Sep 032014

In an effort to shake off the doldrums, a banal post of what I’ve been up to lately.


I’m still playing and thinking about Hearthstone a fair bit. I’d play more, but the game has a couple of disincentives that’ve caused me to cut back my play time significantly.

First, the ranked mode has two reward “tiers.” Every season, which resets monthly, you can earn a card back by achieving rank 20, which is trivial. After that, the next “reward” isn’t until you reach Legend (aka Rank 0) where you can actually see how you stack up against all the other Legendeers that month. Unfortunately, the grind to get to Legend is pretty rough.

Based on anecdotal data and some math, I figure it takes most between 300-450 games to get to Legend, for those that are capable of achieving it. That roughly correlates to a winrate between 55-60%. (Theoretically, a 50% player could get it, but they’d have to get very lucky from Rank 5-Legend, where the bonus win for winning two games or more in a row goes away.)

If a game averages 10 minutes, that’s 50-75 hours of play. Could I do it? Probably, but I’d have to play exclusively Hearthstone for the entire month. I just don’t see the appeal of something that’s going to reset so quickly.

Second, Blizzard allowed players to buy Naxxramas (the first expansion) with in-game gold. As someone who has most of the cards in the game already, it doesn’t make sense for me to spend money on additional packs when they’ve already revealed 100+ cards coming in the expansion, likely with a new pack type.

Kingdom of Amalur

Remember this company-killer? I played it for a while on Xbox when it came out, but it didn’t hold my interest, due to significant scaling problems. I purchased it for PC during the last sale, and spent an hour getting the “YSA” trainer working to significantly up the difficulty and lower the XP/gold gain.

It’s been wonderful; kind of a Dark Souls-lite, but with quicksaves. All the systems that I ignored the first time I played, like blocking (heh) are now much more relevant, and I’m constantly running low on potions and the gold to buy them. I’m currently stuck on the Maid of Windemere, but I think if I go farm a few alchemy mats, I should be able to buff up enough to burst her down.


I haven’t touched the live game, and have no real desire to at this point pre-Warlords. Trying to nail down uninterrupted time remains difficult, which eliminates things like challenge modes and raiding. I never did finish Brawler’s Guild, however, so I’d like to give that a go pre-6.0, as well as taking another shot at the Doing It Wrong achievement for Proving Grounds.

As for the beta, it’s been fun, but I’m actively curtailing playing it because, per my usual, I’d like to save the discovery process for the live realms. Pretty much, all I’ve done is create premade druids for testing abilities. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’ll be doing a full guide for feral for 6.0, as well as short guides for the other 3 druid specs. With stats being shared between gear, it’ll be easier than ever for druids to respec, so I need to teach myself how to be fluid (TM) again. :)

Site Updates

Last but not least, I’m poking around at updating the blog. WordPress 4 will be released soon, and with that, I’m looking to make some improvements to readability. Don’t really have a clear idea as to what I’ll be doing yet theme-wise, so you may see a few things change if you’re visiting the blog directly and not subscribing via a feed. Always interested in suggestions, so send them in.

I also need blogroll updates! If you have a druid blog (or there’s one you read regularly), then I want to know about it so I can plug them in. I’ll also take any general WoW sites, anything you think is cool. Let me know!

 Posted by at 4:47 pm
Aug 142014

EDIT: Didn’t realize it, but November will be WoW’s 10th anniversary, and WoW was released on Warcraft I’s 10th anniversary, so it makes sense they’d keep that going. If this keeps up, we’ll see WoW 2 in November 2024.

13:20 That’s it, folks. Some quick mental math gives us 428 days (ish) between 5.4’s release and the expansion, which will rate as the longest time between tiers ever. So much for attempting to avoid that. (ICC was 343, Dragon Soul was 301.)

13:17 November 13th, 2014 listed at end of trailer!

13:12 WoD cinematic trailer starting.

13:11 Metzen gives a shoutout to the guy who was first in line to get in to the theater, awkward camera zoom ensues.

13:10 Gameplay trailer over, Metzen back out to introduce the cinematic trailer.

13:08 Leeroy Jenkins sighting!

13:06 Blizzard really needs to stop showing in-game NPC swordplay in the trailers, as it just looks ridiculous.

13:05 Watters back out, gameplay trailer coming up.

13:03 Four more LoW eps coming out. Showing teaser now.

13:02 Cinematic over. Nice Metzen line, “No more whimsical pandas!”

13:00 (LoW) If only jump attacks worked as well in real life as they do in cinema.

12:59 (LoW) Maraad pressuring Varian, okay. whatever. Setup to talk about Kargath.

