P&PPPoE

02/06/2011

I’ve taken to dabbling in MMOs a fair amount, and recently I convinced myself to try Dungeons & Dragons Online again. (Anyone that played DDO at launch as I did is likely at this moment crying “Don’t to it; it’s a traaaaaaap!!”) My memories of the game were a bit fuzzy, but I did recall quitting a game about D&D after a week, so it must have been pretty awful. However, DDO has moved to a free-to-play business model, and so I figured I’d give it another whirl.

What I found, to my extreme astonishment, was that the game was really good. The game is fun, innovative, and has some breathtaking visuals. The stories are classic D&D adventures, complete with a voice-acted GM that manages to walk the fine line between cheesy and nerd-epic. Even done in silly “ceiling voice” style snippets, the added atmosphere of having smell, feel, and even taste described add a great deal to the immersion.

The greatest thing about DDO is how different it is from the standard MMO model of questing. There’s no “Go here, kill X” quests. Monsters don’t even award XP. The game actually encourages you to find clever ways of avoiding combat. Stealth is a fantastic skill, not only letting you bypass monsters, but also set up ambushes, sneak up on sleeping guards (so you can crit for MASSIVE DAMAGE), or even kill sentries before they can sound an alarm.

The quest model is very different as well. Most of them are in their own dungeon, and while you may have to kill monsters to get to the end, that is rarely a goal. Disarming traps (hopefully before you walk into them), finding secret rooms, and solving puzzles will all be of much greater benefit than hacking your way through monsters. In fact, there are quests where killing monsters will actually cause you to fail. For one quest in particular, you need to sneak into a Kobold lair without being detected, steal an artifact from them, and sneak back out. In the course of this adventure, I discovered another fairly unique aspect to this MMO: things occasionally make sense. I kept getting detected, and then a Kobold would sound the alarm and I would fail. This was because I was operating under the assumption that monsters see you and aggro on you in a radial manner, and thus attempting to open doors and whatnot when they were far away. This proved incorrect: in DDO, monsters see you when they are looking at you.

In fact, operating under “standard” MMO practices is just about the worst thing you can do in DDO. In another dungeon, we encountered a lake of acid with some pipes sticking out of it. I played the jumping game for a bit, but then decided to just make a run for it, thinking “I’ll only be in there for a second, maybe two. How much damage can I really take.” The answer, as my very dead character would soon illustrate, was all of the damages. You jumped into a lake of acid you idiot. You don’t take 10 damage/second, you just die.

And then there’s the scope of it all. WoW’s storyline is really starting to wear thin for me. There’s a big bad guy, he’s going to unmake existence, and every aspect of your quest is in some way tied to him. DDO explores the idea that there might be multiple antagonists. And they may have different and sometimes conflicting goals, not all of which are to destroy the world. And they may range in evil from “kind of a dick” to “prefers his babies roasted”.

Furthermore, the scope is very preferable. I like my dragons giant and terrifying the defeat of which is a heroic undertaking no matter how many boars you’ve killed, not an entire page in my “Mounts” tab. Characters in DDO still feel heroic, a cut above the other people, but they’re still people. And the monsters hold their danger for a much longer time. The first few levels are not so much concerned with throwing a vast array of increasingly overwhelming monsters at you, but instead giving you more Kobolds to deal with. Maybe with a shaman in the back who will throw magic at you face but you can’t get to the asshole because there’s a mob of Kobolds in the way and monsters are actually solid objects. The point being, quantity and synergy are just as important as quality. Also dragons are motherfuckin’ terrifying.

Now, of course, I have to talk about the faults. The biggest one is balance. There is none. None at all. I would never recommend playing this if you want to raid, get leet epics, pwn n00bs, or anything like that. Races, classes, abilities, and even alignments are horribly unbalanced. Fire elements that are totally immune to fire, trolls that can only be killed with fire or acid, all the classic hard-counters are there. Heck, you miss out on a ton of loot and XP if you don’t have a rogue in the party.

Bugs are a close second. I’ve never had a session where nothing went wrong. Usually it’s a tooltip error or your character getting stuck in place, but sometimes it’s a Kobold shaman wall climbing out of reach and raining down acid on your head while you desperately search your inventory for a ranged weapon.

And of course it’s free-to-play, which means there’s tons of stuff to buy. I’ve been playing with a group of friends (which really is the only way to play in my opinion), and we’ve hardly noticed the purchasable content because there’s so much enjoyable stuff to do that you don’t have to pay for. It is there though, and if you’re the type of person that feels compelled to complete every quest in a zone, have the biggest bank space, or have the optimal character, this may be a problem for you.

