Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wildstar: Which Path to Take?

In Wildstar, you select both a class and a path at character creation and neither can be changed later without rerolling. Classes are fairly straightforward and help define your role (Tank/Heal/Ranged/Melee).

Bartle Paths


Paths are different. They constitute about 30% of your leveling experience and in theory map to the famous Bartle types. In practice, the correlation between Bartle Types and Paths seems a bit forced.

Bartle broke down players in one of four types: Achievers, Socializers, Explorers and Killers. Achievers should be attracted to the Science Path, Socializers to the Settlers path, Explorers to the aptly named Explorer Path, and Killers to the Soldier Path. I've played all four paths in Beta through Level 7. Out of the four, Soldier seems to be the one that best fits its associated Bartle type.. As a Soldier, you get a variety of quests and missions that have you… kill stuff… with style.

Explorer should be renamed the Jumping Puzzles path. I found the early jumping puzzles to be fairly simple, but I’m sure it ramps up to 11 as you level up. The payoff is quite nice and the views are stunning. Settler should be called the BuffBot path. You build these stations that give all players (including you) different buffs. Science is the Lore path. You open up additional Lore and you get a pet.

Science seems like a natural fit for Engineer Class and the additional pet does not count against your ‘bot’ limit. A Science Engineer can have three bots out (2 Engineer ones plus the noncombat Science one). While your Scanbot doesn't fight, it does help give that look of traveling with your own private army of robots. Soldier seems like it would go well with a Warrior. Explorer fits in with the teleporting of the Spellslinger.


Perks and Powers


All paths provide bags, housing items, and titles are various levels. Each Path also provides a your character with several powers. You have one of these power in an active slot on your action set. I’ll evaluate each power on a 5 cupcake scale.

Solider powers: 

  • Back Into the Fray – heals 100% HP. Only out-of-the-battle use. / 3 cupcakes. If your class doesn’t have a heal (all tanks) this will be great for recovering from one battle and getting ready for another. I’m not sure what the cool down is. 
  • Tactical Retreat – allows to take you and your team to the safety. / 2 cupcakes. I didn’t get this power in Beta. I’m not sure if it teleports a short distance away or takes you to your current bind location. • Combat Supply Drop – drops a box with weapon for you and allies next to you. This weapon allows to use skills like stuns etc. / 2 cupcakes. The weapons have limited charges. Most of the time I went with my regular rotation.
  • Soldier Rations: Activation: Places a Ration’s crate. Upon interacting with the crate, for the next 5.0s restores 446/892/1782 health every 0.5s. / 3 cupcakes, and sprinkles on top if Back Into the Fray (BItF) is on cool down. It seems like the solider is focused on recovering health.
  • Soldier’s March: Activation: Movement speed increased by 20% for the next 15.0 seconds. (30.0/20.0/10.0 Min CD) / 4 cupcakes. Movement speed increases are fantastic especially since you won’t get a mount until Level 25. 1 cupcake dedication for the ridiculously long cool down. 
Soldier powers slice and dice a total of 14 cupcakes.

Settler Powers: 

  • Settler’s Campfire (60.0 min CD) – allows you to set up a fire which increases healing and maximum health for an hour. You receive a buff for each player who uses your campfire. / 2 cupcakes. This would be higher if the cool down wasn’t so long.
  • Summon: Vendbot – creates a shop which buys everything from you for sixty seconds. Also serves as a repair bot for your party. / 5 Cupcakes. Inventory management is a huge pain in the neck through the early game. You don’t have the bag or bank space (especially if you are trying to collect two sets of gear). This will only be made worse with all the Mystery Boxes and other promotions Wildstar is running. In addition, after seeing how challenging the dungeons are, you are going to want a Settler in your party for repairs. 
  • Report Home – creates portal to your house. / 0 cupcakes. This was removed when they gave all players a teleport to their house.
  • Tech-Totem: Experience: Activation: Drops a totem that increases experience gain by 2%/4%/6% to allies within 35 meters of the totem for the next 60.0 seconds. / 5 cupcakes. Normally, this would only be useful during leveling, however; at cap experience points become Elder points which get you Elder gems. 
  • Sleeping Bag – allows you to log out in the world and get rested experienced (but less rested than you would get at your house). / 2 cupcakes. With the housing teleport you can teleport to your house and teleport right back to wherever you left. I guess there might be sometimes when you’d want to log out in the wild.
Settler makes is 14 cupcakes.