12:57 First episode of Lords of War (animated shorts) starting.

12:55 Lost connection for a sec.

12:54 Metzen asking how many people saw Burdens of Shaohao, says it went well. (Note: he didn’t say it was “popular.”)

12:53 Chris Metzen comes out to introduce the new animated series. Must every presenter do a Horde/Alliance shoutout?

12:52 Some talk about the new version of Draenor.

12:51 Temporary Level 90 version of UBRS. Cool!

12:50 6.0 patch – initial Iron Horde invasion to Blasted Lands and UBRS, you respond.

12:48 Back to Hazzikostas talking about the Dark Portal. Ion, you lost the audience at “existential.”

12:47 Mild crowd response to being able to loot Ashran Fragments from other players.

12:45 More on Ashran, the tech to keeps things faction balanced, and some of the cool abilities they give to classes. I’m not much of a PvPer, but PvEvP (if that’s a thing) is something I enjoy, so I might give it a shot.

12:43 Holinka now talking Ashran PvP. Comparing it to the long-running AV’s of yore.

12:42 Have to raise an army to defeat the Iron Horde. Yawn. Wake me when I can take my army into the raid zone.

12:40 Talking about cleaning up action bars, better graphics. Very ho-hum so far.

12:39 Talking up the boost to lvl 90. (EDIT: Nobody ever gets stuck in Grizzly Hills, that zone was awesome.)

12:38 Waters brings out Holinka and Hazzikostas.

12:36 Back to the call outs of Horde and Alliance, yawn.

12:34 Mike Morhaime out in an interesting shirt. Blue stripe down the right-hand side, mmkay. Looks like a Windows 8 Snap.

12:34 First accidental calling it Worlds of Draenor.

12:33 Chris Watters out to talk now. Also, the person who was responsible for the overuse of ellipses has been sacked.

12:32 That…was a very short cinematic. I’m guessing that’s just the intro.

12:31 War is the lifeblood…yay.

12:30 Lovely ESRB Rating…thanks, guys.

Just happen to have the day off from work at the same time of the cinematic! (Times in EST)

 Posted by at 12:31 pm
Jul 242014


So, I’ve poked my head into Hearthstone again with the release of the Naxxramas expansion pack. My favored mode  of play remains Arena, so I figured I’d put together all the new cards along with a rough idea as to where they’ll fit in the current tiers, using the liquidhearth tier list for reference. (Remember that not all of these are available yet – about 20% unlock each week and will be available in Arena once they are unlocked. The Hearthstone wiki has the full list of what unlocks when.)

EDIT: I’m tweaking this list as of 26 August. AntiGrav1ty has ranked most of these now as well, so I’ll be adding his ranking along with some additional reasoning. Additions in parentheses.


These cards should be picked above all else.

Dark Cultist (Priest, Common, 3 mana 3/4. Deathrattle: Give a random friendly minion 3 Health.)  Similar to an Earthen Ring Farseer, but better. A 3/4 for 3 is great stats, and the health bump is almost always useful, unlike ERS’s battlecry heal. (AG Ranking: 10/10.)

Death’s Bite (Warrior, Common, 4 mana 4/2. Weapon. Deathrattle: Deal 1 damage to all minions.) The middle brother between Fiery War Axe and Arcanite Reaper. The deathrattle is generally good due to all of Warrior’s enrage/pump cards. Great card, but remember you need minions too. (AG Ranking: 9/10.)

Kel’Thuzad (Legendary, 8 mana 6/8. At the end of the turn, summon all friendly minions that died this turn.) Amazing legendary, since you’ve got a good chance to bring back a beefy 6 or 7 drop and win the game. Even if you can’t get an effect that turn, stats are decent and sticking it means you win. Not as good as Cairne, Rags, or Ysera, but probably better than Sylvanas or Onyxia. (AG Ranking: NR.)

Shade of Naxxramas (Epic, 3 mana 2/2. Stealth. At the start of your turn, gain 1/1.) Better than Questing Adventurer since you can choose when he trades. (AG Ranking: NR.)

Sludge Belcher (Rare, 5 mana 3/5. Taunt. Deathrattle: Summon a (1/2) slime with taunt.) Like Stampeding Kodo, the killer of two-drops. (AG Ranking: 7/8.)

Spectral Knight (Common, 5 mana 4/6. Can’t be targeted by spells or Hero powers.) Faerie Dragon’s big brother. Solid but unexciting card. (AG Ranking: 9/10. Probably my biggest whiff calling this average. This thing is a beast.)


Not good enough to plan your deck around, but everything in this category is a strong choice.

