Tuesday, 26 November 2013
I might be a casual gamer, who incidentally clocks up a few hours in front of a computer screen, but I do play a lot of classes. This gives me a fairly unique view of how the classes stack up against each other. I am not talking about cutting edge top iLevel gear and the raiding experience, I am talking about the ease of being able to use a certain class.
We all have our favourite playstyle, some like to go to go toe-to-toe, others like to stab their prey from behind, others like to hurl fireballs for a safe distance. From the point of view of a casual altoholic I want ease of use, many refer to Hunter as, "easy to play difficult to master". This is the kind of design that I am looking for. I struggle with my Blood Death Knight when I have not played her for a few weeks, but a Mage or Hunter I can knock out the damage without thinking about it. It might be muscle memory or just ease of use.
Traditionally I have always struggled with melee, in particular Rogue and Warrior, and for some reason I have never got on with my Warlock. Warlocks got into a right state in Cataclysm and the decline in popularity was so marked that Blizzard made it a priority to overhaul the class and all 3 specs, which had lost their definitions. If you have forgotten what state Warlocks got themselves into I have included a link to the excellent work provided by Cynwise.
When you play 10 classes and several specs, it is difficult to spend the time learning an additional one. The result is that always play BM Hunter and Frost Mage. I have tried but the results are terrible. The thought of having to relearn a new spec when levelling my Warlock filled me with dread. In the end this was the last character I levelled, and for solo play I was amazed at the ease and the power of the newly designed Warlock. I traditionally played as Demonology, but on researching the specs I chose Destruction. I cannot even remember the reason why, but I think it was based on a comment from R.
Out of curiosity I found the comment from R on the 7th August 2013, in summary it looks like this:
"Warlock - Go Destro for leveling, use the Void Lord (Supremacy talent) for a tank pet and think Elemental Shammy for rotation. Immolate instead of Flame Shock, Combustion (Conflagrate) instead of Lava Burst and Incinerate instead of Lightning Bolt. That'll get you most of the way to an end-game rotation and will blow up quest mobs quite impressively."
The key was Elemental Shammy rotation, that was something concrete and tangible that I could work with. No need to learn new rotation, simply substitute the ideas of playing Elemental directly to my setup for Destruction and voila, easy peasy.
My Warlock was a little late to the Timeless Isle party, but I am now sporting iLevel 495 and in comparison my Druid is iLevel 508. The Gnomey Warlock can blast a Great Turtle before the spin cycle and my Druid needs to turn and flee. I believe I am playing both classes reasonably well, and one of them is significantly better geared, but I do not feel connected to the druid class anymore. It used to be so overpowered and now it appears to be a joke, with it's stupid swinging barometer between night and day.
The Warlock on the otherhand is an absolute joy to play. If you have not played one for a few expansions, I can heartily recommend. A class canon with a pet, what could be better. Now I just need to that green fire questline.
Friday, 22 November 2013
Just in case any of you are still treading the boards doing the Timeless Isle, I have noticed a slightly worrying trend. The trend is for random invites, with no message. The usual response is simply to ignore and move on.
On this occasion I was being stalked by a bear that would hit everything I was hitting. After a little while I get a message, "Can I group with you?". For once I decided to see where this one was going.
I was a Ret Pally and he was a Bear Druid, nice combination for melee slaughterfest. Not quite the mobs went down no quicker, but I wasn't getting hit so that was a plus. After about 10 minutes something piqued my interest and I decided to check his gear. I was confronted by Blues and Greens, how was this possible? Timeless Isle gives gear away how can this be?
I decided to lead him to where I knew there was chests and had to persuade him to open them. Using this logic I dragged him up the hill towards the Yaungol and one of the big chests, which yielded 2 pieces of leather gear. I have checked his character today and he is at a more respectable iLevel 471 with 6 pieces of Timeless Gear.
Hopefully I have saved a poor lost soul and propelled them into a life of queueing up for LFR. Ok so it's not entirely salvation but this is my good deed for the day.
