So Long Wildstar

More like the energizer bunny.

As reported on Kotaku yesterday, Carbine and Wildstar are closing shop.  This should come as a surprise to no one, given we’re 2+ years from their crash at launch.  It’s still sad that people are losing their jobs, and sadder still that something with Wildstar’s charm is going under.

I’m sure over the next year or so, we’ll get more insight into what went wrong behind closed doors.  There are already enough rumors about the original management teams’ way of thinking… and that the hoverboard was done under the table by a separate coder.  Hindsight here will be worth a lot to any developer.

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World Quest – just amazing art

When Wildstar launched, I joined a guild of fellow bloggers – led by Liore.  I rather enjoyed the first few weeks, and the trip to max level.  I more than enjoyed the art style (squid head), and the controls were good enough to keep you engaged.  The world felt cohesive, and the story made sense.  The player housing was some of the best I’d ever had a chance to play with – and seeing how other players managed theirs was a lot of fun.  There is a LOT in Wildstar that worked.  Hell, I still have guides on this site for playing it.

But it launched too early and too aggressively.  Core functions that make an MMO work just didn’t exist.  Guild tools were rudimentary.  Finding other people was a mess.  Skill/item balance at max level was nearly non-existent.  Dungeons were dramatically over tuned.  Incentives were applied to speed, even for starting dungeons.  Raids (when it did come) were just meat grinders.  Open world bosses were zerg-fests, and open-world events were designed for organized raid groups – not pugs.  They built these lovely islands of content to consume, and rope bridges to get there.

The first month went by and the guild dropped by a solid 80%.  The stuff to do at max level… well it just wasn’t doable.  There are some stats somewhere…but I do recall that only 1000 people ever set FOOT in the first raid zone, let alone completed it.  Attunement quests anyone?

Months of player base crashing, a F2P conversion that was not accompanied by any game changes but a money shop (TESO was smart enough to do better), and infrastructure that couldn’t even bother to scale to the demand influx.  It took the worst parts of MMOs, because those are easy to replicate, and didn’t include the best, because those are so hard to make.

It survived for so long due to a passionate player base, despite the lack of new content for nearly 2 years.  It brought an interesting vision to the table, but failed to pull off the execution.  It seriously misjudged the available playerbase as frothing at the bit for extra hardcore MMO, which history has pointed to being the exact opposite on multiple occasions.

MMOs launch and attract players with features – the stickyness factor will always be other players.  Putting up roadblocks for those players to assemble, and find some nominal success is a recipe for disaster.  There are just too many solid alternatives that have a working model.

So long Wildstar.

Other posts:

Headless Horseman is Back

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Headless Horseman – with head

Hallowe’en is one of my favorite times of the year.  You get way more candy than at Easter and you don’t get guilted for it.  (If you avoid stepping on the scale for a while that is).  Every game seems to have some sort of theme going on and WoW is not exception.

For my money though, Wildstar has the best event.  Shade’s Eve fits really well in the game theme, and the mini-instance is fun to rerun.  Last year I must’ve done it about 50 times across all my toons.  I have a serious itch to try it again!

Back to WoW though.  This year, there’s a new daily quest in Val’shara, near Bradensbrook.  You drink from a cauldron, kill a wraith and get a loot bag, maybe get a witch’s hat.  Yay?  The Headless Horseman is back again, same loot as always, just ilvl 835 now.  Which should be pretty meaningless for anyone who’s been at 110 for a couple weeks.  But it’s better than Brewfest’s ilvl 810 gear. Which, to me, seems like an odd choice given that it’s not like you can kit out a player in event-based gear…

Hallowe’en in WoW is more of an achievement hunt than anything else.  Go collect candy in buckets, use wands to transform people and collect masks.  Run the daily horseman event and cross your fingers on the mount.  Considering that it’s the only real-life event that Blizzard actually endorses (pumpkin content anyone), it’s still strikes me as odd that this event doesn’t have more to it.  Heck, Brewfest had a pile of things to do, with plenty of toy-based rewards.

