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Torghast: Fun?

I have spent about 15 hours total in Torghast thus far, and I can’t quite tell if I’m having fun. Which probably means I’m not.

The design of this endgame activity is weird, which may be a result of Blizzard’s whiplash direction. It was originally very challenging for a solo player, then it was made to be harder presumably to not surprise players at reaching an unkillable (to them) final boss, and then made much easier across the board. Which is fine, because this is the primary source of Soul Ash, which is necessary to craft Legendary armor this expansion. And everyone is absolutely expected to have one. The recently-released Twisting Corridors with its cosmetic rewards is a better place for challenge. 

But even that aside, it doesn’t feel great. Each run takes me 40-60 minutes and it is a commitment. If you don’t kill the last boss, you get nothing. If your gameplay gets interrupted by something, you get nothing. If you die too many times to random things even before the last boss, you get nothing. So, given the risk, you are highly incentivized to kill every mob pack and scour every crevice for Anima Cells to gain more power. If you skip things on the early floors to try and finish more quickly, but end up not having enough juice to kill the boss, well, you get nothing. 

Oh, and don’t forget that the elites and bosses all get a rapidly-stacking 10% damage buff every dozen seconds or so. Berserk timers would have been one thing, but really? Why is that necessary at all?

When you first unlock Torghast, you just have access to Layer 1. Beating a Layer gives you Soul Ash and unlocks the next Layer. Each Layer gives you a decreasing amount of Soul Ash – it goes 120, 100, 85, 70, 60, and so on. The good news is that Layers stay unlocked, so that next week you can instantly go to Layer 5, beat it, and gain all the Soul Ash from that and the lower Layers automatically (435 total in this case). Plus, by virtue of having beaten Layer 5, you can do Layer 6 next week. Or this week, if you want to put in another hour or so for 50 Soul Ash. 

The bad news is that unlocking 5-6 Layers right away on a toon is exhausting and will burn you out quickly. All of your alts start at Layer 1 just like your main, and Legendaries are gated behind Torghast, so it is not as though you can readily ignore it, even if you only PvP. You could “take it easy” and only run one Layer at a time, but that’s going to delay your Legendary by weeks. 

Finally, the Anima Powers you have available are really hit or miss. There are sometimes fun combos to unlock, like when my Guardian Druid got to auto-cast Roots on enemies that stuck me when Barkskin is up, and when Roots breaks it deals 4000 damage to nearby enemies. Oh, and Barkskin was all but permanent with duration boosts. That combo let me charge into multiple mob packs, do a few Swipes, and then the Roots breaking for 6+ mobs simultaneously dealt 24k damage to everything. 

When you roll in with an Affliction Warlock though, you get runs where your Seed of Corruption gets buffed five times. Which is fine for trash, but doesn’t do anything for the boss.

Torghast is probably one of the most interesting design decisions Blizzard has implemented since Scenarios. Reminds me of Dungeon Runs in Hearthstone. But is it fun? Eh, it can be. Sometimes. It’s also exhausting, kinda formulaic, and also required. If Blizzard leaned more into the overpowered abilities angle, or if each floor guardian gave a little Soul Ash, then I could see it being better. 

WoW: End of 2nd Month

Things have been interesting these past two months.

Druid

My druid was the first to hit level 60 in Shadowlands and the one I got furthest on in terms of Renown and Torghast. I have been Guardian the entire time, as I have not liked Balance while leveling and Feral is just annoying having to heal up after every encounter. 

I sorta came to a hard stopping point with the Druid after a few weeks when I realized what the endgame means. For one thing, I’m trapped. I don’t want to tank dungeons but all of my gear is Agility-based. World Quests are giving me straight garbage Agility pieces even though I switched my loot specialization to Resto. I am interested in doing Raid Finder, but you need a 170 gearscore to even queue, and I’m barely pushing 155. If I want to PvP, it’s going to be as Boomkin or Resto, which again, I don’t have gear for.

Technically I could spend a few grand on the AH buying crafted gear or something, and then muddling through PvP to get Honor gear and hoping that crafting a Legendary will get me over the gearscore hump. But as always, the first hump is unnecessarily difficult, IMO. I remember early BFA where it was a challenge to get past the War Front gearscore wall, but once you were in, epics rained from the sky for zero effort and thereafter you had no issue qualifying for the rest of the expansion.

