Farewell Mists of Pandaria, Hello Iron Horde!

October 14, 2014

A Paladin in her Glory.

With the 6.0 patch a day away it seems appropriate to reminisce about what I have enjoyed and disliked about Mists of Pandaria.

The good

  • Launch was pretty smooth, I had an enjoyable week off work, levelling my paladin to 90 on the first day and getting stuck into 5 mans the following day
  • The Halfhill farm was fun, its quests were interesting, and the ability to farm pretty much all the main trade resources was insanely profitable (if tedious to do on all your alts every day)
  • Learning to tank, incredibly stressful at times, but ultimately rewarding to become the go to person in guild to solo tank raid content. I still have a lot to learn in terms of being proactive about fight direction (still too much attention taken up just in ability use) and in communication with the raid group (being vocal about taunts for example)
  • Professions seemed reasonable, JC and enchanting continued to dominate the Auction House, but crafters had reasonable access to new patterns with each new tier, Scribe was underwhelming after the first tier and Engineering was its traditional gold sink. I made over a million gold, and then proceeded to give most of it away.
  • Flex raiding, a late introduction, this has become my preferred casual play with alts and mains, its provided a social guild experience, and means we can completely avoid LFR
  • Throne of Thunder, I found the zone to be fun, but the lack of resource nodes meant I stopped going there once I had hit exalted reputation, it was an interesting insight into how much fun being a miner is for my main toon
  • Timeless Isle, I think my main complaint here, is that the island felt too small to me, and some parts of the island were simply too dangerous for solo play. It was hilarious watching the Alliance kill each other when PvP flagged. Weekly quests certainly worked better for me than dailies, make some progress, get bored, go do other stuff and come back later.

The bad

  • PvP was awful, chain CC and zero health in a few GCDs, I did the bare minimum required for the legendary quest line, and never went back. I used to enjoy battleground PvP in TBC, but the proliferation of “kill the healer first” addons has changed the game experience to be a negative one for me. On the plus side, we didn’t lose an entire zone to world PvP, or have a raid boss gated behind PvP victory requirements.
  • Daily burn out at launch, there were too many factions, and you needed revered reputation with just about all of them to access raiding gear, I shudder to think of the agonies that some people went through grinding this out on multiple toons.
  • Failing to heal, I struggled to heal at raiding level with my Paladin, and I couldn’t find guidance from my traditional sources (many older advice blogs simply died off or deliberately stopped covering Holy Paladins)
  • Failing to DPS, like healing, I simply couldn’t put out the DPS required to be competitive in a raid, the gap between any DPS character I tried to play and the better players in my raid group was simply too big to warrant me investing time
  • LFR, simply too much of an unpleasant environment, filled with trolls, for me to put effort into gearing alts or mains through it
  • Black Market Auction House, after the first week, when I picked up a gear upgrade, I never saw anything else worth buying again.
  • BOAs not dropping off Garrosh, I have only had the tanking sword drop (twice) when what I really wanted was the shield.

The ugly

  • Burn out … I stopped raiding for several months, because I simply could not cope with the mechanics in Heart of Fear. The raiding environment as a whole is one almost unrecognisable from Vanilla/TBC raids, the Dungeon Journal is incredibly intimidating with the sheer number of mechanics to master in each fight, the amount of blue/purple death crap on the screen, against dark blue/grey backgrounds, the shrieking and wailing of addon alerts…
  • the legendary quest line was something you couldn’t not do as a raider, and it had large choke points that were not fun to work through, for me the PvP requirement was what killed any enthusiasm for trying to get this item on alts
  • the fate of Garrosh, after all the build-up, after 150+ wipes learning the fight, to have him taken prisoner and escape was a major let down
  • Watching raiders quit the guild due to lack of progression, which accelerated as the introduction of mythic raiding drew closer. The officers were in the position of either (a) not raiding at all or (b) accepting below par performance. While we put a lot of work into standards and expectations going into the expansion, we simply didn’t live up to them.
  • Going in to the next expansion without enough players to form a 10 man raid team. With a November release date, many people in guild will not be in a position to raid until January. While we have a pool of casual players who can be carried through normal mode difficulty, we have lost half of the heavy lifters in our guild.
  • Server population faction balance continues to worsen with every expansion.