All this ties in with the requirement that the Godmother thinks that some of us need a little bit more in game guidance. I am not sure how much more you can help people by having sparkling treasure chests all over an island that provide huge gear increases.
Monday, 18 November 2013
Blizzcon provided a large amount of information, and for those that did not attend or watch the virtual event, it is safe to say we are finally catching up. One small item that slipped my attention is about the Warcraft film, due to my interest being solely based around the game and not the various multi-media surrounding the game.
I was first alerted by the Instance Podcast, when Scott Johnson was disappointed by the Blizzcon panel and the lack of definite details being released. The film is still under tight control, but it appears that the storyline according to Wowpedia is:
"BlizzCon 2013 featured an entire panel on the movie. They revealed that the story was going to be around the time of Warcraft 1, and that the focus was going to be on Anduin Lothar and Durotan, as they felt it was important to portray both the Alliance and Horde. Concept art was shown of Dalaran, Stormwind, Ironforge, and Draenor."
The penny final drops that the reason for the convoluted time travel/time bubble storyline is a complete tie in with the film. The storyline for WoD looks very sloppy and is shoehorned into the game to make the film look more palatable. If you want to see exactly how flimsy the storyline is then I suggest that you read Anne Stickney over at WoW Insider.
I have borrowed the diagram drawn by Anne to emphasize the point.
Is this the biggest load of bunkum storytelling you have seen for some time? Not only do they go back in time, they change history and then somehow move the entire alternate world to a different timeline. Even Stephen King would not be so bold.
We have already dallied with time in the Caverns of Time, and the Cataclysm heroics, End Time, Well of Eternity and Hour of Twilight. Blizzard have given up with the idea of an entire continent that can be shrouded by mist, or an Island that comes and goes as it fancies. We are left with the most inconceivable plot line because it ties in with the future release of a film. Quite frankly I am a little appalled at this.
Will it affect the game and will I stop playing? No of course not, but this is nothing more than rampant commercialism. I have heard people saying that the subscriptions will rocket in the face of the new expansion. I think the answer is that nothing will ultimately stop the game sliding into obscurity. At the end of the day nobody would ever have anticipated peak figures of 11 million or that the game would last more than 10 years but it will continue to decline unless the film is a huge commercial success, the new expansion is simply paving the way for the film.
The plotline might be transparent in the extreme, but personally I am interested to see how the lessons of the current expansion are improved upon, and the long awaited Garrisons feature will more than keep me occupied.
Thursday, 14 November 2013
There is nothing more incendiary on the internet than discussing a hypothetical subject like Time Travel. The new expansion is going to take us 30+ years into the past and before people start going on about "Bubbles of Time", "Alternative Realities" and "Parallel Universes" lets first examine the subject we are faced with. I do not claim to an expert on the subject, which is the very reason that I feel qualified to write about it with eyes wide open.
The number one source for all things time related is of course Albert Einstein, with the Theory of Relativity, which claims that time is an illusion, and can vary for different observers depending on your speed through space. To Einstein time is the "fourth dimension".
"Einstein's theory of special relativity says that time slows down or speeds up depending on how fast you move relative to something else. Approaching the speed of light, a person inside a spaceship would age much slower than his twin at home. Also, under Einstein's theory of general relativity, gravity can bend time."
"Both the general and special relativity theories have been proven with GPS satellite technology that has very accurate timepieces on board. The effects of gravity, as well as the satellites' increased speed above the Earth relative to observers on the ground, make the unadjusted clocks gain 38 microseconds a day."
The general consensus is that it is theoretically possible to go backwards in time if you can get past the small issue of Light speed. The recent example of Navimie travelling to Blizzcon and crossing the international date line, (an imaginary line that is situated in the middle of pacific which runs from pole to pole) does not count. It can be argued that forward Time Travel is what we do every day. When I go to bed at night, and then magically wake up in a brand new day is forward Time Travel, from my relative position time as moved very fast.
