Day 3

WoD Day 3 - 6000 queue

WoD Day 3 – 6000 queue

While there have been some changes in the backend, it hasn’t really helped me any.  I mentioned Stormrage right?  Well, there are 28 US servers that are locked/full and have queues (7/~100 PvE servers).  The good news is that’s only a minor amount compared to other ones.  The bad news is that’s still about 5K per server… so at best 100,000 affected, but more like two to 3 times that of people who don’t want to even bother with the queue.

So the stupid part first.  Here are the clearly poor design decisions at work to manage this issue.

  • no new race
  • no new class
  • single NPC to start the quest
  • only 1 way to get there
  • single starting zone

All of those items could have spread out the population a bit.  LK and Cata both had 2 starting zones.  Everyone has had either a race or a class, so you had a bunch of people in the starting zones (remember DK-pa-looza?)

Those are things they knew ahead of time and could have mitigated.

What they could not mitigate is the 10 year architecture of servers.  Sure, they’ve been trying to merge them for a while now – code name Connected Realms – but the reality is that the actual server and the zones within are single instances.  Stormwind/Ogrimmar and Valley were instanced capitals, so that you sort of zoned into a sub-zone of the main city.  It made sense, since you don’t want to have 2000+ people at the AH, though sometimes it may seem that way.  Without instances, you crash a zone.  Which is why Blizz put on server logon caps, which is making this queue stuff pretty crazy.

Blasted Lands is not instanced.  Nothing outside of the capital in WoD was instanced.  Now they are making the entire expansion an instanced event.  So Blizz is raising the server caps.  This has made it much better for a lot of people but it also took a 4 hour downtime patch on a Saturday morning to put it in.  Guess the feature wasn’t on the top of their list until this fun started.

So the queues that are left are not so much a problem with design of WoD anymore, it’s just the 10 year old servers and that the instance scaling in WoD doesn’t apply to the entire game.  I’m sure they have some smart people trying to sort all that out.

It is an interesting situation though.  13 months of no content and for some reason not expecting people to try out the expansion.  I guess they underestimated their appeal.

SWTOR

So if I can’t play WoW, I’ll play SWTOR.  I hit 55 with my Imperial Agent and I’ve headed back to Corellia to finish off the main quest.  It’s a little odd losing the GSI boost which gave me 2500 of my main stat and now going down to 1200.  Enemies are 7 levels lower than me though, so the power output is relatively the same.

I do rather enjoy the combat structure now, in particular with the orbital strike option.  IA is a ramp up class, where it needs the opponent to be afflicted for their strong attack to work.  Which makes it hard to take out a bunch of normal opponents since you need to apply 2 DoTs and a prep skill to use the big one.  It’s fine on elites though.  Orbital Strike allows me to continually hit the masses, which makes it a fair bit easier overall.

So I’m now 4 of 8 on the advanced classes at 55.  Juggernaut (tank/dps warrior), Operative (heal/dps imperial agent), Powertech (tank/dps bounty hunter) and Sorcerer (heal/dps inquisitor).  Of them all, I prefer the Sorcerer above the rest in terms of playstyle.  Likely because it’s so familiar, in particular with a smooth resource generator.  The Powertech is next, with some more interesting skills and movement abilities.  Juggernaut is a close one here, with a similar skill set but less fun to watch.  Imperial Agent has a great story but I’m really not a fan of the playstyle, which is more ramp-up/maintenance than I’d prefer.  Great story though.

I do have a 31 sniper which I think I’ll try til the end.  I’ll might give the other advanced classes a try, where the Shadow seems an interesting option.

It’s an odd compare but it’s a bit like my Monk in WoW, where while it’s a class that can do it all (like Druids and Paladins), it just seems to have a better flow for my playstyle.  The Esper in Wildstar felt the same way, in particular once TK became mobile.   Sometimes you just click with a character and no matter what other one you try after, it just doesn’t work the same way. (The monk in WoW is basically my Rogue but without the archaic design decisions.)

