Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You must die, I alone am best!

I've been obsessing over 2d fighters lately. Loaded up some old ROMs and started playing games like Garou and KoF 97-02, plus a half dozen random fighters that apparently never got imported. My wife, in her infinite wisdom and compassion, bought me a limited edition Halo 3 X360 controller, and a wireless adapter for my PC. So, I've been playing these ROMs with it, and it's been quite worth the effort (I love my wife).

Using money from the holidays, I was able to buy two copies of Guilty Gear XX Accent Core; one for myself and one for my sisters-in-law. A while back, the watched our cats for us when we were out of town, and spent the night there playing Guilty Gear X2 for 7 hours on end. Megan and Kelsey are probably bigger gamers than I am (currently, at least, I am working 60+ hours a week), and I've seen them become scary good at games in the past. I'm looking forward to seeing how skillled them become at this.

The only reason I was ever good at Guilty Gear is that I lived with John Hogrefe. He was a tournament worthy Guilty Gear player, with near flawless timing and execution. In the time we lived together, I only was ever able to beat him 33% of the time. Even then, that includes times where he wasn't playing his most proficient character, Baiken.

I remember once, John over-slept a tournament, and played it off with "Tourney players are cheap little pricks, who try to trap you into infinite hit combos cause they can't do a real 1v1". We arrived after the tourney was over, and started milling around, playing people who were still there. John broke this one guy's 23 win streak. He asked why John wasn't in the tourney, and John repeated what he had told me. The guy pauses, then says "Well, I was the one who won that tournament, so..." Meanwhile, on a different terminal, I ruin a 17 win streak, absolutely crushing Potemkin, and leaving everyone slack-jawed from my blistering assault (30 some consecutive non-special move hits in a row, the bastard never touched the ground).

I never really realized how good I had become, because from my perspective, I was getting my ass handed too me, day in and day out. But losing to John for two years in a row did more for me than I could have ever hoped for. After all, you only become stronger by facing a stronger opponent.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Music for the Slaughter

I listen to different music when I PvP than when I PvE.

If I'm PvEing, my media player is usually on random. Everything from William Shatner to Tatu to Kompressor. If I'm feeling particularly epic, I'll put on Vanessa Mae and put her best of album on repeat. Other times, I'll put on Justice Radio or Woot Radio, and listen to whatever the hell their DJs pick.

If I'm PvPing, it's a whole new ball game. I have a special select few MP3s that I whore while PvPing, sometimes I'll listen to the same song on repeat for hours on end. I once spent five hours in the Random Arenas listening to "Oh No You Didn't" from the Mercenaries 2 commercial. On another occasion, I pimped out "Dance Commander" by Electric 6 while fighting in 13 consecutive ABs. "Bitches" by Mindless Self Indulgence is a little to short to cycle for that long, but it usually finds its way into PvP oriented playlists, as do songs by the following artists:
  • Disturbed
  • System of a Down
  • Drowning Pool
  • Godsmack
  • Linkin Park
  • Jay-Z
  • Three 6 Mafia
  • Dynamite Hack
  • Burning Airlines
  • Various hawt techno

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Last year, on the Justice Server" or "Hollow Words pt 2"


Last year, on the Justice Server, myself and about 30 other players engaged in a 5 stock Domination Match, to celebrate Wintereenmas. Basically, a standard FFA Deathmatch type game, but each player only has 5 lives.

I faced Broad Sword/Regen Scrappers, Radiation/Psi Defenders, Ice Armor/EM Tankers, and one very stubborn SWAT Drone SL-OW, who brought an AR/Dev, and made it into the Top 5.

In the end, I faced WWII, a Stone Armor/Super Strength Tanker. He couldn't even begin to damage me, and I couldn't beat his regen. So, we both turned off our toggles, took our mezzes off the power bars, and faced each other as Statesman intend; like really stupid men. I triumphed, and not only was the last man standing, I claimed the most kills of anyone in attendance.

It's rare that I PvP for so long without taking a brief respite (drink, snack, bathroom, etc), but this kept me glued to my seat for almost 1 1/2 hours. It's things like this that makes me miss CoH the most.

Good times.

Cheater McCheaterson

It usually doesn't bother me if people cheat in video games. It's their choice if they do, and it's more important for a person to enjoy a gameplay experience than to abide by my gaming "code of morals". Infinite ammo, infinite money, infinite health, whatever. Gameshark, secret codes, glitches, it's all the same.

That being said, don't fucking brag about something you cheated to achieve. It's that simple. If you haxxored your way into victory, it really doesn't count. If you used aimbot to crush someone in CS:S, you didn't win, the aimbot did. If you use a glitch to make yourself invulnerable to enemy attacks in the Eden Trial, you didn't actually participate in the Trial, you were just kinda there. If you use gameshark to do god knows what in pretty much any game, it means nothing.

It's like watching the demo video of a game and talking shit about how good you are, like you're actually playing. No, you're not, someone else enabled you to live vicariously through them. You're letting another entity give you victory, whilst you claim the credit, as if you helped, or your presence mattered.

I've run into a lot of people lately to whom cheating is like a creedo or a maxim. It bothers me that they will boast of their accomplishments, or tout their victories, when in the end of the day, they're the kid who plays Duck Hunt 2 inches away from the screen, nothing more.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

HA!

On a completely unrelated note to my previous post, an excerpt from the I13 patch notes:

"Peacebringers damage adjusted
Increased Melee Damage to 0.85 from 0.75
Increased Range Damage to 0.8 from 0.625
Increased Melee Dwarf Form Melee Damage to 1.0 from 0.85 "


The rubberband is on the other claw now! I'd been lobbying hard for a change like this for quite a while. The post was lost in a forum purge, otherwise I'd transcribe it here.

For those unfamiliar with CoH game mechanics, I'll explain a little.

Let's say we have a Defender, a Tanker, and a Blaster, all with the power Total Focus. Despite the name, this is a melee attack, and it's one of the top 5 most potent in the game. Let's also assume, that the base damage for this attack is 100, at the heroes current level. The Defender has a melee dmg mod of 0.625, the Tanker is set to 0.85, and the Blaster is 1.00. Translated:

Defender=62.5 dmg
Tanker=85 dmg
Blaster=100 dmg

Simple enough, right? You multiply the intended damage of the power by the ATs modifier, and you get the damage. The intended damage is called "damage scalar." The scalar for Total Focus is 3.56, which is very high.

The scalar on Kheldian ranged attacks is abysmally low. The three single target ranged attacks they possess (in human form), rank in at 0.6, 1.0, and 1.64. Compared to a Blaster using the Energy Blast powerset, who's three single target attacks rank in at 1.0, 1.64, and 2.12. Obviously, the Blaster will do more damage hit for hit.

Now factor in the fact that the modifier for a Kheldian used to be 0.625, while for a Blaster it's 1.15 (Blasters have a different modifier for ranged attacks than the do for melee attacks). A huge performance gap appears, as the Kheldian has to deal with a low modifier, and a low scalar. My argument against this was that even set to an equal modifier to the Blaster, a Kheldian at damage cap would always underperform to a Blaster. Thusly, it was more than fair to at least adjust the modifier to let them outdamage a Defender under normal mission conditions (standard +96% dmg from slotting, +40% dmg from Cosmic Balance, and a misc +15% from team buffs).

