Friday, March 28, 2014

1000th Post

Today marks the 1000th post to Honors Code. I would never have believed that I would write 1000 posts when I started the blog seven years ago.

Looking Back


What started out as a Wow blog eventually evolved into SWTOR and now Wildstar, but the peak was tearing through content as a Paladin tank through Wrath of the Lich King.

Along the way I've amassed nearly half a million page views. I think over half of those were probably for my "Leveling a Paladin Guide".  I’m still really proud of the fact that it got linked from Blizzard’s own Class Guide page for over two years.

Over the years the games have changed, and I've take a break or two. I've posted stuff I'm super proud of, and I've posted stuff I wish I never had. I regret my mistakes, and I relish the good memories.

Looking Forward


I'm looking to get back to my roots so to speak. Over the next couple of months, I'll prepare for the Wildstar's release and getting back to tanking (with bots!). It really was the most enjoyable role for me. I burned out on it, as tanks are wont to do, but I'm ready to get back to it.

If Wildstar flames out, I'll probably find myself back in Warlords of Draenor.

Thank you

Finally, I want to thank everyone who has been part of the journey over the past seven years.


If you’ve read the blog – Thank you!
If you’ve ever commented – Thank you!
If you’ve emailed me – Thank you!
If you’ve followed me on Twitter – Thank you!
If you invited me to be a guest on your Podcast – Thank you!
If you subscribed in a Reader/Feedly– Thank you!



Thank you so much for being a great audience and listening to me on days both good and bad.

I'd also like to thank some of the people who have the journey so special. I know most of the these guys don't play MMOs anymore and certainly don't read blogs, but I'd like to reconize them nonetheless. I know I'm going to miss someone. If you see someone I've missed drop me an email or comment.

Special thanks to Big Red Kitty who was a major inspirtation in starting my blog.

Thank you to the friends I've made along the way: Wichita, Bluetide, Black, Donk, Ofn, DarksideDak/Space Ghost, Purps, Pink, Stark, Shad, Origami, Baconstrip, Lakini, Ferth, Sameth, Doraeallin, Jagdelf, Brindall, Cfcheif, Thuder, Agamemgnome, Celoria, Raistlin, FaceEraser, Akivarr, Seven, Raydz, Aoesrus, Zadorr, Vundermann, Absouloot, Bandaidez, Aerlion, Trelic, Blankz, Dlow, Mathman, Fontam, Stadc, Agnate, Snowson, Melevolence, Brindall, Raydz, Sneakyfeat, Deil, Nightwin, Lanorah, Kee, Mowbray, Seraphcroix, Cellestia, Pylar, Fireyes, Araxe, Stdbakerhawk, Luminati. Regolas, Splinterrdc, Kee, Lady, Phat, Fares, Fletchy, Bibby, Addic, Sylvara, Paymon

Also thanks to Twisted Nether, Blog Azeroth, World of Matticus, Asleep at the Wow, Blessing of Kings, Righteous Defense, Gravity, Veneretio, Baelor, Big Bear Butt, Wow Insider, Maintankadin, Egotistical Priest, Tankspot, Paladin Schaladin, and TorWars!

See you on Nexus!

Now, bring me that horizon!




Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wildstar Beta Impressions: Tutorial and Combat

Previously, I’ve talked about Wildstar’s classes, races, and character creation. Next let’s talk about those first few levels. Your first three levels (or so) serve as a tutorial and introduction to the game.

Culture


One of the strong points is that it does a good job of grounding you in the culture of your chosen faction. On the Exile ship, everything is broken down and falling apart. She really is on her last legs. On the Dominion ship, everything is pristine and well oiled.

 The Exile quest line has you doing a rescue mission, while the Dominion quest line has you first torturing suspected Exile sympathizers and then basically declaring that the Dominion Emperor is a god. The Exiles have you fight off a Dominion attack, while the Dominion has you kill simulated Exiles.

Both experiences do a good job introducing the lore of the various races, but by this point you’ve already chosen a race. I guess since you are less than an hour in, rerolling isn’t a huge deal if you decide you like one of the other races better.

Both sides also have you gather a bit of lore and teach you how to use the datacrons and lore comics. Datacrons are short voice over reveals while the lore comics have to found piecemeal and then put together. Once you unlock them all, you get a long block of text full of lore goodies.

It demonstrates a defining feature of Wildstar which I’m calling ‘play the way you want.’ If you aren’t into lore, and get bored reading pages of text, you can go after just the main pieces of lore with the voice over datacrons and the short quest text. If you are a lore junky, then you can dig deeper, search out the comics and get even more lore.

