Tuesday 28 December 2010

WoW: why I love pugging

If obstinacy is the incest-made cousin of stupidity I participated in a cracker.

It was normal Deadmines and I was boldly tanking with my level 17 Paladin. With such high stakes, drama would seem inevitable and it duly ensued.

We killed the first boss and he dropped a shield with Strength and Stamina on. I rolled Need and so did one of the dps, a Warrior. I won but pedant that I am I voiced the opinion that dps should not Need on tank loot. No reply.

Onwards boldly onwards we trod, vanquishing the second boss with me casually checking the vote kick timer as we went and one of our dps heading off to pastures new when he won the resultant staff. The Foereaper 5000 having been so expertly despatched I initiated a vote kick for "Ninjaing tank loot" (Unusually direct for me I usually get people kicked for "molesting gerbils" or "playing one-handed"). It failed so I waited a moment and tried again, this time suggesting that he had been cruel to parrots. It failed again.

A party member pointed out that the offending Warrior was his nephew. I valiantly stood my ground explaining that it was poor form to queue as a dps, play as dps and need on tank loot. I realise this is a debatable point but debatable points are there to be debated and this was my way of debating it. I consider myself a master debator and have in fact been called something very similar to "master debator" on a number of occasions.

Adamant as they were that little Yakaz, bless his cotton hooves, was not to be kicked I suggested they kick me instead then. They indignantly told me to leave rather than make any such concession, for some people the delicate art of negotiation is a foreign and strange art. It was suggested that people like me are ruining WoW. I refuted this, saying that ordinarily I am a pleasure to play with and that I was merely responding to an attempt to ninja tank loot.

They pressed on with 3 people after I had Declined to recruit a replacement dps for the person who left. They defiantly bragged that Yakaz could tank, they didn't need me.

They died. Repeatedly. Amusingly the Priest admitted to not having learned the Ress spell yet. In the spirit of making them aware of what might have been I pointed out that I had learned my Ress spell. Smugly.

They then proceeded to entertain me by wiping or partially wiping on every trash pack. In the course of this they generated two greens which I was able to Need unopposed, while crowing about my new acquisition each time.

Becoming frustrated the uncle attempted dialogue again. He asked why I hadn't left yet. I replied I'm having enormous fun and I'm getting free greens while playing Eve on the other computer. Why would I leave? He replied that he's having the most fun he has had all day. I suggested that I might contribute such an entertaining and amusing incident to the annals of the Something Awful forums. Not to be out-done he declared an intention to lambast me on the WoW EU forums. Good stuff, see what fun these little spats can be everyone?

They wiped another couple of times and alas I fear, the sense of fun may have withered on the vine. He rather testily told me I was a child, acting like this because of an 11 year old needing on lowbie stuff. I forbore to say something snippy about the irony of using the word "child" as an insult while playing with his 11 year old nephew and instead replied:
"It's actually mature to teach children the correct way to behave towards other people."
"which I guess you haven't realised yet."
Him: "u r so lame"
Me: "I'm awesome."
Me: "Really."
Me: "You said yourself it's the most fun you've had all day."

At this point he called me a noob and him and his nephew left. With just me and the healer remaining I asked if he wanted to finish and I promised to play properly. We got 3 random dps - or wait, perhaps not so random. Although the uncle had been kept away by the karmic gods of battlenet the nephew was one of our dps.

We finished the run flawlessly and Ripsnarl dropped a blue one hander. I Needed and the nephew, a prot warrior, rolled last. I awaited his roll with some interest it truly would have been poetic had he Needed and won. Instead he actually passed and I got it which I thought showed considerable class and I hope in my small way I contributed to that exemplary behaviour. The Karmic forces of Bnet had not finished toying with us however because then we killed Cookie, he dropped a one hander for which I passed and my new protege Needed and won.

In the words of the immortal George Formby: it's turned out nice again int it?

Saturday 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Eve: Another contest for the artists

Heads up all you creative types for another Eve art contest. This time they want you to design a T-Shirt.

With $750 cash as first prize if you're talented enough to be in the running it's worth a shot. Closes Christmas Eve, best of luck.

I must say I really like this pattern of harnessing community talent. I hope they have a contest for writers soon though. I can't paint for toffee.

Monday 20 December 2010

WoW: Drawn back in...

Somewhat to my surprise (but possibly not to anyone else's) I find myself playing WoW again. I really thought I was finished with this game.

