Breakthrough

I had the realization that I am playing GemCraft: Chasing Shadows the wrong way. I have been carefully ratcheting up difficulty and consistently playing at the most challenging difficulty I can reliably overcome. This has kept me above the xp curve, usually playing at 400%xp to keep getting further ahead. With the levels from that xp, I have been consistently pushing levels to the 150 wave range, which makes for the very long games I have mentioned.

This is silly. I do not have all the resources yet, so there will be more reward for sprinting to get all the skills and going back to get mad xp if I need it. I got a huge effectiveness boost when I got the critical hit gem skill, and I have mentioned in the comments that I needed the chain hit gem kill to round out my effectiveness.

Last night I ran through a series of levels as quickly as I could and found my way to the one where I could unlock the chain hit gem skill. I then went back to re-try an early level and see how it raised my effectiveness. My score on that level went from about 200,000 to about 950,000,000. One level, on my first time trying out a real mana trap farm, did not just give me more xp than all the hours carefully working through levels — it nearly tripled my level. I set another one of those up and went to bed, and it went on to farm into nine digits, bringing my level above 1000.

It’s kind of like that scene in a book or movie where the protagonist finds out the real scale of the conflict and looks back with wonder on the struggle that seemed so important five minutes ago. It is Ender talking to children still back a level or Neo looking around the Matrix where he used to live. It is as if Gandalf said, “Now that you mention it, Frodo, the eagles would totally have flown us in at the beginning if we’d asked.”

I suddenly got a lot of sympathy for the impatient players who want to be accelerated to the end game. Why kill monsters for coppers when you could do the same actions for gold? I remember joining WoW at the end of the WotLK era and making that jump from the vanilla lategame to the first Burning Crusade map. “So you guys farmed that for a couple of years, and I’m getting stronger gear from green boars?”

: Zubon

Modicum of Interaction

I started playing World of Warcraft again. I wouldn’t have done it without a friend of mine who is a huge Blizzard fan, going to Blizzcons and all that. I asked what server he played on. Ravenholdt. Sounds good, I thought, as I watched the World of Warcraft client update after nearly a decade of dust.

Then when it came time to choose that character’s home, I gulped when I saw Ravenholdt. “RP”…. okay, whatever, and “PvP”… what? PvP meant that if I was out in the open world picking daisies any dirty orc player could come and gank me. I was never going to be safe from the darkness in the hearts of humans IRL.

I can feel Syncaine’s future eye roll already.  Continue reading Modicum of Interaction

[WoW] Freely Returned

I find it ironic that I am returning to World of Warcraft at the exact moment subscribers are apparently leaving in droves. I am also returning for free deciding to create a new priest in a new server rather than removing 10 years of dust from my priest of old.

Yes, a decade of dust. I bought World of Warcraft to tide me over for Guild Wars 1. That $15 was a lot back then, and so when I really was hitting the leveling wall I quit. A friend used my account for awhile so I have a few expansions. He quit with Pandaria.

I would say it took a pretty perfect node to get me back. I love Heroes of the Storm so am constantly seeing “advertisements” in that. I am bored in Guild Wars 2 with that expansion nowhere in sight. I just can’t bring myself to get back to The Secret World, where I dislike combat, or Lord of the Rings Online, for sentimental reasons of keeping my memories back in the good ol’ days rather than what appears to be a pale horse. And, I can play for free in World of Warcraft up to level 20.

My strongest memories were of Elwyn Forest; gliding through the treetops on the flight service. Then there was that haunting, perfect music. I picked up a new human priest on Ravenholdt (RPPvP), and away I went. What was new after a decade gone? Continue reading [WoW] Freely Returned

[WoW] Flying into Cheat Mode

Blizzard has responded well to the outcry of the previous developer decision to ban flying from the latest expansion. They’ve decided to give [back?] flying as part of the open world end game.  Once unlocked on one character with collecting treasures, working on faction reputations, doing all the Draenor things, etc., all other characters get access without all the hoops.

I think one commentator in the official Blizzard post nails it, and gets downvoted heavily for the wisdom. The top comment says “this is reasonable”, and then the response from the one is that ‘if you’ve already done everything in Draenor, what reason is there for flying’. Continue reading [WoW] Flying into Cheat Mode

Time to Effectiveness

This is true. In any PvP game (or game with a significant PvP element), a major factor must be time to PvP effectiveness. From the time I start, how long until I can be worthwhile to have along and how long until I am at parity with long time players? This is mechanical, numerical parity; you may still be lousy because of having no strategy or practice, but how long until I can shoot a bullet that does as much damage as the next guy’s?

