Azerite Gear

Legion brought Artifact weapons which were pretty darn amazing.  They generally had some link to the overall lore.  They looked pretty darn good.  The best/worst part was the set of passive buffs that the weapons applied, that certainly modified your playstyle.  Heck, you needed them to make the class even mildly relevant.  To get access to those buffs, you needed Artifact Power (AP) to get more points to invest in the weapon.  It turned the focus of the to have an AP farm as a priority – at least until you reached the “necessary” buffs.  It took a few weeks effort on a given class.  Maxing a weapon took longer.

There was a catch-up mechanic, called Artifact Knowledge (AK).  But you needed to play in order to research AK.  Say you come back after a month, it may take a week to get the AK back to where it needed to be.  At higher AK levels… you would get billions of AP.

The system wasn’t so much broken, but had issues with incentives.  With high level gear, AP was the only target.

Late in Legion, they simply gave everyone max AK.  Then launched a system called Netherlight Crucible.  This gave a left/right tree of choices of passive buffs to the artifact weapons.  Say an fist attack would do extra damage, or heals would double click.  Math showed that some of these buffs were massively better than others, and they were randomly assigned to gear.  You may have gotten a super max level boost to the weapon, but the passive buffs weren’t any good.

Azerite Solution

WoWHead has a good guide to explain this.

The concept made sense, the implementation just needed some tweaking.  AP is still there.  It still acts as a gating mechanism for passive buffs.  You have a necklace and it gains AP, levels up in rank, and gives some minor stat buffs.

The previous AK/AP issue of farming is address by the requirement for the next rank of AP dropping by 30% every week.  The AP drops in the world remain the same number, you just need less for each rank.

The ranks are required to unlock passive buffs on Azerite gear (head, chest, shoulders).  there are 2-3 buffs per piece, depending on quality.  You need higher ranks of Azerite in order to access more of those buffs – very similar to the AP system in Legion.  The road to 120 should get you enough AP to use all the dungeon gear you find.  The folks who are raiding mythic (when it’s eventually unlocked) should be able to unlock most of the buffs.  That means the motivation to farm AP is dramatically dropped.

The next gap was the set of passive buffs and the randomness of those buffs.  It would appear that now the buffs are set in the gear before it drops.  So if you’re looking for a specific set of passives, look for areas that drop that specific piece of gear.  It’s less useful while leveling where you’re replacing gear, and some passives are much more fun than others.  The real test will be in dungeons, where an item may be a generic power upgrade (ilvl) but the passives are less useful.

Time Will Tell

I do think that the worst parts of AP/artifacts are addressed in BfA.  Rather than AP being the only focus, there are clear diminishing returns (30% reduction per week) and a whole lot less randomness to the effects on gear.  Curious to see how this plays out after 4-6 weeks.

WoW BfA – For Starters

Let’s start off with the Stormrage Server population.

stormrage stats

There are more monks on Stormrage than there entire populations on other servers

 

It is #3 in total population, and the largest pro-Alliance ratio in the game.  There are over 900,000 Alliance toons.  There are only 2 other servers with more than 900,000 total players.  So yeah, it’s big. And a launch server, so it’s also old.  The general rule of thumb is that if there’s a problem with WoW, Stormrage is the first to feel it.  Guess where I play?

BfA Start

I had done all of the lead up quests to allow entry to BfA.  A lot of people have talked about what comes next.  Magni has you click rocks and gives you an uber azurite amulet.  Takes about 2 minutes, then you go see Anduin and he sends you and Jaina to the isles.  This coming from Legion, where each weapon had a unique scenario that lasted 10-15 minutes.  I remember finishing this quest and going “that’s it?”

Anyhow, you end up in a boat, Jaina talks to her mom who disowns her, and you end up in jail.  There are plenty of videos of this, but gosh does it look good.  Kul Tirans have amazing models.  The world simply looks amazing.  There’s green and brown, but no neon and no demons.  The city (Boralus) is sprawling, and a look that reminds me more of Borean Tundra (if it wasn’t frozen).  The art/world builders deserve a lot of kudos for what they’ve done.

