WoW – drood powa

I used to get annoyed at druids in PvP in WoW, because the little buggers are unkillable, sort of like paladins only more moonkinny. Then again, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with droods. I made one early on and never really played her. Made another and never really played her either – and so on. Each time I’ve come back to WoW I’ve made another druid (to start fresh or some such smart reason) and never played her.

Last year, however, I finally made one as a hermit char and played her up to 60, which took about 17.4 seconds with the new levelling and a couple of heirloom xp items. (For those who don’t know: a hermit character is one nobody else knows about so you can play them when you’re not feeling sociable. Of course, the whole e-mailfriends WoW thing, whatever it’s called, puts the kibosh on that because they can see you’re online no matter who you’re playing, but that’s okay; I’ve only got 2 of those and we don’t bug each other a whole lot.) And then she sat there for a few months, gathering rest xp and dust, until I brushed her off again during the Xmas break.

into the wild blue yonder

Now, while I don’t particularly want to gush… OMGWTFBBQOPSMASHRIPRIP! Druids are fun, especially feral druids when it comes to my own playstyle. Sneak around when you need to, claw-shred-rip the crap out of stuff when you want, heal when required, claw-shred-rip some more, rinse repeat. I’ll grant you it doesn’t require a whole lot of keys and it’s not all that varied, but none of that matters in the face of shredding the opposition before they even know what’s hit them.

So my little druid is now 70 and claw-shred-ripping her way through the aptly-named Northrend. I don’t want to like her more than my hunter, who is my day 1 character (hell, Eloise is a remake of my beta character so she’s like a million years old in MMO years), but… well… who needs a pet when you can be your own pet? And flight form rocks, especially the faster purple flight form.

I’ve also been indulging in pet battles. I’m still shocked at how addictive those are if you let them be, especially when you get complacent about how good your main team is (mechanical gnome, nexus wyrm, flayer hatchling) and then one of the battle masters hands you your ass; not once, but three times. After the third time I realised it was time to a) level my guys a little and b) find some team members who weren’t going to be insta-roasted by the Shadowmoon guy’s horrible little flame elemental.

There’s something for me about WoW that other people report finding in GW2, which is uncomplicated fun. I’ve logged in to TSW a few times and though I still love the game, it just demands too much thought from me at the moment. So I’m dabbling in TSW for brief, cogitation-laden sessions and then going back to WoW to relax. I’m just glad I have several games I can hop around in and only one I need to be paying for.

TSW – The Dreaded Alt Quandary

I know, I know, we don’tneed alts in The Secret World. And yet, here I am.

I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m having a hard time getting into the game the way I want to. Not because I don’t love the game, far from it, but there’s a certain distance there that I want to bridge in order to really ‘immerse’ myself  (apply whatever definition of the word suits you).

For one thing, I felt as though I was going too fast with Ysharros, zipping through some stuff because I’d seen it in beta, ignoring all the lovely conversation options with NPCs because I’d seen them in beta, not letting my sense of wonder out of the box because I’d seen it in beta.

Ysharros – Grim

A large part of the problem seems to be my comparing myself to a close RL friend who is also playing, and who is a fast leveller. She’s already in the Savage Coast – hell, I suspect she’s in the Blue Mountains by now, and for some reason I keep feeling like I’m being left behind. Thing is, it’s not like she’s telling me to hurry up – I have my pace, she has hers, and there’s no question that one should hurry or wait for the other. But I still felt like I was or needed to be playing catch-up.

So this morning I made a character on the RP server – err, dimension, which is something I was wanting to do anyway. (Marvellous as it is, the one thing my long, long-time guild is not is an RP guild. It’s not even particularly supportive of RP, though it doesn’t disparage or prevent it. But we have some players who are made very uncomfortable by the concept – so yeah, not an RP guild.)

Mysericorde – Arcadia (RP)

All hail Mysericorde (curses to whoever got the original!), another Dragon. I hesitated at the faction screen for quite a while between Templar and Dragon, but Myz already knew what she was and, while she could probably have joined either (she’s a morally limber type), that whole flexibility made her seem more one than the other. Someday though I’m going to make a Templar-rad who wants to change things from the inside – I’ve always loved me a good rebel with an impossible cause.

