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WoW Should Face Existential Crises More Often

(More Blizzard than WoW, specifically, but I’m doing a call-back to this post from 2012)

Blizzard’s next patch for WoW is 9.1.5 and it contains… well, the words speak for themselves:

Over the past few weeks since we shared an update, the WoW team has been focused on the immediate future—both for our people and workplace, and what’s next for players too. As a part of that, the entire team came together to ask: What are the biggest things we’re hearing are getting in the way of your fun, and what are the most impactful changes we could make to WoW today to fix that?

Shadowlands Update 9.1.5 will be going on the PTR next week, and a lot of what you’ll find in it is the direct result of your collective feedback. It includes long-asked-for changes to make it easier to swap covenants and conduits, updates to make it so you don’t need to repeat covenant campaigns on alts, new character customization options for some races that were lacking them, and many more changes to help you play the way you want.

https://www.wowhead.com/news/shadowlands-developer-update-9-1-5-ptr-next-week-323931

Just in case you’ve missed the context here, Blizzard is getting sued by California for rampant sexual discrimination, some egregious harassment, and general nefariousness. Oh, and more recently, allegedly shredding documents concerning all that. Some executives have been fired, some worker walk-outs have occurred, and all of this has come AFTER the mass-migration of WoW players that has been a result of poor game and story design leading into/throughout the Shadowlands expansion.

I cannot quite tell what it is exactly, but the whole thing feels nauseatingly patronizing.

Like it took throwing two decades of reputation in the garbage and an existential crisis for these designers to finally go “Huh, ain’t got shit to do today cuz the bosses are either sacked or hiding in the Cosby room… maybe I’ll give this whole ‘make fun games’ thing a try.” No, really, they basically said that:

While we hope many players will be pleased at the increased accessibility and freedom for experimentation these changes will permit, we know that you might be wondering why we didn’t make adjustments like these sooner. After all, a large portion of the community has been vocal about wanting to see changes along these lines since mid-2020, when Shadowlands was still in Beta.

When it comes to the limitations on Covenant-switching, millions of players experienced Shadowlands for the first time through the lens of their Covenant of choice, and that would have not been possible had the choice carried less weight from the outset. Nevertheless, after the conclusion of the Chains of Domination campaign, the Covenants are united against the Jailer, and revisiting player feedback in that context has led us to re-evaluate our approach.

“Covenant of choice.” Tell me how much choice a PvP Priest has in regards to Covenants again. Or Warlocks. Or basically any class/spec across the entire game? Covenants were choices in the same way stacking Crit vs Versatility is a choice: namely, choosing to be objectively correct or gimp your character in X or Y (or all) content. But now that Blizzard’s stated goal of forcing you to experience the game in a specific way has been achieved, the devs will now, in their extreme beneficence, sell you the solution to the problem they created.

This is not a new tactic for the WoW devs, of course. Each expansion launches with an obviously asinine timesink that the devs conveniently “fix” a year later after it successfully sunk millions of player dollars in subscriptions. In any other year, these Shadowlands changes would be par for the course. The fact that these changes are cloaked in this “we’re reexamining everything in the company” is just gross. It’s like, no you aren’t, and stop pretending you are doing anyone any favors here. Shit should have been changed a year ago, when everyone told you it was a terrible idea.

It’s gotten to the point where I just dread hearing anything about WoW. You know those shows out there which just sort of revel in awkwardness, scripted or not? I can’t stand them. There’s something about them that is physically painful to watch for me. And that’s what WoW news is to me now.

I watched that Sylvanas cinematic and I just couldn’t anymore. How many years have they been building to this moment, and some committee of writers thought “I will never serve” fit in with anything that was going on? What did she think she was doing up to this point? There is zero way to write themselves out of the hole they wrote themselves into. So now we’re all just sitting around and waiting to see how painfully awkward the conclusion is going to be.

To some extent, we expect Xanatos Gambits from evil masterminds. Heroes doing things that end up playing right into the villain’s hands. The key is that the heroes’ actions are usually, at worst, dumb in retrospect. Other times, they just had no way of knowing the extent of scheming that took place; can’t blame them in those scenarios. But there is no coming back from this for Sylvanas as a character. She wasn’t looking for an opportunity to snatch the One Ring at the right moment. She’s just dumb and got bamboozled by someone called the Jailer. Sylvanas never took a moment to look around the Maw? Maybe notice all the chains, all the dominated souls bent to serve? In her mind, the Jailer was just going to be like “everyone’s free now” and then put down the McGuffin of ultimate power?