Tomorrow’s queue should be an interesting note.

SWTOR – Is This the Same Game?

I mentioned that level 31 was a turning point for my Imperial Agent Operative.  The Cull skill rather drastically changed my playstyle from healer to damage dealer and it’s a world of difference.  Alderaan gave me a ton of headaches because my damage was so atrocious.  31 pops around and boom, I blink and they drop.  Such a drastic shift in power is really quite odd. That said, I’m at-level for the content I’m playing and the Operative is supremely squishy.  There’s a get outta dodge move that gets me into stealth but that assumes I remember to click the darn button.  Often times, the enemy suddenly enrages when they are at 15% and then proceeds to take off 25% of my life per hit.  I don’t quite get that.  The item level disparity is also an issue, due to the accelerated leveling.  I’m part of the way through Belsavis, with Voss and Corellia to go following.  I’ll need to re-equip one more time before 47, then the Makeb power boost will be enough to get me through.  It’s odd really, going from 700 in a stat to 2500 through a buff…curious to how Revan will address this rather massive gear gap.  I still remember my WoW-BC days where it felt like you were attacking with a tissue.

The other interesting part, the one thing that the interwebs seems to agree upon, is that the Imperial Agent storyline is amazeballs.  I mean, head and shoulders above the rest.  This is the only storyline where I was actually presented with a choice that I had to think about. All the other stories, in order to stick in character, each choice was evident.  Shock this guy, shoot that one, save the other. They had little to no consequence other than some numbers on my alignment sheet.  There was just no nuance where the difference between light and dark was actually grey.

This is not true for the Imperial Agent.  You spend nearly the entire game as a double agent, playing one person against another.  Your choices matter greatly in that you can nearly completely avoid conflict with the appropriate choices.  And those choices are equally present in light and dark.  Example.  The Hoth questline has you meet with a corrupt officer and pirates.  You can join either side, defeat them both or play them each against the other.  I helped the pirates then cleaned up shop.  The choices are even more interesting at the end of Act 1 and Act 2.  I mean they really define your character, their place in the world and the events from that point forward.  And it isn’t like it’s one decision but a bunch of them to get on a path to the end.

I’ve been a fan of Bioware for a very long time.  Their writing style and multiple choices with impact has always been a draw for me.  SWTOR has, at face, that type of structure.  But being an MMO, it’s not like you can wipe out an entire planet.  So the rest of the storylines I’ve played, the choices were small and contained.  The IA storyline is removed from the rest.   It’s like comparing a Dan Brown novel to Isaac Asimov.  You just don’t.  It’s like I’m playing a completely different game and I’m enjoying the heck out of it.

SWTOR – Not Enough Buttons

It’s ironic really that WoW has made large efforts in the WoD expansion to remove skill bloat and that SWTOR embraces it so heartily.  Well, maybe in the Revan expansion there’ll be less…

The game seems to give me a new button to press every 2 levels.  Many of these buttons do the same thing but slightly differently.  Either a higher resource cost, more damage, longer cooldown and so on.  The problem with this is a simple and complex one.  Every class, regardless of game, has defining skills.  Those skills are either unlocked in a logical pattern, randomly assigned or perhaps unlocked through talent selections.  When you have them, the class works.  When you don’t, well, it doesn’t.

SWTOR is an odd beast in that some classes have these skills early and others have them late.  My Sorcerer, Powertech and Warrior all had a logical breakdown of skills over time (minus the actual tanking skills, which came out way too late).  From a leveling perspective, the overall play made sense and had a pattern, more or less.  Sure, there were some powerful unlocks but it only modified the play, not a complete re-write.

I have a 31 Sniper (pure DPS) and that one made sense too.  What with the 12x experience bonus, I wanted to try an Operative (heal/dps hybrid).  She hit 31 recently and what a world of difference in playstyle.  By far the hardest class to play with and maintains the least amount of survivability.  The skill unlocks don’t make sense and make for a very odd pattern of combat.  Outside of talents, there’s only 1 viable attack.  I needed 2 more talents to get ‘er going, a DoT grenade and Cull, a super damage skill based on the amount of DoT’s on the target.  The class is largely unplayable up until that unlock at 31, at least compared to the other classes.