Despite the above flaws, I still highly recommend the game. Anyone who appreciates role-playing, storyline, and adventure as much as phat lewtz and XP should fine this a very welcoming game. Even on the character optimization boards, there are dozens of posts by someone wanting to build a character a certain sub-optimal way because of RP. And you know what? They are never ridiculed. The same people that hotly debate between each other which feat gives a slightly larger fraction of a DPS increase will offer suggestions for the best way to make the character idea viable, even suggesting slight tweaks to the RP idea that would make the character much easier to play.

So yeah. If you’re looking for a new game, or just want to hang out with your internet buddies in a different setting, check out DDO.

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Quest Accepted.

01/08/2011

Self-deprecation is one of my favorite forms of humor. As you may have gathered, I am also a fairly big fan of all things nerdy. So when the two come together into some kind nerds-making-fun-of-nerd-culture-but-also-showcasing-why-it’s-fun-by-being-awesome … thing … I’m bound to enjoy it. Then of course I feel it need to share it with all of you. So. Some of you may have seen the old The Gamers video, and perhaps the sequel Dorkness Rising (If you haven’t, check them out; they’re great).

What you may have missed is the latest of these fantasy parodies: JourneyQuest. Like its predecessors, it is a humorious take on the classic swords and sorcery epic. The difference is in the quality. Instead of a fan-made video, which are enjoyable but have obvious limitations, JourneyQuest is attempting to be one of the first professional-quality shows without a producer. Even web series like The Guild are backed by corporate sponsors.

So, what should you do? Well, you should watch the show. If you like it, you should share it with your friends. Heck, if you don’t like it, share it with them anyway. Maybe they will. If you like it a lot, you should visit their website and consider helping finance Season 2. Then you should become hopelessly engrossed in behind the scenes footage, and other Dead Gentleman Productions works. Seriously, they only make awesome thing. Check it out!


The Wednesday WTF.

01/05/2011

Adds. Those guys that spawn during fights, that do stuff and things. Dealing with them (usually by stabbing them in the face) is not a polite suggestion, as many players seem to think it is. Even during Wrath, I think most players got that adds = kill, but the time frame in which they needed to be dealt with was much more lax. It was okay if you finished your rotation before swapping, finished eating that last bite of pizza before taunting, or ran in circles crying about healgro for a few seconds. It’s not okay anymore. When they exist in a Cataclysm fight, dealing with the adds is almost always crucial to success. Taking care of them, be it via stabbing, sheeping, or some other mechanic is neither optional, nor something you can do at your own pace.

Just going through heroic bosses: Commander Springvale, ignoring adds will wipe you. Drahga Shadowburner, ignoring adds will wipe you. Erudax, ignoring adds will wipe you. Lord Obsidius, Corla, Lockmaw… you get the idea. Even the easiest adds, which don’t have a wiping mechanic directly tied to them like Rom’ogg Bonecrusher or Baron Silverlaine need to be delt with. If left unchecked, they significantly increase damage intake, which in turn drains more mana from the healer which will, you guessed it: wipe you.

Most fights exist somewhere between these extremes, in that a couple of slip ups will probably be recoverable, but they have nasty effects that will push the fight outside the realm of doable if left to run rampant. Again, this is not to say that most players will ignore adds (though plenty do), but rather that they don’t have enough respect for them. Don’t finish that cast, don’t get that last strike in, don’t wait for them to spawn/come to you, don’t unnecessarily pull aggro on them, and most importantly don’t assume someone else will handle it. Whatever it is you’re doing, dealing with the adds is very likely more important. So… deal with them. You’ll win more and get yelled at less.


The Wednesday WTF.

12/30/2010

I was worried that I was going to run out of stupid things to talk about. Then Cataclysm came along, and now I have a list as long as my arm. This one… I don’t even. Corla, Herald of Twilight is just about as easy as fights get. Yet I have seen dozens of groups, dozens of non-PuG groups fail. So, here it is. My extremely in depth guide that is everything you need to master and defeat this encounter. I do it for you guys.

Congratulations, you are now an expert at this fight. Seriously, I can see maybe wiping once because everyone fell asleep at their keyboard, but beyond that, how?! Up next week: the elusive “W” key and how to locate it.


The Wednesday WTF.

