So this probably happened at Blizz:
Note: this webcomic is by the same team that does Penny Arcade, plus one, which may turn some people off. So, avoid if you are ethically inclined to do so.
Archive for the “Elsewhere” Category
Jul 17 2013
So this probably happened at Blizz:
Note: this webcomic is by the same team that does Penny Arcade, plus one, which may turn some people off. So, avoid if you are ethically inclined to do so.
After close to two months off the grid, this is what I returned to
This is the downside of using mailboxes to keep your stuff organized between you and various mules; anything not in bags evaporated into the Twisted Nether.
On the bright side, my nemesis appears to have disappeared again, and glyph prices are up from where they were when I left. I’m guessing that the number of glyph mongers have decreased faster than the server population as a whole.
Well, off to rebuild. Has anyone seen the ‘Open’ sign? It’s under this stuff somewhere …
We’re online again, though we had to wait until payday before we could actually re-enable our account. Blast and damn, not offline long enough for a Scroll of Rez, so no freebies for me or mine.
So what to do in between loads of freight? Looking around the F2P playground, I remembered that Neverwinter was in motion, so I’ve rolled up as Floramel-like a toon as possible, a control wizard that I hope to bend to warlock-like habits.
Character creation allows for a lot of individuality. It even allows for chunky body types, adjustment of individual face and body attributes (there are like seven nose adjustments!). My model is one of the more slender ones, so as you can see, no Barbie dolls here. Overall, very good.
Outfits are somewhat less flamboyant than one is used to in endgame WoW. However, I would point out that I actually like the models of the lower-level stuff in WoW better, as well, meaning that the higher level stuff in NW might suffer from the same ridiculous effects. Time will tell.
It’s also possible that the outfit models are limited1 at this time to a select set of looks. Through level 20, all outfits looked pretty much the same. Mogging2, however, is baked in to the basic interface.
Armor dye is also supported, though from the looks of it you will have to cough up some cash to get it, since it requires the "Zen" currency, and best I can tell, that’s a cashy money thing.
Some of the NPC character models suffer from what I would call "mannequin syndrome". So realistic, they look plastic. This is a Cryptic Studios product, so it probably shares a lot of DNA with City of Heroes and Star Trek Online – the former looks very similar to this game from a character and model perspective, including the character model creation process.
Graphics and visuals
Graphical details are sharp and clear, maybe too much so. WoW catches a lot of crap for its looks, but one thing that it has a lot of practice at is making things stick out in obvious ways. It’s not too difficult to find a mail box, or a vendor, even in a crowded room. And while I give Blizz hell for abolishing Night from the worlds, realistic and dark shadowing makes everything kind of bland and difficult to deal with.
It’s real easy to walk into a mob, too – no little nameplates over their heads!
The controls take getting used to. Part of that is just the usual "this is a different game" thing, but there are elements that just stink of "let’s do something different just to be different." You are seriously constrained on what you can have on your action bar, too – unlike the ten or so action bars with ten buttons each that you get with WoW, you get one action-bar-like interface in this game, and it’s very small as well.
Aim matters. You don’t click on a mob and then start beating / shooting him, you have to aim and then whatever you are aiming at is hit. Fortunately, there’s no friendly fire outside of PvP. Right-click actually defaults to an attack, so for a former WoW player, ‘F’ to interact is a bit awkward.
In combat, activity is pretty lively. I’d love to have some countdown timers visible at eye level, but on the plus side you can move your action bar – which does have countdown timers – to wherever you want.
Similar to CoH, a sparkly trail of lights appears to direct you to the next point of interest in your current quest. This is highly intelligent and also a rebuttal to the trope that Blizz has nerfed the game too much. Others are way ahead of them in some ways.
Lootable items are very clearly denoted, including caches you might find in your travels.
Interaction between the map and the world is pretty wretched. You can’t click a location and see the trail light up for it. And it’s a highly accurate replica of the real world, meaning it’s gloomy and low-contrast and difficult to read. Again, others win in this area.
Combat is very like any other game I’ve played – there is a strong emphasis on "don’t stand in fire" and button pushing and stacking debuffs and such. The big bads also have a very in your face element to them, and sometimes the graphics engine can’t keep up (though that may be my system more than the engine). Good example is the "treasure trapper" creature.
Other than in interaction with my companion, I really didn’t see much in the way of aggro mechanics, but what I saw was unsurprising and familiar.
Crafting includes the gathering of resources, and the creation of items from them, much like other games. Where this differs is interesting.
Gathering is done from caches. Caches are coded to skills that are native to specific classes; dungeoneering is tied to fighter types, arcane to wizards, religious to clerics, thieving to rogues, and so forth. You can buy kits to enable looting of caches outside of your class, and the kits drop from mobs as well.
Creating items is done by proxy. You hire a craftsman to go do things, and gather the results when they’re done. This can be administered from the web page for the game as well.
