When Games Go Beyond Gaming

This post should go live waaay before this, around the time of the 2nd Guild Wars 2 Stress Test. But hey, who said I could come with some clever title for it?

Anyway, there are only two moments in my life where a game made me move back in my chair to get a clear picture of everything I was seeing.

The first one was in World of Warcraft, after Cataclysm. At the time, the only thing I wanted was the Loremaster title, which requires completing almost every single quest in the game. I was going around in the flooded Thousand Needles, in a boat with goblins and dwarfs. Your mission was to steal something in a bar (I can’t really remember what it was) but it required some sort of distraction. Since the things between goblins and dwarfs weren’t going so fine, all you needed to do was to smash a bottle in someone’s head.

And there I was. In a bar in a boat in the middle of a huge lake, with cramped tables, all with mixed dwarfs and goblins and a single bottle sitting in one of them. You looted the bottle, opened you inventory, selected any other NPC, double clicked the bottle and… the whole bar starts fighting. The scene was so weird, so surreal and still so funny, I almost forgot I had to steal whatever I needed.

(In case you’re curious, the name of the quest is Bar Fight!)

The second time was in Guild Wars 2 2nd Beta Weekend.

In my attempt to get some XP, I decided to go around completing the waypoints and interest points in Hoelbrak when I witnessed the following conversation between two NPCs:

Bann, a Norn hunter, approaches Shaman Ursel with a problem.

Bann: I was out in the Borealis Forest, not far from here, and I came across an enraged broodmother.

Bann: I tracked it for a while, I was in a dominant position, until it caught my scent and attacked.

Bann: When the fight was over, the broodmother and its offspring lay dead, scattered in the underbrush.

Shaman Ursel: So you won the battle.

Bann: It’s true. My enemy is not the broodmother or her ravenous kits.

Bann: My enemy is the wound I suffered during the fight. It can’t be healed. I can’t hunt. I can’t do anything.

Bann: I’m less than half what I was, and I don’t know how to overcome it.

Shaman Ursel: I understand your challenge, and Bear has a lesson that’ll give you comfort, it you’re ready to learn it.

Bann: I’m ready.

Shaman Ursel: Bear teaches us the seasons. We have spring, winter, summer and autumn.

Shaman Ursel: In the spring, the bears awaken, find mates and form families. In summer, they teach their cubs to survive.

Shaman Ursel: In autumn, they hunt, and the forest belongs to them. In winter, THEY belong to the forest.

Shaman Ursel: In life, we also have seasons we must respect. Your season has changed, but you’re no less part of the forest.

Bann: I think I understand.

Shaman Ursel: Don’t try to walk autumn’s path in winter. Bear has given you a new mantle to wear and new challenges to overcome.

Now, maybe it doesn’t make a connecting with you right now, but it will, eventually. And the fact that such lesson is given by two NPCs that don’t do anything more extraordinary while still following the theme in the game… that’s completely mindblowing.

The damages of World of Warcraft

I started writing this, then deleted and let it go. But today I saw this Guild Wars 2 press video and I could see that I should’ve completed that post.

Now, before I go on, let me say that I don’t like to say anything bad about other people gameplays. Trying to find what people did wrong while not looking what you’re doing is quite hypocritical — and that’s why I had a series called “PvPing with Thor” to analyse my own play style instead of bashing other Holy Paladins in World of Warcraft.

That being said… Man, what a bad gameplay. Seriously. I won’t get into details about his continual spam of the first skill, not changing attunements or complete lack of dodging — we said he was tired and sleep deprived, which could explain part of it — but his fight with Master Ranger Nente (which starts around the 19:00 mark) is bad in many ways. His words: “The biggest problem here is trying to move around and attack at the same time.”

Sure, that would be a problem in games like World of Warcraft and parts of Rift, but Guild Wars 2 allows casting while moving. And that’s some damage Blizzard’s MMO (and its predecessors and its cousins) did to a lot of players.

Little anecdote time: When I was playing Rift, one of the things I planned was to roll one character of each class; with the Rogue, I went into the Ranger soul tree, basically being a Ranger (also, Marksman and something else I can really remember). I remember how impressed people went when they saw me kiting mobs while still shooting, ’cause I early realised that any spell that doesn’t have a casting time can’t be cast while moving. That simply blown other peoples minds!