Science Powers

  • Holographic Distraction – summons a clone who distracts enemies. / Originally 3 cupcakes, now 1 cupcake. however this was recently nerfed so that you can’t use it in any group content (PVE or PVP). You can only use it in the open world. 
  • Summon: Group – summons a group to you. / 5 cupcakes. Anyone who had “Have Group, Will Travel” in WoW knows how helpful this can be. 
  • Create Portal – Capitol City: Activation: Opens a portal to the Capital City for the next 10.0 seconds. (120/90/60 min CD) – 0 cupcakes / This was recently given to all players. It is unclear what will happen. Based upon the Settler’s home teleport, it seems likely this will be removed. 
  • Clarity Elixir: Activation: Places a Ration’s crate. Upon interacting with the crate, for the next 5.0s restores 2%/5%/10% focus every 0.5s. / 3 cupcakes for focus using classes, 0 cupcakes for non-focus using classes. 
  • Generator: Reputation Gain: Activation: Places an aura on the ground that increases reputation gain by 2%/4%/6% to allies within 35 meters for the next 60.0 seconds. / 4 cupcakes. Wildstar has reputation grinds and I’m sure you remember how useful the Human racial trait Diplomacy was in WoW.
  • Scanbot / 1 cupcake. This allows you to do Scientists mission but doesn't provide any perks. I’m giving 1 cupcake just for the sheer coolness factor.
Science discover 14 cupcakes for Focus using classes, 11 cupcakes for non-Focus using classes. 

Explorer Powers


  • Safe Fall: Activation: Damage taken from falling reduced by 15%/30%/45% for the next 5.0/7.5/10.0 seconds. Damage from big falls are decreased for a given time. / 3 cupcakes. I have a feeling Explorers will be falling a lot when they mess up a jumping puzzle. Dying is expensive so this will keep you alive. 
  • Air Brakes – It stops you in the air and let you admire views and make another jump. / 2 cupcakes. Really only needed to solve some jumping puzzles. 
  • Translocate beacon – lets you save your current position and then teleport to it. Unavailable during PvP. / 4 cupcakes. The further away you are from the beacon the greater the cool down. I could see players coming up with all sorts of interesting and fun ways of using this like leaving this at the entrance of a cave so you don’t have to fight your way back out. 
  • Enduring Breath: Activation: Breath decays 30%/45%/60% slower than normal. / 2 cupcakes. Like Air Brakes, this one seems like it is simply to help the Explorer do some of the Explorer specific stuff and wouldn't really help outside of that path. 

Explorer finds 11 cupcakes.

For Me? 


I eliminated Explorer because I’m not a huge fan of jumping puzzles. I really like Science since it goes well with being an Engineer and I’m usually a Lore nut. That said, Engineers don’t use focus and the overall package seems a little weak. I’m hugely tempted by the incredible potential of Soldier and Settler. Both seem like they would help you level faster and Settler seems like the advantages would continue even into Elder Game content.

 Sources: http://www.wildstarfans.net/2013/12/chief-sarcans-guide-to-paths.html
http://www.mmorpg.com/gamelist.cfm/game/632/feature/8252/Chief-Sarcans-Guide-to-Paths.html
http://guides.gamepressure.com/wildstar/guide.asp?ID=24192

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Engineer Tank versus Stormtlaon's Lair

I had one major goal this past Beta weekend. I wanted to run Stormtalon’s Liar (STL) with my Engineer Tank. I had had one previous experience with tanking as an Engineer around level 15 in the Adventure “Hycrest’s Rebellion”. Now at level 20, it was time to see what Wildstar’s dungeons had in store.

