Friday, November 29, 2013

Wildstar's Interrupt Armor

Yesterday, Syl tweeted about a video demonstrating some of Wildstar's combat mechanics:


The second mechanic discussed is intriguing. Some bosses have "Interrupt Armor". Essentially, if you want to stun the boss, you have to first reduce the interrupt armor. Each stun you apply reduces the interrupt armor by one, and the armor regenerates after several seconds. So if the boss has interrupt armor of 2, you need to use 3 stuns to get through the armor and actually stun her.

This is the inverse of most systems used to keep Crowd Control in check. TOR has resolve. WoW and FFXIV use diminishing returns. In these systems, the first CC used has full effect. Subsequent CCs have shorter and shorter durations, until they cease to work at all.

In the interrupt armor system, the first CC has no effect. In the diminishing return system, the first CC has full effect.  The defender has more of an advantage in interrupt armor, while the attackers need to coordinate their attacks. The defender can take action to escape the battle and hide, allowing her time for her interrupt armor to regenerate.

I think that interrupt armor might be a better system for handling CC than diminishing returns. It makes CC rarer and require more work. But it still allows CC to be used.

As well, it offers more "knobs" to make abilities more unique. For example, you could imagine a long-cooldown stun being able to remove 2 stacks of interrupt armor instead of just one.

Interrupt armor is a very interesting solution to the problem of chaining crowd control on a target.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Legendary!

I finally got my legendary cloak, [Jina-Kang, Kindness of Chi-Ji]. I really liked the last quest, where Wrathion and Lorewalker Cho told the story of your adventures in Pandaria. It was a really elegant way of underlining Wrathion's philosophies.

I also like the way the last few people to get the Legendary are shown outside the room:


That was a very nice touch.

I have seen some grumblings about how this Legendary is too accessible, a "Legendary for casuals", if you will. I think that sometimes the hardcore forget that skill is not the only virtue. Dedication and perseverance are virtues too, and worth rewarding.

I should mention that this is my first Legendary. I was always the wrong spec or too far down the depth chart for the others. We actually gave 2 Val'anyrs to people who left the guild before ICC. So I may be biased towards a model that actually allowed me to get one.

I think this model for the Legendary is a very good one. It keeps it within reach of every demographic. You only get the legendary in the last patch, mitigating power concerns. The questline is long and involved, and very satisfying. I like how you had to do a bit of everything, even PvP. I know a lot of people didn't like the PvP part, but I thought it added to the scope of the challenge, making it more worthy of being a Legendary.

I hope a similar model is used in Warlords of Draenor.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ever, Jane Kickstarter

I like Regency novels, so I was intrigued when I saw the Kickstarter for Ever, Jane. This is the first Kickstarter that I have contributed to. They are aiming to build an MMO based around Jane Austen's novels, with a specific focus on social interaction and manners.

They have a demo, which is pretty rough around the edges, but is still interesting.

Honestly, I am not too sure how successful this project will be. However, I think the MMO world does need some work on non-combat systems.

Combat systems are very well developed these days, with lots of variations, types and experimentation. Of course, there are many good reasons this is so. But non-combat systems are much less advanced. There has been some interesting developments in crafting and economic systems. Still, these systems, and even social systems tend to be far more rudimentary than the combat systems in most games.

My hope is that a game like Ever, Jane, with strong connections to the source material, might come up with a good, interesting social mechanic. Something the larger games will find worth stealing.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Warlords of Draenor: Featured Heroes

Scene: A meeting between Rob Pardo, Chris Metzen, Dave Kosak, and an unnamed junior developer who happened to be walking down the corridor outside.

Pardo: Hey guys, thanks for coming. Marketing wants to feature 10 existing characters that will be playing a role in the new expansion. You know, to get the players excited about seeing old faces.

Kosak: Well, the seven orc warlords, of course. Everyone loved them in the RTS games, and they're the focus of the expansion.

Metzen: How about some of the strong orcish women? Garona and Draka? Dave, I know your team has done a great job with their characterization.

Kosak: Great idea! Maybe Ogrim Doomhammer or Rexxar for the last spot?

Junior Dev: What about the Alliance?

Pardo: ... Alliance?