Jump and Duck, I mean Aim and Dodge


If you are familiar with MMOs, much of the tutorial will seem trivial to you, however; the big takeaway from those first few levels is learning about Wildstar’s telegraph based combat. I call it Aim and Dodge. This isn't tab targeting, although you can use tab to select and enemy. But you don't have to have an enemy selected to damage them.

Nearly every ability in Wildstar paints a telegraph on the ground. Blue telegraphs are yours. You have to move your telegraph so it overlays an enemy for the ability to hit. If your telegraph isn't over an enemy, you cast your spell, put it on cooldown, but you won't do any damage. It's a little bit like some spells in other games where you get a graphic to put on the ground (Glyphed Concencrate or Orbital Strike).

Red telegraphs are the enemies. You don’t want to stand in them. It hurts.

Green telegraphs are heals. You have to try to target your friends to get them healed. 

Let me show you:
    

When I first heard about aiming and dodging, I was a little nervous about it. I didn’t think I would like it. I’ve got years of good ole MMO tab targeting experience.

Then I played it.

It was the most fun I’ve had with MMO combat. I felt more connected to the my character and the game world than I ever had. Maybe after a hundred hours it will get blasé, but for the first twenty levels or so, it never did.

Aim and Dodge is what sets Wildstar apart for me. It’s the one feature that I missed the most when Beta ended and I had to go back to SWTOR. Regular MMO combat felt slow and frustrating after playing Wildstar.

After the opening levels, you take a shuttle down to the planet and begin your adventures in earnest.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wildstar Beta Impressions, Factions and Races

Part 1 - Wildstar Classes

I have been in Closed Beta since early March and with the NDA release I can give my impressions. I have an Exile toon to about 18 and a Dominion toon to about level 8.

Wildstar has been liken to Vanilla WoW and from certain points of view that comparison is valid. The first one is the leveling. This is slowest leveling game I’ve been in quite some time. I’m not breezing through content or levels, but it has never felt grindy or punishing. The zones feel very Vanilla WoW. There is one area that looked and felt like the original Stonetalon Mountains. There are patting mobs everywhere and in the early teens some of those mobs are tough. There is a palatable sense of danger in the wild.

Death


Dying is a real possibility and the penalties are fairly steep. When I got into trouble, I would blow everything I had, but early on your options are limited to one big cooldown and health potions / med pacs, which in Wildstar are on a fairly a longish cooldown (5 minutes). If you do, in fact, die, you get one opportunity to rez at your body for an escalating cost. If you use it, you get put on a 30 minute cooldown. Die again and your only option is to rez at the nearest holocrypt with a nice hike, though the hostile mobs, to your previous destination. Death is also a place where Wildstar’s signature humor shines through. Every time you die, you get a snarky announcer guy who basically makes fun of your fail. The lines are varied enough that I don’t think I’ve ever heard the same one twice (or maybe I have).

3/24 Update! I found a great blog with an example of the snarky announcer: http://nexusnightly.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-taunts-after-you-die-crack-me-up-is.html?m=1


Character generation


I don’t have huge expectations for a character creator. The best one I ever used was Champions Online, but the majority of my gaming time was playing in SWTOR and WoW. Wildstar has a more than adequate character builder.

You pick your race, class and path combination and get to work on the customization. There are the usual hair style, skin color, and faces options. What is odd is there isn't any kind of height/weight slider. Wildstar does give you a silly amount of customization options for the face.
I guess they want everyone to look distinctive. That would be fantastic for a game like SWTOR where you actually see your toon's face for a decent chunk of game.
In Wildstar, however, you hardly ever seen your toons face. I thought it was odd that all the customization went into an area that most players will never see again after the character starts the game.

Factions and Races


There are two factions in Wildstar. The rebellious Exiles and the imperial Dominion. You choose from one of 4 races. Each side as a short race (Exiles – Aurin, Dominion – Chua), a tall race (Exiles – Mordesh, Dominion – Mechari), a big race (Exiles – Granok, Dominion – Draken) and a normal race (Exiles – Human, Dominion – Cassian). The Cassians and humans are basically the same models.

The Aurin are a small race with furry tails. They remind me a humanoid foxes, though one variant has rabbit like ears.
Mordesh
The Mordesh are humans who tried to come up with a biological weapon to fight the Dominon but it turned on themselves. They remind me of the Forsaken and even have special research teams and apothecaries throughout the world. The Granok are the ‘rock guys’. They are big, tough mercenaries who love to fight and drink. The Granok are my favorite, but I've had trouble playing 'big' races in other games like WoW's Tauren. They don't feel as responsive or agile. Plus, the image of a rock guy being an egghead engineer doesn't work for me. Granok as a Warrior, sure. As an Engineer, not so much. As a Stalker? Now you are just being silly.

