Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's time to say goodbye

Around the time LoD hit, my WAR experience had reached a stable point: I was still very much enjoying the game, particularly playing with my great guildies and exploring the new content, but I had essentially given up on the end game. I was no longer hungry for the next boss, the next drop, the next upgrade.

At the same time I had a lot of outside work to do, and then I traveled for two weeks. Since I've been back I've been in WAR a fair amount, but I have hardly touched my Chosen. I've played alts and enjoyed grouping for PQs and RvR content, but the die has already been cast.

I'm leaving WAR, though I'll think on it fondly. my account expires in August and I won't be renewing it. WAR just isn't the game I'd like it to be. I think in many ways its a startlingly good game, full of a crisp vision and some really excellent features, but at the same time plagued by an over-abundance of riches and a headstrong and, for me problematic, devotion to PvP.

So sadly, I'll be taking my limited gaming hours elsewhere.

At the moment I'm playing , which is brand new to me, and which I'm enjoying, and I'm playing the beta of Aion. Aion wasn't why I'm quitting WAR although it will likely take WAR's place in my time.

I don't feel like a WAR blog is the place to discuss Aion at length, but for me the most refreshing thing about Aion was its simplicity of focus: there's only really one or two things to do .. a big change from WAR's avalanche of options.

I'd like to shout out to WAR's bloggers past and present: a fun, smart and interesting crew that had good ideas and made the game a lot more interesting for me.

I'd like to post an exit summary on my WAR experience and hope to have that together in the next week or so, but in case that fails (as such things often do) I want to make sure to thank everyone who's ever stopped by to have a read and particularly those who've left comments and sent emails. It's been big fun.


Friday, June 19, 2009


Maybe it's just me, but is the whole healer thing really necessary? I don't mind a death penalty, but couldn't we have an autopay option? That way you don't forget to heal up when you are in a hurry to get back to a fight in progress. Sure it would mean paying to heal at times when you aren't likely to get back into battle right away. Maybe there could be a shift-Rez option like there is for auto-looting. Even without though, I'm willing to pay a lazy tax to not have to muddle through it every time I die.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"unwrapping a present" or "what's so exciting about 1.3"

I only got on for a sec to explore the talisman changes in game last night and to make sure my patch got done. Patching went fine, though all my interface settings got lost somehow, sigh.

Talisman changes look to be nice and the bag changes are quite welcome. I have a lot more room now, so much that I might not have to keep several dozen packages floating through the mailsystem anymore.

The streamlining of talimsan mats wasn't as significant as I'd hoped, with most frags and curios surviving, and only green quality dusts taking a stomping.

Didn't actually get around to making any talis, of course.

It's nice that you can easily toggle items between your bag sets and open and close bags by clicking the bag icon. Very nice that.


as for the event, I have to say I'm not that motivated. There'll be plenty of LoD for me, and anyway my contribution would be modest even if I were trying hard. No other rewards beyond the lame title? feh.

My biggest gripe really, and I knew this was coming but still, is that after all the prelude leading up to the patch when it went live we saw ... an rvr event and some modest interface and profession changes. The LoD stuff isn't open yet and the class changes all got QQ'd into submission.

So the patch day experience was for me singularly unexciting. Now I'm sure the event will be fun. They usually are and this one seems to have some nice stuff to do, but that's an event, not the prophesized patch of glory, or whatever this was supposed to be.

I guess I could always go to Gunbad ...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Incoming patch

So 1.3 and the land of the dead starts today it seems.

Should make for an exciting week of WAR playing. Here's what I'm interested to see when the patch fully hits:

What's the impact of the Land of the Dead?

Lots of new stuff to do, but in potentially short bursts. Should make for a nice change of pace, but will the constant back and forth and the randomness of control be a major frustration? (ie. You log on ... oh well, the other side just got control of the LoD, might as well go have a snack.)

How will this affect the RvR siege game? What about city dungeons/bastion stair? (I assume that BS will basically rot until it gets fixed.)

They've rolled back the AoE/caster stat changes (as I understand it) but there's still plenty of other class mechanic changes in the works, always interesting to see how those play out.

Will the new and improved gunbad be an alt-cation destination of choice when LoD is unavailable? I know I'm interested.

As mentioned before, the talisman changes should have some interesting fallout. Curious to see exactly what happens to my bank full of mats and talis. IIRC there's something about these being grandfathered in, but we'll see what that looks like.

Glad to see auto-rolling, bag/storage changes, and bag opt-out getting in the game, those things will all be well received ...if they work.

