Blog Archives

Anti-Patch Notes

I didn’t think it was possible to get excited for an expansion of a game I haven’t played in over a year, but damn. I got to about here:

Druid

  • Innervate has been removed. Mana costs for Druids have been adjusted accordingly.

…before I realized the devs were serious about the pruning of cooldowns thing. I mean, Jesus, they even removed Mana Gem.

Blink and you'd miss it. Wait... Blink is still around, right?

Blink and you’d miss it. Wait… Blink is still around, right?

Paladins were about the one class that seemed to come out ahead after the ability decimation; losing Wings on non-Ret specs makes me shed a nostalgic tear, but in return no more Divine Plea or Inquisition? That’s practically a bonus! Plus, Lay on Hands and Divine Shield survived. Blinding Light didn’t, but we only had that for what, one expansion? It looks like Seal Twisting is making a come-back, but hopefully it won’t be powerful enough to be mandatory.

Man, look at this:

Priest

  •     Binding Heal is no longer available to Shadow Priests.
  •     Hymn of Hope has been removed.
  •     Heal has been removed.
  •     Greater Heal has been renamed Heal.
  •     Inner Focus no longer provides any mana cost reduction.
  •     Rapture has been removed.
  •     Renew is now available only to Holy Priests.
  •     Shadow Word: Death is now available only to Shadow Priests.
  •     Void Shift has been removed.
  •     Inner Fire has been removed.
  •     Inner Will has been removed.

That’s all of the Priest notes. Well, more or less, there’s some additional explanation at the bottom. Still, there is 109 instances of the word “removed” across 34 pages of notes. The end result will likely be a tighter game experience, but damn, all these simultaneous band-aid removals took some hair with them.

As for the new level 100 Talents, some of them are jokes that won’t pass the AV test. What’s that? It’s simple: just imagine someone (or 40 someones) using the ability in an AV match. Seriously, they’re giving Death Knights Defile. Defile. I hope your CPU is water-cooled next time you’re slumming it up in Drek/Vann’s room because otherwise your machine might well burst into flame. Necrotic Plague alone will pad all the meters, and combined with Chilblains? You can single-handedly stop an entire mounted charge.

That’s basically what I’ll be doing in BGs all expansion long: being annoying. Did it when Death Knights first came out with Death Grip and/or Chains of Ice; did it when Paladins could Seal of Justice mounted players from 40 yards away; did it with portal shenanigans via the Warlock; did it old-school just Sapping people and watching their reactions from stealth as the Rogue. If your goal is to be annoying, it’s damn hard to lose in WoW. And now it’ll be 100% easier in the next expansion!

Hearthstone Beta Patch Notes

All Hearthstone progress was wiped last Wednesday, and we are now Live for all intents and purposes; no further wipes are planned between now and (eventual) release. In addition to that news, a number of careful changes have been made to cards across the game. Perhaps too careful.

The full patch notes can be read here. Some examples:

  • Gold gained in Play mode has changed from 5 gold per 5 wins to 10 gold per 3 wins.
  • Arena rewards now give less dust and more cards.
  • More gold is guaranteed at 5 & 6 Arena wins.
  • At 9 Arena wins, you are now guaranteed an extra pack or a Golden card.
  • Pint-sized Summoner – The cost reduction has been reduced from 2 to 1.
  • Wrath can no longer be cast on heroes.
  • etc

There are a few surprising changes in there. Going from 5g for 5 wins to 10g for 3 wins is rather huge. As in, “literally a 33% increase in gold” huge. While I still doubt grinding out an entire Arena Pass in a single day is particularly viable (or sane), it will likely allow you to get a free Arena after every three days of dailies instead of four without too much extra grinding. We’re talking six extra games on average across three days instead of, you know, fifty. Plus, the Arena rewards are supposedly better, with less dust and more goodies.

The card-specific buffs/nerfs run the gamut of expected to boggling. Pint-Sized Summoner got nerfed down to (1)-crystal cost reduction from (2), Defias Ringleader is no longer inexplicably a 2/3 creature, and so on. Druid cards got an unexpected nerf, with many of their otherwise-too-versatile direct damage spells being unable to hit players any more. Rogues can no longer pump up weapon with their hero power, which probably has more long-reaching consequences than appears at first.

