Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's the Endorphins!
The Endorphins, I tell you!!

There are people who play primarily a single toon or a single class/style/archetype of toon.  There are also those who may have a main yet tinker around, never feeling truly satisfied.

And then there are the altoholics.

I used to boggle at the people who had no qualms about leveling one of each toon all the way to max level.  I knew how long it took me to level one toon, never mind a dozen, so for the average altoholic I used to take that and multiply it by 8-9-10.  All I could do was simply shake my head.

How could someone actually level so many alts?  What about exploring other things in-game?  What about raiding or PvP?

Well, I figured there was no way I'd ever find myself bitten by the altoholic bug when I was staring at the grind from L1-L90.  For me, there simply weren't enough hours in a day to level a full stable of toons to max level before the next expac came out.  Besides, the WoW story is pretty much the same with all toons on a faction; with the exception of the two weapons quests, Blizzard has removed the old class quests from WoW.  If you want to see pretty much everything outside of the intro zones these days, all you have to do is level a toon on each faction.  That's it.

While I was confident that altoholism wasn't going to afflict me in WoW, I hadn't counted on the bug in another MMO.

LOTRO and Age of Conan also suffer from the overly long leveling process (L85 and L80, respectively), but TOR has a much lower level cap at L50.  TOR also has something that the other games don't have:  an actual class quest chain.  I presume companion romances are a bonus, but I'm sure that there's a significant portion of the playerbase out there that doesn't care about that sort of thing.

The TOR class quests are something that keep the game interesting.  Just like there are only so many times you can enter the Amani Tombs before wanting to claw your eyeballs out, there's only a limited number of trips into the Chemworks Factory in Taris before you start throwing in the towel.  But when you throw in a class quest chain into the mix, you find yourself wondering what might come next.

I'll never forget when I leveled Quintalan and received the class quest chain that ended in the Thalassian Charger and the Blood Knight tabard.  Sure, due to changes in the game I was able to get the Charger "officially" at L40, it was only when I finished all of the side quests, accumulated all the mats, and showed the Scourge, the Scarlet Crusade, and the Argent Dawn who was boss that I finally earned my place as a Blood Knight.  I'll also never forget the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when Lord Bloodvalor chuckled maniacally as he gave me my tabard; it was then that I realized just how far the Blood Knights had truly strayed from the Light.  Although not part of the class quest itself, Lady Liadrin's appearance before the Sha'tar was intensely personal, signaling the beginning of the end of the old Blood Knights.

Likewise, I'll never forget when I leveled my Gunslinger and he finally got his starship back.  "Where... Is... My... Ship?!!" he demanded of the flunkies that Skavak had thrown in his path.  And then, when he finally boarded the ship only to find someone else inside...

While the Blood Knight class quests were great, for some reason I never had the urge to try out other WoW classes.  Other TOR classes, however, beckoned.

So I've found myself with a complete stable of classes on both factions, slowly leveling them all.  Given my rate of gameplay, I'll probably finish them sometime by the end of next year at the earliest.  But you know what?  I don't mind.  I'm just along for the ride.  Perhaps that's the enduring legacy of the altoholic:  the desire to learn everything about a game, manifesting in an urge to just follow the story to the end.  ALL of them.

EtA:  Got bit by the editing bug and replaced a "while" at the beginning of the seventh paragraph.  That's what I get for being in NaNo mode and skipping editing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Scenery Only Changes for the Lead Dog

Of course, a lot of that has to do with my leveling process.

The only time I set foot in an instance with my Rogue was for Shadowfang Keep, just to pick up the mats for the Rogue L20 Dagger.  When I did, I shot up two (!) levels, and I wasn't even using half of the available heirlooms out there.  Based on that experience, I can see how some people could level via instances and have made it all the way to L90 by now.  Throw in the rested XP bonus that a Pandaren gets, and the Cata-rebuilt Old World simply flies by.

But the funny thing is, I hear less and less about raiding from the bloggers I read, and more about everything else.*

I don't know whether people have been simply been distracted by all the other things to do, such as WoW-ville and WoW-emon, or that raiding has simply slipped down the ladder of priorities.  If it's the former, then Blizzard is to be congratulated for spreading out the raiding tiers in such a clever manner.**  If it's the latter, then I'm not sure what it really means for the rest of the expac.