What's next ... what should be?

Jeff Hickman's post on the LoD on the herald indicated that the following would be next on the block:

1. Addressing concerns related to Crowd Control and Area of Effect abilities.
2. Continuing to improve client and server stability and performance.
3. Strengthening and improving the Tier 4 experience.
4. Improving server population distribution – both in terms of overall population and realm balance.
5. Improving itemization and the overall distribution of “carrots” (rewards) throughout the game.

Well we knew 1. would get attention, as it was supposed to be in this patch before people started QQing. 2 and 4 are Mythic's personal hell ... they're never going away and will always be important.

3 and 5 are interesting (if vague). Improving Tier 4 ... uh, can I get a "hell yeah"? Bastion Stair needs a big re-tool, PQs in the mainland need a re-tool (to make them worth doing in endgame) and the RvR game still needs to um, work? Forts aren't super fun and while city-sieges are fun, they don't really ever go anywhere for most of us.

5. Could mean anything but hopefully it means a real examination of what loot is available and how it stacks up, a real overhaul of the gear choices and what it takes to get them. It's sort of absurd right now really with some really vital gear being super-easy to get (100g will buy you a lot of engame gear) and other stuff insanely hard.

What should be done? Well I'm going to get specific. Dungeons need better ramping up ... too many of them are like boss 1=SNORE boss2=SNORE boss3=WTFPWNED. That's just goofy. We did BWE last night, my first time and the first boss was just a total joke, but the second boss completely hammered us. An experience all-too familiar from other WAR dungeons (herald of solithex in Gunbad, slaurith in BS etc.)

Some bosses will be more difficult than others, and the last boss should be harder, but it shouldn't be night and day. Group composition (eg 2x MDPS or 2x RDPS) should make some easier and some harder, not all-easier or all-harder.

One other simple thing ... tell us what's in a bag. Why do they want gear to get wasted? It's great that we can pass on a bag now, but what if say I have annhilator shoulders and chest but not helm? should I take all gold bags? (not that I'm getting any gold bags mind you.) That'll mean a lot of wasted gear.

Besides, shouldn't I be able to tell if a friggin' bag has a chestplate or a helmet in it? it's a bag for god's sake, not a black hole.

Oh, and yeah, make RvR fun to do.

See you all in the LoD.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WAR Tier 2 v. WOW 16-30

Way back when I did a comparison of WAR Tier 1 v. WOW 1-15. I thought I'd continue the comparison now that the bloom has worn off the rose a bit. I think I stick by most of what I wrote about that stage of the games, but lets see how they stack up in tier 2. For the sake of continuity I'll use the same categories as I used before.

Zone Design -- how interesting and fun are the zones.
WAR: By Tier two you've got a pretty good grip on the aesthetics of the pairings, but tier 2 does offer some nice variation in each pairing: shadowlands, marshes of madness, and troll country all differ a bit from what you've seen in Tier one of these pairings. With the division of the zones by faction, some of these feel quite small, particularly Ostland, or circuitous (Barak Varr). Still very moody and well-designed.
WOW: Some of the best WoW zones here, and just a lot of places to visit over these 15 levels: ghostlands, silverpine forest, westfall, redridge, duskwood, the barrens, hillsbrad, the wetlands, loch modan, darkshore, bloodmyst, stonetalon, ashenvale and thousand needles. Some have great flow (westfall) some great aesthetic design (ashenvale, thousand needles), while others are awkward or unrewarding (stonetalon, I'm looking at you.)
Winner: WoW. So many zones to choose from, so many different looks and styles. WAR has a more uniform level of zone interest and better aesthetic design, but can't compete with the volume of variety that WoW offers here.

Engagement -- drawing you into the world (probably this should be called immersion).
WAR: Throws a lot of things at you to try to get you interested: epic quests, regular quests, tome of knowledge entries for a gazillion things. Frankly the world itself does the best job of drawing you in: the zones tell a story that is hard to miss (if you venture out of the RvR lakes) and they do it well. The rest of the stuff, not so much. I don't think that I'm alone in saying that even with the epic quests, I was often just looking for red blobs on my map to go to and kill stuff, and often I'd have to doublecheck what the quest even wanted.
WOW: This is where WoW really gets its claws into you. The zones all have interesting stories, large or small, told through quests primarily, that you will be interested in following to their end. The defias cycle leading up to Deadmines and The Embalmer string in duskwood are two of my favorites.
Winner: WoW. This is really WAR's weakness, and it only gets worse from this point in, I'm afraid. The choice seems to have been modularity and convenience over immersion.