Tier 14

  • Most liked boss: Elegon, after mastering the elevator boss this was an excellent fight for tank swaps and picking up adds.
  • Most disliked boss: Garralon, crap everywhere on the ground and a fight that was hard to see and hard to control. Heart of Fear as a whole was my most disliked raid instance of the entire expansion. My guild found it weird that it was the gate to Terrace of Endless Springs, when all the fights in TOES were easier than most of those in HOF.

Tier 15

  • Most liked boss: Jin-Rokh, one of the few fights my guild did on HM during this tier, I have often liked fights where the raid group has to split into two teams for part of the fight.
  • Most disliked boss: hard choice between Durumu and Dark Animus, with Dark Animus winning due to the sheer confusion and brutality of its opening sequence.

Tier 16

  • Most liked boss: Paragons, I liked the Klaxxi and this is a fight were I managed to solo tank the last third of the fight with most of the raid group dead on our first progression kill, so a good memory.
  • Most disliked boss: Garrosh, this fight was harder on normal mode for my guild than HM Spine of Deathwing was in Cataclysm.

Looking to the future

I am excited for the Warlords of Dreanor expansion. I am happy that there are no new classes or races, as I have long passed the point of diminishing returns from alts. It has been eight years, but I still love playing my Paladin. My list of things I am most looking forward to include:

  • more options for flexible raiding, while my guild has lost the option to do the hardest raiding content in the game, we are gaining more flexibility for raid group size and cross-server recruitment for all the other content types
  • the new approach to world zones, and the player housing garrisons, will give me the freedom to choose the content I want to engage in each night after work
  • Asharan, a world PvP zone incorporating cross-server population balancing is one where I won’t feel like a constant victim of Alliance numerical superiority
  • lots of small quality of life improvements (bag space, simpler gearing, being able to avoid accidental PvP flagging)
  • Ability pruning – I would love to take a task bar or two off my raid frames, especially after enjoying the 5-6 action limit in TESO. While I am losing some iconic abilities, I accept its good for the game, as you cannot keep adding to the ability list with every new expansion.

This time around I am only taking two days leave for the launch, but that gives me a four day weekend. The big decision facing me is this – do I just concentrate on playing one character as well as possible, or do I play all my current max level characters again for the economic synergy that will arise from having multiple Garrisons?

I will miss having a million HP on my tank. Yes, it was a bit silly, but it was a nice reaching the top of the mountain benchmark.

Some thoughts on the competition

No one else has been able to launch a subscription based AAA theme park MMO and maintain anything close to WoW’s player base. I am not sure anyone can while WoW continues to be what it is, as the major growth has been in free-to-play games and games focusing on smaller teams with a PvP focus. Blizzard’s cancellation of Titan is interesting, while done because the ideas didn’t pan out for fun, I don’t think they could actually expand the market with a second MMO without cannibalising the WoW player base. MMOs expand to fill available time and I have struggled to play more than one at a time with any degree of skill.

I now think that the 200+ hour levelling game, which must be completed prior to accessing the end game, is a trap for new MMOs.  I simply lose interest in the levelling game, fail to engage in social groups (it is difficult to find a group of adults from the same time zone as me), and then cancel my subscription after a few months. When a game is launched with significant errors (e.g. social chat does not work, or its impossible to log in for a month) it is hard to sustain interest even that long. The shift to arena format games like LOL and WOT is interesting, but ultimately for me they just don’t have the social aspect that WoW has given to my life.


Choke Points and Broken Quest Chains

March 16, 2014

CratesThis is a picture of a choke point in a low level quest. We’re waiting for a crate to spawn. Sometimes when the crate spawns, it does not contain the mook we are looking for.  When it does have the mook we want, only one of us gets the credit for quest completion. It can take up to two hours of crate camping to complete the quest.  At the level you get this quest, there are no other quests you can do safely (they are orange or red difficulty).  In my feedback on this I noted that this is not compelling gameplay.

So, much as I wanted to play some more TESO this weekend, I’m found it hard going with numerous broken quest chains.  I wanted to try playing a Dragonknight Imperial with sword & shield.  I emerged out of the introduction quest with only a sword, and some skimpy light armour.  Maybe there was a shield somewhere, but I didn’t find it.  But wandering around in a dress without a shield did not make me feel heroic.  Still, a nice touch for the armour was that it had broken handcuffs attached.