First surprise 

Upon hitting level 20, Stormtalon’s Lair did not magically appear in my list of dungeons I could queue for. After doing some digging, I discovered that first you have to go to the actual entrance of the instance. Then you can queue for it. Visions of The Burning Crusade danced in my head. Since this was my first go at STL, I opted to queue with both DPS and Tank selected. The queue popped almost instantly and I had been selected to tank.

Prep 

In Wildstar, you use action sets. These are the powers you have on your hot bar and can use during combat. At level 20, I’m limited to only 7 active powers. In addition to the powers themselves, the action set remembers the points you spent to enhance your powers as well as the talents (called AMPs) that you’ve chosen. You get two action sets you can switch between. Additional sets are purchased with Elder Gems (an end game currency). Effectively, you are limited to two action sets while you level up.

I have mine set to a DPS build and a tank build. I’ve love a third for PVP, but that won’t be happening.

Prep step number one, I switched to my tank Action Set. 

Tank Engineers and DPS Engineers also value different stats on their gear. When I’m DPS, I love Moxie for crit and Finesse for Assault Power. As a Tank, I want Insight for Deflect (which is basically avoidance) and Tech for Support Power. Attack Power in Wildstar is broken down into Assault Power and Support Power. A piece of gear will one or the other, and rarely both (and even when both appear one will be higher). Your powers are also categorized as Assault or Support (also Utility). Assault Power makes Assault powers hit harder but does nothing for Support powers and the reverse is also true.

It has been hard while questing in Wildstar to maintain a good set of tanking gear and DPS gear. Often you have to choose between a DPS piece and a Tank piece as a quest reward, but I’ve tried to keep a decent set in my bags.

Prep step number two. I put on the best tank gear I had. 

Next, I switched Mode. Engineer has two modes: Eradicate and Provoke. Eradicate mode increases damage, while Provoke mode reduces damage and increases threat. Your mode also controls the temporary buff I got when I activated the mech suit. The Eradicate suit gives you crit and assault power. The Provoke suit gives you damage reduction and avoidance.

Prep step number three, I switched to Provoke mode. 

Hammer Time 

I zoned in and spotted the first trash pack. It’s Hammer Time!

Some of the trash mobs hit really hard, or have specials that hit really hard. We wiped at least twice to trash. Wildstar had taught me to be moving almost constantly. That’s a good thing in solo play. It works less well in group play. Your healer is targeting their own heals. I kept moving out of the healing telegraph to avoid a mob telegraph. The heal would miss and would die. Also, there are plenty of patting mobs roaming the dungeon getting an add pretty much equaled death for our group. I really missed not having some sort of Death Grip type pull in my arsenal.

Wildstar doesn't joke around. I mean, sure, its jokes around a lot, but in Stormtalon, those mobs play for keeps. 

While one of the member of my group expressed concern about surviving the first boss when we were dying to trash, we soldiered on.

We arrived at the first boss, Blade-Wind. Stormtalon's Lair is a like a big air elemental raid. Blade-Wind fits right at home. He is a big elemental surrounded by four channelers. After we DPSed the boss, he would go immune and we would work down the channelers. It reminded me a little bit of the Magtheridon encounter. When a channeler died, it spawned a spark. If the spark hit you, you were rooted, and that was, generally speaking, a bad thing.

The boss hit like a freaking truck pulling a freight train. I had about 9k hit points, plus my shield. This guy hit for 3k a pop. I had to pop the mech suit on the pull and again when he came out of the immune. Liberal use of med sprays was involved.

After the second wipe, I switched out some gear. It was classic WotLK thinking time: stamina (called Grit in Wildstar), stamina and more stamina. Nothing mattered except what would give me the biggest health pool.

Despite the wipes, no one was getting angry and no one was looking to cast blame. I kept waiting for someone to start yelling at the ‘phail tank’ and kick me to get a new one. That never happened. We actually talked about strategy. I don’t remember the last time I did that in a PuG. We decided to only DPS the channelers down most of the way, but not kill them. This meant we didn’t have as many sparks to deal with.

Between the new strategy and the gear change, we got him down. One of the group members was quite relieved and shared how a previous group had spent hours on just that boss.