Kyrian Covenant

I have chosen the Kyrian Covenant because that was supposed to be the best for Druids, but it’s boring. Boring ability, boring quests thus far, and a boring, broken Mission Table experience. 

Seriously, the fact that it has been this long without a fix to the Mission table experience with Kyrians (and Venthyr, so I’ve heard) is just embarrassing. Basically, the champions and normal troops are just garbage who cannot defeat the level 20 elite Soul Ash mission even when they are level 25. Meanwhile, Maldraxxus and Night Fae have basic troops that can defeat 10+ levels above themselves, no champion required. 

I get that Mission Tables are less of a focus of the endgame experience this time around, but… really? The WoW Companion app revolves entirely around the Mission Table, and it sucks that I lose out on potential bonuses because Blizzard is bad at balance and worse at fixing their mistakes.

Warlock

I hit 60 on my Warlock a few weeks ago. This toon’s purpose was primarily to PvP in battlegrounds for fun, but the results have been… uneven. I played BGs pretty much nonstop from levels 55-58, but stopped when I was capping out on Honor. I’m not sure why Blizzard made it impossible to pre-purchase level 60 PvP gear, but it forced me into Threads of Fate and back to questing.

Hitting 60 and immediately getting full gear in every slot was rather refreshing. I even had several thousand Honor left over. The design appears to be for the base-level gear to be cheap, and then you upgrade individual pieces up a few ilevels at a time via ever-increasing Honor costs. It also appears you need to hit certain Renown levels with your Covenant to unlock the higher ilevel caps. 

But like I said earlier, the Warlock isn’t all that fun to play even with decent gear. The missing piece of the puzzle may be the Legendary, which requires Torghast runs. For Affliction Warlocks, one Legendary has Corruption deal more damage and adds a 50% snare on top. With the Absolute Corruption talent, that means you can toss out Corruptions that last 24 seconds on players and snare them the whole time. That may be worth the fun even if I get blown up with zero recourse once melee closes the gap.

Night Fae Covenant

I chose Night Fae for the Warlock because it was the best-ranked, and plus it was different from the other I had picked. The Covenant story was unexpectedly poignant so far. I definitely recommend people to at least roll an alt through the Night Fae so they can see the mock play scenario where a history of Azeroth is run through. The crowd’s reaction is hilarious, and [redacted]’s shock at the events throughout is a little sad considering you know the news is about to get worse.

Alts and Boosts

I had two character boosts in my back-pocket for a few years now, one from BFA and another from… maybe Legion? They had been converted by the level squish into an instant level 48 toon. I have been holding onto them for a while for if I ever got sucked into a social situation in which I wanted to play on a different server. Then the thinking was that I would use it on the Horde side eventually.

Well, I spent both of them to create a Mage and Shaman. Despite having a decently high-ish level Mage & Shaman on my original Auchindoun-US server.

The Mage was almost an instant-regret situation. I did play with my old Mage for a few hours through WoD (the go-to fastest leveling place post-squish) and it was a blast as Fire. Mobs falling left and right. Level 48 Fire Mage forced into Shadowlands content right away? Not so much. Hit level 52 and was generous with some crafted gear and it still felt bad. Tried Frost and Arcane, and the latter was the closest to fun I could get. 

I thought about BGing with the Mage like I did with the Warlock, but it was around this time that I realized that level-scaling in BGs was actually removed in Shadowlands. When you join a match, your level will say something like 52 (59) and everyone else shows 59 around you, so I had been like “cool, let’s level via BGs.” It’s just a lie to cover for lowbies not being targeted/called out. You really are level 52 with crap gear being matched against actual level 59s with higher gear and possibly people with Covenant abilities (via Threads of Fate). This suddenly explained why my Shadow Priest was struggling to affect any team fight whatsoever in BGs despite DoTing up the entire team. Or possibly Shadow Priests just suck in BGs like Affliction Warlocks.

The Shaman boost was on purpose though, and I’m enjoying it. I have a fondness for Shaman considering it was my first serious alt after my namesake Paladin, and Shaman in general have come a long way since TBC. Elemental is decent even if it hasn’t really changed all that much from Lava Burst and Lightning Bolt spam. Based on some BG videos, I’m excited to try Elemental in PvP and then fall back on Resto if it comes to that.