On to interrupts for a minute.  Every class gets an interrupt and a 4s stun.  They often get a knockdown attack (which doesn’t affect elites) or two.  Then they also get a paralyze/DoT attack.  You end up with 4-5 skills that prevent an enemy attack.  And you need to use the damn things too because enemy NPCs can dish out insane amounts of damage, in particular the elites I mentioned before.  Some entire fights are predicated on interrupting those attacks.  And that’s above and beyond the basic rotation.  So I end up with 12+ buttons to press in a solo fight, half of which do the same thing.

There’s still missing some data on the Revan skill clean-up (called Disciplines).  The concept makes sense.  They do say they are changing interrupts to an 18s timer, which is odd given the previous paragraph….

I do know that WoD (and Cataclysm too) did a rather effective job looking at ability gain and timing.  Simplified rotations of 4-5 buttons per class.  It’s really something comparing the two during the leveling process.  Vastly different interpretations.

SWTOR – Progress, I Guess

What with the 12x experience boost, carving through the levels is somewhat a breeze.  Let me rephrase that a tad actually.  The 12x experience boost transforms SWTOR into 3 parts; first is the actual story, second is the stat race and third is the travel experience.

The actual story is pretty neat, per class.  I just finished a Sith Warrior (let’s say ~12 hours) all the way through and I’m of the opinion that the story was written to be played light side.  At least the key moments seem to fall well into that line.  There were a few spots where I had to pick the dark side, to keep the semblance of a bad guy but overall, the light side choices weren’t so much super good guy as they were “I don’t really care what happens”.  Which is sort of a better super villain if you ask me.  I’ve done the Sith Inquistor and preferred that story mind you, even though it was more rote.  Sith Warrior is just ho-hum quests, until the final act.

The stat race is something else.  In most MMOs you can get by with straggling gear.  Say the average power curve is 200.  If you’re missing 20, then no big deal, stuff is just a tad harder.  SWTOR don’t play that way chump!  Scaling of power seems to be based on a variance of norm rather than an absolute number.  What that means is that if you are slightly above average in stats, then you just run over everything.  Slightly under and you’re in for a rough time.  Every 10 levels I had to do a full restock.  Every 5 was a top up.  Considering I’m doing about 3-4 quests per world, that’s a fair top up.  It’s not the end of the world, I had a 55 on the fleet who could mail me supplies.  It put me out of pocket maybe 50K for the whole thing, though by the time I hit 55 I was near 400k in cash.  (note: sell everything on the GTN, if it doesn’t go on first pass, vendor it)

The travel time is the odd one and to me shows where the game was stretched.  The first 3/4 of the worlds are great, playing more like a spiderweb than a linear path.  Belsavis and Voss though, wowza.  Belsavis I must have spent 30 minutes just travelling between 2 quests.  Thank goodness I unlocked quick travel with Legacy, so that my ports back to the ship were quick.  Voss was less about travel and more about poor quest design.  I mean Bears, Bears, Bears was the thing here.  Like, have me do the 4 things at once rather than just ping back continually.  Ugh.  47 thankfully came quickly and off I went.

So the optimal leveling path, as I see it, is as follows:

  • Always log off in a rested exp zone
  • Use the Cartel EXP boosts.  You’ll start getting them as rewards near level 20.  Pop them before you turn in a quest, as that’s when it really matters.
  • Avoid all the other quests.  Seriously.  The only one you must take is the one on the Quesh stardock, that’s it.
  • 1-47, do the core world quests.
  • 47+ head to your ship to start Makeb.  For the love of poop, use the GSI terminal on the stardock.  I went from 750 strength to nearly 2500 from the boost that terminal gave.  Very good odds you’ll be stuck on the Armageddon quest to hit 55.  Which is the worst of the Makeb quests, hah!
  • When you complete a quest, use the Personal Holocron (Teleport)
  • Have someone on the fleet who can buy stuff for you and sell stuff if your bags are too full.  A level 15 is fine and with this boost takes about an hour
  • Commendation aren’t worth it, in my opinion.  Get the lockboxes are quest rewards if gear isn’t an option.  Sell it.

