Tuesday, May 17, 2016

[SWTOR] Chapter 13

What do you do with a free night and no Legion Beta invite? SWTOR!

I finished Chapter 13. It was pretty good, but again, like all of them, I found it too short. For this chapter, I was really looking forward to seeing Vette enter the KotFE storyline. 

Recently, I started a baby Sith Warrior with a guy I used to work with and I've been getting to know Vette better through that toon. Spoiler Alert: I like the way this character is written quite a bit. The initial interaction with her sets the tone well with her wisecracking the prison guard.  In Chapter 13, Vette is more the supporting actress. The star of the show is the Bounty Hunter companion, Gault. I never got far enough with my Bounty Hunter to meet Gault. He was something of an unknown to me and it didn't take long at all for him to turn off my Light Side Jedi Knight. I would have liked the Chapter better had Vette had more screen time. She is still the fun, wise cracking side kick but you can see the last 5 years of dealing with the Eternal Empire have taken some of that lightheartedness away. Perhaps BioWare could have gone into their vaunted "choice" bucket and let you choose which companion you spend more time with like the Koth/Senya choice in one of the earlier chapters.

Minor spoiler


Initially, I was disappointed when Chapter 13 didn't address the cliffhanger at the end of Chapter 12 in any meaningful way. I felt the hand waving "lost communication with all parties" was a little weak. They did finally address it in the epilogue of Chapter 13. While I liked the impact and consequences it had, it felt like they could have done more. Basically, you get a "here's what happened" kind of resolution. I have a sneaking suspicion the ending would have played out exactly the same way regardless of my choices in Chapter 12 which is a weak point in their narrative. If my choices don't matter much, why am I bothering making them?

Two for the Road


I've been having a great time playing with my buddy as we work through the low levels. SWTOR is a really great game for a duo. Unfortunately, our Presence is so high from our other max level toons that we are blazing through everything with little trouble. It also helps that I (prepare to be shocked) rolled a tank (Immortal Juggernaut) and my friend rolled a healer (healer spec Operative).

We are basically playing through the story like it’s a single player or co-op game. SWTOR works very well like this and the leveling stories are really solid, though I'm finding the Sith Warrior story to be inferior to the Jedi Knight story to this point.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

[WoW] Raiding Hiatus Leads Back to Pandaria

I work the first Wednesday night of every month and I had told our raid leader I wouldn't be on for last week's run. Technically, I volunteer, since the job I'm doing on Wednesday night doesn't pay me, but I like to think of it as work in my mind. I love my Wednesday night job so it's not work in negative connotation, but it's easier to tell someone I can't do something on Wednesday night because I'm 'working' and it has 'work' level priority in my schedule.

Much to my surprise when I did log on the next night, I was greeted with a new guild message of the day that stated we were on a raiding hiatus until Legion.

Old Raids


Even though we have Beta starting today, Legion is still months away. A couple of the team wanted to work on the old Mists of Pandari Meta achievements and I joined in. I'm a relatively easy Dwarf to please, just point me at something that wants to tear my face off and I'm happy.

We started with Pandaria Raider which covered Mists' open trifecta of Mogu'shan Vaults, Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Spring.  It was interesting being back in these old haunts and I was amazed how quickly my muscle memory took over. I raided more in early Mists than any other time since and as I pulled a boss I started moving almost instinctively to my old tanking position.  It was like my fingers knew what to do before my brain did. It could almost imagine Wichita's DK right there alongside me. Man, I miss tanking with that guy - we were such a good team.

Feng the Accused is still one of my favorite fights in that raid, and with my knowledge of the fight I kind of took over the raid and made all the calls so we would get the achievement. It felt really good to have some success in a quasi tanky role for the group. It reinforced to me that my biggest problem in Warlords has simply been a lack of practice. My other favor fight in there was Will of the Emperor, but they died before we could even do the first 'dance' for an Opportunistic Strike.