Anub’ar Ambusher (Rogue, Common, 4 mana 5/5. Deathrattle: Return a random friendly minion to your hand.) A less controlled version of the Ancient Brewmaster. For most classes, it doesn’t work too well, but as a Rogue card, it’s pretty sweet because you’re likely to have either nothing or a comboable card hanging around. (AG Ranking: 7/10. Demoted to good. Rogues frequently play more aggro than other classes in arena, and AA can kill your tempo.)

Echoing Ooze (Epic, 2 mana 1/2. Battlecry: Summon exact copy of this minion at the end of the turn.) Great card. It’s basically a 2/4 for 2 by itself, and is an incredible combo with buffs. Only downside is it’s not very impactful. (AG Ranking: NR.)

Haunted Creeper (Common, 2 mana 1/2. Deathrattle: Summon two 1/1 Spectral Spiders.) Good card, basically a cheaper Harvest Golem. A bit harder to use, however, since you typically won’t be able to trade with it by itself. (AG Ranking: 7/10.)

Loatheb (Legendary, 5 mana 5/5. Battlecry: Enemy spells cost (5) more next turn.) Better than Harrison Jones, not as good as Sylvanas. Mages HATE him. (AG Ranking: 4/7.)

Webspinner (Hunter, Common, 1 mana 1/1. Deathrattle: Add a random Beast card to your hand.) Free card for 1 mana, can’t beat that. (AG Ranking: 7/10.)


These cards are either meh or have a strong downside to go with their upside.

Duplicate (Mage, Common, 3 mana. Secret: When a friendly minion dies, put 2 copies of it in your hand.) I prefer Arcane Intellect for card draw, which is effectively what this is. (AG Ranking: 6/10. AG ranks this 6 and AI 7, which is pretty much what I think. bumped up to Average.)

Feugen (Legendary, 5 mana 4/7. Deathrattle: If Stalagg also died this game, summon Thaddius.)
Stalagg (Legendary, 5 mana 7/4. Deathrattle: If Feugen also died this game, summon Thaddius.)  Essentially blank since the odds of seeing both Feugen and Stalagg in the same Arena game are virtually nil. A 5 mana 4/7 is a solid card, though, and worth taking for stats alone. Stalagg’s 7/4 is not as good, and should be considered Average. (AG Ranking: 3/8 for Feugen, 1/8 for Stalagg. Huh. I don’t think they’re THAT bad. Is Stalagg worse than Nat Pagle, Captain Greenskin, and Lorewalker Cho? Is Feugen worse than Baron Geddon? Still, demoted to Average.)

Maexxna (Legendary, 6 mana 2/8. Destroy a minion damaged by this minion.) It would be a great common, but it’s just an average legendary since it has no immediate impact on the board. Likely to get silenced and ignored. (AG Ranking: 4/7.)

Zombie Chow (Common, 1 mana 2/3. Deathrattle: Restore 5 Health to enemy hero.) A much worse version of Flame Imp. Great early-game card, terrible late-game. (AG Ranking: 7/10.)


These cards are generally situational; there are better all-round options.

Avenge (Paladin, Common, 1 mana. Secret: When one of your minions dies, give a random friendly minion 3/2.) This card is great from a mana perspective, but requires you to have 2 minions on board, does nothing against people attacking you directly, etc. Better than the other Paladin secrets, but still not that great. (AG Ranking: NR.)

Dancing Swords (Common, 3 mana 4/4. Deathrattle: opponent draws a card.) This an interesting card, basically an inverted Gnomish Inventor. I’m still undecided as to whether the board control is worth the card draw, so it’s here by default for now. (AG Ranking: 3/10. Agreed, demoted to Poor.)

Deathlord (Rare, 3 mana 2/8. Taunt. Deathrattle: Your opponent puts a minion from their deck into the battlefield.) This card is tailor-made for dealing with aggro decks. The downside is giving your enemy a free Mindgames. People tend to pick big creatures in Arena so not a fan of the odds here. A bit better for Priest who has some nice combos. (AG Ranking: 3/10.)

Nerub’ar Weblord (Common, 2 mana 1/4. Minions with Battlecry cost (2) more.) 1 attack does you no good and the ability hurts you just as much as the enemy. Pass. (AG Ranking: 3/10. Promoted to Poor because you can play around the ability a bit better than your opponent.)

Nerubian Egg (Rare, 2 mana 0/2. Deathrattle: Summon a 4/4 Nerubian.) Normally this would be down in Terrible land with the other gimmick cards like Ancient Watcher, but AoE sweepers are so common in Arena that this will almost always get popped. A bit better in Paladin/Shaman/Druid due to multiple buff cards, and Warlock due to self-harm cards. (AG Ranking: 3/8.)

