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.

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Mists of Pandaria: First Week Impressions

October 2, 2012

Launch

I took Tuesday off work, as well as the following week.  I had a nice brunch in town, and did some book shopping.  By 5pm I was home and logged in, mucking around.  There were frivolous shenanigans going on outside the Warchief’s Hall, and I took part in an impromptu display of Azure Netherwing Drake mounts, while someone mounted on a scorpion rode back and forth making inspirational speeches.

Eight minutes to the hour of seven, Mists went live, the quest popping up earlier than expected.  I quickly trained my professions, handed in 20 daily quests, then took the zeppelin to Pandaria.

The next few hours was like a D-Day movie.  Intense action based quests, zeppelin crashes, wiping out an Alliance stronghold, then the breakthrough and penetration into the Jade Forest … where all the locals were nice and friendly.  Quite a change in tone from the starter zones of Cataclysm and The Burning Crusade, more like the Wrath of the Lich King zones.

Skipping the instances, I relentlessly ground through the quests and harvested as much Ghost iron ore as I could grab.  then I pushed on into the Valley of Four Winds (Level 86), where quests and following the lure of yellow gold dots on the mini-map took me over a cliff edge and into a jungle.  Then I headed north into the mountains of Kun-Lai Summit (Level 87), which was an endless wasteland of quest hub after quest hub, going ever higher into the mountains as the sun rose outside my bedroom window.

From the top of the mountains I headed down into the Townlong Steppes (Level 88), which ends up in a peninsula island chain (the islands will probably end up as content hubs in future content patches).  I hit Level 89 here, managed to solo one of the rare elite mobs that drop useful loot, and found one of the random grey vendor relics that is worth 100g (and 300k xp) while exploring some caves.  That’s when it really struck me how different Mists was from Cataclysm.  While the quests provided direction, it was not the linear freight train of most of the Cataclysm zones, and there was just so many interesting caves and pathways to explore.

Ding

A bit before midnight on Wednesday I hit Level 90 in the Dread Wastes, as I was freeing one of the insectoid Klaxxi Paragons from being trapped in Amber.  My flatmate with his Warlock beat me by about four hours. I chatted with my flatmates for 20 minutes, then fell asleep after 30 hours of gameplay, and 41 hours up in the waking world.

Graphics

I was amazed at what Blizzard have pulled off here.  While WOW is starting to look dated compared to new games (e.g. SWTOR) in terms of graphics, they have built a beuatiful landscape that is recognisably oriental in themes and still a continuation of WoW.  The zones are nicely different, with the established motif of corruption being veiwable in the landscape as elements of Sha corruption turn the ground soil black.  Perhpas the only tiring zone is Kun-Lai summit, which has a lot of dreary brown landscape before you hit the snow white mountain peaks.

Some of the monsters look like liquid smoke, very cool, and some monsters have spray attacks which look very liquid as well, and a side effect of the changes is that “force” can be exerted on characters , e.g. wind/water currents, pushing the character around.

There is a lot of audio in the game too, the audio team has expanded from 3 to 40 people, and it shows. The insectoid Klaxxi sound a lot like the insect race in the prequel Star Wars movies, full of clicks and humms in their speech.

Cut scenes are much improved over Uldum.  They are used sparingly, and to great effect.

The Pandaren character models are beautiful, and make the vanilla models look crude.  I hope the pull off a revamp of the older model skins someday.  Monks in action are also very cool, lots of soothing green animations.

Story

Both Horde and Alliance tell the story of “The other side got here first, we got here accidentally, then pushed them back and established a defensive position”.  Sounds a lot like the propaganda element of a casus bellum.  After the Jade Forest entry zone the Horde/Alliance conflict takes a back seat to learning more about Pandaria.  You meet the various peoples and learn about their history and culture.  Some of the quests and dialogue are laugh out loud funny, others are heartbreaking – one quest chain dealing with a death in childbirth brought tears to my eyes.  Anyhow, current bad guys appear to be the Sha, the Klaxxi, and ourselves.

To start getting a handle on the Sha menace, the dungeons help bring it out.  Its a focus on inner feelings of a negative nature: fear, hatred, anger, violence, and these show up in the fights.  One fight in ShadoPan Monastery has a Hatred meter, the more you do in the fight the more Hatred you build up, until you take a time out ad chill down options (or go crazy, I decided not to let the Hatred bar max out…)

As a bonus for finding a lot of lore objects, you can buy the nifty flying disc (see picture above). It makes a windy swish swish sound as you fly around.

The Monk starting island was good, but very linear.  Just follow the story to its end, then wave goodbye to the island forever.

Gameplay

On the whole, I am a huge fan of the “less is more” approach to the new Talent system.  A lot of bloat and useless decision-making has been eliminated, and I expect future iterations of the talent system to make it stronger.

