October 2011


Time to have a look at how these talents might play out in PvP. I say might due to the fact that I’m expecting these to get nerfed or changed outright. The rogue talents in PvP look pretty sweet. Not as awesome as the warlock talents which are jaw dropping, but still, pretty sweet nonetheless. The first thing that presents itself, apart from the fact that there is no clear-cut spread to take, is that some talents lend themselves to certain situations. This coupled with the fact that talents can be changed out whenever you’re out of a battleground or a raid and you may find yourself playing the strategic talent game.

For example, take a look at the fourth tier choice, Burst of Speed, and tell me what you would be able to do with that in say, Warsong Gulch, (I refuse to believe that this talent will stay in its present form as it is so overpowered with no cool-down. Rogues would be almost unstoppable in several battlegrounds with this.)

And this is the inherent problem with attempting to chart for you a clear set of choices. The fact that these talents are so amendable to certain situations means that as a rogue, (as any player really), you are going to have to be able to think on your feet to get the job. Which at the end of the day, who would want to argue with that?

Anyway, lets have a look at the choices available in each tier from a PvP point of view.

Tier 1 level 15

Subterfuge seems like a favourite here, particularly in arena play. I especially like the fact that this includes when receiving damage and not just when dealing; handy for those situations when some pesky spellcaster throws out an AoE spell. Don’t discount Nightstalker though: in the Circle of Blood arena, this could be very handy to get into position quickly on top of the raised platform. As for Shadowfocus, if this is able to be combined with the later talent shadowdance then that would be extremely interesting. In short, Subterfuge seems like a clear winner, but the other choices will have their moments.

Tier 2 level 30

Combat Readiness seems the weak one here; nice but not when compared to the other choices. At least, that is, on the surface. Combine this with Cloak of Shadows and you could be effectively bomb proof for a short period of time. Deadly Throw will be handy against spellcasters who like to kite, but I really like Nerve Strike: Minus 50% damage for 6 seconds after my stun wears off you? Yes, please.

Tier 3 Level 45

The talents here are all about healing and survival, and for the first time I do see a clear choice: leeching poison. It’s one thing to have to press a button to heal yourself, as in improved recuperate. It’s another thing entirely to have your opponents heal you whenever you hit them. Kind of like adding insult to injury. Cheat Death is your standard get me out of jail free card. The problem with these is that you are still so vulnerable that unless there is a damn god healer backing you up you are most lightly toast. I prefer to be the master of my own domain. I think Recuperate is crap, so how they could improve it is beyond me.

Tier 4 level 60

Look at it now; every rogue can have shadowstep. At the cost of preparation, or the previously mentioned burst of speed. A very tough tier to make a decision on. This might come down to being situation dependant.

Tier 5 level 75

Deadly Brew gives you a third poison for free, and that third poison is the one that you must have for PvP. Powerful stuff. Dirty Tricks will be useful for rogues who aren’t able to keep up with what they’re actually doing in fast paced PvP. Paralytic poison I’m not sure on yet. It depends on what it shares its cooldowns with, could go either way.

Tier 6 level 90

Killing Spree is for PvP when your enemies are jam packed in with you, mostly battlegrounds. Setting off killing spree around a heavily defended flag in Arathi Basin can be cause for pure joy. However they’ve changed it up a bit if you look closely. Stun one enemy then turn and have a full 5 combo points to unleash on the player standing next to him? Me, I like. Vendetta has also been changed up, and if you combine it with Deadly Throw then lordy dee you will be trouble to deal with. Oh yeah, and there’s Shadow Dance as well. Fuck, I don’t know.

So there you have my take, would be interested to hear all of yours.

So I’ve spoken about the new talent system, and I hope that I’ve made myself clear about the whole Pandaren issue. What I’d like to talk about now is Pandaria itself. I’m actually excited about this new world opening up. Truth be told, we’ve done the Norse myth-type world to death. If you look back at previous expansions the worlds introduced haven’t been that exciting:

Burning Crusade – An alien world, awful in its desolation. Apart from Nagrand the whole thing was zone after zone where you did your best to get out of them.

Wrath – Ice and snow, some more ice and snow, snow and ice, and some pretty Norse legend country in Grizzly Hills and the Fjords. They also threw in Sholozar Basin due to the fact that it was all kind of depressing in an icy cold way.

Cataclysm – Remake the world, (while destroying player’s associations with said world.) Throw in a zone based on ancient Egypt and Indiana Jones, (worst zone ever?), and an undersea environment that you never ever wanted to go back to again and it was all pretty lame.