Wikipedia defines Time Travel as:
"Time travel is the concept of moving between different points in time in a manner analogous to moving between different points in space.
Time travel could hypothetically involve moving backward in time to a moment earlier than the starting point, or forward to the future of that point without the need for the traveler to experience the intervening period (at least not at the normal rate). Any technological device – whether fictional, hypothetical or actual – that would be used to achieve time travel is commonly known as a time machine."
In the World of Warcraft we are anticipating some kind of portal device as our Time Machine, but it is being argued that it is not our Azeroth past but a Parallel Universe in the past. Writing such a concept automatically makes me feel uneasy and with my mind about to explode with the consequences of such action. The easiest way to thing about it as a sort of "Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe", in which the wardrobe is a portal to another world, but a world where time seems to run faster.
Literature, Film and Television are full of stories involving time travel and time machines. The BBC is currently celebrating 50 years of the Time and Space traveller known as the Doctor. We tend to view time travel as a opportunity to broaden our imagination and to provide unique experiences, but the concepts from one book, film or programme are never constant. The writers use different quirks of the genre for their own means. In Doctor Who they often refer to the problems of "Crossing your Own Timeline" this is in place to stop them going back to the beginning of the story and starting again. In the programme the Doctor constantly crosses his own timeline. In WoD we are going to witness Thrall and Grom meeting their own parents, and yet these action are not going to affect the past events on Azeroth, only the future events.
In the Back to the Future Trilogy we see changes in the past affecting both the Present and the Future. Marty McFly in the first film has the photograph of his brother and sister, and when history starts to change the family starts to fade. It could be argued that the photo would just not exist or it would contain another set of kids. This is used in the film merely as a prop to empathise the change in the time line.
In a film like Looper, Bruce Willis escapes his own death to cause a chain of events that have huge consequences for the rest of the film.
Popular Television programmes from America have included Quantum Leap and Sliders. In Quantum Leap the basic premise is that our lives are like a ball of string and that it is therefore possible to leap from one part to another as long as it is within our own timeline. The time machine in this case is the Quantum Leap Accelerator. Sliders uses a different slant in that they are not using a Time Machine but are merely sliding between parallel worlds. The timeframe is the same but one action will have huge implications and the outcome is a parallel world. The following is the definition from Wikipedia:
"The multiverse (or meta-universe) is the hypothetical set of infinite or finite possible universes (including the historical universe we consistently experience) that together comprise everything that exists and can exist: the entirety of space, time, matter, and energy as well as the physical laws and constants that describe them. The term was coined in 1895 by the American philosopher and psychologist William James. The various universes within the multiverse are sometimes called parallel universes."
Blizzard have been careful to use the word Time Bubble but the effect is that they appear to both Time Travel and Slide to a parallel world. The effect of Time Travel is that any storyline will gaping holes and the continuity issues become very important.
If you don't know what I am talking about, then try watching 12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam. On the first run through you take everything at face value, on a second viewing or to discuss the issues with friends, then you will notice that small things have huge implications.
When watching anything connected with Time Travel it is definitely beneficial to suspend believe and let the story wash over you. If you think about it too hard or for too long you will tie yourself up in knots. In WoW terms, I feel sorry for the Lore nerds who are going to have to live with the consequences and fallout of this expansion.
The first two articles I read after writing the above post illustrate the point I was trying make. The Godmother and Matthew Rossi fill in the gaps.
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
There is so much to talk about at the moment it is difficult to know which way to go. BBB wrote an excellent post on Garrisons which negates anybody else writing about it until we have more detail. Rohan at Blessing of Kings, discussed the Orc Centric expansion, which is the point were I put in my two-penneth.