Then again, maybe not.

See, when I was browsing for more commentary on the patch changes, I ended up finding what lies at the bottom of the rabbit hole. Take a look at these Youtube “reviews” for some of the top Hearthstone decks, if you dare: Miracle Rogue, Divine Paladin, Pyro-Smith Warrior. Now, it’s possible that the Miracle Rogue deck was disrupted a bit by the patch, but the point is that that is what the game can be boiled down to. And that, quite frankly, scares me.

I have no illusions regarding my own competence level or willingness to compete on some higher level. Winning is great, but I would much rather win as a result of a deck I created than copy & paste a top-tier deck and harvest some tears. The feeling might be a holdover from my Magic: the Gathering days where I had an absolute advantage over my high school friends because I was willing to eBay cards; where was the fun in burying your opponents (who are also, you know, your friends) under piles of money? Skill in the form of tactical moves to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat or building decks that create esoteric, but functional combos is way more interesting to me.

These are the “Good Fights” that people like Gevlon despise, but at the end of the day, all you keep from your hours and hours spent playing videogames are memories. Will you remember winning those hundreds of games on Turn 5 against opponents who had no chance to survive make your time? Or will you remember the egde-of-your-seat victories and when you created an off-beat deck/strategy that actually worked in opposition to all logic and reason?

If you aren’t shooting the moon, you’re just killing time.

Got Ghostcrawler on Speed-dial

Right after yesterday’s complaints, the following notes go up:

  • Experience needed to increase from level 85 to level 90 has been reduced by 33%.
  • Reduced the number of Lesser Charms of Good Fortune needed for the Mogu Runes of Fate weekly quest to 50, down from 90.
  • Players no longer need to have defeated Grand Empress Shek’zeer to enter the Terrace of Endless Spring in Normal difficulty.
  • Shado-Pan and The August Celestials daily quests no longer have a faction prerequisite to be Revered with the Golden Lotus.

Technically, the last one has been in there a while, if you haven’t noticed before.

Anyway, nice try, Ghostcrawler, but it’s too little, too late for me. Maybe when the next expansion is 50% off, I’ll dip my toe in again like I did this last time. Then again, maybe not.

Cert-Gate

SOE dropped the bomb on Planetside 2 a few hours ago. In the latest 38mb patch, these seemingly innocuous patch notes appeared:

  • A certification grant has been done for players who purchased duplicate weapons on multiple characters.
  • Please note that if this causes a player’s certifications to go over 10,000 they will not accumulate any more certification points until some have been spent to bring it below the cap.

When Ps2 first launched, all the weapon unlocks were on a per-character basis. Fairly recently, SOE decided that one of the perks of purchasing faction-agnostic weapons with Station Cash was that it would unlock the weapon on all of your characters. Usually, the choice is 700 SC (~$7) or 1000 Certs for a weapon, with 1000 Certs representing a pretty significant investment both in time (I accumulated around 9,000 Certs after 150+ hours) and opportunity cost (spending Certs on class upgrades, like more fuel for your jetpack). Still, using Certs to unlock weapons means you can play for free; so being able to unlock one weapon and use it on every faction makes the Station Cash option that much more competitive. “But wait,” players reasonably asked, “what about all that Station Cash I spent on weapons I now have a useless duplicate of?”

Well, today we have SOE’s response: Certification reimbursement. But something has gone horribly, horribly wrong:

Spot the differences.

Spot the differences.

Yes, you are seeing that correctly. SOE has reimbursed me twenty-six thousand (26,000) Certs.

Holy mother of god.

Holy mother of god.

The official version of things is exactly what I wrote above: SOE decided to reimburse the people who bought two of the same gun on two same-faction characters at a 1 SC for 2 Cert ratio. Did I spend $130 on, frankly, poorly-planned purchases on redundant toons? Of course not. As it turns out, the database query also captured all transactions in which you bought an item that was later a part of a bundle that you purchased anyway. For example, I bought the rocket pods for the jet only to find out they were included in the “Vehicle Starter Bundle” along with a lot of other juicy weapons; while I did not get a discount for already owning the rocket pods, the rest of the bundle was still a good enough deal to purchase.