With the new expansion we literally head East to the Orient. This opens up so many possibilities for the world, not just in landscape but in architecture and culture. If you look at the screenshots released at Blizzcon it all looks vibrant, and it makes me want to explore. Finally we’re not having to all be “Hero’s” and go off and fight some big bad enemy that is threatening the world once again, ho hum. Because that sort of shit is easy; easy to write and easy to understand. No, now we’re getting a new world and we get to fight each other for it.

This combined with the fact that there will be no new area specific PVP zone such as Wintergrasp, and no flying mounts until level cap gives me real hope for this expansion. Could we see a return to the heady days of Tarren Mill faction slaughter on a vast scale? Put it this way, it’s more possible than in any expansion thus far. This is the first expansion that feels like we’re being treated as grown-ups, which is ironic considering all the hoo-ha about pandas. And before you go on about pet battles, Blizzard has to give something to the loony-tune social face-rolling brigade. I’m actually happy about pet battles as it will keep all that lot occupied.

I know that I have been quite scathing of Blizzard in the past, and I will be in the future when they stuff up again, (hard to see how they can beat Cataclysm though). But I am not so one-eyed that I cannot give credit where credit is due. They seem to be on the right track here, and I see hope for the future. Which is astounding as I never thought that I would be saying this. Here’s hoping that they manage to pull it off.

Hello, please come in and lie down on the couch.

“Thank you. I’m very grateful that you could see me at such short notice.”

I understand. When the ill winds of life are blowing us in all directions, one has need of a pole to anchor against the dark.

“…”

Anyway, what seems to be the problem?

“Just so you know, I play World of Warcraft.”

I see.

“I don’t just play, I live and breathe it. I read blogs about it. I’d write my own blog if I could but I’m just not that cool.”

The vagrancies of the universe.

“That’s what I thought. But I’m not here to be cured; I love WoW, I love MMO’s. No, the reason that I need your help, that I need you to listen to me, to unburden myself, is that they’ve announced a new expansion for WoW. And there are … there are …”

Yes?

“There are pandas goddamit!” [The sound of heaving sobs as someone cries into their Darth Vadar T-Shirt.]

Pandas? I see. That is serious, I presume?

“It’s a travesty! A devastation! It’s like an April Fools joke come to life! Next thing you know they’ll have the guitar hero as a new class. Where will it end? And why is it happening to me?”

Tissue?

“Yes, please. Thanks.”

You’re welcome. It just so happens that I am somewhat familiar with this game.

“You are? That’s wonderful. So can you help? What should I do? Tell me what I need to do!”

I presume that you’ve played WoW since its inception? Yes, I thought so. And you had no problem with gnomes with pink pigtails riding mechanical chickens in that time?

“No, they’re part of the WoW universe.”

Of course. And likewise, no issues with cows that can talk and like to smoke peace pipes?

“Warcraft universe again.”

Naturally. And goats that pilot flying saucers in space? Also part of the Warcraft universe?

“Introduced in Warcraft III if I remember correctly.”

You could be right. And Mr T, Paris Hilton, motorcycles, rockets, guns, tanks, armoured cars, aircraft, and submarines. These are also all fine?

“Of course. I don’t see your point.”

Oh, I’m getting there. I suppose also that talking walruses, goblins that have theme-parks and golf courses, and werewolves were also par for the course? Excuse the pun.

“They were okay.”

You didn’t mind trolls with Rasta accents either?

“Trolls are way-cool, man!”

And you’re well up to speed with Warcraft lore? I mean, you’d be one of the more knowledgeable players around, is that correct?

“Absolutely. Without a doubt.”

That’s nice. So you’d know that the Pandaren were intoduced back in Warcraft III then, wouldn’t you?

“Um … I don’t see what that has to do with anything …”

That will be $700 for the session. See my secretary on the way out. We’ll schedule another session for the following week. Have a nice day.

More chicks in WoW? Shit, what’s not to like?

This will be the first in a series of posts aimed at discussing the new announcements to WoW and its next expansion that have been announced at Blizzcon. The first thing that I want to talk about is the planned changes to the talent trees. To make it simple for me I’ll keep the discussion to rogues. In short, the talent trees are to be replaced with a series of choices that will be the same for all specs. So you can still choose to be a combat, assassination or subtlety rogue, but these builds will be all set in stone, the same for everyone. Your choices, which will be universal for all three specs, will begin at level 15 and continue every subsequent 15 levels. This is all still in development stage and subsequent to change.