Somehow, Garalon, in Heart of Fear, still managed to frustrate me. His achievement for the Meta is to kill him without killing one of his legs and one of our Hunters hit an AoE (Chimera Shot?) by accident. The other achievement we couldn't finish was Power Overwhelming which requires you to kill the 3 bosses in a specific order. We figured out which order would complete the achievement for most of the group and did the fight that way. A good number of us did finish Pandaria Raider and got their Cloud Serpent. I was not one of them. The plan is to go back in next week and finish up the ones we need for the rest of the group. After that, we'll move on to Throne and Siege. I'm not in any way looking forward to seeing Siege of Orgrimmaar again, and I'm more than a little nervous about my two nemeses in Throne, Tortus and Durumu

Alts

Rophe (Elemental Shaman) is starting to get his Garrison in order and Theogrun's (Beast Mastery Hunter) Garrison is doing well. I still haven't decided which server to put my future Level 100 boosted Brewmaster Monk on, but I'm thinking I'll put him on Greymane/Tanaris (Rophe and Theogrun's server). I already have two max level alts there so that might become my alt server.

The next guy up is my soon to be renamed Fury Warrior, HonorsSword, He's currently working his way through Pandaria although he's nearly done despite the fact that he's not even out of the Jade Forest (first zone) yet. Originally I wanted to blast him up to max level to get his Garrison going but after seeing the investment it took to get Rophe up and running, I'm in no rush to do that again. He's on yet another server (Arygos) so I can't borrow funds from another max level toon to get it going. I may need to think about getting him to Greymane. Man, I wish Blizzard would go to shards so I can have the whole team together or at least let us mail items and gold to any toon on our account.

My lone Horde max level toon, Ice Mage Kishuf, is still plugging along. None of these alts has the oil production to really do much with shipyards.

That will be 5 Artifact questlines (Shaman, Paladin, Monk, Warrior and Mage) I can see when Legion hits. I've got no real interest in DK, Rogue or Warlock so that leaves Druid, and Priest as classes I lack. I'd rather level a Druid, but there's one rather large problem with that. They can't be Dwarves!!

Monday, April 25, 2016

[Legion] Artifact Catch Up Mechanism



If you recall, at the end of my last Legion post, I was discussing my concern for hybrids being able to maintain two artifacts. Some nights you are going to have too many tanks or too many healers online and you'll need someone to switch to DPS. Most players want to do well in whatever role they are be performing and having a decently progressed artifact looks like its going to be key to that.

Blizzard recognized this issue and today, Watcher gave us some details about their proposed solution called Artifact Knowledge. Artifact Knowledge is something you build through Order Hall missions and works as a kind of multiplier to your Artifact power.

This system is key to the pacing of overall artifact progression, and to making it easier for players to maintain multiple artifacts if they so desire. For example, at Knowledge Level 7, you would be earning Artifact Power at over triple the base rate. Thus, if you wanted to switch to a spec you hadn't yet tried at that point, you'd find yourself very quickly able to get that artifact up to par with your primary one. (emphasis added)

This is exactly the kind of thing players needed and I'm really glad to see this system has been developed. There is still the open question as to whether we will have access to all three Artifacts (one for each spec), but the Artifact Knowledge system demonstrates the developers have thought through some of the potential issues with Artifacts and are working on solutions. If they saw the issue with maintaining multiple artifacts, I'm confident they've also thought about if players will have access to two or three of their classes artifacts. Demon Hunters need to not worry since they only have two specs and therefore two artifacts.

Where the Artifact Knowledge system doesn't help is your alts. Artifact Knowledge is tied to the character and it's not account wide so each alt will have to build it up for themselves. Most of my alts are pretty much one spec ponies so I don't think this will be a huge issue for me but for a more dedicated altaholic it may be something of a hurdle.

Friday, April 22, 2016

[SWTOR] Chapters 10, 11, 12

I've now completed SWTOR Chapters 10, 11, and 12 on both my Light side Jedi Knight Guardian and my sort of Dark side Republic Trooper Commando. Major spoilers for the story are included. Consider yourself warned.

I'm encouraged that each chapter has gotten better and I'm looking forward to them resolving the cliffhanger ending of Chapter 12 when Chapter 13 launches. If they leave it hanging and move on to the next bit of story, I will be most put out.

My main issue with all three chapters was length. Each one felt like it was about 90 minutes or so of content and I knocked each one out in a single night. The problem is I'm paying a sub to get these chapters and 90 minutes of content per month isn't enough to justify it. I'm not sure how long the original KotFE chapters were, but they certainly felt longer, but maybe that's because we got all 9 at once.

