Archive for March, 2012

Sullas the Goat or Die Pandas Sind Gelandet

March 19, 2012 Comments off

At a friend’s behest, I dipped back into WoW for a couple of days. I got scrolled, and I might drop a month’s sub on it to get my inductor whatever sparkle pony du jour is offered for successful pimping. I do not expect to play with the resulting month much, though.

Since I had never tried paladin healing in earnest, I boosted one and requested a holy spec. The game proceeded to fit me with a cookie-cutter holy spec instead of letting me feel important by shoving a tree’s worth of talent points in myself. It’s just as well. We would not want the returning veteran to harm himself with the safety scissors.

It also gave me holy gear. The holy gear was enough to jump in and heal the first Cata dungeon, Blackrock Caverns, but it wasn’t doing much good for questing. I’m not sure what exactly would be overpowered about giving the scroll-boosted 80 green-quality gear for all three specialisations and letting the player mix and match to taste with dual-spec, but never mind. The ret greens from the early Hyjal quests were more than up to the non-existent challenge.

Random thoughts from the perspective of a now-TOR-player:

Levelling in WoW is much faster and bloody boring. Granted, my friend graciously invited me to her max-level guild with its 10% experience gain boost, but 80-83.5 took about eight hours total, including visits to some battlegrounds, a handful of xp-inefficient dungeon runs, and general arsing around.

No, really. The ‘Hyjal for the nth time’ groan-fest has, in my mind, firmly put to rest any comparison in questing difficulty between WoW and TOR. Questing in TOR is harder. End of story. In TOR, around the 40s, if one does not pay attention and tries simply to faceroll, one can die. Even in single player areas, and certainly on ‘quest boss’ encounters. The mob groups are more densely packed than in WoW. There are no flying mounts, and speeders are much more sensitive than even WoW’s ground mounts to dismounting via damage. There is no auto-attack. Incoming damage, relatively, is much higher. TOR’s mob groups take a longer time to whittle down, and with silver-strength mobs and above, it does matter whether or not you take down the healer first.

WoW questing, to borrow Bhagpuss’s excellent comparison (to which I wish I could link directly) feels like knitting or crocheting. You put on a podcast or the Beeb radio stream, fire up a quest add-on with its arrow pointing to the next location, relax your eyes so that various urgent textual missives from frazzled night elves become pleasantly blurred and a few hours later you are two levels higher.

Speaking of add-ons: WoW’s UI, macros and add-on support are wonderful and sorely missing in TOR. I don’t use too many add-ons, but being able to set up my beloved mouse-over macros for healing, shift around the built-in raid frames just so, and set up my Power Auras to track cooldowns, buffs and spell availability for both holy and ret specs felt great. Felt like home. In general, WoW feels clearer and, I cannot avoid the cliché, more polished. I realise that this feeling is in large part due to my familiarity with WoW’s systems. I know intuitively what the abilities and secondary stats do, for example, whereas it would still take me a moment to process whether or not Saber Ward prevents elemental damage. However, WoW’s ‘getting the game to do what you want it to do’ part is still superior, and I do hope 1.2 takes a few steps to close the gap.

Speaking of urgent textual missives: I think WoW veterans have become inured to just how bad the storytelling is. We forgive the game its howlers like the final Hyjal showdown in the company of  Hamuul, Malfurion and Cenarius against Ragnaros. Or the ‘jousting for Aviana’ mini-game. WoW has set itself up cleverly as a light-hearted game, with its occasional asides to the audience, in-jokes and more corn than Iowa. It’s great at making us smile wryly and shrug at the disjointed, silly mish-mash – it’s just old WoW doing its thing, don’t be so po-faced! – but it comes at a price. Its occasional desultory groping for gravitas tends to settle at the level of a Dragon Ball Z showdown. WoW’s genuine emotional payload ended at the Wrathgate, with a death-twitch around Arthas’s demise. I have been utterly spoiled by TOR’s voice acting, decent writing, and stories that more or less hang together. I do not expect to be immersed by WoW-like questing again. Bring on the elf-blur.

At one point during the course of last night, the blur turned vaguely green. I reluctantly focused my eyes, and discovered guild chat a-twitter about the Mists of Pandaria NDA being lifted. It is difficult to get too excited, but: the pandas look good. If one cares about such things, as does my best friend for whom the design of the female pandaren model was a matter of life and death, then the expansion passes muster. It will be pleasant to dwell in, a persimmon-scented fairy tale with homicidal bunnies and (more) wise fishmen. On the other hand, it is difficult not to notice salient borrowings from other games: AoE looting, a battleground inspired by the TF2 payload mode and a battleground that seems a whole lot like Black Garden from Rift with maybe a touch of Huttball, depending on how throwable their version of the Fang of Regulos ends up. And let’s not bring up the pokemon.

The moral of this, I think, is that as of MoP it is no longer strictly correct to talk about WoW and its clones. It’s a multi-polar world. Like an old, tired alpha dog, WoW has been humbled and the AAA theme park franchises now comprise an echo chamber, feeding off each other’s ideas for good and ill.