I was accused of trying to turn Kheldians into Tank-Mages, and that I wanted far too much.

Guess the Dev team didn't think I was that wrong.

Friday, December 19, 2008

City of Heroes PvP

Before I begin, everything and anything I'm about to say might soon become completely irrelevant, as major changes are soon coming to the City of Heroes PvP system. Anything I say below is referring to PvP from Issue 4 to Issue 12.

The most fun I've ever had PvPing has been in City of Heroes. It's also some of the most imbalanced PvP, but that doesn't mean it wasn't fun. However, those imbalances are really most glaringly obvious in high end, competitive PvP. I'm talking about zone PvP. The middle ground between Arenas and World PvP. In zone PvP, everyone has a chance to win. A skilled player can take a very sub-optimal powerset combination and make it shine. A lot of avid PvPers disagree with me on that, but hear me out:

Through a combination of usage and general skill, a good PvPer can take an underperforming character and win consistently with it.

Consistently being the key point. Not always, not most of the time, but consistently. Now, the immediate response I tend to get is, "An AR/Dev will NOT beat an Ice/Nrg, it's just not going to happen." Sure, in the Arena 1v1, I agree 110%. But this isn't the Arena, it's a zone. It has NPCs, multiple exits, huge expanses of terrain, with the chance of outside interference at any point, for either side, whether you want it or not, and most fights start with one person ambushing the other. There are too many variables to make blanket statements as to the outcome of a fight. Police Drone M8 and I used to tear a bloody swath through Warburg, wrecking anything in our way. I played an AR/Nrg, he played a Stone/Emp. Not exactly FOTM power builds. I can recall times where we steamrolled Ice/Rad and Ice/Dark corrupters, as an afterthought. If either of us had fought them in the Arena, we'd have been toast. But we outplayed them in the zone, and trashed them repeatedly before they left.

Prime example: I was playing my Invul/SS tanker, King's Rook, in Warburg. Super Strength is a great choice for Siren's Call, or even Bloody Bay, it is not a top performer in Warburg. Energy Melee, even after the nerfs, is still way to strong hit for hit for SS to compete in higher level PvP. Same with Invul. Solid against spikes, but in a sustained fight, every other Tanker primary is liable to outperform it in sustained combat.

I found myself fighting a EM/Stone brute, and an Ice/Dark corrupter, near the villain base. I was losing, and the ice blasts were destroying me. I spotted a pair of Zeus Titans in the distance, +5 to myself and the villains I was fighting. I queued up Hurl, and pegged a Titan, then moonwalked behind a piece of rubble, positioning the Brute in line-of-sight with the Titans. They came running to attack, but hit the Brutes aggro aura first. They turned on him, causing the brute and corrupter to shift focus. I pulled back, let the debuffs fade, then rushed the corrupter, taking her out why the brute was distracted. I then turned and finished the brute off with the help of the NPCs. Got full credit for both kills, and saved my own hide. It was more luck than anything else, but unorthodox and underhanded tactics can level the playing field.

And that's what made PvP in CoH so unique and appealing to me. It wasn't cause I wanted to pull NPCs onto people in PvP, but that I had the option. Ambushes were a possibility, almost anyone had access to stealth powers, giving them greater freedom of movement in a zone where others hunt you. You could stand atop a sky scraper, looking down on others, and leap down to instantly join the fight, or merely steal a kill. You have foes flying, leaping, teleporting, or just plain super speeding around in a mad craze, trading blows and firing at each other.

I scored countless kills in Warburg by resting on ledges, looking down over the zone, waiting for a target to fly by the blind corner, unaware of my presence. I'd target them, leap over them, fire a beanbag into them to stun them and drop their flight toggle, then free fall with them to the ground, where I finish them in melee while their helpless. Done properly, they don't realize it's me till I land next to them on the ground, already attacking them. A prepared player breaks the mez before impact, might even retoggle flight to pull out of the dive. But usually not. I'd hit them with Power Thrust to knock them on their ass, and use my melee attacks to finish them fast. Again, it's underhanded, and doesn't even allow them a chance to fight back, but that's zone PvP for you.

Despite playing AR/Nrg, I was considered the top PvPer in my SG. The SG leader put a bounty out open to anyone who could beat me in the Arena, in part to encourage newer players to PvP with us. We'd do weekly Arena FFAs, with everyone exemplared down to the level of the lowest Drone participating. Even then, I almost always came out on top. Most weeks we'd take a team of Drones into Siren's Call, and dominate the zone for an hour or two, until the villains got tired and called in their own SG mates.

However, the few times I participated in a high end, organized PvP event, I received a hot ass-whipping. It's just how it is.

That being said, one of the other aspects of Zone PvP in COH was that everyone could try their hand at it. They certainly weren't guaranteed, or even likely, to win, but they had a shot.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kaiser's movie quote mania

On the City of Heroes forums, there is a subforum for each server. My home server was Justice, and in the Justice forum, we had a game, "Kaiser's movie quote mania."

Take a quote from a movie, change it to fit CoH and the Justice server, then make other try to guess it. If you guess it correctly, you get to post the next quote. So on and so forth. It started in February of '07, and it's still active. Non-active accounts can't post in those forums, but we can still read, so I combed through and picked out a few quotes, mostly PvP related.

-----------------------------------------------

Police_Drone_TH:

Police Drone TH: [paces back and forth on the deck of the Paragon PD King's Row HQ as he addresses his new recruits] "Greetings. Police Drone X9 has chosen you to serve your server in Warburg. Those of you who continue to profess a belief in "badging" will receive the standard substandard training that will result in your eventual ganking. Those of you who renounce this superstitious and hysterical belief will be eligible to join the warrior elite of the Paragon Police Department. Each of you will be given a Paragon City Registration Card."
[Displays his own card to the crowd]
Police Drone TH: "Whatever you do or whatever you learn will be imprinted on this card. If you lose your card or fail to follow commands, you will be subject to immediate ganking. That will be all."
--


Folonius:

Kaiser: "I've done far worse than kill you, Folonius. I've trapped you. And I wish to go on trapping you in inescapable places. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her: marooned for all eternity in the hotdog stand with no way out, buried alive. Buried alive."
Folonius: "KAAAIIISER!"
(echo)
Folonius: "KAAAIIISER!"
--


Mender_Frog:

"Give up, just quit, because in City of Heroes, you can't win. Yeah, you can try, but in the end you're just gonna lose, big time, because the world is run by the Gnome. The Gnome, oh, you don't know the Gnome. He's everywhere. In the White House... down the hall... Katfood, she's the Gnome. And the Gnome ruined base raids, he's gankin' folks in Warburg, and he threadjacked the Prophet's thread and turned it into PWNZ! And there used to be a way to stick it to the Gnome. It was called PVP, but guess what, oh no, the Gnome ruined that, too, with a little thing called Recluse's Victory! So don't waste your time trying to make anything cool or uber or awesome 'cause the Gnome is just gonna call you a fat washed up loser and crush your soul. So do yourselves a favor and just GIVE UP!"