Chapter 10


I found Chapter 10 to be fairly weak. I did play with Kailyo some on my Imperial Agent alt, but I never really liked her, and getting to play with her again wasn't that big of a deal for me. The constant running around on Zakuul felt like mostly filler. I still don't understand how I as "The Outlander", only the most wanted person in the entire galaxy, and a guy who had his image flashed all over Zakuul, keeps going back to Zakuul and merrily strolling around again and again. Arcaan is sitting up on the throne, getting all upset that Vailyn can't find The Outlander. Maybe check the Lower City, guys. At first, I didn't find the end 'choice' of the chapter to be that compelling but as you get into Chapter 11 you see the consequences a little better (at least on my Dark side Trooper - there we no consequences for my Light side Knight).

What's Up with Koth?


I don't understand Koth deciding to leave my Darkside trooper. Yes, my Darkside trooper both let the power plant explore during his initial escape from Zakuul and in Chapter 10, he allowed Kailyo to target civilians with her explosives. As far as the power plant goes, Nissi (that's my trooper's name) is a soldier, he understands collateral damage and at the time, escape was the better tactical choice over quite possibly self sacrifice to save a bunch of citizens. As for Kailyo, Koth needs to understand that we are fighting a freaking war against Zakuul. He needs to figure out what side he's on. Civilians are going to get hurt. If he's so mad about The Outlander hurting civilians, he needs to go back to Zakuul and put back on his freaking Paladin armor. Of course he's all buddy buddy with my Light side Knight who stop the power plan from exploding and wouldn't let Kaylio target civilians.

Chapter 11


Chapter 11 was an improvement and I actually did this chapter first on my Trooper because of the starring role of Aric Jorgan. I didn't get to spend as much time with Jorgan as I would have liked leveling up. As a DPS trooper, it made more sense to run with Elara (healer) than Jorgan (DPS). This was back before you could choose your companion's role.

The dialog and story in this chapter were solid. For some reason, Jorgan brings out more light side in my trooper than normal. He gets most of his dark side points from refusing mercy to his enemies. (Spoiler) In the case of the helping the refugees in Chapter 11, Nissi saw a tactical advantage in helping and then arming the refugees.

Because I had gone Light side with my Trooper, the chapter played out similarly with my Knight except for some of the dialog which referenced Aric's previous relationship with the trooper.

Chapter 12

Chapter 12 got off to a great start. I really liked the war room scene that opened the chapter. I tried to make some different decisions (Knight favored Jorgan and blowing up the transmitter, Trooper favored Kailyo and slicing it), but both got the "you can't please everyone" speech from Lana. Guess I didn't make the choice different enough.

It was nice to finally get us back to Valkorian who had been oddly quiet through Chapter 10 and 11.

I understood him being pissed with my Knight who had refused to kneel and refused to use his power on every occasion and has consistently said he will destroy Arcann AND the Emperor. I didn't understand Valkorian's hostility toward my Dark side Trooper. My Trooper knelt to the Emperor and has used his power. Both were seem by my Trooper as the correct tactical decisions at the time.
Valkorian said basically the same things to both of my characters.

Near the end of the chapter, you have to make a choice between whether your character believes in free will or fate. My Light side Knight didn't like either choice chose instead to cling to Jedi code. I'm curious where that will take him. I considered having him be harder on Satale for allying with the ghost of Darth Maar, but he had allied with Maar both on Yavin IV and again on Marr's Star Destroyer.

The end of the Chapter was back in the war room and it built up to a great cliffhanger that I can't wait to see resolved.

Then I saw the announcement of Chapter 13 which seems like another diversion and side quest. The story seemed to building towards a confrontation with Zakuul and this one looks like filler. I hope I'm wrong.

I'm sure the Sith Warrior's are excited about getting Vette back. Where's Kira, dagnabit!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

And We Have a Date [Legion Edition]

There it is.



We have a concrete date for Legion. Everything in Warlords just got an expiration date. Legion drops between Week 3 and Week 4 of the NFL Preseason. Week 3 is the most important week, the dress rehearsal. Week 4 is pretty much a bunch of guys who won't be on the team the following Sunday.

As far as my own Legion plans, the only thing I know for certain right now is that I want to stick with my Paladin. He's been my main forever and even the couple of times I tried to switch, I always seem to come back to him. After that, I'm lost.