The result is 26,000 Certs. On each of my three toons. And SOE has said they aren’t going to roll them back.

This is a literal case of the common WoW “log on, collect epix” hyperbole. The only thing I cannot buy with these Certs are helmets, camo, and other such visual extras. Oh, and XP boosts, but I don’t think I will ever be interested in such things again.

So I bought things. Lots of things. And upgraded everything else. A new pump shotgun came out today, this time with 11 pellets to the standard 10 at the expense of a slower rate of fire. Just last week I bought each faction’s pump shotgun for SC as they were 50% off. But who cares? I need to chew through these Certs because there is actually a 10,000 Cert cap beyond which you can’t earn any more.

Pretty much everything useful.

Pretty much everything useful.

I stopped spending Certs after going down to around 4,700 as I found myself starting to purchase ridiculous shit. Did you know the Medic can carry around two sticks of C4? I would never have unlocked such nonsense for 700 total Certs, but now I have it. Forever. I can also give out Empire-wide orders and listen in on Commander chat now. Just ’cause. I was actually starting to worry about squandering my giant pile of unearned Certs – it is small enough to only purchase four new weapons – but it occurred to me that I still have a bit over 50% of the total amount of Certs I have ever had.

Let that last sentence wash over you for a second.

The big question mark, at least on a personal level, is where things go from here. After the 1.5 hour spending spree, I still participated in one of the newfangled Alerts. Let me tell you, it was great fun zipping around in a kitted-out Scythe with a 5-minute timer instead of a 9-minute one. Prior to today, I had been conflicted as to whether my next big purchase was going to unlock a second stick of C4 for the Light Assault (finally allowing me to potentially take out a Sunderer solo) or if I was going to unlock Rank 3 of my Scythe’s hover frame. I had previously waffled so much over the decision that I ended up hitting 1200 Certs a few days ago and purchased a submachine gun for my Infiltrator instead, practically unlocking a brand new play-style for the class.

But… now? Will I feel the same way about Planetside 2 without the progression angle? After all, I lost complete interest in WoW PvP once I had full Honor gear last time around. For now, I think SOE is safe; the core mechanics of shooting people in a wide-open world is great fun.

It is an open question though, how SOE will weather the building rage on the forums and Reddit. Not everyone got 26,000 Certs, and I can imagine what all those Battle Rank 90s are feeling to have my BR 38 ass flying/driving/shooting circles around their more generalist loadouts.

Hyperinflation has come to Auraxis in a major way, and the future is looking quite a bit grimmer than it was just yesterday.

5.3: That Was Fast

Patch 5.3 is up on the PTR. You can look at the notes here. Nothing too crazy… just the removal of Resilience from PvP gear, gear scaling in BGs and Arenas (!!!), and LFR off-spec rolls (plus increasing chance of bonus loot based on bad luck). You know, the usual.

Loot Specialization

  • Players can now choose to receive loot for a specialization that’s different from their current class role. This feature could be accessed by right-clicking on the character portrait and selecting the option from the drop-down list. Loot specialization is available for bonus rolls, Raid Finder, and Pandarian quest rewards.

Bonus Roll

  • Protection for bad luck streaks have been added to bonus rolls. Each bonus roll that does not provide loot has a progressively better chance to award loot to the player.

PvP

  • Additional information and explanation for the reasoning behind PvP changes will be available very soon.
  • All characters now have a base Resilience of 65%.
  • Resilience has been removed from most PvP gear.
  • Season 13 Tyrannical gear had their item levels increased to ilevel 496, up from ilevel 493.
  • Season 13 Tyrannical Elite gear had their item levels decreased to ilevel 496, down from ilevel 512.
  • Battlegrounds, Rated Battlegrounds, and Arenas now have an ilevel cap. All gear will be scaled down to ilevel 496.

Feels like the 5.2 PTR was just three weeks ago, doesn’t it? I suppose Blizzard wasn’t kidding around (finally) about accelerated release schedules.