Having never played Horde, and preferring the pretty races (Blood Elves don't count), I have a slightly skewed view of how the factions are treated. Trying to be neutral in my observation it would appear that the vast majority of players are Alliance based. This is only natural because that is what the Fantasy genre as always taught us. We see everything through the "good guys" eyes. The first books in the genre are attributed to JRR Tolkien (Hobbit and Lord of the Rings) set the tone for all future books. The "good guys" are Dwarves, Elves and Hobbits, with humans being weak and fallible and both mighty and strong. Orcs, Worgs, Trolls and Ogres are the "bad guys", and so Blizzard had a uphill struggle to balance the factions.
The original Warcraft franchise like every other Real-Time Strategy game, involved a storytelling through all factions. In the series I remember very little except for 4 storylines.
- The Battle of Mount Hyjal
- Grom Hellscream drinking the blood of Mannoroth
- The Horde helping Cairne Bloodhoof (or the other way round)
- Arthas culling Stratholme
Vanilla WoW was heavy in favour of the Alliance due to the aspects that I have mentioned above. The Horde would later flourish when the stereotype of the Alliance as being casual, carebears and kids. The Horde on the other hand was for real Raiders, PvPers and Hardcore. Horde numbers swelled but on the whole the Alliance still holds the larger numbers on most realms.
Blizzard picked up the baton for the underdogs and have on the whole had a slight favouritism towards the Horde (which is perfectly understandable). Not wanting to pick out too many individual acts of favouritism it is easier to look at the expansions.
- Vanilla - The Alliance had the lion share of non contested zones
- The Burning Crusade - Probably the most Neutral in terms of Storyline
- The Wrath of the Lich King - Alliance centric due to Arthas being the fallen Alliance noble
- Cataclysm - The hero in a supposed neutral role was Thrall, and with the Horde making territorial gains in the revamp.
- Mists of Pandaria - Garrosh Hellscream (enough said)
- Warlords of Draenor - Garrosh, Grom et al. This is completely Horde centric.
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
I have played computer games for as long as I can remember. Never in all that time have I ever had an inkling as to who is in the team behind the software, with the possible exception of Sid Meier. Blizzard have many public faces, and of the World of Warcraft team you could probably name 5-10 people without having to think too hard.
The first name that I think of in connection with World of Warcraft is Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street, a man who seems to have as many fans as haters. Ghostcrawler at Blizzcon appeared on the panel of the Instance Podcast, along with the usual team and Russell Brower (Sound Designer). Ghostcrawler was in fine form and was pretty much off the leash without the PR handlers that often follow him around. If you have not listened already then I heartily recommend that you do whilst playing.
What I find impressive about Ghostcrawler is his vast knowledge of the game. It would be easy to say that is what he is paid for, but in my opinion he is involved or has knowledge of all aspects and decisions affecting the game. It would appear that every suggestion that players come up with, Blizzard have discussed, considered, rejected or are considering implementing. In theory I tend to agree with everything that Blizzard sees as wrong with the game. The problem is not even the implementation it is often how the player base abuses the changes.
Since the implementation of the Timeless Isle, I have grown to resent the endless stream of gear modifications that need to take place.
Gem - Enchant - Reforge - Valor Upgrade (Transmog)
It was not a problem when you only upgrade on average one item a week. After levelling my Warlock I changed every single item of gear. The professions needed are ridiculous:
Gem - Jewelcrafter
Enchants - Scribe, Enchanter, Leatherworker, Tailor
Reforge - Vendor
Upgrade - Vendor
Balancing Hit and Expertise became a monstrous undertaking, and the only sensible solution was to use an addon or consult a 3rd party site. If min - maxing involves so much faffing around that we need an external source then there is a serious problem. The result is can't be bothered or large amounts of faffing. Just remember the "can't be arsed" will appear in a LFR near you in the very near future.
By extension Dodge, Parry, Spirit will also go the way of the dodo, and gear will become more class specific but will change depending on spec. Special abilities will appear on gear and that will leave the same strange decision making process that I faced when playing Diablo. This of course will lead to min-maxing of a different sort and some abilities will more definitely be BiS. Theorycrafting is far from dead it will simply take a different route.