What if Blizz had a raid and not that many people came?

From a purely monetary standpoint Blizz wouldn't care, because they're still getting (and keeping) the subs.  But given that new raids take up the majority of developers' patch activity after release, a decline in people actually using the raids is a waste of money.  By comparison, pet battles and farming are in steady state mode, where some changes could be worked by just adding a few things to an already existing framework.  This takes fewer people than designing and building a new instance, much less a raid, and the bean counters will start to ask questions about the proper allocation of resources.

The upcoming 5.1 patch won't have a new raid, so Blizz is already anticipating not needing to address the "I'm bored!" crowd.  Unlike 4.1, this lack of a new raid was by original design,*** so I'd imagine that Blizz has this all plotted out right now.  But if people still aren't as progressed as Blizz hoped, then they may take steps to increase the desirability of raids.

Like, oh, throwing in pet drops.

But you know what would be better?  Going back and fixing the timeline.  It's just a pipe dream now, but it would still be better than leaving things as they are.  Going from [2012 if you play a Pandaren] -> 2010 -> 2007 -> 2008 -> 2010 -> 2012 is a bit of a problem for new players, and telling people "the game only really begins at L90" doesn't help that initial leveling process and understanding the story in the first place.

Or, lacking that, how about resurrecting some of the raids that died in development?  Like, say, Abyssal Maw?  Or a non-raid quest chain like Quel'Delar?

*And naturally, right as I'm writing this, Rades posts about pre-raid gear.  I swear I keep Murphy in business all by myself.

**Remember, about a month in to Cata, there were people saying "I'm bored!" because they'd already cleared all the raid content on release.  By giving people something else to become addicted to, they've effectively slowed down raid progression and countered the effect of LFR.

***Unless there's a blue post stating otherwise.  I don't frequent the forums THAT much.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Every Time a Bell Rings, an Angel Gets His Wings

Even though I grew up watching Speed Racer and Starblazers, I'm not much of a fan of Anime or Manga.  I also never played an NES in high school, even though it came out during my sophomore year.  I've never played Final Fantasy, Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, the S-NES, the Wii, or a Playstation (1, 2, or 3).

Perhaps that explains my initial reaction when --on a whim-- I downloaded Aion and began tinkering around with the game.

I'd read a few articles on Massively extolling Aion, and while I'll admit the premise sounded interesting --kind of a simplified MMO version of the In Nomine RPG and Exalted RPGs*-- the reason why I finally decided to give it a whirl were the magic words "free to play".  I'd seen the game at stores, examined the reviews online, and yet I didn't have the money in the budget to spend trying yet another game out.**

Well, I could handle 'free', and I could even shoehorn the MMO into my existing disk drive without too much pain.  Therefore, I set up NCSoft's launch software, clicked 'install' on Aion, and went to bed.

I'd have gotten things done without anybody noticing too, if it weren't for my youngest who wandered over when I was checking the weather forecast and asked "Aion?  What's that?"

"Just some maintenance I'm doing," I replied.***  When her back was turned I muttered and waved my hand.  "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."



Sometime later that morning the game finished installing and this evening I took a quick peek --four levels worth-- at Aion.

Okay, given the graphics at the NCSoft website, I expected a certain look.  No, not quite the Alexstraza bikini bottom + leggings outfit, but the "poofy upper-calf skirt that somehow manages to not actually move" clothing.  But what I didn't expect during character creation was to see either the "childlike body" or the "refugees from a Super Mario game" head.

Really?  I mean, really?

Who would think "You know, a game like this just needs a completely over-the-top head that looks like it came from one of those mushroom people" anyway?

Thankfully, I didn't see anybody in the starting zone who thought it was a good idea.

Another thing that bothered me quite a bit was that the character selection kind of left the concept of non-human race in complete limbo.  Oh sure, you can select something that looks kind of like an Elf, but it's never identified as such.  I stared at it for a bit, then saw it was "face selection number whatever", and then shook my head.  Of course humans have pointy ears that stick out perpendicular to their heads!  I should have figured that out!

