WoW – 85 of 90 – Death March Continues

Status of my WoW death march to 90: My Hunter is at level 85. I finished the Deepholm zone which was quite enjoyable; it was colorful and weird and gigantic (although strangely devoid of pets to tame). I had just started the Twilight Highlands, which the “Altoholic” addon told me was where I should go next, when I hit 85. It’s not as colorful but I love the way the dwarves go on those little raids to retake their little villages. Major props to Blizzard for improving the “look and feel” of their zones with every expansion.

One of my favorite spots in Deepholm.
One of my favorite spots in Deepholm.

I’m starting to get bored with leveling my Hunter, though, so of course I’ve broken out some alts. I got out my Mage again and leveled him from 60 to 65 in Burning Crusade dungeons. I was slightly worried that BC dungeons would be more difficult and require some work, but I worried needlessly. So far they are pure tank-and-spank just like the classic dungeons. (Compare and contrast with the normal dungeons in WildStar.)

So about these WoW classes. I remain baffled by them, especially in dungeons. At level 65, the tank is still far out-DPSing every other person in the dungeon, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the tank is a Warrior, Paladin, or Monk. I guess it makes sense that “doing a lot of damage” is the best way to maintain threat, but still, it’s weird. With my Mage, supposedly a glass cannon class, I consider it a great dungeon run if I out-DPS the healer. I’m still holding out hope that down the line the Mage will turn out to be useful in some other way than opening portals. (I’m kidding. I can also interrupt spell casters.) At least nobody yells at me. Basically as long as you don’t hinder progress, nobody cares what you do in the normal dungeons.

You might be wondering why I don’t do dungeons with my Hunter. Mainly it’s because I don’t like to manage pets in group instances, but it’s also because I am so used to killing quest mobs in less than 2 seconds that I honestly have no idea how to use my class in a prolonged boss fight. That’s one reason I like the Mage: You don’t have to worry about some fleeting resource like Focus or Rage.

Oh, one of the neat things about having a level 84 Hunter is getting to solo old endgame content. I needed a bunch of Runecloth for my mage’s tailoring, so I tore through Blackrock Spire and picked up about 10 stacks of it. (Also Worgen and Spider companion pets.) It’s really amusing to watch big groups of mobs falling down dead within seconds. I also saw a Blizzard post about the Molten Core raid, so I jumped into that and ran through it until I died from not paying enough attention. Didn’t seem that tough to me. Don’t see why you Vanilla raiders had to make such a big deal about it. :)

Molten Core. What's the big deal?
Molten Core. What’s the big deal?

Ditching WildStar for WoW

I cancelled my WildStar subscription*. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that I don’t feel like playing it any more. My Esper has remained largely static between levels 20 and 30, with no noticeable improvements in abilities, so I fully anticipate it will just be a repetitive chore to get from 30 to 50, at which time I would enter the cesspool of toxic behavior that I keep hearing about. Don’t fret, though, I’m sure I’ll be back someday.

Meanwhile, I added a month of WoW subscription time, because it’s the perfect MMO for my current gaming mood. WoW is fantastic when you don’t want to do any thinking or work. You just log in, grab quests, kill stuff with ridiculously overpowered abilities, and watch your experience bar go up. All while catching up on your Netflix shows. Or after your brain is mushed up from Camp NaNoWriMo.

The heights of the Storm Peaks on my noob-tastic White Gryphon.
The heights of the Storm Peaks on my noob-tastic White Gryphon.

My Hunter has reached level 82 now, which means I finished up with the WotLK zones. Half of them, at least. And by “finished” of course I mean I only completed enough quests to get from level 70 to level 80. I have to say that I was very impressed by the Storm Peaks zone. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a snowy, mountainous zone that is extremely “vertical” in nature, so you spend just as much time flying up and down as you do laterally, and the scenary is very interesting with all the ancient ruins and clouds and lightning and whatnot.

But I alas I had to leave it. After an amusing boat ride (“oooh, shiny!”), I started out Cataclysm underwater in Vashj’ir, which was surprisingly not-awful. (I have a strong suspicion that I got a taste of what the Rift 3.0 underwater expansion will look like there.) But it wasn’t quite not-awful enough to keep me from taking a tip I got on Twitter and heading over to Mount Hyjal. If I remember correctly Cataclysm was only 5 levels of content, so unless writing slows me down more than I think, I should be hitting Pandaria zones next week.