Reincarnate (Shaman, Common, 2 mana. Destroy a minion, then return it to life with full health.) This card has so many possibilities. Combo with a charge minion is my favorite, but can restore divine shields, trigger deathrattles on command, be a minion heal, debuff, etc. That said, it still doesn’t actually do anything on its own. (AG Ranking: 3/10.)

Stoneskin Gargoyle (Common, 3 mana 1/4. At the start of your turn, restore this minion to full health.) This card is either amazing or useless. Like the Egg, probably only worth it for Paladin/Shaman/Druid. (AG Ranking: 2/10.)

Unstable Ghoul (Common, 2 mana 1/3. Taunt. Deathrattle: Deal 1 damage to all minions.) A mini-abomination. Not worth it for 2 mana, though Warrior could make it work. (AG Ranking: 4/10. Promoted to Poor because it effectively works as a 2/3 Taunt, which is okay.)

Voidcaller (Warlock, Common, 4 mana 3/4. Deathrattle: Put a random Demon from your hand into the battlefield.) With Warlock hero power, you’ll likely have at least one Demon in your hand, and summoning one this way lets you skip the nasty Battlecries. Would be higher if it wasn’t for the crappy stats. (AG Ranking: 3/10.)


Extremely situational cards that should be avoided.

Baron Rivendare (Legendary, 4 mana 1/7. Your minions trigger their Deathrattles twice.) There aren’t enough Deathrattles in the commons to make picking this card worth it. A worse Mogu’shan Warden. (AG Ranking: 1/7.)

Mad Scientist (Common, 2 mana 2/2. Deathrattle: Put a Secret from your deck onto the battlefield.) In general, this card is terrible. If you’ve already picked at least 1 Secret, though, his value jumps all the way up to Good. (AG Ranking: 2-3/10.)

Poison Seeds (Druid, Common, 2 mana. Destroy all minions and summon 2/2 Treants to replace them.) Dead card if you’re ahead, doesn’t do enough when behind, doesn’t fit the class archetype, terrible card art. Seeing a trend here? I hate this card. (AG Ranking: 3/10.)

Undertaker (Common, 1 mana 1/2. Whenever you summon a minion with Deathrattle, gain 1/1.) Not enough Deathrattles. Skip it. (AG Ranking: 1/10.)

Wailing Soul (Rare, 4 mana 3/5. Battlecry: Silence your other minions.) Constructed card only, not worth the downside. (AG Ranking: 3/8.)

That’s all 30! Peering into my crystal ball, I expect Priests to make a comeback in Arena with lots of new synergies available to them; couldn’t tell you about the other classes fow now. Have fun at the tables!


 Posted by at 10:49 am
Jul 222014

In case you missed all the banners and announcements and such, the first Hearthstone expansion pack, Curse of Naxxramas, went live today. The first wing is free, so it’s worth checking out. Playing against Maexxna, I was reminded of the old Scourge chat log from WOTLK days. Here’s an excerpt (the whole thing is here, go check it out)


***User “theLichKing” has entered the chat.***

[theLichKing]: Hey

[theLichKing]: Anyone there?

[theLichKing]: *drums fingers*

***User “Kel’Thuz4d” has entered the chat.***

[theLichKing]: Hey man.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: my liege

[theLichKing]: Listen, there’s this thing I need you to do for me

[Kel’Thuz4d]: anything my liege

[Kel’Thuz4d]: what army must i lay to waste

[Kel’Thuz4d]: whose lands shall i decimate for ur glory

[theLichKing]: Um, yeah, I’m good on decimation for today. We’re going to hold off on the decimation for, like, a week or so.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: ok?

[theLichKing]: I was thinking. How much trouble do you think it would be to have a thermostat installed in the Throne Room?

[Kel’Thuz4d]: …

[Kel’Thuz4d]: y?

[theLichKing]: It’s really really cold in here.

[theLichKing]: I’m Lord of the Scourge. I think I should get a thermostat.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: no its a frozen throne

[theLichKing]: Right

[theLichKing]: See that’s exactly what I’m talking about. The throne is frozen. The chair that I sit on all day? Literally a block of ice.

[theLichKing]: It is so very, very cold.

[theLichKing]: I actually cannot over-emphasize how cold I am on a daily basis.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: but its supposed to be frozen

[Kel’Thuz4d]: its the source of ur power

[theLichKing]: About that. Can I get my power transferred to some other source?

[theLichKing]: Something that isn’t made out of ice that I then have to literally sit on?

