Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Whatever happened to WoW?

I've recently come back to WoW after a break of seven months or so, and suddenly find myself a member of not one, but two static groups. Both groups are running all the old instances, before they're gone forever when Cataclysm hits. Not that Blizz have said anything about removing/changing the original dungeons, but y'know, it's the principle. That minor detail aside, it's all quite appropriate I guess, considering I resubbed in the first place under a wave of Onyxia-inspired nostalgia.

There are three of us in the Horde-side group - the classic Tank (Prot Warrior), Healer (Resto Druid) and DPS (Enhancement Shaman, yours truely). Technically we're making things tough for ourselves from the off, as these instances were designed for a full party of five players, but we like to think that after four years play, we know what we're doing. We rocket through the first few dungeons: Ragefire Chasm, Wailing Caverns, Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep, Blackfathom Deeps. We even manage to barrel our way into the Stockades instance at level 25-ish with only 17 deaths each and the cunning use of 'resurrectional positioning'™. It doesn't really occur to us that we're not only completeing these dungeons at 60% party capacity, but that we're doing it at way under the intended level.

By the time we reach Scarlet Monastery, we're 5-6 levels below the mobs we're fighting. Not only that, we're pulling 3-4 groups at a time and blasting them down. This is where I start to get confused, because I remember running SM back in the day with a full party, at intended level range (higher actually). In those days double pulls were frequent due to closely packed groups. If you weren't careful to pull your targetted group back, chances were a runner would agro some nearby buddies, which almost certainly led to a wipe.

I can't explain how it is that we're doing what we're doing. Admittedly our tank has a couple of heirloom items (essentially, epics that level with your character, for those not in the know), albeit leather rather than mail armour. Aside from that, the gear we're using is whatever we're picking up along the way. WoW has changed a lot over the years - restructured talent trees, gear itemisation, improved threat generation, our own knowledge even, but I can't believe these factors alone explain, well, just how easy it all is. As much as I'm loving the nostalgia trip, the most frustrating thing is that we're limited not by our own skill, but by the game system itself - we can barely hit mobs more than six levels higher. It feels rather false that our progress is halted by some arbitrary game mechanic, as opposed to the difficulty of the actual content.

Friday, 5 December 2008


I've been playing Eve Online on and off since Christmas of last year. Mostly off in all honesty, I tend to subscribe for a month at a time then let it drop for two to three. Maybe that'll change now that CCP has nerfed the ability to ghost train (you used to be able to leave a long skill training which would continue after your sub expired).

Anyway, I digress. In the time I've been playing (or, more appropriately, skill training), I've had a vague 'Plan' in my head. I've always been interested in MMO crafting, and Eve is the current nirvana in this respect (at least since Star Wars Galaxies was stoopidised). In Eve, you can manufacture pretty much anything in the game, from basic gun ammo all the way up to space stations. You can even create better stuff (called tier 2) by performing research and invention on the basic stuff, so this was definitely something I wanted to have a go at.

After a wee bit of interwebs research, it quickly became apparent that you need not only the correct (and somewhat advanced) skillset to invent things, but also cash. Lots of it. And so the second part of my 'Plan' came into being - get access to level 4 missions as soon as possible. Never one to do things the easy way, I'd started my character as a Minmatar Industrial specialist in anticipation of the huge wads of cash I'd be rolling in from inventing 'Stuff'. This of course meant that my combat skills were cack, and even the lowly level 1 missions were pretty tough for a while. I seem to recall losing three Merlins and a Kestrel in my first two days. Yes, I know, Caldari ships - I was even less qualified to fly them than Minmatar ones, but hey, they looked cooler!

Interwebs research also revealed the secret of utilising R&D agents to get free datacores, one of the components used in invention. Each item requires certain research skills to invent. I'd already decided that my first try at invention would be to make Expanded Cargohold II's - in no small part thanks to The Ancient Gaming Noob. The basic blueprint is cheap, it seemed like an item that people would want, and at the time when a 50k mission reward was the norm, manufacturing and selling 'Stuff' for a million isk a pop seemed like wealth beyond my wildest dreams! Molecular Engineering and Nanite Engineering were the skills I needed, no small investment at 40mil isk each.