Junior Dev: Yeah, the other faction. Shouldn't we feature some of their heroes too?

Crickets.

Metzen: Well, I guess if we have to. What Alliance heroes are there?

Kosak: Maybe one of the Draenei, they do have a minor role in the story. The leader, what's-his-name, Velen!

Metzen: Man, I love Velen. It was so awesome when he went back in time to create Minbari society and founded the Rangers.

Junior Dev: Uh, that's Valen from Babylon 5.

Metzen: Oh. Then who's Velen?

Kosak: He's like an ancient priest and prophet.

Pardo: Sounds boring. But I guess we'll throw him in. Now for two more Alliance heroes.

Metzen: What about the King? The dude with the Chin?

Pardo: Marketing has asked us to back off Varian. He has his new book, Soul of the Wolf, coming out, and they don't want to over-expose him.

Kosak: Oh, yeah. That's the book where Varian teaches Taran Zhu how to control his emotions, defeats Lei Shien in single combat, then leads the Alliance attack on Ogrimmar and personally subdues Garrosh.

Metzen: I'll never understand the cries of Horde favoritism. Look at all the crazy things Varian does.

Pardo: In any case, what about the son, Prince Goody-Two--I mean, Anduin?

Kosak: Yeah, Anduin is in the expansion. He has that long chain where he meets Corki and the two of them get captured by the ogres over and over, while the player continues to rescue them.

Metzen slams the table.

Metzen: OH MY GOD! I've just had the most AMAZING idea!

Pardo: Oh?

Metzen: What if Garrosh kidnaps Thrall's baby son before he goes back in time? The boy is raised as a Hellscream, and is a teenager when the players reach Draenor!

Kosak: Brilliant!

Junior Dev: Wasn't this a plot line on Angel?

Metzen: It's got drama, pathos! The kid is a savage prince for a a savage land! How will Thrall react? The rest of the Horde? The father-son dynamic will be incredible!

Kosak: Amazing idea! I'll start dropping bread crumbs in the current content, and we can go full bore in Patch 6.2.

Metzen: Yeah, we can even set the kid up as the future Warchief. Garrosh done right!

Junior Dev: What about Vol'jin?

Metzen: Why would a troll be in charge of orcs? It doesn't make a lot of sense. We'll just have Vol'jin be corrupted by an Old God or something.

Kosak: Yes! That way we can have a troll dungeon in 6.3. Zul'Durotar!

Pardo: Great idea, Chris. You've still got it! But we have to go back to the featured heroes. We have Velen. We need two more. Ideas?

Kosak: Let's back off Anduin, we used him heavily in Pandaria.

Metzen: What about Khadgar? Lots of stuff with portals in this expansion.

Pardo. Sounds good. Khadgar is our second Alliance hero. Now for the third?

Crickets.

Kosak: Maybe we should look up the other Draenei on Wowpedia?

Metzen: Man, where's Red Shirt Guy when you need him?

Junior dev brings up Wowpedia, and they look at the list of existing Draenei characters.

Metzen: I don't remember any of these people.

Kosak: Just pick one at random, and I'll make sure he's in a quest.

Junior Dev: Okay, how about this Maraad guy? He's still alive.

Pardo: Great! Maraad it is then. I'll send this list to Marketing. Thanks for attending, everyone.

Metzen: I still think we should have featured Garona or Draka. We did a really good job with them.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hard Mode Corrupter Zero Strategy

Corrupter Zero is the fourth boss in Dread Fortress, the first of the new Oricon raids in The Old Republic. On Hard Mode, it's a bit of a blocker. My group beat it for the first time last week after a few weeks of wiping. Our strategy is a bit different than the standard strategy, so I thought I'd post about it. I contributed a fair bit to the design of this strategy, and I'm rather proud of it.

The standard strategy and boss abilities can be found at Dulfy. This is for the 8-man version.

Rationale:

The key to this fight is handling Concussion Mine. Concussion Mine is a debuff the boss puts on a random player. The debuff starts stacking every second and doing a short-range damage pulse every second as well. As stacks increase, the damage from the pulse increases. The debuff goes away when a pulse hits the boss.