I still like the event, if only for the theme.  Just could use a bit more to it.

Rogue Update

Bugger hit 110.  I did it much faster this time than I had expected, largely to a very interesting mod – ConsLegion.   It works a little weird at max level, and can be very distracting, but for leveling, it is really hard to beat.  It works by selecting the optimum route in a zone for both accepting and turning in quests.  It avoids sending you across large swathes of land, and instead focuses on the core quest line.  There’s a TomTom-like arrow and a few other bells and whistles that make the entire process super fast.  I cut my leveling time by a quarter, if not more.  So much so, that I had not even finished my first 8hr class hall quest from the one offered at 105.

I haven’t really played a DPS role at 110 – instead focusing on tank for solo play, and healer for some groups.  I will admit that a leather wearing rogue in ilvl 775 gear isn’t very powerful, so from this point after unlocking world quests, I think I’m going to park him until gearing drastically improves.  That’s likely a week or so, as even the emissary quests give decent upgrades.  Then we’ll see where he ends up.

World Bosses

Final thought here.  Blizzard needs to change the display options on world bosses, especially those out in the open.  Nithogg was surrounded by mountains and J’im was in a cave, so that wasn’t the end of the world.  Levantus and Calamir are in the wide open, with massive AE.  A 40 person raid just destroys my experience, which works fine in all other cases.

It would be great to have a toggle… maybe there’s a mod for that.  Or you know, Blizz can stop making PC-melting events.

When the Shark Got Jumped

I really like Wildstar.  My guides generate consistent page views.  I played a fair chunk of the game but it dropped off my play list just as most games do.  I am not a raider, certainly not one that can raid at the level that Wildstar demands.  I much prefer the casual approach and after a couple months, you’ve just seen and done it all.  I like dungeons too, but the queues, last time I played, were hours long with no goals.

When Wildstar went F2P (a near year later than most people thought it would), it brought in the bane of all games – lockboxes.  I have a general hatred for lockboxes as I do with most gambling.  It preys on the mathematically challenged.  It’s worse when there are lockbox-only items.  Most games start off innocuous enough, with cosmetics in those boxes.  Eventually they creep up to low level gear, or mounts.

Wildstar recently announced that they are going to offer lockboxes for raid content.  I am struggling to think of a western MMO that does this (many eastern ones do).  So while you can’t buy them directly from the store (yet) they will drop from raid instances and be tradeable.  So you’ll be able to get the rewards from a raid without running a raid.

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And I find that rather sad but perhaps at the same time, to the point.  Why bother with actually playing the game when you can just bypass it all with a couple dollars?  I mean, who wants to actually play the game when you can just bypass all that crud, stand in the middle of the crowd and sit down cause there really isn’t anything left do do anymore.  And then the stop playing, which means more money lost.

And what’s the escalation point after this?  Lockboxes will now contain all the items from the game, regardless of where they come from.  What exactly will people be buying after this?  What could be better?  I don’t see any carrots left.

This brings back to mind the whole Allods fiasco, where the game was great, but with a horrible business model.

I really hoped that Wildstar would be able to find a footing. I still do.  I’m of the unfortunate opinion that they, like the dwarves before them, dug too deep with greed.

Demon Hunter Alt

My monk is over ilvl 330, so Mythic dungeons are what’s left.  I still do dailies when I can, slowly working on the Pathfinder achievement.  I have alt-itis though, and picking #2 is challenging when you have 5 characters waiting at level 100.

The purpose of an alt is to provide a different experience and playstyle.  My monk has done nearly all the quests available, and that experience will be the same next time.  What’s left is the Class Halls and the minute to minute gameplay.  I like dungeons, but the DPS queue is around 40 minutes, so that more or less rules out pure DPS for an alt (Hunter, Rogue are out).  My druid (boosted in WoD) is ok, but always feels like a dumbed down version of a real class – it just doesn’t stick with me.  Plus, there’s only so much bear-butt and cat-butt I can stand.  The Shaman is woefully underpowered as Elemental, but plays great.  That leaves the Demon Hunter.