Bubble: "Man, why don't we just do his job, so we can do our job and get the [censored] out of here? "
Frog: "What do you mean, "do his job?" What am I, a cold-blooded stalker? I'm not a cold-blooded stalker."
Bubble: "Now, wait a minute..."
Frog: "No, you wait a minute. You want to gank the hero but not be the villain. Doesn't work like that. You have to wait until the villain ganks the hero, then when you gank the villain, you're the hero. "
Bubble: "So - just to clarify - if we do his job we're the villains, and if we do our job we're the Heroes. "
Frog: "Yes."
Bubble: "That's... great."
--


Emma Peel:

"Plasma Warrior: All right, listen up. You heroes will not die on me in game. You f’ing noobs will do everything you can to prove me wrong. You'll ask for bio breaks in the middle of combat, give sbs when they’re not wanted, pull agro you can’t handle, eat cheetos and diddely-bop through Paragon City like you were back on the block. Or when you’re supposed to be healing and rezzing in combat you'll send tells, play with your mouse, and think of your girl who’s playing WOW. Forget her. Right now, some Orc has her on her back and is telling her to play WOW for peace. This is Emma. Those of you who are foolish will think of her as 'ditz,' 'bimbo,' 'twit' or 'bleeptch.' She is your enemy. She came over on the “Let a Crazy Person Out of the Psych Ward” Program, and after she fattens herself on Cabernet and Dark Chocolate she will be hunting your young butts in Siren’s Call. Now forget about this noob PvPer stuff. What you'll encounter out there is hard core PVP, Player Versus Player. Highly motivated, highly trained and well equipped. If you meet Emma or her cousins, you will give her respect and refer to those little beastards as 'Echo Papa.' Meet her twice, and survive, and you will refer to her as 'MISS Echo Papa.' Now people, I am sick and tired of filling body bags with your dumb f’ing mistakes.Emma is super jumping in on your position. It's night... Look at me! I'm gonna save your life and your gonna save mine. It's night, it's raining. While your thinking about Salvage, cheetos and whether or not we should be watching Heroes on NBC, Emma is going to crush your f’ing gonads with her Gravity powers. And your afk. You've been playing this mission in Peregrine for hours. It's your turn for a bio break, you're allowed to pee. What do you think Emma is going to do? Is she going to wait for you to come back to the keyboard, TJ? And smile? And talk about men? MISS Echo Papa gets all wet watching you die. Some of you think you have problems because you're against the in game advertisements coming up. You demonstrated in Atlas Park... you wear Statesman symbols on your costume, and you have attitudes. I'm a noob, my brother plays SWG, the RWZ got the clap from my sister, Mom drinks, Dad coughs blood, I have ringworm, imersion foot, the incurable crud and COH ruined my chances of being a brain surgeon. People, you are in CITY OF HEROES. You have no problems. Except me. "
(points to Emma who is summoning her Singularity and grinning)
"And her."
__


Bohmfalk:

"Oh, the reason I called... Could you find out who else is in Warburg? I've made two Tanks and a Stalker already, so if they've double-booked the mish, and/or they're going to ambush me, I'd like to know. If you could find that out, that'd be great."
__


Kaiser_Soze:

"In the year of our Lord two thousand and seven, patriots of Justice, low on endurance and outnumbered, charged the fields of Siren's Call. They fought like hardcore PvPer's, they fought like heroes, and won their server, forever."

Police Drone X-9: "Shall...we...play...a...game? How...about...a...nice...game...of...pvp?"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Powergaming Part 3

I had originally intended to simply transcribe Jameson's character sheet, rather than talk about how cool I thought he was. Then I found out my wife recycled him. Sorry.

Anyways...

For various defensive and offensive reasons, I started taking levels of Monk with Jameson. My DM allowed me to take the feat "Ascetic Mage", despite my being a Wizard. Normally reserved for Sorcerers, this feat allows you to use Charisma towards AC, stacks your Monk and Sorcerer levels for purposes of the Monk's unarmored AC bonus, lets you convert spells into +to hit/+dmg equal to the spells level on all attacks for a single turn, and lets you freely multi-class between the two. In short, a damn good feat. By spending much time and resources in game, I was allowed to use it on my Wizard, using my Intelligence score for AC.

I also took "Arcane Strike", a feat the also lets you drop a spell for a +to hit/+dmg bonus. However, rather than +1 per spell level, it gave +1 to hit/+1d4 dmg per spell level, for every attack you make until the next turn. The best part was the feats weren't mutually exclusive, so I could drop two spells a turn, if I had a mind to (and I often did).

Then, after finding out that a pre-existing magical item could be permanently augmented, I took a pair of Ogre Gauntlets and turned them into a Frankenstein worthy monstrosity. After I was done with them, they went from simply granting +2 st, to the following: +4 str, +4 AC, +1 to hit, +2 dmg, Flaming Burst (+1d6 fire dmg, +1d10 extra on a crit), and they were acid proof (courtesy of the scales of a green dragon I slew while separated from my party). I would have added more, but alas, Tom made sure to keep my party VERY busy, not giving me the chance to tweek them.

I made the mistake of teaching Tom how to beat a powergamer. I explained to him that rather than trying to contest with the strength of their character, you simply need to force them into situations where, a.) Force of arms doesn't matter. b.) They must make choices they hate. c.) They are relatively powerless.

Simple enough, really. Some DMs get so caught up in literally trying to beat the players, they miss easy ways to take them down a notch.

Armed with this knowledge, Tom almost succeeded in shutting me down completely: He made me king.

I hate leading groups. I'm not bad at it, but I lack patience when it's most crucial, and if I'm in charge, it HAS to be my way. So, to avoid conflict, I let others lead. Of course, I still want to do things my way, so quite often, I end up separated from the group. Sometimes I'm right, sometime I'm wrong. In this case, going my own way turned into a nightmare.

After fending off a siege by the lich, and routing his army of undead, the city was in shambles. We stayed to try and rebuild, and offered the money and resources we had to the effort. However, the city's council felt that we were solely the blame for the attack, and it was our fault (I agreed). So, their answer to the destruction was to leave, and plead their case to the king that we were evil and left the city in ruins. I felt that being labeled as brigands by the king wouldn't help us beat the lich in the slightest, and that we needed to reach the king first, and take responsibility for what happened. That way, we could avoid his wrath, and solicit his help in fighting the lich.

After much agony and conflict (myself and the two NPCs I traveled with, Galin the half-dragon, and Lady Cross the Paladin, were ambushed by the green dragon I mentioned, which left one of them permanently scarred), I reach the king, and tell him everything that happened, leaving nothing out. He sympathizes with our plight, and absolves us of guilt for the fate of the town. To celebrate our victory in driving back the lich, he invites me to a banquet. At said banquet, an assassination takes place, which Galin, Lady Cross, and myself vainly try to stop (Draco-liches are tough customers, I'm afraid). With the king's dying breath, he gives me the royal signet ring, and leaves me his throne.

What. The. Fuck.

