Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Driving and Crying

Last Tuesday, we headed into Firelands. We currently have two bosses down, Shannox and Beth'ilac. I'm not sure I'd say on farm, but we usually get them both down each week. We are working on Lord Ryloth. Shannox and Beth were both one shots. I don't remember that happening before. We actually had some new trash to clear. It's trash that is tied to Shannox and usually it has despawned before we get to it. We figured it out pretty quick and began to march up the hill to Lord Ryloth.
I really don't like this fight. There is so much going on, and I need to be in about three places at once. Our melee dps takes care of steering. With our current raid composition we usually have all the buffs and debuffs covered so I go with a my cat, a Stranglethorn panther, named CamNation. Yes, I’m a Carolina Panthers, and Auburn university fan. How often does the favorite player from your college team get to play for your favorite NFL team? Pretty cool, huh?
I have two macros from my pet.
/tar Left Foot
/petattack
/tar Right Foot
/petattack
I listen for which foot the driver wants dps on and hit the appropriate macro. While Cam is chewing away on Ryloth, I'm helping out on Sparks, and Fragments. Sparks need to be dpsed down. If you don't kill them fast enough, they will charge one of your team members and do damage equal to whatever hit points they have left. Fragments are a bunch of little elementals that we have to AoE. There's also fire on the ground that moves that you have to avoid. It brings back bad memories of Archimonde.
I spend a ton of time running around getting in range of Sparks, or Fragments, and trying to avoid fire. We use a single tank, so I try to help out by misdirecting the Fragments to him as often as I can.
We had been stymied by Ryloth for a couple of weeks. We'd die just about every way possible on this fight. We'd die to fire, die to stomp, die to adds, die to bad driving. At some point in nearly every attempt, Lory Ryloth moves in front of me and blocks my whole screen. I can't see a thing and invariably that's when I get caught in a fire trail and boom, dead dwarf. Also the fire trails are not considered AoEs, so it would end up killing Cam. Being MM, I didn't bother rezzing him most of the time.
Of course, we had never killed Ryloth.
Then we go in Tuesday night, and the fight is going well. We're dpsing down adds and steering him to volcanoes. I don't know how Wich keeps everything straight, cause I'm doing well just to keep track of the adds I'm supposed to be shooting, but he called for the healers to get everyone topped because Ryloth did some big AoE, and then got big and fiery all over. The adds despawned and we poured all our DPS into him. He toppled over and gave up his loot. After a moment, we looked around and realized we had just one shot him.
We found out the next day he had seen some nerfs. I think the biggest one that helped us was his stomp not knocking people back. We lost people in other attempts from stomp knocking them into fire. The other big help was the burning down of his armor faster, shortening the fight. Less time we have, the less time things can go wrong.
I don't really care that they nerfed him. We didn't have the option to do the fight any other way than the way it was presented to us. We had been hitting our head against him for a couple of weeks and I know people were getting frustrated. It was nice to get him down, nerf or no.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tinfoil Hat Time

Okay, tin foil hat time.
So Tuesday, I mentioned that I thought BioWare was planning on a short window from announcement to release because they wanted to keep any of their competitors from bringing out something in the same time frame that could take away from their launch. I said they were wrong, and now I'll explain what I meant.
I think Blizzard is ready and waiting for the release date announcement. They already have a content package ready to go to counter SWTOR. if you recall, one of the mysteries of Patch 4.2 was what happened to the other half of it. We were supposed to get two raids, a Firelands raid, and an Abyssal Maw raid. We got some line from Blizzard about how it wasn't ready or something. Honestly I don't even remember. I think it is ready and  Blizzard is holding it. They will unveil the Abyssal Maw as a mini patch to go right after SWTOR's launch is announced.
Of course Kaplan has to go poo poo my theory by stating Abyssal Maw was dropped because the story wasn't good enough. Come on, when has Blizzard dropped anything because of story? His comment will be long forgotten when they release Abyssal Maw. Besides, when has a silly little thing like the facts ever derailed a juicy conspiracy theory?
I have to be careful to not see everything Blizzard and BioWare are doing as jockeying for position in the MMO Market. It's just hard not to. You've got the established old bull, and now you've got this young upstart trying to horn in. Case in point is the new Transmogrified Blizzard has announced for 4.3. BioWare has stated there won't be an appearance tab in SWTOR. What a great way for Blizzard to have a feature they know SWTOR won't have. It also allows them to leverage all the old classic art images they've used over the years.
Honestly, if I was still playing Honorshammer as my main, I'd be a lot more excited about the transmogrified than I am. Although, I do have a nearly full set of T2 on my Hunter including Rhok'delar. It would be pretty cool to raid in that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic Release Date