But… does that make sense? I think it does. Some wizard doesn’t need to sit still to be able to recite enchants, do they? Someone who is good with the bow doesn’t really need to stand still to be able to shot an arrow, unless it’s a very trick shot, don’t they? (Merida just agrees with me).

And, yet, people still believe that to cast some magic bolt anything, you need to stand still — like you can’t talk and walk at the same time. To shot an arrow, you need to stand still.

Ugh. Just… ugh.

Maybe ArenaNet needs to put, in big letters, YOU CAN MOVE AND CAST AT THE SAME TIME! when everyone logs in. Actually, put that in the login screen.

And yes, I know such things existed way before WoW. But WoW bring those silly ways to the masses and never even thought about changing it.

“Mists of Pandaria” From a Jaded WoW Player Perspective

Let me start this by saying the most obvious: I am the jaded World of Warcraft player. I played for 4 years and got tired of it. So my view may be a bit skeptical or a bit pessimistic. If you still enjoy WoW, you’ve been warned.

I’ll use the RipTen article about the changes, as it provides a nice bullet list to analyze everything.

  • Outdoor world raid bosses will be returning

    “Returning” is a weird word here. As far as I know, Cataclysm did add the world raid bosses after they have been unseen since Vanilla. I did farm Azuregos with a certain frequency, but never saw the new bosses.

  • Valor points will be available as quest rewards via dailies

    The type of daily quest isn’t mentioned. It could be something like “Timear Foresses”, which require you to do a dungeon to kill a certain number of dungeon-citizens. And, since you were there, there was no reason to complete the dungeon for the points/emblems. It could be, on the other hand, that you have to kill things around the dungeon, which you can do it alone.

    In a way, if we are talking about the second option, it means that the inherent value of points will be diminished, and you’ll need more to get your dungeon/pre-raid gear. If it’s the first… then nothing really changed.

  • 5 new zones to level up in

    Probably in Pandaria, for the Pandarens. Worgens and Goblins had less zones, but there was a heavy use of phasing, but it you count them, it will probably bring it close to 5 too.

  • One continent with an Asian influence

    That’s Pandaria. Expected due the title and the only real surprise is that Blizzard decided to make an expansion based on a joke.

  • Banking, Auction House and quest hubs all available on the new continent

    This only means the new zone will not be overrun by an enemy faction or completely blown up.

  • Flying will not be available until level 90 on the new continent

    … for now. I guess it will be completely open in WoW 6.0, as almost the same thing happened to Icecrown, although it was even before 4.0 landed.

  • Pandaria rests on the back of a giant turtle

    “Turtles all the way down”? Still, just design, it probably won’t affect anything.

  • Pandaren are a neutral race. At level 10, the player pledged alliegance to the Alliance or the Horde

    This is the first point I have a problem with. I kept hearing over and over again that Blizzard wanted to keep a different silhouette for PvP, so one could see, from far away, if that guy coming was a friend or an enemy, which is pretty good, IMHO. The problem now is that, because Pandaren can be either Horde or Alliance, to keep the silhouette, they will have to create different gear based on faction — and Tier 9 (and related Arena season gear) proved that it’s a huge deal for Blizzard: They couldn’t come with good designs for it and later scrapped the whole thing.

    They could resort to coloring the gear (e.g., a Tauren paladin will have red-ish gear, while a Draenei paladin will have the same gear, but with blue tint), though, but that screws them in the other way: Right now, when a new tier is introduced, they add some bells and whistles to the previous one and add some coloring. By making the gear color based, to introduce a new tier, they will need to add much more differentiation.

  • A new race known as the Mantid will be threatening Pandaria

    Here comes the new enemy… Fortunately, this means Kael’jaden, Ner’zhul, Deathwing and all dragons where finally vanquished, so Azerothians can move to save other things.

    Also, I can’t stop thinking about Cantha. Cantha is the continent introduced in the Factions expansion of Guild Wars, which have an Asian feeling around it (like Pandaria). And guess which is the first type of enemy you find? Mantids!

    If there is any relationship between Asia and insects, I do not know. But it’s kinda curious this, isn’t it?

  • Pandaren classes: Hunter, Mage, Monk, Priest, Rogue, Shaman, Warrior

    So you can’t be a hero Deathknight, which solves the problem people had with the lore with the introduction of Worgen and Goblins. I just don’t get why a race can be warrior and priest and not a paladin, which is just a combination of both.