Well, tinkering with the character creation options, I must admit that Aion got one thing absolutely totally right:  female breasts.  There's a slider (yeah yeah, insert joke here) to adjust the size of a female toon's breasts, much like the slider in Age of Conan.  But in AoC, where the size begins in the C/D cup range and goes from there to... well... huge, the slider in Aion starts in the A/B range and goes up to D/DD.  I don't know about you, but the Aion cup sizes are much more realistic than the teenage fantasy AoC version.

After I created a Scout toon, I pretty much jumped right into the game.  It starts out with a very brief overview of the fighting between the two celestial factions and their common foe, then your character wakes up.  Seems the toon has been napping on the job, and you'd better get going into the starting zone.

Questing is straightforward:  if you've played an MMO before, you know how it works.  Compared to other more recent MMOs, Aion takes a page straight out of WoW (and older console games) with the scrolling text for quest info.  The quests are mainly of the kill ten rats variety, so that's very familiar ground.  There's a quest log, a map that slowly gets revealed as you travel through the world, and oh yeah, there's gold farmers too.

But what's up with the mouse buttons, anyway?

Every other MMO I've played has the left button for window movement and the right button to move your toon and/or select things.  In Aion, it's almost reversed except for the left mouse button being unable to move your toon at all.  It's such a jarring transition that the next time I log in I'm going to see if I can keybind this sucker properly.

But my impression of the game?


It just feels so... Anime to me.  Perhaps that's not exactly the right word, but I can definitely tell that it was developed in Asia as opposed to the other MMOs I've played.  The feel of the quest text, the graphics, and especially the sound remind me more of a Super NES game than anything else.  There's a lot more that Aion has in common with Zelda than with Mass Effect; when I read that first quest text, I blurted out "Nintendo!", even though the thrust of the story was more adult than any of the games I'd ever seen my brother play on the S-NES.****

I can see where this game would appeal to people who grew up playing those games, but for someone who cut his teeth on Ultima and Baldur's Gate, it just feels too cutesy.  The toons and NPCs and quests may look adult, but everything else about the game just feels oriented toward a different demographic.

I'm still going to play it a little bit --free is free, and I might change my mind after a bit more time with the game-- but I can't help but think that Aion isn't really targeted to me.

But I'm going to tweak those key bindings, even if it kills me.

*In Nomine is a pencil and paper RPG, published in the U.S. by Steve Jackson Games, wherein players assume the roles of Angels and Demons.  As you may have guessed, it relies heavily upon Christian and other Near East sources for background material.  Exalted is an RPG put out by White Wolf --the Vampire: the Masquerade and World of Darkness people-- wherein the PCs are avatars of the gods.  They start out being pretty much badass from the beginning, much like in Aion.

**Which is why I've never tried Guild Wars or Guild Wars 2, in spite of them being single purchase games.  Okay, there's also the issue of disk space, but I digress.

***I actually was cleaning up some old programs that people hadn't touched in a few years, so it wasn't a complete fib.

****I'm kind of glad that nobody was within hearing range at the time, or I'd have had some explaining to do.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When They Said Monk, I Thought They Meant Thelonious

Every time I think that the big wave of Pandaren have passed my Rogue by, another wave blows through the low level BGs.  I haven't decided whether these are second or third (or fourth!) alts or not, but their popularity has plumbed depths not seen since the Sindorei made an appearance as "The Pretty Horde".

As far as Monks go, they're definitely more popular in low level BGs than either of their play-any-role brethren, Druids and Paladins.  Time will tell whether this holds up, but I suspect that they're eventually settle into the space where in select battlegrounds they'll be the second option after Druids and in others they'll be the first.