Considering that this entire expansion is focused around demon hunters, I think the story portion will play somewhat differently.  And the playstyle, while closest to the monk, is certainly different than any other class.  You fly around all over the place, and that free glide ability… that will make my life a whole lot easier.

The class hall itself requires gliding to get to.  The story is interesting enough, and the 2 weapon quests are good.  It feels a bit weird to be playing as the bad guys from BC, but at the same time, the lore behind it all is quite entertaining.  I’m not a fan of the hall layout, but the NPCs within seem more alive than in the other halls (druids excepted).

And I’m alternating between both the tank (vengeance) and DPS (havoc) roles, to see which fits better.  Tank is really hard to kill but doesn’t have the dash skill which makes movement a breeze, and somewhat low damage.  The DPS moves like a kite in the wind, but is made of tissue paper.  More tweaking required…

Finances Are Important

Cottage Time

After having run countless budget exercises, having met our financial advisor and talked to our broker, it looks like we’ll be moving ahead with the cottage purchase.  My wife can attest that my level of anxiety this week has been through the roof, though the last 12 hours or so have been much better.  As is clear with all of my posts, I’m a numbers guy, and I love analytics.  So when a large purchase like this comes around, not only do I get excited, I start going all over the place in terms of options/scenarios.

I remember on Sunday talking with my wife about the absolute need to take those three steps (budget, advisor, broker) in order to come to a conclusion.  I’m not buying a damn coat here, I’m buying property that I need to pay for the next 20+ years.  She isn’t as well versed in all this financial stuff as I am, which to be honest, ignorance is clearly bliss in this case.  Still, she knew it meant a lot to me and suffered through my protestations to get this going.  After it all being complete (well, the paperwork is next) she’s certainly more appreciative of the nuances within.  We spent more than a few hours looking over the budget spreadsheet, so I’m slowly converting her!

Which brings up an interesting topic, one that the advisor brings up from time to time – people do not know how to budget.  I don’t mean worry about every penny but I do mean understanding where the heck your money is going.  I don’t get how budgeting 101 isn’t mandatory in high school.  I remember helping out my brother a few years ago with his budget.  What he thought he was spending was actually less than half of what he actually was spending – and that was just fixed costs.  Brining those numbers to the front really shocks people into action.

Not everyone needs an official financial advisor, but everyone should have a friend who’s really good at accounting.  Everyone needs a budget.  There are plenty of sites for it too.  And evaluating your spending based on your budget is super important, so that you modify it as need be.  Heck, most banks will offer the service for free, then set up extra bank accounts and automated transfers between them.  As an aside, no one should ever pay banking fees – if you are, change banks.

All of that to say that a solid budget makes life so much easier, since you’d then have the basic tools to manage your money.  Heck, you might even realize that you have way more freedom than you thought.

Tablet Woes

The tablet fix still isn’t working.  I can read the device through USB but the screen (not the digitizer) will simply not work.  Next step is to try a HDMI output and see which component is faulty.  I was really hoping it was just a loose cable, but it wasn’t any of the obvious ones.  The sort of good news is that I’m realizing that I don’t need the tablet to get work done.  It’s incredibly practical, but not essential.

Wildstar Runes

By far the #1 page on my site these last few days has been my rune guide.  I’ve updated it with an example near the bottom, on an ilvl90 weapon for my engineer.  I used service tokens to re-roll the slot (all the tokens were from the daily login bonus) and it’s in pretty good shape.  It went from 315 secondary stats to 1115, plus set bonuses that come out to an extra 150 points or so.

It’s a very noticeable boost, though there’s more tweaking I need to do on other pieces.  I took my engineer to the Badlands and the 2man bosses within (bone dog and spider queen) dropped down much faster.  Even the regular enemies now fall down with a single electrocute channel.

I am surprised/disappointed as to how much runes are a major factor in end game now and as to how little NCsoft explains this to the player base.  It would be an easy argument to make that someone in fully runed ilvl60 gear would be more powerful than someone in un-runed pre-raid gear.  It’s why gating content behind ilvl is so tricky, you can’t really measure rune power with it.  And even some runes are very expensive for little benefit.  The raid level runes (ilvl 100) are cheaper than the dungeon runes (ilvl80), and by a wide margin.

