let the "raiders" have their title, says I.  I don't need to be acknowledged as a "raider" to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Maybe I'm over simplifying though.  After all, I didn't really want to write about the whole closed club thing, so I was purposefully trying to be brief (and probably failing).  What I did want to touch on was in the follow up that I linked above.  This has to do with raid design and is written:
"This is my current biggest problem with raiding in WoW – it seems the only way to make it harder, in the developers’ eyes, is to demand performance that is increasingly perfect, over increasingly long periods of time. Fairly trivial mechanics (“Press an ability button NOW!”, “move out of this area NOW!”) are made harder by shorter timeframes to complete them and reduced margins for error – and that’s it. Nearly all of the current raid content that I’ve seen would be better handled by a decently programmed bot, with lightning reflexes and no concentration to worry about, than by a human with the ability to adapt, improvise, and learn on the fly."
I'm totally on board with this.  There does seem to be an overabundance of individual accountability.  I'm not saying some reliance on the individual is bad, just that I've always viewed raiding as a Team Sport.  The emphasis, therefore, should be on the team, not on a collection of individuals.  It does seem, a bit, like we're slightly skewed the wrong way in this regard.  I wouldn't go so far as to say raids are broken, but I would say that future designs should endeavor to skew this back in the "right" direction.

I suppose I just feel that there are a lot of fights (early on, because we haven't gotten very far as of yet) that are heavily reliant on one or two key people.  I really do feel like a "worthless" DPS a lot.  Our success or failure almost never hinges on what I do.  Usually I don't even have to DPS well, because "burning" actually makes the fight harder.  Sure there are some "quick, burn now" calls, but those are few and far between.  They also usually indicate that something else is going to shit. 

Maybe the crux of the problem is this.  We complained previously as a community that things were too "tank and spank."  That DPS races were boring.  That tanking and healing wasn't fun.  What we got, then, was a de-emphasis on the larger portion of the team (DPS), and more responsibility on smaller parts to make them feel special.  In any given fight, you might be "the guy," which is cool I guess, but is that good for raiding?  It's not always a tank or healer, maybe you're the key interrupt as a DPS, or the kiter, or whatever.  The point is that it's generally one person, not really a group of people.  Then that one person is forced around.  Early in the fight maybe it's this person, but then, oh, it's focused on so-and-so, and now we go into the next phase where the Warrior needs to interrupt the super end-all attack.  It's basically a rotational one person show that gives the illusion of working as a team.

Let me moderate that last sentiment.  It's not all fights that are bad here.  It's just an overriding feeling of an emphasis on the individual when I believe the emphasis should be on the team.  That is no easy design feat.  I'm sure it is far easier to design a fight where you have several key points that can be passed around, but don't always involve everyone.  It'd be a lot harder, in my mind, to design a true team experience.  Yet, is there anything more frustrating than feeling powerless in a fight?  Than feeling like your goal is to be as unnoticeable as possible so as to not distract the rest of your team from what's important?  Than wiping repeatedly because the one person who has a really hard job is struggling and there's nothing really you can do to help him?

Maybe the answer, too, is that we suffer from a lack of inventiveness.  I'm sure if I pointed out specific times when I felt like this, people could counter with "but you could have used such-and-such ability."  That's probably true.  I don't claim to be "in the club," so obviously there are people with loads more experience out there than me.  Still, I can't help but agree with the expressed opinion that we're a bit too focused on the individual right now.  That individual abilities are a bit too unforgiving.  I don't want things dumbed down, but I would like to see more of an emphasis on the team.  Maybe I'm just too casual though.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm So Angry

I don't have a whole lot of rational thought right now. I'm just angry. Call it a bad case of the Mondays. Why? I waltzed into work after a particularly rough weekend... only to find out that the Internet Gestapo has struck again, this time blocking a personal favorite: Goodreads.

I am so horribly and utterly against internet filtering that I can't even form a coherent and reasonable line of thought when discussing it.  It's like burning books.  It just makes me so... asafldskjsdf.

I mean, I get it.  Corps drink the Kool-aid.  They think that we're all wasting time on the scary interwebz that they provide when we should be working.  They stand around the water cooler discussing it, then go out for a smoke break and discuss it some more, then shake hands over a table of discussion in a meeting room, then... oh wait, it's time to go home, enough work for one day.  Meanwhile, in the cubicles... I was at my desk, doing desk-based activity the whole time.  NO. WAI.

Sure, they need to block the pr0n.  And that's all the internet is for.  No one has ever used it for work-related purposes.

I'm getting caught up again.  I shouldn't be this mad about workplace censorship.  After all, that dude that walks around stopping at desks and engaging helpless co-workers in meaningless conversations about his divorce has been sto... [20 mins later] ... Sorry, got interrupted by That Guy.

My argument comes back to this: If you are a salaried employee, you should be judged on performance.  That is all.  If you deliver ahead of your deadlines on everything and THEN you'd like to pop in on Twitter and tell the world that you're going to be late for dinner... WHY THE F NOT?  If someone's performance is bad... then deal with that aspect.  Blanket solutions like a workplace-wide filter simply DO NOT WORK.