It’s all so dumb.

Everyone has predicted for a decade or longer that the true WoW-killer was going to be WoW itself. But I couldn’t even imagine it playing out this way. Shit design, shit corporate culture, shit story. That’s the trifecta right there. They are working on it though! They sat down and brainstormed and talked about their feelings and remembered that all the problems were correctly identified in beta (again) so they could continue to put in minimum effort into what once was a billion dollar franchise.

The one hope that WoW has is that corporate spreadsheet dweebs like Ion Hazzikostas have an outsized effect on game design direction. So that, you know, when they are fired or quit, the ship can be turned around. If things really are built by committee though, WoW is straight fucked and the ship is going down. Or arguably already has, and the remaining population is clinging to dressers and doors while everyone else is paddling the life boats away. But hey, at least the knobs were fixed in a patch.

FF14 is Going F2Pish

Even after repeated attempts, FF14 has never managed to hook me. Part of the reason is because I am mostly done with the MMO genre in general. Another part is that FF14 is front-loaded with dozens and dozens of hours of irredeemably bad, garbage questing. The bar is pretty low for MMO questing, sure, but when everyone pontificates on how FF14 has the greatest story of all time, the “*only after 60+ hours of terribleness” asterisk is usually missing. 

Nevertheless, I had heard of plans that the devs were going to overhaul the vanilla experience to make it less of a slog. Eyebrow raised, I made a mental note and went on with my life.

Well, the time is nigh.

Patch 5.3 is slated for August 11th and it includes:

  • Main Scenario Questline Update: A Realm Reborn – The A Realm Reborn main scenario questline will be reworked to give new players a more streamlined experience as they progress through the story leading to Heavensward. Additionally, players will be able to use flying mounts to take to the skies in A Realm Reborn areas upon completion of The Ultimate Weapon quest.
  • Expanded Free Trial – The free trial will now allow players to enjoy unlimited playtime up through level 60 and will also include access to Heavensward content, an additional playable race (Au Ra), and an additional three playable jobs (Dark Knight, Astrologian, and Machinist).

It is difficult to get precise information regarding how “streamlined” is streamlined. I have heard estimates ranging from 13%-30% of the quests have been removed, and other non-removed quests have gotten trimmed back in terms of required items. If after all this I’m still asked to run a dungeon to collect cheese for my own banquet, then I’m going to expect some dev seppuku in the future.

One of the bigger surprises though, was the second bullet point. Square Enix is expanding the Free Trial from level 35 to level 60, and including all content of the main game and the first expansion, including the new race and classes introduced. And keep in mind this trial is not time-based. For all intents and purposes, this makes the front half of the game F2P. 

As it happens though, this will only be for “new” players. If your account has ever paid money to Square Enix, you are ineligible for any such trials. Which means if I come back to FF14, I will have to abandon the characters I already leveled. From *checks calendar* 2017. Which… okay, whatever. Hopefully the skids are greased enough that I can pass through the utter tripe of the starting experience and get to the supposed good stuff and see for myself if FF14 is the second coming. 

My guess is No, but I have been wrong before.

No Man’s 76

The development redemption arc of No Man’s Sky is perhaps one of the best gaming, dwarfed only by Final Fantasy 14. Insane hype followed by a PR disaster as the game cratered, was meme’d, and then… practically born again. I would not say that No Man’s Sky has become some wildly successful game – it apparently sells well with each update – but the fact that it was not abandoned altogether is an immense testament to the will of devs wanting to make things right. And it is undeniable that the game is better than it has ever been before. The Beyond Update slated for this summer, for example, is set to introduce VR support and 16-person multiplayer. Yes, multiplayer that was advertised to exist years ago. But still! It’s getting closer to that original vision and potential.

Reading some of the latest updates regarding Fallout 76 is giving me similar redemption vibes.

For example, you may have read about how there is a PvP mode now. What you might not know is that they have eliminated the “slap” damage from the non-PvP mode, essentially giving people the PvE mode they always wanted. Granted, you can still get shot defending/attacking a Workshop or if you don’t have Pacifist mode turned on, but it’s immense progress.

Also immense progress? Player vending machines. Set one up in your camp, power it, and it’ll highlight your camp on the map for everyone to see and visit. Not only will this give you a means to sell your useful items and Legendary gear, but also give you a reason to make your camp look cool. That’s classic Show & Tell! I have a perfectly functional mountaintop base currently, but now I have an immense desire to relocate to a more convenient location and rework my entire camp.

