Game Balance

•July 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Azeroth – Shared Topic for the week of July 18th, 2011
Shared Topic Idea: Game Balance

Ghostcrawler recently said that, in his estimation, the game is the most balanced it’s ever been. Agree? Disagree? And if it’s the most balanced, does that mean it’s enjoyable for you at the moment — have there, in other words, been more enjoyable, if less balanced, moments in the past?

– Ringo Flinthammer

So I went back and reread Ghostcrawler’s discussion of game balance and the victories and defeats of Cataclysm’s design. If you don’t recall his words particularly well, you can go back and read it for yourself here.

The short version is that Blizzard has been happy with the feeling of uniqueness that each class and spec is getting from much nearer the start of the leveling process than before. Additionally, the talent trees have been streamlined pretty nicely with some good choices required, and a few talents being truly optional or play-style preference choices. Overall, the choice of class and spec is much less of an issue nowadays than before where dps, tanking, or healing differences might swing wildly between different spec-of-the-moments.

On the bad side, Ghostcrawler indicates a wish to continue to add more choice and clean up some of the clunkier talents that still remain. (I would also point at the couple of mastery effects that are still being radically redesigned.)

Personally, Cataclysm has been about exploring a new realm, messing around with my crafting empire, and making copious amounts of gold from leveling alts and playing a bit on the AH. When I have settled down to run heroics, I have been mostly pleased with my own performance, but still occasionally feel the sting of being slow on startup as Affliction (and nothing will make me change to Destruction… Nothing!).

Across my alts, I have an Unholy Death Knight, a Fire Mage, an Assassination Rogue, and a Retribution Paladin. As I leveled, I noted some irregularities in power between them in certain situations, but overall was pleased with the relative powers that I had. None of the alts felt as good as my Warlock, but I chalk that up to experience and familiarity.

If I were asked to jump into a raiding guild and learn to tank as a Blood DK, or start healing as a Holy Pally, I feel like it would not take much time to gear myself and get running at speed. Any of my alts could easily morph into a main and hit up the dps charts and I would guess that I could manage approximately as well with any of them.

I tend to agree with Mr. Street. Cataclysm has brought monumental destruction to the face of Azeroth, and some wonderful reconstruction in the underpinning mechanics that make the game fun. There are still things that need some work, but the makeovers have made a difference. The critical success from my end is that although I feel I could manage equally well with a Paladin, Warlock, Mage or Rogue, each feels different for me.

My Paladin definitely gives me the feeling of powerful plate brick, doling out damage and taking some serious punishment in turn. My Rogue feels like a rocket, ready to burst in a blaze of glory and then vanish in the wind. The DK exudes vile power and the disease play stands out against the other melees I just mentioned. The Warlock and Mage have their own rotations and priorities and give unique look-and-feels.

Another little point before I wrap up. I still glance through most of the patch notes as they come out just to have a passing familiarity with the things going on in the game. I recall the myriad balance tweaks that came out during Wrath and I feel like they are coming fewer and further between these days. That tells me that Blizzard is doing less cranking on the knobs controlling class damage and balance. Less cranking means less need means the numbers from top to bottom are looking more even. That spells balance to me.

As I continue to push toward my goal of max level on each class, I will continue to explore the class balance issue up close and personal. Granted, most of my experience is in the leveling process and not in the raiding scene, but it might not be too long before I start to hit that content too. Maybe my eyes will be opened and my innocence shattered as the harsh realities of class imbalance become apparent. Maybe things are actually as good as they look. I really hope it is the latter. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

These Tangled Webs

•July 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Well, it seems that Ophelie over at The Bossy Pally and the Giant Spoon, who moderates the Blog Azeroth shared topic selection has at last settled somewhat into a new place and new job (grats!). I wish her the very best of luck. Since she has been traveling and internet-less for a little while, there was a bit of a lag in scheduling topics. That has now been resolved through mid August or so, but this week is getting a bye. I might get ambitious and chitter about something tomorrow evening, but look for a renewed sense of purpose next Tuesday morning. Have a lovely weekend everyone!

WoW Update!

•July 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’m changing my mind this week and changing up the schedule. Blog Azeroth still has not solidified the schedule of topics for the next few weeks (it’s ok, we all get busy!), so today you get a little off-the-cuff Scribe and hopefully a shared topic will be scheduled for later in the week.

Instead, I’m going to just ramble a bit and give a bit of an update on where I am in my game and what has been happening lately. Real life has been a bit rambunctious the past few weeks with holidays (scheduled and impromptu) as well as some hefty work-related things. As a result, my game time has been a bit more limited than I would like, although I have managed to squirrel away time enough to stay on top of my Firelands daily runs.

And, on that topic, let me say that I chose the Shadow Wardens first. Why? Because of the name. Shadow Warden is a much more intimidating moniker than Druid of the Talon (at least for me). Furthermore, they look cool, albeit a touch strange in the face area. Anywho, those dailies are going well, the Firelands are still rockin’ it, and I am getting sucked into the game at least a little bit each day.

