Saturday, 24 September 2011

What about raiding is hard?

It's a weekend, and I finally had time to catch up on some of the blogs I read. One of the main topics at the moment seems to be raiding difficulty in WoW (again).

Tobold and Gevlon have formed an unlikely alliance and moan about the current gameplay. Now me, being old and wise (yeah well .. and humble, too), I would like to point out that there always always always were problems with raiding. It's just that apparently people remember the highlights more? Odd, I always thought it was the downsides that were more memorable. Maybe I'm a realist, though.

Anyway. Back to the bad old times. Some of the information I'll present will be plain wrong (because I wasn't there and have to rely on the interwebz for information), but hey ... you might not notice.

Vanilla WoW:

Raiding was done by 40 people. At the same time. Druids, Paladins and Priests healed the tank in the same cloth gear. The tank was a warrior. Doing a healing rotation, so when three ran out of mana, the next three stepped up and took over. The others moved back and sat down to drink. DPS classes didn't get healed, but then again - you could drink more than one potion per fight, so it was just a matter of money. Using class abilities was important, but there were only about half as many as there are today.

The Burning Crusade:

Raiding got better (for me, at least) with the reduction down to 10 (or 25 people). Content was either/or, though, so small guilds only saw some. Fights that were based on stacking one type of class were common (yep, we're going to sunwell now. We want three rogues with both Warglaives and twelvety shamans), as were fights that had nothing whatsoever to do with skill and depended on luck. Can't remember that? Were did the infernals fall during the prince fight in Kara? You know.. the instance everyone loved - this was a fight that actually brought fourth rampant "cheating": 'Let's all stand on the broken pillar next to the door, except for the tank, who wedges into the little crack on the right'.

Wrath of the Lich King:

I raided most in this area, so I probably noticed most of the bad things here. Initially we had complaints about just reusing old fights and adding two one single-boss raids. Then there was Ulduar (and I can't remember any complaints - this was just ace). Then there was the "no trash" room. Then there was ICC, with the stacking buff (added random link with complaint. There were plenty).

Raiding was allegedly too easy. Or too hard (especially the heroic modes). I'm personally with the "too hard" group. But maybe I play too many single player games. I want a smooth progression in my heroic difficulty, not "doable" on Marrow-thingy, then "un-frickin'-believable" on Lady Deathwhisper, then "we need one more Kingslayer to do heroic loot-ship", then "ouch ouch ouch" on 'Jaina is such a wuss for crying like a girly-girl'.


And now we're in the stage where player health and healing numbers have grown to a state where normal damage will not kill people any more. So game design had to change to include more "instant death" types of fights. Which are, certainly, based on knowing what'll happen.

I'm not entirely happy about it. Some of them also use mechanics that I cannot track to improve my performance (like Sound on Atramedes). However for the casual blokes like me, there are now nerfs. Last week I've seen Nefarian for the first time. In three attempts we had him at a stage that I'd call "stable" - we got into phase three consistently and it was an overall enjoyable learning experience. One or two more tried and we'd have had him.

Now I'll compare those to 93 attempts on the first Lich King (normal) kill and I'd say "thank you". For someone who only raids very occasionally now, this is perfect. I'm lookiug forward to actually seeing some of firelands. Even if I have to learn not to stand in the bad.

Which challenges my muscle memory.

And is not so different from Baron Geddon in the original Vanilla WoW.

Stop complaining. :p

Sunday, 11 September 2011

I blame Syl - Nostalgia strikes!

Right. This is all totally Syl's fault. She started it. She dug out ancient games, from the days when programming was limited to 612k of memory (well.. almost at least. Age of Conan is a tad more advanced, I think).

So ... I sort of caved and downloaded my very first MMO again. I thought I'd just play the two week free trial (linked here for your convenience). It turns out I was having so much fun in the trial that I reactivated my old account.