    (Actually, I can: It probably means there are too many paladins already).

  • Monk Races – Draeni, Dwarf, Gnome, Human, Night Elf, Pandaren, Blood Elf, Orc, Tauren, Troll, Undead

    Everyone except those pesky Cataclysm races.

    Again, probably ’cause the Goblin and Worgen population is high enough already.

  • Pandaren racials: Bouncy = Falling damage reduced by half. Inner Peace = Your reseted xp bonuses lasts twice as long. Gourmand = Cooking skill increased by 15. Epicurean racial = Increases the stats benefits from food by 100%

    Bouncy is not interesting at all (RIFT’s dwarfs have density which is pretty much the same thing and it’s said it’s one the worse racial of them all), Inner Peace is there just to let people rolling new Pandaren catch up with their friends, Gourmand is meh and Epicurean is just that racial to make the whole race worth anything (racial-wise, that is).

  • Monk Brewmaster = tank / Monk Misterweaver = healer (melee based) / Monk Windwalker = melee DPS

    (Combined to reduce space). Honestly, I’m really really curious about Misterweaver. Somewhat, I expect it to be what a RIFT “Justicar healer” would be, if such soul combination was possible and viable (currently, it isn’t): Sacrifices a bit of damage but each attack heals the party or a single, buffed target. Unless they make it a “touch”-based class, which would require you to run around touching people to heal them.

    The Brewmaster will probably be RIFT rogue tank with a lots of evasion (like a ninja/Kung Fu master) or either a bear tank: Some evasion but lots of health.

    Windwalker, by the description of the weapons (there is a bullet point of it later) probably means it will work somewhat like enhancement shamans worked in Vanilla/The Burning Crusade.

  • The Monk is not a hero class and begins at level 1

    Meh.

  • Monks will wear leather armor and primarily wield staves and fist weapons

    That’s what I meant by saying that the DPS will work like the Vanilla/TBC Enhancement Shaman — with the added staff, obviously.

  • New resource system for the Monk uses Chi (energy). The Monk’s primary attack of Jab generates light and dark force, which are the resource for other special abilities

    Same bar, different color.

  • The Monk has no auto attack

    Oh, look! Blizzard is trying to make what every other MMORPG is doing these days. How cute! I wonder how the other classes will work. Will they also lose their auto-attacks or will the monk be the “odd one”?

    Soon: Dodge attacks.

  • Talent trees are being redesigned (again). No longer will there be talent points or ranks. There will be one talent tree per class. Talents will be learned every fifteen levels and each talent will be between a choice of three. The design goal is that there be no mandatory talents.

    I guess what will happen is this: First, you select your tree. Then, every 15 levels, a new row appears and you have to pick one of 3. Once done, you have to play another 15 levels to get a new row and a new talent.

    This is a big “FUUUUUU”. They took even the talent trees away. It probably means, if you want to be a paladin tank, for example, you just pick the talents in the second column every 15 levels.

    Instead of making talents more relevant or interesting, to the point that each one would be interesting in different situations (so that those characters with mixed trees would behave a bit differently in different situations, one covering the other), they simply gave up any thinking this kind of stuff and took everything away.

    There was a joke when Cataclysm was released about Blizzard taking all talents away and you would only chose a tree. This is pretty much the step before that.

  • Talents will be changed in a similar manner to glyphs

    Glyphs are still there, so scribes don’t need to QQ.

  • A new UI has been designed

    I guess this will be a response to the number of people using Tukui/ElvUI or whatever. I pretty much doubt the will completely overhaul the UI and go with something that looks like Guild Wars 2, for example.

  • PVE scenarios: Short instances for a small number of players, similar to questing and without any class or role requirement. Essentially epic quests which reward valor or justice points

    Group quests removed in Cataclysm, now return with the name of “PVE scenarios”. Also, instantiated. Same old.

  • Challenge mode dungeons: Complete a dungeon in a set time to receive bronze, silver or gold medals. Also a source of valor points. Will include competitive rank and leader boards

    You know, when I heard about “Challenge Mode Dungeons” the first time, I thought they would add something like what Guild Wars 2 will do with their “Exploration mode” dungeons. In there, the dungeon difficulty is increased, being aimed to concise/organized groups, capable of playing together (while in “story mode”, which you must do in the first time, is targeted to PuG groups). Basically, Exploration Mode is a 5 man raid.