Here are a few notes from what I've experienced as a player attempting to slice and dice the three classes:

  • In spite of the Monk's multitasking abilities, the stealth of the Feral Druid still is King in Warsong Gulch.*  Being able to stealth in, lay a few nasty attacks, and then switch out and drop healing all over the place means that a single Druid can keep almost half of a WSG team busy attempting to DPS them down.  The Monk simply doesn't have the utility to compete with that, and the Paladin is reduced to a support role by comparison.
  • At low levels, the Monk's healing spec is more useful than the Paladin's Holy Spec, but not as good as the Resto Druid's.  Once a Holy Spec Pally gets Beacon of Light at the end of the 30s this may start to change, but Soothing Mist is more useful than Holy Shock (which has that 6 second cooldown) when you have to switch gears and change who you're healing in a BG at the drop of a hat.
  • An extremely tough combo to crack is the Druid/Monk duo protecting a flag.  Between the Monk's interrupts/heals and the Druid's AoE heals, they can withstand an attack by a group more than twice their number long enough for support to arrive.  It's only when the flag carrier in WSG gets upwards of 10 stacks does that debuff start to overcome the healing disparity of the Druid/Monk duo.
  • Ironically enough, I prefer attacking Paladins even more than Warriors.  Maybe it's that Paladins don't really reach their stride until higher levels, but Warriors get enough stuns and have enough armor on them that it's easier to pick on a Pally instead.
  • One thing I've noticed is that although they're based on a similar frame, the female Pandaren is much much more popular than the female Dwarf.  Never underestimate the power of fur, I suppose.
  • Playing Straight, No Chaser while running Warsong Gulch gives a completely different vibe to the BG.  I think I need to check out some of Monk's old CDs out of the library, just so my Night Elf has something to be hep to while stunning, well, Monks.

*And, I presume, Eye of the Storm and Twin Peaks, but I haven't made it there yet.

Monday, October 15, 2012

This Was His Place of Power -- You are NOTHING Here!

I had a few hours to myself late the other week, so I finally decided to queue up for the TOR equivalent of an non-raid instance, known as a Flashpoint in-game.

The nice thing about TOR is that you can run multiplayer content without setting foot in a Flashpoint or a raid (aka an Operation) by simply running a few Heroic missions**.  Heroics take a lot less time than the average WoW Instance or TOR Flashpoint, so you can squeeze them fairly easily into any free time you have.  In some respects the Heroic concept is similar to Scenarios in Mists, but whereas Scenarios went for more of an instance feel with mobs and bosses (initially at least) the TOR Heroics can span the entire gamut between the old WoW group quests to more standard instances.  Certain Heroics, such as Fall of the Locust, have more of an Azjol-Nerub feel in their focus and speed, while others such as Destroy the Beacons is more a standard group quest.

Although Heroics provided me with some familiarity with multiplayer content in TOR, I still wasn't sure what to expect in a Flashpoint.  A dungeon is a dungeon is a dungeon, right?  Well, not really.

Unlike most other MMOs, TOR's Flashpoints are designed for four people.  For the WoW-centric, that means a Tank:Healer:DPS ratio of 1:1:2 instead of the traditional 1:1:3*.  That gives a bit more importance to DPS, because with a few exceptions a WoW 5-man is tuned in such a way that you could lose a single DPS and still survive a trash mob or a boss.  In TOR, if you lose a DPS, that's half of your expected DPS output disappearing.

Well, that's not quite a fair assessment, since the tank and healer in a TOR Flashpoint are expected to pull their weight in DPS too, but their primary responsibilities lie with threat management and keeping their squadmates upright.  And everyone --I do mean everyone-- is expected to provide CC as needed.

A case in point:  I've been in instances where people have simply refused to CC something --even when asked-- as if they were personal affronts on their core abilities.  Runs I'd prefer to forget in Magister's Terrace, Arcatraz, and Blackrock Depths come to mind.  But in the TOR 4-man Heroics I've been in, that's never been a problem.  In fact, the one time that someone tried to chain pull ala Drak Theron or Lost City of the Tol'vir, we wiped and the Jedi Guardian said "Okay, THAT was a stupid idea."

So.  I had a pretty good idea what to expect, but I decided that the smartest move for me was to take an alt and queue up for a low end Flashpoint.  My expectation was that the lower level flashpoints would have easier mechanics than the higher level ones.  Just like you wouldn't want to throw a noob into the deep end of the pool and queue up Magister's Terrace at level, I didn't want to find out about all sorts of esoteric boss mechanics the hard way with my max level Gunslinger.