For $15, I got a good story, got to see some nice scenery and avoided a ton of content.  But, I learned to play the class much better because of the crappy gear differential.  I am a firm believer that this model is more effective than simply selling max level characters.  In that model, I have no idea how to play the character, no idea what’s going on and I’m just sitting in no-man’s land at max level.  Two separate ways to get to the same goal but vastly different.

SWTOR – Boost Me

I guess it’s Shintar’s fault but I decided to try SWTOR again (and sorry, I didn’t notice the referral code until after).  Yes, yes, I know.  I have a sub to WoW and FF14 active at the moment.  WoW is about farming pets at the moment, given the content lull before WoD, and that’s like 30 minutes a day.  I did level 3 more characters to 90, so that’s something.  FF14 I’m on the bubble for.  At 43, I’m in no-man’s-land.  Not enough for end game, too high for the mass of folk.  Dungeons are my best bet but my schedule these past days has made sitting down for even 30 minutes to concentrate hard.  I play a healer, so it’s not like I can AFK in a fight.

SWTOR’s next expansion is in a month.  It’s $20, which I think is the right price point for any expansion.  I guess there’s a Blizzard premium, just like Apple.  Think Turbine could learn a bit about this…

Anyways, if you pre-order (done) and subscribe (done) you get 12x the experience on class quests, which is ~5 quests per planet.  It stacks with generic experience boosts which you can buy in the store or get as a reward.  I logged on my Imperial Agent and the quest log was at 8K experience per quest.  The class quest though, that was over 100k.  1 quest practically gave me a level in itself.  Tried the Bounty Hunter who was 50 (my Sorc is 55 from previous subscription) and Makeb (the 50 to 55 zone) has all the quests impacted by the boost.  That’s…a level of insane.  30 minutes and I had 2 levels.

I played SWTOR during beta and for the first 3 months.  I considered it still in beta when I left as some core design was missing, in particular around the social tools.  Went back for Makeb for a few months, then real life got in the way and I stepped away from the PC for some time.  Funny story, I left Rift because I went away for 3 weeks in the summer, came back and the guild had server transferred.  SWTOR has always interested me for the story and the cannon.  Let’s be honest, KOTOR is the reason that people today even bother with games related to Star Wars, and SWTOR is more or less KOTOR3 multiplayer.

The 12x experience bump though, that’s an odd one.  When the core of the game is the story and this bypasses 90% of it, it makes you wonder.  Even a new played in WoW/WoD skipping til 90 would have no understanding of their timeline.  SWTOR is different in that there’s a personal hero story and the zones themselves are deeply tied to that story.  In WoW, you’re a faceless hero, in SWTOR you are the face of your game.  The good news is that it only applies to your class quest, which is the only unique part of the adventure upon replay.  Well, sort of.  The “normal” zone quests provide you with a fair chunk of SW lore.  Plus they give you the chance to pick light/dark side.  Skipping all of those means you really haven’t picked a side.

You’re also giving up the loot.  As a subscriber, training costs are 0, which is good, but you’re woefully underequipped for the content ~level 20.  There’s a climb in difficulty due to poor stats up until you reach 47 and can head to Makeb.  Makeb has a zone buff that normalizes your gear.  You could be in level 1 items and do fine.  I’d say that the loss of credits was an issue but you get next to nothing until level 40 anyways.  A set of dailies gives about 100k at 55, so it’s not like people are going to be struggling.  It’s a massive split from WoW’s instant 90 though, where you’re fully geared in epics, have super flight, all skills, some runes and a bit of cash.

