Category Archives: World of Warcraft

There and Back Again

I started this blog almost two years ago in large part to chronicle my adventures through Marvel Heroes.  Honestly, it was mostly because I had this post in me and didn’t have any other place to put it.  So it was fitting that, when I largely stepped away from Marvel Heroes, most activity on this page stopped.

That was somewhere between six months and a year ago.  A large part of the reason I left was that I had a yearning for a more immersive MMO experience again (it happens).  I also had left the supergroup (guild) I was in and formed my own little off-shoot supergroup to host an event for some old friends who had not played the game before and who did not continue after the event.  So, in essence, I was guildless, which makes it easier to drift away from playing.

So I picked up my bags and moved over to GW2 for a while.  I don’t think I have played GW2 for any more than two or three months at a time, which is probably why I always enjoy a new, brief stint in it.  It gave me the immersion I was craving and still felt fresh enough that I was always excited to log on and see what new things I would stumble upon.  I found a fairly active guild and had myself a little fun bashing things in the face as a warrior.

After that, however, I was bitten by the WoD bug.  Some friends were trying to get the gang back together and the content looked interesting, so I pre-purchased and made the commitment.  Things were great at the start.  The content was engaging from questing to garrisoning, and I was progressing along nicely.  In fact, I was so up on the content that I almost ran to this blog to talk about how Blizzard had crafted the perfect expansion.  Before that happened, however, I hit some walls.

First, I was in an almost completely new guild.  None of my friends were in leadership positions and most were rarely on when I was on.  That guildless feeling returned.  Second, I started to feel the now oft-maligned garrison chore burnout.  Finally, and most significantly, we welcomed a new baby into the household in mid-December.  That added up to me, a former semi-competent raider who would like to raid again, not being able to actually raid, having little play time, and spending that play time doing things that were not very fun to maximize the chance that, at some indeterminate future time, I might have the chance again to raid with mostly strangers.  Paying $15/month for that did not seem like a wise investment.

And that is what brought me back to Marvel Heroes.  Not having to pay a sub and being able to play how and when I wanted to, for 15 minutes or three hours, was an attractive proposition.  I was also fortunate enough to be welcomed back by my very first supergroup in Marvel Heroes, so I now have a fairly active group of semi-familiar faces to run with.

Upon my return, I was struck by just how different and more diverse the game is than it was a year ago.  Granted, you are still punching, zapping, slashing, or shooting waves upon waves of sometimes nameless goons, but there are now a lot of different ways and a lot of different reasons to punch, zap, or stab the enemy.  I will explain that variety some in an upcoming post.  For now, however, it is sufficient to say that it is that variety, not just in how, but why I play each day that is holding my attention in this game.

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How’s It Goin’? What’s Goin’ On?

Contrary to popular belief, I am still around, although you would not know it by following this blog.  In reality, I am in that happy place where I am too busy gaming to have much time to devote to a blog on the gaming.  So I decided to use the voice recognition feature on my phone to throw together one of those “where I’ve been, where I’m going” posts before my current thoughts are replaced by new thoughts.

So you don’t have to read any more than you want to, here is what I will be covering: Where I stand with Marvel Heroes, a brief flirtation with WoW, a potential future and wild star, and my ascent to rock stardom.

Marvel Heroes Scratches Many Itches

That probably doesn’t sound good. For me though, it’s true. I love the characters and it’s a great action game. There’s nowhere else that I can jump on for 15 minutes or 3 hours and beat up bad guys nonstop. That being said, I often long for the open world, the exploration, the meaningful questing and group content. Therein lies a large part of the beauty of the free to play movement. I can turn my focus to something else without feeling like I am wasting money on a game subscription that I am not getting the most out of. Were I paying monthly for the game, I would have to consider canceling the sub and not playing at all. With Marvel Heroes, I don’t have to make that choice, and I can pick it up and play anytime I want.