I guess that’s why the guide is so popular.  People are starting to figure out how important runes are.

Rare Isn’t Always Good

About a month ago, my youngest dropped my tablet and the screen cracked.  Then she did it again.  Truth be told, she’s dropped it more times than I could count… oddly uncoordinated child.  Anyhow, that made the device mostly unusable, since it detected touches all the time.  I did what any self-respecting IT guy would do – I went a-googling.

First hurdle, I have a TF701.  This is one of those Asus transformer tablets that works with android.  It’s a great tablet, quite powerful, good disk space, came with a keyboard that physically connected… all great.  But it was also one of those limited edition doohickeys, or at least you’d think so based on the google results.  I had replaced my wife’s Samsung screen (digitizer) a few years ago, so I knew that it was possible.  Sadly, there are no screens for sale in North America, so eBay it is!

80$ later (free shipping) and 30 days later, I received the digitizer.  No instructions, no tools.  Back to google.  I crap you not, there is 1 single video on how it’s done and it’s in Russian.  There are T700t videos, but they are not the same form factor passed step 1.  There are hidden screws (the extra tiny ones that require special tools), extra tape and removing the digitizer is a massive pain.

2 hours later, many 4 letter words later, I had the digitizer off and was ready to rebuild.  That part was faster but much less fun.  The power is back but the screen doesn’t display anything, so more troubleshooting is needed.  I know the thing works though, since the alarm went off this morning and I was unable to do anything but snooze it.  Ugh.

After 30 minutes of fiddling, I had to stop it.  I was ready to just throw it in the trash at that point.  Deep breath.  It’s going to be ok.

Engineer

My engineer has a fair bit less plat than my esper.  An order of magnitude in fact, so, time to see what I can do about that.

Making money typically comes in three main forms.  First is maxing out experience for the week, then completing quests for cash.  Each daily hub generally awards 10-15% of the bar.   So if you’re only running dailies, it’s 2-3 days’ worth to cap out.

Second is repeatedly running an expedition like M-13.  You usually end up with 1-2 purples, ok gold rewards and a token for more cash.  It takes a bit over 10 minutes to run the easy ones, so you can make a few plat an hour.  PvP is an option too, about 20g per win, though you really should be in a pre-made to make this work faster than expeditions.

Lastly is working the AH.  I have a post about that!  The real flips occur on the commodity exchange, as you can set buy and sell orders.  The problem with that system is that it’s even more based on volume than a more standard AH (buy/sell only), meaning massive price fluctuations.  I’ve had to install a mod to keep track of all the various price points and I’ll be waiting a few days to find some trends.  I think my main focus will be on Runes.  Not only the base price points but also in terms of selling completed high quality Runes as well.  There’s a noticeable markup in that field, if I can get superb components at a low enough price.

Aside from that, I’m re-learning the limitations of the engineer.  I find action combat very key heavy, almost a button masher.  Engineers don’t have much of that, what with Electrocute being a channelled ability and the rest being mostly based on cooldowns.  There’s a whole lot of waiting, then a frantic smash of many buttons, then waiting again.  It’s an odd pace and really hard to find the right rhythm.  It’ll come though.

#Wildstar – PvE Gearing Guide

So you’re a fresh 50.   Problem is that the level 50 content is using you as a treadmill.  Wildstar is an MMORPG like the others, and getting better gear makes a world of difference.  This guide is based on the following reddit post, with my own additions.

First off, you need to know that items are clearly marked in power level, called item level (or ilvl for short).  For the most part, an increase in ilvl is an increase in power.  There are slight variations mind you, in that you want assault power for DPS and support power for Heals/Tank.  Mixing them is a bad call.