Chua
The Chua are the small race for the Dominion. They looks like little mice or hamsters (and even get a hamster ball mount). The Mechari are a cyborg race, but look almost completely mechanical. The Draken look like demons with horns and hooved feet. The Cassians and humans can look very similar but the Cassians have a superior air to their models.

After playing both sides, I decided I liked the Exile side better. The quest are more fun and the humor is better executed. I'll talk about the starting areas in my next post, but they give you a good feel for each race. The opening quest for the Dominion has you torturing fellow Dominion citizens while the opening Exile quest is a rescue mission. One early quest on the Exile side that set the tone well for me. I won’t spoil it, but after that quest, I never wanted to play a Dominion toon again.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Wildstar Kills The Pure Class

Let’s talk about Wildstar’s classes.

The game is still under a Closed Beta NDA. The information here is taken from the Wildstar Fan site and the Wildstar class videos.

Wildstar made an interesting decision with their six classes. Every single one of them is a hybrid. In past MMOs, players of pure classes often complained anytime hybrids appeared to be able to do their jobs even marginally well. For example, players of a pure DPS class (a class that can only perform the DPS role) would ask what the point of their class was if a hybrid could DPS nearly as well, yet still have the option of taking on a support role like healing or tanking.

It was the reasoning behind the so called Hybrid Tax that permeated Vanilla WoW through early Wrath of the Lich King content.

WoW even had discord among its own hybrids. Some classes could only take on two roles, some could take on all three trinity roles, and Wow even produced the exceedingly rare class that could take on all three trinity, and also switch between Ranged DPS and Melee DPS.

In Wildstar, every class is a two way hybrid capable of filling the DPS role and one support role. They break their six classes down symmetrically into three Tank/DPS hybrids and three Healer/DPS hybrids. One question a new Wildstar player has to ask is which support role they want to have opened to them, Tank or Healer.

Let’s look at the three Healer hybrids first. They are the ESPer (pronounced ess-sper), the Medic, and the Spell Slinger. The ESPer looks something like a Mind Mage out of Palladium’s RIFTS Pen and Paper RPG. The Medic would seem to indicate something like a high tech priest. The Slinger looks like the combination of a Warlock or Rune Mage with SWTOR’s Gunslinger (right down to the dual pistols and cowboy hat).

The three Tank hybrids are the Engineer, the Stalker, and the Warrior. The Stalker is the stealth class much like a Rogue or Operative and they use these Wolverine-like claws. During Burning Crusade, one fight in Black Temple actually required rogues to do a bit of tanking, and stories abound of rogues evasion tanking the last few percentage points of a progression kill. Wildstar expanded on the rogue tank and made it a class. Since rogues were evasion tanks, I would imagine the Stalker would be a high avoidance, low armor tank, but that is pure speculation on my part.

Warriors seem pretty straight forward. They have a giant, overcompensating sword and smash things to little bits. They probably tank similar to a Blood Death Knight.

That's one good looking toon!
Now we come to the Engineer. I’ve always loved Engineers. In WoW, it was a profession and not a class, but one of my toons always had it trained. The Engineer is a Ranged DPS / Tank pet class with gadgets and a big honking gun.

SWTOR originally had something similar with their Vanguard/Powertech tank, but late in beta they changed the class from pure ranged to more short to medium range. Vanguard's have to find a sweet spot where they use their abilities but maintain some range. In practice, most just go full bore into melee. I'm hoping the Engineer can avoid that fate.

The Engineer's pets are summonable and don't change so they feel more like Warlock pets than Hunter pets. Hunters, and to a lesser extent Warlocks, were always testing to see what they could tank in Wow with their pets and some of them accomplished amazing feats. Like the Rogue evasion tank, it looks like Wildstar has taken that idea and fleshed it out into a full class. I do wonder who will actually be doing the tanking, the player or the pet. If it’s the pet, I wonder about the inevitable raid fight that requires heavy tank movement and repositioning. As we all saw with the tank equality issues in other games, encounter design and how well that design meshes with the strengths and weakness of the tank classes can have a huge impact on what tanks are chosen for various tanking duties.

I think it’s obvious what my favorite Wildstar class is, but which class appeals to you the most?