In most non-MMOs, that was the instant you log on. A rocket launcher is a rocket launcher, a zergling is a zergling. Now more games have character advancement, so even a FPS might make you level. The better ones use a model like Team Fortress 2: you need time/money to gain options, not power (at least in theory; the “options” might be better than what you start with, but there should be trade-offs).

MMOs are notoriously bad because you need to level. Guild Wars 2 sPvP avoids this by letting you play at full effectiveness on day one, but WvW does not because a level 1 scaled to 80 is significantly less powerful than a level 80. His bullets do not do the same damage, and they will not until after a level and equipment grind, but the scaling means you can at least contribute while taking care of that grind through WvW. In EVE, you can join your friends and meaningfully contribute on your first day. I have been playing Ingress lately, where you can start contributing around level 5 and reach full effectiveness at 8, which was spread over a month for me and is doable in 20 hours or less of (highly efficient, possibly assisted) play.

For MMOs, this is indicative of the larger problem that you need to grind to play with your friends. MMOs are bad for playing with your friends. Their character advancement systems make it difficult to find a span within which you can bring veterans, newbies, alts, etc. together, and it only gets worse over time as the power differential between day one and the level cap grows. I played a bit of World of Warcraft but it never really caught me because I spent almost my entire time in that vast, lonely wasteland between level 1 and the cap.

If I play these games to play with my friends, I want to play with my friends. If I play these games to compete with other people, I want to compete on a level playing field.

: Zubon

What Are You Going to Do With It?

Your game has various sources of gear or whatever your unit of character advancement is (usually gear). You might get it from quests, crafting, events, PvP, single group dungeons, or raids. Of course, whatever sort of gameplay you favor is the one that should produce the best rewards or at least have a chance of eventually earning something comparable to the best. In games with raids, especially progressive raiding, raids usually produce the strongest gear. And I have always been pretty much okay with this, despite never being all that interested in online synchronized dance recitals.

Because what are you going to do with the best weapon in the game as a solo player? None of the solo content assumes that you are going to have an extra thousand DPS, so you will just blow through it even quicker. Of course, by the time you get the best weapon in the game (TV Tropes warning, happy Monday), you don’t need it, so it is even more of a cosmetic reward. You will probably enjoy solo content less if you have raid gear that trivializes it. You do not need raid gear unless you are raiding.

But I know we have some readers who do things with MMO content other than enjoy it, so perhaps you have your reasons.

: Zubon

Changing His Solo Ways

For some reason, this 2006 post appeared in my RSS feed. But of course, the writings of Wilhelm Arcturus are always fresh and ready to be mined for new insights. Such as:

I have not avoided groups in the past because I am anti-social. … I have avoided groups because they make leveling take longer in WoW. Solo play, for levels, is rewarded in WoW. When you group, your exp per kill is reduced, time taken to finish drop related quests goes up dramatically with each person you add to the group (so you do kill more, which mitigates the exp per kill loss somewhat, but a lot of the exp is in finishing the quest, so your exp/hour is still taking a hit), and unless your group all has the same quests, somebody is usually waiting for everybody else to get to their quest.

This of course brought 2008 to mind:

If it is designed as solo content, you gain little to nothing for bringing a friend. Indeed, it might take the two of you longer to do it together than it would to do it separately, say if you each need to loot a dozen ground objects that despawn after they are looted; you would have been better off each going alone, five minutes after each other, rather than going together and waiting for the respawns.

Both of which reinforce the point from yesterday that grouping brings with it the potential for great upsides and downsides. If most of the leveling game takes away most of the upside, that leaves a lot of distance for the increasingly common “solo MMO” to fall.

Which are perhaps some reasons why we are seeing the rise of MOBAs and a renaissance in small group games where you bring your friends rather than trying to seek the questionable benefits of a matchmaker service.

: Zubon

Revolution, Evolution, Variation, Recombination

Before Arkship started, I needed food. I walked until I found a restaurant we did not have back home, which happened to be Fatburger. We do have hamburgers in Michigan, but not that chain, and friends had gushed about the place. It was indeed a quality sandwich and my first time having a hamburger with relish on it. I have had hamburgers and relish before, but not together, and the combination of ingredients was unexpectedly good.

Relatively few restaurants offer anything new. They can offer something new to you, Continue reading Revolution, Evolution, Variation, Recombination