Given that I know what a misericorde actually is, I was very tempted to go blades even though there’s no such thing as daggers. Then I decided I was being too literal and also decided to push my comfort envelope a little with starting weapons. I’ve not been terribly attracted to pistols in TSW so far, but that’s what I’m trying for now. Probably paired with Blood Magic (which I think follows the Assassin deck template, iirc, but don’t quote me).

The thing is, Myz is going to be taking her time. Myz has a personality that isn’t entirely my own and that isn’t simply an extension of myself, as my Ysharros characters tend to be. I’m not sure how much I’ll RP with folks, but I certainly won’t get in the way of it and I’m open to it despite my previously-stated discomfort with MMO-based RP. Give me a table and paper (and maybe some dice) and I’m much more comfortable – but we’ll see.

Point being, if Myz isn’t comfortable with her chosen weapons, she’ll take the time to train herself in others. She has lots of questions, which will take time to answer, and she has plans and long-term goals, which may change as she finds out more. But whether I want to or not, she’s going to stop and talk to anyone who has anything at all to say, and you can be damn sure she’ll be taking notes and trying to put everything together.

The only downside when it comes to playing with my RL friend (which we don’t do too often anyway, our pace is too different) is that I won’t be able to PvP with her since that’s dimension-specific. And that’s it. So what’s the harm in me moulding the game and my playstyle to my liking rather than… whatever it was I was doing the last few days? None.

No real point to this other than that if you’re not entirely comfortable in TSW yourself, for whatever reason – you have enough options available to try to make it fit you better. It’s worth a shot. This isn’t WoW. If I have one piece of advice to give to most, it’s don’t race to the finish. In this one the journey really IS the answer.

Edit – Oh yeah, and I added a few screenies to the TSW screens page.

Get your ass off my NPC

This needs to be said, and while I’m annoyed by it specifically in WoW at the moment it applies to any game with mounts or vehicles, especially large ones.

Don’t be an asshole and park your big mounted ass on top of NPCs.

(Sub-rule: don’t be an asshole and hover your big mounted ass right on top of my head, m’kay? Or I may have to find out where you live and fling monkey poo at your windows.)

(Anyone know where to get a cheap supply of monkey poo?)

What irks me the most is that basically there’s a proportion of people who don’t even stop to think how their parking their big mounted ass on top of an NPC affects everyone else. (The ones who actually do it on purpose I ignore, because they’re assholes rather than stupidly oblivious.) It’s not that they don’t give a shit — they’re not even aware that there’s any kind of a shit to give.

Wake up! Realise that there are other people in the world around you, virtual or otherwise. You’re not a unique and beautiful snowflake and I can assure you the world doesn’t revolve around you. In fact, if you weren’t such an oblivious idiot, you might find people are generally nicer to you because you’re not passively impinging on their day by being so moronically thoughtless.

This applies to people on the road, too. I’m tired of having to drive not only for myself but also for the mind-bogglingly irritating people who are applying lipstick / texting / checking their phone / scratching their butt at 80 mph on I-40 on the way into Albuquerque.

Just sayin’.

 

Classless is a pain in the assless

(Edited with further reading posts at the end.)

Sad classless panda is sad.

AKA: Elder Game’s Eric reckons “classless” is really rather more difficult to design for MMOs than most people are willing to admit. My first reaction was Noooooo! Do not say this! Do not want to hear it! Lalalala!

But common sense generally recognises itself, and certainly in the case of Asheron’s Call what Eric writes jibes exactly with my own experience as a player. Yes, you could technically put your experience points anywhere you liked in AC, and for example end up with a character built like a stick-insect who was capable of crossing the entire map in under two minutes, they ran that fast. But you wouldn’t be able to fight those pesky reedsharks nipping at your backside while you ran, and you’d be easy prey for any zephyr or lounging virindi waiting to shoot a lightning bolt up it.

I know all about this, because my first character — first ever, fresh off the Pen’n’Paper table MMO character — was made in an attempt to approximate reasonable tabletop RPG design. In other words I was careful not to min/max my stats while still having one stat that was a little above the rest, and I picked a nice, rounded variety of skills (Monster appraisal!) that I thought would help me in this new world of online role-playing.