Stormsong Valley

This is a bit more like Mist of Pandaria, with large rolling hills, waterchannels, tunnels to explore, and tentacles everywhere.  Ok, maybe not so much MoP.  But I wasn’t 10 minutes into this zone before I saw tentacles.

bdbnmoc2x8g11

Taken from r/wow

Those bad guys cover the entire east side of the map, with a dungeon on the NE.  I crossed what looked like the Bifrost to get there.  It looks great, and the story is cool.  It’s a bit on the nose though?

The middle of the map has the Horde coming in for a bombing run.  Not quite sure why, and that quest area is my least favorite.  There are animals to the south, bee area to the SE which is neat, awesome looking quillboars to the SW.  Then there are pirates.  Lots of pirates.  They look great.  I miss the BB days…

I did end up replacing my artifact weapon with a green weapon.  That hurt.  I’ll eventually transmog to something else, but after 2 years of the same general look, it is hard to let it go.

The questing is a lot different than Legion.  There are what seems like 20 or so questing nodes, and there are breadcrumbs between them, but no real order of preference to move forward.  It feels like the next logical step from Blizz after levels clearly don’t matter.  I am exploring at my own pace, and if I don’t like one part, I move to another.  It works.

The downside to this is that my questlog is overflowing.  I have targets all over my map. At least it looks like the quest cap has either been removed, or put to a much higher level.

Now What

I’m at 113 now, with about a quarter of the zone to go.  Then 2 more zones afterwards.  I have no interest in blasting through the content, I want to pay attention to the details and take in the sights.  Being a gatherer has a large boost to experience gain, which means I’ll hit 120 long before I’m done the questing content.

For now, I’m taking down a rare when they get in my way.  I’m leaving all the treasure chests for when I hit 120.  I know a lot of guides recommend putting your collected gear into the scrapper for material.  I am not all that convinced right now.  A weapon could get me ~75g.  So maybe I should scrap cheaper gloves.

At this rate, I guess I’ll hit 120 later next week and then try out some dungeons.  So far, so good in terms of minute to minute gameplay and world building.  Still wondering where this yellow brick road will lead…

Torchlight MMO

Well, sort of an MMO.  A shared world action RPG seems a bit more like Destiny, Monster Hunter than the more RPG fare.

I really love action RPGs.  There’s something about that model that hits the right buttons for just 15 minutes more.  It takes the right combination of bits and bobs to keep me on one specific game, versus another mind you.  Diablo 3 usually lasts a week or two per season.  Path of Exile gets a few weeks of play every 4-6 months.  Grim Dawn gets some play every so often as well.

Torchlight 1 was a neat experiment on the model.  It did a lot right, but had some rough edges.  Torchlight 2 was a whole lot better.  If you recall, it launched about 4 months after Diablo 3.  This was the crappy version of Diablo 3, with the real-money auction house.  Torchlight 2 was a welcome reprieve, with a solid foundation and decent end-game play.  The issue there was scaling at the tail end.  Where Blizzard put a steep mountain (originally) then shaved it to a curve (in RoS), Torchlight 2 had what felt like a simple ramp, until you hit a massive wall.  It was also highly dependent on a set of specific builds that did not work during the leveling process.  Still, it was open to mods and was a game of the time.

What I really liked was the setting, music and art style.  The cartoon-look worked for me.  The fact that the screen didn’t fill up with a bajillion enemies worked.  That I could clearly see everything worked.  Pets that auto-sold junk, and returned with potions.  If Steam is accurate, I have over 200 hours in there.  It was a sad day when Runic stopped making games and was bought out.

Did I mention that Torchlight has fishing?  Yeah, that’s a quick way to my pockets.

So let’s just say I am pleasantly excited for what is to come.  The video above is just a teaser and probably reminds people more of Dauntless than other.  Still, I’ve put my name in for the beta when it comes out.

Server Woes

Stormrage went down faster than… well it went down.  No surprise.  It goes down every major patch.

The advantages of an older server is that there is a large establishment of, well, everything.  It’s the highest % of Alliance as well.  Finding a guild means just logging in and taking one of the dozen invites you get within 2 minutes.  Auction House prices are usually pretty cheap.  The actual in-game world is part of a shared pool of servers.  I mean, I see Horde players, I just know they are not on Stormrage.