Update: Couldn’t resist including this item:

YA’AN, China — China’s national treasure, the giant panda, will become even more precious if one businessman succeeds in using their dung to grow organic green tea he intends to sell for over $200 a cup.

An Yanshi, an entrepreneur in southwest China, grows the tea in mountainous Ya’an in Sichuan province using tonnes of excrement from panda bears living at nearby breeding centres.

The first batch of panda dung tea will be sold in lots of 50 grams that will cost some $3,500 each, a price An said makes it the world’s most expensive tea. Most people use about 3 grams of tea per cup.

And pandas make plenty of fertilizer.

“They are like a machine that is churning out organic fertilizer.” An said. “They keep eating and they keep producing feces.”

Actiblizzion metaphors practically write themselves.


Categories: Other MMOs

Guardian PvP or Back In The Speeder Seat

March 15, 2012 1 comment

The magpie in me couldn’t resist picking up Skyrim on Steam sale a few weeks back. I suppose everyone has to go through Skyrim – it’s like the mumps.

However, in between electrocuting Stormcloaks, I have also been playing in SW:TOR warzones a lot, in my PvE tank spec. As I consider this fact, I begin to believe that my continued enjoyment of TOR may have a lot to do with the fact that I don’t really play it as Bioware intended. I like its flashpoints (so far – I will see how bad those hardmode enrage timers are when I get there) and I have been trying to squeeze as much fun as I can out of its hit-and-miss PvP. I tried to see how far I can get in that bleedin’ space arcade game without fitting expensive mods to my corvette. The answer, by the way, is the Drexel Sweep mission – it is mathematically impossible to survive its incoming damage even with Level 3 upgrades and the power conversion module helps tremendously. I have been testing myself against group missions solo, though I did have to outlevel quite a few 4+ heroic missions to succeed. I have even indulged a bit of roleplaying. Anything but consuming the story in a linear way, which is what I am constantly told is all that SW:TOR is good for, if that.

I have been intrigued by the tank role in warzones ever since the taunting of players was mentioned as a worthwhile PvP move, back during development. Previously, the only experience I had with tank PvP was in WoW, facing protection healadins back when they were essentially broken and immortal and maybe the occasional odd-composition team using a prot warrior for control. But here is TOR giving tanks an actual tanky niche.

As a defence-specced Guardian, I am rather bad at dealing damage. I eke out the 75k medal consistently (this is in the sub-50 bracket, in my 40s) but unless I am willing to blow all my one-minute cooldowns, I frequently feel like I’m whipping an opponent with a styrofoam bat, not a lightsaber. I’ve seen defence Guardians do better, and it has a lot to do with my own skill level and playstyle, but it is a fact that we cannot match the effectiveness of, say, a vanguard/powertech tank in PvP at the moment. QQ is unbecoming of a Jedi, so we work with what we have to work with.

The most important tools at my disposal are not damage dealing tools. They are Guard, Taunt and Challenging Call. Second in importance are control abilities: Freezing Force, Force Push, Force Stasis, Hilt Strike. A Guardian’s strategic merits are longevity (defensive cooldowns, Enure) and mobility via Force Leap. Good for Huttball carrying (and allowing, once in a blue moon, for little brilliancies like Force Pushing an enemy onto his own goal ledge then leaping at him to circumvent hazards) or lasting a few extra seconds on defence of a node in Voidstar or Civil War. Actual damage-dealing – ideally some combination of Force Push/Saber Throw/Leap followed by Blade Storm/Guardian Slash, combat focus, rinse and repeat – is last in priority.

Guardians guard, which means both mitigating damage and peeling. We usually guard healers, who, if they are far-sighted, reciprocate with healing to keep their bodyguard alive. Guard has a limited range, so it is a mistake to Guard someone and then run off to the other end of the map. Guard should be hotkeyed and liberally applied to anyone who’s taking a lot of damage. Taunt should be applied to any high-damage enemy on cooldown, though I find that I generally prefer to focus on one beleaguered comrade and try to keep them safe with all the tools at my disposal, including taunting whatever’s attacking them.

To obsess over the point a little more, I’m particularly bad at dealing damage because, when I don’t run around creating friction for the enemy, I tend to fixate on objectives. I’ll be that guy clicking on the Voidstar door again and again and again  – hey, as a Guardian, if I’m forcing them to shoot at me and soaking damage, that’s success. I’d experimented once or twice with concentrating on killing people above all else – my damage numbers shot up, of course, but still weren’t especially impressive compared to dedicated dps classes, and I felt I wasn’t doing my job.

I look forward to hitting level cap with the Guardian soon – apart from Skyrim, real life had bitten hard for a little while – and sampling warzones and hardmodes with the big boys. Already mulling over some conflicting advice, such as whether to collect dps gear or proper defence gear for tank-PvP at 50.

Categories: Mechanics, PvP