Friday, March 30, 2012

A Shadow Of A Shadow

Short post, but a well deserved Shout Out. Cynwise has been quantifying my feelings and expounding them in true Cyn-fashion. The latest entry in the The Decline and Fall of Warlocks in Cataclysm series was particularly heart-rending for me. Not that I have a heart, mind you. Like many others, I've felt extremely frustrated with my 'lock for some time, for all the reasons Cyn mentions. I could never quite put my finger on it...

I really hope someone at Blizzard is reading and taking notes. And I hope it gets fixed in Mists. I miss my 'lock. The real one, not these fake Cataclysm pretenders that are but a shadow of our former shadowy glory.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Original Sin In An RPG?

Here's a random deep thought I had today. It may not be fully fleshed out, but I thought it was interesting enough to share. I'm assuming if you're reading here, you've probably played some sort of RPG somewhere along the way. Could be an MMO. Could be single player. Anything that has you build a character, really.

At least one of these games probably had some sort of morality system. Sometimes it's clearly evident, other times it might be hidden. But it's there. My most current example would be the Light Side/Dark Side system in SWTOR. Bioware has been using a system like this for a while now. WoW doesn't really have a morality system (rep doesn't count), but there are a lot of other examples out there.

The one constant, as far as I know, across all of these is that the player starts with a "blank slate." We start neutral, gray, morally ambiguous. My thought was: what if we didn't? What if we had original sin?

You could take this deeper. Do people start basically good, or basically evil? Likely, it completely depends on the world and character you're building. But why not? Why do Sith and Jedi alike start off neutral? Are we to believe that they've never made a choice until the very moment that we rolled them? Is this sort of the Bioware "age of reason" doctrine?

Now, I get it. It's a game. Starting off neutral makes good gaming sense. Then you can create a simple system that revolves solely around the choices of the player. But I would argue that you could still do this with the original sin concept. Instead of grinding "good points" until you "become good," why don't we just average the summation of all currently made choices? That means, if you create a character and only make one good choice, you're fully good. Over time, you might progress to gray. Also, the more choices you've made, the harder it becomes to overcome your previous choices. You've developed a reputation, it seems.

Wouldn't this be more realistic? More fulfilling? And it doesn't seem hard to implement. Today, most choices are worth some sort of points, and they are additive. Just make all choices worth "the full bar," and then average them. Done.

Syp over at Bio Break inspired this idea. He's writing specifically about LOTR's virtue system, and mentions several things. I'm not familiar with the Ultima X system, but it sounds like it was a bit different from what we're used to. Maybe there are other examples I'm not aware of as well. Feel free to point them out in the comments. I guess all I'm saying is that I'd like to see more thought given to these systems in general. The current "grind to good" (or evil), is growing stale, and I'm not sure it even makes sense.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Dream (PvP) Team

Saw this on BBB's blog today. All I want to say is: Dibs on being on Cynwise's team. I'll even take Gnomer if we can figure out some across-the-Earth thing, (even though he's a mage). Can we have a fantasy draft? I'll need some sort of Average Honor Per Battleground (AH/BG) stats for appropriate judgement. Or what would be the best stat of effectiveness?

I don't think I count as a PvP blogger, though. Maybe I'm more of an alternate, since I've mentioned PvP occasionally at least. And I'm not sure my WoW toon is geared well enough to be less than a burden on the pros out there. I'm about one season behind. I can look pretty. And fight on the flag. And set a mean mid-map pick for the FC (Frost DKs can be supremely annoying).

My Jedi is damn near Battlemaster, though. Decked out. Not that that improves my odds of being chosen on any Dream Team. (The odds are not in my favor, much like a certain Everdeen.)

I think a blogger PvP brawl is a great idea. I don't have the wherewithal to set it up, but it's a great idea. Maybe BBB should pawn it off on Hugh again. ;-)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shake That Shadow Maker

I received a rather interesting comment for consideration yesterday. It was on my "No Beta" post, asking a pretty specific question. Namely: As an Affliction Warlock, how do you manage heavy-movement fights? The commenter, Sibylle, pointed out that there didn't seem to be many guides or help-articles around the blogosphere covering this topic. Thus, I decided I'd give it the old college try.