Basically, your raid and tanks cannot afford to take the third or higher pulse of damage. It just stresses healing and everything goes badly from that point on. Ideally, the very first pulse (the lowest damage one) is the pulse which hits the boss. This strategy is focused around the idea of eliminating Concussion Mine as a mechanic you need to think about. Ideally, you should not need to watch your debuff bar for Concussion Mine at all.

Basic Strategy:

1. Tank the boss in the center of the room. Everyone stacks in melee range of the boss. You can also have everyone stack in the center and the boss be tanked just off the center. You don't need to worry about facing the boss away.

2. Tank swap on Heavy Slash. Heavy Slash knocks the current tank away, so if the second tank taunts while it is casting, the boss should stand still. Tanking on Heavy Slash also keeps the tank debuff stacks low.

This positioning eliminates Concussion Mine as a mechanic. Concussion Mine goes out, the first pulse is guaranteed to hit the boss, and the debuff drops off right away. As well, being in the center of the room means that the ranged can reach all the adds without moving.

3. Burst the Elite add first. When the adds spawn, drop large AoE so the ranged gets aggro over the healers, and then burst the elite add first, interrupting his ability. Your ranged should not have to move.

We are ranged-heavy, so I am not precisely sure how melee should play this. You could leave one melee on the boss. If the melee is on adds, they should save their speed boost or leap for Concussion Mine (run out to the adds at normal speed). Then they should jump back to the boss as soon as it starts casting, rather than waiting to see if they get the debuff.

We do have one tank go out to the adds and aoe taunt to get a little bit of aggro before he comes back to the boss.

4. Run out of Anti-Gravity Field. If you see a red circle, run out of it. Run back in as soon as the cast is finished. This ability is on a strict timer, which makes it predictable. The first anti-gravity field will occur 1 minute into the fight, when the boss changes from ranged to melee. The second anti-gravity will come 30 seconds later (at the 1:30 min mark).  Then there are no anti-gravity fields until the next range to melee change at 3 minutes, then at 3:30.

That's the general pattern, once when he changes from ranged to melee, and then 30 seconds later. There will be a concussion mine right before the change, so wait for the mine before running out.

5. Avoid the really big laser at the end. Run to a corner, see where he lands (use the mini-map) and then run to the channel where he isn't. Then switch channels as soon as the laser finishes. Try to kill the adds if you can, but avoiding the laser is key. Once the lasers are done, you can mop up and finish the fight.

Final Notes:

Note that this strategy does mean that the raid takes extra AoE damage from the various other mechanics like the Missile Barrage or Massive Slam. Your raid should use defensive cooldowns as appropriate, especially during Missile Barrage. However, your healers should be able to heal through this. In exchange for taking this damage, you minimize damage from Concussion Mine. What we found was that extra ticks of Concussion Mine was what led to wipes.

I think someone in my guild took a video of our kill. If so, I'll link it when he uploads it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Warlords of Draenor: Leveling

The big news in leveling is that WoD will give every account one free level 90 (I gather you can boost any one character to 90), allowing them to completely bypass the old leveling game.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, if you want to play with your friends, 90 levels is a pretty huge barrier. Plus, your friends can help you adjust to the flood of abilities at 90, not to mention that you can play with Proving Grounds and the 10 levels of Draenor.

On the other hand, I believe that a game should not offer a shortcut for it's "central fun", and leveling is certainly a very important part of the WoW experience. As well, it's a lot easier to adjust to all your abilities when you get them slowly over time.

On the third hand, leveling has been sped up and simplified so much that it is a hollow shell of the leveling experience in Vanilla/TBC.  There's really two opposing viewpoints here. One side feels that leveling should take time and effort. The other side believes that leveling is an inconvenience before getting to endgame. In the past, Blizzard has attempted to split the difference, making you level, but increasing the leveling speed so that you reach endgame fairly quickly.

I don't think this compromise has satisfied either side. One side is unhappy that they are outleveling their quests, while the other side is unhappy that they have to level at all.

I hope that Blizzard takes this opportunity to recalibrate leveling to something more sane. Something that may take longer overall, but the pacing of individual zones more closely matches the older experience. After all, everyone will already have at least one 90 that they can use for endgame. And probably this will get offered as a character service for an extra payment.