swtor-box-art-small Man, I can't wait until the Google spiders get a hold of that title.
One of the most talked about topics surrounding Star Wars: The Old Republic is the release date. What they have said publically is Holiday 2011 which covers pretty much anything from October to the end of the year.
I never expected a release date at E3, but for a while I've pinned my hopes on getting a release date at PAX Prime (AUG 26th - AUG 28th). The BioWare guys have shown an affection for PAX, even granting permission for one of the Penny Arcade writers write about his Beta experiences. BioWare has used PAX EAST and PAX PRIME for many of the major announcements about the game. Letting PAX be the show where the release date is revealed makes sense. PAX PRIME is about 10 weeks from the middle of November, which gives BioWare a nice ramp up window.
I've sinced backed off that idea. I don't think we'll get a release date at PAX PRIME. I've been following the game for over a year now, and I believe BioWare when they say they can't give the release date because they don't know what it is yet. There is still one vital piece of data BioWare needs before they can settle on the release date, and that is the stress test. We are going to see that stress test in September with the Beta weekends. These will be large invite Beta events lasting just a weekend making for an idea stress test.
BioWare has to see the results from that stress test before deciding on a date. If the results are good, they will go full steam ahead for launch. If those results are not good, SWTOR could be pushed into 2012. (que "Price Is Right" you lose music). But let's go with the glass half full. If the first weekend goes well, then BioWare waits for the second weekend. They may even wait for third. That puts them with high confidence in the stress test results in late September. EA's John Riccitiello has stated they want about a 4 to 6 week window between announcing the release date and go live. This is too short, they hope, for any of their competitors to launch something to compete with their release. They are wrong, but I'll talk about that tomorrow.
So 4 to 6 weeks from last of September puts us in late October to early November. My personal guess for the release date is November 8th through the 15th. We'll see how close I get.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic

home_logo I mentioned when I came back I wouldn’t be blogging exclusively about World of Warcraft. There’s another game that has my attention, and that game is Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). The game is currently in beta testing, but still under the NDA. That means that people in the beta can’t talk about it, other than to confirm there is a beta and they are in it.
There is a beta.
I ain’t in it.
(This is my sad face.)
Here’s a quick introduction to SWTOR if you aren’t familiar with it. Basically, it’s BioWare plus MMO  plus Star Wars. From BioWare’s Dennis Dickenson “It's a spiritual sequel to the KotOR games and focuses heavily on bringing BioWare story into the MMO space. It features a highly polished and fluent evolution of traditional MMO combat systems. It has the bells and whistles of a modern MMO, it's faithful to the IP and universe it's set in and it features BioWare's signature features such as story, companions, etc."
SWTOR has two factions: the Sith (Red) and the Republic (Blue). This is sort of like the Horde and the Alliance. Each faction thinks they are doing what is right.
There are 4 classes in the game. The game boasts 8, but it’s actually 4 with different names depending on whether they are Sith or Republic. The names for the classes are Jedi Knight/Sith Warrior, Jedi Consoler/Sith Inquisitor, Smuggler/Imperial Agent, and Trooper/Bounty Hunter.
It will be a story driven MMO. Every character and NPC will have voice over. You don’t need to read the quest text, you listen to it. The story is driven by key choices that you, the player, make.
The game is set thousands of years before the movies and 300 years after the events of Knights of the Old Republic. There is a galactic war going on between the Jedi and the Sith. This was a time in the Star Wars lore long before the Sith instituted the ‘Rule of Two’. This rule was quoted by Yoda during The Phantom Menace: “Only two there are, a master and an apprentice.” During the time that The Old Republic is set, there are literally armies of Jedi and Sith fighting.
Each class is has its own quests. The game is broken down into Class Quests, World Quests and Galaxy Quests (loved that movie). There are no repeated quests if you cross faction. Play through as a Republic Trooper and then if you play a Bounty Hunter, you won’t see a single quest repeated. That’s pretty cool.
The Smuggler and the Agent use a special combat system called Cover. You have certain abilities that you can only use in Cover and you get a defensive bonus against people attacking you.
The game also features a morality system, which I think of like alignment from my pen and paper role playing days. Each decision you make will give you Light side points or Dark side points. As you accumulate more Light side or Dark side points, you will get access to bonus powers. Some gear has been shown to require you to have a certain amount of Light or Dark points. Yes, Sith players can earn Light side points, and Republic players can earn Dark side points if they choose.
Combat is very similar to World of Warcraft. You have a hot bar with different abilities your character can use. It’s fast paced, and you are taking on groups of 2 to 4 enemies at once. It looks like a ton of fun.
Every class seems to have multiple forms of crowd control spells. Every class has an out of combat heal, and rez. Consolers/Inquisitors have an in combat rez. At level 10 you move from your base class into your Advanced Class. For example, Jedi Knights can graduate into Guardians, (Tanks), or Sentinels (dual wield Damage Dealer). This is similar to the specialization system in WoW.
There are three classes capable of specializing in tanking. The Trooper (Advanced Class called Vanguards), the Jedi Knight (AC called Guardians), and the Jedi Consular(AC called Shadows). Guardians and Vanguards appear to be typical mitigation tanks with heavy armor. Shadows are evasion tanks with high dodge.
I will mostly be talking about the Jedi Knight (Guardian) class as that is the class I’m most interested in.
What WoW players might think of as instances or dungeons are called Flashpoints. A flashpoint is a small, story-based mission, that requires a group. In WoW, dungeons need 5 players. SWTOR flashpoints require 4.
When you get to maximum level, you can do Operations.  This is, is a large story based mission that requires a large group. We called these Raids in WoW. WoW raids come in two sizes, 25 players and 10 players. SWTOR Operations also come in two sizes, 8 players and 16 players.
Battlegrounds are called Warzones. I don’t have too much interest in them, because I’m not much into PVP, but I am intrigued at the way they are handling Tanks. All tanks get a skill known as Guard which can be cast on a friendly player and makes them take 50% less damage while the tank is alive. A pvp taunt? Sort of.
If you want to learn more about the game, you can check www.swtor.com, which are the official forums. The have some striking and unwanted similarities to the WoW official forums.
I get most of my information from a blog called DarthHater. It’s a good read and you should check it our if you want to know more about the game.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What I Did on Summer Vacation