We moved on. More trash. More wipes. Sometimes it just made more sense to leave Bobby (my Bruiser Bot) unsummoned until after the pull.

We get to the second boss. He’s another elemental. Every 30% or so, he disappears and summons adds. These adds freaking hurt. I would save Bobby’s taunt for when the adds spawned and then have him pick up the adds. That gave the healer a few seconds to recover and the DPS a few seconds to work on them. If (err…when) Bobby went down, I would use my AoE taunt and we’d finish them off.

This showed me a key advantage of the Engineer tank. The Bruiser Bot essentially represents another pool of health. I haven’t seen anything yet that is taunt immune so when things get crazy, have Bobby taunt and even if he goes down, that’s 6 or 7k worth of damage soaked that your healer didn't have to heal, and you can get him back in 15 seconds.

But that was the easy part of the fight. Now the fun begins. The next thing that happens is the boss blows you back to the entrance and start channeling a nuke that will one shot the party. You have to interrupt it. But in Wildstar, nothing is that simple. Bosses have Interrupt Armor. We had to use multiple interrupts to first break through the interrupt armor. That is, of course, assuming we could get to him in the first place to use our interrupts. Tornadoes spawn when he blows you back and move around the room, a bit like Blade Lord Tay’ak in Heart of Fear. If they hit you, they knock you up in the air and take some damage as well as some additional fall damage. Worst of all, you've wasted precious time not getting to the boss to the get the interrupts.

Yes, this is the very first dungeon in Wildstar. It’s intense.

We continued working our way through the dungeon and dying a couple of more times. Next we were ready to face off with Arcanist Breeze Binder. I promise I'm not making up these boss names. Nobody knew or remembered a strategy for him. The big problem was once again adds. Every few seconds he would summon another set and they would overwhelm us. Eventually, we figured out we could interrupt the cast where he called the adds. That made the fight much easier.

A few pulls after Arcanist, you face the High Priest who calls down Stormtalon herself.
I wish I could tell you more about this fight. It was freaking crazy. Red telegraphs were everywhere. One telegraph centered on a player who had to move it around the room while avoiding other telegraphs. We lost two DPS in phase changes, but we were doing okay. Then I saw the healer go down. I cycled through everything I had. Mech suit, Recursive Matrix, Med pacs. We lost another DPS. Now it was down to just me and the Stalker. Stormtalon’s health was in the single digits. I could tell I didn't have long before I would go down, but instead Stormtalon dropped. The other players cheered and we rezzed the dead. It was nice to actually finish a fight on this side of the dirt for once.

Satisfaction


It was the most satisfying kill I've had in a five man in a long time. I'd compare it to an early Magister's Terrace.

As I zoned out, it felt like a hard won victory. There was no steamrolling, no pull as much as you want and AoE blast your way through it.

 It was intense, it was hard, and it was a blast.

I think the 'scoreboard' screen at the end is bugged. Yes, I died 20 times. There is no way I should have been #1 in staying alive. #1 at dying, yes. Also, no way I was #1 in heals or kills.

The scariest part to me is it was just under two hours and this is supposed to be one of the shorter dungeons.

Special thanks to Raidy the Stalker, Deyedia the ESPer, ThunderTorque the Engineer for a great run. Extra special thanks to Hakurei the Medic for being our healer.

After the run, I decided to head to my house and take it easy.

Friday, March 28, 2014

1000th Post

Today marks the 1000th post to Honors Code. I would never have believed that I would write 1000 posts when I started the blog seven years ago.

Looking Back


What started out as a Wow blog eventually evolved into SWTOR and now Wildstar, but the peak was tearing through content as a Paladin tank through Wrath of the Lich King.

Along the way I've amassed nearly half a million page views. I think over half of those were probably for my "Leveling a Paladin Guide".  I’m still really proud of the fact that it got linked from Blizzard’s own Class Guide page for over two years.

Over the years the games have changed, and I've take a break or two. I've posted stuff I'm super proud of, and I've posted stuff I wish I never had. I regret my mistakes, and I relish the good memories.