I guess I should start out with the caveats. Any too-good-to-be-true offer has fine print, right? Why should this potentially helpful article be different?

In my best legal radio announcer's voice: /deep breath. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author who, though having played an Affliction Warlock for many years is no longer raiding. His raid group dissolved and he has yet to finish the DS fights, which is probably really sad. Still, he's making the most of it by, well, waiting for the next expansion. The point here is that he may not be on the up-and-up about the newer fights. /deep breath

Sibylle asks specifically about Morchok, which I've actually done a decent amount, so I should be able to help there. Also, I think a lot of what I'll say is generally applicable. Still, I know I have a couple more-shadowy-than-I Warlocks lurking out there that may know things I've missed. (Poneria of the Blood Pact, I'm looking at you. I'll beta-read for you any time, just shoot me an email. You're a rock star in my grimoire. Also, you're blocked at work, hence why you're getting the comment here, in the middle of an article. Convenient, no?) Feel free to help our fellow 'lock out in the comments with some specific tips on DS fights.

If memory serves, on Morchok the basic idea is that you have a small bunch of ranged that are on "shard duty." They have to close with a randomly spawning shard to decrease damage, and do it quickly. Also, there's the whole run-behind-a-rock phase as well. Those are pretty much the two "problem zones," right? (I'm going to assume that most of the folks reading this know what to do if you're just standing there, not chasing anything. If not, check out my guides and feel free to ask questions to that effect.)

Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot you can do running to the shard. It spawns randomly, making it hard to anticipate. Your raid leader can help by positioning folks to minimize the running. That is, we used to just spread out as ranged, and the three nearest did the running. Sometimes, they assign runners though, and if you're one of them and a shard doesn't spawn nearby, it's going to suck.

Even in the worst case, we can do a few things. You have Fel Fire to keep UA up. Corr and BoA/D are instant, so you can keep those up. That alone should keep you from bottoming out. If you get a lucky nightfall proc, that's a bonus. The general idea when running is to keep an eye on all of your instants. Don't let them fall off. Sometimes it goes against the stand-and-sling rotation, I know. For instance, you may want to clip your DoTs (*gasp*), but look at it this way: anything you take care of while running is something you don't have to take care of while standing. It may not be mana-ideal, but you can keep DPS flowing and that's your #1 job.

While running to the shard sucks, running back should be the easy part. I mean, you did drop your demonic portal, right? Right?! If not, it's okay, that's one of my fails, too. After the first run of shame back to your starting point, you'll be like: oh yeah, I should drop that. The portal lets you get back to point A in a green flash, and back to casting right away. Proper portal use is key to minimizing problem zones in a fight. Clever use can almost always boost your deeps.

Bonus, the portal can help you in the hide-behind-a-rock phase, too. He'll yank you in, you port back out. Generally, this lets me find a rock earlier and, in some case, find a space that lets me still DPS the boss. This trick is dependent on lucky rock placement. You have to get it where the safe, non-ink zone allows you to stand and not be LOS'ed from the boss. Porting out, giving yourself more time to look for a spot, only improves your odds.

So, the crux (horcrux?) of performing on the run seems to be possible to distill to two main points:
  1. Pay attention to your instants. Refresh on the run what you can, freeing up more standing time for cast-time only spells.
  2. Figure out the best use of your Demonic Portal. This will vary between fights and mechanics, but can usually go a long ways to smoothing out the dead zones in your DPS. It is almost always worth dropping, even if you forget before the fight.
By focusing and improving in those two areas, I've generally been able to out-perform my companions. Affliction 'locks have a bit of a perk when it comes to movement fights, as we can keep up a full contingent of DoTs even on the move. We only miss out on the filler spam, really, and generally I'll spam Fel Fire if all my instants are in good shape. Again, you have to be careful about mana consumption, as you'll probably need to tap after Fel Fire spam, but if your health is not in jeopardy, it shouldn't be a problem (plus it's another thing we can do on the run).