The gathering game seems to be more in service to itself than anything. "Oh here’s a random cache, oh, it contains a random pile of stuff."
Neither the crafting or gathering experience feel organic. But you could get used to it.
One difference in this game is that of companions. If you’ve played other Sword Coast games in the past, you’re probably familiar with the concept of companions. You get your first at 16, and it can be from one of the main classes. I chose a cleric because that seemed wise. 3
The best unintended benefit of having a healer companion is that you start learning aggro management right away – or rather, how to keep aggro off of her. A dead healer heals no damage.
It appears that in each zone there is an ultimate dungeon / instance activity with five party members, and you don’t get the final lore payoff or zone closure if you don’t do them. Very WoW-like. I would have thought that they’d've noticed how many people would be thrilled to see instance scaling so that one to five people could share the experience rather than be stuck at five.
I didn’t participate as such so no further comment would be useful.
Well, this is where WoW is falling short, according to what I keep reading in the blogospheric echo chamber. Our "community" is becoming populated by a bunch of spoiled, lazy, racist, sexist, haters, is what I hear.
I am not going to delve into details, but I will say that until you have seen general chat in Neverwinter, you have no idea how bad it could be.
The community per se is no better or worse. What the big difference is that we’ve become pampered by the Blizzard Nanny State; any aberrations tend to stick out.
Sometimes you have to swim in the sewers to remember what shit really smells like.
It really does "feel" like Neverwinter. It also, however, feels a bit chaotic and frenetic. A lot of this, I’m sure, is due to the beta nature of the game at this time. Heck, I’m not even sure if the appearance of the armor in the game is due to design or because we’re still in beta and they haven’t completed all the models. I’m leaning towards the former because money.
And that brings me to the elephant in the room for this sort of game – how hard are they pushing to sell you cash shop items. Right now, for example, it looks like the only way to change your armor color is to buy "Zen" and then spend it on dyes. "Fine," you say, "cosmetic isn’t a big deal." Problem is, the kind of player that gives a game a soul tends to invest in a character, and care about appearances, and something like this could be discouraging to them.
The other items I saw were such as mounts and companion items, but no game-changing armor or weapons. So pay-to-win, not so much at the moment.
Overall, I like this game. It’s not yet complete, so time will tell if it has legs, and endgame content will drive a certain kind of player’s expectations. Disregarding that, the game is solid, and the leveling game thus far has been fun.
My time in Neverwinter is at an end; the WoW account is up and running, and we have some picking up to do.
Jul 03 2012
The only official response, from Bashiok, is startlingly familiar:
I can almost guarantee that they won’t provide any useful feedback to the banned users that could help them nail it down.
So, any EA/Bioshock haters, be sure to wash your hands before helping yourself to a plateful of crow, if you for some reason thought this wouldn’t happen in the fair lands of the Blizzard.
No shoving, plenty for everyone.
Jun 21 2012
This week’s big SWWTTOR fiasco is … well, it’s like a menu, so much to choose from and no idea what you’re in the mood for. But the one that I am most interested in is not the server merges or fear, loathing, and angst associated with that (depending on your venue). What concerns me is the now-resolved story of Battle Chicken’s abrupt, unexplained ban from SWTOR (Start HERE. Continue HERE. Conclusion HERE.).
If you haven’t the patience to read that much (and if not, how do you put up with MY blatherings?) then here is a précis:
The contributing factor to this is that known "hacker signatures" are guarded as if they were made from gold. If you tell someone you know they were hacking the system due to such and such a pattern in memory, for example, a hacker could use that information. "I must make my program not look like that", he muses, as he twirls his mustache.2
Thus, customer service, even if it were capable of conveying that level of information accurately (which I have my doubts about, no matter what company), is told not to because it would give the bad guys a leg up in the arms race that is MMO client security.
Thus, "you are a hacker, we won’t tell you how we know, but we’re right and you’re wrong, even if we can’t write a game client that won’t crash on a bog standard NVIDIA chipset motherboard, we’re always right."
Guilty until proven innocent, as she said, but in this case – you don’t even get the chance to prove your innocence. Case closed. Talk to the droid.
Her experience is a wakeup call. It’s also an outlier. For every case that resolves this way, I bet you a dollar and a bag of lutefisk that there are at least ten that ended badly for the customer.
This is not just on BioWare or EA, though. Light knows they’ve been drug through the mud over this, but they are not exceptions in an otherwise excellent customer service experience in the general world of MMOs.
I’m looking at YOU, Blizzard.
If I put to puter every case I am personally aware of, you’d be here all night. For example:
Change "Blizzard" or "WoW" out for "BioWare" and I’m sure it would fit right in. Change BC’s issues with BioWare into a WoW case, and, again, it would play out exactly the same.