In terms of item power level, it generally goes like this (items with an * require a group to complete):

Quest Gear –> Challenge Gear  –> Expedition Gear –>  PvP Gear –> Contract Gear –> Adventure Gear –> *Dungeon Gear –> *Raid Gear

Finally, items have rune slots.  You can buy a bunch from the AH for pretty cheap.  I personally wouldn’t spend more than 10g per rune until you reach Expedition level gear. These have a dramatic impact on item power.  A fully runed item can double in power, and it doesn’t have to be expensive runes either!  See my rune guide for more info.  The general rule of thumb is “rune for groups”.

First Things First

I suggest you visit the Auction House and scan for gear upgrades.  You want to buy anything under 10g that’s also an upgrade.  This is likely to replace most of your quest gear.  Filter by item level, and sort Buy Now: Low to High.  *as of this posting, the default AH only filters up to ilvl 60.  Download the following fix to address this.  You want to filter for items above ilvl 61.

Challenge Gear (ilvl 50)

When you complete challenges in a level 50 zone, you get points that fill a progress bar (press “L” and look at the challenges tab).  The reward for completing the bar is a random item.  This should be done fairly naturally during your play.  I wouldn’t chase this gear, simply keep it in mind when playing.

Expeditions (ilvl 60)

Press N, look at the expeditions tab.  You can solo all of these at 50, though some are a bit harder than others.  There are item drops within, but what you’re looking for is 2 things.  Completing an expedition rewards Renown, used to buy PvE gear.  Getting a gold rating on each (completing all optional objectives) unlocks the ability to purchase an AMP upgrade.  Expeditions are the best way to generate money in PvE – M-13 and Infestation are my favorites.

PvP Gear (ilvl65)

Find the PvP season 2 vendor and buy whatever is an upgrade.  The PvP stat isn’t great mind you, but it’s likely better than the other gear you have so far, excepting AH gear.  Yes, this means you can skip all the gear before this.

Contracts (ilvl 57 to 80)

In the capital city you can find the contract board.  The level 2 contracts are easy enough to solo, regardless of your gear level.  The level 3 contracts are a pain, unless you find someone advertising in general (exception is the Star Comm Basin event, which is every 2 hours).  Getting to rank 5 of the contract rewards gives an ilvl80 item.  The rest are randomly selected and of lower quality.  It’ll take a couple weeks to complete a single pass through to rank 5 rewards.

Adventures (ilvl 68)

Press N, look at the adventures tab.  It takes 5 folk to complete, takes 20-45 minutes per and the loot rewards are decent enough.  Use the Glory you get as a reward to buy even more pieces from the vendor in the capital city.  Gold on everyone gets an Ability Point unlock.

Dungeons (ilvl 78)

Press N, look at the dungeons tab.  All dungeons are not created equal.  You want to be around ilvl 60 to do the basic ones.  Do not enter a dungeon unless you have put in runes inside your existing gear.  You should leave here with ilvl 80 gear on average, allowing you to enter raids.  The general consensus on difficulty is Stormtalon’s Lair (STL) –> Kel Vorath (KV) –> Skullcano –> Shield of the Sword Maiden (SSM).  Though in truth, if KV isn’t a rather easy pass, the last 2 are going to eat you up.

AMPs and Ability Point Unlocks

When you hit 50, you’re given 41 Ability Points and 47 AMPs to spread around.  Through various items, you can unlock an additional 7 Ability Points (48 total) and 10 AMPs (57 total).  There are quite a few ways to do this:

  • Complete your Path quests to the maximum level.  You’ll get 1 of each. One time only.
  • Complete every Expedition to Gold, that gives an AMP. One time only.
  • Complete every Adventure to Gold, that gives an Ability. One time only.
  • Each Dungeon has a chance to drop one or the other.
  • Complete Blighthaven or Defile to maximum rep gives 1 Ability each.  Takes about a week or so to max. One time only.
  • Complete Crimson Badlands, Malgrave, Northern Wastes or StarComm Basin for an extra AMP each, but that will take a few weeks. One time only.
  • PvP sells Ability and AMPs for Prestige.  4/5K for the first one, then 8/10K for every additional one.
  • Elder Gems sell Ability and AMPs for 300-450 each.  Unlimited.
  • Open World combat and PvP sometimes reward them as loot, though this is pretty rare
  • You can buy them on the AH, though unlikely to be cheap enough for a fresh 50.