Looking Forward


I'm looking to get back to my roots so to speak. Over the next couple of months, I'll prepare for the Wildstar's release and getting back to tanking (with bots!). It really was the most enjoyable role for me. I burned out on it, as tanks are wont to do, but I'm ready to get back to it.

If Wildstar flames out, I'll probably find myself back in Warlords of Draenor.

Thank you

Finally, I want to thank everyone who has been part of the journey over the past seven years.

Thank-you
If you’ve read the blog – Thank you!
If you’ve ever commented – Thank you!
If you’ve emailed me – Thank you!
If you’ve followed me on Twitter – Thank you!
If you invited me to be a guest on your Podcast – Thank you!
If you subscribed in a Reader/Feedly– Thank you!



Thank you so much for being a great audience and listening to me on days both good and bad.

I'd also like to thank some of the people who have the journey so special. I know most of the these guys don't play MMOs anymore and certainly don't read blogs, but I'd like to reconize them nonetheless. I know I'm going to miss someone. If you see someone I've missed drop me an email or comment.

Special thanks to Big Red Kitty who was a major inspirtation in starting my blog.

Thank you to the friends I've made along the way: Wichita, Bluetide, Black, Donk, Ofn, DarksideDak/Space Ghost, Purps, Pink, Stark, Shad, Origami, Baconstrip, Lakini, Ferth, Sameth, Doraeallin, Jagdelf, Brindall, Cfcheif, Thuder, Agamemgnome, Celoria, Raistlin, FaceEraser, Akivarr, Seven, Raydz, Aoesrus, Zadorr, Vundermann, Absouloot, Bandaidez, Aerlion, Trelic, Blankz, Dlow, Mathman, Fontam, Stadc, Agnate, Snowson, Melevolence, Brindall, Raydz, Sneakyfeat, Deil, Nightwin, Lanorah, Kee, Mowbray, Seraphcroix, Cellestia, Pylar, Fireyes, Araxe, Stdbakerhawk, Luminati. Regolas, Splinterrdc, Kee, Lady, Phat, Fares, Fletchy, Bibby, Addic, Sylvara, Paymon

Also thanks to Twisted Nether, Blog Azeroth, World of Matticus, Asleep at the Wow, Blessing of Kings, Righteous Defense, Gravity, Veneretio, Baelor, Big Bear Butt, Wow Insider, Maintankadin, Egotistical Priest, Tankspot, Paladin Schaladin, and TorWars!

See you on Nexus!

Now, bring me that horizon!



image: http://images4.fanpop.com/image/photos/21000000/Now-bring-me-that-horizon-captain-jack-sparrow-21072674-362-400.jpg

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wildstar Beta Impressions: Tutorial and Combat

Previously, I’ve talked about Wildstar’s classes, races, and character creation. Next let’s talk about those first few levels. Your first three levels (or so) serve as a tutorial and introduction to the game.

Culture


One of the strong points is that it does a good job of grounding you in the culture of your chosen faction. On the Exile ship, everything is broken down and falling apart. She really is on her last legs. On the Dominion ship, everything is pristine and well oiled.

 The Exile quest line has you doing a rescue mission, while the Dominion quest line has you first torturing suspected Exile sympathizers and then basically declaring that the Dominion Emperor is a god. The Exiles have you fight off a Dominion attack, while the Dominion has you kill simulated Exiles.

Both experiences do a good job introducing the lore of the various races, but by this point you’ve already chosen a race. I guess since you are less than an hour in, rerolling isn’t a huge deal if you decide you like one of the other races better.

Both sides also have you gather a bit of lore and teach you how to use the datacrons and lore comics. Datacrons are short voice over reveals while the lore comics have to found piecemeal and then put together. Once you unlock them all, you get a long block of text full of lore goodies.

It demonstrates a defining feature of Wildstar which I’m calling ‘play the way you want.’ If you aren’t into lore, and get bored reading pages of text, you can go after just the main pieces of lore with the voice over datacrons and the short quest text. If you are a lore junky, then you can dig deeper, search out the comics and get even more lore.