5.2: From Most Alt-Unfriendly to Best Alt Expansion Ever?

Patch 5.2 should be out today. It is always a bit overwhelming looking at the huge, collated MMO-Champion post, but one thing should not be missed: 5.2 changes Mists from the most alt-unfriendly expansion ever to perhaps the friendliest one yet. Here are some of the changes I had been keeping an eye on:

New ways of gaining Reputation

Daily quests are fine the first time around, but grinding them multiple times is simply cruel. Commendations came out in 5.1, but you still had to do the dailies, albeit half as many. Now, as long as you fully unlock the Farm, you can do two work orders a day for 400 reputation apiece. Additionally, the first heroic dungeon and first Scenario of the day gives you 750 and 325 rep respectively. On top of that, the 5-person rare spawns on the new island have a chance of dropping BoA tokens that can be consumed for 1000 reputation with a particular faction. I am unsure if the 1-2 man rare spawns drop smaller versions of the same token.

While it may be still worth doing the actual dailies to compliment the bonus reputation, the point is we now have a choice again.

Accelerated Catch-Up Gear Acquisition

I am not sure what the official percent increase is, but the drop rate for the 5.0 LFR bosses and Elder Charm rolls will be greatly increased. The prices of Valor items from the vendors have been decreased by 50% and 25% for the 5.0 and 5.1 items, respectively. Season 12 PvP gear is now on the Honor vendor, as usual, but now you can buy the ilevel 476 weapons for Honor. Additionally, the new Conquest weapons will not have a rating requirement. Blacksmiths can make BoE versions of the Burning Crusade Blacksmith weapons, at either 463 blues or 476 epics.

Tangentially, if you have a tanking spec, you might actually be able to farm more Honor by running heroic dungeons than doing random BGs. One of the changes in 5.2 is that you get 100 Justice Points for each heroic boss kill. That means for every 8 bosses you kill, you can turn in 750 of the 800 otherwise useless Justice Points into 500 Honor (or 375 JP –> 250 HP). Even if there is a more efficient way of farming Honor – and assuming you’re not killing more than 4 bosses every 30 minutes – the fact remains that you can gain that Honor while also gaining +725 reputation of your choice plus Valor points.

This is actually starting to feel a lot like Wrath again, when I would tank the daily heroic on 3-4 toons a day.

___________

On a complete different note, I spent nearly four hours yesterday attempting to get the last 24 Motes of Harmony necessary for my Scribe to craft one of the 476 BoA staves. The idea was to craft one of the staves, mail it to my main to upgrade twice, and then bank it for one of my other alts before the upgrade vendor is removed with the patch. I had (obviously) waffled quite a bit over whether this was worth my time, and just decided this weekend that it was. Unfortunately, between all the time spent leveling this weekend (my DK Scribe was level 85) and the mad dash last night, I damn near came away snuffing the small flame of my interest in WoW entirely out.

I ended up with 3.4 Spirits of Harmony, a gain of 8 Motes across levels 87-88.5. For a minute there, I honestly considering spending 4000 Honor at the vendor to get 10 Motes (400 H for a Mote is goddamn robbery), but I was hating life pretty hard at the end and I would still be short a few besides. I washed the taste out of my mouth with a little PlanetSide 2, but I am definitely not going to be doing something as crazy again. Those days are long over for me.

Valor Getting Converted to Justice

Mystery solved.

Valor -> Justice

All Valor is converted to Justice

Justice -> Gold

Justice above the 4000 cap is converted to gold at a rate of 47 silver per point

So let’s say the realms go down for the 5.2 patch and you have 450 Valor and 3800 Justice. Because of the 4000 Justice cap, you’d log back in after the patch is released with 0 Valor, 4000 Justice, and be 117 gold and 50 silver richer after the conversion.