A really old account, apparently. If we believe the account management, it was created in 1998 (almost a year after UO started - but hey.. it was incredibly expensive in Germany back then. Mostly due to the phone bills. We used 56k modems back then.. and there was no cheap "flatrate" for phones back then).

Quite a few things changed. There have been several expansions that I missed - new skills were introduced (Ninjitsu and Bushido, Chivalry and Necromancy, Focus (mana regeneration for warriors), Imbuing (sort of like reforging) and possibly more), new champions added, new monsters, new lands, new housing styles. Oh yes.. and players can now choose to be one of three races: Humans (old), Elves (new and strange - my Ultima never had elves) and Gargoyles (very new yet a lot more sensible in an Ultima context).

Skill gain is different these days. Gone are the days of the bone knight wall - as I painfully found out when I recalled there. All alone in the middle of a dungeon is not good - especially when I can hardly remember what which spell does and how to run.

Dying is still the same, though. You loose pretty much everything. When you are ressurected (and none of this fancy "teleport you to the nearest healer" stuff - you run as a ghost until you find a shrine or a wandering healer) you have about 3 health and stand there in your white ghost robe. Surprisingly, the robe does not offer protection (or privacy, really, but that is another problem entirely). There are now "blessed" items that stay with you - and you can insure things - if you remember.

Anyway.. skill gain: Some things are still best done in a boat in 8x8 tiles large resource squares. Some are best done fighting something immortal (like a friend on the "you cannot attack friends" side).

Time for exhibit a, I suppose. Me, sparring with Jessica. Jessica is not actually a player (it's an old game - so far I have met four other players), but a little bunny-rabbit I managed to buy cheaply at the stable masters.

This is what the screen actually looks like. The large screen, that is. The game area is available in two sizes: 640x480 pixels and 800x600 pixels (displayed here). On my 1920x1440 pixel screen thats... not large. Leaves room for additional information, though.

Oh yes... the armour? Weeeeell... it's like this. There are matching sets around. Armour can also be dyed to actually look nice. This is more like a clown suit - admitted - but it has high mana regeneration. And if that means I need to wear an orc's chopped-off face - so be it!

But not all my time is spent leveling a new character. While good fun, it seems I was not very careful when I last logged off (back in 2004 or so). I left all my money in my house - and my house has since collapsed, been paved over and replaced.

So, the other half of my game time is spent with good, old-fashioned farming. With a dragon. On my side, that is.

The dead white wyrms have treasure. The live brown dragon and black-horse-of-firebreathing-and-spellcasting are my good buddies. They just love to pounce on anything that is held in place - inactive and unable to defend itself for 9 seconds - by my beautiful music *nodnod*.

I like fair fights... sometimes. Just not when I'm trying to earn money.

Good old times ...

Monday, 5 September 2011

Naming is seriouz business!

I'm annoyed. I should probably have expected something like this, but I'm still annoyed.

Today, while playing (and slaying level 10 brigands) my name suddenly changed. Without me paying for a name-change, obviously, and without any notification. The lovely Virginity is no more .. she is now called something else (something I cannot pronounce, that is composed of around 231 syllables and will be pure hell to invite to a kinship or fellowship).

Now, the rules in Lord of the Rings don't allow very much. In fact, it's so restrictive, that I just have to link the rules here.

Let me sum it up as well, because I can:

  • Proper names and places or close facsimiles thereof, from the story characters or non-player characters (NPCs) introduced in the fiction of Lord of the Rings Online.
  • Fantasy or non-fantasy names from popular culture or media.
  • Sexually explicit, defamatory, obscene, racially or ethnically offensive names or slang.
  • Names of historical or religious significance.
  • Trademarked names of products, goods, materials or services.
  • Common names, slang or references to drug related substances, culture or paraphernalia.
  • Names containing ranks, titles or denotation of power.
  • Names causing harm, mockery or imitation of Lord of the Rings Online players or NPCs, in addition to Turbine, Inc. employees, past or present.
  • Misspelled variations or homonyms of any of the above rules
The ones marked in red are listed as having a "zero tolerance" policy attached to them. Characters in violation of those will not only be renamed, they will also be banned for three days. Now interestingly enough - I wasn't. 