What have I been doing in Marvel Heroes you might ask? Well, first I leveled Wolverine to 60, then went into the gear grind with him. He is pretty well equipped now. I then went back and leveled a bunch of other characters. Now Cyclops, Gambit, and Spider-man are level 60, Nightcrawler approaches 50, and I have a bunch in their 20s and 30s.

Doing all this levelling made me realize something: Wolverine wasn’t nearly as much fun to play as some of these other characters. So my favorite comic book character has been collecting dust for most of 2014. That should change next week, however, as Wolverine will finally be getting his character review. That is the process where the development collect info from players and revamp the hero’s powers to give them more builds, more diverse fun powers and the like. Once this lands, I will “prestige” Wolverine, which is basically resetting him to level 1 and leveling again from scratch. The reward for this – a new color for your name and a noncombat pet. That is more than enough for me, as playing a Wolverine that is as fun to play as some of the other characters will be reward enough.

Testing the WoW Waters

Looking to feed my sense of exploration and need to quest and see friends, I jumped back on the WoW bandwagon. At the time, my highest toon was still only 88, so I had seen very little of the new content. I threw of the shackles of my old server and jumped onto one where my old friends who still play reside. I thought it would be fun to check out the Timeless Isle and LFR for the first time. It was for a time. I hit 90, went to the Timeless Isle, and outfitted myself with a lot of purples.

The Timeless Isle was fun for awhile, but it really is mostly just a new spin on the daily quest. I quickly tired of it. LFR was an interesting experiment, but starting from the first tier of raids this late in the expansion meant that it was more a zergfest than anything else. My thoughts quickly became “how long can I repeat this before it becomes old?”

The answer was “not very long.” You see, at the same time I started playing WoW, most of my friends who still play WoW were checking out the WildStar beta. I was well aware of WildStar and followed it in a noncommittal, “looks pretty cool, maybe I’ll try it” sort of way. I looked into it a little more, and it started to look like the game that might scratch the itch that WoW couldn’t quite reach.

Before taking that excellent segue into WildStar, I must digress into the top of ability culling in WoW. I agree that button bloat is crazy. I disagree with Blizzard’s strategy to fix it. As a hunter whose glory days (maybe that’s a stretch) were in TBC, Wrath, and the first part of Cata, we had to manage a rotation, sometimes easy sometimes not, plus Rapid Fire, trinkets, pots, and maybe pet abilities. On top of that, you had the rarely used but situationally very useful abilities like Distracting Shot, Wyvern Sting, and Concussive Shot. In MoP, Blizzard also threw at use longer CD abilities like Murder of Crows, Dire Beast, and Stampede. These are not situational abilities but ones that have to be inserted into, and further complicate, your rotation. So, what is Blizzard’s solution? Let’s cull out those useful situational abilities that have been part of the hunter toolkit for years and keep many of the abilities that complicate a hunter’s life on an encounter by encounter basis. Don’t like, no sir.

Wild about WildStar

What can I say about WildStar that hasn’t been said more eloquently before? It does so many things right, at least for me. The style, the tone, the action combat, and the level of customization and a player freedom are all spot on. Yes, it is buggy and sometimes the game crashes on me for no reason, but that can be fixed. The game is built on a very solid foundation, and I hope people check it out and support it.

Really not much more to say than that. I will be playing at at launch, and probably for a while thereafter, assuming my friends stick with it.

I’m Going to be a Superstar!

In non-mmo news, I am also learning to play guitar. I played for a few years over a decade ago, and I got a hankerin to try it again. Part of my desire was that I learned I of a program called Rocksmith, which is a little like Guitar Hero with an actual guitar. Knowing that the program existed and reading good reviews of it, this seems like a perfect way to learn. No weekly lessons and no struggling with guitar tabs.

About 2 months ago I picked up the program and a cheap electric guitar. It was an excellent choice. It comes with about 50 songs and more that you can download. Notes fall down the screen just like Guitar Hero, and you play along with the song. The songs start simple at first, but as you get better, they get more complex.