Jump and Duck, I mean Aim and Dodge


If you are familiar with MMOs, much of the tutorial will seem trivial to you, however; the big takeaway from those first few levels is learning about Wildstar’s telegraph based combat. I call it Aim and Dodge. This isn't tab targeting, although you can use tab to select and enemy. But you don't have to have an enemy selected to damage them.

Nearly every ability in Wildstar paints a telegraph on the ground. Blue telegraphs are yours. You have to move your telegraph so it overlays an enemy for the ability to hit. If your telegraph isn't over an enemy, you cast your spell, put it on cooldown, but you won't do any damage. It's a little bit like some spells in other games where you get a graphic to put on the ground (Glyphed Concencrate or Orbital Strike).

Red telegraphs are the enemies. You don’t want to stand in them. It hurts.

Green telegraphs are heals. You have to try to target your friends to get them healed. 

Let me show you:
    

When I first heard about aiming and dodging, I was a little nervous about it. I didn’t think I would like it. I’ve got years of good ole MMO tab targeting experience.

Then I played it.

It was the most fun I’ve had with MMO combat. I felt more connected to the my character and the game world than I ever had. Maybe after a hundred hours it will get blasé, but for the first twenty levels or so, it never did.

Aim and Dodge is what sets Wildstar apart for me. It’s the one feature that I missed the most when Beta ended and I had to go back to SWTOR. Regular MMO combat felt slow and frustrating after playing Wildstar.

After the opening levels, you take a shuttle down to the planet and begin your adventures in earnest.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wildstar Beta Impressions, Factions and Races

Part 1 - Wildstar Classes

I have been in Closed Beta since early March and with the NDA release I can give my impressions. I have an Exile toon to about 18 and a Dominion toon to about level 8.

Wildstar has been liken to Vanilla WoW and from certain points of view that comparison is valid. The first one is the leveling. This is slowest leveling game I’ve been in quite some time. I’m not breezing through content or levels, but it has never felt grindy or punishing. The zones feel very Vanilla WoW. There is one area that looked and felt like the original Stonetalon Mountains. There are patting mobs everywhere and in the early teens some of those mobs are tough. There is a palatable sense of danger in the wild.

Death


Dying is a real possibility and the penalties are fairly steep. When I got into trouble, I would blow everything I had, but early on your options are limited to one big cooldown and health potions / med pacs, which in Wildstar are on a fairly a longish cooldown (5 minutes). If you do, in fact, die, you get one opportunity to rez at your body for an escalating cost. If you use it, you get put on a 30 minute cooldown. Die again and your only option is to rez at the nearest holocrypt with a nice hike, though the hostile mobs, to your previous destination. Death is also a place where Wildstar’s signature humor shines through. Every time you die, you get a snarky announcer guy who basically makes fun of your fail. The lines are varied enough that I don’t think I’ve ever heard the same one twice (or maybe I have).

3/24 Update! I found a great blog with an example of the snarky announcer: http://nexusnightly.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-taunts-after-you-die-crack-me-up-is.html?m=1


Character generation


I don’t have huge expectations for a character creator. The best one I ever used was Champions Online, but the majority of my gaming time was playing in SWTOR and WoW. Wildstar has a more than adequate character builder.

You pick your race, class and path combination and get to work on the customization. There are the usual hair style, skin color, and faces options. What is odd is there isn't any kind of height/weight slider. Wildstar does give you a silly amount of customization options for the face.
I guess they want everyone to look distinctive. That would be fantastic for a game like SWTOR where you actually see your toon's face for a decent chunk of game.
In Wildstar, however, you hardly ever seen your toons face. I thought it was odd that all the customization went into an area that most players will never see again after the character starts the game.

Factions and Races


There are two factions in Wildstar. The rebellious Exiles and the imperial Dominion. You choose from one of 4 races. Each side as a short race (Exiles – Aurin, Dominion – Chua), a tall race (Exiles – Mordesh, Dominion – Mechari), a big race (Exiles – Granok, Dominion – Draken) and a normal race (Exiles – Human, Dominion – Cassian). The Cassians and humans are basically the same models.