With 5.2 we won’t be changing current Valor items to cost Justice, but they will be much cheaper (discounts from 50-75% off their current costs). You’ll need to acquire Valor after the patch is released to buy pieces for their discounted rate, or to buy the new 5.2 Valor items, but we’re also introducing new items to spend your Justice on, including heirlooms and Pet Battle stones. (source)

In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious that this is what they would be doing – this exact thing happened every patch in Cataclysm – but the “triple-gate” of 5.2 Valor items being locked behind new reputation vendors and the old items still being bought with (50-75%) less Valor was throwing me for a loop. And I like how Blizzard’s Justice Point consolation note says “new items like heirlooms and Pet Battle stones” instead of something useful, like I dunno, maybe all the shit they rolled out in Cataclysm, e.g. herbs, orbs, trade goods? I would love to see Chaos Orbs and Spirits of Harmony on the vendors for ~1500 JP or whatever.

Looking Towards the 5.2 Changes

There are a lot of changes coming in 5.2. Here are the ones I’m keeping an eye on:

Reputation

  • “Work orders will pour into the farm from factions across Pandaria, and completing a work order will earn a reputation boost with the issuing faction.”
  • “You can now earn bonus reputation for your first dungeon and scenario of the day. You can select which reputation you choose to champion by selecting it from the reputation panel on the character screen.”

The above two items have mentally freed me from the self-imposed shackles of dailies, for the time being. Up to this point, my time in WoW has been 100% consumed by dailies – Golden Lotus, Cloud Serpent, Tillers, Anglers, Klaxxi, Shieldwall. Even the days when I ignored Golden Lotus (no real rewards for them or any linked reps for Alch/JC), I still found 2-3 hour play sessions evaporate with nothing accomplished other than rep bar movement. I was back on the Golden Lotus horse due to the lure of the Commendation (I’d love for my tailor alt to get the 28-slot bag eventually), but the day I read these patch notes is the day I stopped feeling like it was required every single day.

There is not any indication to how much reputation is earned with either method, but assuming it is larger than 500, I feel comfortable in focusing more on alts than hitting reputation milestones on the main.

Valor/Justice

  • Heroic Pandaria dungeons now award 100 Justice Points per boss.
  • Scenarios now award 50 Justice Points, up from 25.
  • The cost of Valor Point gear introduced in patch 5.0 has been reduced by 50%.
  • The cost of Valor Point gear introduced in patch 5.1 has been reduced by 25%.
  • The ethereals that offered to upgrade items using Valor or Justice Points have departed Azeroth for the moment.

The big question mark here is whether the current Valor items will still cost Valor in 5.2. It seems a pretty straight-forward answer at first – “Yes, of course” – but look at the implication here. If you have 1200 VP heading into 5.2, chances are that that 1200 VP turns into 1200 JP and then… what? You buy upgraded heirlooms? It is great that Blizzard is actually putting in sources of Justice for people that want heirlooms, but what else are JP good for? I don’t think I have ever seen a patch transition in which the current currency is downgraded but then you need to re-grind the new currency to buy shit you had access to the day before.

On the other hand, one of my guildies was skeptical that Blizzard would reduce reputation gear costs by 50% plus add in the 100 JP/boss gain plus make rep gear purchasable with Justice. And how many new Valor pieces are going to be introduced anyway?

Hopefully there will be some clarification on this issue before the patch.

PvP

  • Conquest gear no longer has rating requirements.
  • Highest tier PvP items are unlocked after 27,000 CP are earned in a season.
  • Weapons that require the 27k CP unlock have said requirement removed inbetween seasons (i.e. in 5.3).
  • Honor weapons are back.
  • Your CP cap for the week is increased by 1,000 for each week you haven’t been hitting the cap.
  • The losers in an Rated BG gain Conquest based on score; close games can award up to 200 CP.

It is difficult to even imagine a coherent complaint about this fairly radical paradigm shift. Blizzard locking weapons behind rating walls was a mistake when they first made it in Season 3, and it has been a mistake every season since. The straw that finally broke my four-year subscription back was when my warlock alt maxed out on non-rating Arena gear; I was permanently “done” with that character’s progression, unless I bribed someone to boost me past the glass ceiling. While I would not look forward to 15+ weeks of Conquest caps from BGs and 2v2 anymore, at least there is no longer a brick wall at the end.

Overall, pretty exciting changes. I’m not following the new raid information particularly closely, because A) there doesn’t seem to be much news out there, and B) it is kind of a moot point for me outside of LFR. And speaking of LFR, I finished all of the available ones; impressions will have to wait for another post.