The only two classes I don’t have at this point are Warrior or Hunter. I have one apiece back on Auchindoun-US, but it’s tough to justify spending time leveling them on a server with considerably less resources (including crafter alts to gear them). I suppose server transfers are cheaper than level boosts, but at some point I have to recognize the fact that my WoW days (in this expansion) are numbered.

Shadowlands Complete

Not complete complete, of course, but I successfully leveled up to 60, saw all the story zones, and spent a week doing dailies/world quests. Just got to repeat that last part for two years, and that’s a wrap.

In case you’re curious, I broke down and just plowed through the story on my Guardian druid. The tipping point was the fact that the herbs in Bastion had came down to 30g each, but the ones from later zones were still selling for 120g apiece. Under normal expansion scenarios, I would just head over to the new places even if I were underleveled, and just hope to find a few farming spots with neutral mobs. Unfortunately for me, Shadowlands is locked up pretty tight. “Fine, I’ll just do the story quests and nothing else.”

As it turns out, you can just do the story quests and sail into the endgame pretty quickly. I’m not quite sure how things would have worked out had I not been gaining supplemental XP from picking herbs, but I was quite pleased that optional quests were optional.

I concur with just about everyone that Blizzard stumbled with the beginning zones in Shadowlands. The Maw “tutorial” is a drag and never actually gave me any impression that it was as terrible a place as it was portrayed. The Maw at the endgame though, that feels hostile and properly hellish. In any case, going from the Maw tutorial into Oribos and into Bastion was just an incredibly weak, underwhelming transition. There’s a point where a quest giver says something like “this might not look like much with the drought, but see how it used to look,” and then they show you… the same sterile landscape with some white light beams in the sky. I seriously questioned whether a bug or something was preventing the “vibrant” Bastion from appearing. Nothing drives this more home than when you eventually see Elysian Hold, which was actually impressive.

I will further agree with everyone that things flip 180 degrees when you drop into Maldraxxus. It’s textbook “Show, Don’t Tell” right from the start. The entire zone experience is so well-crafted that you have to wonder if it was really designed by the same team. Maybe it wasn’t? From previews of the zone I was a bit worried that a sort of plague/undead zone in an afterlife setting would be boring, especially when you already have the Maw. And, you know, pretty much that exact zone motif in every expansion going back to Plaguelands in Classic. Instead, it felt just right that the final resting place of warriors is a sort of destroyed wasteland battle royale, with bugs, slimes, necromancers, and literal warts on the landscape that you can skin for leather.

As for the remaining two zones, they were okay. Ardenweald started to become intriguing, but ran on just a bit too long for my tastes. I’m a sucker for “everyone you helped earlier marching alongside you at the end” though, so it got some late points. With Revendreth, I think the zone layout was made bad on purpose, and that annoys me – the map is all but useless at assisting you to navigate the severe verticality. I also had an issue with a particular “reveal” about the anima drought that made no sense. I don’t know what counts as a spoiler, so I’ll just post this link, which basically sums up my confusion.

So that is that.

My plans, for now, is to continue doing some basic chores in the form of Callings, herbing, and whatever Covenant stories I manage to unlock. Aside from that, I will be focusing on… perhaps the Warlock, getting them to the level cap and otherwise doing some random BGs for giggles. Once Raid Finder difficulties unlock, maybe seeing how those things go. And then? Letting the sub lapse again, most likely. I have already managed to get 3 WoW Tokens between selling old mats and grinding new ones, so that should cover me for a while.

Endgame Loops

Fallout 76 recently received the biggest content update since launch: Wastelanders. The headlining feature? Actual NPCs. More quests, more weapons, more bugs, two new factions to grind reputation for, and so on and so forth.

If only I could get around to actually doing anything.

The problem is that I am psychologically trapped in an endgame loop. My character is loaded with a decent amount of legendary weapons and gear, but they aren’t that great. This means I have a high incentive to jump around the map and visit various other players’ camps, as they have the ability to sell their own unneeded legendaries. I’m also interested in switching to a Bloodied gear set.

Purchasing things requires Caps. Each day, vendors collectively have 1400 Caps to give you in exchange for selling things. While you can just kill mobs and sell the guns that drop, the most efficient way is to farm Plastic, Glass, and Rubber (x3) to craft helmets that sell for 28 Caps apiece (depending on Charisma). Fifty (50) helmets will net you the Caps cap, but the true number is closer to 25-30 given the Super Duper perk card, which can grant you bonus crafts.