    (Also, “Exploration Mode” for dungeons, you can chose up to 3 different paths, which means you can play a single dungeon in 4 different ways.)

    But Challenge Mode is simply “run it as fast as you can”. If there is any skippable boss, you can be sure that more people with better gear will skip it, even if you want to kill all bosses to get more points/emblems. Happened before, will happen again.

  • Pet battle system: Essentially Pokemon – Use 3 pets to challenge another trainer (I mean player) to a turn based combat. Pets can hold items. You can travel around the world to defeat Pokemon Masters (I mean, plain old Masters). Defeating them earns you their ability

    Soon, Tamagochis for your character!

    Instead of making the vanity pets a bit more useful like, say, Torchlight pets, allowing you to send them to a city to sell your trash and get some gold in return, or giving them the ability to warn you of some enemy approaching (in PvP/PvP servers, like vanity pets do in Aion), they came with Pokemons.

    Yes, yes, it’s another minigame, so you have something to do while waiting for your raid group instead of dueling outside where you can be ganked but meh.

  • 9 new dungeons will be available at launch, including 6 within Pandaria. The remaining 3 are Heroic Scholomance and Heroic Scarlet Monastery (wings 1 and 2)

    And the recycling continues.

  • 3 new raids at launch, featuring Mantids as enemies amongst others

    Wanna bet this will be one of the scratched points on release?

  • Raid finder will continue to be operational

    Nothing much to say besides “ok”.

  • More focus will be given to max level content. Blizzard acknowledges that Cataclysm had a dearth of activities to occupy players at max level

    I just hope that Blizzard finally learnt that “max level content” doesn’t mean only dungeons and raids. Seriously. I didn’t enjoy PuGing around and there was almost nothing to do after I reached level 85 in Cataclysm.

  • Incentives to complete dailies – complete 5 dailies, a special piece of loot may become available in a dungeon which can only be rolled upon by those who have completed said dailies

    So first you need to complete your dailies, then you can do your dungeons. This will piss some people claiming that they have a life and they can’t just do all dailies and then do dungeons and what Blizzard is thinking and the same things we heard before.

    I’m not sure what Blizzard is trying to accomplish here. To keep people playing more time? Why? If people play for 30 minutes and feel that they accomplished something and got rewarded for it, the better, as this will required less server power, allowing some servers to be run on the same machine. It’s a win situation ’cause it will save on hardware on the long run. Doing this does exactly the opposite.

  • Less grinding to earn faction rep

    But just faction rep. You will still have to grind 5 dailies to get a good reward in the dungeon.

  • New battlegrounds being considered – Diamond Mine (first to X resources wins),Valley of Power (hold and retain an object, object damages player over time, multiple point zones), Azshara Crater (DOTA)

    A new Arathi Basin, a new Black Garden and a new Dota.

    It shouldn’t be “considered”. Battlegrounds are basically stale, with only 4 types of gameplay availble. Valley of Power and Azshara Crater would make this number jump to 6™, which would reduce the boredom of doing “capture the flag” over and over again in two different maps.

  • New arena – Tol’vir Proving Grounds

    Wasn’t the focus shifting to battlegrounds ’cause that was easier to balance? Why a new arena?

  • Resilience is now a base stat. PvP gear will add to it

    Which means gear level didn’t increased as much as they wanted. Or they wanted to keep something for lowlies to defend themselves against ganks. Or that they plan to free points spent in Resilience in other stats.

  • Hunter minimum range removed, along with melee weapon usage

    Huntards rejoice.

  • Ranged and relic slots removed for all other characters. Wands are now main hand weapons. Warriors and rogues can throw their melee weapon

    Less things to design, less things to balance. Basically, lazing out.

    Oh, I just realized that Warrior tanks will probably get their own “Avenger’s Shield” now… HOMOGENIZATION FTW? MEH!

  • Warlocks: Each warlock spec will utilise a different resource. Soul shards for affliction. Demonology warlocks will morph into demons once their demonic fury maxes out. Destruction warlocks build up fire energy then release it devastatingly

    Curious, but it feels like Afflication will have a decreasing resource, while Demonology and Destruction will have a Life Force-like resource (do damage, get resource; use special ability, consume resource).