The artifact system has me concerned. As a hybrid, I need both artifacts, I would argue that really Druids, Monks and Paladins need all 3. Its still not clear from Alpha if we can even get all three. Even if we CAN get all three, it sounds like maintaining even two is difficult. Blizzard Watch writer, Matthew Rossi mentioned in today's Queue:

At present my level 109 Warrior has the Arms and Fury Artifacts and switches between them based on mood. It’s rough and if there’s a catch up mechanic in the alpha I have not seen it — I’m forced to simply split my Artifact Power items between Artifacts, and as a result neither is as progressed as it should be. If they do implement such a [catch up] mechanic, I’d be all for it. Right now, you basically can be a dilettante like me, or you can have focus and get one of the Artifacts leveled at a reasonable pace, but you can’t have both.
Image that instead of Arms and Fury, he said Fury and Prot, or in my case Ret and Prot. I can see this being a very common scenario for many hybrids. If maintaining only two artifacts is rough, maintaining three must be almost Herculean.

If we are limited to only two, then that effectively locks Druids, Monks, and Paladins out of their third spec. If your guild ever needs you to switch to that third spec, it likely won't be an option. This will only put more pressure on the shortage of geared tanks and healers at endgame. Right now, any Druid, Paladin or Monk could get geared reasonably quickly and be able to slot into your team. In Legion, that might not even be an option.

It also discourages players from experimenting. All specs are getting changed to some extent, though not all as radically as Shadow Priest or Survival Hunter. If a Hunter wants to try Survival, but then finds out that yeah, he's still not digging melee, then, with only two artifacts, he's locked out of either Beast Mastery or Marksmanship. The problem only gets worse as some issues with a spec won't appear until max level and by then you blown a bunch of artifact power on the 'wrong' one.

Personally, I'm intrigued by the changes to Holy. It looks like its finally the front line healer I've always wanted it to be. I could still be in a support role but still have the team aspect of DPS. As a Tank, there no one else to pick up your slack. DPS and to an extent, healers have someone else there. Also, mistakes are less impactful in a Healer or DPS. Many times, a mistake by the Tank leads directly to a wipe. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

I've never done much healing and I've not loved it when I have . I've always been Prot/Ret. If we really can only get two 2 artifacts, I can't even consider trying out Holy because if I wind up not liking it, I've locked myself out of either Ret or Prot. How can I give Holy a real shot when I'm dumping Artifact power into Prot or Ret.

I don't know what to do about my spec. Tanking has long been my first love in game but I have to face the reality that I don't have the time to devote to my character which I'll be behind in gearing and neither my DPS artifact nor my tanking artifact are leveled up enough. It's great to have an experience bar beyond max level, but it may mean someone like me never catches up.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Play Log: Return to Raiding

I finally made it for raid night after missing several in a row. We started with Normal Mannoroth and Archimonde. During my absence, they had gotten the first 5 Heroic bosses down but still wanted to give people opportunities for the Crystallized Fel and Trinkets off of Archimonde.

I went Ret as they had established a new tank and Mannoroth was a fairly simple one shot. Then we got to Archimonde and had a little trouble with losing people to various raid mechanics. We were running 3 heals for a 14 man group and the raid leader decided to try it with 4 heals but that meant the current Paladin tank going Holy and much to my surprise and excitement, I was asked to fill the offtank role.

The main problem seem to be what to with the 'star' during Nether Banish. I guess some people came out too soon and the 'star' ate some of the people who remained. It took a couple of pulls, but we got the big guy down. I used a bonus roll and managed to get a Libram of Vindication. Given how flaky my availability has been, I'm rather happy that all the loot I've gotten since joining this guild has been off of bonus rolls.

We went out to switch it to Heroic and called for a 5 minute break. It had been a crazy IRL day and I hadn't gotten dinner yet so I went and threw together a burrito in the kitchen. I got back a little late and one of the other Paladins had switched to tank to clear trash. I didn't have time to switch before we pulled the boss and we did Heroic Hellfire Citadel with 3 tanks because sure, why not. It helped that one of the tanks was Holy Avenger spec and pulling pretty decent DPS even in tank spec.

We set up for Iron Reaver and needed to decide who was going to switch to DPS. The raid leader (an exceptional players and well geared Warrior) decided he wanted to go Fury so it double Paladin tank on Iron Reaver.