That makes absolutely no goddamn sense. I've known the king for all of one day, and he makes me his heir. So, I immediately try to seek out his closest blood relative. There are none. I seek out other royalty within the kingdom. None are present. So, I spend much time agonizing over how to not be the king anymore, and how to hide this from my party. Before I left, we had discussed petitioning the king to make John, our fighter, the mayor of the city, which we could then use as our base of operations against the lich. John had spent the entire game bitching about how my mage rendered him useless, so I supported this idea, to give him a stronger sense of purpose within the group. And Tom knew this. Bastard.

So, as I return to my party, having found a proper steward for the kingdom in my absence, I receive word that the nation to our south is poised to invade, after hearing the former king had passed. So now, I'm faced with letting this country fall, or trying to save it. As I mentioned earlier, I lost my soul to a demon. It was the price I paid for it saving my life. In addition to fighting the forces of the lich, I was fighting a personal war for my free will. In order to keep the trust of my party (which ended up with multiple Paladins), I continued to risk personal safety for the greater good, despite my Lawful Neutral alignment. So, for me, it was more than a simple invasion, it was a test to see how far I would go to prove that I wasn't secretly evil, and that I wasn't a puppet of the demon.

So, I travel south to parlay with the invading nations king (again, with Galin and Lady Cross, no real players). I end up being so frustrated with the whole situation, that once I enter the throne room, I launch a one man assault on the royal guard. I reasoned that I was a higher level than the other king, and his guard, and that I could intimidate him into withdrawing from my border. I was half right. I tore through his guard, with Galin and Lady Cross covering my flank, to find that the king was an epic level rouge, and that he could sneak attack me even if I wasn't flat footed (which isn't even really possible, I found out later, given the rouges build).

I was completely outplayed. Tom was able to manipulate the actions of my character, alienate me from the group by playing us against each other, and waited until the last minute to bait me into fighting a superior foe, so that my defeat would be complete. I have to admit, I never saw it coming, not like this.

However, I ended up having the last laugh. Do to the sheer overwhelming power of the foes we faced, we died a lot. A lot. But Tom allowed for frequent resurrections, even in the absence of divine healing. It annoyed me, but what broke the camel's back was when we got ambushed by a Hell Wurm. It flew over the city, hit us with it's breath weapon, then left. I was taken to -14 HP instantly, from full. When Tom found this out, he kinda blinked, then said I was only at -9 HP, courtesy of the demon that owned my soul. So, I told him that I was at -14 HP, and that I wasn't going allow myself a 7th extra life, for the sake of accommodating his unbalance encounters. I told him my death was final, and that player fatality needed to be taken more seriously, otherwise there was no point in playing.

Doing this seemed to rally the party, and they all agreed with me: our deaths would be final, and meaningful, not just hiccups in our campaign.

Which to me, is the heart of the issue with powergaming to begin with. When something ceases to be a challenge, what's the point? If all the enemies in the world only provide you with resistance equal to that of a cardboard cut-out, why play? Likewise, when every battle you fight offers crushing defeat, why play? A balance must be struck. Where the outcome isn't certain before conflict begins, where defeat and victory are both equally real options. That's what makes gaming fun. That way, if you lose, you still want to try again, cause you can do better. If you win, you still want to come back and do it again, if only to try and outdo yourself.

I think that Tom forgot that he was tasked with challenging us, not beating us. I think he treated DMing like he did playing a character: He was in it to win.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Powergaming Part 1

When it comes to pen & paper RPGs, I don't like powergaming.

In video games, victory and loss are usually binary. Winning is good, losing is bad. Winning lets you progress, losing makes you start over. In this environment, powergaming is fine, since you're only dealing with the computer, and it's feelings won't get hurt when you give every stat up and new sword to that same warrior. The game doesn't care if you skip content, use cheat-codes, neglect character story developement, etc.

Not true of pen & paper RPGs (for the purposes of this rant, we'll use D&D 3.5, but feel free to substitute whatever works for you). In D&D, you're playing with your friends, or at least, people who share a common interest. Age old lessons of sharing and taking turns come into play, as you work alongside these people to achieve party goals. Powergaming hurts players in this environment, because one player can quite literally overshadow the whole campaign, and ruin everyone elses fun. Powergamers can skew challenge level, party rewards, even negate the need for certain party members to exist. When the warrior has AC 27 at level 3, it makes it hard for the DM to present the party with a challenge that doesn't crush everyone else. Likewise, a party of varying levels can run into similar trouble.

However, in D&D, winning isn't always good, and losing isn't always bad. A player can be tricked into fighting or killing the wrong people, can take the wrong quest or not pay enough attention to the details, getting everyone into a heap of trouble. Having the ability to retreat from a battle, and quite literally live to fight another day, can create incredibly dramatic sequences within a campaign, and give players a chance to display great depth with their characters.

That being said, I'm one of the biggest offenders when it comes to powergaming in D&D.

To be continued...

Powergaming Part 2

Those who have played games like D&D know that good DMs/GMs are in short supply. Far too often, you get a heavy handed DM who tries to force the players to follow the plot. Or, he simply doesn't pay enough attention to gauge monster encounters to the party's true strength. I feel I don't fall into this category, but that I still suck as a DM, so I try to put that duty on someone else if I can.

Not too long ago, my wife and I lived with two roommates, John and Cassie. Both of these people played D&D at one point or another in their lives, and were eager to play again. Being the pack-rat that I am, I still had my books tucked away, so I pulled them out. Feeling that four people wasn't enough, well called in two more people, my friends Tom and Drew. We talked it out for a bit, and we all decided that we'd play a standard fantasy campaign, and that Tom would DM.


After my wife gave me a metric fuckton of shit about wanting to play yet another Fighter, I opted to play the party Wizard. My wife was our Rouge, John was the Fighter, Drew played a "Priest" (Priest is to Cleric as Sorcerer is to Wizard). Cassie didn't come into the campaign until later. My wife proceeded to give me even more shit for the name I chose for my wizard:

Jameson Flamesmith

It's a stupid name, I know. However, most everyone in a fantasy scenario has a retarded name (Elminster, Gandalf, Drizzt, etc), and I felt accomplished actually having a first and last name, unlike most of the party. And it fit, being as I focused on fire magic, so I had no qualms with it.

So, I mentioned how some DMs can be very heavy handed with how they run a campaign.

Tom is a VERY heavy handed DM.

By the end of the first dungeon, our fighter had be gender-swapped via polymorph (and he lost all his gear), I had lost my soul to this worlds version of Satan, and we had horrible offended a lich, by stealing it's phylactery, without realizing that's what it was. Said phylactery was bargained away by us so that we didn't have to fight an NPC rouge thrice our level.

The lich proceeded to hound us across the continent, killing anything around us indiscriminately. We ended up evacuating two separate villages, and leading the refugees to a third city, where we had to fight off a siege against thousands of summoned undead. At this point Cassie had joined us, along with her boyfriend Mike (Cassie was another wizard, while Mike played a Paladin).


It continues in the same manner, fighting elder dragons at level 8, contesting greater demons, yadda yadda yadda. Constantly getting beaten, chased, sieged, betrayed; I decided I'd had enough.

My wizard multiclassed.

To be continued...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Soloing

Ah, soloing.