As mentioned, Wastelanders also introduced two factions with reputation daily quests. Enough said.

So, that’s the loop. Load into world, scout the map for possibly well-stocked player vending machines. Farm material to craft helmets to sell for vendors to finance the purchase of player goods, and pay for the Fast Travel fees. Complete reputation dailies. Additionally, jump into lucrative world events when they pop nearby. Fight the Scorchbeast Queen (last boss) if she’s available, and end up using 1000+ rounds of ammo, which you either need to purchase (Caps) or craft (farm junk). 

If there’s some time left over in your play session (spoiler: there’s not), maybe tackle one or two of the actual, new main story quests.

More likely, you do some of your required chores and run out of time, repeat cycle for a few days, then actually have a solid amount of hours to play but you’re so bored with the game that you can’t bring yourself to do the non-boring stuff. Stop playing for a couple of days, get interested in doing stuff, and then get sucked right back into the loop because you’re level 100+ and the high-level mobs you encounter during regular story missions make you wish you had better weapons… etc, etc, etc. It’s a vicious psychological trap.

So I suppose I am playing an MMO these days, eh?

[GW2] 4Q17

The fourth quarter results are in for Guild Wars 2: 34,903 million Won.

GW2_Chart2

What does the above tell us about the health of GW2? Well… there might be cause for concern.

Revenue for the two quarters encompassing Heart of Thorns was 67,888 whereas Path of Fire is 55,048, a decline of about 19%. A more concerning factor, IMO, is how these last two quarters encompassed the release of mount skins in the Gem shop. Based on anecdotal evidence, e.g. in-game observation and Reddit threads, the mount skins have been one of the most lucrative additions to the Gem store in months. The Gliders released in HoT were cool-looking, but only seen when, you know, actively gliding. Meanwhile, people are on their mounts a good 90% of the time these days. There are 50 total mount skins, and even if ArenaNet severely bungled the distribution thereof, it’s clear that they are hot items.

Despite that, the 4Q17 results barely moved from where they were in 4th Quarter 2013.

GW2_Chart_Bar

Bar Chart, if preferred. (source)

Having said all that, the situation is not dire per se. If you enjoy GW2 as I am at the moment, there is no particular reason why you could not continue for quite some time. Even with a lower player population, you are unlikely to notice a decline, as players are funneled together into event zergs, and the Diablo-esque loot (99% useless) pinatas keep the dopamine high.

What we are likely to notice is exactly what we are seeing today: a renewed focus on fiddling with Gem Store items and services. The Mount skins were a start, but have continued into the Black Lion Chest “upgrade.” The Fashion Wars endgame remains largely P2W, with rewards for actual content-clearing relegated to the junior varsity artists. And everyone is fine with that since there is no “power” being sold… only motivation. And besides, if you farm enough gold and convert it into gems, you can reap the rewards yourself!

Sigh.

The funny thing about it all is the fact that while you can purchase Gems with Gold relatively effectively over time, the biggest cut for GW2 is actually the Gem to Gold conversion. For example, as of the time of this writing, the conversation rate is 100g = 356 gems. However, if you wanted to buy gold, the conversion is 19g per 100 gems. So, basically you get only 2/3rds of the value buying gold. This means that ArenaNet should probably be encouraging more tradable (and thus sellable on the AH) items, rather than a laser-focus on Gem Store exclusives.

As an example, the legendary greatsword, Twilight, is currently selling on the AH for 2750g. If I really wanted that item right now, I would have to buy 14,474 gems and convert it to the necessary gold. That’s $180.92 worth of gems as of today. Or I could decide that that is absurd (it is), and start off on a journey to craft the Legendary myself, which could be a year-long endeavor that requires touching every part of GW2’s content.

Or, you know, buy an similarly cool-looking greatsword (or bow) skin off the Gem store for like $10. Either/Or. It is becoming increasingly apparent which one ArenaNet would prefer.

[FFXIV] The Long Road

Implausibly, I continue to pay for a FFXIV subscription.

In the last week or so, I have made some progress both in the story and in the Job system, hitting level 35. It is slow going though, as I do not consider the game anywhere near the top of my evening entertainment preferences. I will typically play for about an hour or two, run into so kind of roadblock, and then log off and play something else.