Here is a link to the changes for rogues: Thanks MMO Champion.

I’m not going to examine all the choices here, that can come at a later time. I want to talk about the change itself. A lot of bloggers don’t like this at all. Eric over at Elder Game is particularly dismissive. Now normally I agree with Eric, he is certainly one of the bloggers in this field that I look up to. But I think that I’m going to surprise a few of my readers here:

I think that this is not only a good change, it’s a much needed change. In the last few months a lot of us have blogged about two topics: fun and choice. We have said that games need to remember that they are fun, (while arguing repeatedly on what the definition of fun is). We have also said that there needs to be choices in the game, and meaningful choice at that. Interesting choices is the generally agreed standard here.

The old talent tree system had choices, lots and lots of choices. But they were not fun to the average player. I realised this when I played Age of Conan for a short time. That game also has a talent tree system copied straight from WoW, but it was a source of endless headaches for me. Because I didn’t know anything about the different choices, and I was unable to locate good information about them. So even though I was choosing I was aware that I was most probably choosing badly, but there was nothing that I could do about it. I didn’t know what all these different talents really did, hell I didn’t even know the difference between the trees. It was not only not fun, it was somewhat stressful. And I suddenly understood how new players must feel with WoW.

Back to WoW and its old talent point system. A big argument against the new system is that players don’t get a choice every time they level up. But lets look at those existing choices. If I am to be totally honest, there is no real choice with each talent point that you gain. If you are a combat rogue then you have a cookie cutter spec, so put the point where the chart tells you to put it. That’s not a real choice. And for new players who don’t know enough to go searching online it’s a trap, as they will undoubtedly pick the wrong talent and be ridiculed. No matter how expert each of you are now, you know that you were a total noob when you started.

The other point is that many of the existing talents are filler to get somewhere else. A talent that just lets you do a flat 2% more damage is not an interesting choice. It’s something that you have to take. So if we all have to take it why not just make it standard or get rid of it? Well, that’s what they’ve done. You have 18 talents spread across 90 levels and they almost all look meaningful. They will be 6 interesting choices, and it will be fun. Balancing should also be a lot easier with this system, as will be the possibility of fixing mistakes once it has been launched.

So I’ll say it again, I think that this is a good thing, a needed thing. Am I going to play the next expansion? Well, more on that later. You know you can’t wait to hear me talk about Pandas now can you?

I dug up my old copy of CIV III the other day and managed to install it on Windows 7. After the beating that I have given CIV V recently, I wanted to go back and have a look at what had gone before to see whether or not I was being fair. I don’t recollect railing against CIV III when it came out, but mind you I didn’t have a blog at the time either.

I played three games through to modern times and can say without a shadow of a doubt that it was tragically awful in its awfulness. I just don’t remember it being this bad. The game amounts to a settler rush; make as many cities as you can. Spread out across the world like the plague itself. The only way to win is to mercilessly crush your enemies. If you yourself don’t make a bad ass army you can bet your Great Library that the Egyptians are going to come across your borders in a rush, armies stacked on top of each other 40 deep. Gee, isn’t it fun watching all of those enemy units move … and move … and shoot me now.

So it’s pretty much rubbish as far as games go. Yet here I am ranting and raving against the forces of darkness for ruining a great game. Is this what they ruined? It doesn’t seem so great to me now. I suppose all of those other gamers are equally incorrect as they rail against the forces of Blizzard for ruining their game. Surely WoW back in Vanilla or TBC has also been tainted by the curse of the rose coloured glasses. We should all simply bow our heads and realise that the problem is not the games, it is us.

Which would be a fallacy. The fact is that when CIV III was released it was a good game, for its time. It was a natural progression from CIV II, (although the point can certainly be argued that CIV II was the better of the games. This however is not the point of this post). It got some things right, it got some wrong. But it was a logical progression in the right direction. When hard core fans see that progression then they are content. Even if the game for them is flawed they will have patience and faith in the developer’s vision. That vision holds to their own. And in fact, CIV IV was a very good game that improved upon many of the weaknesses of its predecessors, with Beyond the Sword being the pinnacle of its development.

The great problem with CIV V is not just the game itself. It is that the hard core fans feel that the developers no longer share their vision. Perhaps the developers think that their hard core fans are not that important any more. When one looks at the numbers that games like Farmville dredged up in a very short time it can be easy to understand the attraction to change your game to appeal to a much broader market. Except that the large market has no loyalty. They are game consumers, not game lovers. Hard core CIV fans have followed the game for 20 years. Try even paying someone to do that. Make no mistake about it; nerds are loyal.