[theLichKing]: Someone dropped the ball there.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: ok so like what should it be then

[Kel’Thuz4d]: like a ring?

[theLichKing]: A ring?

[theLichKing]: Seriously, a ring.

[theLichKing]: Do you _read_ history?

[Kel’Thuz4d]: so what then

[theLichKing]: I don’t know. I’ll think about it. Maybe an armoire.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: armor?

[theLichKing]: No, not armor. An armoire. The furniture.

[theLichKing]: Oh but speaking of armor

[theLichKing]: I have skulls on my kneecaps.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: ok?

[theLichKing]: No, it is _not_ okay.

[theLichKing]: I have skulls.

[theLichKing]: On my _kneecaps_.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: well for the thermostat i think u need approval from a supervisor

[Kel’Thuz4d]: ill just get kiljaeden in here and well sort it out

[theLichKing]: No!

[Kel’Thuz4d]: no its cool

[theLichKing]: No, don’t…

[theLichKing]: Ugh, my old boss. I hate this guy.

[theLichKing]: Ok I’ll just…I’ll act casual. Like old times.

***User “Killzone’jaeden” has entered the chat.***

[Killzone’jaeden]: This had better be important.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: yeah lich king here just wants a warmer throne room is all

[Killzone’jaeden]: Warmer?

[theLichKing]: No it’s really not necessary sir

[Killzone’jaeden]: You want a warmer throne room?

[Kel’Thuz4d]: yeah

[theLichKing]: No

[Kel’Thuz4d]: yeah he does

[theLichKing]: I really don’t.

[Killzone’jaeden]: Ok sure let me just get right on that

[Killzone’jaeden]: I actually know these guys, they’re really great, literally made out of fire

[Killzone’jaeden]: They could heat your room right up for you

[Killzone’jaeden]: They’re called the Burning Legion…why don’t I just invite them to Azeroth so they can come and

[Killzone’jaeden]: OH WAIT

[Killzone’jaeden]: Someone’s too busy being Chatty Cathy to PREPARE HIS WORLD FOR AN APOCALYPSE

[theLichKing]: So sorry sir

[Kel’Thuz4d]: hey cmon though its not like weve just been sitting around

[Kel’Thuz4d]: were spreading plague and stuff

[Kel’Thuz4d]: we totally spread a lot of plague

[Kel’Thuz4d]: and dont forget the spider war

[theLichKing]: Actually I wouldn’t mention that…

[Killzone’jaeden]: Oh yes. The “Spider War.”

[Killzone’jaeden]: The “war” where you spent ten years getting rid

[Killzone’jaeden]: OF SPIDERS

[Killzone’jaeden]: Check it out, I had a Mosquito War last night. Mosquito lands on me, I squish it. Done. Two seconds.

[Killzone’jaeden]: Didn’t take me ten years

[Killzone’jaeden]: BECAUSE I’M NOT AN IDIOT

[theLichKing]: Yes sir

[theLichKing]: Very sorry sir.

[theLichKing]: I’m on it.

[Killzone’jaeden]: Y’know what, you know who else might want to hear about this

[Killzone’jaeden]: Maybe I shold get Sargeras in here

[Kel’Thuz4d]: sure

[theLichKing]: NO! That’s not necessary

[Killzone’jaeden]: Hold on I’ll go get him.

***User “Killzone’jaeden” has left the chat.***

[theLichKing]: ARE YOU CRAZY

[theLichKing]: “Sure”? Do you know who Sargeras actually is??

[Kel’Thuz4d]: i think so hes alliance right

[theLichKing]: …

[Kel’Thuz4d]: horde?

[theLichKing]: *headdesk*

***User “An00b’arak” has entered the chat.***

[An00b’arak]: hay guise whats goin on in dis chat

[Kel’Thuz4d]: sup

[An00b’arak]: sup

[Kel’Thuz4d]: sup

[An00b’arak]: sup

[Kel’Thuz4d]: whaaaazzzzaaaaaap

[An00b’arak]: what are yoooooou doing

[theLichKing]: GUYS

[theLichKing]: SERIOUSLY

[An00b’arak]: whats his problem

[Kel’Thuz4d]: hes cold

[An00b’arak]: well yeah he sits on a frozen throne inside of icecrown glacier with a sword named frostmorn

[An00b’arak]: the name icecrown glacier can only imply that among glaciers, which are themselves made of ice, this one is especially icy

[An00b’arak]: its possible there is some coldness involved

[theLichKing]: _Thank_ you!

[theLichKing]: Ok, so install me a thermostat pl0x.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: uh boss ixnay on asking him to install stuff

[An00b’arak]: what is that supposed to mean??