12/16/2010

DKs are terrible. Seriously. According to one guy who is definitely not me’s totally not subjective experiences, DKs suck 10-15% more than any other class. You want more proof? Okay, take a look at this totally legit pie chart:

 

This clearly shows that DKs overwhelmingly do not know how to play. What are they doing wrong, you ask? Well, for the most part they face-rolled their way to 85 and still think they’re playing Wrath. Not in the “Oh, sorry, I mistargetted that sheep” kind of way, but the “That carefully CC’d mob isn’t in the AoE. I could be doing more DPS if there were more mobs to AoE. Let me Death Grip it over here and then tank is as a DPS” way.

Over the past week I have seen around a dozen DKs try this exact thing in heroics. I want to make this perfectly clear: nothing about that is okay. An irritation and easy way for your group to tell how bad you were in Wrath, this is now a potential group-wiping move, and most definitely more headache than the rest of you group, especially the poor healer that now has to try to keep you alive, needs.

The above I think is pretty obvious to all but the worst WoW players by this point. However, a surprising number of them still think similarly silly things are okay. It is very, very common for DPS to take incidental damage they could have avoided, not interrupt a cast they could, or refuse to run out of a potentially lethal zone for the sake of doing more DPS. Healers and tanks have their own problems, but I’m picking on DPS right now.

Even good players that I’ve grouped up with sometimes do this. Sometimes you really need to just stop DPSing and get to safety. Even if you’re not necessarily doing anything wrong, it’s entirely possible that your healer has his or her hands full just trying to keep the tank alive. Staying in is just going to result in your death, which prolongs the fight, making the situation worse. Run out. Bandage if you can. Wait for the healer to have a moment to toss a heal your way. Maybe self heal if you possess the ability. Being mindful of what’s going on in the rest of your party really can be the difference between life and death. Don’t worry, we’re not far off from being able to power through heroics without CC, but smart play never goes out of style. And right now, it is more important than ever.


Sunshine and Chakralate.

12/14/2010

No WTF last week because, you know, that Cataclysm thing. Instead, today I’d like to talk about what priest healing has been like over the past week. Maybe provide some tips for those of you considering leveling the best class ever.

The two biggest changes to healing in general are: mana becoming a seriously limiting resource, and the amount of healing your spells do relative to health pools. What the latter means is that damage can exceed your Heal throughput, while still not quickly killing anyone. In Wrath, if I happened to have occasion to unleash a GHeal, it would heal to full all but the most ridiculously geared tanks.  In Cata, that same heal won’t even be 50% of an under-geared DPS’s health bar. This forces you out of your efficient healing spells into much less efficient but greater HPS spells. However, because of the first issue, these hasten the arrival of the dreaded “OOM”.

Now that I’ve re-hashed what everyone’s been saying for the past six months, let’s try for something a bit more useful: what spells to use and when. I’m going to talk about Holy for this, and mostly ignore Disc. Not that Disc isn’t a fine spec (I in fact levelled as Disc), but it has significant performance issues in 5-man due to its very weak actual healing abilities. So I guess that’s the first tip: unless you really, really like Disc, spec Holy for now.

Alright, so you’ve selected the best spec of the best class. Congrats, you pretty much won the Internet! Holy’s got a lot of stuff going on though, and can be a bit overwhelming, especially coupled with learning healing in Cata. Below, I’m going to go through each of your relevant abilities, and briefly discuss their use (as applied to 5-mans).