So what have I been up to for the last 6 months or so? I've continued playing World of Warcraft. When we last left our intrepid heroes, they were halfway through Tier 11 content and had just made the switch from Horde to Alliance. We were starting over on a new server. Essentially, we became a guild within a guild, something many predicted would happen when the perks were announced. We operate completely autonomously as a raid team. Nothing changed there. Our PVP players were able to join the Rated Battleground teams of the larger guild.
I think the guild merger worked out well for all involved.
We continued to make progress through Tier 11 but as we got closer to the end, the attendance problems continued to plague us. We lost many raid nights because our 11 man team couldn't field 10 raiders. We were frustrated, but we were hesitant to recruit. It takes a certain type of person to mesh well into Devolve, and Wich was concerned about getting too big.
I had been leveling my Shaman on Altar of Storm in a guild with some old friends from my Mal Katai days. I watched the guild for a solid month. Raids would be scheduled and then either not happen, or bail after attempts on Magmaw. You remember him, the first boss in BWD. The guild decided they lacked to the DPS to kill him. For weeks I watched and no raids were scheduled or attempted. One night, after yet another cancelled raid in Devolve, I decided to stop being frustrated and start taking action.
My plan was simple. I was going to see if my old Mal Katai friends were still interested in raiding. I approached Wich, our Raid leader, with the idea. He was still concerned about the team getting too big, but he gave me the green light to talk to them. There were three friends from Mal Katai on Altar. Trelic, Raistilan, and Celoria. They don't actually play those toon anymore, but those were the toons I came to know them by. It turned out they were interested in raiding, and within about a week they had transferred to Arygos and joined us for the end of Tier 11.
We didn't actually finish Tier 11 until the first night of Tier 12 when we downed Nefarian in one of those epic battles where the tank dies at like 3% and everyone runs around like mad praying the DoTs can finish him off. Somehow we survived. That was the first night in a long time I really missed blogging.
Of course, we had traded one problem for another. Our raid team now had 14 members. Instead of cancelling raid nights due to lack of attendance, we were sitting people. To me, this was a much better problem to have. I have to give Wich credit here, because he did something I've never seen a raid leader do in my 5 years playing WoW. He sat himself on a couple of occasions. Sitting always causes a little drama, but for the most part our team has accepted it well.
We've struggled a bit getting started in Tier 12. We had some turnover, not in members, but in toons. Our Feral Druid got frustrated with the relatively squishiness of Bears and became a Death Knight. I've switched my Hunter over from Survival to Marksman. I've done a couple of raids as Beast Mastery when we didn't have a Mage or Shaman around.
Currently we sit at 2/7, though we expect Ryloth to die soon, if not tonight.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tap…..Tap….Tap

Is this thing still on?
It’s been about a six month break. I enjoyed it. I can’t imagine many people still check this site. Maybe you’re getting this in a feed reader.
Hello, again!
I won’t be blogging soley about World of Warcraft. There are other games that have my attention. I’m going to talk about them, too.

Hey, blogosphere!

IT’S HAMMERTIME!!