A recent design decision was to ditch the introductory island zones in favour of starting people in a town, but this means you don’t have any crafting materials ready when you find the workstations, and you have little coin for buying anything … like say a shield.  On the plus side, without the hand holding, you get the opportunity to explore the world in any direction you like (although eventually all roads led to a wayshrine for resurrection)

The Imperials do look like a strong choice for a tank playstyle, with an experience bonus to sword and shield and other racials that boost health.  Visually they were pretty bland, the design screen was so dark I couldn’t discern a difference in their hair, eye or skin colours.

The white horse mount from the Imperial edition is functional, but fades away at the first sign of damage.  Mounting/dismounting still has that awkward pause from Skyrim, and is cumbersome for NPC interaction.  Collision detection is on now, which means you can’t barge through NPCs – but its still fine to run right through other PCs (if PC collisions were enabled I would bet money that packs of Trolls would lock down key NPCs and quest locations so they were unuseable).

Once you have played through the tutorial, you get an option to skip it on future characters, starting at level 3. I appreciate this … almost wish it would repeat with the mage/fighter guild quest chains.

So with the Dragonknight locked out, I decided to try a Nord Templar with two-handed weapons (again a 15% xp racial bonus).  Where the Dragonknight has a pull ability, the Templar has charge and push away abilities.  I like this mobility, charge someone, push them away, charge them again!  It also has access to a set of healing abilities, so I may just have found the combination of Warrior/Paladin abilities from WoW that I have wished for in a character.  Definitely a fun feeling, and its going to be a hard choice choosing that initial character.

Another annoying bug is when the Escape key stops working. Pressing full stop (.) key seems to help here.  My other tip for taking screenshots is to bind UI On/Off to a key (I used U).

StrifeThis screenshot is of a nice formation of rocks. Wandering up to it I discovered an interesting travel back in time to learn some lore/summon some Daedra quest. Which was a lot of fun until … it bugged out halfway through.  I wandered on down the road some more, and quickly found myself in a zone where the mobs killed me easily (two mobs of 2+ greater levels when you don’t have an ultimate ability yet is asking for trouble). Unlike WoW, Rifts, or SWTOR, you can’t just go and grind mobs to level up when the quests are broken.  Quests and exploration are your main sources of experience, so when every single damn quest chain is bugged, you’re screwed for progression.  Lets hope these get fixed before release, but with less than a month to go I’m focusing on keeping realistic expectations – which is to say that when TESO falls over I will be happy log out to play WoW or World of Tanks until the broken is repaired.

 


The Elder Scrolls Online Beta

March 9, 2014

My impressions of the Elder Scrolls Online game, based on two beta weekends.  TLDR, some frustrations, some interesting decisions, I think I will have fun playing this for a month or two.

Downloading

Takes up ~27 GB, but I needed ~50 GB free to successfully complete the installation.

Character Creation

Main choices to make here are name, class, race, gender, faction, and appearance.

Name – this is a mega server, trying to get a unique name is going to be hard. The first dozen or so of my standard MMORPG names were all taken.

There are four classes. I only played Sorcerer and Nightblade in beta, so my knowledge of the other two options is limited.

  • Dragonknight (Melee – has a pull the mob to you ability like a WoW Death Knight’s Death Grip)
  • Sorcerer (Mage – can summon pets)
  • Nightblade (Thief/Assassin – can stealth)
  • Templarknight (Melee/healer)

Appearance – Okay. Mostly I’m interested in hair styles when it comes to appearances, and there were enough for me to have fun choosing.

Race – unless you pre-order your race will determine your faction. This can be important as racial bonuses are strong, and a min-max character will have to be of the “right” race for max bonus. I ignore this and just make something I like the look of (usually elves with white or red hair in fantasy MMORPGs, although the lizards/cat skins are tempting).Bosmer Bonus

Gender – no difference in gameplay.

Faction – choose one of three. Pre-ordering will let you play any race in any faction, and play the Imperial race (if you order the Imperial edition). This could be useful if your friends want to play a different fcation.

Character Development in Play

Elder Scrolls is the complete reverse of the direction WoW has taken in terms of character development. WoW has made it very hard to make a character who is functionally bad at their core role (Tank, Heal, DPS), in Elder Scrolls its possible to make decisions about skills and attributes that make your character a painful failure by level 10. Unless you like repeating starter zones over and over again, spending some time thinking about your skill point allocation is critical.