At this point I'd done a fair bit of travelling throughout the Eve universe, more than enough for the novelty of seeing new systems to wear off. I needed a fast way to get around, and that way was Jump Clones! Jump Clones allow you to store a clone of yourself at a space station which you can teleport back and forth to at will (with a modest cooldown, I think). All that's required is a Med Lab at your station of choice and a standing of at least 8 with the corp that owns it. Simple! I know there are much easier ways to get yourself cloned up, but this is me remember?

And so it was, in a moment of illumination that bordered on the transcendental, that my three, so far disparate ideas, came together to form 'THE Plan' - I'd search out a corp that had a good quality level 4 combat mission agent, that would give me access to high level agents offering both Molecular and Nanite Engineering research, that had outposts scattered across the known galaxy allowing me super fast transport via Jump Clones. Off to eve-agents.com I went, and discovered my Holy Grail of Eve efficiency - Core Complexion Inc! Achieving a standing of 8 with just a single corporation would place the galaxy in the palm of my hand! Jump Clones! Level 4 missions! The fastest researchers in the West!

I'm sure the veteran Eve players can see exactly what's coming next. Me being the noob that I am, it took me about three months of play time to realise. You see, there was just one small flaw in 'The Plan' - there isn't a single Core Complexion station in the ENTIRE galaxy with a Med Lab installed..... Can you say /facepalm?

Still, on the bright side, there's no such thing as wasted time in Eve! I achieved two of my objectives - I have an R&D agent beavering away on Molecular Engineering, creating datacores at the rate of about 300,oooisk-worth a day, and I theoretically have access to level 4 combat missions, though not yet the cash or the skills to fly a ship capable of doing them. At least now I'm a half decent combat pilot (up to battlecruiser level), and my standings with the Minmatar and Gallente are such that I can jump straight into level 2 missions with almost any of their member corps. Now I just need a 'Better Plan'....

Thursday, 29 May 2008

The Definition of Irony

Your best mate manages to secure you a ticket to the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational. This highly anticipated (not to mention limited attendance) event takes place just ten days after your subscription to WoW expires for the first time in over three years \o/

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Game Feature vs Barrier to Fun

Interesting post over on Doom's blog advocating the functionality to store more than one talent build so that you can respec easily but still incur the respec cost. I pretty much crap myself every time I respec, I'm sitting there alt-tabbing between WoW and some form of online talent builder, desperately trying not to misclick. Add to that the factor of your instance/raid/arena group impatiently tapping its foot as you fiddle and you have a surefire way to throw away 50g. So of course I wholeheartedly agree with Doom's suggestion, and it got me to thinking, what does it take to make the devs realise that their precious 'feature' is actually just a royal pain in the arse for everyone else? I mean, this is supposed to be a game right? Fun, right? So why in the name of heaven do I have to jump through hoops to get to the fun?

Another case in point: gear sets. On my druid, I have:

  • PvE Tanking set
  • PvE Kitty set
  • PvE Healing set
  • PvP Healing set

And don't even get me started on my warrior:

  • Raid tanking set
  • 5 x resistance sets
  • Grinding tanking set (stacking shield block)
  • Dual wield DPS set
  • 2H DPS set
  • PvP sets? Lol, bigger bank plix!

Now, I use Itemrack, which is a godsend, but (and it's a big but), it only works for the gear I have in my bags. Why why why why why don't we have some kind of wardrobe interface for gear sets, instead of all that stuff taking up valuable bag space? Yeah I know it's not quite realistic carrying eight sets of gear around all the time, and swapping between them in less than a second, but it all boils back down to that feature vs fun thing again. Besides which, we play in a world where the dead walk and cows can speak for god's sake, so forgive me if I don't buy the 'reality' card.

Let me elaborate a little. My warrior, Varakkys (no prizes for guessing who my main is here), usually wears his full tanking gear, and carries his DPS and block gear with him, taking up 1.5 bags. He's fully eighteen-slotted up, four inventory bags and all seven bank slots. Six of the seven bank slots are taken by the other gear sets mentioned above. Now the other day I was called upon to tank heroic Arc, for which I like to take my Shadow Resist set for the first boss. Except that my hearthstone was on cd, which meant a five minute wait for the group while I flew back to Shattrath to collect it. So I have all these tactical options available to me, but actually taking advantage of them initiates a level of inconvenience that just completely detracts from the game. Not to mention the annoyance of continually shifting things around in my bank to make room for new bits and bobs.

Incidentally, why isn't the respec interface built so that we can tinker around and then click a confirm button? It's ridiculous that I have to do that using an external app, then there's still the chance I can bugger it up within WoW.