The Aurin are a small race with furry tails. They remind me a humanoid foxes, though one variant has rabbit like ears.
Mordesh
The Mordesh are humans who tried to come up with a biological weapon to fight the Dominon but it turned on themselves. They remind me of the Forsaken and even have special research teams and apothecaries throughout the world. The Granok are the ‘rock guys’. They are big, tough mercenaries who love to fight and drink. The Granok are my favorite, but I've had trouble playing 'big' races in other games like WoW's Tauren. They don't feel as responsive or agile. Plus, the image of a rock guy being an egghead engineer doesn't work for me. Granok as a Warrior, sure. As an Engineer, not so much. As a Stalker? Now you are just being silly.

Chua
The Chua are the small race for the Dominion. They looks like little mice or hamsters (and even get a hamster ball mount). The Mechari are a cyborg race, but look almost completely mechanical. The Draken look like demons with horns and hooved feet. The Cassians and humans can look very similar but the Cassians have a superior air to their models.

After playing both sides, I decided I liked the Exile side better. The quest are more fun and the humor is better executed. I'll talk about the starting areas in my next post, but they give you a good feel for each race. The opening quest for the Dominion has you torturing fellow Dominion citizens while the opening Exile quest is a rescue mission. One early quest on the Exile side that set the tone well for me. I won’t spoil it, but after that quest, I never wanted to play a Dominion toon again.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Wildstar Kills The Pure Class

Let’s talk about Wildstar’s classes.

The game is still under a Closed Beta NDA. The information here is taken from the Wildstar Fan site and the Wildstar class videos.

Wildstar made an interesting decision with their six classes. Every single one of them is a hybrid. In past MMOs, players of pure classes often complained anytime hybrids appeared to be able to do their jobs even marginally well. For example, players of a pure DPS class (a class that can only perform the DPS role) would ask what the point of their class was if a hybrid could DPS nearly as well, yet still have the option of taking on a support role like healing or tanking.

It was the reasoning behind the so called Hybrid Tax that permeated Vanilla WoW through early Wrath of the Lich King content.

WoW even had discord among its own hybrids. Some classes could only take on two roles, some could take on all three trinity roles, and Wow even produced the exceedingly rare class that could take on all three trinity, and also switch between Ranged DPS and Melee DPS.

In Wildstar, every class is a two way hybrid capable of filling the DPS role and one support role. They break their six classes down symmetrically into three Tank/DPS hybrids and three Healer/DPS hybrids. One question a new Wildstar player has to ask is which support role they want to have opened to them, Tank or Healer.

Let’s look at the three Healer hybrids first. They are the ESPer (pronounced ess-sper), the Medic, and the Spell Slinger. The ESPer looks something like a Mind Mage out of Palladium’s RIFTS Pen and Paper RPG. The Medic would seem to indicate something like a high tech priest. The Slinger looks like the combination of a Warlock or Rune Mage with SWTOR’s Gunslinger (right down to the dual pistols and cowboy hat).

The three Tank hybrids are the Engineer, the Stalker, and the Warrior. The Stalker is the stealth class much like a Rogue or Operative and they use these Wolverine-like claws. During Burning Crusade, one fight in Black Temple actually required rogues to do a bit of tanking, and stories abound of rogues evasion tanking the last few percentage points of a progression kill. Wildstar expanded on the rogue tank and made it a class. Since rogues were evasion tanks, I would imagine the Stalker would be a high avoidance, low armor tank, but that is pure speculation on my part.

Warriors seem pretty straight forward. They have a giant, overcompensating sword and smash things to little bits. They probably tank similar to a Blood Death Knight.

That's one good looking toon!
Now we come to the Engineer. I’ve always loved Engineers. In WoW, it was a profession and not a class, but one of my toons always had it trained. The Engineer is a Ranged DPS / Tank pet class with gadgets and a big honking gun.

SWTOR originally had something similar with their Vanguard/Powertech tank, but late in beta they changed the class from pure ranged to more short to medium range. Vanguard's have to find a sweet spot where they use their abilities but maintain some range. In practice, most just go full bore into melee. I'm hoping the Engineer can avoid that fate.