Itemization -- gear options and appeal
WAR: Cloaks make their way into your gear set and helms and shoulders are plentiful. A few choices per class of design, with some odd color choices combined with the expense of premium dyes possibly driving you into somewhat bland color schemes. Still, your toon probably looks pretty cool at this point. Quite a few sets: the first quest set, the obliterator set, the sacellum set (which you'll never see) and the havok set, as well as quite a few good options from RvR renown rewards and random PQ drops.

WOW: A few dungeon sets, but only for leather wearers basically, PvP gear options, a plenty of good crafted gear. Much of this stuff is dorky looking however, and you're probably not going to see helmets until the very end of this level range. shoulders will also be at a premium. Possibly by this point to get some decent looking gear, but its not easy.
Winner: WAR complain about the lack of options if you like, but with the range of choices in sets, the aesthetic appeal of the gear, and the option to dye, WAR is for me well up.

Crafting -- interest and utility of professions
WAR: Um, well they're useful. Talismans losing their timers in 1.3 will help here a bit, but really, crafting in WAR is just not that exciting. If you are grinding it aggressively, you can get yourself a little boost, and the pots and talismans are really very useful, but it does get a bit rote.
WOW: Crafting by this point, if you are leveling it aggressively, is getting really strong. You can quest for recipes, win them as drops, and make yourself quite good items. It takes more work to keep up with your level, but the rewards are there for the taking. Engineering is particularly fun at this level.
Winner: WoW by a country mile. As I said before, some of this is intentional, but that doesn't change the score.

Group PVE -- dungeons and group-specific areas
WAR: More PQs some good, some great, some brutal, as well as some opposed PQs were both factions (Theoretically) compete in stage 1. Additionally you have the three sacellum dungeons. I've only done the first of these (east) and it was fine. More like a dungeon wing than a full dungeon. Nothing very tricky or particularly interesting in there, but a good change of pace and a nice warm up for the pacing of dungeons in WAR.
WOW: Again some of the best of WoW here. Deadmines, Black Fathom Deeps, and Wailing Caverns are all very cool and Gnomeregan is also quite interesting. They've stripped out a lot of the open area group content from WoW, which is just as well as for the most part it was just a brutal chore, but some of it remains, to give you a bit more meaningful content to do in a group. Some of the dungeons in this are less fascinating or less enjoyable (shadowfang, Razorfen kraul, stockades) but there so much variety and the quest rewards alone make them all quite worthwhile.

Winner: WoW Yeah, I love me a PQ but this is like the golden age of WoW dungeon-crawling.

PVP -- all player-vs-player-specific content
WAR: Keeps, baby! Outdoor RvR is in full-effect in tier 2 and is quite manageable at this point. It may descend into stealth keep zergs, but it still makes for an interesting experience. the BO game is less thrilling, but when they're defended that can be a good time as well. Three new and interesting scenarios are available and their quite good. Your mileage in these may vary by class (i hated mourkain as a tank, but love it as a healer and caster) but they are certainly very different from the T1 scenarios.
WOW: Battlegrounds are in full effect with both the meaty-end of the 10-19 bracket and all of 20-29 in play. Both of these are fun and reasonably rewarding in short bursts. Also, if you are interested in playing a power character, you can twink at both 19 or 29 very easily and crush other lesser foes. Not a big draw for me, but if that's your cup of tea, then it could be a big draw. World PvP is basically non-existent on non-pvp servers. on pvp servers expect to get routinely ganked as soon as you leave the safe zones. Yay?
Winner: WAR So much better. If I was into having a twink pvper, maybe i'd be miffed about my inability to stop a character at a given level. But I'm not, at all. Much richer and more lively experience. Also much more playable at non-peak-bracket levels (ie not 19,29 as in WoW).