Part of the reason was getting a bit bored with other options. Eve I will love for years but much of what I do in Eve is about setting things in motion then logging off. EQ2 palled after I levelled out of the populated levels. I like EQ2 and I believe it beats WoW on many points (housing, assist mechanics, mentoring) and of course it's fresh to me where WoW was somewhat stale. But level 60 is a horrible place to be. You're a long way past the busy 20s-30s where dungeon groups pop all the time and you feel a long way from the populated level 90 end game. I'll wander back at some point. In fact I've periodically left then returned to EQ2 over the last 6 years even when I had to sub, I'll certainly be back now my characters are sitting there free.

So, what drew me back to WoW? Partly it was the blogs I read and the podcasts I listen to. There's a lot of buzz and Cataclysm has gone down very well with most people. They've done a good job. The blog that broke the camel's back was Stylish Corpse where Ysharros admitted that having decided to not play WoW she'd succumbed so I thought if she can, so can I.

My old account is foobar. I've forgotten what email address I used 6 years ago when I made the account. It's also almost certainly been hacked. To get my account back I would have to undergo a probably arduous recovery progress which would involve sending them photocopies of my ID and so on which I really don't want to do. I am very uncomfortable with the whole RealId direction anyway and despite my incessant cheapskating (or perhaps because of it) I'm actually not short of money to waste on games so I just decided to make a new account with less personal information, a more anonymous version of my name and a throwaway email. In the long term I don't want to be locked out of functionality for privacy concerns. Of course it does mean Blizzard directly profited from me out of its evil scheme with Facebook to monetise our personal information which is a tad annoying. I predict we're moving into an era where everyone online is called John Smith online. If that seems unduly paranoid bear in mind that after our recent student riots hear in the UK the police chief hinted darkly at long term damage to demonstrators' future careers. Big Brother is watching anyway, no need to hand him the keys.

So I made a trial account and started a troll. The 1-5 starter area is new and beautifully done. They've done a really nice job with the new lowbie zones (troll and gnome), so much so that the old zones (eg Tauren, Orc and NElf) seem very bland to someone who's already played them.

And that seems to be the essential problem for questing in Cataclysm from the viewpoint of a veteran. The new stuff is great but there are large chunks of the old and it doesn't compare well. To be fair they've pruned heavily but after playing the wonderful riding shotgun quest to get to the Crossroads it's a bit of a let down to get the 4 zevra hooves, 5 fungal spores, and swim to the bottom of the Forgotten Pools gunk that I've done a thousand times. If only those Pools really were forgotten.

A big change is in the availability of options to the questing though. I'm loving LFD pugs. Maybe I'll burn out but after a long break from WoW I'm finding both good groups and bad groups tremendous fun. Most groups have been good but I've met some spectacularly awful players. I tanked a RFC run where a druid in bear form with ress sickness kept using Growl to take aggro off me. Warriors are needing on cloth, hunters are ninjaing maces it's hilarious. My personal favourite was a SFK run I healed. The dps zerged in before the tank was ready so being a careful and aggro averse healer I kept the tank full while not healing the dps. (Otherwise it's easy to out-threat a dps and get attacked for spamming heals). One dps warrior took great offence to not being healed. Both me and the tank simply stopped healing him or ressing him and continued the run. It was a wierd parallel game of 4 of us doing the instance slickly and professionally with barely a hitch while every 5 minutes or so Rudeboy would catch us up, dps for a couple of pulls, rip aggro and die then start running again. He must have died and corpse ran back to us about 8 times (and of course ended the instance dead on the floor). It was delightful to feel I was educating a new player in why you don't swear at healers in caps the moment you meet them.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Eve: Don't forget to stop learning Learning skills

Patchday is today and many of us have been preparing for the patch by learning Learning skills. Don't forget to change your queue this morning to something that isn't a learning skill before the patch hits. Otherwise you'll be learning nothing until you manage to log on past the post-patch server blips because you can't learn a skill that doesn't any longer exist!

Friday 3 December 2010

Eve: Design a starship contest

A quick heads up for everyone that Eve is running a Design a Starship Contest. Prizes are pretty good - as well as a bag of swag which includes an ipad you get $900 for first place, $750 for second place, and $500 for third place.

Perhaps even nicer the winner's ship will become part of Eve. Considering the recent ship designs have been of really high quality - the Noctis/Primae, the beautiful Scorpion reskin - it means you will be in illustrious company if your design is chosen.

Personally I won't take part, my art skills are terrible. Well I might because every entry brings a gift from CCP but it will be a terrible entry.