The Engineer's pets are summonable and don't change so they feel more like Warlock pets than Hunter pets. Hunters, and to a lesser extent Warlocks, were always testing to see what they could tank in Wow with their pets and some of them accomplished amazing feats. Like the Rogue evasion tank, it looks like Wildstar has taken that idea and fleshed it out into a full class. I do wonder who will actually be doing the tanking, the player or the pet. If it’s the pet, I wonder about the inevitable raid fight that requires heavy tank movement and repositioning. As we all saw with the tank equality issues in other games, encounter design and how well that design meshes with the strengths and weakness of the tank classes can have a huge impact on what tanks are chosen for various tanking duties.

I think it’s obvious what my favorite Wildstar class is, but which class appeals to you the most?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Proving Grounds Will Gate Warlords Heroics

My twitter blew up recently when Blizzard put forth the idea of requiring you to achieve a silver medal in Proving Grounds in order to queue for Warlords Level 100 Heroic 5 man dungeons.

The News

Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas, the Lead Encounter Designer for World of Warcraft

Here's an overview of our current thinking:
You will need a Silver Proving Grounds medal in a given role in order to queue for random matchmaking for a Heroic Warlords dungeon. If you form a premade group, you can zone in regardless and no such requirement applies.
In the past, challenging content and random matchmaking have often not gone so well together. Relying on item level does nothing to prevent a random group from getting, for example, a tank who may literally have never tanked before. Everyone has to learn somewhere, but we'd rather not have that learning come at other players' expense.
This solution represents a compromise in order to allow the content to see a broader reach via matchmaking, while minimizing frustration.
And yes, we realize that by formally using Proving Grounds as a qualification, it will be incumbent upon us to further refine their balance and mechanics. We'll be updating them for Warlords, and we're confident that we can make them a fair test of baseline ability within a given role.

Later, the statement was further qualified with the notion that Heroics at Level 100 would be more difficult than the ‘Heroics’ in Mists of Pandaria.

The Difficulty Cycle

This is starting to become a cycle.

In Burning Crusade, we had hard heroics. These were brutally hard and sometimes long dungeons requiring good communication and crowd control. This was before the days of an automatic group finder.

Then we moved into Wrath of the Lich King. Heroics were short, and quite easy. I still remember the utter shock we felt finishing Azjol-Nerub in less than 45 minutes the very first time we ran it. The idea of chain running came into vogue like never before.

As Wrath grew long in the tooth, and we started looking to Cataclysm, many in the community got wistful for those old Burning Crusade heroics. The Developers listened and Cataclysm saw a return of brutally hard and long heroics. When combined with the LFD group finder introduced during Wrath, the results were predictable and painful. Grim Batol and Stonecore bring back many a painful memory of long and arduous wipe fests.

Then we headed into Mists and we were greeted with shorter dungeons and generally easier Heroics. It felt like we were back to Wrath of the Lich King style dungeons. At this point, they did introduce the brutally difficult Challenge modes. Much like Burning Crusade heroics, the trash often was more of a problem than the Bosses, and they would also introduce scenarios.But the Heroics were much easier in early Mists than Cataclysm. 

Now we approach Warlords and much like the lead up to Cataclysm the Developers are talking about difficult Heroics again. I only hope the Developers learned a lesson from Cataclysm. Those heroics were unpopular for a reason.

I think some of the player base recognizes this as well. We are seeing a vocal backlash from the most unexpected of places. Higher end raiders like WoWInsiders’ Matthew Rossi are fighting the idea. He was around for Cataclysm. He’s taken this ride before and probably doesn’t want to do it again.

It’s as if the Developers can’t decide what level of difficulty a ‘heroic’ 5 man dungeon really should entail. I realize that game design is as much art as science, but the wild swings from easy to hard make it difficult for the player base to anticipate what a heroic will be like in a new expansion.

The development team needs to decide what role the Heroics will play and set a difficulty to them. You will never find an optimal difficulty. Players cover a wide spectrum of ability and game knowledge. Some will find it too hard and some too easy. I would just like to see a little more consistency rather than this hard/easy/hard/easy/hard cycle they seem to have gotten into.