Oh, and did you read about the Purveyor? Basically you can now scrap your unused Legendary gear for Scrip, which you use to purchase random Legendary items. At first, I was not particularly excited about such RNG layering, but then I started thinking about the current state of affairs. In the old system, you… tried to farm Legendary mobs for random drops, then get pissed every time a 3-star wood armor dropped. Now you can farm those same mobs and Legendaries and eventually earn a second chance to roll the dice.

Or, you know, sell the useful-but-not-for-your-build Legendary items in your vending machine for Caps instead of Scrip. Then use Caps to purchase your dream drop from someone who rolled differently. Or go farm Caps yourself and buy other peoples’ crap Legendaries and scrap them for Scrip to fuel your own rolls.

Are there still issues? Of course. Some are clearly bugs, such as not being able to inspect 3-star Legendary items in vending machines without the owner nearby. Others might just be terrible design decisions, such as being unable to text-chat other players on PC. And were is a “Sorry” emote?

If you hate the entire idea of Fallout 76 or what it represents, then okay, no updates will likely improve the game for you. But it is undeniable that the game has improved, in subtle yet significant ways. That player vending machine thing practically carves out an entirely new endgame by itself, nevermind the Diablo-esque Legendary gambling endgame now. And nevermind the continued release of dungeons and new events and so on.

There will be people who say that Bethesda deserves no praise for making (baby) steps to correct an initially poorly-developed product. I agree, for the most part. Yet I must say that the game is in a wildly better state than it has ever been, and I am looking forward to how much better it can become.

How Not to Return

Coming back to a game can be incredibly daunting. Coming back after it has gone through several updates can be more concerning still.

Then there’s No Man’s Sky.

NMS_Restart

I didn’t want to play that character anymore anyway.

The No Man’s Sky meta-narrative is inspiring in its own way. In the beginning, the game was hyped beyond belief (and reality), the designers actively lied about features, and it was the go-to example of a failed game. Over the years though, the same designers have… stuck to it. Update after update has improved the gameplay experience, and now it is very close to completely resembling the product that was promised in the first place. While some may decry giving the company any praise for fixing what ought not have been broken in the first place, their dedication towards making things right is completely unexpected in the current gaming environment.

The problem is that so much has changed between the various patches that my 50+ hour character may as well have been erased.

The main culprit appears to have been NMS’s “Next” patch. There was a major overhaul in the crafting system, or upgrade system, or both, or something. Basically, all of my upgrades and enhancements were turned into “Obsolete Technology” that I had to scrap for upgrade currency. Which would have been slightly okay on its own, but now I have no idea how anything works anymore. Which resources are important have changed, all of the planets in the galaxy have changed, and my previously-existing base appears to be lost entirely/”archived” somewhere. While there have been a few prompts to check the Codex here and there, otherwise there is nothing resembling a tutorial on solving the “Dude, Where’s My Base” situation.

Slightly perturbed, I decided to spend my limited free-time patching up Fallout 76 instead. There have been several feature patches there too, resolving some long-term Quality of Life issues and introducing some new quest content as well. Everything was looking good… until I realized I could not aim-down-sights anymore. Right-click and nothing happened. With a melee weapon equipped my right-click would Block attacks like normal, but no scopes apparently.

Kind of a bummer when you are a Rifle build.

Near as I can tell, this problem might be related to mods. Deleting the mod file and removing the Custom.ini did not fix anything, nor did reboots or verifying file integrity. So, I’m typing this up while waiting for another 55 GB install to complete. [Edit: this didn’t fix the issue either]

Both experiences are giving me time (literally) to reflect on the situation though. Blizzard spends an inordinate amount of time trying to make the transition from lapsed to paying subscriber as easy as possible, to the extent of not changing systems that desperately need fixing. It’s hard to see value in that approach when you are actively playing the game, as all that occurs is basically stagnation for the sake of people who aren’t even customers. But if I weren’t so starved for survival-esque experiences, my first five minutes back into No Man’s Sky would have ended with an uninstall.

I’m not even sure there’s a middle path anymore. Games require you to learn their arbitrary, sometimes non-intuitive systems in order to succeed. It is hard enough trying to remember which buttons do what after a year or two, and then you add the possibility of previously accumulated experience no longer being useful (or actively bad)? You might be worse off than a brand new player at that point. In fact, I am worse off, because my patience for relearning tasks is immensely low – if I am to spend time learning something, it may as well be a new thing.