The three remaining stats, have been a strange mix over the last two expansions. Haste and Crit have been around for a long time and we instinctively know what each of these will do if we stack them. Mastery was supposed to be a fine tuning stat, for when a spec was outperforming the other two specs (on a pure DpS). In practice we have seen very little fine tuning otherwise how can you explain why Beast Mastery was so much better than Marksman for a whole expansion or Fire Mages have been rocking the charts for so long it is untrue.
With the removal of so many secondary stats, there is no need for the reforger, it was an ugly solution to a bad situation, and for most it will not be missed.
I am guessing the new system will either be gem or enchant not both, and this will result in a speedy gear change but the professions associated will lose an income stream. It can be argued that Jewlecrafters and Enchanters have already been very well recompensed over the years, but it will not stop the moaning in the forums. Ghostcrawler has already intimated that they are reviewing other income streams for those poor souls with either of these professions, I suggest that Blizzard look at Leatherworking and Engineering if they want to help impoverished professions.
The removal of the so called "Intellect Plate" problem is another clever solution to an age old problem. The most persecuted classes by the old system are Paladin and Shaman, three specs with three different sets of armour to contend with. Druids have had four specs but can just about manage with two sets of armour. The new system will be much crisper and cleaner, but what are they going to do will Trinkets. Are trinkets going to be role based or class based? Clearly some questions still need to be ironed out.
Blizzard have seen the problems, and have acted to fix the issues. The question is what will they do to replace it, because we all know they can't help but go full tilt in the opposite direction until that also becomes a problem.
In theory I am totally behind the change but we need to see the implementation and exactly how the player base abuses the new system. For now it is a good start.
Monday, 11 November 2013
Blizzcon is now officially over, but if you are anything like me, you are still wandering around in a state of shock. This is going to take several days to digest the information and formulate opinions. As a backup plan I am going to review my own prediction and compare to what the new expansion is going to introduce to the game:
1. The new expansion is Warlords of Draenor.
Yay, one to Bob, this was almost a given, although I was toying with the "Dark Warlords form Below Draenor".
2. No new expansion for at least 9 months.
Not confirmed how long it take or even how far developed they are. A patch 5.5 would delay the release of new expansion. (eg if Patch 5.5 took 4 months to implement, Warlords of Draenor would be pushed back 4 months) with no parallel gains to be made by splitting teams to work on separate projects.
3. Heroic 5 man instances will be re-introduced.
Not sure whether they will return to adding extra 5 Man Heroics in future patches, but like MoP they will start with Heroic instances
4. Scenarios of multiple sizes will continue to be used to compliment and advance storyline.
A fairly safe bet that scenarios will become entrenched into the game
5. A major change to LFR either using flex technology or content that needs only one Tank or fewer healers.
I think I called this correctly, with LFR having a little more room to wriggle in terms of overall composition of the raid team.
6. Dailies and Weeklies will be used for content and reputation, but not as the only source of reputation gain.
The noises emanating from Blizzard are that the Daily Quest is now dead. The jury is still out on this one, and expect to see Dailies and Weeklies but not as common as the last two expansions. They will definitely be used sparingly on Reputation grinds
7. Gear will not be available only through the medium of Valor and Justice, Factions will once again require gold.
This is a wait and see, but there are changes to come for Valor and Justice. Justice was less than useless for the entire expansion.
8. Commendations will continue to be used for Alt reputation gains.
Nobody stated anything to contrary, and it is doubtful they will want to leave alts so isolated again, so I expect this feature to remain.
9. The next expansion is for 5 Levels only.
Congratulations to R for calling me out on this one. The main reason is that 100 levels sounds more Epic than 95. Apparently the maths makes it an easier transition without the big loss in power we encountered between levels 88-89 as crit and haste drop significantly below the gain in gear.
10.The squish is coming, and certain unintended items will become BiS. Some levels will becoming difficult and others ridiculously easy, especially around the old level caps.