* Barring something amazing in the WildStar Strain “please don’t leave!” patch.**

** Nothing amazing has yet been observed.

WoW – Yeah, You Read That Right

There’s WildStar to play, right? So of course I spent a big chunk of time over the weekend playing … wait for it … World of Warcraft. I have about ten days left on a subscription so I figured why not use it. I leveled my Hunter from level 72 to 75 with plain old PvE questing. It now seems quite plausible to level up to 90 before WoD comes out. Especially when it seems like everything you touch fills up 5% of your experience bar. In other words, leveling in the WotLK zones feels a lot faster than it was in the BC zones. (But then I’m making no attempt to finish all the quests I find now.)

This is how it usually is for me and WoW. One day I decide, “Hey I want to play some WoW,” so I subscribe for a month (or three months in the last case). I play for a week or so before realizing that WoW is a great game and all, but it’s also kind of a boring grind, and my attention goes elsewhere. Then I forget to unsubscribe from WoW for one or more billing cycles, until I finally remember to cancel the sub. Then as the sub is winding down and I’m about to lose access, I start playing it again because “why not use it.” Then I think, “I should subscribe again while I’m interested in playing.” And here we are.

So yeah, not only am I think about subscribing again (for a month this time!), but I’m also thinking about pre-ordering Warlords of Draenor. Because, you know, a free level 90 character is nothing to sneeze at. I would most likely use it on my Mage, who is 60.

In other news, I quested my Esper up to level 29 in WildStar. I’ve out-leveled my current place in Whitevale and right now I’m just doing Zone or World Story quests, or Scientist mission thingys. I stopped trying to PUG the Ruins of Kel Voreth, so I guess I’ll just never finish that one.

Mid-June MMO Status Report

Not much to talk about, so here’s a non-WildStar MMO status report!

ArcheAge. I’ve only logged in to pay the taxes on my measely 8×8 farm, and occasionally grow aspen trees. I don’t expect to play this any more until after it launches.

The Secret World. I have logged in every few days to grind through a mission or two in the City of the Sun God zone. I’m attempting to collect AP and SP so I can fill out my skills better, which will better prepare me to go back to the Besieged Farmlands and continue the main story quest, which will then eventually allow me to get to Tokyo perhaps sometime in 2018.

ESO. Subscription expired. I could see myself subscribing for another month sometime down the road, though, after they implement more changes.

FFXIV. Subscription expired. I’m almost positive I will re-subscribe sometime later, because they keep adding cool stuff to the game.

Rift. I saw that they were doing the Temporal Flux thingy or whatever again so I logged in to do the daily for that. Then I promptly forgot to log in any other days. I’m about 500 days behind on earning that currency anyway.

Guild Wars 2. Waiting along with everyone else for the Living Story Season 2. I don’t expect to do much but log in and watch the cut scenes, though. It’s kind of interesting to have an MMO where you "tune in" to see a new Living Story episode every couple of weeks like it’s a television show. I like that concept even if I don’t particularly want to play the game.

Age of Conan. I haven’t gone back since my brief foray a couple weeks ago. Now I play TSW to get my Funcom fix. (The menus in those two games are eerily similar.)

Bonus Report: World of Warcraft. I’m not planning to buy Warlords of Draenor, but for some weird reason I keep seeing people talk about it in my Twitter feed like it’s going to be the greatest thing ever, so I feel a lot of peer pressure to buy it anyway. :) It would be the very first WoW expansion I’ve bought and played when it launches, so it might be worth it just to have that cultural experience. I’m sure I’d have to buy my way to level 90 though. I’m sure it’s possible to grind my 60 Mage or 72 Hunter up to 90 by the time it comes out but that doesn’t sound terribly fun.

WildStar – PUG Attunements!

Yesterday I said that WildStar’s dungeons are too hard for PUGs, so today I’m going to solve that problem.

Okay, I don’t really know how to solve it.

But I have an idea: PUG Attunements! Or as I like to call it, "Stuff you have to do before you can queue in the dungeon finder."