Patch Purgatory

There is a special sort of exquisite suffering involved in waiting for game patches. Like, there is an acknowledgement from the game makers that a problem exists, and they even have a date listed for when the problem will be fixed. That’s good! Fantastic, even. But it’s going to be next week. And seven days is so long from now, but it’s also entirely reasonable to have patches scheduled for certain days, and last week was Thanksgiving… so, yeah. Purgatory, basically.

Over on the Fallout 76 subreddit, Bethesda has laid out a general cadence for upcoming patches:

December 4, 2018 – Next week’s update will bring an increase to the Stash limit, as well as a variety of performance and stability improvements, balance changes, and multiple bug fixes to the game. We’ll have full patch notes available later this week ahead of Tuesday’s update. […]

December 11, 2018 – The next update after December 4 is currently planned for the following week. Like previous patches, it will include a variety of bug fixes, but we’re also planning to bring some more notable changes and features to the game. You can catch a preview of these improvements below, and a full list of changes will be included in the December 11 patch notes.

The post itself has actual details, but the big ones to me are the Stash limit increases and better boss loot on the 4th, and Push-to-Talk, (limited) Respec, and CAMP improvements on the 11th.

There are also a variety of possible bug fixes and balance changes that could materially improve my enjoyment of the game. Melee right now is incredibly OP, for example. I’m running a Rifle/Sniper build myself, and the fact that there are no rifle weight-reducing Perk cards (Gatling guns can be reduced to 2 lbs but a machine gun always weighs 20+ lbs) and apparently Legendary Hunting Rifles don’t exist in the game is a big bummer. Adding in a Perk card might be out of scope of a “bug fix,” but if they made getting the Lever-Action Rifle schematics easier to acquire, I would suddenly be back in business – I’m still using a level 25 one with no mods at level 50, because it’s still awesome despite the reloading glitch.

In the meantime though, it’s tough. I’m always dancing around the 400 lb Stash limit each time I log into the game. For the longest time, having too much Steel was a common event, but the moment you essentially delete 1000 pieces, you suddenly need that amount for something else, such as crafting bullets. There are vendors out in the world, but most are on a shared Cap limit, such that you can only vendor X amount of things each day.

The ideal solution to all of this is to simply not play the game until the patch hits. Which is perfectly acceptable as a solution… provided you aren’t actually that invested in the game in the first place. If you are though, god help you.

Fallout 76 is a Survival Game

Seeing as I’m a cynical bastard most of the time, it’s fascinating experiencing the frothing internet rage from the other side of the glass for once. “Don’t buy Fallout 76!” “This game feels like an alpha!” “The micro-transactions are ridiculous!” “It’s a glitchy, buggy mess!” Cool story, bros. Imma be over here being totally absorbed in my hunt for Aluminum and Adhesives for 5-6 hours a day.

Hey, I’ve been there IRL.

I mean, is this what it feels like to really enjoy something and then encounter someone who doesn’t, for reasons that seem so disconnected from your personal experience so as to seem divorced from reality? Politics is one thing, but somehow this seems even more extreme.

Let me break it down for you: Fallout 76 is a Survival game. I do not just mean Fallout 76 has hunger and thirst meters, I mean the games you must compare it to are other Survival games. Games like:

  • ARK
  • The Forest
  • Metal Gear Survive
  • RUST
  • State of Decay (1 and 2)
  • Subnautica
  • The Long Dark
  • 7 Days to Die
  • Conan: Exiles
  • No Man’s Sky

Fallout 76 does indeed come up short against some of those. Subnautica is much prettier, for instance. You can’t dig into bedrock and build your own personal bunker like in 7 Days to Die. But the complaints about lack of story, or the emptiness of the world, etc, suddenly become quite silly when you start asking where the NPCs are in, say, ARK. Fallout 76 is better than State of Decay in every category (story, gameplay, basebuilding, etc). Conan: Exiles lets you have slave NPCs at your base, but they aren’t materially different than some turrets most of the time.

Granted, some of these are $30 games and not $60, but still.

Totally stealing this player’s base design.

If you want to be mad at Bethesda for not making Fallout 5 happen in 2018, then… okay. I don’t think that was ever in the cards even if Fallout 76 didn’t exist, but maybe. It’s like being mad at Blizzard for the Mobile Diablo fiasco – that was a mismanagement of expectations, and likely had zero impact on the work of Diablo 4, which is inevitably coming.