[Kel’Thuz4d]: uh

[An00b’arak]: oh i get it

[An00b’arak]: bc im an arachnid?????

[An00b’arak]: and how could i possibly install a thermostat without thumbs

[An00b’arak]: racist

[Kel’Thuz4d]: no no no

[Kel’Thuz4d]: well ok yeah how would that actually work

[An00b’arak]: im sure i dont know…im just an arachnid

[An00b’arak]: guess what im not ashamed of what i am

[An00b’arak]: >8< spider pride

***User “An00b’arak” has left the chat.***


 Posted by at 4:06 pm
Jul 102014

With my move complete(-ish, opening boxes in RL is much less fun then in-game), I’ve had some time to check back into the gaming scene. With the majority of my guild hooked on Wildstar and tons of people singing its praises on Twitter, I figured it was worth a shot. Thanks to a Guest Pass hookup from @vosskah, I’ve been playing extensively for the past week. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much here to convince me this game will survive long-term.

Annoying/weird animations, especially female

All I wanted was a cool Stalker (aka Rogue). I came away from an hour of character creation wondering exactly what the Carbine animators were going for, as every race had at least one animation that just looked bizarre, especially the stealth movement animations. As for the females…well, let’s say that every female character (excepting Aurin) has Sir Mix-a-Lot jiggle, which probably plays well with a younger demographic but to me just feels totally tasteless. There’s no way, as a happily married man, that I could play Wildstar with a female character and live.

Tone-deaf storylines

A lot of people skip WoW’s quest text and go right for the killing of the ten whatsits, but there’s generally a very coherent storyline to be found for each zone. Humor is there in the occasional quest, but in general, things are played pretty straight.

Borderlands (and especially Borderlands 2) is the opposite. It goes for maximum zany/crazy, gleefully subverting plot elements at every turn. It works because you know nothing is serious, with makes the few elements that ARE played straight more impactful.

I bring up these two games because Wildstar can’t decide which approach it wants to go for. The Dominion are cartoonishly evil; hell, you’re (minor spoiler) pressing buttons to execute groups of people within the first five minutes. That’s almost preferable to the Exiles, though, who get the sterotypical and insufferable cowboy/environmental archetypes. I get that it’s not worth writing a good storyline when most people skip it, but I can hardly remember the zones I just played through, which is not a good sign. I’m sure lots of people will tell me “it gets better later,” but as it stands, I just can’t see myself identifying with any of the characters.

Unsupportable PvE endgame

A lot of people are calling it a World of Warcraft clone…and it is, but it’s a bit more complicated then that. The vision for WoW pivoted significantly after the Burning Crusade expansion to making the game more accessible to a wider audience, as anyone who remembers the frequent invocations of “bring the player, not the class” can attest. Wildstar looks to revert that change, as this 12-step(!) guide to attuning for the first raid shows.

While this gives you the opportunity to design more…unique…challenges, it also means that you’re significantly limiting your audience to the more hardcore players. This works for a game like EvE because of its sandbox nature, but I foresee Carbine having great difficulty pushing out PvE content updates at the speed demanded by said-hardcore players. THAT means subscription numbers falling off drastically, which means the client will eventually be free to drive subscription sales. Lock it in – I’m predicting at least levels 1-20 will be F2P within a year.

Now, Wildstar does have a lot going for it. The Path system, in where you pick one of four sub-classes (Explorer, Scientist, Settler, or Soldier) to give you bits of extra content in each zone, is clever and reasonably well done. Addons are well-supported out of the box. Challenges spice up questing a good bit, tossing in random jumping puzzles and timed-kill bonuses. The combat system itself is also very well done – being able to see and dodge enemy attacks remains fun.

Overall – the game is competent, but in today’s PC gaming environment where competent games are nearly given away, it needed to be more, and it doesn’t quite get there. If you’re playing with a good group, it’s fine…but then, if you’re playing with a good group, all of the major MMO’s are fine, so pick your flavor and have fun. :)

 Posted by at 7:06 pm
Jun 052014

Still around and kicking. Without going into too much detail, I’ve been selected for a new position in a different location that requires working with sensitive material. As such, I’ve been keeping things quiet until I get established at my new assignment and get the lay of the land. Don’t think anyone’s’ missed much, since as far as I can tell, WoW’s exactly the same as when I left it.  (I’ll quote Azuriel here and express incredulity that 7 million people are still playing a game that hasn’t seen any content updates since September.)


 Posted by at 4:43 pm
Apr 032014

Shortpost to let those who’ve asked know that I’m fine. I was about 1/4 mile away from where the shooting went down; the alert sounded, we locked the doors, sat down and watched the news like everyone else. Didn’t know the guy or anyone involved.