In order for a PUG to even have a chance at success, you need each member of the group to know how to dodge and interrupt. You also need the tank to know how to maintain a little bit of threat, and you need the healer to know how to heal people who are running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

The WildStar Dungeon Preparation Simulation*, as I’ll call, would be a single-player instance that drills you on the skills you need in a dungeon. (I think this is something like The Gatekeeper in The Secret World, which I’ve never actually seen but only read about.) It would present a series of tests that the player must pass with a fairly high degree of accuracy before unlocking the ability to queue for dungeons. The tests should be tuned so that someone who is already "hardcore" enough can pass them on the first or second try.

The Dungeon Preparation Simulation has two main purposes: First, to train newer players in the skills they’ll need to do well in a dungeon. Second and just as important, to give players entering a PUG some confidence that whatever random group they get might actually be able to finish the dungeon.

To test dodging, I would make people run through some kind of obstacle course that throws out random telegraphs that you have to avoid. They would have to be fast enough that you could only avoid them by dodging, not simply running out of them. In order to pass, you’d have to avoid at least 90% of them. (And ideally they should be randomized enough that you can’t just memorize how to do it.)

Testing a player’s interrupt ability is a little harder because in dungeons you need two people to interrupt. But in a solo instance I might throw things at the player that they must see and interrupt quickly. Perhaps throw in some telegraphs that the player doesn’t need to interrupt so he has to decide whether to burn his 30-second cooldown or not. Perhaps have things they must interrupt while they are dodging telegraphs at the same time. Maybe that could be the final round of testing. First phase: Dodging. Second phase: Interrupting. Final phase: Dodging and interrupting.

If the player wants to tank, I would make them pass a tanking simulation. The instance might throw waves of mobs at the player and require him to grab aggro before they kill some innocent bystanders. Perhaps it might throw some extremely damaging telegraphs and force the player to pop defensive cooldowns to survive and pass the tests.

A similar situation could be created for testing healers. Put a bunch of friendly NPCs in a room taking damage while running around all over the place, and make the healer keep them alive for a period of five or ten minutes. It would have to be a long period of time to force the healer to manage his focus resource over long boss fights. The healer would also have to avoid pulling too much threat.

Now keep in mind, these tests would only need to be passed in order to queue for the random group finder tool. If you put together your own group, there’s no need for tests.

Well, it’s an idea, I’m not saying it’s a great one. But I do think it’s better than PUGs constantly disbanding after one wipe.

Of course now that I think about it, one could argue that the Level 20 Dungeons are Dungeon Preparation Simulators. Because I suspect a lot of people aren’t going to bother trying the Level 30 dungeons after getting creamed in the Level 20 dungeons.

* I swear I did not plan that to have the acronym DPS.

WildStar – Dungeons Are Too Hard… For PUGs

Quick status report: My mood improved a lot over the weekend, and I had a mostly-enjoyable time playing WildStar. As of this writing I have a 25 Esper, 15 Spellslinger, 15 Warrior, and 15 Engineer. I spent a fair amount of time leveling up three alts so I could experience adventures/dungeons with some other classes. (Getting from level 10 to 15 is pretty brutal the third and forth time.)

So dungeons. Man. Those two level 20 dungeons are serious PUG-killers. This is the first MMO where I’ve wondered why they bothered to include a LFG tool. Unless you’re a total masochist like I am, I would strongly advise you to join a guild to do dungeons in some kind of cohesive group. For reasons I’ll explain below, PUGs are going to be terrible or deserted.

I spent 2 hours and 38 minutes getting through Stormtalon’s Lair in a PUG. It was my third attempt at it, because the first and second attempts broke up even before getting to the first boss. But in this third PUG we got through the first boss on the first try without any casualties, so I thought we were on a roll. Unfortunately we proceeded to struggle through the entire rest of the dungeon on both trash and bosses (a massive understatement). In the end, we managed to beat the final boss with just myself and a Medic chipping away by ourselves after everyone else had died. I recorded a video of the whole run, but apparently it’s too big to edit down on my computer. I don’t think I got a single loot drop the whole time, but at least I got the achievement for completing the dungeon and now I feel like I know every encounter inside and out.

My fourth dungeon attempt was the Ruins of Kel Voreth, in which the other four players were members of a guild. We spent 25 minutes trying to kill the first boss, where each time I was the last one left standing, and then I left because I did not want to spend another two hours with them. Neither of the next two PUGs I joined could beat the first boss in Kel Voreth, either.