  • You want five, and no more than five, good active abilities.
  • Having a mix of magicka and stamina using abilities might be useful to start with, but I’m not sure if long-term you want to focus on one or the other
  • You want one, and no more than one, long cooldown ability
  • After that, Passives rule
  • At level 15 you can pick up a second weapon, that can be swapped easily, at that point you can start picking up some different abilities

The armour choice is also interesting. Light armour makes movement easier and is good for resource regeneration.  Medium armour is good for boosting damage. Heavy armour is good for absorbing damage.  No armour restrictions, mage in heavy armour, sure can.Armour Buff

You get skill points from:

  • Levelling
  • Finishing some quests (I think)
  • Collecting sets of three skyshards (found in the world, one use only, fixed location – you will spend the game with a webpage open with all their locations bookmarked)

Tutorial Mission (level 1-3)

This is done pretty quickly, and is the start of the main storyline that will take you to level 50.  Its quick and does the job it needs to.Tutorial Zone

Starter Zone (Level 3-5)

Both of the starter zones I have done have been Islands. Not too big, easy to get around, and finished in a couple of hours. Storylines were reasonably engaging, and I felt sad when a village got attacked and NPCs I had talked to were killed. You can sneak and one shot most enemies here with a bow.

First major zone (Level 5-15)

Compared to the starter zone this is huge, even after 12 hours I was only just over halfway through the zone. Mobs get harder, and are more often encountered in groups of 2-3. Although for my Bosmer archer, sneak shot, DOT, poison arrow, finisher usually works, and if I get lots of mobs, the Storm Astronach handles it. Killing a single mob in four key presses feels about right to me, a nice change from SWTOR where killing a pair of mobs could take 30+ key presses.

All up I think levelling to 50 is supposed to be around 400 hours of game play. After that there are Level 50 versions of instances, for around 150 hours of gameplay. At 50 you can also play through the other faction zones. After that its eternal pvp. Unless the “Adventure Zones” turn out to be some kind of long term PVE content, this will be a game to date, not a game to marry. While you won’t get new levels, skill development can continue, and there will be something called “Veteran Points” that improve the charcter by small increments. Or you could re-roll and try a different build of character. I think I just want to play one character, experience from WoW and SWTOR tells me that there are rapidly diminishing enjoyment returns from alts going through similar content.a

The Social Experience
About what you would expect,  lots of people saying bad things about other MMORPGs, lots of people with toons named after WoW references.  Not immediately obvious how to interact with people, you can’t click on them, you have to look at them and push F key.  You can belong to five guilds at the same time (why you would want to do this escapes me).  You gain a 10% experience buff while grouped with other players.  I did not bother joining a guild, and only grouped with people while in public dungeons.  Reporting people, you get the option to choose a general category, e.g. harrassment, a sub-category, e.g. bad language, and can attach a screenshot and write a text description. I reported someone for making a joke about anal rape.

With NPCs, you can get Persaude skill from joining the Mages guild and Intimidate skill from joining the Fighter’s guild, this gives you some options to resolve or resolve more quickly some quests.  I would hesitate to spend skill points on this before getting my five active abilities and ultimate ability set up.Persuasion

Looting, Harvesting, Inventory and Crafting
The default for looting is a two click interaction for each corpse.  Hit ESC for menu, then go into Settings/Gameplay, and make sure combined loot and autoloot are ON. That will save a few hours of your life. While you can vendor all the weapons and armour that drops, you can also reverse engineer everything for raw materials (but you need to be at a work station in a town, and not all towns had all work stations, and travelling back to town is painfully slow).  Harvesting – while there are no wasted inventory slots on picks and knives, the ability to harvest everything means your bags fill with crap quickly.  Inventory – 60 slots feels limited.  The first town after the tutorial zone will have a vendor who sells +10 inventory slots for 400 coins and +10 more slots for 2000. The other way to manage inventory is to just to not gather stuff ( I stopped picking flowers and mining).

You can spend skill points to improve harvesting, and I spent a point on making wood glow, as the grey/green log on the ground was really easy to miss.Harvesting

Bank – available in some towns, you can craft directly from banks, so you want to dump crafting mats here.