Therefore, I pulled out my Jedi Sentinel and queued up for a random.  In short order I found myself on Athiss, being told to jump down the hole to the entry.  (I found out on a later run that the hole had a sliceable  elevator.  Oh well.)

Athiss is the classic "send an expedition in to examine ruins, they run into trouble, and you have to rescue them" instance.  This kind of defines Brann Bronzebeard's entire modus operandii, if you ask me.  It's a part-outside part-inside Flashpoint, which does make it interesting.  I've been wracking my brain on anything similar that I've run through, and about all I can come up with is something like Halls of Origination or Utgarde Keep, where the dungeon goes outside for a bit.  The thing is, WoW's instances tend to be very narrow affairs, shuttling the party from one boss to the next, and Athiss' outdoors areas feel much more wide open.  Maybe not as wide open as Old Hillsbrad, but still very broad.  If you wanted to spend a lot of time you could clear it all, but that wasn't why we were there.  Instead of the game imposing an artificial narrow scope, the party ourselves did by negotiating from point A to point B.

Inside, naturally, is a more traditional affair with anyone involved with instance running.  There are a few trash mobs involved, and then a mini-boss or two, and then a boss.  For the Republic faction, you're learning about the area as you go; I suspect an Imperial group would already have a good grasp of the background given that it was a Sith area to start with.  The end boss fight has a few interesting mechanics --think of Ionar in Halls of Lightning and you get the idea-- but it does take a while to win the fight.  The healer was certainly kept busy, and I'm glad that it wasn't my job.

Okay, enough basic review (as if you haven't seen this sort of thing around the net already).  What did I think?

I liked the assortment of enemies to fight.  They ran the gamut from Weak through Champion (Boss), and that disparity made DPS-ing down a mob harder than usual.  The Weak enemies still pack a punch, and if you don't take care of them quickly their attacks can take out one of your group.  Group dynamics are still the same as always:  somebody focuses on the bigger bad while others perform clean-up duty.***

However, one thing that WoW does have that TOR doesn't is add-ons, and you really start to feel that lack in Flashpoints.  Maybe it's because I've used add-ons as a crutch for so long, but in a Flashpoint you end up using a lot more buttons than while out questing or in your average Heroic, and I missed the UI add-ons that WoW has.  You have to adjust to a standard UI, and that means making sure that you have your button priorities set up properly.****

Still, that's a minor quibble, and something I have to make a mental adjustment on.

On the whole, I liked the feel of the Flashpoint.  What I saw in both Athiss and Mandalorian Raiders (the second Flashpoint that I ran, this time as a DPS Commando) was a way to use voice and sound that Blizz has yet to implement in WoW.  Sure, WoW has the occasional voiceover/intro scene/cutscene, but it also has the standard aggro - PC death - different phase - boss death type of commentary.  Anything else tends to get put in the scrolling text.  Using voiceovers from a boss (or someone else) while running the Flashpoint provides flavor that you don't see in WoW, especially when the voiceovers are from people that you don't encounter for a long while.  Being taunted (via audio) every step of the way through Mandalorian Raiders by the leader of Clan Varad has a completely different feel for it than "Prince Taladram Yells: Who trespasses in the Old Kingdom?"  Imagining what a WoW instance would look like if the Svala Sorrowgrave scene in Utgarde Pinnacle were throughout an entire instance is what Bioware was shooting for.

However, I can see where a large number of WoW players wouldn't give a damn about flavor or text or voice at all; "see it and kill it" is their mantra, and if they run the same Flashpoint a dozen times, they don't want to have to "see all this crap again", as one WoW player I know put it.  "I play this to kill things and to down raid bosses, I don't play this to think."*****

The player who is predisposed to like a story driven game like TOR will like their approach to instances; for other people it is more of a hit-and-miss proposition.  I can see where the lack of add-ons will drive some people nuts, and they flee to the safety of WoW (or Rift) and its numerous add-ons.  But I'll be honest in that once I got used to having to prioritize differently, it wasn't so bad to run without add-ons.  You stop worrying about damage meters and trying to fine tune your threat management; you just roll with it and do what is best for the group.