This leaves a few open questions:

1) I'm not allowed to call a character Fred or Andrew. That's what a common name is, isn't it? 
2) Which of the rules specifically affected Virginity? 
3) Who THE FUCK (double emphasis there) reported the name? Really? Is someone that petty? 

Gah. Way to ruin my gaming night. I'll probably reroll the hunter and name her something less ... I don't know... common? 

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Break from 3 to 9, back after Dinner?

That's what it looks like on the blog anyway. I would like those work hours, I have to admit. Bit of a break in the afternoon, going for a cup of coffee, some cake, a little rest in the garden, some starter with a dry sherry, a soup, maybe, now that it's getting colder outside, a sorbet - vodka sorbet, server in a half coconut for instance - a main course with a nice glass of red wine, a bit of fruit salad with a generous helping of brown sugar and rum. And then back to work. Yeah... I'm sure reports would look better in the evening.


Anyway. WoW got boring. I stopped. I tried quite a few different games. New on the list were single player games that were woefully neglected during my raiding days. Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 were good. At the time of play I would have called them great, but they do suffer from "Bioware required party interaction syndrome" (that's a true medical term. Look it up!). You need to talk to your party at every single rest period to get to all the subplots. If you are a completionist, you also need to have sex with at least one of them (although I have to admit: Bioware is flexible and usually allows more creative approaches there).

Personally? Those are work mates. They are here to help me save the universe. Some of them are members of my military unit. Some of them are aliens with thought processes completely unlike my own (well - not very, but they might as well be). If they have a problem: Come to me. My door is always open! Honestly. Get off your ass, walk up to your commanding officer and say "Shepard? There is a research lab where I was tortured. I have just found the location in the ships computer. When we next pass by - could we have a look inside? The doctor said it would be good for me."

Was that hard? Seriously? But nooooo... instead we hide in the darkest, dingiest corner we could find on the whole ship and won't even mention any sort of personal problems until I tried to talk to you (that's not you, the reader, that is you, the NPC) at least three times. And apparently took you on 12 missions, at least 8 of which needed to be story relevant. No wonder I never got you into bed! (Yes, I am still bitter that I didn't get Miranda to shag Jack and Shepard at the same time.)

This probably deserved a followup on how scared I am about Star Wars: The Old Republic to do the same - but it's going to be an online game, so maybe there will be a "chatting up before sex: required 255 times" nerf in patch 1.7.2d.

Wow that was rambely... the other single player game was Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. Now this game is just what I occasionally need. It's for those times when I took my level 85 warrior to Westfall to do the old quests. Those times when "kill an enemy with one blow" is what you need. Except ... in this case ... it's even better. The protagonist of the story is so ridiculously overpowered that normal NPCs are proper Mooks. Killing them is not only easy - it's so easy the character is allowed to get creative now and then: don't want to chop them in half with a lightsaber? No worries.. we have something for you.

How about:

1) Fry them with lightning (relatively tame, I agree) or choke them to death (not much better, but hey, it's a different button on the mouse).
2) Grab them by the throat (err.. not in person) and fling them over the side of a really really high up ledge and watch them fall to their deaths? (Getting better, I thought).
3) Pick up something large and heavy (like a statue), lift it off the ground, fire a lightning bolt at it to "charge" it, then throw it at the person to make the lightning ground through them just as they are squashed by a metric ton of rock?
4) Lift someone up, dangle them around and then throw a lightsaber through their chest? Good thing you got two, so you can still defend .. I think.

and last, but certainly not least:

5) Grab an approaching TIE fighter in midair, crush it into a sphere of twisted metal and then throw the wreckage (leaking toxic fuel, I'm sure) into someone.