On the more serious WoW side, a friend of mine has been murmuring the word ‘raid’ in my ear. He has made some sort of connection with a larger guild that needs a few bodies and has thrown out the possibility of dragging me along. With my strange real-world schedule for the next few months I am not sure whether or not I am going to commit to Tuesday/Saturday raid nights. If you want, you can pipe up with your opinion or encouragement one way or the other in a comment.

Meanwhile, the other evening I hit a fairly notable milestone in my casual play: my fifth character reached 85! Where Aliera, Kieron, Sethra, and Gorynel have gone before, so now has travelled Linict the Rogue. I have been feverishly putting time in with Linict, partially to get him finished up and off my to-do list and partially because I had a distinct lack of Skinning and Leatherworking at max level. The only thing between me and profession victory is my 73 Shaman and Engineering/Blacksmithing.

But setting aside the professions, I have now achieved half of a long-term goal that I set for myself nearly the instant I started playing WoW. One of each class at max level is my ultimate intent sometime down the road. I want to be at least basically conversant in each class so that I can fully understand and participate in the various communities in and around Warcraft. 5/10 after two and a half years is pretty good in my book. Here’s to the next two and a half.

I also have been spending a (not nearly large enough) bit of time with my writing for this very location. As I was looking back last week, I noticed my posts about Insane in the Membrane. I also noticed that it has been a long, long time since I looked at that monstrosity. A year ago, I was frantically at work on the project and had not yet started to write about it or anything else. My goodness how a year can change you. I am definitely going to get my butt back in gear on getting the Insane title though.

Speaking of titles, I did manage to hook my way up to 40 exalted reputations with Aliera, so I am now Aliera the Exalted. (Boy I really am rambling fast today. I was quite the Chatty Cathy this evening after getting home from rehearsal…)

Long story short, I am still around, still kickin’ it, still travelling the wide world of Azeroth. And I had better get this ready to post and go to bed otherwise I will be sleeping through my alarm. Sweet dreams!

Selection

•July 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Good day folks. Well, the shared topic hasn’t been selected for this week yet, although there are several in the queue. I will give it another day to see if one gets singled out, otherwise I will pick one that I want to post and have it up tomorrow.

Prophecies

•July 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Azeroth – Shared Topic for the week of July 4th, 2011
Shared Topic Idea: 4.3 Fortune-telling

It’s the patch that we know nothing about. So where does WoW, and Cataclysm, go after 4.2? New raids? New 5-man content? New features?

– Ringo Flinthammer

Back a while ago (February to be more specific), I laid out my vision for Cataclysm’s patches. Shortly thereafter, Blizzard came in and rained all over my parade. They announced that 4.1 would be a half-patch, containing only new 5-man content and holding the Firelands off until this past week’s 4.2 patch. As a result, my numerals don’t hold, and with the scrapping of Abyssal Maw, my initial third of the expansion is all sorts of wrong. So much for being locked in.

Unfortunately, my nice neat prediction of air-fire-water-earth patch progression won’t hold since Abyssal Maw is gone. Reassessing the situation, 4.3 is cast in a vastly different light. Instead of being the penultimate raid tier, 4.3 now falls in the gooey center of this Cataclysmic cookie. As a result, Blizzard can choose to expand a side story or set the footwork for a future expansion now without trampling on the culmination of the Deathwing story.

Assuming Blizzard sticks to their guns regarding ‘quicker’ patch release, this next patch will be the 5-man half preparing for a raid in 4.4 sometime around February-March of next year. However, since Firelands is only a single raid with only a handful of bosses, that timetable might be a little shorter. Regardless of time, 4.3 will probably be about mid-October, just before Blizzcon ‘11.

The trouble comes in figuring out where it will be aimed. It could be a story related to Deathwing in Deepholm. It could be a new story related to some rising evil that we haven’t really seen much of yet. It could be an Old God story, giving hints as to the background of Deathwing. It could be a jump backward in time to some historic event.

I am leaning toward something Old God related, personally. 4.3-4.4 would be a good time for us to discover some Old God activity that needs to be stomped out. While we go beat up an entity made entirely of noses, we discover some mysterious information regarding Deathwing. As a result, 4.5-4.6 is a good time for Deathwing to get pissed and make a push to try to ensure his own victory over us puny mortals. We get our butts kicked, but manage to hold ourselves mostly together. 4.7 gets us into the domain of Deathwing. 4.8 spells his doom.

Knowing Blizzard, though, all of this will be completely wrong come tomorrow when they announce that Titan actually is WoW 2, but it is actually a Warcraft v. Starcraft crossover game where the Zerg invades Azeroth and Protoss take over Outlands. Also, it will be a PS exclusive. Also, you must use Move to play it. Also, it’s now free to play, but if you want any gear, you must sacrifice a sheep to Zeus and throw a rock into the Danube during a full moon.