Then you can skip it leveling you want. But if you want to level, you get a proper, non-rushed experience.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Warlords of Draenor: Lore

As Mists of Pandaria progressed, and the Alliance complaints about "Horde favoritism" got louder, I bet there were some Blizzard developers looking on with dismay. Unlike the rest of us, they knew that the upcoming expansion--with production already in full swing--was Horde-centric, dialed up to 11.

After the WoD reveal, I think that even the most die-hard Horde supporters have to concede that the Alliance has a point about faction focus in the storyline. Still, hopefully there will be some interesting elements about the Draenei and some paladins running around smiting orcs.

As for the expansion topic itself, eh, it seems okay. Instead of time travel, it's probably easier to think of it as a "Mirror Universe" version of Draenor.

The one thing I am a bit concerned about is that Blizzard seems to be focusing on their core properties a little too much lately. Hearthstone is Warcraft-skinned. Heroes of the Storm uses the Warcraft/Starcraft/Diablo universes.  Now WoD hearkens back to the original Warcraft games. Admittedly, it does come after Mists of Pandaria, which ventured into a new direction.

Nostalgia is all well and good, but sometimes you need to look forward, not backward.

 I would like to see Blizzard come up with a new Intellectual Property. Their three universes all date from the 1990s. Perhaps Titan would have been a new IP, but that's been sent back to the drawing board.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Warlords of Draenor: Raiding

As predicted, flexible raiding kills normal raiding and takes its stuff.

In WoD, there will be four raiding modes, each on separate loot lockout:

1. Raid Finder

More or less the same as now, with a little bit of scaling tech. I'm not really sure what the scaling will really add, given that every role but tank fills pretty fast. I don't really see fights scaling down from 2 tanks to 1.

What I would like to see is for signing up for multiple instances to be the norm, more like Dungeon Finder. For example, let me sign up for all of the Siege of Ogrimmar instances at once. As long as I get put in an instance that still has bosses I haven't killed this week, life should be okay. It would mean that the pools for each wing would be much larger, and raids able to form quicker.

Also, I would like to see four tanks, but that's very unlikely.

2. Normal Raids

What's currently Flexible difficulty. Scales from 10 to 25 people.

The only really interesting thing here is the loot system. Apparently Personal Loot will become an option like Master Loot or Need Before Greed. Otherwise the amount of loot you get will scale. I gather this means that--if you get 1 item per 5 raiders--11 raiders would mean you will have a 20% change of getting 3 items, and an 80% chance of getting 2 items.

3. Heroic Raids

What's currently Normal difficulty, but with flexible scaling. Scales from 10 to 25 people. Pretty much the same as WoD Normal, but more difficult.

4. Mythic Raids

Current Heroic difficulty. Fixed size of 20 players. Having a fixed size should allow Blizzard to make more inventive fights. As well, the race (at least in the West) will have a common format. One nice thing about 20 players is that you should be able to take your bench along when you farm a Heroic Raid.

This does suck a bit for current Heroic-10 groups, but the scaling of the lower level should allow them to work back up to size if they wish to. As for current Heroic-25 groups worried about cutting people, the truth is that there is always churn around expansion time. Some people will want to retire, some will want to come back. The drop from 25 to 20 should be taken care of with normal attrition.

There are also several high end raiders worried that the separate lockouts will mean that they will need to run every instance. I think that the fact that the lower difficulties are flexible will make it easier, it make showing up more optional. You can have smaller subgroups run the lower difficulties, without really affecting things.

Personally, I like separate lockouts because you don't have to worry about time as much. You just finish one instance and then start on the next. When you want more time on a specific instance, you just drop a lower instance from the schedule.

Questions and Conclusions

I wonder what will happen with Thunderforged/Warforged gear. As well, how will Valor be handed out? I wonder if it wouldn't be better to just drop these two ideas altogether. Just go old school and rely on drops entirely.