Still, my Stormrage roots are mostly gone.  The majority of folks I played with have long since left the game and a server transfer would not be out of the question.  CRZ would allow me to join another guild on a linked server… but those outside are off limits.

Except…I have 7 max level characters and transfers cost $32 a pop.  I am not spending $210 on that effort.  Sure, the DH would be the least impacted since I could get one to 110 in about 2 days of effort.  That leaves 6 folks to go – the youngest of all being the Monk. I am not all the interested in re-leveling everyone again, certainly not after the 7.3.5 / 8.0 changes that pretty much tripled leveling time.

Which really makes you wonder why Blizz doesn’t offer mass character transfer services.  I’m sure there are other people like me that would be willing to pay for a large swap, at a reasonable rate.  Say $100.

Who knows, maybe I’ll level yet another character on another server and see what happens.  Worst thing would be getting the costs for flight speed unlocked… everything else is account wide, right?

BfA Launch

 

p56twlo0prf11

From the /r

In my humorous thoughts, I considered building my own bingo card.  Lo and behold someone had already done so and covered most of it already.  I guess we’ll see the Teldrassil/Server is burning memes later in the day.

I still have not ordered BfA.  I play on Stormrage, a launch server with 99.9% Alliance characters, which has gone down every single expansion launch for multiple days.  Which has also had stability issues since 8.0 – which apparently have a lot to do with the auto-groupfinder function it seems.  Gut says a full week before it’s considered “normal”.

Not to say I haven’t prepared for an expansion.  My bags are relatively empty. My Legion currencies are all spent and gold collected.  That action in the last week has added about 100,000 gold to my coffers.  I wonder if that actually has any meaning anymore, aside from WoW time tokens.

So tonight I’m heading back up to the cottage and working remotely tomorrow. I think it will be much more relaxing.  Plus, it’s the Perseid meteor showers right now combined with a new moon – making for some rather spectacular nights staring at the sky.

Related – I just came back from a weekend at the cottage with 2 families of friends.  Spectacular weather, food to die for, tons of tubing, great kids, long nights of guitar by the campfire, and very little sleep.  Likely the best weekend I’ve had in years.  Really makes you appreciate what you have.

 

Dark – Solid SciFi

  • Do you like suspense?
  • Do you like sci-fi?
  • Do you like to see people tick when under a lot of stress?
  • Do you like coherent plots?
  • Do you like German film?

Then I have the series for you!

200px-darknetflixposter

10 x 1hour episodes

Good sci-fi is the depiction of people coping with life, and the science portion is a tool to help the story go forward.  Dark does a pretty good job with this.

It’s the story of a mysterious town (well more like cave) and how a family/town reacts when kids go missing.  It actually takes a while for that missing part to really get going, as it has a lot of exposure to the very large cast.  By the 3rd episode, you’re given 95% of the bits required to see the entire story.  It may not be obvious when you see something, but in hindsight the story is well structured.

I don’t want to go too much into the plot as that spoils a lot of the fun.  What I can say is that the story is consistent, and the characters actions have impacts.  Given the main sci-fi mechanism used in this story, that had to be in place.

Kids are generally taboo in sci-fi, in that they are pretty much invincible.  Teens, those are fair game.  That 5-10 range… that’s usually the domain of drama, not sci-fi.  That part was both refreshing, and disturbing, since I have not been de-sensitized to it.

There are some tough scenes to watch play out.  Even the people who appear to be evil, are actually trying to make things go forward for the greater good.  Except one guy – he’s a nutter.  Mind you even by the end of the series I still had a lot of questions around him.

The sci-fi part is still well done, and not the enemy of the series.  This is in contrast to Stranger Things 2.  In the first one, the bad guys opened up the upside down.  In the second season, the upside down was the bad guys.  It may seem minor, but that split away from human vs human makes the plot take a different path.  Dark manages to stick to the people factor all the way through.

In the technical realm, the series is quite, you know, dark.  Quite a few night scenes, very little color.  It feels almost dystopian, but then again few people ever seem to smile.  The shots are generally well done, if simple.  There’s next to no CGI.  The music is heavy on the strings, a bit like an orchestral flair for the intense moments.  I think it works.