Crafting: moderately complex, potentially a huge time sink to research everything (six hour cooldown per trait type per equipment type), but at low levels is relatively easy to make armour and weapons that are useful upgrades.  My first bow using toon did not get a bow drop or quest reward in eight levels, so making my own bow upgrade every two levels was very useful.  There are lots of crafting stations hidden around the world where you can craft gear and have a small chance of unique abilities.

Movement

Movement – the teleport system is EXPENSIVE, really, really freaking EXPENSIVE. When mobs drop one coin each, and teleporting to the other side of the zone costs 64 coins.  Don’t expect you friends to come and hold your hands every few minutes in the starter zones.  Mounts are also freaking expensive at 17,200 to 42,700 coins for a horse.  That makes the Imperial edition perk of a cheap mount quite attractive. Tactical movement felt fine, and sprinting for a stamina cost was an interesting mechanic.

Exploration

Its significant xp when you reach a new landmark on the map, feels equal to a quest, so its well worth a quick trip sideways.  For the mages guild, finding books increases your rank.  You can also find random chests, and the lock picking mini game is fun (there was one thief style quest early on, but no immediate invite to join a Thieve’s Guild, but a hint one would come down the track).

Books

Mage Rank

Lock Picks

Stress test beta

It was a stress test, so not perfect, but that’s part of the beta experience.

  • lots of UI bugs
  • a few crashes, followed by long in failures
  •  lots of bugged quest chains, and as there are so few quest chains, its easy to run out of content that your character can engage with
  • load times were reasonable, but if you crashed out once you crashed out a dozen times in a row
  • /reloadui command is essential to actually complete some NPC conversation interactions, as your character gets stuck at the end of the conversation
  •  Falling through the world, happened a couple of times on stairs.Beta

User Interface

Not a lot of customisation options here, but the default setting had the UI fade away when not targeting mobs, which helped immersion.  Five active abilities, one long cooldown ability, one quickbar slot … 7 buttons to push during combat, after having 60 keybinds in WoW and SWTOR this was a relief.  Compass at the top of the screen, more compact than minimap, but it takes getting used to. It felt a bit less cluttered than the one in Skyrim.Combat UI

Questing

  • NPCs can be phased to you, so they run up to you when you complete a section of the chain, kinda needed given how slow strategic movement is
  • Quest hubs are rare, you tend to find one NPC quest giver at a time
  • Mage/Fighter’s guild – You cannot afford not to be in these guilds, as they have major questlines and useful abilities associated with them
  • More than a few quests involve intrigue and betrayal
  • You get a lot of quests way before your character could ever hope to do them, both geographically or mechanically in game
  •  I had one stealth quest spawn a mob that was much higher level and killed me in a few seconds, damn it was annoying
  •  I had another combat quest which I could not solo, as while I could kite and stay alive, I could not do the burst damage required to finish the boss before it triggered a regeneration
  •  Collect X quests tend to be limited to collecting 3-6 of an item, and Kill X Rats quests are pretty rare
  • Some of the novelty quests are bugged or can’t be reasonably completed (a running race around an island, which you can’t actually complete in the time granted without a very high stamina score or massive stamina regen).

Dungeons

Its really hard to feel suspense or fear in a public dungeon when there are dozens of toons sprinting past you hacking the monsters into gibbets.

Sound
Some nice voice acting, music is okay.  NPCs are fully voiced, you are not, you can fast pace through dialogue conversations.Conversation


Trillium Bars

January 24, 2013

If you follow the legendary quest chain in Patch 5.2 for World of Warcraft, you will hit “Secrets of the Empire”, which requires 20 Secrets of the Empire from the Throne of Thunder raid instance, and 40 Trillium Bars.

While the raid drop will be the more time consuming item to acquire, the Trillium Bars are likely to cost a fair whack of gold.  40 Bars is a lot, my server Auction House had 113 bars listed this morning for around 80g each.  So just three raiders would clean the AH out.  So I predict that the price for Trillium Ore will go up a bit, possibly some very spiky bursts, as will the price of Trillium Bars.  If Trillium Bar prices stay high, then ghost iron ore, bars and living steel go up as well.