The roadblocks are generally the pointlessly forced dungeons – I seriously had to run a dungeon because the Main Story Quest called for cheese, literal cheese – but I am also running into level breakpoints too. My understanding was that XP was sped up so that the sidequests were no longer necessary to complete. That seemed to be true under level 30, but since then, I have consistently been between 50%-60% of a full level behind.

So, yeah, do those sidequests.

Story-wise, I have certainly hit that stage at which the plot supposedly picks up. And it certainly has, comparatively. I do find that the greater focus on Empire soldiers is more able to keep my attention. Traditional fantasy is not especially interesting to me, except when it tends towards more grimdark themes or “realism.” Fantasy + Magi-Tek shenanigans though, have been interesting to me since I first booted up FF6 in my SNES.

Gameplay-wise, not much has changed. My Archer is now a Bard, and that means… more damage cooldowns. I do actually enjoy having group buffs, as it reminds me of the old WoW paladin days. Beyond that, combat is formulaic, boring, and completed in a daze-like trance 100% of the time. It’s still worlds better than my experience as Monk, but I think most of that is because melee in FFXIV feels terrible. And that is probably mostly to do with the high-pitched squeals and screen-flashes that constitute FFXIV attacks. Nothing feels particularly weighty or anchored to the world.

While the sale has since closed, Amazon and a few other places had the Stormblood expansion on sale for $25. I was tempted to purchase it for all of two seconds. The very real problem is that I am ages away from even getting to the end of the ARR storyline, let alone getting to the required Heavensward stuff (which is thankfully included in Stormblood). There is no guarantee that I make it to level 50 at my current pace, so it seems a bit silly to be buying expansions. At the same time, not buying the expansion sort of depresses my desire to hit the end of the road, as that would mean either taking a break until the next sale or giving up.

Oh, well. I shall continue as time and interest permits.

WoW Endgame As it Stands

A few people have asked me about my WoW endgame experiences, and as I recently turned in my 3rd WoW token, I should probably talk about it some more.

In short: it’s almost as good as Wrath.

Going forward, I think it’s going to be incredibly difficult to not have World Quests (WQs) and scaling mobs in future expansions. This is the “final form” of casual themepark gameplay IMO. Is it functionally different from traditional daily quests? Not really. Does it feel better than daily quests in every possible way? Absolutely.

Blizzard has tried to spice daily quests up before, and largely failed. Remember the Firelands dailies back in Cataclysm? Those had rotating/random dailies and somehow felt worse than what came before. In Legion though, it feels more… organic. I don’t even necessarily think it’s something special about the dailies, per se, but rather due to the fact that these “dailies” aren’t in the same location and not with the same mobs every time. Scaling tech allows Blizzard to utilize the entire continent, and they do. While you do end up seeing the same WQs pretty often, you never really know exactly where you will be flying that evening until you open the map.

Also, big props to Blizzard for having rotating WQs throughout the day. In other words, you don’t have a single list of 25 random WQs and that’s it until 3 AM. Some last a few days, some last a few hours. This not only satisfies the “optimization” need in me – only doing the most efficient ones – but also the individuals who might be bored and looking for things to do all day. There will almost always be a WQ for you providing some kind of reward.

The one problem with WQs might be that it can become a victim of its own success. For example, my druid is pretty much in full 850 gear, having stepped foot in heroic dungeons maybe four times (none of which resulted in upgrades). At this point, the only WQs I do are the ones to give Warden and Nightfallen reputation, as nothing else results in better gear. I mean, there is a chance a gear piece rolls Titanforged, but that’s a stretch. Mythic dungeons? No thanks. Maybe for the quests, but I’m not particularly interested in Mythic+ dungeon runs on timers.

This means, two months in, I am close to being done with all world/quest content in Legion. Indeed, I am in spitting distance of the Pathfinder Achievement, which is my current goal – just need about 2000 Wardens and 7000 Nightfallen rep before getting it. Luckily, 7.1 is coming out next week, but unless there are a bunch new WQs and/or increased ilevel rewards, I will be passing. Then it is PvP or alts until next year.