The weakest point is the voice overs.  The leads are ok, but the supporting cast gets some rough treatment.  I tried watching in German with subtitles and that was less fun.  German seems to demand my attention as an evocative language, and staring down at text makes it hard to concentrate.

Overall, it’s one of the better sci-fi series on Netflix.  It’s entirely consistent, with no real astounding episodes, or weak ones either.  There’s a clear setup for a sequel, but then again, all sci-fi stories finish with a twist.

 

Morally Grey

There is a big difference between and idea and the execution of that idea.  Great idea to go to the Moon but it took a very long time, and some really smart people to make it happen.

The idea of a morally grey character is a good one.  It fits in with the times of leadership trying to make the best of a bad situation.. and society’s fascination with anti-heroes.  We understand altruism and evil, but it doesn’t interest us anymore.  We need the complexity.

I’ll refer to a memorable character for me, and that’s Mark Purefoy’s portrayal of Marc Antony in HBO’s Rome.

mark_antony-james_purefoy

Smug bugger

The question of why he’s interesting is the point.  He is an anti-hero… in fact often times he’s simply a villain.  His quick to emotions, egotistical, violent, and will hit on anything that moves.  His is the embodiment of borderline control… as clearly he’s moved up the Roman ranks.  The audience can empathize with his situation in nearly all cases, if not outright support his actions.  When he does die, he does it on his terms.

His arc is known well in advance, given that there are still records of his actions from history.  It’s still an interpretation granted, and writer’s discretion does exist for some steps.  The point is that even we he makes reprehensible decisions, things that clearly will not work out in the long run (like his perpetual bender in season 2), viewers are still interested and wondering what will come next.  Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad.

In comparison, no less well written is Augustus, who represents technocracy and lack of emotion.  He goes from petulant child, to isolated adult with world domination in mind.  By the end, he’s lost all his close allies.  Which again, is based on historic records.  He makes the same difficult decisions, and without emotion.  He cuts off his family when he believes they won’t help the longer game.  Essentially the other side of the coin to Marc Antony, who acts with this heart.

In both cases, regardless of the actions taken, they are always in the scope of their character. They may not make rational decisions based on the viewer’s set of moral/ethics, but they do may them based on their own.

It’s a real testament to the writers and to the actors that this is pulled off.

HBO Factor

No question, in the short term most HBO shows that are green lit have solid writing for the first few years.  Few can keep going past 3 seasons, arcs are generally done.  And they get a lot of pitches over the years, they have the luxury of picking the best ones and going forward.  It’s not like we’re raining Sopranos.

Blizzard

I think the downside here is the lack of consistency and direction.  Story arcs are years in the making.  They clearly knew that Teldrassil was going to burn in order to allow their CGI team time to make the video, and build an expansion around it.  They are often 2 years in the future.  It’s based on concepts.  Great!

Then you get shoddy execution.  Yrel is very good example.  She’s a freed slave to start WoD, then becomes the world leader at the end.  No idea how that actually happened, since the middle act of WoD was never released, and it seriously looks as if Blizzard is ignoring anything that came from that expansion (except Garrosh’ death).

Relating to Sylvanas and her actions, Rohan has a good point:

In my opinion, the problem is the writers’ use of emotion. Emotion must be anchored in reason. If emotion is divorced from reason, the character is irrational. And no one likes following irrational leaders. It’s especially bad for Sylvanas, who’s basic character is the cool, calculating, ruthless archetype. A night elf talks smack to Sylvanas, she gets mad, and burns the tree in a fit of anger? That’s so far out of character that it’s just senseless.

Legion had plenty of morally grey stories, along with lot of redemption.  It feels real and rational.  Suramar works in particular because of this… the story is just a bunch of bad options and people trying to make the best of it.

The bridging novel and comic have some interesting threads.  It’s a good thing that they brought Christie Golden to help with the overall story arc.  It’s jarring to have such quality provided in a consistent fashion, and then have the past few weeks of delivery that are rough.  Time will tell if that improves.