So its a good time to grab any cheap Mists ore you see on the AH (I’m snaffling trillium ore <10g and ghost iron ore at <2g), and if you are a raider it would not hurt to stockpile the 40 Bars early.  I’m pretty sure I could make the bars for around 40g each at the moment, so that’s half the current AH price and a potential saving of 1,600+ gold when the patch goes live.

Caveat: its the PTR, everything could change.


How I quit raiding and learned to enjoy playing World of Warcraft again

January 22, 2013

On my mother’s deathbed I promised her that I would learn to drive, buy my own house, and be happy.

Before Christmas I started adding up the hours required to achieve all the things I wanted to do in 2013.  It became obvious that my weekly World of Warcraft rotation was taking way too much time.  A rough tabulation of activities:

  • Mobile app AH play for 5-10 minutes each workday morning
  • On getting home, relist expired auctions and use daily cooldowns for Alchemy, Enchanting, Inscription, and Tailoring
  • Make buckles, BOE blue weapons and other plate gear/shields for AH sale
  • Sigh in frustration as no one buys my raw gems, cut gems, or metagems
  • Run through the Tillers farm on three-four alts, with Tillers quests on whichever toon just hit 90
  • Run a scenario for VP, run a 5 man if the tank bag appears
  • Bang out the required dailies on my raiding main, getting some mining in en route
  • Hit the AH again
  • Start running LFR for the week, continue running LFR, keep running LFR until I hit VP cap
  • Two three hour sessions of raiding, plus half hour+ of raid prep
  • Hit the AH again
  • Maybe … spend a couple of hours at the weekend levelling an alt
  • Maybe … heal a random Battleground
  • Maybe … do a xmog run of old content with guildies.

So World of Warcraft was easily eating three hours a night of my time, plus more in the weekends.  For what its worth I currently have 1.927 million gold, despite spending over 250,000 gold after the expansion launched.

I was feeling frustrated with guild progression in the current tier (6/6 MV, 3/6 HOF, nothing in TOES).  I was personally finding the fights difficult to execute, every boss was just more fucking mechanics layered on top of new fucking mechanics.  I read a blog where an experienced tank was cackling with glee over how hard and refreshing Vaults was to run.  I hated it.  Almost every damn fight, but especially the first one. I couldn’t believe that was an introductory fight in an introductory tier of raiding.  Watch energy build up, while kiting out of bad stuff, but not so far as to break the chains … hated it.  Will of the Emperor, I’m supposed to know which way to dodge based on how the boss is standing. This is a case where martial arts experience was useless, as I dodged into the blow every single fucking time.  In the end I just gave up, stood still and mitigated the damage as best I could.

Healing was less fun than it used to be. Holy Paladin healing is now based around free heals. The moment you start to use heals that cost mana, the mana bar collapses. I found that using my Guardian required me to keep 40-50% of my mana bar, or else it was a waste of time dropping the guardian because I would go OOM before the 4th or 5th heal went off.  This makes the healing rotation easy, but boring. Holy Shock on cooldown, Holy Light in between  then Word of Glory or Light of Dawn as a finisher.  Repeat, for 6+ minutes.  Through 5.0 and 5.1 I was decidedly behind the Monk and Priest healer on all the metrics that count.  While my raid position was in no danger, I no longer felt awesome as a healer … for progression kills with two healers, it felt like I was healing mainly because I was the worst tank available.

So one morning at work I decided to stop.  After work I still felt good about that call.  Posted to the guild forums. Went on a last raid.

The last thing I expected to happen when I stopped raiding was that I would actually really enjoy playing World of Warcraft again in short one hour bursts.  I no longer log in every day, but when I do I have a good time.  I run one LFR each week, and then play either my Fire Mage, Healer Monk, or Warrior Tank for an hour.  Its fun, and the moment it feels grindy, I stop and log out of the game. When I play the AH, I just do belt buckles, plus junk I found while questing.  One thing I foresee for 5.2, having a legendary metagem will further depress prices in a market saturated with sellers and few buyers.

One bonus of stopping raiding is more time for content creation.  So I am looking forward to more time spent on roleplaying games, boardgames, and the Grand Strategy game for Buckets of Dice.  Plus a few more blog posts here from time to time.