And for the record, my old Core Duo processor machine held up pretty well throughout the Flashpoints, thank-you-very-much.  Sure, it would have been nice for the graphics to draw a bit quicker at the intro, but I  survived.

*Or Age of Conan's 2:2:2.  Yes, AoC's instances are designed for two tanks, two heals, and two DPS.  The mobs hit pretty hard in AoC's instances, just like their elites out in the game world.

**For the uninitiated, Heroic missions (Heroics for short) are the equivalent of extended group quests in WoW.  They are entirely optional, can be run for badges as dailies, and are a great way to essentially perform mini group content without sacrificing too much time.  Since they're not part of the main story line, you don't feel required to run them, unlike those group quests in Age of Conan.  Also, since the groups are entirely player built you're not stuck with a complete trinity of tank-DPS-healer; I've been in heroics that had three DPS and a healer, or one tank and three healers.  If you remember pulling an impromptu group together to try to kill Knucklerot and Luzran in the Ghostlands, then you get the idea of how putting together a Heroic operates.  So, if you're in TOR and you see someone ask in Gen Chat about running Heroics, they're not talking about Heroic level dungeons like you would in WoW.

***Just like in Alterac Valley there are some people who actually stay and defend the towers while everybody else rushes off to attack Vann or Drek.

****In PvP, that means everybody is on the same UI and add-on footing, which is always a good thing.

*****This sort of person is also most likely to start yelling "I'm bored!" after blitzkrieging through the content in Mists, but I digress.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Great Divide

There are days when I really wish that screen caps were working for me in WoW again.

You see, in a recent Arathi Basin run, I was the only non-Pandaren in the group.

You read that right.

The Alliance had fifteen players:  one Night Elf, fourteen Pandaren.

The Horde was nearly as bad:  one Blood Elf (a monk), one Tauren (a Druid), thirteen Pandaren.

Orcs?  Humans?  What are those?

You know how some people were excited because the Pandaren capable of being on either faction meant that you couldn't rely upon silhouettes any more?  In this scenario, you don't even bother looking at silhouettes; you just rely upon your add-ons.  Due to the scenery, I felt like I was in some bizarre recreation of the Spanish Civil War, but with pandas.  The only thing that was missing was a few Messerschmitts flying overhead.  (Note to Gnomes and/or Goblins:  make yourselves useful and build some Spitfires and ME-109s!)


Leveling via BGs is often something that goes in fits and spurts.

Unlike leveling via instances or questing, gear acquisition becomes a bit of a problem.  Sure, you can use heirlooms to make up the bulk of your gear, but what if a) you don't have heirlooms for the class you're creating, or b) you can't afford or don't want to move heirlooms over across servers?  Here are a few options:

  • You can go do some questing to get a few pieces here and there, but the Old World's quests discourage cherry picking.  In the pre-Cata days, you could do a quest here and a quest there, grab what reward you wanted, and then go on your merry way.  Now, with the linear quest lines in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms, you can't do that without running a lot of quests to get to the one you really want. Forcing you to quest through the majority of a zone kind of defeats the purpose of leveling via BGs.  
  • You can run the occasional instance, but you're at the mercy of whatever gear drops.*  Instances, however, will level you very very fast, especially at low levels.  If you're not careful, you'll end up leveling via instances instead of via BGs.
  • If you've the cash, you can look through the auction house and rummage through the available gear.  That has the advantage of speed, because you can quickly hunt through the AH in between BGs, but it's not very cost effective.  But hey, if you play the AH already or are sitting on a pile of gold, why worry?
  • If you don't mind being out in the world a lot between BGs, you can also craft your gear.  The speed of BGs proccing these days --anywhere from 1-6 minutes-- means that you're either going to have to set aside some crafting time for your toon or you're going to just have to live with getting one or two items at a time in between BGs.  For the gathering professions, however, you can also level fairly quickly, so you have to be careful that you don't outlevel the gear you're hoping to craft.
  • Visiting the Silverwing Sentinels/Warsong Supply Officer and their Defilers/League of Arathor equivalents is a good way of supplementing gear at low levels.  Once you gain access to Alterac Valley, another vendor opens up for use.  While this isn't perfect --you have to travel a lot-- it will fill in gaps.
Finding gear for leveling via BGs can often become a huge subgame, because gear can create such a huge disparity in a BG.  At least a Rogue can hide if the time isn't right to strike, but what if your Mage or Lock is the undergeared one?  Well, I know from experience that it's not fun being the target.