Bioware’s wakeup call is Blizzard’s, as well, though Blizz has already gotten plenty of them. I’m not sure they’re doing more than hitting the snooze button, though. Time and time again they’ve shown a tone deafness to customer support and common-sense human relations issues. They’ve previously shown a paranoid, no-quarter-given attitude on account bans. I wonder how long before Battle Chicken’s tale finds its own counterpart in WoW?
I guess what I’m saying here is, for once, EA isn’t any more at fault than any other paranoid MMO Customer Service organization. Light knows I wanna hate on them – they stole away several friends of mine, after all – but I prefer my hating to be honest hating.
In closing, I’d just like to say that I’m very happy that Battle Chicken’s ordeal ended on a positive note. A much welcome change from business as usual, yes?
After less than a month of play, the shine has worn off of the new toy and I’m pretty sure I can say that I’m over any infatuation I may have had with the title. I’ll still play from time to time, but the epic journey of Grillex the wizard has turned more into an episodic sitcom at this point.
(hints of spoilers abound)
What went right
What went wrong
The Overarching Conclusion
Diablo III is a wonderful continuation of the franchise that has been despoiled by its online requirements and the attendant AH shenanigans.
What amazes me is how wrong they got the online/social aspects … and yet, not amazed. I have yet to see Blizz execute an online launch smoothly. This is the only company that I know of that would call for a weekend of load testing and then completely fail to act on the results.
What further amazes me is that there is a perfect exemplar out there that shows how this sort of thing should be done, that being, of course, Steam.
I didn’t buy Civ V when it first came out because I was worried about the Steam thing. When I found that Steam had an offline mode, I was completely mollified – doubly so when I saw it at work.
It’s that simple; emulate Steam and Blizz can salvage this thing for those of us that don’t care to be online just to slay hellspawn. Otherwise, I’ve got some railroads to build.
I want to love this game so much … but I just can’t.
WoW is safe for now, I think.
When I signed up for the yearly pass, part of the reason was to get the free D3. Not so much for me, but for my kid, who is the world’s biggest Diablo fan. Unfortunately, it turns out, you can’t transfer licenses1. So I was left with a working copy of D3 and no real desire to check it out.
But when opening night came, I decided to see if it was worth all the hype, so I installed it and started it up.
I started out with a wizard (my D2 character had been more vanilla). The male wizard looks like a cross between Tom Hiddleston and Skrillex – so of course, I called him Grillex. I’m hoping eventually to make his arcane blasts go wubWubWubWub as they glide across the room, but first things first.
What I will say of this game thus far: the best way I can describe my experience is that of a long walk on the beach with an old friend. There is practically nothing that I don’t like. It’s a time machine taking us back to when we were playing D1 and D2 in almost an identical way.
Sure, there are gameplay elements that have changed, but the fundamentals have not. And that makes all the difference. Blizzard have hit the ball out of the park on this one. The "X" factor that made D1 and D2 such runaway hits is still all there.
The only downside to this game is the mandatory online aspect. You can’t just fire up a session on your laptop to kill an hour or whatnot. There are procedures. You Must log in, you Must authenticate, ergo you Must have a working network connection at all times.
The other downside to this is that any time you lose the network, whatever instance you were in is completely reset. If it’s a special one with special bosses with special loot, it might disappear altogether! This is a harsh price to pay for server instability from a company that has not once managed to launch a game without server instability. Now that they are pals with Valve, maybe they can switch to Steam deployment, and have that "work offline" option. I mean, Valve CAN make it work, after all.
Within the game, the only thing that isn’t my cup of tea so far is the witch doctor. I don’t get this class. It doesn’t belong. Unless you consider the "jungle" area with the pygmies2 in D1/2 to be the source of such – hello, negative stereotypes! Thanks for reaffirming Blizzard’s tone-deafness in matters of diversity. And ooga-booga to you, too.
Over all, though, it’s a glorious incarnation of an already legendary game, and I suspect this one will surpass the previous two in popularity.
Of course, some of the biggest Diablo fans in the world are playing WoW. Or, were, rather. All around the ‘sphere we’re hearing of dead cities, silent chat channels, even the ANAL guys have bailed to go play D3. Nothing has had such an impact before. Aion? Nothing. Rift? A pip. STWOR? Shaken, but not stirred. But D3 … it’s done what none of the "WoW killers" could do. Granted, it’s in the pre-expansion doldrums, but still.
Which confirms what I’ve said all along. Blizzard’s worst enemy is Blizzard themselves.
See you in a few days.
While I haven’t really been inclined to get my wookie on and swing a lightsaber, I do follow some aspects of STWOR if for no other reason to have some inkling about what people are getting uptight about. Usually I end up nodding and saying something like "Some things never change."