Speaking of alts, I finally have a level 3 Shipyard on my namesake paladin, and am just waiting for the BoA ring mission to proc. Considering that I have 20+ maxed out Garrison soldiers and have yet to have seen a single Elixir of the Rapid Mind mission, I am beginning to question whether these things are even still in the game.

I actually switched to Protection for the Tanaan dailies (for Oil), and it feels better than Ret, but the paladin is pretty much a pass for me again this expansion. I tried out the Frost DK and got to chill with the Lich King, but that is going to be another pass. Basically, I wasn’t too impressed with the DK’s self-healing capabilities. Yeah, I’m sure Blood can be immortal just like most questing tanks this expansion, but even getting to level 102 is a chore. My Outlaw rogue is in a similar position, insofar as it just doesn’t feel as fun to kill shit with. Assassination seems pretty powerful these days, so I’ll likely try switching specs if I can make it to 102.

Beyond that, I actually have a Demon Hunter and playing it… is interesting. Double jumping and gliding is pretty much the main draw, as the rotation is meh. Coming from all these other classes, having one spammable attack and one resource dump is pretty basic. There are cooldowns, don’t get me wrong, but the fundamentals don’t really change. Well, unless you take the current Momentum build, where you are forced to zip around the boss/mobs every 4 seconds like some ADHD 7-year old playing soccer for the first time. I can’t imagine how annoying that might be on raid bosses.

As I wrap up Legion Pathfinder, I’ll be spending some more time on the alts, to determine which (if any) might eventually be transferring to my new “main” server. I’m still kinda holding out until some kind of 50% off Services sale or until I quit WoW in disgust again, but maybe there will be a simpler realization that I don’t actually like playing any of these alts anymore.

Beginning of Endgame

I have been at the level 110 cap in Legion for about a week now. A lot of hit, and a little miss.

World Quests (WQ) are an interesting variation of the traditional WoW endgame daily quest grind. You get an “Emissary quest” every day (accumulating to three total), which gives you some general direction: complete four WQs of that specific faction, get bonus rep and a chest full of goodies.

What’s odd about the system are two things. First, the interface for this is all weird. Maybe an addon will solve this (Edit: there are several), but I find it awkward having to zoom into each individual zone and hover over the WQ icons to see the rewards. Don’t really care all that much about Artifact Power or gold at the moment, and a whole lot more for the free gear.

And that’s actually my second concern with WQs: it does weird things to incentives. Basically, some of your WQs are going to reward gear straight-up, and the relative quality of this gear increases as your average ilevel increases. I’m not sure of the limitations of this system, e.g. if every armor slot is open season, but you better believe I’m willing to click on some objects and/or kill X mobs for the equivalent of heroic dungeon gear. Then you sometimes get Mythic gear WQs for defeating dungeons at any difficulty. Which, yeah, provides a pretty big incentive to run dungeons.

Incidentally, my DPS dungeon queues the last few days have actually been 3 minutes. One time it was actually instant, which caused a moment of panic as I thought I accidentally queued as a tank. I think WQs are the same across regions, and that might be the reason why a given dungeon would have no queues. Or possibly more people are willing to be tanks, given how easy questing is as one.

Gold-wise, I broke 100,000g last night. All as a Gatherer mind you, as the AH continues to be throttled. I suppose the expansion is still new – and raids have just came out – but the prices of some of these goods is rather surprising. Either Blizzard has gotten the farming bot situation finally resolved, or everyone is still flush with gold from Garrisoncraft, because 70g 100g+ Foxflower is crazy. That herb in particular is not only easy to farm, it can proc a literal fox that runs around and drops 20-30 herbs. If I cared more about wanting more gold, I’d be doing that every night. Fjarnskaggl is also crazy, and Starlight Rose? 280g apiece.

Given the profitability of Herbalism, I went ahead and dropped Mining on my druid. I started up Alchemy, under the assumption that if herbs were so profitable, adding some labor in there might increase that profit margin. As it turns out, I understand now: Alchemy got hosed. Basically everything is gated through a half-dozen or more dungeon quests. Not just high-tier recipes either – you don’t get the Alchemy trinket or transmutes until the end of a long, multi-dungeon quest-line. Flasks are after heroic boss kills. Rank 2 recipes also drop from dungeon bosses.