The net result of all this is that I've often found my toons undergeared in BGs, particularly when I'm up against toons with a full set of heirloom gear supplemented with the highest available crafted items.  I may play BGs, but other people live them.  It isn't until you get up to L78 and you run into the people with Cata greens that you see a disparity on the same level as in the lower three tiers of BGs between the haves and the have nots.  When you're a toon with about half white gear going up against the heirloom equipped, all of the skill in the world isn't going to keep you from being one-shot.  When my Rogue finally got enough Honor to buy and equip the heirloom dagger, my DPS and kills took a big jump.  I didn't change my play style, I just added a really nice piece of gear, and that bit of min-maxing was all the difference.

Lara at the now sadly defunct Root and Branch blog had written a story encapsulating this disparity, entitled Don't Fret Your Pretty Little Head.  Although she wrote from the perspective of instances, it also applied directly to BGs.  I often wondered which was worse, the nerd rage of dungeon puggers or the nerd rage of the BG puggers, and I think that the prize has to go to BG puggers, because they can bitch and moan and whine and be anti-social without repercussion.  If someone is an ass in an instance, you've at least got a shot at getting rid of them via vote kick.  In a BG, you're stuck with them unless they go AFK, and believe me they know it.  They're the ones always saying that the faction you're on sucks, that you suck, that you don't know how to play your class, that your mother had sexual relations with a turnip, etc.

But you know what?  Gear matters, often more than skill.  Sure, gear can cover up deficiencies in skill, but gear can also help you dominate beyond what skill can't provide.  Skill isn't going to give you an extra 200 health in the L15-19 BGs, and being one shot is still being one shot.  Additionally, how you acquire skill is more difficult than acquiring gear:  you actually go out and play the game, take your lumps and learn how things work.

And you get told that you're an idiot.  Frequently.

Who'd want to put up with that abuse when there's a nice, easy alternative in place?

For those who have the honor and/or gold, that is.

*I ran Shadowfang Keep to get the mats for the Rogue weapon, but discovered that the dagger I got from the Silverwing Sentinels was actually better.  Go figure.

**The speed of BGs proccing these days --anywhere from 1-6 minutes-- means that you're either going to have to set aside some crafting time for your toon or you're going to just have to live

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Azerothian Pink

In the U.S. it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in honor of that JD Kenata of Amateur Azerothian is organizing an I'm Going Pink campaign for WoW bloggers.  (Thanks to Kamalia of Kamalia et alia for her post, or I'd have missed it.)  The idea is to wear transmogrified pink gear* in Azeroth this month --or at least post pics of it on your blog-- to help raise awareness for breast cancer.

Now, I'm not much of a transmogrifier, but I'd encourage those who are to have one of their toons wear pink for October.  Just about everybody either has a relative or knows someone who has wrestled with breast cancer, and this is a fine way to demonstrate in-game support for breast cancer research.  And if someone is being hassled in-game for this, stick up for them.

For you comics fans out there, Deviant Artist Maisa Chaves (aka Halfy) has created four drawings of some iconic DC and Marvel female superheroes as part of a campaign in Mozambique for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I'd seen this on both Facebook and The Mary Sue, but I wanted to post them here.  The pics below of She-Hulk, Storm, Catwoman, and Wonder Woman will send you to their respective page on the Deviant Art website, where a larger size can be found.

*Pink is the color of breast cancer awareness in general.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

And I Danced on Your Graves!

I once wondered how on earth the two factions in WoW could have Warlocks as a playable class, given the history of Azeroth.  Given the perceived wickedness of Warlocks by both factions, how both could tolerate Locks in their midst was a puzzle.

However, that was the in-game perception of a specific class.  Metagame-wise, Locks are Mages with funkier pets, more DoTs, and lots of fears.*

But you want to know who are the real metagame bad guys?  Rogues.

