Thursday, 28 July 2016

Caving in

An aside from "Alternative Chat" (in You're history) caught my eye today:
"... the moment last year when Blizzard caved on allowing flying in Draenor. That shows a group of people that if they complained long and hard enough, the Company would realise the error of their ways and simply concede to demand"
The precise moment when I realized that Blizzard will always cave in was back when patch 3.1 got to the PTR, and people discovered that Blizzard had fixed a particular abuse of instances that was called "ghetto hearthing". Prior to patch 3.1, if you joined a group, entered an instance and then left the group, after 60 seconds you would be teleported to wherever your hearthstone was set to. Of course this exploit was a terrible abuse of the adventurers in the instance, who would then be forced to find a replacement, or try to 4-man it.

This was before the dungeon finder and queuing for instances, so if often meant that one person had to leave the instance, head to Dalaran or another city and ask in LFG* (or trade) for a replacement while their comrades waited patiently at the summoning stone.

You might wonder what sort of self-important, entitled ass-hole would inflict such a hardship on their fellow adventurers just because his hearthstone is on cooldown and wants to get home quickly. Well, it turns out that it's exactly the sort of self-important, entitled ass-hole who sees nothing wrong in this exploit and whines on the forums for it to be retained! I could hardly believe that anybody who actually did this would be shameless enough to demand its retention; but lo, the forums were full of whines and complaints.

But instead of just telling these whiners that this was an exploit and the exploit has been fixed (well, to be fair, they did repeat that line for about a week), the developers decided to halve the cooldown on hearthstones instead, teaching everyone that whining works.

It was therefore no surprise to me at the start of the Cataclysm, when instances were "too hard" for the poor babies, that they would whine about it and demand that Blizzard fix it so that they could enter instance and get loot without having to work for it. Blizzard held out.  They made the point that at the end of WotLK instances seemed easier to complete simply because everyone was overgeared for them, and these new Cataclysm dungeons would get easier as people upgeared. To nerf them would make them just too easy one people actually had appropriate gear. I was proud of Blizzard, sticking to their guns for a change. They held out for almost a month before they caved in and nerfed the instances.

With Draenor flying, I knew it was just a matter of time before the whingers got their way.

Of course, there is another way of looking at this: Blizzard are responding to their customers. Or at least, they're responding to their whiny customers. Perhaps I need to get with the program and start complaining more on the forums.

*The "Looking For Group" chat channel.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Lost lands

Pearl River, Dragon Ridge, Province, Hidden Village, Severogorsk, Komarin, Northwest, South Coast. I miss these battlegrounds in World of Tanks. All withdrawn and no longer playable in public random matches. I have fond memories of playing them. Even Port. 

Unbalanced? I don't know. What I do know is that I'm bored seeing the same few maps pop up again and again. I'd like some variation. A little variation is better than a little imbalance. Or how would it be if were to tweak these maps to ameliorate them, rather than ditching them.

I wonder if I'll ever miss Overlord and Stalingrad, though. I doubt it.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Legion release date

Well, I got back from a sailing trip to learn that my guess on when Legion would be released was way off. Even though the film is already out in Ireland, the release of the expansion is three months away, so there isn't much of a tie-in with the film (perhaps the idea is to give new players time to learn).

All the same, I wonder why it was so important to drop all work on Warlords of Draenor, and leave existing players with not much to do for over a year. Worse, the WoD expansion was left unfinished, with Farahlon still missing from the map of alternative Draenor. I could understand Blizzard dropping everything WoD-related if it was important to hit a date that linked up Legion with the film, but it seems that was never the plan.

Anyway, I see, from one of the film's trailers, that the director understands that to form a shield wall, you need to have shields equipped. Unlike Blizzard.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Legion predictions (again)

Alpha testing for family and friends of Blizzard started last November (never mind that Ion Hazzikostas promised it would be beta testing, we get the gist). That gives us an extra data-point with which to make predictions of when Legion will be released, and forces me to revisit my previous predictions to see if they stand up. It would be madness to ignore pertinent new information.

Let's take a look at what hard data we have for previous releases (by the way, all the dates are ordered as year-month-day, to make it extra hard to understand them, no matter what part of the world you are in):

AnnouncedTesting startdeltaPre-release patch [n+1].0.0deltaPre-release event (shattering/scourge plague, etc)deltaRelease

First, let me point out that I made up the testing start date for BC. I could only find that it started in mid August 2006. All the other dates are exact.

So what is this table saying? Well, I'm calculating how long it was after testing started for each release, until certain landmarks along the way. The first such landmark is when the pre-release patch appeared. This is typically the patch with the last two numbers 0.0, and it's usually when new mechanics appear, to get players used to them before the release. For instance, talent tree changes, stat re-balancing and so on. It also usually contains all the artifacts needed for the new release.

The second landmark is when the pre-release event starts, that draws us into the new release. For instance, with the Cataclysm, the 4.0.0 (or 4.0.1) patch appeared on October 12, 2010 resetting everybody's talent trees and spell bars and glyphs. But there was nothing new happening in Azeroth, save a few tremors from time to time. Then came patch 4.03a on 23 November 2010, bringing the events of the Shattering: the old world was changed forever as Deathwing erupted from the fiery elemental plane of Deepholm, bursting through the crust of the planet and destroying everything he found in his path. However, all this was content available to everyone who had paid for WotLK. The new Cataclysm content became available (to everyone who had paid for it) on 7 Dec 2010, and we all rushed off to Uldum, Mount Hyjal, Vash'jir and so on.

So for each of these landmarks I calculated how many days that stage lasted (the delta column). So there were 162 days between when closed Alpha testing began and when 4.0.1 released. then a further 42 days before the Shattering, and another 14 days until the new zones opened and we could start levelling from 80-85.