In addition to playing along with songs, there are lessons old-school video games where the guitar takes the place of a joystick. In short, it makes learning guitar fun and accessible for a gamer.

The best part, however, is that you get rated at the end of a song. When you think you’ve killed it, but the computer guy says “average performance.” But on the other hand, when he says “brilliant performance,” I can look over to my wife and say “See, the computer thinks I’m brilliant.”

Unfortunately, the computer guy might not be the best judge of talent. After I played one song very well, he exclaimed “You’re going to be a superstar!” If any bands out there need someone to sit in front of a computer and play guitar badly, I’m your man!

Seriously though, Rocksmith has taken me from being embarrassed to pick up a guitar to having some level of confidence in about two months. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to any gamer who wants learn guitar.

Making WoW Timeless

As my three regular readers know, I spent several years playing and raiding in WoW.  My heyday was from mid-BC to mid-Cata, what most consider to be the golden age of WoW, based upon both the sub numbers and the quality of the content.  Like many others, my love of WoW has waned, and I have not played with any regularity for about two years.  I still, however, follow the community and read several blogs out there that either focus exclusively on WoW or hit on it with some regularity.

From reading those blogs, I have a good sense of where the game is and where people want to see it heading.  A couple of posts from The Godmother, Green Armadillo, and Lonomonkey got me thinking – the way for WoW to move forward is to look back.    On what will soon be the 10th anniversary of WoW, two of its greatest strengths and weaknesses are: (1) its extreme wealth of group content; and (2) nostalgia.  So how could Blizzard take advantage of this, and what the hell am I talking about?  First, my thesis.  Then, I will answer those questions.

I believe that Blizzard, which is no stranger to recycling content, should make every existing raid tuned to and available for max-level characters in the next expansion.  There, I said it.

The Good and the Bad of Nostalgia

I am a textbook example of why nostalgia helps and hurts WoW.  I often look back on my time spent in WoW, with the friends I made, and the battles we won and lost together, and it makes me smile.  In fact, I often wish for those days.  The last couple of times that I have come back to the game, I find that it does not live up to the image in my mind.  Friends have moved on, mechanics are different, I am not as invested in the storyline as I once was.  That is the double-edged sword of nostalgia that Blizzard has to deal with when trying to attract a player like me back to the game.  Given the trend in subscriber numbers, there are probably millions out there like me.  Well, at least thousands.

The same goes for content.  WoW now has hundreds (I think) of beautifully constructed raid encounters.  The problem is that only a few dozen, at most, are actively being raided because they are the only ones that are current, are challenging, and are rewarding, outside of maybe getting a transmog piece.  Good luck getting  a group together for Gruul, because no one needs anything from him anymore.  Even if you do get the group together, he would likely be trivial.  So WoW has all of these great assets, but there is no way for players to easily take advantage of them.

Well, I have given it some thought.  By mashing together a hodgepodge of ideas from the WoW of today and yesterday, as well as stealing from a few other games, I think a system like this could be implemented.

Crawling Before Walking

Right out of the gate, let’s move past the basic issue of “can it be done.”  Blizzard has shown no lack of willingness to recycle and update old raid content – Naxxramas, Onyxia, Ragnaros.  Moreover, every Heroic dungeon has to be tuned for leveling and endgame, so the know how is there.  If Blizzard wants to undertake a project like this, it can do it.  The harder part is making it accessible to players and providing the proper motivations to get people to use it.  I have some ideas how to do that, but of course, they will not be perfect.

Making it Work

If Blizzard implemented this system, I think it would need to go on the LFR with the standard 25-man raid team.  There would be a ton of balancing issues and loot ilevel issues, and having LFR, Flex, Regular, and Heroic, 10s and 25s, might spin this project out of control.