  • Heal: your bread and butter, Heal should used as much as possible. Limitations on throughput will force you out of it, but you want to work to make use of this spell as much as possible. Train yourself to not worry about topping that DPS at 30% off, and instead toss a Heal their way every few seconds. It also activates and maintains a Chakra state, which is all the more reason to use it.
  • Greater Heal: despite its somewhat lower efficiency, this is your best spell to use for when Heal just isn’t going to cut it. Use primarily to keep up with damage on the tank, but it also works well for getting other players out of the danger zone in a somewhat timely fashion.
  • Flash Heal: this should be your least used single target. It comes with the same high mana cost as GHeal, but sacrifices healing done for speed, and speed is rarely a factor. The only real thing Flash has is that it is your highest HPS single target, so if you need to combat ludicrous amounts of damage without regard for mana, this is what you use.
  • Binding Heal: this spell is a bit of a surprise. It has a hefty mana cost like GHeal and Flash, but because of the double healing effect, it actually is just as efficient as Heal. Great for times when you want to top the tank off quickly, and also have damage on yourself. Beaten out only by Flash in single-target HPS, and if you’re also healing yourself, it’s the highest HPS you can get with a single (double?) target.
  • Renew: a good spell to start with, and once you hit 12.5% haste Renew gains a 5th tick of healing, bumping it up to your most efficient single target spell. Excellent for throwing on DPS to mitigate incidental damage, and with Chakra your tank should never be without this.
  • Power Word: Shield: this is easily your least efficient spell, and it won’t even heal someone. PW:S should be used very sparingly as a healing tool, usually to save someone with 3 HP from a DoT tic or the like. However, B&S makes this a powerful damage prevention/life saving tool if used prudently.
  • Prayer of Mending: a very efficient heal so long as it is allowed to bounce a few times. This is your best choice for AoE healing, and an excellent supplemental spell when you need to use other AoE healing spells.
  • Prayer of Healing: another surprising spell; assuming you have this glyphed (you should), this is a fairly efficient heal, and definitely what you want to rely on when faced with overwhelming AoE damage.
  • Divine Hymn: this has changed quite a bit from its Wrath incarnation. It is no longer the uber No-One-Near-Me-Is-Gonna-Die spell it was, but rather is your most efficient AoE spell. The lack of movement, proximity requirements, and low throughput on the tank make it tricky to pull of, but if you can manage it will be worth the effort.
  • Holy Nova: this doesn’t really have a niche in 5-man healing. It’s an AoE that can be cast on the move, but as one of your least efficient and least powerful spells, you’re better off using just about anything else.
  • Shadowfiend: this little guy is very unlikely to die now, benefits from your buffs, and does damage. With his fire-and-forget nature, this should be your first choice if you need mana.
  • Hymn of Hope: the long channel time and low mana returns make this uninspiring if you’re the only one that’s befitting from it. However, you can couple it with Shadowfiend to improve overall mana gain (remember Shadowfiend restores % based mana, and HoH increases your max mana).
  • Leap of Faith: simply the best spell in the game, you can use this to drag terrible DPS out of the fire, pull the tank far away from the boss so they have a few seconds of not taking damage, or just grief rogues. No matter what, the results are always spectacular.
  • Inner Will: movement speed is always good, and mana cost reduction is great for keeping you from going empty (you’ll be casting a fair amount of instants). This should be the “Inner” you have up most of the time.
  • Inner Fire: increased SP is quite helpful for doing heavy HPS, but you are unlikely to benefit from the armor. Use this only when you really need a throughput bump, and keep in mind that “Inner”s do not cost mana, so you can swap between them on the fly for maximum effectiveness.

So that’s all your general priest abilities. I figured I’d break up the list by sepreating the Holy-only abilities from the rest, to make this both less tedious to read, and to have a section devoted to the usually more complex spells of the spec itself.

  • Circle of Healing: sadly, less efficient and less powerful than PoH, the only real advantage this has is it’s instant-cast. Still way better than Nova.
  • Lightwell: ooooooh man Lightwell. Easily the most efficient heal in the game, more than double the efficiency of your next most efficient spell, and nearly ten times more efficient than most of your healing arsenal (sometimes it’s more than 10x). It’s got a 20 yard range, can be used even in the middle of a cast (without breaking it), doesn’t require a retarget, and doesn’t break unless the subject takes 30%+ max HP in a single hit. Use this every boss fight, it is simply amazing. Drill it into your DPS. Possibly by implying it is the only healing they will receive.
  • Desperate Prayer: instant, free heal on yourself. Hard to argue with.
  • Surge of Light: this is actually a fairly terrible ability. It procs infrequently, its proc is based on our worst stat, and it’s a proc. Which are inherently devalued for healers. It also saves you very little mana (~11 MP5 in the best cases), and is not a great boost in throughput when it’s up. Recommend skipping this talent.
  • Spirit of Redemption: no longer grants additional spirit, making this a pretty weak choice. For learning some fights it’s debatably useful, but for the most part a dead healer is a bad thing, and there isn’t much that will kill you unless you’ve screwed up. Recommend skipping this.
  • Guardian Spirit: still a very powerful spell, use it less now to prevent instagibs, and more as something to temporarily increase throughput on your target. Great for digging yourself out of a healing hole. Also, you can purposefully proc it on a tank for cheap and very large heal.
  • Chakra: this is the big one. For the most part you’re going to want Serenity, as there are few situations in which the AoE requirements are heavy enough to fully benefit from Sanctuary. Endless renew on a tank is crazy efficient, and you can even use it to keep renews ticking on DPS until they reach full. Also see the comparison of the two Holy Words, below. Keep in mind that you can maintain one state indefinitely via the refresh mechanics, and instantly swap to the other when needed. Either way, you should always be in some Chakra state, as it costs you nothing (not even a GCD), and provides significant benefit.
  • Holy Word: Serenity: remember when I said 5-tic renew was you most efficient single target? That was a lie. This is almost twice as efficient, and it significantly increases your crit chance on the target, making it an excellent way to respond to unexpected burst. This thing is like Holy Shock on crack. Not only is it easily your most efficient single target heal (really, this time), it also heals for significantly more than Heal, and can be used on the move. Simply put: use this on cooldown. It is nothing short of fantastic.
  • Holy Word: Sanctuary: this is a bit of an oddball. It’s a terribly inefficient spell, and has pretty poor HPS. However, for the time it takes to cast, it returns a enormous amount of healing. It’s rare you will find a time where massive AoE and the ability to have everyone group up and stand still align, but when you do this is a very powerful tool. Also, sparkles.