Having said that, I begrudge no one for waiting 6+ months for the (ahem) fallout to settle before taking a second look. Fallout 76 is absolutely a game that will be in better shape a few patches from now. Stash size will be bigger, bugs/crashes will be reduced, some of the quests will actually be completable, there might be more of an endgame, Workshops might be worth something, and so on. No Man’s Sky was a huge letdown on release, but look at it now, within the context of survival games. If I still had space on my SSD, I might have booted NMS up again with this latest patch.

If I were not spending every waking moment playing and enjoying (!!!) Fallout 76, that is.

WoW Aside

Blizzard was running a free weekend of WoW just a few days ago. This was basically me:

I still have the Curse Client – or the Twitch client now, but Amazon owns it? – so I was able to get all my addons updated and the screen to basically look the same as it did the last time I logged in. Which might have been 400+ days ago?

Blizzard has made a big deal about some of the artifact appearances going away permanently with the next expansion’s pre-patch, which itself is going Live within a few weeks. I looked through them, and pretty much the only ones I would conceivably care about were the Feral and Guardian druid ones. My average ilevel was 840 when I left, and 910 is basically the floor for attempts. Some guides have mentioned that you can reach that ilevel with about a week of dailies and such.

No thanks.

Cosmetic rewards in gaming is in a weird place for me. As rewards for completing content, I feel like it’s a good choice over straight (gear) power. As a means of funding games (e.g. cash shop), it is probably the least offensive, provided they do not come in loot boxes. But eventually… does it not just end for other people? Like, you enjoy the way your character looks and that’s that?

I spent years and years trying to get the Raven mount out of a TBC heroic, and I eventually did. And now I’m done with land mounts – any other mounts I ride are due to utility (flying, water-walking, etc). It doesn’t matter what other mounts Blizzard releases, and so mount-chasing just ceased to be compelling for me anymore. Same with transmog, really. Once you get a good set going, whatever else gets released would need to be way better than my current one in order to move the needle. You can only wear one costume/ride one mount at a time, so why both acquiring multiple ones?

Thus, with Mage Tower unlocks not being a good use of my time, I’m left with… well, too many things, actually. There’s two full raids worth of bosses to tour with LFR, plus an entire demon planet to quest through, and a half-dozen Allied races to unlock, oh and flying is a thing now which requires a whole bunch of assorted tasks and reputation grinds and, and, and etc.

Yeah, that’s gonna be a no for me dawg. I’m out.

Well, out is probably optimistic. I never uninstalled WoW in my life, and I am sorta interested in the train wreck of an expansion (lore-wise) that Battle for Azeroth is shaping up to be. There is just too much shit I have to shift through and prioritize and decide on at the moment. When a new expansion is released, things are much easier. Go quest, gain levels, unlock abilities, repeat until level cap. Once you hit said cap, things go sideways in terms of shit to do. Each patch adds more and more and the only way to keep your head above water is to have been treading this whole time. Makes it a bit tough to come back after an extended break.

I dunno. This may come as somewhat of a shock, but I sometimes overthink things. But I figure if I’m going to need to dedicate some time to (re-)learning some things, I should probably take that time to learn something new, e.g. playing something else.

WoW will still be there later, as always. Waiting.

More BlizzCon Impressions

I neither went nor watched the BlizzCon festivities, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express read MMO-Champ. So here are all the tidbits from the coverage that I was interested in:

Patch 7.1.5 is coming

The first thing that I found amusing about the Patch 7.1.5 news is that it was described as a “small” patch. If you want to see a small patch, check out 6.1, eh?

In any case, the Panderia Time-Walking dungeons might be good for some people, but the bigger news is that the Brawler’s Guild is returning. I kinda missed the feature entirely when it was released, and only recently got interested after they took it back away. It’s goofy side content from what I understand, but hey, I have two quests for it already, so let’s bring it back.

The other intriguing change in 7.1.5 is that Artifact Knowledge will be “purchasable” at least up to level 10, if not higher. This is huge news for alts, whom have otherwise been hosed this entire expansion. Time will tell what form this “purchase” takes – Order Resources, Blood of Sargeras, gold? – but whatever it is should be relatively easy to overcome with a main running WQs.