It didn't even bother me any more that the protagonist rammed his spaceship into another one, jumped through the roof into space, dropped towards the planet at reentry speeds (with no spacesuit? who cares, we have the force!) while shoving other broken ships out of the way, turning into a bizarro human-reentry-fireball-meteority to land in the courtyard of the enemy station. On one knee (as is required in those situations), leaving a crater in the concrete. Unharmed, obviously, I mean .. hello?

Oh yes. Sometimes that's just what I need. And I don't care that it sounds silly. It has me cackling like a maniac.

On the multiplayer front there were a few old favourites. DDO (now free to play) and LotRO (also free to play). Both of them were not really free. I did spend quite a bit of money in the DDO shop, using it to unlock new race and class options, buying "veteran character" status (all characters start at 4/20 instead of 1/20) and buying a permanent stat increase tome for my main. All good choices that actually make play nicer. They fall completely out of the "purely cosmetic" range - and smack dab into the middle of "you buy this to make your character more powerful" range. And it's good. Those options actually are the only ones I want to spend money on in DDO - purely cosmetic would not work there.

In LotRO the situation is slightly different. I (or rather we - Issy is the same) bought a lifetime membership a while ago. When we come back it's usually with a sense of "this is something we don't take seriously - we can just bimble about". I think my highest character to date is level 35 and I've been to a grand total of one dungeon (whatever they are called there). With the lifetime account come points. Lots of points. So many, in fact, that my little hobbit warden got a pony with a black/red shoulderpatch. Which is apparently rare (and possibly slightly faster than another horse).

Would I spend several tens of euros on something like that? Well no. Sorry. The item shop would sort of fail there. However, as the points are free, I don't mind. And I really really want to wait until the day before LotRO shuts down (hopefully late.. in 20 years would be nice) and then log in one last time, go to the item shop and buy "One of each, please - on second thought - make it two".

And then there was Rift. As Tobold was just asking about a verdict, I might as well post it here. It was quite fun. It suffered a bit from "Early Age of Conan" syndrome, though. The beginning areas were well done and well designed, end-game was possibly not expansive enough. There were not many options at the very start, with more being patched in rapidly though. For me, it was just more of the same. Progression and gameplay were the same as in World of Warcraft (and I really really do not care that there were lots of soultrees and that it all was named differently). Quests consisted of "go there, kill 10 of x, come back". I'm not complaining - because it was new and shiny it was a great change from WoW. Dwarf females were incredibly cute (much better even than pink ponytailed gnomes), but in the end it came down to "press button 1, press button 2 after event x, hit button 3 to finish".

Again, I'm not trying to pull down Rift because of the programming. This is basically the same as in World of Warcraft. I did come back there, however, as many of our friends are still playing. Left the old (raiding) guild and rejoined my original place. Hey.. I even got my name back.

Koch (Aszune) now is sort of active again - except that I don't want to be stressed any more. Raiding? Nah .. thanks. Maybe if someone desperately needs a spotfiller (because the fights were fun, usually), but I'm also wasting time on Archaeology, the auction house (sometimes), achievements (quite a bit) and running alts through content. Hey.. I even got a warlock to 85 - and found out that I am apparently incapable of playing casters. My damage sucketh.

The gameplay in WoW is smoother though. There are not "too many" abilities (as in Rift - try paladin tanking without macroes, please: You have .. what... four reactive abilities in addition to your four attack and 6 protective options? My fingers are not long enough for that. Or rogue tanking: Why do I need 6 different teleports instead of one with a cooldown of 1/6th of the time?), there are more parallel leveling paths (one gets really really painful after the third alt in relatively short time) and the combat "feels" smoother. Maybe that's because of the aforementioned "I need 139741 buttons" problem, but the quality of WoW only shows when you compare it to some of the other options.

Actually that makes a good finish: Go and try something else if you can't appreciate the quality. And hey.. if you find you like something else better: No reason to stick around except for your friends.