Seen in the 5.1 Mists PTR Notes

I still occasionally browse Blue posts. I spied the following in the latest ones:

  • Several classic Raid bosses now have a chance to drop new Battle Pets. The new pets can be obtained from bosses in Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, Ahn’Qiraj, and Naxxramas. [...]
  • Raid groups are no longer necessary to enter pre-Mists of Pandara raid dungeons.

Of course, the game loses nothing had these old raids been removed.

*whistles*

In other news, I have no idea how to feel about this entire section:

Brawler’s Guild

  • Underground fighting rings have sprung up in Stormwind and Orgrimmar that will give brawlers who have their mitts on an invitation a chance to earn bragging rights by testing their solo PvE mettle against some of the toughest creatures found in World of Warcraft.
  • Players will prove their skill, and increase their rank with the Brawler’s Guild, as they win matches against some of the most difficult solo encounters in World of Warcraft.
  • Entry into the brawler’s guild is by invitation only. Invitations can be found on the black market auction house or by invitation from somebody within the guild.
  • As their Brawler’s Guild rank increases, players will unlock additional rewards and activities within the Brawler’s Guild.
  • Brawlers on a realm will gather together into the blood spattered ring to watch as their peers face down their own opponents. They can watch the battles in progress to learn from hardened Brawler’s Guild veterans as they wait for their own turn to fight.
  • If this is your first night at Brawler’s Guild, you have to fight.

Obviously, more details are needed. Will gear be normalized? How will this be balanced across all the classes? Can one dude just send out a bunch of invites or is it capped somehow? I will find it amusing if the bolded section actually makes it Live though. Reading it reminded me of those heady days of the internet when people were auctioning GMail invites on eBay for $200+. I can see it now: “WTS Brawler Guild invite 50k pst.”

Game Changer

I regret using such a punchy title for Diablo 3′s 1.0.4 patch, but good god have you seen this?

Introducing the Paragon System

The new Paragon system coming in patch 1.0.4 is designed to address Magic Find gear-swapping while providing players who’ve reached level 60 with an extended progression system.
Here’s how it works:

  • After you hit level 60, any further experience you earn from killing monsters will begin to count toward Paragon levels
  • There are 100 Paragon levels
  • Every Paragon level will reward you with:
    • Core stats such as Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Vitality in amounts similar to what you’d gain from a normal level
    • 3% Magic Find and 3% Gold Find

In addition, a distinctive increasingly-impressive border will surround your character portrait in the in-game party frame to denote your Paragon progression, with a new frame earned after every ten levels. Your Paragon level will also be visible to other players wherever your normal level is shown.

[...]

The time to reach the upper Paragon levels approximates the long-term time investment required to get a level 99 character in Diablo II.

Now, the above is in addition to all the AH changes – the biggest of which is the ability to sort by Bid Price and Ending Time (eBay snipe city incoming) – and all the class and difficulty changes I talked about last time. For sheer scope, I recommend checking out the full patch notes as well.

Oh, and it will probably be Live by the time you read this, not the 28th like I thought.

Sitting in my chair, jaw slightly ajar, I could not help but start wondering if there comes a point at which even positive changes become too conspicuous. This patch feels like I just started haggling with a used car salesman and he immediately gave me the keys and said “Here, just take it and go.” Eyebrows and suspicious are raised in equal measure. These are not features Blizzard had planned to roll out at the start, like PvP; damn near everything is a concession based on (negative) feedback that apparently came to a great surprise to Jay “And Double It!” Wilson and crew. Should they be praised for listening to feedback or damned for releasing a game in such apparent need of repair?

Also… what does Blizzard know that we do not? Did they perhaps intend for Diablo 3 to hold everyone over until MoP’s launch, but the negative 2 million subs and the (assumed) precipitous drop in D3 player activity got them spooked? Why else roll out this magnitude of changes? I have no idea. All I do know is that this version of D3 I might be playing tonight is going to almost be a completely different game than the one I started playing four months ago.

And since I haven’t even reviewed Diablo 3 yet… I’m not sure which game to write about now.