 Posted by at 10:16 am
Apr 012014

In case you missed it, Tinderhoof wrote the feral class guide for Wowhead. A good start for those who are new to the class. Really appreciate how it breaks down how X rotation is for new people, while Y rotation is for experts…too many people jump right to GIEF MAX DPS ROTATION PLOX with no consideration of the complexities involved.

 Posted by at 1:06 am
Mar 202014

Last weekend, my wife was out of town visiting family, so I had the unexpected chance to pretty much do nothing but play games all day. I played a good bit of Diablo 3 and realized two things: first, the changes made in ver2.0 fix the vast majority of what’s wrong with the game; second, the fact that it’s still permanently online for single-player (and laggy/flaky, when I was playing)  makes me still not want to play it. Eventually, I decided to attempt to trim down my Steam indie game backlog as much as possible by trialing as many games as I could. Here’s what I thought, in no particular order:

Sequence Okay, I cheated on the first one; I just replayed Sequence because I played it pre-Steam cards. Still an amazing game (it’s a DDR-like rhythm game with RPG progression) and you can pick it up for a buck during the current Humble Bundle sale. Highly recommended.

Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons This game reminds me quite a bit of the movie Lost in Translation–critics and auteurs call it a masterpiece, but I just call it a nice nap. Seriously, this game has a very distinct narrative tone and focus, but after finishing it (it’s short, took me about 3 hours), I didn’t feel touched, I felt “well, that’s over.” I admire the dedication to the setting to have the characters speak a gibberish language, but it sure didn’t help my immersion any. I’d rather go back and play Ico instead.

Gone Home Now, THIS is how you tell a story. The genre can best be described as “first-person story;” the story starts and ends with you exploring a house and learning about the lives of the occupants. The story itself is a bit trite, but the attention to detail is amazing; just about every object in the house can be picked up and examined, and has setting-appropriate art. There’s no action whatsoever, but if you love storytelling and/or metafiction, this game’s got it.

Bionic Commando Rearmed I never played the original, but after hearing it frequently referenced and seeing good reviews of the remake, I figured I’d try it. Not bad, but I have to feel comfortable with a platformer’s controls to have any enjoyment, and I was still struggling with the grappling hook after more than an hour. Uninstalled.

Thomas Was Alone This game doesn’t look like much, but it’s surprisingly well-polished. Sure, all you’re doing is moving around shapes to fit them into various holes, but they’re all voiced by charming English accents, and the play itself is solid. Definitely worth a look.

Guacamelee! Remember what I said above about solid platformer controls? Guacamelee nails it. One of the best Metroidvania-style games I’ve played in a long time. Fairly difficult, though.  Definitely a game I’m coming back to.

Starseed Pilgrim This game falls into the newish genre of “the game is figuring out how to play the game.” I figured out how to play it, and didn’t like it much. Worth a look if you’re into procedurally-generated stuff, otherwise, stay away.

A Valley Without Wind I think every game designer has this dream where they have unlimited time and money to add as many features into their games as they want, and never have to cut anything. This platformer  feels like the result of that dream. It’s kinda like Terraria, except there’s no building, and there’s no fun. Sure, there’s 27 million things to do, but if your game doesn’t pass the basic “is it fun?” test, there’s not much point.

A Virus Named TOM I got a good chuckle out of this game’s art. It’s a puzzle game, though, with a mechanic we’ve all seen before (spin the tiles to connect the pipe…err, “circuits”). Not my thing.

Antichamber This is a Portal-ish first-person puzzler, and yet another game where you have to discover the rules (and then figure out which rules can currently be broken). It’s good, but at the time I played it, it just made my brain hurt.

Rock of Ages I totally dig the style of the game. The concept is simple; you and an opponent roll boulders down a steep hill, attempting to smash down their gate. While “reloading,” you have the opportunity to set up defenses to slow/shrink the enemy boulder. Sounds great; unfortunately, the decision to do everything in real-time makes it hard to get feedback on how well everything is going. When you’re rolling your boulder, you get a picture-in-picture view of your opponent’s boulder so you can sort of see how your defenses worked out, but you’re likely too busy dodging your opponent’s defenses to notice. I played a few matches, won/lost and had no idea why I won/lost, and then stopped.

Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians I like games with music/rhythm elements (Pata-Pata-Pata-PON!). This game – not so much. It seems like they started out trying to make a music-based puzzle platformer, struck out, and ended up with a music-themed puzzle platformer. It’s not terrible, but ir’s kinda generic, and I quit after one level. Definitely worth a look if you’re into electronic music.