Be it forced or chosen, it's almost a completely different game from teamed content. However, soloing isn't possible in most MMOs. At least, not soloing story based content. One can easily farm, or grind out a few levels solo, but eventually, you'll end up needing a team to tackle high level instances or end game missions.

Not in City of Heroes though. With the ability to adjust the difficulty of your game on a mission by mission basis, you can crank up the difficulty to where the spawns are double sized, and +3 your level, or turn it down a notch, making them even con (the five difficulties in order being Heroic, Tenacious, Rugged, Unyielding, and Invincible). Even in story arcs, turning it down to Heroic causes Arch-Villains to spawn as Elite Bosses, allowing everyone a chance at solo glory.
But where's the fun in that?

Let me introduce you to my scrapper, Pale Tiger. He solos AVs. Not solo as in "Lemme use 15 temp powers, and summon a billion allies", I mean solo, as in, just me and the AV. And this is post ED, pre claws buff. Huzzah. In fact, he soloed his first AV at level 24, without IOs. He's been pimpin' since been pimpin' since been pimpin'. You wouldn't think that such as thing is so easy, after taking a spin in the Scrapper forums.
I had planned on attempting every AV in the game. My subscription ended while I was on the story arc to fight the Envoy of Shadows. I was slowly IOing him, and even with what little he had, you could feel the bonuses. Definitely wanted to get some inherent +acc on him, it's painful fighting +3 Devouring Earth with only one accuracy IO per attack (Terra was worth 44k XP solo at level 37, that's almost twice what a level 50 hero gets for completing a mission on Invincible).
I don't like soloing in Guild Wars. I use that term, even though I'm technically teamed. I don't consider doing missions and quests with seven NPC teammates being "teamed", I call that solo. However, I'm forced to do it most of the time, since PUGs are a dying breed, at least from what I've seen. Maybe I should try looking for groups in the International dist, or European dists. I hear that you can find high quality teams that way, and that there are more people willing to PUG with you.
I guess what I'm really lamenting is that my guild is sorely inactive, and that my alliance has one too many douche bags in it. I'd drop guild and solicit myself to a mid ranked PvP guild, but both of my sister-in-laws are in the guild, and play constantly. The three of us comprise 60% of our active members. Although, honestly, even if 100% of our members were everyday active, we'd still have a small ass guild with only 13 people.
Le sigh.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tanking 101: Playstyle and Aggro Management

Playing a "tank" in any MMO is pretty simple. You aggro first, you're expected to hold said aggro, you take the majority of the damage for the team, you're not expected to put out massive DPS. However, simple does not always equal easy. The specifics vary from game to game, but I'll be talking about Guild Wars for the time being. I'll touch on City of Heroes later.


1. Aggro Management

Tanking in Guild Wars is one of the most challenging tanking scenarios I've dealt with in an MMO. There are no clear aggro guidelines to be found in game. The only thing you really know for sure is your aggro radius, indicated by your compass/minimap in the top right corner of your screen by the transparent white circle center on your character.Any enemy that enters earshot of you will be aggroed. However, this doesn't necessarily mean they will attack you. The AI in GW evaluates targets, and picks them based on priority. At the top of that list are players with low armor and low HP. Essentially, the very people you're trying to protect get attacked first. Certain actions on your part will move you up that list. Body-blocking an enemy, quite literally getting in their way and becoming an obstruction increases your own aggro. Attacking, and activating skills against an enemy increases your aggro. Thusly, a good tank (in most, but not all situations), should always be moving and attacking, getting the enemy's attention. Beware, moving too much can cause the enemy to re-evaluate aggro, moving you back down that list. This is especially true is you're under the effect of an IMS (increased movement skill) skill, you will lose aggro very fast.



2. Surviving Aggro

Now that you can better manage aggro, you need to survive it. Either you're keeping yourself alive, you're receiving support from your team, or a combination of both. Don't feel that you can't do your job without a monk, but learn to trust them when they support you. Breaking from a fight for fear of dying will get your whole team killed. Think about it: if you with your high armor and high HP can't take that aggro, how is your team going to hold up when it gets put on them? Be willing to die on the front lines, rather than run away and draw the aggro into your backline. If you need to run, side step your enemies. Run to your left or right, not backwards. This way, when the follow, you're putting more distance between your team and the enemies.

Whatever you do, make sure that your antics on the frontline don't attract the attention of other enemy spawns. Careless side stepping or repositioning can cause you to aggro neighboring spawns, making the situation drastically more dire.


3. The Informed Tank

I had considered writing up a section on gear and skills, but I decided against that. Being aware of what you enemies do and how they do it should dictate what gear and skills you set your tank up with before each mission and quest. When facing large amounts of physical damage, go with blocking stances. When facing large amounts of elemental damage an spell casters, go with +AL and +DR. When facing large amounts of degen, or armor ignoring damage, go with large amounts of HP.

When in melee, sometimes you'll be expected to call targets for the rest of the team, so they can target through you. Try to target especially dangerous foes, or annoying ones, like enemy Elementalists or Monks. Knowing which enemy caster is spamming Empathy on your versus knowing which enemy caster is summoning minions can be the difference between victory and a teamwipe.


4. Tank DPS

As I mentioned earlier, you're not expecting to generate huge DPS. This doesn't mean you shouldn't or can't. Bringing attack skills can not only make managing aggro easier, it will help the team kill faster. Remember, killing a foe gives your team 100% DR to that target.

Conditions allow most warriors to add large amounts of DPS to a team. Even if you're only adding a skill that inflicts bleeding to your skill bar, consider the fact that this negate the inherent regen most bosses have.

It helps to bring attack skills that don't use the same "fuel" as your tanking skills. For example, if you're running Gladiator's Defense, plus one or two other stances that cost Energy, bring attack skills that run off of adrenaline instead. If your tanking skills run off of adrenaline, it's not as bad having attacks that do the same, but attack skills will slow the rate at which you can activate them (Adrenaline skills "charge" as you attack. They all charge at the same rate. Once you have built up enough to activate a skill, the icon lights up, allowing you to click it. Using an adrenaline based skill deducts one point of adrenaline from each other skill, requiring you to connect with another attack, to replace lost adrenaline before activating another skill. Spamming adrenaline based attack slows the rate at which other skills recharge.). Just be aware. For example, I have a build made to spam the skill "Save Yourself!", a PvE only shout that grants my team +100 Armor for 5 seconds. At a cost of 8 adrenaline, I bring Power Attack and Counter Attack, so that "Save Yourself!" charges faster, giving my team more protection (also, since it keeps my teams armor so high, it helps me keep aggro).


None of these are hard and fast rules, but keeping them in mind can allow a novice warrior to preform admirably on the frontlines.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sincerest form of flattery

Each game over time creates terms, phrases, and mannerisms uniquely generated by its playerbase. Some stay unique to that game, others spread to different games. For example, did you know that "woot" stands for "Warrior out of Targets"?

Leeroy Jenkins, lern2play, lolmad?, "in ur base, killin ur doodz."

Likewise, each game has it's own version of a sincere compliment, even if not intentional.