In World of Tanks news, I reached Tier X in the Soviet Tree with an IS-7, which immediately proved frustrating in play. After 50+ matches I’m on a 20% win rate.  Despite being a fast tank, the armour is pitiful and the reload time on the gun is agonizingly slow.  So I am back to concentrating on Soviet TDs, with both the SU-100M1 and SU-152 in play each evening. Of the two I find the SU-152 more fun, the higher mobility of the SU-100M1 does not influence play very often, but its weaker armour and gun does.  The SU-122-44 also gets a run each night, often resulting in a blitz in assault destroyer mode as the game enters endgame – damn its fun sneaking up behind a heavy and one shotting them in the engine.

At the lower tiers the main regular tanks I play with are the H35, which I play like a TD with the Sixth Sense skill, the Renault UE57, KV-1 and last of all, the KV-2 loaded with “electrum rounds” (gold rounds purchased with silver).  I did exceptionally well with the KV-2 in a Tier VI-VIII match last night, managing to get three kills on Tier VIII tanks with the 152mm Howitzer over medium ranges in Redridge by sneaking up through the village and pumping 700+ damage in through side armour or engine covers.  Two weeks back I took the Hetzer out for a rare spin, and drew Highway map and three artillery per side.  Myself and two medium tanks went to town, while seven enemy tanks went to town.  Things looked bad when my two medium escorts were destroyed.  Then three enemy tanks come around the corner one at a time, and I destroyed them one at a time.  I drove up to the corner, spotted an enemy TD around the corner.  I looked at the strategic map – the rest of my team was almost on the enemy flag, having swept the open field clear.  So I hooned around the corner, lost half my health, but was not tracked.  Turned, killed the TD, BOOM, reload, BOUNCE, target medium tank, BOOM, reload, BOUNCE, BOUNCE, target medium tank BOOM, reload, BOUNCE, target medium tank BOOM!  So I ended up with a seven run Reaper Award which was nice.

I am also mucking around in Skyrim again, restarting from the beginning and following the Imperial and Mage story lines.  Same principle as WoW, play in one hour bursts then do something else with my time.  Its pretty, but I miss the MMO aspect of MMO games, no matter how well down the RPG is.

 


Mists of Grindaria

November 25, 2012

I’m drowning in content.  So much so that I have had more than one moment of reflection where I considered deleting my characters, cancelling my account, and smashing my authenticator.

In the last two expansions for World of Warcraft I have not had major trouble finishing the pre-raid grind.  For Mists, however, Blizzard decided to slow down the rate at which some elements, notably faction reputation and the cooking skill, of the pre-raid grind can be finished.  Other elements, such as 5 man instance gear and standard professions (Blacksmithing, Alchemy etc), were trivialised (it takes about three hours to gather the materials to maxamise a profession).  For a progression raider, it feels like you have to finish the reputation grinds in order to gain the raid quality rewards that they drop.  But then you find four hours a night, every night, for months, as you slowly finish off the reputations.

When Blizzard announced that in patch 5.1 they were doubling the rate of reputation gains once you hit Revered status, I immediately stopped doing all non-enjoyable dailies.  That pretty much left just some of the August Celestial daily hubs, and the Tillers.  Even then that is two hours of my life every night.  Its hard to find time to do anything other than World of Warcraft, and although I find the game fun, I do actually want to do other things with my life.

So far the grind has cost my raid group two members, as they have found they simply don’t have time to play the game at the level they would like to play it.

Lucky Charms

Lucky Charms are a new currency for Mists.  Complete  a daily and you get a Lesser Lucky Charm.  Get 90 Lesser Charms and you can, once per week, get three Lucky Charms from a quest-giver in your faction city in the Valley of Eternal Blossoms.  These charms can be used for a chance at a bonus loot item (or bag of gold) each time you kill a Boss in LFR or a Raid.  Extra loot is cool, but the chance is low, so its often frustrating to use a charm and get just a bag of gold.  The charms take note of your spec when selecting what bonus loot you might gain, so f you want tank gear, you have to go tank the fight.

Charms have a cap of 10.  One thing I see happening prior to future content patches, is that raiders will have a choice between using charms now for upgrades, or stockpiling to ten for the new content.  I prefer stockpiling.  In a new tier of content, your first few upgrades are usually going to be the most important in terms of survivability and throughput increase.

Charms are democratic, in that any raider can acquire them.  They are not, however, transparent.  No one can force you to grind out the charms, and no one can require you to use them.  Well, they could ask, but short of requiring you to video all your fights, they have no way of proving whether you used a charm or not.