One heroic the Artillery debuff goes out much faster and I didn't always handle it real well. After the fourth wipe, the raid leader switched back to Tank and I went Ret.

We killed her on the next pull. Part of the downside of missing so much time is I didn't get a chance to learn the fight with the group, and I can understand the other players not wanting to wipe multiple times on what is essentially a 'farm' fight while I got the mechanic down. I felt terrible both in my own lack of execution but also that I had wasted pulls for the rest of the team.

There have been fights in the past where it took me a long time to learn, and to be truthful, some of them I never truly got. Tortos in Throne of the Thunder was the first. I never could seem to corral those bats. Dumuru was the one that really had me wanting to "go home and rethink my life". The maze was the bane of my existence. Divine Shield saved my butt many a time.

We managed to kill Kormrok and Gurtogg before heading over to Kilrogg. The Paladin tank really wanted to bring his Hunter alt so the raid leader asked me to tank again. That was a great relief. After my epic fail on Iron Reaver, I had feared my days of tanking for them were over, but they were still willing to give me another chance.

Unfortunately, we didn't kill Kilrogg. I think I handled my responsibilities pretty well with picking up adds and interrupting Rending Howl.

Friday, April 1, 2016

[WoW] New Player Experience

I finally made it Level 20 on my Worgen Rogue and got the achievement and the alternate hero skin in Hearthstone.



After getting to Level 20, I'm not a huge fan of the Rogue class. I picked Combat as my specialization and I'm not sure if its the spec I don't like or the low level combat or what but it didn't feel fun or exciting. I think if Blizzard is expecting to attract of bunch of new players with the Warcraft movie, they need to look at the starting player experience because as it stands right now, I'm not sure I would have stuck with WoW if my early experience had been like leveling this Rogue.

Blogger Rohan had a similar experience trying the promotion.

I decided to try this experiment like a truly new player. I didn't get any heirlooms nor did I used my Chauffered Chopper. I picked Worgen as that is one starting zone I've never done before.

Narrative


The narriative in Gilneas was a strong poing of my leveling experience. The story kept me engaged and I loved the big climax with Sylvanas and Greymane. Once I left Gilneas and went to Darnassaus the story slowed down a bit until I got to the Ruins of Auberdine. Auberdine was where I made one of my first characters in World of Warcraft, a Night Elf Druid. It was heartbreaking to see what had happened to Auberdine during the Cataclysm. All those quest givers and merchants that I had known way back when where dead and gone. It hit me more than I thought it would.

Combat


While the story was the highlight, the other mechanics and social aspects felt offputting. Even though I was in nothing but quest rewards (mostly greens and maybe one blue), nothing proved to be even slightly difficult. Most mobs died before I could build up any combo points. Sinister Strike, Sinister Strike, and Eviscerate if it wasn't dead which it usually was.

While I didn't out level the quests (they were still yellow), often the mobs I needed to kill were a couple of levels below me (green) and that may have contributed somewhat.

The rotation felt empty and repetitive. You simply don't get that many skills by Level 20. My suggestion here would be to give the character more skills sooner.

(anti) Social


I didn't see anyone that looked like a truly new player. Perhaps they were all on realms that advertise in the realm list as "For New Players", but you'd think there would be some bleed over from cross realm zones. Every player I encountered was heirloomed out and riding their Chauffered Chopper.

The other players pretty much ignored me. I looked like a new player (although later I realized I did have 'the Noble' title which would be a dead giveaway I wasn't new). It made leveling a very quite and lonely experience.

It was disheartening to see a fully heirloom equipped Warlock waltz into the camp, pull everything and blast it down. I'd watch him drive off on his Chauffered Chopper while I waited for the mobs I needed to respawn.


Group Content


It was even worse when I made the mistake of queuing up for a dungeon. I already deal with some insecurity as a DPS. Generally, I'm not as good at the DPS role and I feel like I'm not contributing as much. With the group I got for my dungeon run, it was basically like being run through by a max level toon. The mobs died before I could even get into range. It was a summarily unfun experience and I didn't queue up again.

Welcome to WoW Wagon


Blizzard needs to take a long look at this, but I love that the players are also taking an active role trying to make it better. Player GloriaBoboria has started a Welcome To WoW Wagon. It won't address the mechanical issues, but it can go a long way for the social ones. I think its a great idea. Check it out if you get a chance.