Hack, Slash, Loot Install, Try, Uninstall. A very bad roguelike. I see no reason to play this when there are other strictly better roguelikes out there.

Paranautical Activity I’m not really into FPS’s, though I play a few from time to time. This is a roguelike FPS; pretty much first-person Binding of Isaac (which I greatly enjoyed, btw).  For what it’s worth, it seemed pretty well designed, but after dying on the (randomly generated) first level repeatedly, decided that this was not the game for me.

Master Reboot Of all the games on the list, this is the one that I have no idea how to categorize. It’s a first-person…exploration? Puzzle? Horror? Mystery? All of these. The sound design is GREAT. Unfortunately, the graphics frequently cross the line from “darkly symbolic” to “looks like shitty first-generation 3D” and it seemed pretty buggy. Good concept and story but could have used some more polish.

Retrovirus Hi, Descent! I’ve long wondered why nobody tried to make a modern Descent, which I had a lot of fun with as a kid (only the shareware version, though). Well, this is here, and this is pretty good, but the pacing/level design isn’t as tight as Descent and the sound is meh. As I write this review, I realize I have no idea what happened story-wise; something about a virus that I’m chasing through a computer when I started, then lots of shooting glowy pink bits. Okay, not great.

Space Pirates and Zombies My current jam. I’m massively conflicted about it, really; there’s lots of design nitpicks I could throw at it, but it’s in one of my favorite genres (top-down space shooter/adventure, aka Elite) so I let it get away with a lot.

Yay! So…20ish games down with one or two I’ll come back to, which leaves me with still more than 100. Whee.




 Posted by at 11:54 pm
Mar 092014

This is somewhat embarrassing. I’ve been gushing about Hearthstone, planning to write guides and things for it…and now, I can’t be bothered to log in. Just jumping on to knock out quests feels like a chore now, when a few months ago, I vividly remember staying up until the daily quest reset a few months ago to get one more in.

So what happened? Well, I thought about it for a bit, and there’s three main factors:

  1. Lack of extrinsic progression. Otherwise described as “nothing-to-do” syndrome. WoW players are intimately familiar with this; once you’ve ran all the content in the current tier and gotten most of the drops you need, there’s no real reason to keep coming back. (Excepting raiders, who have a whole set of group dynamics that non-raiders do not.) Same thing for Hearthstone; once you’ve unlocked the majority of the cards, there’s no more meaningful progression. That would be fine, except…
  2. Lack of skill progression. My progression in Hearthstone reminds me a lot of my progression playing online poker. If you study, you go from being completely clueless to being reasonably good pretty quickly. However, further improvement past that point gets more and more challenging, and becomes extremely hard to quantify. For Hearthstone, once you’ve figured out the basic flow of the game, researched deckbuilding (or Arena drafting for value) online, and made all the the common newbie mistakes, there’s not really anywhere else to go.  I’ve realized that any further progression on my part revolves around anticipating draws (both mine and my opponents) and adjusting current play to account for that, but that’s pretty fiddly. I’d still play anyway, though, if it wasn’t for…
  3. Speed. The current turn limit is pretty slow. There are a few turns where you need 90 seconds (either due to a complex situation, or just waiting for all the animations to play out if you have lots of moves to make) but for the most part, 30 seconds is plenty. I’m not sure how to change this, though, as I did need that time as a new player to read card descriptions and things. Currently, I’m doing something else in a second browser window or on the phone while I’m waiting for the opponent to take his turn. When I’m enjoying that other activity more than playing Hearthstone, that’s a problem. My way of fixing this in online poker was playing multiple tables at once; that’d be really cool for Hearthstone, but will never happen.

Note that I’m not really complaining – I’ve definitely enjoyed my time in Hearthstone, and it’s completely unrealistic to consider a game that has still not been officially released unworthy because it can’t be my go-to game forever. I do hope that the upcoming patch with the live release addresses at least the speed issue, though, and gives me something else to work towards. (Grinding out Legend rank seems off-putting to me with the current rapid rank resets.) I’ve got about 2000 gold and 3000 dust saved up hoping for something new to come along.

In the meantime, I’m dabbling in a bunch of games. I’ve gotten hooked on Marvel: Puzzle Quest on my phone; if you liked the previous PQ’s at all, give it a shot; it’s F2P, and the limitations of playing for free aren’t that restrictive. I may write up a one-off guide post for it, as there’s some interesting depth to the mechanics of the asynchronous multiplayer. I’m also working through my Steam backlog, though I have no hopes of ever finishing that. :)

 Posted by at 10:57 am