  • Shamans: Buff totems have been removed. Earthgrab totem = big root. Repulsion totem = prevents mobs from closing. Bulward totem = absorbs damage

    And then Shamans will gain Blessings-like spells and the homogenization of the classes will just follow its course.

  • Druids: Have 4 specs. Feral = cat melee DPS. Guardian = bear tank. Restoration and Boomkin round out the remainder.

    What I’m wondering here is if Restoration and Boomkin will have to share the same spells, making them a Chloromancer of sorts — which is not bad, it was one of the funniest classes I ever played, specially as healer.

  • All class rotations have been improved, as have spellbooks. Spells are automatically learned. Trainers will exist for the purpose of respeccing

    No more not enough money to buy spells. At the same time, it feels a bit like spell unlocking in Guild Wars 2, which is based on how much you played (Guild Wars 2 does based on weapon, WoW will probably do it based on level).

It starts as “Oh!”, “Ah!” and ends with a big “MEH!” Sure, some things are interesting but one have to ask if that’s enough to bring 1 million people back to the game. Also, you must remember that, till this is finally released, Star Wars: The Old Republic will be already going on, Guild Wars 2 will be probably out and RIFT will have 2 or 3 more content patches (by the speed they are doing things these days).

It’s a rought time to World of Warcraft. Which is a good thing. The more pressure other MMOs put on WoW, the better Blizzard have to work; the better Blizzard works, the more the other MMOs will improve. It’s good that Blizzard is finally feeling some heat, and we all, no matter which one is our favourite game, will win.

Blizzard, Master of Illusions

There are news that, for those who spend a lot of money on World of Warcraft, there is a free copy of Diablo III waiting for you and you also get a free mount!

The trick is: You need to buy a full year of World of Warcraft. Yes, full year.

Just to check the prices I logged on my old Battle.Net account. The only options I found were monthly ($14.99), 3 months ($41.97, $13.99 per month) or 6 months ($77.94, $12.99 per month). At first I thought they would add a new model, but it’s not there yet. But let’s imagine they will keep the trend and do it $11.99 per month, or $143.88 total. With this you can buy 2 copies of Diablo III. Or you could get one copy and have some cash as cushion for the lost sales in the real money AH.

Also, let’s be honest: If you have both, would you actually play both? I have the slight impression that you would be safer cancelling your World of Warcraft for about 3 months, play Diablo III till you reached some comfortable level, saw everything you could and then return to World of Warcraft (or, basically, you’d be paying for one game and playing the other a lot more). And then there is the catch: You must do this before 2011-11-18. I pretty much doubt Blizzard will release Diablo III before that — and I think it would be a real dick move releasing exactly on that day, so you start paying your World of Warcraft exactly when you are going to spend a lot of time actually exploring Diablo III.

That was the first illusion they were planting today.

The second appeared on “My Games” in the Battle.Net while I was faking a “resubscription” to check the prices. There, I saw this:

No, dear sirs, I did not get a beta key of Diablo III. This is just Blizzard way of trying to entice Battle.Net users to think they already got a Diablo III key (or something).

(Also, I bet the “Tyrael Horse” is as annoying as the “Celestial Stead”.)

Edit: TillEulenspiegel, on RockPaperShotgun post nailed it:

1) They don’t want people leaving WoW to play D3.

2) The marginal cost of each player playing D3 online (ie, the only way possible) for a few hours is negligible. So this costs them a few lost sales, but that’s about it.

3) People who have less time to play D3 (because they’re also playing WoW) are more likely to buy stuff on the RMT auction house, thus fueling the economy.

It’s a cunning plan.

About Mains

I had an old draft saying “How it’s good to play a game without a main”.

For those unaware of it, a “main” is usually the character you play most in a game that have more than one option of it. RPGs (and, obviously, MMORPGs) are known for this, as you can have multiple classes you can chose (and there is nothing stopping you from playing with one class, then another, then going back to the first, and so on).

This draft was sitting in my draft folder since I started playing Rift, which I stopped playing about 2 months ago. In there, I dropped some notes about the fact that I didn’t feel “chained” to a certain character like I did in WoW, when I felt somewhat bad for not playing one day, not completing daily quests and not getting the rewards I was planning — which is a damn weird thought when you think about it, as you don’t “owe” to your character in any shape or form.