I'll touch on one more trick before I wrap this up. Soul Swap is a great spell to remember to use. A lot of fights combine movement with refocusing on a second target. Sometimes this is adds, sometimes the head, or leg, or whatever. Affliction Warlocks are going to suck on anything short lived (fair warning), but if you just need to bump over sustained DPS (think of the dogs in the Shannox fight), proper use of SS can be a solid bump to the deeps. The inhale lasts for longer than you think, so it's often possible to suck in the dots, let the new thingy spawn, and then exhale on the run (both are instants).

Hopefully this helps. It's not so much a guide as a springboard for specific ideas. The keys can vary widely from fight to fight (especially with portal placement and SS usage), but the basic ideas are the same. Sibylle (and others), if there are other specific fights that are hamstringing you (I think I covered Morchok well enough?), feel encouraged to mention them in comments. Me, or other more shadowy readers will likely have a few tips and tricks. This is a great topic, and a place where I feel like Aff'locks can shine, but definitely requires clever play.

Friday, March 23, 2012

No Beta

No, I didn't get a beta invite. At least not yet. I'm stuck reading from the sidelines with most everyone else.Which also means that I have no answers... only questions. Questions I've not seen adequate answers to (though, admittedly, I may just not have looked hard enough). In random-stream-of-consciousness style, here's the list of questions running through my brain. Feel free to answer in comments with exposition or linkies, whatever's clever.
  • What's up with new Warlock pets? Seriously, just caught some pics today, are all those talents going to be in the demo tree?
  • While we're on that thought, has anyone seen anything about Affliction Warlocks? Specifically, wtf we're going to do with soul shards now? I mean new information here. I remember what they said back in the day, but has anything actually been implemented? Or are we all just going Demo this x-pac because they're going to make it too awesome not to?
  • AoE Loot. Fuck yeah. (Pardon my demonic, but it is warranted in this case. Also, there is no question here. It just needed to be said.)
  • When does Diablo come out again? Seriously, I thought this was announced but it was promptly driven from my brain. May 15th, right?
  • Is Pandaria really that pretty? I've seen some raving-lunatic-like pronunciations. How much can they really do with this ancient engine? I don't mean this to sound as negative as it sounds, but I guess I just have a hard time believing the OMG IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL crowd. Like, maybe I'm just jealous. Green is a good color of me.
  • GREEN FIRE. (Sorry, spontaneous combustion happens.)
  • Going back to the pets... am I in danger of not using my felpup? Floaty eye =/= felpup. Just sayin'. 
  • Can we, instead, get a felpup update with little bits of mage stuck in its teeth?
Okay, I'm just getting silly now. It's Friday. Brain wants to go to lunch. This will have to be it for now. Feel free to add your own questions (if you're not in the beta) or answer them (if you are or are just well-informed).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Flash Fiction With Friends

I generally shy away from writing contests. I don't know why. I suppose it's just hard for me to write on command. Plus, I suffer from the writer's common cold. You know, the "I'm not good enough" one?  Still, it's a BBB writing contest. That's pretty hard to resist if you ask me. But, but... I'm running out of time and work was really hard today and my brain is coasting and I don't have a whole lot of time before I need to get out of here and do another things and if I leave without doing it, I'm never going to do it and...

Okay. I can do this. Flash Fiction, 100 words or less. Go:
The slender elf leafed through the tavern’s gift shop rack. “Does liking this make me vain?” she asked, holding up a pair of tights.

“It says juicy on the butt,” was the dry reply from the dwarf.

“You’re right, it doesn’t hold a torch to the ones with the see-through star.”

The dwarf rolled her eyes. “Why don’t you just get one that says ‘shaft please?’”

The elf shot her a puzzled look. “Where’s that one hidden?”
 77  words. Not bad. Nailed all the prompts, too. Now, I just need to put a link in BBB's post comments.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Information Overload -or- My Top Three

I mentioned that the MoP NDA was lifted yesterday, and floods of information resulted. On the SWTOR front, they're getting ready to release a giant 1.2 content patch. Thus, the wires I watch are blazing with the fires of fresh knowledge right now. My poor brain is a bit overwhelmed, and I'm probably missing a great deal.