In Diablo 2, it's usually taken as a compliment when your opponent in PvP leaves the match an returns with a character 30 to 40 levels higher than you, and then demands a rematch. Anyone who's ever PvPed in D2 has probably had this happen. They rage-quit cause you won, and now they've skewed the numerical equation of combat so far in their favor, they feel they can't possibly lose. And it always seems like the bring a Hammerdin, or a FoH Pally, someone to whom there is almost no defense. Then they go hostile, and gate camp, taunting you to come out and fight them. If this happens, you should be smiling, cause no matter what, you've won.

In Counter Strike, or almost any online FPS, it's usually taken as a compliment when you get called a hacker. Score a headshot at 80ft with a shotty? Hacker. Score a headshot in midair? Hacker. Scored multiple headshots in rapid succession with a deagle? Hacker. Score a kill while presumably blinded by a flashbang? Hacker. Never mind that your score is 17-23, or that they killed you the round before while you helplessly sprayed an AK-47 at them, dealing no damage. Never mind that you were blind, but you were spraying with an M-60. And hacker can be such a buzz word with some people, that when they hear it, they don't bother to spectate the person in question to see, or check the "hackers" score. Nope, they just type "voteban" in chat and goad others into doing the same. But hey, put a smile on, apparently you're that good.

In City of Heroes, if someone files a petition against you for griefing in a PvP zone, you've just been handed a virtual trophy. Don't worry, the petition will be deleted by the GMs, as PvPing in a PvP zone isn't griefing. It's just some kid who's angry that you killed them while they were badge hunting, and how you didn't ask if they wanted to fight before attacking. Or someone who's mad that you interrupted their "duel", even though they're fighting in the open, and made no attempt to say over broadcast "Hey guys, we're dueling, just let us finish before attacking the winner." At least if they do that they have the right to be annoyed, even if their request was silly. I've been petitioned more times than I can count, but most were filed by other Heroes that I killed in Warburg, not by Villians. Free-for-All PvP ftw.

In Guild Wars, it's a little different. In Guild Wars, if someone takes the time to learn and copy your build, you should take pride in that. As in most MMOs, there are favorable skill sets and tactics for various enemies (a Druid has to tank in the instance, kill the Nemesis Lieuts last, spread out to avoid AoEs, etc). In Guild Wars, while popular builds exist that dominate certain aspects of PvE and PvP (Imbagon, Shock Axe, Bunny Thumper, Toucher, etc), a person can be plenty powerful and effective with a unique skill selection and attribute spread. So much so, some people covet their builds, and refuse to divulge any details of them to others, for fear of having them made public and popular. For example, last August, I made myself a new hammer build for my warrior, centering around the elite skill Backbreaker. I used it with Pulverizing Smash, Protector's Strike, Mighty Blow, Flail, Enraging Charge, Lion's Comfort, and Grasping Earth. Pulverizing Smash was picked to make the build more energy efficient, Protector's Strike was put in to help spike a KDed target, and recover adren faster after using BB+PS. Nothing fancy, a lot of core elements (IAS, IMS, self heal, snare), just a different spin on a hammer warrior. I ran the build exclusively in AB, RA, and TA for two months, and received some praise from teammates for it. When running in RA and TA, I'd sub out either Grasping Earth or Mighty Blow for Rez.

By the end of September, my build was on PvXwiki.

http://www.pvxwiki.com/wiki/Build:W/any_Pulverizing_Backbreaker

Edited slightly to put it in line with the PvP meta, but with the same usage and reasoning. I highly doubt that I'm the only person in all of GW to have ever ran that build, but the timing is too perfect. I might be paranoid, but I'd put money on one of my teammates copying it and putting it in the wiki.

But it doesn't bother me. If indeed it was taken from what I used, I'm flattered that they found it effective enough to borrow (saying they stole it implies I can't use it anymore, which isn't true). It even scored a 4.52 out of 5 in overall effectiveness. Thanks guys, I love you too.

It doesn't stop there. My builds have been used by almost every warrior in my Guild, and in my Alliance. Mine certainly aren't the only ones being borrowed (a fellow warrior by the name of Jak Chain created a nifty little W/A build that quickly got borrowed), but it's kinda funny seeing so many people running around with the same skills and gear as me. Sometimes I encourage it, like with my FoW Beach build. I like taking all warrior teams into FoW and farming certain areas. And frankly, my FoW Beach farming build kicks the shit out of the ones on wiki. I might get around to posting it in there someday, unless one of my guildies beats me to the punch.

But then again, it's really not that earth shattering of a build. It's not like I discovered that Cyclone Axe+Ebon Dust Aura=Profit, or that I created a 55 Warrior. But I don't see anyone else using it, and I don't see it on the wiki. Who knows, maybe I did split the crust just a bit.

However, I am prone to being stubborn, using what I'm comfortable with over what's better. For the longest time, I ran this abysmal W/R build. I also refused to use Bull's Strike, with the reasoning "it's hard to time it."

Lame.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Alliance Battles: In depth(ish)

During most of my posts, I assume that you the reader have an equal or greater knowledge of the things I talk about. This is in part because it saves me time, and I figure that if you read my blog, there's a good chance you share my interests, be it Guild Wars, City of Heroes, Counter Strike, or whatever (for the record, people who share none of these interests, yet still read this blog, I salute you).

However, even if you play City of Heroes, you may have never heard of the Paragon PD, or ever played an Assault Rifle blaster. Even if you play CS: Source, you might not have heard of CS:2d. And, even if you play Guild Wars, you might not partake in Alliance Battles. Maybe you don't like PvP. Maybe you find vanquishing in Hard Mode gives you better faction. Maybe you're an elite GvGer, and ABs just don't do it for you. So, I decided to explain a few things about ABs, just in case. In any case, enjoy (And as a warning, the word "faction" gets used a lot. It's not my fault, I didn't make the game).

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In order to join an Alliance Battle, you must own Guild Wars: Factions. This seems obvious, but it's more complicated than that. You must also be part of a guild, where your guild leader also owns GW:Factions, and has chosen and allegiance for your guild. You can pick the Kurzick faction, or the Luxon faction. It's mostly an aesthetic choice, but your guild can only form or join an alliance with guilds that hold the same allegiance. There seems to be a consensus that Kurzicks are immature, while the Luxons play cheap. I don't really notice a difference, except I see many more R/N touchers on the Luxon side than I ever do on the Kurzick side.

So now that you belong to a faction, you can go fight in Alliance Battles. Visit the NPC contact for your faction located in your guild hall, and you will be taken to the staging area of one of five maps. Two maps favor the Kurzicks, two maps favor the Luxons, and one is neutral. Winning on a map favored by your enemy grants you bonus faction points. Faction points are used to increase you, your guild's, and your alliance's standing with the faction you belong to. Alliances with enough faction points can have entire in game towns given to them, granting them special bonuses and perks (that, and everyone who enters that town or outpost gets reminded who's house their in). You can also buy crafting materials and PvE only skills. The more faction you transfer into alliance, the higher your "rank" gets. It's tracked in the form of a title, letting everyone know that you've toiled away. That, and it's easier to get a team for an AB when you're known as "Hero of the Kurzickz" rather than "Kurzick Supporter."