So, each raid is accessible through LFR in the 25-man variety.  Larger raids, like ICC are split up into wings.  Loot rules are the same as LFR, but any class can get any drop.  Taking a page from the Timeless Isle, the drops are BOA, so any of your alts can use them.  I would also like to see some, if not all of the drops be of the heirloom variety, so that your alts can start using them right away.

But why, you ask, would a progression raider ever set foot in one of these raids?  First, at max level, make the equipment that drops in one of these raids equal to loot drops in Heroic 5-mans (a step below current progression LFR) so that it helps you gear up for the current progression cycle.  Throw on top of that a drop from the final boss of a raid (“Rune of Amplification”) that can be applied to any piece of gear obtained through one of these “Classic Raids” that would raise the ilevel of the piece to that of the current content LFR.  Doing this, however, binds that piece of gear to the character.  You might also require different numbers of runes for different slots.

How, you say, will you have people running 30 different raids without severely dumbing them down?  Well, some mechanics will need to be simplified, that is for sure.  Let’s also take a page out of FFXIV’s book here – in the early “learning” instances, helps pops up on the screen to tell you exactly what you should be doing in an encounter.  For these Classic Raids, the first time a deadly boss mechanic is used, a brief message can pop up saying “When this happens, this is what you should do.”  Of course, it should only pop up once so people have to learn something.

Finally, with so many raids, how will your queue ever pop?  Let’s steal a page from late-Wrath here – the weekly raid quest.  Each week, you get a mission to do a different Classic Raid.  The rewards are something that is relevant to the current level of gearing.  In the first tier of the expansion, it could be more Runes of Amplification, it could be Justice or Valor.  Whatever motivates players to run it.

Why Should Blizzard do it?

A system like this will capitalize on the two points mentioned earlier – it stokes people’s nostalgia while also making largely irrelevant content relevant again.  Many guilds will organize Classic Raid nights like they already do, but there will be a greater incentive to do them.  In addition, having a weekly raid quest that sends you to a different raid each week means that you are not running the same thing over and over and over again for months.  In any given week, you may get to run a raid you have not set foot in for years or maybe one you have not set foot in at all.

 

Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going

It has been over two months since my last post, and my three readers (including myself) are probably wondering what’s been going on in my super-interesting gaming life. So, without further ado, here is the story:

Love for Marvel Heroes Waxes and Wanes

During the last couple of months, I have continued playing Marvel Heroes with various levels of commitment. In the last month or so, I have realized that is one of the great things about a free-to-play game. I am not compelled to log on because I am not paying for the privilege of logging on. I can play as much or as little as I feel like.

In the last couple of months, three great things happened to MH. First, a new zone was added that throws constant spawns of large groups of enemies at you. In addition, they have multi-boss fights, something I have wanted for as long as I have played the game. “Oh look, Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants just spawned. Let’s go beat the shit out of them!” In my book, this zone is one of the best experiences in the game. The drawback to this zone is that you cannot easily bring a pre-made group into the zone, so playing the best content in the game with your friends is almost impossible. This is supposedly going to be fixed in the next major patch (late-September, early-October).

The other major step forward was a big tweak to the defense system, allowing melee to feel much stronger and less likely to be one-shot. The game strikes a good balance between making you feel powerful, but still in danger at times, although the game may be a tad on the easy side at times.

Finally, they added difficulty modes, allowing you to run story missions at higher levels for better rewards and tougher fights. All together, the game feels so much better than it did at launch, and there is much more to do.

On the flip-side, because this is a Diablo clone, there really is only one thing to do – kill everything that moves. MH does a great job with it, but the ARPG genre lacks a lot of what typical MMOs have – exploration, visible character advancement, alternative activities to killing all things. Many MH reviews savaged the game for this reason, but that is not what the game is.