And then you have recipes themselves, which require ridiculous shit even for cosmetic items. Skystep Potion requires four (4) Starlight Roses. To move at 150% speed for 8 seconds. At current prices, that’s over 1000g a potion. Yeah, herbs will probably be cheaper a year from now. But Starlight Rose in particular is an herb that can actually proc failures.

In any case, I am overall comfortably coasting right along at the endgame. I spent another WoW token to resub, and the general gameplay of collecting the easy WQ gear and herbing my way to 10,000g by the end of the session is satisfying. At some point I am going to check out Demon Hunters, and then take a look at my rogue and/or other alts. My other alts will be a problem though, I suspect: most are trapped pre-Draenor, and I never unlocked flying there.

We will just have to see how engaged I stay with the druid.

Royale Plateau

I am nearing my end with Clash Royale. And not by choice.

One thing to note about Clash Royale is that it, like many games, is very rewarding right away. You get free treasure chests every four hours, with a maximum stack of two. Every eight hours, you can request cards from your clan. You have four slots for treasure chests from winning games. Every X hours, you have a Crown Chest that you unlock by accumulating 10 crowns (from destroying towers). My play pattern basically means I’m opening 1-2 chests every time I boot up the game.

The problem is you run into a very real payslope eventually.

I have been “stuck” in the Royal Arena 7 for going on a month now (or more). My highest trophy count is 2575, which is still pretty far from hitting the last Arena level. But for the most part… I don’t care about that, since nothing new unlocks at Arena 8.

In the meantime, day after day, I open chests and get the same rares/common cards. Upgrading from level 8 commons/level 6 rares to the next higher level is something that takes weeks-worth of gold, for only very marginal gains comparatively.

But it’s not even about that either. My progression is stuck. Here is my setup:

ClashRoyale_Deck

The Baby Dragon slot fluctuates between Barbarians and/or Mini PEKKA.

It is essentially a Judo deck – a reactive deck that relies on countering my opponent’s push and then winning via superior plays. It lacks the sheer ridiculous power of some other deck openers, but it is decently resilient, as evidenced by my trophy levels. Could I use other cards? Maybe. My only level 3 epics though are Freeze, Crossbow, and Mirror. Meanwhile, everyone I face seems to have level 3+ relevant epics and legendary cards. I keep thinking that if I were to get Prince up to level 3 or Balloon or something, that would provide enough of an incentive for me to change my deck.

Then I realized that my little skeleton bomber is a strictly worse Princess or Ice Wizard. All cost 3 elixir, all fill similar roles, but the latter two are (of course) legendary cards that could change the course of games all by themselves. This is a poisonous sort of knowledge though, as each and every chest I open that doesn’t contain a replacement legendary is a waste of time. The expectation that such a legendary will be opened is fallacious, of course, as the odds were remote in the first place, much less that this particular chest will contain one.

And so, here I am.

Most people would say “at least you got 2+ months of entertainment from a mobile app.” That is true. But in experiencing these last MMO-esque gasps yet again… well, it makes me long for the mercy of a quick, definitive end of gameplay. You know, to finish a game before you’re done with it.

Wildstar AMA

There was an AMA by Jeremy Gaffney (Executive Producer) regarding Wildstar on Friday. Here were some of the interesting notes:

As someone who has left the MMO scene for quite some time now, do you think WildStar could pull me back in? (ex WoW player)

Our #1 market is probably ex-MMO players, truth be told. That’s many of us as well :) (source)

Subtle and straight-forward. I like it.

Your stand on “catch-up gear” content? Like if I want to get into raiding say about year after release and I of course need to get proper gear to get into raiding. So are you planning to do 5man dungeons with some godly gear or other catch-up mechanics?

We’ll want some catch-up mechanics that are also fair to the long-term raiders; I know the econ guys have thought but thank heavens that’s a ways out yet. (source)

Given the Wildstar team’s commitment to to anachronisms like attunements, I have to wonder about how exactly “catch-up gear mechanics” would even work. Blizzard is heading towards making all of Warlord’s LFR gear be non-tier, so I could see “ghetto-tier” gear as a means to help newer players catch up… but what about those attunements? Is it “fair to long-term raiders” for attunements to be relaxed after the content is no longer current? How is that any different than the traditional cry that content is being obsoleted?

By the way, attunements were dumb, are dumb, and will always be dumb.

Will it be possible to purchase high end gear or tier equivalent gear via the Auction House? In other words, given the existence of the CREDD system, will it be possible to buy power in this game with cash?