If any of that comes true…

Charred

•July 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I was worried a couple days ago. Tuesday brought a big ole patch and I was looking forward to a chunk of new material to keep me hooked into Warcraft. Then I saved Thrall without much trouble, wandered through Hyjal for a while, and finished everything that was available to someone of my non-raiding station. (It should be noted that the hub in Hyjal could use about twice as many and far more potent defenders. There was a way-too-into-himself multiboxer with 7 hunters and a druid linked together ruining everyones’ evening.)

I was a little stunned. I had spent a couple hours and… I was already done with the patch? Well, no, I knew that there would be more things opening up after dailies. But goodness, I was a touch put out with the state of things.

Now, I don’t mean to get after Blizzard too much. They have put in a good deal of work on this patch to add an interesting and engaging (two of my favorite words when writing about WoW) content for raiding and non-raiding alike. Further, 4.1 was pretty much all aimed at us non-raiders, so I have had plenty to chew on over the past few months.

But, the story is not yet over! After another day of dailies, I was free to finally go see the Firelands.

I am officially excited again (at least a little). The funny part is the thing that did it for me. Upon looking out into the Firelands, I was naturally quite impressed with its beauty and construction. Everything is gorgeous. The floating rocks are excellent, the desolation is perfect. But what really did it for me was the frenetic feeling at the front line.

Dozens of warriors from each side are running around like crazy, fighting and dying for every inch. Little clusters of battles dot the landscape immediately next to the base. Since the line is so close to the quest givers and vendors, I never lost the feeling of being in the heat (haha, get it?!) of battle.

Never before in Warcraft have I felt so involved in a real battle. Granted, the battle is actually quite small. It is no problem to breeze past the foes and wander in enemy territory. But still, being able to capture that feeling, no matter how briefly, is a great thing. I have enjoyed World of Warcraft plenty over the past couple years, but I have never felt really menaced by my enemies. Yes, they occasionally roflstomp my rear end. But unless I do something monumentally stupid, I am never in any real danger.

I was not in any danger in the Firelands either, with all the guards and allies ready to back me up. But I felt like I was in the fight for real.

The bad news does come back round though. I know the Firelands will keep me going for a while yet, but with four level 85’s, another nearly there, and a full stable of alts making their way around, I am getting… well… a little worn out. Now, I have been a little burnt out before so this isn’t particularly worrying. The worrying thing is that I am feeling this the very week of a new patch.

For now, I am going to keep on chugging through and see where things take me. Maybe a new and exciting project will come along that will get me playing hard again. If not, a little slow down isn’t the worst thing. I’ll still be in Azeroth and, as (more or less) always, I will be right… here. *hugs*

Cross the Streams

•June 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Blog Azeroth – Shared Topic for the week of June 27th, 2011
Shared Topic Idea: The Consequences on RP of Multimedia information

With Cataclysm Blizzard is plunging again into releasing their story through different channels be it books, comics, whatever. But this time they are keeping information exclusive to the new areas and not including it in the game. Is this unreasonable? How do you think this will affect the roleplaying community in Warcraft? After all they are specifically since their built upon the foundation of the lore.

– Oathblade

I am not a roleplayer. My feet are firmly entrenched in the casual, pve-grinding, altoholic, achievement-junkie, completionist world (of Warcraft). But, even though I don’t run about on RP servers, in perfect costume with coordinated events and storylines, I still love the idea of role play and want those who are practitioners to be able to enjoy themselves.

Blizzard releasing their canon through multiple streams does not, from my view, pose a threat to this activity. I have never read any of the books, I have only read Ashbringer from amongst the comics, and I have only played World of Wacraft, none of the previous strategy games. Despite all these lore hamstrings, I still feel connected to the world of Azeroth in a tangible way.

If I wanted to jump into roleplay with my existing stable of characters, I would feel perfectly comfortable in setting up backstories, exploring friendships with others, and fully immersing myself in the life of my characters. The additional material that Blizzard releases through various means would just expand the universe that my characters find themselves in. The basis is eagerly waiting in World of Warcraft, ripe for the taking.

Now, yes, some events would cease to make sense if the accompanying materials weren’t accounted for. In order to fit in perfectly, I would have to keep track of all of the different source streams and tailor my story to fit in with the larger work that Blizzard is presenting.

But even relatively major discrepancies between a personal storyline and Blizzard’s established canon don’t get under my skin. After all, Blizzard themselves have had to retcon events and invent meandering explanations to rectify lore-gone-wild.

After all, the point of playing Warcraft, be it through PvP, PvE, or RP, is to enjoy yourself. Perhaps some people would be annoyed beyond reason if their story did not match in perfectly with Blizzard’s story. In fact, I am sure that there are those that would stand for nothing short of perfect synchronicity. (I fought hard for perfect synchronicity in Assassin’s Creed… although an achievement was involved.)

Those people, since they are playing World of Warcraft, can likely afford to and almost certainly do put out for more than just the game. I have often pondered grabbing some of the books or heading back for the Warcraft games. The only thing stopping me is me. If I were waist deep in RP, I would be all over those books, three times through each game, and gobbling up every source of lore material available to me. The more, the merrier, right? Right.