All in all, I think this is a solid plan for raiding. I think the Flexible raids will make roster and attendance issues much less of a headache for all non-Mythic guilds. Even Mythic guilds should find that the Flexible nature of the Heroic raids will make organizing farming runs a fair bit easier, allowing them to focus on the truly difficulty content.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Warlords of Draenor: Itemization Changes

Blizzcon has come and gone. Lots of information about the next expansion, Warlords of Draenor, was released. Let's take a look at some of the changes.  WoD will see a fairly large overhaul of gear. Here's a summary of what's coming.

1. Armor with different primary stats is going away.

There will be no more "Strength" plate or "Intellect" plate armor. Instead, plate armor will have both Strength and Intellect. If you're a Holy paladin, you use the Intellect. If you're a Ret paladin or a warrior, you use the Strength. The same thing will happen with mail and leather (Agility/Intellect gear).  Set gear will use the bonuses for the current spec.

This is a brilliant solution to the Intellect plate problem. It makes armor usable by far more specs. It allows Blizzard to make lots of armor with different combinations of secondary stats. It makes life a bit easier for gearing up secondary specs.

All in all, a superb solution. A veritable Alexander's sword cutting though the Gordian Knot.

2. Hit, Expertise, Dodge, and Parry stats are going away.

Juggling the Hit and Expertise caps has long been an annoying problem. So these stats are being removed. I imagine that special attacks will always hit, while white attacks may have a small miss chance still.

The tanking stats are also being removed. It looks like tanks are going to focus on active mitigation. One thing to note is that it looks like there won't be "tank" armor or "dps" armor. Each spec might be prefer different secondary stats, but it won't be as obvious as it is now.

3. Reforging is being removed.

I called for the removal of reforging (and hit/expertise) back in 2011. I've never liked it. It's been an ugly hack, and I'm glad it's gone.

The only concern is that the differential between the Best-in-Slot piece and the second-best piece will be slightly larger. But everyone chases BiS anyways, and the game got along fine with this gap back in Vanilla/TBC.

4. Tertiary Stats

This seems very vague at the moment, but Blizzard is looking at putting new small unusual stats on items. Maybe things like movement speed increases. Possibly gem sockets will become rarer and less important.

I dunno, I wonder if one of these small stats will be overpowered and then everyone wants it. Somewhat like some procs on current gear. But I guess we'll have to see more concrete items to judge.

5. Item squish

It looks like all the numbers will be reduced in size, by at least an order of magnitude. It seems mostly cosmetic, with assurances that old content will still be soloable.

Concerns - Spirit?

All this looks pretty good. The only concern I have is with Spirit. I don't see how Spirit can go on armor. Since DPS and Tanks get nothing from Spirit, Spirit gear would be automatically tagged as healer gear, and then non-spirit gear is not for healers. This seems to cut against the whole reasoning behind combining armor types. Not much point in getting rid of Intellect plate if Spirit plate takes its place.

But if armor doesn't have Spirit, that means the total Spirit a healer can have is a significantly lower proportion than she has now. So I'm a bit curious as to how Blizzard will handle regen. Maybe they'll just tune mana regen for the lower amount of spirit.

Or possibly this is a signal that the devs are looking to reign in mana regen, and conservation and triage will once again be part of the healer vocabulary. I personally am in favor of this style of play, but it was a large part of the Cataclysm intro dungeon/raid debacle. I am not sure if the community will approve of making mana more important for healers again.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Warlords of Draenor Expansion Speculation

The major rumor running around pre-Blizzcon is that the next WoW expansion will be titled "Warlords of Draenor". The rumor is that we will go back to Draenor (last seen in The Burning Crusade) and end up time-traveling through the past to see Grom Hellscream.


Going back to Draenor seems like a legitimate topic for an expansion. Focus outward on the Burning Legion, bring back Alleria and Turalyon.

The time travel part of things seems a little more sketchy. I'd be more inclined to believe that there are a couple Caverns of Time dungeons focusing on Grom Hellscream or Ner'zhul and the rise of the Horde.

The biggest problem with a time travel expac is how would you explain all these different races showing up? A Pandaren in Outlands? The Caverns of Time handles it by putting us in disguise as the opposite faction as appropriate. But while that's fine (and even fun) for a single instance, having your character be a different model for an entire expac does not sound appealing.

Still, we'll see what happens at Blizzcon. Personally, I'm still holding out for Corgis Unleashed!