Loyal as long as the vision is shared and understood. It is not for previous incarnations of games that players look back at with rose coloured glasses. It is for a time when players and developers shared the same vision. Play around with that vision by attempting to appeal to and please every market group and all you will do is lose your loyal fans while creating a game that ultimately satisfies nobody. I don’t want to play CIV III again, as much as I don’t want to play TBC WoW. I just want to know that the game designers and I are on the same page.

It’s been a common cry throughout the years of WoW that rogues are the most under-represented class in the game. Usually we hovered around the 5% of the player base mark. I have no idea what that figure would be for rogues today. Probably lower if what I hear about the tough time that melee players are having in raids is true. Blizzard has periodically tried to amend this situation, and it seems that they are on a rogue kick once again. We have the new legendary items that are for rogues which are due out some time soon I assume. Personally I find this a tad bizarre, as rogues were the recipients of some awesome legendary items back in Burning Crusade, The Twin Blades of Azzinoth. Why give us more of the same now? Not to speak of the poor other classes who have never had a legendary.

There are other ways of course of making a class more attractive to the greater majority. Watching one of Nils’ latest video efforts I was struck by the fact that rogues now move at normal speed when in stealth. A classic “quality of life” improvement as noted on one of the comments.

But at the end of the day all of these efforts to make a certain class more popular miss the point entirely. It is precisely because of their small player base that makes classes such as the rogue so valuable and also important. Human beings are not all the same. Some of us want to be the popular person swinging their sword at the front of the party, the weight of responsibility resting on their shoulders. Some players instead enjoying helping others, gravitating towards roles that involve healing and providing buffs and advantages. Some like to stand back and hit their enemies from a distance. And a few like to skulk in the shadows, do their dirty work, and then disappear once again.

The fact that few players statistically speaking wish to play a rogue has no bearing on the overall player base. Because the rogue fills a need. It is a class that provides satisfaction to a few. It is the genius of the roleplaying system, (upon which WoW is ultimately based), that brings together a discordant bunch of players and lets them operate as a team, while still satisfying each person’s wish to play just the way that they want to play. Because this game, particularly at the top levels, should be about teamwork.

This has fallen apart due to the ever increasing move towards solo based play, particularly during the levelling process. And attempting to make rogues in this case more appealing to the greater population merely serves to lessen what the class was originally about. This in turn has the effect of making it less attractive to the type of gamer who originally played a rogue. Now rogues even have a self healing ability. Whereas in the past a rogue’s ideal levelling companion was a cleric, now we have no need to pair up with another player during the run to 85.

Great game designers work to create interesting encounters where different classes have a chance to shine, to bring their unique talents to the table. Now it seems that the only real talent needed is the ability to dance around a room in a pre-determined and memorized pattern. Which means that it doesn’t really matter which classes turn up. By reaching this point, the game has lost sight of what originally made it so great.

Even though I’m not posting much of late due to not playing anything of note, my blog still gets quite a few daily hits from people trolling the nethersphere. One of my most popular posts is my post from January on why I think that SWTOR could suck big fat donkey balls. Apparently quite a few people are searching on google under “Star Wars MMO sucks” and other similar combinations. And then they come to me! Yippee! (Always try and have your post title search-worthy).

In that post from way back in January I spoke about the fact that it may not be a good idea to copy an MMO, (WoW), that isn’t working any more. Otherwise you’re just going to get WoW in Space. Well, it looks as if I was right. This is one hell of a first impression of the game from a game journalist. In it he sums up with the view that the only elements of worth in the game appear to be the cut scenes and the voice acting, elements which are more suited to watching a movie than playing a game.

It’s very interesting watching the SWTOR juggernaut lurch its way towards the end of year launch date. It’s almost like watching the Titanic pull away from the docks but you know it’s going to sink. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on what is looking ever more likely to go tits up in spectacular fashion. If it’s possible to make money on stock going down now would be the time to get into Bioware. In the end this will be good for the industry. Instead of thinking that you can simply copy an existing game, (oh sorry, they have voice acting, it is sooooo different), set it in a different world, throw a huge amount of money at it and guarantee success, perhaps gaming companies will invest a little more time and effort into making really good original games.

At the end of the day you cannot compare MMO games to movies, albums, or even single player games. An MMO game is not something to just be consumed and then discarded without thought. It is something that you invest a portion of your life in. Hopefully in the future the investment will be worth the return.

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