Here's what I think I'm looking forward to in Mists:
  • Scenarios - Right up my alley.
  • WoW Farmville - Yes, I'm looking forward to this. I don't know why. I didn't play a lot of Farmville. I think I saw someone, somewhere call this "backdoor player housing." That's probably why I'm excited.
  • Horde Destruction - We get to kill Garrosh and maybe be the heroes that we're supposed to be. And people are whining already about the Alliance "winning." All I can say is: It's about felling time we won something.
Why those three thing stuck out to me, I have no idea. That's just what's getting through right now.

And for TOR 1.2, here's what I'm liking:
  • Artificing improvements - namely more color crystal choices and PvP specific crafting (I believe the term "closed loop" was used).
  • A diversification of PvP gear - That is, we should be able to remove mods and put them into different orange items (so we're not stuck with the PvP-specific purples like everyone else).
  • Legacy! - It's about time those levels mean something.
That's the top three I'm seeing there. Also, the free weekend was apparently a hit, so cheers to that. I'm glad that there may be more. I have a few friends I'd like to force (get it!) into playing.

I guess you could say these are my top three things for each game. At the very least, they're what I'm focused on today. Tomorrow that may change. What are your top three today? Pick either game, or both!

Monday, March 19, 2012

MoP NDA Lifted

The flood gates have opened and Pandas are pouring forth in a furry tide of information. I've not had a chance to review much yet, but wanted to link over to a well-organized post at ZAM. They have links to most of the highlights. There is a lot that sounds really cool. But, then again, Cataclysm sounded really cool, too (and was at the start, to be fair... it just petered out for me). I remain, still, cautiously optimistic... though I'd really love to see Aff'locks given some love for once. Demo and Destro have gotten all the new shit (so far, from what I've read), while we're stuck in the mud. I know we're badass and in a cool place, but is it too much to ask for some breadcrumbs? Maybe I've just missed them. If so, show me the way!

Everyone seems to be doing "things to get excited about posts," so I won't bore you with more of the same. To me, the biggest "thing to get excited about" is the fact that this patch seems like serious business. There's a lot going on. It doesn't look like they're phoning this one in.

Now, if we could only get green fire... right Poneria?

Friday, March 16, 2012

I Hate Tharzog

If that name rings a bell for you, it's probably because you've played Lord of the Rings: War in the North. You'll recall that he's the big one, and the Dwarf is excited for the challenge. In fact, you can probably recite the entry lines to this first boss.

War in the North is a pretty run-of-the-mill button masher, set in the LOTR IP. We're playing it on PS3, though it's available on other platforms. There are some RPG elements, like a talent tree and equipment slots. The story is pretty much on rails, though you have conversation options, but they don't appear to effect anything.

It's a simple, straightforward game. Nothing groundbreaking, yet it's been pretty fun so far. It' a great game for playing co-op with your brother while he's visiting for a week over spring break. All good, until we got to the first boss.

Chieftain Tharzog was, well, awful. It took us three days to kill him. Three days of wiping as if we were raiding or something. The fight represents all that is soulless and wrong with game design.

Now, don't get me wrong, once we got through the boss, we've gone back to enjoying the game. Even with the three day frustration, I've not been spoiled on it. It's a nice little side break from my general MMO fare.

But Tharzog made me want to punch a developer. There's a big boss, and then constantly re-spawning adds. Four of them, at all times, and three of you. One person could tank the adds, but they die pretty fast. Also, you don't really hold aggro. The big guy himself isn't too bad, but his guards hit like trucks, too. And once you get in the room, you can't go back and level any more or anything like that. You  just have to l2play, or perish.

I don't like such a challenging fight so early in a game. From all I've been able to look up online, there is no trick strategy we were missing out on. You just have to get lucky, time your rezzes right, and hope for the best. You don't even have a whole lot of abilities at this point (being as you've not leveled a lot yet). It's just dumb and discouraging. Save the ball-breaker fights for later, says I.