Having spent some time playing my new Rogue, I can feel the seductive tug of being just so bad.  See that straggler lowbie bringing up the rear of the pack in Warsong Gulch?  Sap and kill.  Players respawning at the rez points?  Sap sap sap, wait for a good juicy lowbie, then kill.  A pair of the enemy trying to reach the flag?  Sap them both repeatedly until they blow their trinkets and chase me, wasting precious time.

Yesterday, in WSG, I was checking the scoreboard when I realized what I was doing.  I'd never checked the scoreboard until now.  But I was becoming the sort of player that I hated.

And yet I loved it.

And that I really liked WSG after all.

That thought gave me pause.  I've had a low opinion of WSG pretty much since the day I set foot in the place, and my experience leveling a Lock through battlegrounds only reinforced that dislike.  I can't count the number of times I'd been ganked by a Rogue while in that BG, swearing that if I ever decided to start a Rogue I'd never do any of this stuff.  And yet there I was, roaming around in the rez zone, waiting for toons to respawn so I could gank them before they could buff themselves.


Does the class make the player, or the player make the class?

It's a little bit of both, I'd imagine.

As my example above showed, the Rogue's gameplay is tailored to striking from the shadows.  It doesn't have the magical or spiritual abilities that other classes have, and it doesn't have the get-down-and-dirty-in-the-trenches that the Warrior has.  It doesn't have the send-in-a-pet-and sit-back-and-CC/damage that a Hunter has.  For a Rogue to be effective it has to get up close and personal, but it also has to avoid getting into a slugfest as much as possible.  That means slinking around and striking from the shadows when conditions are optimal.

Because a Rogue can do this, it also means that a Rogue can operate behind enemy lines.  Causing death and wreaking havoc is a Rogue's calling card.  In WoW's PvP environment, Rogues aren't Robin Hood.  They aren't even Han Solo.**  They're a bit more brutal:

Kids, don't try to imitate Tony Montana when you
grow up, k?  Or at least not the Rogue at the end.

But at the same time, Rogues have their admirers as performers of (un)official activities in groups such as SI:7.  I look at that as WoW's attempt to put lipstick on a pig, because no matter how you dress it up, Rogues are involved with the so-called dishonorable jobs.

This sort of class attracts a certain type of player.  And that attraction is seductive, promising the thrill of the well executed backstab in exchange for glory atop the scorecard.  A single backstab can be the difference between victory and defeat, and the trick is knowing when to take it.


Ironically enough, I've found it more difficult to be an evil player when the storyline explicitly gives you the option to do it, such as playing a Dark Side character in The Old Republic.

When Yoda talks about the Dark Side being "quicker, easier, more seductive," he could have been talking about playing a Dark Side character in The Old Republic.  Anyone of either faction can play a Dark Side character, but certain classes (::cough:: Sith ::cough::) are better suited than others.  The temptation to click on that side of the wheel, to KILL! MAIM! TERRIFY! and explore the dark path, is a valid game option.  And when I pull up an Imperial player, I often am drawn to that selection.  But in my case, I find that I can't make my characters take Dark Side choices very often.  In spite of my best efforts, I'm still me when I play.

This even goes for the Sith classes, the Warrior and Inquisitor.  Perhaps it is the story, and the over-the-top evil that the Sith wallow in that turns me off, but I find myself playing more Light Side Sith than anything else. I have chosen some Dark Side selections on the wheel, and they do register approval with some of the NPCs, but more often they register fear.  (Of course, that's what the Sith want, but I digress.)

My son explained it best when he tried and gave up on an Imperial Agent.***  When he saw me noodling around on a Sith Inquisitor, he mentioned that he'd deleted his Imperial toon.  "I just couldn't do it," he said.  "They kept asking me to do all these bad things, and I just couldn't do it."


As for my dilemma, I'm going to continue to play the Rogue, but be mindful of what sort of player I can be.  Is the victory worth the price?  Do I want to be an asshat?  All's fair in love and war and BGs, right?


Bueller?  Bueller?

*Yes, I still love playing a Frost Mage.  No, I've not drunk the kool-aid.

**Although they do shoot first.  Take that, George Lucas!

***The kids have their own free account; this is done deliberately so they don't interfere with my account.