Here’s my theory on why PUGs are dying: Few other games have prepared anyone for the skills you need in the very first WildStar dungeons. Certainly anyone coming from a primarily WoW-based background is going to have to re-learn everything they knew. And WildStar itself does not train you enough–the first Adventure is nowhere near as demanding as the first Dungeon. Nowhere in the first Adventure do you need to interrupt or even dodge that much.

Also, you can watch a guide all day long, but it’s not the same as experiencing these dungeons first-hand. In the past, groups usually wipe because somebody wasn’t aware to do something, which you could resolve by watching a guide beforehand. But in WildStar it’s a lack of execution that kills PUGs, not a lack of knowledge, and that can only be fixed with practice.

I suspect that in three or six months when people get more used to the game we’ll have forgotten how hard the first dungeons were, but in the meantime let me see if I can give out some newbie DPS survival advice.

First: You are primarily responsible for your own safety. You cannot rely on the healer to protect you. The tank should keep you from taking direct auto-attack damage, but that’s about it. In practical terms what this means is that you must always think about dodging and moving above everything else, particularly if you are in melee range. Even if you don’t do a single point of DPS, if you can train yourself to dodge effectively, you are ahead of the game. I cannot stress this enough because if you miss a single telegraph, you’re going to be hurting or dead, and the group will suffer. (I suggest using a dash button instead of double-tapping movement keys–I have mine on a mouse thumb button.)

Second: Get an interrupt ability on your hot bar in a convenient place, and be ready to use it. Every class gets one quite early. Almost every boss in the first two dungeons has some telegraph ability that will wipe the group unless two or more people interrupt it, and I can only assume it will get worse in the later dungeons. Your interrupt will probably have a 30-second cooldown, so try not to waste it. Some things must be interrupted and some things don’t need to be. (It only takes two out of the five of you to do the interrupt correctly, but you might be surprised to know how many PUGs can’t manage it. Most people expect the DPS to do it, but anyone that’s paying attention can.)

Those two things are the most important things you need to know about the first dungeons. Dodging and multiple interrupts.

So are the dungeons too hard? I guess it depends on how you look at it. In one sense it was just right. I was never bored. I was engaged with every fight and had to make decisions crucial to the success of the group. I was never on auto-pilot like you get with most dungeon runs in other games. Likewise I was never frustrated because I couldn’t meet the challenges of the dungeon.

But. There are major social consequences to setting the difficulty bar high.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I expect to be rewarded for spending 2 1/2 hours persevering through hard times in a dungeon, and other than the intrinsic reward of feeling good about myself, I wasn’t. I got jack squat for that Stormtalon effort, and in fact I’m sure it cost more gold in repairs than I earned. Even if I’d gotten something, at level 20 it’s only going to last a few levels anyway. So the lesson that the average PUG player is going to learn is: If the going gets tough, leave the party and find a new one. Otherwise you’re going to waste your time and gold. Very soon the only people left in the queues will be newbies who haven’t seen the dungeons yet and experienced players who like to yell at newbies. Everyone else will only run dungeons with a group of people they’re comfortable with. In that sense, yes the dungeons are definitely too hard. It won’t take long before every group disbands after the first wipe. (Incidentally, that’s what happened in the FFXIV hard mode trial PUGs.)

So I guess my stance is that the first dungeons are just about right for static groups willing to put in the time and work together, but they are too hard for PUGs.

Are any guilds recruiting Exiles on Evindra? :)

Friday Blues

Today I’ve got the blues. It’s been a generally lousy week. I was going to skip posting today because I didn’t have anything queued up and in the broad spectrum of life, who really gives a crap whether one blog out of a billion misses a post. Instead I’m going to attempt to rid myself of this funk by writing a little bit, because it’s Friday morning and my workplace is dead as a doornail on Fridays so I have eight full hours to kill.

Last night I finally finished watching the HBO miniseries The Pacific, which is about the Pacific Theatre of WWII if you didn’t know. I had seen the first two or three episodes way back when it came out but never got around to seeing the rest. It’s excellent, horrifying, and really draining. The point is that it has interfered with my gaming time this week, so I have nothing particularly interesting to report from WildStar or any other game. My Esper has mostly been standing around AFK while I stare at my iPad. (I don’t have a television.)