So there you have it. Everything you will ever need to know about Holy! Ever! Oh, maybe something on gear and spec? Stats are pretty easy: Int > Spi > Mastery > Haste > Crit. You want to hit that 12.5% haste marker though, so value it the same as mastery until you reach that point. Reforge out of Crit, and pick up higher iLevel gear with more Int, even if it lacks Spi as a secondary stat (you should then reforge the less desirable secondary into Spi). For a spec, I use this, but there’s a fair amount of wiggle room. I recommend picking what you like, running a few dungeons, and then reevaluating your decisions. And of course of you want a more informed decision, visit some forums, like this one.


The Wednesday WTF.

12/01/2010

Hey, we’re back everyone. Vacations, Internet failure, and general laziness kept the WTF from you, but no longer! I bring you a shiny new WTF, and cookies.

In right before the actual expansion, I wanted to talk about the gameplay changes between WotLK and Cata. There have been any number of posts, discussions, and rants ranging in quality from insightful and informative to nothing but QQ. Last week MMO-Champion featured a post about all the things WoW players are going to have to learn/relearn for Cataclysm. The post caught my eye not because it was exceptionally good (or bad), but rather because it was incredibly bland.

A well written and concise post, it nevertheless seemed that all the discussions on the upcoming changes over the past months were distilled in it, and the result was uninspiring mush. The post offered nothing new, and unless you’ve been away from WoW for the last three months, nothing you didn’t already know. The post itself is not the issue however. It’s a fine tool for a returning player, someone who’s lived under a rock for the past several months, or just something to point at when summarizing gameplay changes.

The problem is in the responses. Given a lack of criticizable content, the people on the internet picked the closest thing they could think of: talking about how WotLK (and the players thereof) sucked. Ignoring the fact that ~45 pages of posters are all sure they’re not the average WoW player, I have a couple problems with this attitude.

First, all of the things on this list good WoW players either A) were doing throughout the entirety of Wrath, or B) knew about but didn’t do because it was suboptimal. Maybe this is applicable to new WoW players, people with the memory of a goldfish, or just bad players, but once you rise even a little bit above the sea of mediocrity, you’re going to find that everyone already thought of all of this on their own, and is prepared for it. Not to discount the endless stupidity of people on the internet, but I think it’s safe to say anyone reading MMO-Champion already knows this shit.

Second, it continues the popular trend of slamming WotLK, and the play-style that resulted from it. Almost all of the “bad habits” of Wrath are a subjective response. So you don’t need CC in PvE? It still has a place in PvP. Who says a /focus /polymorph macro takes more skill than a perfectly executed AoE rotation? Heck, I liked the chain-pulling of Wrath. Maybe you didn’t get  a cool achievement or bonus loot for completing a 5-man in under 10 minutes, but it was a challenge just as valid as anything else presented.

Sure, Wrath had its faults. No one is going to argue that. The scope of the problems is just an opinion, and one I think is generally pretty disingenuous. If you hate the 3 button facerolls that Wrath turned most classes into, fine. That’s a valid opinion. But for every you, there’s someone else that saw the same situation as an opportunity to absolutely perfect their use of those three buttons. More buttons to press does not equate to more skill, just a different kind of skill, and no matter if they’re pressing 1 button or 20, a good player will always find a way to shine through.

Wrath was a fine expansion, arguably the best Blizzard has produced thus far (6 days…), and everyone bandwagoning on to the “Wrath playstyle sucked” wagon can go sample some penis. We had a good couple of years, Wrath of the Lich King, and I appreciate what you gave to the WoW community. /salute