Remember the grind?  Well, a raider will be doing 13+ dailies every day, forever, in order to make sure they always get their three bonus rolls each week.

Here are some basic strategies for using charms:

  • if you can only kill three bosses a week, use your charms on those fights
  • if you kill a boss for the first time, use a charm, as this is when you are least likely to get a duplicate of an item you already have
  • if the boss drops a weapon upgrade, use a charm because weapons are always the biggest throughput increase for damage/healing
  • as the tier progresses, you will have gear gaps, so use the charms for an extra chance on the boss that has been holding out on the item you want
  • for a new tier, save ten charms, spend three charms, hand in the weekly quest … now you can spend a total of 13 charms in the first week of raiding.

Lucky Charms favour pure DPS classes.  Its always easier to gear up with only one spec, but a pure DPS class gets three charms for one spec, while the hybrid gets three charms for 2+ types of gear.  Nothing new about that scenario.

Valor Points – The Reputation Grind That Never Ends

In Patch 5.1 people will be able to spend 750 Valor Points to upgrade an items iLevel by +4, purchasable twice for a maximum of +8.  While I would like the cost to be cheaper, that would undermine the value of the VP gear from vendors (which cost 1250-2250 VP for what is usually a +26 ilevel boost over 5 man gear) to the point where no one would want to waste VP on it.

This means that Raiders will feel obliged to grind 1,000 VP every week, forever.  The chances of a character not having an item that could be worth upgrading are vanishingly small.  While the grind will get easier over time, right now that is a commitment of 10+ hours a week.  While you can make a judgement call, that for you as a player that is asking too much, if everyone in your raid group makes the same choice, then your progression is going to be slower than it is in guilds where people do make that commitment.  AT least with faction reputation grinds, the grind does end.  Once you are exalted, that is all you need, especially now that most titles and mounts are shared across characters.

Most characters have 17-18 items that could be upgraded, each requiring 1500 VP.  That will cost 27,000 VP for one gear set, 54,000 VP for a hybrid.  Even if there is a year long gap between content tiers, I don’t actually imagine anyone will finish fully upgrading multiple gear sets.

While I will enjoy making my gear better, I’m not going to like the obligation to cap my VP each week.  I used to enjoy the lulls between raid patches, where I had time to explore old content, level alts, or go do other stuff with my life.  Now I’m going to be struggling on Tuesday nights to muster the enthusiasm to grind out the last couple of hundred VP for the week.

My strategy for VP upgrades is similar to Lucky Charms:

  • first upgrade is for BIS gear (like my 509 boots)
  • next priority upgrade is a Sha Touched weapon, could be a while before I get one of those
  • trinkets are upgraded next
  • tier gear is upgraded after that

While charms help mitigate bad luck with gear, VP upgrades will help too if you get unlucky with raid drops.  If I had not purchased the Ward of the Red Widow shield on the AH, I would have used a crafted 359 shield all the way into Dragon Soul.  Even there I was using the LFR shield until Mists was released.

Current Progression

4/6 MV 10, yet to enter any other raid instance.  Elegon is a progression block for us right now, the fight hinges too much on execution for us to power through.  I’m not enjoying it at all as a tank, its okay as a healer, just completely and utterly unforgiving of errors.  If we don’t actually get the fight down soon, there is going to be trouble, in that neither Elegon nor the Will of the Emperor encounter have useful gear for some squishy DPS characters, and they will want to move on to Heart of Fear for its tier gear and weapon drops.  I can’t say I blame them either.  Wiping on normal mode content when you think you could be getting upgrades elsewhere is a demoralising feeling.

Legendaries for almost Everyone!

The Black Prince’s quest chain will be continuing in patch 5.1.  One part of the quest chain that caught my eye was a requirement for ten Battleground victories.  I’m not fond of PvP content in WoW, but this means I’ll have to do some at least.  On the plus side, it looks like you wont have to PvP flag for most of the quests in the Karasang Wilds, and I’ll eat a loss in reputation rate of gain if it means I can avoid the 5:1 open world pvp battles that occur on my home server.  While I have crafted some PvP gear and done a few random BGs, its reminded me just how much I dislike the running/capture the flag style games of Warsong Gulch and Twin Peaks.  I far prefer just plain capture the flag games.