I am going to continue playing MH here and there, particularly when new modes are released, like X-Mansion Defense coming in the next patch. Also, when new characters come out that I am interested in. Gambit and Nightcrawler should be out this year, and I will most definitely check them out. I did, however, start to miss some of the more traditional MMO trappings. So, where do you go when you want to get your true MMO experience?

Enter Pandaland

That’s right, I was finally going to check out the famed Pandaria. I started out leveling my lowbie hunter that I have messed around with earlier in the expansion (for less than a month). After a couple of weeks and leveling to the mid-40s, I said to myself, why am I wasting time with this guy and not back on my level 85 hunter trying out the new-ish content? So, I jumped back over to the original Yngwe, purchased the expansion and started out the leveling process.

There, in Pandaria, at around level 88, I realized that WoW holds very little of interest to me anymore. It’s not that the game is bad, it may in fact be the best than it’s ever been. Here is the rub for me – I raided for three years. Most of the friends that I made through this time either don’t play anymore or they are scattered to the wild winds. Friends are nice, but I have played, and enjoyed, many games without a built-in network of friends.

The problem is, while in the middle of this leveling journey, I know where the train leads. That is to LFR and daily quests. Sure, there are pet battles and farming now, or so I have heard, but I am a raider in Wow, first and foremost. Because I can only play once or twice a week, I don’t have time for anything other than the march to raiding, and that march just is not fun anymore. Kill 10 of this, travel there, kill something else, go somewhere else, participate in a vehicle quest, sit through a cut scene. WoW dangles the carrot in front of you, but I just can’t bare to move my legs to chase after the carrot. I have done it too many times before, and the game mechanics do not hold up for me anymore. I hadn’t even made it to max level, and I already was getting tired.

The straw that broke the camel’s back with my return to WoW was vacation. I didn’t play the game for a week before vacation, then I was unable to for 10 days. During that entire time, there was not one instance where I said to myself “I can’t wait to get the chance to play the game again.” After returning from vacation, I went another week without playing. At that point, I started to think, “I better play, since I am paying for it,” but I still could not force myself to log on. At that point, with less than two months on this current stint, I canceled my sub.

So what now?

A New Fantasy is Born

Around the same time I canceled WoW, I read this post from Lono about Final Fantasy XIV. I have been a fan of Final Fantasy since the original game for the NES in 1987. Granted, I haven’t played any entries in the series since VII, but I still have a strong sense of nostalgia for those games, particularly the original and III (in the U.S., some other number in Japan).

Lono’s description of the game made me think that it had what WoW is missing – for me. I did a little more reading and decided that I would jump in.

I am only about 20-25 hours into the game, but I am happy to report that it is exactly what I am looking for. It is not so different from WoW, but it does a lot of things very well. Chief among those is the class/profession system, which allows you to be any class and any profession that you want. Instead of making a tank alt, just go learn the tank class on your main character and level it up. Although you have a GCD of 2.5 seconds, long compared with other games, combat feels faster and more fluid for me than WoW.

But it is the class system that makes me love this game. I have no preconceptions of Final Fantasy XIV. I have no goal I need to reach. I have nothing I need to do. I can do whatever I want to do that day and that minute. I have tinkered around with the Archer class and have leveled Leatherworking. I have decided to run a few more story quests, because a mount is not far off. Once I do that, I think I want to check out the Conjurer (healer) class, because I think it would be handy to have the Cure (heal), Protect (bubble), and Raise spells. I also want to level Botany and Carpentry, because I want to see if I can make a High Quality Bow for myself.

And this is why FFXIV works for me. As a casual player with only immediate, reachable goals in mind, I can do exactly what I want to. There is nothing that compels me to log on, and there is nothing that compels me to do anything in game that I don’t want to do. With the sheer amount of classes and content, I could see enjoying this for a long time, and that has me pretty excited.

So, for the foreseeable future, I will be spending the majority of my gaming time in FFXIV, with the occasional foray into Marvel Heroes. As of today, everything is good in my gaming world.