Hardest boss is still the Elevator Boss, every freaking time!

Paladin DPS: having more holy power generation made leveling much easier, as self-healing was stronger.

Holy Paladin: healing has changed, and damage in dungeons has changed.  People either take almost no damage (say a 20k hit off a 300-400k healthbar) or they get hit like trucks (usually on trash pulls gone wrong). Debuffs that need cleansing also suck the mana bar dry.  I have healed all the “heroic” 5 mans, and the difficulty bar is much, much lower than in Cataclysm.  A few wipes here and there, but a few instances I managed without the mana bar going below 75%. Absolutely nothing is like the hell that was Heroic Stonecore.  That said, Blizzard has given us the tools for the job, but its built around our free heals.  Because the free heals are free, the heals that cost mana really hurt to cast.   Today I got asked if I wanted to raid with another guild, based on my healing with a pug group I chain ran three instances with.  A nice compliment!

Blood DK: I started with Unholy spec for leveling (perma pet has its uses in grabbing herb nodes) but switched to Blood spec – its just so much more stronger a solo spec in terms of its self-heal ability (I can self-heal about 80% of my 200k health at level 87 using two DK powers and the 60k heal of the Life Spirit that drops from Herb nodes).  Tanked the first two normal dungeons easily enough.

Warlock: I found Affliction too complicated for me, Destruction was better, I like the Ember resource system. Load up on trash, drop four nukes at thet start of the boss fight, rebuilt during the fight, drop four nukes at the end of the fight.  My flatmate in 463 gear and glyphed for +20% health runs around with 500k health in 5 mans, often 100k more than the tanks…

Gearing for dungeons: completing the quest chains in Dread Wastes should reward in three iLevel 450 blues, then do the Arena quest from Monastery of the White Toger for a 450 weapon, and you should be in dungeons a few minutes later.  A hotfix has also made Justice Point gear much more reasonable to obtain (seriously, Exalted rep for JP gear, what was with that!?!)

Note the Dalek on the shoulders… I’m liking the look of this armour set very much.

Reputation Grind

Hoo boy.  There are a lot of reputations, and some have to be completed to exalted before the next one in the chain starts. Very gated … but as there is no longer a limit on daily quests, I think it will help stop people over exterting themselves in the game.  Still, the quests are new, and many of them are fun.  I like the fact it won’t all be done in three months. A lot of opportunity cost decisions, so I’m sorry Tillers, but Farmville in WOW will have to wait a few months.

Crafting Professions

Getting your skill to 600 is easy.  The hard part is that a lot of the good patterns require exalted reputation, sometimes with two factions.  Its going to be harder to make gold from Alts.  Blacksmithing is an exception here, most of the patterns are obtainable after you complete Dreadwastes in exchange for Kyparite ore (easily mined). Possibly this was done to make it easier to gear tanks.   The primary block to mass crafting is all the good stuff requires Spirits of Harmony, which are bind-on-pickup and mainly drop from mobs.  When doing a full round of dailies you might get one.  Most of the crafted epics requires 5-8 of them.  So I managed to finish some epic gloves for my Paladin yesterday, but its likely to be another week before I make another.

I was worried that the JC metagem cuts, which are BOP world drops, would be hard to get, but they are dropping like hot cakes, my Level 86 Warlock already has half-a-dozen cuts.  JC used to require a huge time commitment to daily quests to learn cuts.  The new research model speeds up cut acquisition by a factor of three to five times, so I’m expecting medium term gem prices to be low (just as soon as the price of Golden Lotus drops to allow cheap rare gem transmutation).

Archaeology was surprisingly useful: its pulled up three 463 BOA items (Healer off-hand, Agility Polearm, and Mastery trinket) which I have put to immediate good use.

A big change is that Darkmoon Faire cards require a Scroll of Wisdom, which has a 24 hour cooldown.  This means by the end of the first Faire, most scribes will have made less than 20 cards.  So the old technique of make 60 cards and hope to get the eight card deck you were after is not going to work.  people are going to trade, haggle, and then finally scream and pay thousands of gold for the cards they need to complete their sets on time.  Wish me luck!

Auction House

The Black Market – boring.  So far it only has 2-3 items listed, and they are pets or PVP gear.

AH prices are all over the place. Green gems selling for 3-300g, blue gems for 100-500g, metagems for 1000-3000g.  I’m selling healer/tank shields at a steady rate and a few metagems, and a bit of spare change from the new glyphs.  My flatmate has done well selling cloth PVP gear.  Mats are cheap as cloth is dropping at a much greater rate than in Cataclysm or Wrath, and a lot of people are buying the PVP gear.  I just don’t feel like parting with the Spirits of Harmony required to learn the PVP patterns.