In general, nope. In practice, there may be a few BOE pieces of appropriate rarity/difficulty to acquire that spice up the mix, but buying power is a dangerous thing to systemize. (source)

 Fair enough.

The questing experience levels 1-6 is terrible (especially on Dominion side), why do your tutorials areas have so many quests that are not interactive for the player?

Mostly through focus testing with players of a variety of experience levels; you’ve probably played too many MMOs to want your hand held for long and don’t value the world and character introductions we do there (and why should you? You don’t know if those will pay off later and just want to check out the gameplay, which is rational).

We will likely add an option down the road for you to opt out. (source)

This is a subject that could almost be an entire series of blog posts by itself. Namely, the tension between clearly going after competitor’s subscribers (e.g. “Not in Azeroth anymore!”) and needing to be accessible for first-time MMO players. Because let’s be honest, the only real way you’re going to build word-of-mouth is by exciting the already-existing base, unless your base is already established via IP. Quite frankly, I’m a bit surprised that we haven’t seen more MMO companies come out with mid-range or even end-game gameplay in their beta right from the start. I mean, I guess even veterans will need a little bit of time to acclimate to the new environment, but you need them to be excited about the long-term future, not forcing them to spam-run tutorials every beta weekend.

Many people have had a really bad first impression of the game (usually first few hours of play), what would you say to these people to sway them into trying the game again?

Getting people back into the game is tricky (you form an impression and stick with it) – we change so much month to month that I don’t expect to re-earn the eyeballs of many folks who played in the past and left (even if we fixed some of what bothered them).

My plan personally is that you play what your friends are playing; the one thing more than any other email/ad/PR campaign we can do is get people liking the game itself and convincing their friends to come back in – thus Friend Passes, etc. (source)

That… is astonishingly honest and straight-forward. I have a few friends that pre-ordered Wildstar already, and they will pretty much be the only reason I purchase the game given my previous beta impressions.

Class balance is on going but their seems to be a mostly agreed tier list, with Spellslingers and Medics at the bottom in terms of DPS, and by a fair margin. What approach are you taking to get classes more in line with each other? Nerfing the top classes, or buffing the lower ones?

We err on the side of buffing rather than nerfing, but not to the point of insane mudflation. We’ll pretty regularly rebalance classes so that none is too gimped or OP (some drops are slated around this directly, while some will happen in each drop for higher priority stuff). (source)

I would say that erring on the side of buffing is the opposite of the WoW approach, but I don’t think classes ever got OP when someone else got nerfed, so… yeah.

Currently WildStars PVE Group Content ins linear, like in vanilla wow or tbc (the good times). With Wotlk and multilayer-content, problems like content skipping occured. Are you aware of that and are your gonna stick with the linear system? How will you ensure, that the linear system will work successfull on longterm for all different kind of raidguilds (casual, average, hardcore).

Adventures are intended to be heavily NON-linear, and raids are intended to have a fair amount of weekly variation (room ordering, sub-bosses, etc.) for just such reasons – if what we have is well received at launch, we’ll add more. (source)

I’m pretty sure they were talking about two different things here. I’m not sure about anyone else’s guild, but I absolutely hated the random variables in boss ordering (e.g. which drakes were in the cage, which bosses activated first, etc) as it required explaining the entire fight and every variation every time to everyone.

Q: In most MMO’s the crafted gear/items don’t have any real impact on endgame… What’s WildStar’s stance on this?

Our goal is that crafted items are competitive with the best items, but usually need to be earned through those same activities (either by the wearer or by the crafter) to keep things balanced. (source)

I have a difficult time trying to determine if this sort of thing would work for me. If I can’t craft the epic sword before being able to kill the guy who drops an epic sword, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to crafting (beyond playing the AH). On the other hand, I could sorta see this working if the raid boss had a much higher chance to drop the crafting component necessary to craft the epic sword, such that my profession had value in reducing the randomness of drops. This would require the crafting component to be personal loot though, I think.

I currently play GW2. what’s one good reason I should stop and start playing your game?

Don’t! Guild Wars 2 is an excellent game as well; respect to MO and the other arena.net devs. (source)

If I was less of a cynical bastard, I would be pretty impressed with this response. Alas, both MMOs are from NCSoft, so…