So there you have it. I think this tier really shows how the games' design-emphasis impacts its experience. Wow is all about PvE: dungeons, crafting, questing. WAR is about aesthetics and PVP.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Things I'm excited about in Patch 1.3 - Talismans

So there's lots of interesting things coming up for talisman crafting. Here's the relevant info from the most recent patch notes:

* Items can now have more than one talisman slot.
* Multiple-slot items will only allow one talisman from a given family to be slotted.
* The Potency data tables have been reallocated to heavily favor the fragment.
* We've compressed the number of ingredient Potency levels to 9 from 10. Curios have been compressed to a single rarity. Existing items of higher than common rarity will be grandfathered in.
* Fragments can now be broken down into two fragments of the next lower skill level tier.
* An "awesome" result attained while fusing a very rare talisman will no longer consume the fragment.
* There have been significant tooltip updates that will better convey vital information.
* Due to balancing issues, some talismans will be restricted to designated equipment slots. This change will not affect existing talismans.
* Character level requirements have been added to talismans to provide accurate power estimates for varying player levels. This change will not affect existing talismans.
* Normal stat talismans now extend to +24 stats at the upper bound to compensate for the timer removal.
* Normal talismans will no longer utilize timers.
* Talisman boxes can now be purchased from the talisman vendor.

So let's examine all this. The most interesting thing, if I'm reading it right is "Normal talismans will no longer utilize timers." So, no more 8 hour talismans? yes please.

Other items of note:

1. multiple talisman slots on gear
2. higher max level of talismans (+24 from +20)
3. compression of options, which means fewer bags full of only slightly different junk.
4. boxes can be bought from vendors.

My concerns about this new system are two-fold:
1. how will this sort out in the economy ... low level permanents should be more sale-able, but there's a lot of changes, and its not clear what the fallout will be.
2. we're going to have way too many fragments: fewer types is a good thing, but we're still getting them from salvaging and scavenging, and now in some cases they won't be used up by making a talisman. They're already basically junk except for rare fragments, particularly at high levels. I expect that to change but overall with fewer talismans needed, they should become even less valuable.

Why not have scavenging sometimes yield just vendor trash that actually is worth something outside the AH?

Overall, good changes and quite promising for talisman making and the related gathering profs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

PvP Strategy: the Charge

Perhaps the single-most useful tactic in group PvP, the charge is little understood even by those who can most benefit from it.

Let's break it down.

Imagine that you are in, say, the Battle for Praag scenario. You and your pals are loitering contendly around a flag, perhaps picking dandelions, when all the sudden a great mass of red names comes flailing toward you, dashing past your befuddled meleers into your creamy casters.

That is a charge.

So you ran screaming in a panic away from the charging enemy, likely to be cut to pieces in retreat. You regroup, respawn etc. by your guards, while the enemy (lets call them "order") loiters around the flag closest to your spawn point in a seething mass. They taunt you; they insult your mothers (or in the case of greenskins ... parent?). So what do you do?

All to often this is what you do: you cherry-pick. There is a back and forth of dashing attacks and retreats. Some from both side die, but no ground is gained or lost.

The problem with this is two-fold:
1. you are at a point-deficit. You need their spot, but they don't need yours.
2. it's a shitty strategy.

What you should do is ... charge.

The problem with a charge into a set enemy is this: it takes guts. Every individual knows that if they charge in alone, they will get crushed humiliatingly. If you all go in together (assuming here you are competitive in numbers and overall power, not always the case) you have a good chance of pushing them back and doing to them what they did to you. Namely, routing them.

It's one of those trust dilemmas, do you take a personal risk (getting wtfpwned) relying on your teammates to rally to your side or do you wait around taking less risk, but gaining less reward (hey we killed one witch hunter woo!)

Not surprisingly, I die a lot in these situations, because I'm unwilling to do the lazy, wrong thing. I don't want to pussy-foot around and farm 1 kill to our 5 deaths, while they rack of scenario points. So I charge in (I'm a tank after all) and more often then not, no one else does the same, and I'm unceremoniously beaten like a pinata (on fire).

What happens in a charge is this: you change the plane of the attack and your force the enemy to make choices.

If there is one enemy in range, they all attack that enemy naturally, and healers can't keep them up.

If there's 10 enemies in range, then each individual has to pick the best target. Damage is split, healers have a better chance of keeping up with that damage and meanwhile the attackers are causing more damage to the enemy, requiring more effort from the healers and possibly requiring them to reposition or change targets midstream.
Add to that the benefit of shared buffing/debuffing and shared cc benefits and you can see why the charge gives you the best chance for success.

There are other factors of course: who do you attack in your charges for one. Don't hit tanks obviously, but also you want to move in a group, but not too clumped up, so that you can't be isolated on the one hand, and can't be casually group cc'd and aoe'd.

Stay grouped, focus your damage, help your teammates and win.

Charging: it works. Give it a try.


PS. Strangely no one has a problem with implementing the charge in oRvR. O-RvR is also where you'll most likely see the best counter strategies to the charge: the tank wall and the isolation move (in which you drag a part of the charge away from the main group and focus them down).