In this staging area, you join a team. You have control over who you team with, but quite often, you're teaming with strangers, which isn't that much of an issue, to be honest. Each team has four players, and each side in a match has three teams. On a good day, you'll be teamed with three friends, playing with eight strangers, competing against twelve other strangers. On any other day, you're playing with eleven strangers, against twelve strangers, one of which might have a grudge from a previous match and try to make your life hell.

Each map has two bases, and seven shrines. You respawn in your base, or in a rez shrine. Shrines are captured by moving within range of them, which causes a gauge to fill or deplete. If you completely deplete the gauge, you've stolen it from the enemy. If you fill it, you've captured it. The more people present, the faster it empties or fills, but the speed is capped at four people, so anymore is a waste. Because of this, you are constantly on the move, trying to capture more shrines, as the ones you already control are being captured by your opponents. When you capture a shrine, it spawns up to 3 allied NPCs, which will stay and defend it. The type of NPC (warrior, ranger, monk, etc) is consistent, and based on the type of shrine you've captured. Every 7 seconds, your team gets 1 point for each shrine is controls. Every kill you score earns your team 3 points. The first team to reach five hundred points wins. In the event that either team captures and controls all seven shrines for one full minute, they win automatically.

Upon winning, you receive 1000 faction, plus one point for each point your team scored. Since it takes 500 points to win, you usually receive 1500 faction for winning a match. There is an underdog bonus for teams that win on a map favored by the enemy; +500 for a slightly favored map, +1000 for a deeply favored map. So, a Luxon winning in Ancestral Lands gets 2500 faction simply for winning on that map. In addition, in the course of the match, you earn 10 faction for each kill. You also earn 10 Balthazar faction per kill (PvP only faction, earned in any form of PvP). So, you can earn 500 to 1000 extra faction by virtue of kills alone.

I'm sure you knew most of that, and could have phrased it more concisely or at least, in a more approachable manner.

But for those who didn't, now you know why I disagree with the "don't fight cap" crowd.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

lol u mad?

Yes goddammit, I'm mad as hell!

Alliance Battles aren't hard folks. Not at all. Even if you're horribly outmatched, it's not difficult to stretch out a match and force the opponent to score 500 points. Better that, than folding two and a half fucking minutes into a match, allowing the luxons to capture and control all seven goddamn shrines, forcing an auto-win!

I mentioned earlier that in order to win, you have to balance capping with fighting. I still stand by that, but I feel that I should explain my seemingly cryptic message (Implying that somehow, you the reader are at fault, and I must educate you. I apologize, because I highly doubt that is the case.).

Fighting is approved in the following scenarios:

1. Ganking a lone foe, preventing them from joining up with their team. You should not do this if it requires you to run halfway around the map, spamming your IMS stance.
2. Ganking a lone foe who is solo capping, properly. You should do this especially if they come for one of the rez shrines your team controls. Rez shrines only reduce the time it takes for your team to rejoin battle. If you're losing, this is important. If you're winning, it's more important, because you want to force the other team back into their own base, making it easier to stem their comeback.
3. Defending a shrine. If you have a shrine advantage, keep it. Even if you die protecting a shrine, you can earn your team points simply by keeping it in your control that much longer. That, and the longer they have to struggle for a single shrine, the less time they have to cap other shrines. A single human player can make a shrine stocked with NPCs a tough nut to crack.
4. Pinning them in the base. If you have a shrine advantage, and the rez shrine(s), camping a base exit is extremely effective. Most bases have a Ranger shrine in front of them, making such camping much easier. If they can't get out of the base, they can't cap. If they can't cap, you win.

Fighting is a bad idea in the following scenarios:

1. The enemy is mobbed up. Unless you're holding a choke-point, and have a shrine advantage. this is a bad idea. Certain exceptions exist, like when facing a Minion Master. Just because they have a numerical advantage, doesn't mean they count as a "mob." When facing a Minion Mancer, ganking them can give you the advantage, or at least, create enough chaos to escape.
2. You're losing. If the match is close, and you're going to lose by a dozen or so points, forget fighting and skirmishing, steal their shrines! Stem their point gain, buff your own.
3. They're going to score a win by full shrine control. Dammit, take a side exit out the base, and take any shrine you can. Most times, people pinned in the base get hung up on capping the closest shrine, even if it's swarmed by all 12 enemy players, plus minions. Sending three people out each side, you can force a split, and break the mob.
4. You suck at PvP. If you can't spike, support, play smart, call targets, consider battlefield conditions, communicate with your team, etc. If you want to spam auto-attacks with Frenzy, while hexed with Spiteful Spirit, if you brought heal area on your frontliner, if you brought Ursan Blessing, etc. Don't fight, just follow your team leader. You can at least help cap shrines.

These are not rules, so much as good guidelines. Skirmishing with the enemy team is almost inevitable, even if you're one of the "omfg don't fight just cap" folks. Depending on your profession, skirmishing can actually be a great way to contribute in an AB. A ranger that liberally applies Cripshot or Pin Down on the other team can hamper their progress, splitting teams up. Likewise, tossing degen on someone and then leaving also helps, causing foes to arrive at a shrine wounded, or with key skills recharging. In fact, why not do both? When on my ranger, I make sure to harass others, crippling them and gifting them with -10 degen. Elementalists and Mesmers, along with certain Ritualists and Monks, can have fun doing this too.

To be honest, if my team is losing badly, and I don't think a comeback is possible, I break from these guidelines. I don't pull a bitch move like leaving the battle, I just stop worrying about points. I start worrying about my Balthazar faction, and start killing as wanton as possible. Every target, any target. Aside from blatant suicide, I disregard enemy numbers, or pleas from my team. I just start ganking Monks, Elementalists, whomever crosses my path. When on my Warrior, I have a deep desire to seek out and humiliate enemy warriors (During one of my killing binges, I engaged a Wammo that was using Heal Area. I miss him.). Otherwise, it's all good.

Points is points, and those Z-Keys aren't going to buy themselves.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Prophecies is the original Hard Mode.

You know it's true. Don't lie, don't argue, don't make excuses.

Prophecies is the ultimate test of PvE dedication. How far are you willing to go, how much are you willing to put up with, and how underpowered are you willing to be just to earn that statuette that declares "Eternal Hero of Tyria"?

Hurdle One: Learning Curve
It'll give you whiplash, then charge you for it. Enemies go from being mindless and uniform, to mindless and diverse, to ruthless, diverse, and rather intelligent. From Yak's Bend on, expect every NPC enemy to be higher in level than you, and in greater numbers. Expect them to have very balanced spawn composition, meaning that they can support each other, and cripple you. Many first time players find the northern shiverpeaks to be a place of constant and brutal defeat. This issue is compounded by many of the hurdles I list below.

Hurdle Two: Attributes
Let's talk attribute points. Every fully powered level 20 character has 200. However, simply leveling up to level 20 isn't enough, that only earns you 170 points. You need to complete two quests, for 15 points a piece, in order to reach full power. In Factions, you can do these quests before you leave the starting island. In Nightfall, you can have both quests completed as early as level 7.