Finally, Blizzard mentioned that 7.1.5 will be going on the PTR immediately after BlizzCon, then Live soon after. How soon is Soon(tm)? I want to say “not soon enough,” but honestly Nighthold is not even active yet, and that’s in the current patch. Will all these changes be rolling out before LFR even gets the last Nighthold boss unlocked? It certainly sounds that way. Which is kinda weird.

Patch 7.2 is coming

Biggest news is, of course, that Flying is getting unlocked in 7.2. I have already jumped through the Legion Pathfinder, Part 1 hoops, so I should be in good shape for whatever nonsense is required in Part 2. Word from Blizzard is that it won’t require any group content, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still be tedious.

The Tomb of Sargeras raid will open up, with Kil’Jaeden being the confirmed last boss. Which is interesting for all sorts of reasons, which I will touch on later.

What is definitely interesting to me is the introduction of “PvP Brawls.” The concept was first introduced in Hearthstone and then Overwatch later, and now we see it migrating to WoW. In short, Blizzard is finally letting its hair down and introducing more free-form experiments in game modes. 15×15 Arenas? Tarren Mill vs Southshore? Bring them on.

This is a fairly big deal because it allows Blizzard to essentially playtest these game concepts without their typical perfectionist straight-jacket. Things not work out? Oh well, it’ll rotated out next week. Blizzard has used this test bed to good effect in Hearthstone, as it resulted in Discover – by far the best card effect introduced since the game’s release. Perhaps we’ll eventually see that Arathi Basin bridge deathmatch mode that we have all wanted for years.

Patch 7.2.5 is coming

We haven’t heard much about 7.2.5 other than it will exist. Which is nice to know. Especially since it appears that we have another bombshell waiting in the wings:

Patch 7.3 is coming?

MMO-Champion just sort of teased the news, but Legion will legitimately have a patch 7.3 and we will legitimately be heading to Argus, according to a Polygon interview with Ion Hazzikostas. And then he had this to say:

“It felt like the right time,” Hazzikostas said. “I don’t know if Argus would hold up as an expansion in and of itself. We could make up a whole lot of ecologies and things there, but at the end of the day, it would feel like a very one-note, alien expansion.”

Instead, he explained, the developer decided to make Argus the climax to the current expansion. Players will head to the demon world to try to push back this massive force once and for all. He compared it to the ending of one of his favorite games of all time.

“It’s kind of like the end of Mass Effect 2,” said Hazzikostas. “We’ve been fighting on our end. Now we’re going on our suicide mission, because this is the only way to save ourselves.”

That… is pretty fucking cool. I haven’t been this excited about the WoW plot since Wrath.

For those that might not be up on the lore, Argus is the original homeworld of the Draenei, and the Velen, Kil’Jaeden, and Archimonde triad. It is, in fact, considered the “beating heart” of the Burning Legion and its de facto capital. Going there is Big News, and has been speculated for a while to be the location of WoW’s “final” expansion, insofar as it is the most likely place one would encounter Sargeras himself.

The interesting thing is the fact that we are facing Kil’Jaeden in the Tomb of Sargeras in patch 7.2. Argus is supposed to be ruled by Kil’Jaeden personally, which leads to two interesting scenarios. First, perhaps we are invading Argus specifically because it temporarily loses its leader in the 7.2. raid. No sense attacking Kil’Jaeden at the seat of his power, right?

But there is another possibility. Remember how demons, elementals, etc, don’t actually die unless they are killed in the plane they are from? What if part of the reason we head to Argus is to kill Kil’Jaeden again, this time permanently?

Technically, I think Archimonde was sent back to the Twisting Nether after Mount Hyjal, and the jury might still be out regarding what happened to him at the end of Draenor (was he in the Twisting Nether during the final phase?). But still, I find it odd that we’re heading to Argus after Kil’Jaedon’s (presumed) defeat in the Tomb if we aren’t finishing the job. There aren’t any Old Gods on Argus and I find it unlikely that we’ll be facing Sargeras himself – at most, I expect us to sacrifice all our artifacts to keep Sargeras from showing up. So… if not Kil’Jaedon/Archimonde, and not Sargeras, who are we fighting? A bunch of no-name demons?

I was skeptical along with the rest of the universe when it came to Blizzard promising that Legion would actually get supported content through the entire life of the expansion. And honestly, it still might be the case that there is a long content drought after 7.3 and before the next expansion. But, I gotta give credit where it is due: Blizzard is busting some ass. The bar is embarrassingly low for a billion dollar franchise, granted.