I blew 120k on mounts (see picture below), but have made around 70k from questing and the AH.  Totally worth spending the big bucks on the vanity mount as it is now  account bound.  The Reforger on the Yak is a nice quality of life feature. Finish a 5 man, hop on the mount, and reforge your new gear on the spot!

Well, that is enough for now.  Back to work tomorrow, but its been a fun week.


October 24, 2011

I am in one of my phases where I write up some game mechanics, then delete them for being too derivative.  So while I am doing work on the “Xmas Game” I do not know if I will actually get one finished.  In the mean time, some notes on games I have been playing and games I am looking forward to playing.

Star Wars the Old Republic Beta

Not much I can say here due to the NDA. Bioware did a short beta test just for testing the Oceanic connections and I was lucky enough to get an invite.  I am not regretting my pre-order from Amazon.

Lord of the Rings Online

Over the last year I have slowly levelled up a level 30-ish Guardian character in LOTRO.  Its a free-to-play game, but I did spend some cash on a mount and opening some questing zones.  While the Lord of the Rings lore is good, its very, very grindy.  Two points stand out here: advanced combat abilities that are only learned after you have used a basic combat ability a few hundred/thousand times, and the crafting system, where you effectively have to relearn prior tiers of skill in order to master each new tier.  Tactically, the levelling game is more interesting the World of Warcraft, as failure is quite possible if you attack on elite mob or pull too many trash mobs.  I only tried an instance once, and the combination of inability to generate multi-target threat combined with rapid mob respawns turned me off trying again.  After playing the SWTOR Beta, I don’t think I’ll be spending more time in LOTRO.

Dragon Age (tabletop)

My once a fortnight tabletop campaign continues, with the players having reached Level Six.  In the last session, they ran into an interesting moral challenge and my amoral mage jumped a different way from that which I was expecting (he refused to take the Red Book of Monsters from the time-shifted Ebon Tower after a fragment of a God told the party the book could be used to summon monsters that could sunder the world).

Some quirks in the game engine are now becoming apparent.  By Level 10 a character will have at least doubled their health from Level 1, if not tripled it, as well as improving the ability to avoid being hit and to mitigate incoming damage … but their outgoing damage will only have increased by about 1d6 per round.  So against a similar group of “heroes” the chances are that a combat would take an entire game session to resolve.

The Rogue class is annoying, as in each and every combat round they have to make an opposed bluff check in order to gain an attack bonus and 1d6 damage.  Without the bonus damage the Rogue is not competitive in damage dealing.  The extra die roll each round is time consuming.

Mages are annoying, definitely glass cannons, which makes them either overpowered or vulnerable.  If an NPC mage uses a crowd control spell, they can eliminate a player character from an entire combat (which means a bored player), but in return solo enemy mages are not viable as foes – they simply cannot survive without a small horde of minions to intercept/disrupt the players.

My rough rule of thumb now, is that for an enemy to concern my players, it needs to do a minimum of 6d6 damage per combat round (after accounting for missed attacks and armour absorption), otherwise the fact that the party mages can pump out 6d6 healing per round means most combats end with the players on full health.  While I have given out the odd health/mana potion, I don’t think anyone has ever had to use one of them.

Still, the core engine still appeals to me and I am tinkering with reworking it into a SF setting – I am mucking around with ideas for Sidhe, Fomorians and Stargate style Egyptian monsters all turning Earth into a post-apocalyptic setting, with some bright ultra-tech human colonies out in space.

World of Tanks

This is an online “lobby” game, consisting of 15 minute player versus player matches in which each of the 30 players controls one World War II era tank.  Between matches you repair and research.  The tank capabilities and vulnerabilities seem faithful to history, although there are a few fantasy tanks in play which never got off the design board and onto the historical battle fields.  At the moment tanks are limited to US, Russian, and German designs, although I expect we will eventually see British and French designs as well.  The game has been sufficiently successful that we can expect to see World of Planes and World of Ships in a couple of years.

I chose to play Russian tanks, and have slowly worked my way up to my first heavy tank, the KV.  Unlike my previous tanks, its slow, really slow, and the turret is also a slow traverser.  Historically, it was a killer when it ran into German Panzer IIs and IIIs, but in WoT I am as likely to run into Tiger IIs and IS-4s, which I can’t really damage and which can one shot me in return.  Tactically, rather than moving constantly at max speed as you do with light tanks, the KV needs to work in formation with other tanks to avoid being flanked and also needs to skulk from bit of cover to bit of cover.  Out in the open its easily spotted and immobilised by artillery.

Overall, I find WoT to be a really good way to spend 30-60 minutes of spare time.  It also goes well with listening to some heavy metal music.

World of Warcraft – Firelands

My guild has lost two DPS players (rogue/hunter) but continues to raid.  We managed 6/7 boss kills before the content was nerfed, then 7/7 shortly afterwards and are now 1/7 for hard modes.  I’m not sure the content nerf was good for us.  We do not have the throughput in DPS/HPS for many of the hard mode fights, but now the normal mode fights are so trivial as to be boring.