Yes, the squish is coming, but glitches in the system will be more difficult to determine at lower levels. It affects the whole game and not just the last 10 levels.
11. I anticipate no new class, but possibly a new race (available to both side)
Partially correct, I had a feeling that this would be the first expansion without new Races, Classes or Professions.
12. New character models for all, with PC upgrades for many
An easy one to predict and I stand by the PC upgrade aspect of the prediction
13. New improved levelling for Tailoring, Leatherworking, Enchanting, Jewelcrafting and Fishing.
Easy levelling paths are planned for every profession with the exception of Blacksmithing and Cookery which have already been updated.
14. Jewelcrafting to return to a discovery method for all gem cuts except for PvP.
No news on this one yet
15. No new professions.
It is becoming more difficult to backward integrate professions into 90 levels of existing game. There is unlikely to be any new professions in any future expansion.
16. Radical changes for Warriors, Hunters and Rogues.
I have seen no special mention of class changes but this is normally a later development in deployment.
17. Normal 10 and 25 man Raiding to be replaced by Flex.
Oddly enough I called this one correctly. It is not a complete replacement more of a shuffling of Raid progression. Flex has become universally loved for its flexible approach and is easier than LFR even with more Raid features being included. Kurn highlighted the four tiers of raiding.
Looking for Raid/Raid Finder: Same as LFR today, only flexible, meaning that if you’re waiting for six people to fill your LFR group after a wipe, you don’t actually need to wait — the encounter will have changed dynamically and you can just go with your 19 people.
Normal Raiding: This is what is currently known as “Flex” raiding, in terms of difficulty, it looks like. The size for this raid will be 10-25 people and will be flexible and dynamic. This is why they’re removing “flex” as a difficulty. Instead, they’re applying flexible raid technology to all difficulties of raiding. (Well, except one.)
Heroic Raiding: This is what is currently known as “normal” raiding, in terms of difficulty. Again, this raid size will be 10-25 people and will scale dynamically.
Mythic Raiding: Currently known as “heroic” raiding, Mythic raiding will be the “elite” raiding level. The raids will be tuned for 20 people and will not scale up or down, instead of the 25-man size raiders have been using since Burning Crusade.
18. No replacement for Wintersgrasp and Tol Barad
I well and truly misread this one. The reason was that if any expansion needed an Orc v's Human, world battleground it should have been Mists of Pandaria. Obviously the feature was missed and Blizzard have got some new ideas to implement.
19. Legendary to continue to be a questline available to all and achieved by the few.
This was a much better implementation of a Legendary than the previous implementations. Kudos to those that achieved the Cloak of Strange Effect, and I hope to have mine before the expansion ends.
20. No major change to the Talent tree, 1 new level added at 95.
Slight modifications expected to eliminate any Talents that are still perceived to be mandatory, New Talents are not expected to add to the Button bloat so expect to see imaginative use of procs and combining with other spells.
21. Valor upgrade vendors to stay.
Still up for debate. I am unsure whether I like this facility or not.
22. Scribes will be able to make coloured Gear Ink to assist in the Transmog process.
Too early to tell, but Transmog is an important meta game for many.
23. PvP vendors will be hidden in a cave with no indication where to find them.
"Where are the PvP vendors?" "In the cave at 23,72" "I don't know what to do with coordinates" "..."
24. No new farm or upgrade to existing farm.
Boy did I not see this one coming. Player housing is not something that particularly floated my boat, but a Garrison filled with lackeys, now you are talking. I think this is the number one new feature of Warlords of Draenor.
25. No revamp of Outlands, expect a new continent.
This one I missed off the original list, but I have discussed before. This is not a new planet/continent that has recently been discovered this is Draenor as found in a "Time Bubble". For those that did not get the Dr Who reference from Dave Kosak:
"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to affect, but actually, from a non-linier, non subjective point of view it is more like a big ball of wibbily wobbly timey wimey...stuff "
Doctor Who (Blink)