But I could get used to this. And certainly am, four WoW Tokens later.

No Better Time to Buy

If you happen to be in the Hearthstone beta, there is perhaps no better time to purchase packs for real money than right now. See, Blizzard changed the following cards in their most recent patch:

  • Unleash the Hounds
  • Sylvanas Windrunner
  • Blood Imp
  • Defender of Argus
  • Pyroblast
  • Dark Iron Dwarf
  • Abusive Sergeant
  • Warsong Commander
  • Charge
  • Novice Engineer

While most of the changes were nerfs (aside from Unleash the Hounds), the salient point is that Blizzard compensates those who might have spent Dust crafting these cards by making the disenchant Dust amount the same as the crafting cost. In other words, I could craft Sylvanas for 1600 Dust and disenchant her for 1600 Dust instead of the normal 400 Dust.

“Whatever,” right? Wrong.

What is not immediately obvious is that you have the ability to craft Golden versions of every card in the game, which are the digital equivalent of foil cards in paper CCGs. These Golden version of cards typically cost four times as much Dust to craft than normal. Do you know what this means?

Dust. Dust everywhere.

Dust. Dust everywhere.

As far as I know, every person who signed up for the Hearthstone beta has gotten a key by this point, so technically anyone who cares about this game has the opportunity right now to take advantage of this scenario. Those two cards above gave me 1200 Dust by themselves, which is 400 Dust away from any Legendary I care to craft. I went ahead and disenchanted both my Pyroblasts as well for 400 Dust apiece, as I never really felt inclined to use them all that much in the first place. Given how this “bonus” Dust window only stays open for about two weeks total, you might want to make your decision sooner rather than later.

This scenario was about the only thing that would have gotten me to pay real money for Hearthstone. And I did. As I have mentioned previously, my prior lack of interest in paying is not an indication of some deficiency in the game, but rather the strength of being able to play for free with few impediments… provided Hearthstone isn’t your sole source of entertainment. If you’re capable of only playing once every 2-3 days to knock out dailies and then go into the Arenas, you can do quite well for yourself over time. But if you want to dip a toe into Constructed, you’ll do much better with the various Legendaries.

Just be warned that sometimes bullshit like this happens when opening packs:

Really, Bliz? Really?

Really, Bliz? Really?

PlanetSide 2 – 12 Months Later

The “OMFG” patch (seriously… Operation: Make Faster Game) was released for PlanetSide 2 last week, and in the interests of giving the F2P game I have sunk $100+ into one final chance at redemption, I decided to give it a go. My initial re-impressions were… lackluster.

Glad this bug hasn't been fixed in 6 months.

Glad this bug hasn’t been fixed in 6 months.

While I have not bothered to post my opinions here, I did not have a particularly charitable view of this design pivot. Basically, the dev team stopped all development other than that which increased frame rates. Whether or not it was necessary (it arguably is), the game mechanically needed the biweekly updates I raved about 6 months ago to maintain any interest from me. I can sympathize with someone who wants to play and cannot due to not having a high-end system. However, as someone who was already playing and stopped because, in part, hitting Instant Action loads me into a drop-pod and rockets me into a base that has seen any action since Higby’s mom left last night is incredibly frustrating. Not that it helps much when some action is found when the opposition evaporates like so much morning dew and the devs seriously expect you to babysit an empty base for 6+ minutes.

Way back when this Ps2 adventure began, I compared it favorably to Battlefield 2 & 3. “It plays just like them except you can get a vehicle anytime you want, and look at all those Galaxies flying by!” Now? I’m longingly gazing at the $48 Battlefield 4 deals I passed up because I would like to be able to actually shoot people in the face when I boot up a FPS. Whatever appeal six minutes of standing around once had is gone; what good is an expansive, open-world battlefield filled with ghosts and dust?

Give me more of this.

Give me more of this.

Last night as I scanned Indar looking for the hexes with the magical “Enemies: 48+” tag, I realized that all I was really doing was queuing for FPS server. I care nothing for the resources, the bases, or any of the other metagame nonsense. And in that context, the only real benefit of Ps2 is the ability to pull the equivalent of a fighter jet or tank when you want one. The costs though… the costs are steep. Not just in terms of the F2P payslope, but also in the drudgery of finding people to shoot.

So… good job, SOE. I’m not quite sure whether my (very slight) increase in frames is due to the two months of optimization, or simply because so many people left due to two months of no content updates that there is less character models to render.