But that’s the way I felt with “Thorianar”, my paladin in WoW: Missing a day of game meant some reward would only be reached a day later, which wasn’t fair after those 3-4 years running around doing everything for the best gear/enchant.

But I’m going a bit off-topic. Thing is, my “freedom from mains” came when I was playing 4 characters in Rift, one for each class. Those were not my first characters, though: I had a Cleric sitting in a PvP server which was a real pain to play (seems the Guardians were outnumbered by the Defiants, so things got really though in the shared zones). Anyway, as time goes, patch 1.3 landed, free shard transfers appeared. And then, suddenly, that Cleric came back to mind. And, suddenly, that Cleric was transferred to join the others, which never got a play time again.

At first, there could be drawn a line between “time played” and “money invested”: The character you play the most is, at the same time, the one you “paid” more (in your monthly fee). Thus, you need to do something to justify the money you already invested: Starting over again would meant those monthly payments you made before were completely wasted.

Guild Wars, which I’m playing again, comes to mind, though. You see, I had an elementalist since the very beginning, with other characters. But that character (“Lydia Tombstone”, by the way) suddenly was my main. And the reason I returned to Guild Wars was simply the “Hall of Monuments”, which I mentioned here before. But there is this weird thing about the Hall: It’s shared amongst all your characters, so you can get some points with one character, roll another, get some other points and, in the end, each unique point is added and you get your rewards. But the guide I followed suggested rolling another character, in a different class. And, although I could tell myself that I was doing that just for the points, it hurt me that I couldn’t get them with my main.

And Guild Wars is “buy to play”, so the monthly fee thing doesn’t apply.

So what really makes someone attached to a virtual entity? Not just any virtual entity, but an entity that that person created. Maybe mains fill that spot that some dreams fill, giving the person some feeling they miss in real life.

Dev Watercooler — Threat Level Midnight

Dev Watercooler — Threat Level Midnight

Only thing I could think of after reading this was: “HA!” Honestly, they are basically removing threat to the point that mobs will stick to the target that hits them first (two hits, it seems). This same mechanic exists in the first Guild Wars: Mobs sticks to the target that hits them first for a while (then go to the target with the least health, which I learnt after the GDC 2011 panel, when they were talking about Guild Wars 2).

This kinda reminds me of my old days of tanking in WoW, when you had to chose between survivability or threat. A smart tank would mix stamina gems and strength gems (for paladins — my case — and warriors) or they could go dumb and put all stamina gems. Now… seems you’re all for stamina, no matter which class you play.

With threat removed, what next? I bet healers will get more utility and tanks and DPSes will get more self-healing or some sort of group healing — like all paladins now have access to Holy Radiance (and druids have that AoE heal).

Pretty Sure My MMO Playtime Ruined My Diablo Skills

Yesterday, playing Diablo II and seeing that Javazons are not that fun to play (for me), I decided to roll a Poisonmancer.

For those who don’t know DIablo II builds, a Poisonmancer is a Necromancer who relies heavily on a golem for tanking, Poison Dagger, Poison Nova and Poison Explosion, with some switching to Lower Resist to break those pesky “Immune to Poison” mobs. Obviously, since this is high level build, I had to use Poison Dagger (level 1), Bone Shield (‘cause it was pretty close to the mobs) and Amplify Damage. And a Golem that died evey 20 minutes or so.

Diablo II offers a way to quickly switch between those things: Open your Skill options (in the left or right side of your bar), hover over one of the skills and press any of the Function keys (by default, I usually change those to some mnemonics). Then, while playing, you can press that key and it will quickly switch to the spell.

Now the thing is: I switched to a Paladin ‘cause it was damn hard to me to switch from a “1” to “0” “press button to cast spell”, like in any MMO. That’s probably why I went so far in Torchlight: Although you still have the right-click and left-click spells, you can assign anything to your spell bar. I rolled up and down throwing meteorites at enemies thanks to that.

After that realization, I started thinking if Diablo III will be the game for me. I mean, I’m having a hard time with Diablo II and, by what I saw, it doesn’t seem Diablo III changes that formula that much — or even want, most people would start comparing Diablo III to World of Warcraft if they went full with a spellbar.