I can relate to what Elysium from Gamers With Jobs is feeling right now. I’m a bit bummed that neither ESO nor WildStar have turned out to have much staying power (for me). I’m still playing WildStar but my heart hasn’t been in it this week. Maybe I’ll perk up next week.

Is anyone else even working on a AAA MMO after this? I guess EQ Next is the next big one, but I wouldn’t expect to see that before late 2015 at the rate they’re working on Landmark. What are we supposed to do until then? Play *gasp* single-player games? Anyway, I don’t have much faith in SOE when it comes to making games.

I jumped into The Secret World for a little while this week to see if I could see anything new since the Tokyo update. However after less than an hour of playing I remembered that my character is kind of stuck in the Besieged Farmlands and pathetically under-powered. If you think WildStar soloing is difficult, you should see TSW. It’s the undisputed king of hard MMOs as far as I’m concerned. Even when I go back to the previous desert zone I get messed up if I’m not careful. I feel like at this point I just need to grind and grind and grind on easier missions so I can get SP and AP. I’ve been spending my points all over the place rather than sticking with a specific path from the beginning, so I’m sure I don’t have as many skills as I should at this point in the game. It’s not a terribly attractive prospect.

So I think this weekend I’ll be regrouping a bit. If nothing else, I hope the accursed, soul-sucking rain will stop!

WildStar – Those Attunements Again

For some reason, the topic of WildStar raid attunements seems to be nearly as volatile as sexism in gaming, but hey, it’s something to write about, so here it is.

To summarize the story so far: Some elitist jerk guild made an infographic showing the 12 hardcore steps you need to complete before you can raid in WildStar, and various bloggers have commented on it, with viewpoints ranging anywhere from “That’s insane!” to “That’s awesome!”

Holy Hampster Wheel, Batman!

Oh wow, that raid attunment

In defense of attunements

All In On Wildstar Attunements: Legacy of the Burning Crusade

The WildStar Raid-Attunement Debate

WildStar Attunements

Previously, I gave a tentative endorsement to hardcore raiding, but I questioned the business logic of it.

As a concept, I don’t have a problem with an Attunement process. It’s not unreasonable to expect players to pass some tests before they can take on hard content in which a lot of other players will be depending on them. However there’s a point where that testing becomes excessive or redundant, and I personally think WildStar passed that point.

For example, why complete every veteran dungeon with a silver medal or higher? Once someone does one, they can surely do any of the others. One makes sense, the rest is just a grind.

Still, if I were going to do raiding, I wouldn’t hesitate to do all the steps. Most of those things I would be doing anyway (the adventures and dungeons, at least). I might be annoyed while doing some of them though. I see a few pointless steps in there right off the bat. For example, Step 2, “buying an attunement key.” How does “having a ton of money” in any way indicate that a player can handle dodging telegraphs in a raid?

Step 4, a faction grind. Again, pointless. I’m hoping that by the time you get to 50 most people will already have most of that faction rep, but I don’t know. Maybe you have to start at 50. That would be annoying.

Step 11, kill 10 world bosses. That also seems pointless. Obviously the world bosses are not going to be as difficult as 25-man or 40-man raid bosses, so how is that preparing you for raids? Completing the veteran dungeons would be far better practice.

I didn’t see anything in there about gear or ability level requirements, which to me seems like the most important thing. Maybe that’s so fundamental to a raider that it isn’t even worth mentioning.

Incidentally, FFXIV has something like this when you get to the endgame. There’s a sequence of quests you need to complete before you can get your Relic weapon, and a certain sequence of instances you have to go through before you can get into the harder instances. Sometimes it was annoying. Sometimes the steps were inane and had nothing to do with whether you had the skills to do the harder content. Sometimes they were just time-consuming fetch quests.

Anyway, as for the business logic of hardcore raids, a comment by Ragerz on that infographic post struck me:

I’m starting to understand now that they want to make raiding so tedious that not many people want to do it. Thus they can focus giving content to the non raiders.”

I don’t know if that person was being sarcastic or not, but that actually does make a certain amount of business sense. More sense than planning to drive away casuals and retain only raiders at least.