But I really applaud this move - it's good for the fans, it's good for the sponsor (Deviantart.com) and it's good for CCP. It's good for the fans because it's interesting rewarding and exciting. Even non-participants like me will watch the contest with interest and cheer on any of my friends who take part. It's good for the sponsor because it's very high visibility marketing for a relatively cheap cost. The prizes are generous but I don't think they will cost even a small fraction of a Mr T ad while being every bit as memorable and considerably less dorky. (Yes, I did call Mr T dorky. This is probably related to the fact he doesn't know where I live). And it's good for CCP because the fans' excitement will spill over into the corporate culture and it's nice to have something to talk about that is positive. Plus it will keep the staff artists sharp, I'm sure there will be some fabulously high quality entries.

Eve being Eve I'm just waiting for someone to start scamming - I wonder how many newbies will buy a "shortlisted ship design" for iskies in Jita.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Eve: Incursion

A new Eve patch rolled out yesterday with a number of interesting developments.

The Noctis

There's a new salvage ship called the Noctis. Production of this rather superb if niche vessel is up to the players.

The first stage of the process was the procurement of blueprints. Fittingly for a ship made by Outer Rim Exploration (ORE) the blueprints spawn deep in nullsec. So a race occurred where players rushed to buy the BPO, fly it through nullsec and sell it for a fat profit in high security space.

Next was a matter of churning out the new ships to an impatient waiting market yesterday. At first the prices were insane with buy orders for hundreds of millions of isk. Those may have been manipulations (someone puts a stupidly high order up for a short while at the beginning then takes it down before there's any danger of someone actually selling him a ship). Then prices settled to about 140 million isk and have been steadily dropping since. They are now down to 56 million isk. (For reference my industrialist with PE 3, ie not very good skills, can make one for 49 million isk worth of mats). These are Jita prices, some people may have had better results in more obscure locations.

I got involved in the excitement but frankly I'd have done better to run missions in terms of money made. I bought a BPO for 600m isk, made half a dozen ships which I was able to sell at inflated prices but I hadn't prepared. I should have had the minerals at an industrial facility ready to roll. Instead I spent most of my play time yesterday buying and hauling minerals when I really ought to have been ready to milk the inflated prices by producing immediately. Still, we live and learn and I enjoyed it. I'll also get to fly a ship I made which is cool.

As for the ship itself it is likely to have several interesting effects on the game.

First it changes the balance between blitzing and looting. There is a point in a mission runners life when it becomes better to chain missions and get them done super fast rather than methodically loot and salvage everything you kill. This is known as blitzing.

As you progress as a mission runner you get quicker at beating missions but you don't get much quicker at looting. This means that at some point between being a newbie who takes 2 hours to beat a mission and a pro who beats them in about 10 minutes it stops being worth spending 10 minutes looting for about 10 million isk worth of loot.

The introduction of a ship that's super efficient at salvaging means it's now much better to loot rather than blitz. Those 10 minutes have become 3 minutes. For all but the most elite it will make sense to loot, even though the sudden glut of salvage from all the people doing this will depress the market.

Another interesting aspect is the murky profession of ninja salvaging. Up till now it's been possible for a bold ninja salvager to cherry pick people's wrecks, even if there's a friendly salvager on grid because they use fast ships. The Noctis has about 56 km range on its tractor beams and faster salvage cycle so it's very likely to beat the traditional fast frigate used by ninjas. In other words a battleship + noctis team can operate without worrying too much about a ninja on grid, the Noctis will collect loot so fast the ninja will get very little. The ninjas may resort to using Noctis themselves but that would lose them the advantages of their nippy little frigates which are very good at provoking, then escaping.

Learning skills

CCP are finally getting rid of the much reviled learning skills. I suspect the release of Perpetuum, a game that copied 90% of Eve but omitted this horrible mechanic, may have influenced their decision.

For the time being it's a good idea to switch to a learning skill if you possibly can. This is because you can learn at a very fast rate if you're optimised for the learning skill and then re-assign those points into something you would learn slowly.

For example one of my characters is mapped for PER/WIL. I've got him learning Clarity 5, a PER/WIL skill. He won't actually finish learning the skill, I'm just doing it to rack up points to re-assign. When the learning skill is removed I'll dump these points in something he won't learn optimally. As he's PER/WIL and will go INT/MEM next remap some CHA based skills would be a good place to spend my points. So I'm getting 2475 skill points per hour learning Clarity which I will spend on Social skills. If I learned the Social skills now I'd get 1650 skill points per hour.

For reference Learning skills are based on the following stats:

Learning, Eidetic Memory and all low level learning skills - MEM/INT
Logic - INT/MEM
Clarity - PER/WIL
Focus - WIL/CHA
Presence - CHA/PER