It doesn't take much work to calculate the averages for each of these stages: on average, it takes 143 days of testing before the x.0.0 patch; an average of 21 days between that patch and the start of the pre-release event; and an average of  16 days after that until the release day, for a total of 180 days on average from when testing begins until product release. Let's plug these into the table and see what we get:

AnnouncedTesting startdeltaPre-release patch [n+1].0.0deltaPre-release event (shattering/scourge plague, etc)deltaRelease

So there you have it.

These predictions in red are to be taken with a pinch of salt. That average of 180 days? It has a standard deviation of 25 days. In other words, we shouldn't be surprised if the release date is a month before or after the 18th of May.

What this tells me is that I am still comfortable with my original prediction back in August that Legion's release date is planned to tie in with the release date of the Warcraft movie, which is currently 10 June in the US.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Reasons to be cheerful, part 3.

  1. Warcraft: the Beginning
  2. Film and Legion twinning
  3. Summer sun is coming (and boats)
  1. Devs chat at GamesCon
  2. Afrasabi and Tom Chilton
  3. Demons die in Legion (and nanny goats)
  1. Demon Hunters!
  2. Dalaran's next portal
  3. Demons aren't immortal (plus equal votes)
  1. Flying back in Draenor
  2. The tailoring trainer
  3. Gul'dan isn't saner (and porridge oats)


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Priestly disciplines

I took advantage of the level 100 boost that comes with Legion last month to bring a new healer under my wings: a discipline priest. They seemed to be doing fantastic things with healing in the raids I've been in, and priests are sadly lacking in my arsenal. A boost to level 100 and ilvl 640 is not to be sniffed at!

Sadly, I can't get to grips with the discipline style of healing, which is more about absorbs (and also a little bit of DPSing to restore mana and build Evangelism1). I've read IcyVeins, I've read Noxxic, I read HealingWow, but I'm still not very good at it. And despite having 640 gear, I wasn't able to complete the proving grounds even on bronze, so I still haven't got a good "rotation" (that's not even the right word here).

On top of that is the add-ons I'm using. I'm a clicker when it comes to WoW. I find I just can't memorize keybinds, and I have to see a visual indication of the spell I'm about to cast; or when I do memorize them, they interfere with the next class I'm playing, so for instance I go to cast Smite, and find myself hitting the key that's bound to Arcane Blast on my mage2.

So I'm not comfortable with mouse-over macros that require me to mouse over a raider and hit a memorized key-combo to cast a particular spell on her (plus, in raids there are so many melee bunched together that I'm bound to heal the wrong person). And individually targetting each raider and then clicking on the spell I want to cast on them is doubling the workload.

I'm using healbot, which at least allows me to hover over the player's name in its grid and cast a spell with a mouse-click combination (for which a tooltip appears to let me know what I've bound to each combo). It's not great for me. Besides the difficulty of finding the spell I want (spells on shift or ctrl modifiers only show in the tooltip once you hold down the modifier), I also note that I'm spending my time watching the grid, not the fight. I often find myself standing in the fire and not even seeing it, but spotting on the grid that that priest is taking a lot of damage and I'd better shield her!

So I don't think I've yet found a comfortable way to play this role. I've put my discipline priest away for now, and I've switched to a druid healer which I'm finding much more appealing. Druid heals are reactive, whereas priestly absorbs are best when proactive. And the longer (and fixed) duration of druid HOTs make it more rewarding to spend two clicks (one to select the player, one to select the spell) per cast, so I don't bother with any addons for druid healing.

All suggestions gratefully received!

1. By the way, I read in various places that Power Word: Solace generates 3 stacks of  Evangelism, but I can't find this info in its tooltip, nor does it seem to be generating 3 stacks for me. What am I missing?

2. You might say, "why don't you just map smite to the same key that you use for arcane blast?" That might work in this single case, but there isn't in general a one-to-one mapping between spells across classes, so it won't work in general.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Sinking under the weight of inconsistencies

Back in Azeroth after the Rugby World Cup finished. And with a fresh outlook, I can't help feel that the weight of story inconsistencies are crushing the World of Warcraft.

A fresh horde character showed the problem starkly. All through the classical levels, Vol'Jin is now sitting in Orgrimmar as warchief. Okay, Garrosh turns up in Outland and Northrend, but the fresh character is unaware of 'later' events. However, when she reaches the Twilight Highlands, Garrosh is spearheading the assault, as Warchief. He's in the Stonetalon Mountains as Warchief. Later he's in Pandaria as Warchief. And Vol'jin is plotting against him. What?

That could be partially fixed by putting the portals to Outland, Northrend, and Pandaria in the Caverns of Time, removing all other routes into them, and replacing Garrosh in Kalimdor with another NPC. But it's hard to keep all these mixed stories straight. Anyway, I was in Dalaran recently, and I was amazed to see that Jaina has let the horde back in. Did Theramore suddenly get undestroyed? Did the duplicitous Sunreavers do something trustworthy? What's going on?

After we invaded Orgrimmar, defeated the Kor'kron and brought Garrosh to justice, you would expect the Alliance to install an administrative leader in Orgrimmar (perhaps Jaina would have been the right person for the job), and to restore the destroyed or desecrated lands of the Stonetalon Mountains, Ashenvale and Azshara to Night Elf care, Instead, orcs and goblins continue to run riot through these areas. And rather than getting rid of the aggressive alien invaders right here on our doorstep, we're off in Draenor, invading another planet.

It would be fantastic if the night elves could have their lands restored, and the orcs and Draenei could have their planet restored and we could all live in peace on our own planets. Then all we have to do is get rid of the scourge in Lordaeron.