Any of the rest of you play this game? Do you have similar nightmares about Tharzog? Google tells me I'm not alone in my frustration. And we're passed it now. The game is fun. Similar, I think, to Diablo (or at least what I've heard about Diablo), so if you're looking for something to do in the mean time... maybe worth checking out. Just... don't let that first boss get to you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

#SWTOR - Stung

My brain is still trying to catch up with Daylight Savings Time. Springing ahead is always the worst of the two temporal tweaks for me. Thus, today you get a picture post. Yay, shiny.

I'd been on a vehicle hunt for a while in TOR. I've been PvP'ing my little heart out, and the nice thing about completing the stable of PvP quests is that you slowly accumulate credits. I've amassed a decent amount (~1.5 million) and wanted a new speeder. Something different than the Aratech Scythe that everyone has (because it's easy to snag on the Fleet). Torhead is pretty useful, so I simply began browsing the vehicle section, looking for a 110% mount that I like. I'm not big on the huge hovercraft, and wanted more of an old school speeder look. And by "old school," I mean futuristic look, since Return of the Jedi takes place in the galactic future.

The Lhosan speeders fit the bill pretty nicely. So I focused on what they had to offer, settling on the Stinger almost immediately. It's aptly named, as you'll see, and at under 100k creds... a complete steal. Here's a pic with me on the planet of purchase, Voss:

A rather pretty picture, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

About That Ressurection Scroll...

I don't much care for it. At least the perks. Specifically the "free bump to 80" perk. I guess I can deal with the mount. I don't know. Maybe this is a fail subject to begin with. I mean, I'm not really playing WoW. The only sort of logging in I did was to update my apparently WoW-specific credit card information (even though my preferred method is charging to a different card... the old one had expired. Stupid that I have to change it in two places, but that's another tale).

It's sad to say I'm not playing WoW. Does that make me a bad blogger? This is, theoretically, a WoW blog. I've consciously chosen to simply blog about other games here because I'm too lazy to set up a new blog. Plus, I'm not giving up on WoW. I have the Annual Pass. I will be back for MoP. I'll likely be dabbling in Diablo with the rest of you. There is no towel throwing going on here.

I'm just not raiding and BG's have lost my interest. Maybe I've just been on the treadmill too long. I know I'm not the only veteran player that wasn't completely happy with how Cataclysm turned out. But if they released more content tomorrow, I'd definitely jump back in. I don't really see my current hiatus as a hiatus as much as there simply isn't anything for me to do. Emphasis on "me." I'm not saying others can't find joy... just to be clear.

Anyway, I guess what I'm getting at is that I'm a bit predisposed to feel negative toward the Rez Scroll. Here's the thing: there had to be meetings, and thought, and work hours, and what-have-you that went into this package. There are some aspects that are great. Namely the free play time. That's a great idea. My question is: is this really the most effective way to entice lapsed players back?

It does nothing for me. Though, I'm paying anyway, so I'm not really the target. Still, what has pushed me away from the game is a distinct lack of content. It doesn't help that I'm having a blast in Star Wars, but really, in WoW, if you're not raiding or PvP'ing, there wasn't a lot of content. I think they sacrificed some of the side content that was available in previous expansions in the hopes of pushing raid content out more quickly.

Let me expand on "content" too. Obviously, we could point to solo quests and smaller dungeons. Blizz was pretty hit or miss on these additions. But I'm also talking about the improvements to individual classes, the traditional tweaking that goes on. As an Affliction Warlock, there has been absolutely nothing to talk about of note for almost a year now. You could argue that no news is good news, that we are in a good place. You could say that tweaks are only made when things are "bad."

I don't disagree. I really don't have a lot of complaints. It's just that, lack of complaints, lack of changes, makes for lack of blogging. Makes for lack of challenge. Lack of interest. Tweaks, love 'em or hate 'em, are interesting. You know what's not so interesting? Old content rehashed. Once you get passed "what's different," there's just not a whole lot to say.