What we tend to do now, is spend two hours wiping on hard modes on Thursday night, then clear up to 5/7.  On Monday we go back and kill the last two, and as we get better at killing Ragnaros we use our remaining time on Tier 11 hard modes.  On Sundays I lead a casual raid, but it is struggling as several of the players there simply cannot meet the DPS requirements – we need 15k DPS and they do 10k – the fights take too long and our healers run out of mana, or the time delay makes the wheels fall off and the fight becomes a train wreck.

I am happy with my Holy Paladin healing, I managed to rank sixth in class in World of Logs for healing the fat fire spider Beth’tilac in the second week of Firelands.  Considering how Paladins 1-6 were all in Tier 11 Hard Mode gear I was pretty chuffed with the accomplishment.  My Retibution Paladin DPS though … it sucks, hovering around 12k for most fights, although on a static tank and spank it can reach 18k.  Part of the reason the DPs is low is that because I do not enjoy it, I don’t practice it.  I’m not sure why I don’t enjoy it but there are two bits of the play style I struggle with: use of cooldowns and proc dependence.

It’s hard for me not to agree with Gevlon over at the Greedy Goblin, that the sheer complexity of the “Boss Dance” in fights is making raiding less fun.  This is especially the case for melee damage dealers in any fight with significant movement, as the loss of contact time on the boss reduces DPS.  It is a never-ending race, in which Blizzard alternates between buffing classes with new abilities, then upping the difficulty of new fights.  In patch 4.3 we are being promised a buff to melee DPS … but I have to say as a raid leader, I have no desire to recruit more melee DPS into the raid group because unless their player skill is exceptional.

Over at Blessing of Kings, a comparison of a Wrath era fight and a Cataclysm era was posted to illustrate this point:(http://blessingofkings.blogspot.com/2011/09/firelands-nerfs-and-difficulty.html)

Marrowgar:

  • One mob
  • Tanks stack on each other to split damage
  • Avoid fire
  • Dodge bonestorm
  • Kill bonespikes

Shannox:

  • Three mobs
  • Dodge traps
  • Burst one add with large spells
  • Heal one random target who takes high damage
  • Trap and kite one add until a stacking debuff wears off, failing this increases tank damage
  • Avoid aoe spear damage
  • Damage increases significantly as fight progresses

What I would prefer, is a few more fights that stretch my ability to play my class well, as opposed to how well I have memorised the exact dance steps for the special mechanics on a boss fight.  My own feedback on class design for the next expansion was “less is more”.

On the whole though, I think Blizzard made a serious mistake in Cataclysm by making two of the tier end bosses be recycled bosses from Vanilla WoW (Nefarian & Onyxia, and Ragnaros).  Yes, the fight mechanics are different … but it still felt like a failure of imagination to me by the Blizzard design team.

Upcoming Games

Games I am looking forward to include: Star Wars the Old Republic (December), Guild Wars 2 (2012), Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (11 November), and the Mists of Pandaria expansion for World of Warcraft (2012).

For information on SWTOR I recommend the http://torwars.com/ fan site.  My Sith PvE guild is now part of the Oceanic “daisychain”, a collaborative effort to ensure as many ANZAC players as possible all end up on the same starting server.

Guild Wars 2 is attempting to eliminate the holy trinity, so all characters will have heal/dps options.  Defences will include active dodging by the players, and if you “die” you actually get a different set of combat options while knocked down.  Could be a quality of life improvement, but it might be a much stronger evolution of the genre than SWTOR is shaping up to be (several press reviews describe SWTOR as WoW with lightsabres).

I preordered Skyrim after watching some gameplay videos, especially of combat versus dragons.  It looks like combat is very sandbox, many different ways to solve each tactical problem.  I enjoyed the other Elder Scrolls games, so this will fill the gap until SWTOR is released.

Mists of Pandaria will be an oriental themed expansion for WoW.  I know a few people have gone “WTF! Panda!”  but last time I looked WoW had already jumped the shark (the Goblin starter area has a quest involving sharks with laser beams mounted on them).  I’ll be happy with MOP if I can dress my virtual dolls in Samurai armour.

Probably the most significant announcement was a complete rebuild of the talent system, rather than spending points every few levels to boost power and access new abilities, many abilities will be granted with class spec, and talents will be a choice of one of three options every 15 levels.  When you hit 30, you can’t go back and choose a second Level 15 option, as each set of options will compare like with like, you are unlikely to be forced to choose between utility or survival or throughput.  I like the sound of this new system … fits with my “less is more” preference.

Wowhead already has a talent calculator preview available at: http://www.wowhead.com/mists-of-pandaria-talent-calculator