In lieu of something actually worthwhile to read, since you've made it this far through the rant.  I shall point you to BBB's article involving internet dragons and PvP.   Mostly because I want to use the following out of context with regards to the usage of Dragon as a solution for all life's problems:
...Surprise ambush by Rogues in the woods? Dragon. Attacked by an army of the damned? Dragon. Bar fight? Dragon. Behind in your taxes? Dragon.

It’s the best answer to any problem. Once you apply Dragon to it, it goes away.

...utility ain’t the POINT. I’m a freaking DRAGON.
To which I'd like to add:

Facing a work-place firewall? Dragon.


Friday, June 3, 2011

The Flower of Ramkahen

Halfway across the room, Carl and the radiant couple are intercepted by a Night Elf in a fine suit. His violet hair is neatly trimmed to hide the scars on his face. Even so, several peek out here and there, hinting at a rougher side belied by the otherwise immaculate appearance.  The Elf's demeanor screams "underground," and the smile he flashes seems tremulous at best.

"Valentis," he says in a low voice, grasping the Gilnean's hand and pulling him close.  Carl and the man's date stop nearby.  "We read five times that you were killed, in five different places."

"As you can see, t'was true every single time," Valentis replies.

"There are two seats at my table..." the man gestures.

Valentis shakes his head, still grasping the man's hand.  "No.  Ta though.  It seems we have already been claimed."

The man glances toward where the Goblin sits with the expectant Captain Renault.  "A word of advice," he whispers, "do not trust the good Captain.  He bows to the Schnottzies just like everyone else in this joint."

Valentis nods but otherwise says nothing.  The handshake is broken and Carl resumes leading them toward their table.  His date raises a questioning eyebrow, but only receives a shaken head in reply.

At the table Renault runs a hand over his thin mustache and stands.  "Good evening.  I am Captain Renault and my guest here is Major Strasser of the Schnottz Empire.  We are pleased that you could join us, Valentis.  Though we spoke on the eve before last, at that time I did not know you were accompanied by such a beauty."  He turned to the woman.  "Does this flower have a name?"

"Decedereful," Valentis answers with a poorly concealed scowl.

"Dece, please," Decedereful amends.

Renault inclines his head, scooping up her hand and lightly pressing his lips to it.  "My dear, I was informed that you were the most beautiful woman ever to visit Ramkahen.  That was a gross understatement.  It is a pleasure."

Had Decedereful been capable, she would have blushed.  "You're very kind."

"Carl, please, a bottle of your best champagne," the Captain orders.  "And put it on my bill."

"Very well, sir."

Valentis shakes his head as he pushes the seat in behind Decedereful.  "Captain, we couldn't..."

"Oh, please, monsieur."  Renault waves him off.  "It is a little game we play.  They put it on the bill.  I tear up the bill.  It is very convenient."

All except for the Goblin share a laugh as Valentis eases his way into the remaining seat.  Then, Dece speaks up.  "Who is Harrison?"

Renault replies, "Mamoiselle, you are in Harrison's!  And Harrison is..."

"Who is he?" the lady presses.

"Well, Harrison is the kind of man that..." Renault fumbles.  "Well, if I were a woman, and I were not around, I should be in love with Harrison."  He busts out with a hearty laugh.  "But what a fool I am, talking to a beautiful woman about another man."

Their drinks arrive, and silence reigns over the table for a moment, threatened only by the sound of piano that drifts through the air, the low murmur of the clientele, and, of course, that bubbly sound of champagne meeting glass.  After Carl finishes and departs, sips are shared as the new guests settle in.  Finally, Renault leans forward with a more serious look on his face.

"Last night, Valentis, you evinced an interest in a certain Rogue."


"I believe you have a message for him?"

Valentis waves a hand.  "Nowt important, but might I speak with him now?"

For the first time, the Goblin speaks up.  "You vould find zhe conwersation a trifle one-sided.  Zhe Rogue is dead."

Decedereful gasps.  "Oh."

Renault casually takes a sip before replying.  "I am making out the report now.  We haven't quite decided yet whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape."

Narrowed lids guard suspicious eyes as Carl returns for refills.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Demonology 4.1 Re-update

Several weeks ago, Blogger had a bit of a snafu. You may remember/have heard about it. Basically, though, a lot of posts were lost to the nether. Google did their best to restore all of these, and I got a few back, but apparently it affected one of my page updates as well. And that one didn't come back.

I figured it out later when I wanted to direct someone to my Demonology Primer, only to find that it was woefully out of date. I moved it back down to the "needs updated" area, and promptly forgot about it.

Anyway, I fixed it today. I already wrote a post detailing the small changes here, but now the guide should actually reflect them. Apologies if anyone has visited the guide in the mean time and found it in a state of crap.  Feel free to peruse and let me know if I missed something.