What it does give you is an ~8 hour quest, from 1-55, detailing your class from start to end.  There are 8 unique versions of this (4 per faction), so about 60 hours of content.  For $35 (sub+pre-order), that’s a decent deal.

Combat and Art Styles

Pegging off Tobold’s post on appropriate art style, I think it bears mention more than just a couple games.  And I won’t really go into what looks better because that’s a very subjective argument.  This is really about the practicalities.

We have WoW art style, with distinct character outlines since the start. However it’s moved away from tab target to smart target, and red/blue markers on the ground. WoD will finally have target outlines as well. It’s evolved.

Neverwinter, a LAS/action game, uses outlines and AE effects given the mouselook aiming features. It’s a more realistic art style, making it damn near impossible to find someone in the thick of things. BUT, since it’s soft lock and AE for nearly everything (including healing), it works.

SWTOR uses cartoon style graphics for a seemingly endless supply of humanoids. I found it a mess in regular PvE but the group instances aren’t too bad as the character types are often different. Plus tab targeting helps drastically.

FF14 uses tab targets and a full skill bar, though in reality few skills. The art style is VERY unique and it’s fairly easy to spot individual players, let alone NPCs in combat. In fact, you rarely have more than 2-3 enemies at once. Of course, with a requirement for focused combat and targeted attacks, this is vital for success

FF14 - Ifrit

ESO is LAS + mouselook. Many attacks are AE or smart target. Every frigging enemy is the same though. PvP turned into meat walls of AE spam because you can’t focus target effectively. It also means many skills lose all value if they aren’t multi-target. Plus everyone blends in together and the background. So it’s less about aiming and responsiveness as it is about mashing AE attacks and hoping the numbers are in your favor.

Big Boy

Big Boy

Wildstar is LAS but tab/free target combat. Everything has an AE target as well, making aiming very important. Plus the character diversity helps you quickly ID the players in the field. The more quickly you can make an assessment, the better your odds.

That's a big gun

That’s a big gun

I guess it boils down to offense vs defense. A more realistic game favors defensive style of play and 2 types of skills. Either you spam and get lucky or you cross that skill gap to “elite” and run amok. FPS shooters I think show that well.

A more cartoon, or rather distinct character set, provides more offensive options as you can’t really hide. Everyone knows who you are and you have more information to make the right decision. It removes the skill gap and includes progression.

I wouldn’t be able to say which has the higher skill ceiling as that is more game-specific. It’s certainly an interesting topic.

Housing For Everyone!

To little fanfare (at least from my feeds) SWTOR announced player housing.  Maybe they gave out more information while I was at sea but this is what I found today.

It looks somewhat similar to RIFT’s housing idea, what of instances of housing to choose from.  Where that game had a lot of choice in terms of domicile, this one seems to be limited to either your capital city or Nar Shadaa. So, yay?

As per everything in SWTOR, a new experience bar is also available for housing.  It increased based on the amount of decorating you do.  This is a strange mechanism, to be honest, as housing is between achiever and socializer in my books.  This “prestige” gets you more something but do they want people to decorate just to raise that bar or simply as an afterthought to decorating?  I’ve always been of the mind that people build what they want for the pleasure of building, not some mini-game.

Not a whole lot more to go on.  Namely travel (hopefully a single hop), size, customization options, cost (though $1.5M seems to be listed somewhere) and a few more things.

Other good news is that fleet ships are in, which is essentially guild housing.  That is pretty sweet, if again, they can get the transport issue resolved.  I have quite a few fond memories of guild housing in UO, what with the local amenities and shared common space.

Keeping track, we have housing in EQ2, LOTRO, RIFT, FF14 (though too expensive for most) Wildstar and now SWTOR.  WoW has an extremely simplistic version.  TESO doesn’t yet appear to have anything, though it’s been a core of the single player series.  The concept of ownership certainly does make people come back.  Hopefully this thought process, where player initiated actions provide noticeable changes to the world, can take hold in more games.