As a result, Eloise was a gimp and remained a gimp for a long time, until it became possible to slowly move stats from one attribute to another and to drop/acquire skills. The very fact that the AC community rapidly evolved a term for being a sub-optimal character — “gimp” — shows that the players, at least, perceived some builds as good and most others as, well, crap. And while players are asshats and often meaner than a sackful of weasels, many of them also know how to crunch a mean number and the whole gimp/not-gimp thing wasn’t just a matter of perception. There were smart ways to spend you character creation and xp points, and there were less smart ways. The smart ways would enable you to kick the crap out of mobs, which is essentially what one does in most MMOs… and the less smart ways would have you struggling to do the same thing while wondering where you went wrong and why you were at the lifestone yet again.

(Tangent time. There’s always someone who asks “Why didn’t you just reroll?” and I’m never sure how to answer that because simply asking the question implies a wide chasm between how the asker and I approach our characters in games. Sure, lots of characters get made for the purposes of trying something out or experimenting with a given role and then usually get deleted. But in many cases, the characters I make in MMOs will gel and become characters, not just waldoes for me to manipulate in the game world, and rerolling is just plain murder. There’s a point up to which that can be done — past that point, it’s not happening. And as I said, if I have to explain it or if you’re asking, we’re probably not on the same gaming/character page to begin with.)

I demand the freedom to be a gimp!

Sure. Here, have it. There are times when we’re all happy to play a sub-optimal character, either because it’s fun or because we’re role-playing or because we’re kinky that way, or even because such a build can fill a particular specialist niche in a game, like crafting mules in AC. Whatever — when you have a classless game, you’ll have kinky-build characters. The stick insect. The quick hulk with no hit points. The mage with the enormous brain and BITE ME tattooed on his chest.

But no player in their right mind wants all kinky all the time, no matter how loftily they may speaketh of RP and how it’s only the character that matters, not the numbers. I call bollocks on that one. Most of the time you want a character that will perform consistently within the parameters of the given game, given some variance for player skill (said variance being, er, rather variable depending on what game you’re playing). Most players, for that matter, want to know that their character SmashMouth001 is almost identical to SmashMouth002, and that the only real difference between them is that SM001-player actually knows how to mash buttons and in what order, whereas poor SM002-player does not. I’m not sure I’m that happy to be part of the herd, but classes are what they are in most games and they do provide a way to compare and contrast oneself with other players when it comes to examining roles and one’s performance of said role. They also make it a damn sight easier for designers when it comes to examining metrics and seeing how one group of players is doing in comparison to another.

Beyond that, though, it was also pretty obvious pretty quickly in AC that mages — anyone with any kind of magical skills, of which there were 4 major schools — had a gigantic leg up over anyone who didn’t. Pure combat mages basically kicked everyone else’s ass, in most cases, and any character with even a smidge of magic was usually far superior (better survivability, better buffs, better heals, whatever) to a similar character who had, say, picked Person and Monster appraisal over magic.

Secret and Classless

So here’s what worries me, since I’m so busy waiting on The Secret World even though I’ve said nary a thing about it lately. (It’s playing hard to get? I’ll play blind blogger. So nerh.) From the on-site blurb:

Freeform gameplay – Experience a game that has no classes or levels. Truly freeform character customization allows you to create the alter-ego you want to play, and gameplay that goes beyond the usually rigid MMO structure allows you to play the game the way you want to play it.

Hundreds of powers – Wield fiery katanas, gold-plated pistols, and deadly automatic rifles. Learn martial arts, black magic and voodoo. Choose from hundreds of powers to create a character completely customized to your liking.

Yeah! Um… uh oh… Ack!

Now, a few of the other things that have been said do indicate that classlessness does not imply role-lessness, and if there’s one thing MMO players are conscious of these days it’s roles, perhaps even more than classes. So although you’re not called a “fighter”, it sounds like you can pick a power deck (or whatever it’ll be called) that will allow you to perform fightery-type roles, or healery-type roles, or whatever it is you want to play that day. Maybe. If it’s done right.

It’s not that it can’t be done, and that’s not what EG’s Eric is saying (mostly, I think). It’s that it’s a lot more expensive and intensive and it’s a pain in the ass once you have designed it. I can see that — that actually makes perfect sense, sadly. I’ll just have to hope that the TSW team are aware of this and have worked out how to present us with a classless, level-less system while still having some pretty rigid, manageable mechanics underneath.