I’d suggest you focus on Ability points first, since the tier unlocks are generally more powerful than an AMP upgrade.  Having 3 skills at T8 is a pretty big deal.

It’s So Quiet…

This weekend was the first in some time where we didn’t have some engagement, so it was quite relaxing.  Still had some errands to do, but there’s certainly something to be said about enjoying the simple things.  The slight blip to our bliss was an unexpected offer to purchase a cottage.  My wife and I are cottage people, so by ancient rites, our children must be as well, or be cast out forever.  We knew the offer was in the works but not for a few more years.  After crunching some numbers, it looks like it’s workable today and will slack off in a couple years.  I get quite antsy when it comes to finance, and it’s not like you buy real estate on regular basis.

Oh, and Star Wars.  If you didn’t have a chance to watch the recent trailer because that cave-in kept you busy, here you go:

A few notes about the trailer:

  • Contrary to most trailers, there’s no plot given away
  • I have no idea what relation exists between the characters as there’s next to no dialogue
  • I dislike JJ’s scores but this one is Williams 100%. The tugs.
  • Han and Leia deliver some awesome lines. You realize that the characters in this movie know less about Star Wars than the audience.
  • Only 1 lens flare (red lasers)! Lots of saturation though
  • Fingers crossed on no stupid steamy sexy scenes that are jammed in for no reason. (Super 8 the exception to the JJ rule)
  • $50 bet that Chewie dies. Too bad cause he’s badass in the EU (though still dead there too).

Bang, Bang, Flop

I’ve been playing my Esper a fair chunk lately, focusing almost entirely on the Quiet Downs instance.  I think I can do it blindfolded now, with an average run time of 13:30 for gold.  I’m sitting on slightly over 2000 currency, and already have the hoverboard mount.  Not so lucky in the costume drops though…  I’ve re-runed a few things, knowing that some pieces of gear will never be updated unless I start raiding.  Quite a difference to be honest, giving me a fair chunk more power and survivability. It’s had an impact on my plat making mind you, since Quiet Downs provides no loot, outside of a bag with mostly decorations inside.  Stretching a little thing on that class, I decided to get back to my Engineer tank.

First to note, he has 5 pieces at ilvl90, so arguably better than the Esper, if you ignore the crap gear in the other slots.  Both are holding great weapons, so that certainly helps.  I’ve runed him for damage and it’s been ok so far.  His output is certainly higher than the Esper’s but his survival is in the pits.  Engineer’s are the only class that cannot self heal (outside of a T8 skill), which makes some content surprisingly difficult.

Expeditions with my Esper are usually cake walks.  Gauntlet is a good example, in particular the middle portion where you need to avoid exploding rats.  I can put on a passive heal that allows me to make mistakes during that 90s portion.  The engineer has to take that T8 skill PDU, that heals for around 4000 damage every 30 seconds.  The hits taken are between 5000 and 6000, so not exactly useful.  I missed completing Fragment Zero on gold due to 2 deaths due to combat sessions that lasted 2 minutes, since the entire zone is littered with tiny critters (quite a litteral Zerg fest).

Typical solo work isn’t bad.  The damage output is good, the defenses aren’t crippling.  The issue as I see it is that with my current ilvl, I’m just at the edge of reasonable.  I can’t see how a fresh 50 would have fun, when compared to other classes’ solo-viability. I know that giving Engineer’s a self-heal would homogenize the classes, but it would also increase the “fun” aspect of the class at lower ilevels.  And let’s be clear, a support-specced Engineer is a beast.  They hit like a mouse but take it on the chin like a champ.

So I think that’s where I’m going to end up, turning this Engineer into a tank-only monster for group content.  It’ll be a pretty big hit to his solo-ability but it’ll be a different content package than my Esper is running, which should help avoid any burnout.