One recent controversy did raise my eyebrows, though. There was rumblings about enrage timers, but then a more interesting twist emerged: no damage meters, no combat log. As so many experience DPSers will tell you, this is pretty stupid. Here’s one now:
If you think I’m shallow enough to link to this to say I-told-you-so, you’d be completely accurate.
Smug mode: engage.
I’m sure Bioware or whoever will address this to everyone’s satisfaction at some point. I’m not sure if WoW came with a working addon API out of the box, but given how late it was announced for STROW I’d venture that it was an afterthought and still has some work to go. I’d advise patience, but that’s not particularly the hallmark of your average STWOR player1. So, good luck with that, I guess.
That’s not actually what this article is about. Well, peripherally, it is, but only in that damage meters and combat logs are involved and it deals with DPS. Namely, mine.
A couple of patches ago, we got changes to the Beast Master Hunter spec that promised near-parity with other specs. Then the guild got gutted of over half its overall raiding roster and it became more difficult to judge my performance against those of my fellows. Then there were more adjustments in the last patch, including some buffs to both SV and BM. Then we started inviting some people from another guild to raid with us regularly, which included a SV spec hunter.
I saw that BM wasn’t doing that great at all. He was topping the meters, I was bringing up the rear. My best choice at that point was to focus on utility. I’ve had to do this before, many times, as far back as Kara. Hoping that being useful (rather than deadly) would keep me in the rotation.
Or, I could change specs. Give it a go.
Looking at gear and gems and reforges and enchants, I realized I only had to change one enchant – agi to mastery – to optimize my armor for SV. Stat-wise, there was virtually no difference. So, I left myself geared for BM and greased into SV mode.
After looking at the meters, after looking at the combat logs, in all respects, my performance improved. On average, a 3K difference in output, and I’m not really used to the rotation yet.
So here we are at the end of the expansion and I’m having deja vu all over again. Because this is exactly where I ended up as I started crawling the passageways of Icecrown in the final patch of WotLK. Survival. BM was the red-headed stepchild of the team; people like me ran it if we had to, but otherwise we used one of the other specs because they delivered what our class is expected to: ranged damage, and lots of it.
So that’s the upshot of my weekend: I guess I’m shifting to SV and swapping my BM pets for a stock of SV. Alas. BM is, by far, my favorite hunter spec, because it’s so darned fun. But sometimes you gotta give up some funsies to get that boss down. And that’s a sad thing. Of all the issues about talents and specs, that is the greatest one of all – that one cannot just play the spec that one enjoys the most and still expect to perform the same as others. Maybe you get lucky and it works out. Maybe you don’t.
In my case, not so much.
I don’t often blog about the world outside of WoW, since this is, yah, a WoW blog. But I do watch other games closely. And yes, that includes STWOR. I guess it’s assumed that the main reason I don’t want to play it is because I have never heard of George Lucas and his progeny. That’s a negative, Ghost Rider.
In an interview on Eurogamer (as pointed to by Massively), the Game Director for STWOR, James Ohlen, had this to say.
Basically, he seems to say, if you have something bad to say about the game, you’re a hater.
In one fell swoop, he attempts to reduce any criticism – legit or not – to just plain "haters gonna hate, bro" and thus, in his mind at least, can move forward about talking about how wonderful the embroidery is on the next tier of armor or whatever.
I’m not going to address the concerns expressed elsewhere either collectively or individually. Not my concern. But when I see a video game company handle legitimate criticisms in such a cavalier fashion, it really annoys me. It’s a sleazeball move and it just paints the whole development team in a bad light – and usally they don’t deserve that.
Well, sure, he works at EA, and we all lower our expectations whenever we talk, shake hands with, or generally share space with someone at EA these days1. But that does not excuse the practice, any more than if it were someone at Blizzard2.
If I ever have a critique of a game, it will be based on the game and not on nature of the players within or the nature of the content. The fact is that the "franchise" does not interest me, but that is not a critique of the game itself. What I’ve heard of the game itself has been largely positive. I’ve heard more negative about the community around the game than the game itself. That doesn’t make the game a bad game, any more than LFR makes puggers into bad people. They are mechanisms only, and should be judged on that basis.
When you try to insinuate bias without proof, you come across as a sleaze, plain and simple, and when you do that, you inch closer to losing a sale from those that care about that sort of thing.
Now, do I actually believe this guy meant things that way? At the moment, I’m on the fence. As usual, reading the full article embellishes things a bit. But this is the bit getting the widest exposure, and it so far hasn’t been walked back too briskly, so I don’t know what to think about this guy.
What I DO know is that this is a practice I have seen over and over again, from game makers at all levels (including Zynga, ew). So if it’s gonna quack and walk like a duck, I’m going to lay down the duck-like attributes on it.
The practice itself is just not cool, it shouldn’t be pandered to, and "reporters" on the scene should call it out when it happens instead of nodding and smiling and holding on to that free pass for one more quarter.