I’m having trouble working out how a fiery katana is going to compete with a deadly automatic rifle, for instance. (Okay, that could just be part of the “wear what you like, it’s not what you’re actually using” appearance system they’ve been talking about… but what if it isn’t?) How are they going to avoid having a handful of optimal builds — or powersets or whatever they’ll be called — and a million gimp builds? Because for every Jane who doesn’t mind that it takes her a bit longer to kill that zombie or that she can’t down that boss because her character is gimped, there will be 999 Joes who resent that very much and will always make sure they use the best available build the community has worked out, no matter how cookie-cutter it may be. Killing shit > original build. Killing shit easily / killing elite shit > other stuff.  You get my drift. We gamers have fairly simple minds when it comes to certain mechanics.

Ultimately, classless and level-less and number-less weren’t that easy to manage even in tabletop RP, and that’s not just because we RP geeks love us some numbers and some dice*. It’s because classes and levels and numbers-based mechanics provide us with systems that help ensure at least a modicum of parity and a reasonable amount of fairness all the way around the table, both between the players themselves and between the players and the person running the game session. And indeed, a diceless RPG system is harder to set up and maintain as a GM than a more rigid system — I’ve been there. That’s not to say it isn’t rewarding, but it certainly is more difficult and more time-consuming to manage. (Players bitching that other players have more powers or can do more. Players bitching that they should be able to do A B or C, when a more mechanics-based system would enable you to just say no. Making sure confrontations are confrontational and not constant cakewalks. Et-ad-nauseam-cetera.)

I guess we’ll see, as far as TSW is concerned.

And one day there may even be a beta and I may even be in it. Shut up, vaaaaaaporwaaaarrrrre raven!

Further reading

Aim for the Head – The Skills of EVE

Psychochild – Stay Classy

Rampant Coyote – Defending the lack of Class

Tish Tosh Tesh – Classes, Trinity and Balance, Oh, My

(slightly tangential, or at least inspired by a whole different original post) Big Bear Butt – The (Un)Holy Trinity

~

* Amber. Yes, I know. One exception does not actually entirely disprove the contention.

Every Now And Then

… it occurs to me how much fun I have when I’m gaming, and I remember to take a screenshot. I’ve been taking quite a few screenies in WoW of late, and while most of them aren’t blog-quality, some of them are quite fun and I am hereby inflicting them on you all.

Ironically, for a game that touts its All About The Endgame nature, WoW is amazingly good at the levelling part. It’s been about a calendar month since I came back to WoW, and my main was 55 when I did so. She’s now 82 — and yeah, that’s probably not much in a month for most people, especially in WoW, especially with the new levelling curves, but to me it still seems amazingly rapid.

The thing is, though, I don’t feel like I’ve been rushing through anything or skipping content in my level-ho attempts to climb the ladder of MMO social importance. Quite the contrary.  I’ve sampled a zone here, a quest hub there, and every time I’ve wanted to move on because a zone got tedious or because I’d just had my fill of bloooooo (Zangarmash, I’m looking at YOU!), I’ve been able to do so and find another fun and interesting place to explore.

The Cataclysm content, which I finally reached a couple of days ago, has been very similar. I could be organised and do each zone (or one of each pair) in a methodical fashion… but I’m not methodical. It’s almost a dirty word as far as my brain is concerned, and that — among other things — is why I will never be a computer programmer or a brain surgeon (though I haven’t quite given up on rocket scientist yet). So yes, I’ve been working through Vashj’ir in a relatively linear fashion, which isn’t difficult because the zone is very linearly organised, but I’ve still found ways to a) get side-tracked, b) miss quests and have to go back for them, c) accidentally enter the Horde quest hubs despite the enormous RED-NOT-ALLIANCE flags outside, and d) explore other places, like Mount Hyjal. Speaking of Hyjal, I’m not sure I like the place, but I’ll give it more than 3 quests before I make up my mind.

Okay, that’s my stab at content for the day. Have some pix.

Definitely one of the most fun vehicle-based quests EVAR

Oh wait, this one's fun too. Except I feel like I should be on the hood of a car.

AAAAAAAHHHH! I really hope they haven't seeeeen meeeeeeee!

How to literally suck players into your games. MOAR KRAKEN!

Adventures in zone design - let's add a whole nother dimension!

ProTip: Don't use the Boots of Jumping to the Surface when you're only 15' down