My whole point here is that I question the efficacy of the Rez Scroll. Wouldn't it be better to improve the game, make it more interesting, than try to re-interest people with outside things, with cheap candies? Again, I'm not the target, having been through most of the current content (except the very end of raiding). But, if they don't get their heads on straight by the time MoP roles around, I could very well be the next target.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

#SWTOR - The Man In The Mirror

I have a quick question for you TOR players out there: Are our mirrors more powerful? AT least with certain spells? The classes are supposed to be mirrors, but do the abilities scale exactly the same?

Here's the background. My wife and I have recently rolled toons on the Imperial side to play with a friend. Both of us ended up rolling classes we'd already played on the Rep side. I suppose we wanted something familiar amidst the unfamiliar, or maybe a chance to check out the other Advanced Class. Whatever the case, the early levels have pretty much the same progression, ability-wise. One would expect as much from a supposed mirror.

Yet, I can't help but feel like the man in the mirror is a bit better looking, a bit stronger, more muscular. His powers are just a bit more, um, electric. Perhaps it's simply the animations. Lighting beats rock any way you throw it, at least in terms of badassery. I don't think you'll find much argument if you were to claim that the Republic got the short end of the stick from the Cool Animations department at Bioware. I'm not sure how much it could be helped though, as you would expect the Dark Side to be flashier, more powerful looking. But for the sake of game balance, it should be purely cosmetic, right?

It doesn't feel cosmetic. It feels more powerful. In my case, comparing an Inquisitor to a Consular, I focus on a very specific ability. Force Lightning vs Telekinetic Throw. When I'm PvP'ing, I get Force Lightning'ed all the time. Seems like those pesky Sorcerers are constantly playing Palpatine on me. And my Telekinetic Throw is no Yoda or Mace Windu. Is it just me?

Perhaps, as a Balance Shadow, I'm just not specced into the right AC. Maybe as a Sage it would feel more powerful. That probably has something to do with. As I work through the early levels of an Inquisitor, though, I feel a lot more powerful shocking things than I ever did throwing rocks.

Well, that's not true. Project feels more powerful than Shock, though the damage/stun from Shock is instant. You have to wait for the animation with Project.

It's probably all just perception. If I were to spec Sage, I'd likely find Telekinetic Throw just as powerful. Still, I can't help but wonder if some abilities are better for my mirror than they are for me. It certainly add another layer of intrigue, wouldn't it?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Congrats Poneria

As Ratshag might say: Is big hairy congo rats to Poneria over at Fel Concentration fer the snaggin' of the WoW Insider Column what be fer Warlocks.

I'll be honest, I just wanted to use "congo rats" in a proper sentence (apologies to Ratters for playing orc with his voice). If you spend enough time lurking around the blogosphere, you pick up things like congo rats that you desperately want to say in real life sometimes, but know that no one will understand. Thus, when one gets the opportunity to offer the hairy buggers in an appropriate manner online, one takes it.

Nothing against the other Blood Pact columnists, but I'm rather excited for Poneria. She's been a great blogger that I've followed for a while now (and has commented here often). I'm happy to see it go to "one of our own," as it were. Not that it hasn't before, just that she's really the fist person to hold the position that I've interacted with, and I know she'll do a great job.

So congo rats it is!

PS to Pone - The rats are not without tails: Now I know whose crypt to lob skulls at if you say something I disagree with...I know where you live! (At least on Twitter) ;-)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Then and Now

I'm going to do a meme today. Something quick that I can squeeze in before lunch. I saw the whole Then and Now thing over that The Pot. After I dodged the whole sixth meme (I was very, very quiet... hiding in the corner and all, apparently. Seriously, didn't get on the whole "web of bloggers" thingy, which I thought was very warlockerly of me, being shadowy and what-have-you.), I figured I'd step up to the plate and do one. I'll do one.

Here's the oldest screenie I could find (circa 2009, though I started playing in '07... the rest must have been lost in one upgrade or another):

And here's the most recent (circa last October, as you might be able to tell):

You may, of course, notice that I apparently got a face cut. Took a little skin off the top there...

Also, I'm really glad Gnomer is back. Even if he is still spouting magery.