In Prophecies, you will spend much time without these points, as the quests to get them are at the end of the game. You have to make it to the 14th mission in order to be in the general area where the first 15 point quest is. Even then, you've got to brave hordes of Hydras, all level 22 Elementalists who love to chain KD you, with your crappy armor (more on that later), to even meet the NPC who hands out the quest. Then, you get to travel your ass off to the most remote portion of the southernmost portion of the desert, with no waypoints near it, and fight against tons of life-stealing necromancer foes, some of which are immune to KD, all the while, negotiating a map that's inaccurate, because the geography changes in order for you to reach the NPC that completes the quest.

Then, to get your next 15 points, you need to been in the general area of the 20th mission (keep in mind, missions are story-point milestones, not simply quests, they can be spaced quite far apart). At this point, you can craft adequate armor, but in order to earn the points, you have to defeat a level 28 Necromancer boss, who not only attacks relatively without warning, but can steal almost your whole HP bar with a single skill. How fun.

Hurdle Three: Armor
Players need NPC assistance to craft armor. The armor level of the craft depends on location, and is always consistent. In Factions, you can craft max AL armor before you reach the 3rd mission. In Nightfall, you can craft max AL armor in the outpost that leads to the 4th mission. In Prophecies, you can't make max AL armor until after the 19th freaking mission!

Now, this isn't a problem by itself, but you're fighting enemies that are level 20 or higher, as early as the 14th or 15th mission (discluding spawns you must contend with to do simple quests), so you spend a decent chunk of time with weaker armor. This is especially a problem when you enter the Crystal Desert (containing missions 14-19), since everything there is level 20+. Many players find themselves hitting another wall, unable to forge ahead.

Hurdle Four: Team Size
The maximum team size in Guild Wars is 8, with the exception of some elite dungeons, where it is 12. Factions allows for 8 teammates before the 3rd mission, Nightfall by the 4th. Prophecies does not give you an 8 man team until the 19th mission.

Hurdle Five: Mursaat
Spectral Agony-For 5 seconds, target foe moves, attacks, and uses skills up to 80% slower; suffers -24...1 Health Degeneration; and loses 81...3 Health each second. Damn.

Hurdle Six: Titans
Killing a Titan spawns another Titans. Titans spawned in such a manner do not drop loot. Standing next to most Titans sets you on fire. Most can't be knocked down. Most are not 'fleshy' creatures, so they can't be poisoned, diseased, bleed, or subject to corpse exploitation (so sword warriors, necromancers, and some rangers can all fuck off). All Titans are at least four levels higher than you, in Normal Mode, provided they aren't spawned from defeated Titans. Titans spawned from a defeated Titan are eight levels higher than you. They are nigh immune to fire damage, and can turn all physical damage into fire damage (again, warriors and rangers get to fuck off).

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Other complaints are minor, or affect more than just Prophecies (Neither Prophecies or Factions has inscriptions, while Nightfall and EotN do). To be fair, I should point out that Prophecies has a longer (not larger) story mode, comprised of 25 mission, while Nightfall has 17, and Factions only has 13.

It's for these reasons that when I remade Reya, I made her a Nightfall character. Prophecies being an arduous campaign isn't entirely a bad thing. How the campaign kicks off caught most first time players off-guard (it's called Pre-Searing for a reason). The role your hero plays in the story of the campaign is nothing short of epic, and in completing all 25 missions, you victory is nothing short total domination of everything and anything remotely evil. You fight armies of evil bi-ped cats; you cut a swathe through undead hordes; you join a rebellion and fight an evil cultist dictatorship; you destroy an ancient race so powerful they are revered as gods; you destroy the only monsters strong enough (other than you) to defeat an ancient race so powerful they are revered as gods; you defeat the only being strong enough to enslave the only monsters strong enough (other than you) to defeat an ancient race so powerful they are revered as gods.

The Lich and Titans are so epic and powerful they get recycled in Nightfall (How do our leftovers taste?). Even in being the 'worst' campaign, it's easily the best. A player that completes Prophecies is equipped with the skill to tackle the other campaigns, and show everyone else how a real hero does it. It's a trial by fire, almost like a bootcamp. It's ruthless, to weed out those who are not worthy. And I hope it stays that way.

Pew Pew!

A long time ago, I decided I wanted to roll up a Ranger and try my hand at long range engagement. Less damage than an Elementalist, but more armor, longer range, and tons of nifty little tricks. So, I rolled up a Ranger in Prophecies and dubbed her "Reya Dawnstrike." Ground her up to level 7 in pre-searing Ascalon, then let her collect dust for a year and a half. Then, two or so months ago, I decided that I wanted to play a Ranger again, but that I couldn't bear to go 90% of the game with only 170 atribute points. So, I deleted her, remade her as a Nightfall character, and within 5 days, she was level 20, with a fully runed set of Norn armor (she looks like medieval Russian special forces), plus a few sweet bows, three of which were end-game rares from Prophecies (Deldrimor bows).

Capped a few novel elites, and tooled around Eye of the North for a while. I took her to a few ABs, but I felt that she wasn't pulling her weight, and I stopped using her so much. Busted her out again, capped Glass Arrows, and had some fun running a Glass Conjure spiker, absolutely creaming foes. But that build had energy issues, and got kinda boring, as far too many people use Stoneflesh Aura and Defy Pain these days. Again, she was shelved.

Then a week or two ago, I was watching Stealing Society and Rebel Rising (two top ten guilds), duke it out in a tournament match. Each GvG team ran two rangers, and all four rangers were using Expert's Dexterity plus Read the Wind (+25% IAS, +2 Marksmanship, +10 dmg, double speed arrows). In short, they were high caliber turrets with auto-fire, smashing the opposing team. The next update after this match, Expert's Dexterity got nerfed (+15% IAS, +1 Marksmanship), and the build fell out of favor.

Kinda.

Now, rather than being interrupt heavy midliners that use degen for the bulk of their damage, the idea of a "turret" ranger is popular. Some people still run ED+RtW, some use RtW+Flail for the same rate of fire, etc. Keeping this in mind, I specced Reya into a similar build, using Burning Arrow (which I capped this morning) as my elite. I didn't have any IAS in my build, but I had a few attacks with short cast times, so I used this to compress my damage in a spike.

Goddamn.

Hot knife, and butter. We won nine battles in a row this morning, and two more when I woke up. Not only was the damage sickening, but I had far less energy issues than with my Glass Conjure build. RtW made using my longbow feasible (I normally favor Expert's Focus, as it lets me spam Needling Shot for 1 energy, with instant recharge on the attack), and on any of the cliffs and peaks of the Grenz Frontier map, having a longbow means you get to reach out and touch somebody. A lone warrior? Snared, burnt, and bled. Next? It was nice to overextend so freely, and be able to disengage a fight almost on a whim. Not nearly as brutal (or tough) as my warrior, but that's a given.

My next project is to level up a Dervish, and to find some use for my level 20 Paragon that I never seem to play...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mah petz

I briefly mention in my profile that I have three pets; a fruit bat, a polar bear, and a dairy cow. Quite obviously, I don't have such animals in my two bedroom, 2nd story apartment. However, each one resembles in appearance and personality one of the above mentioned animals. Let's start with our first pet.


Meet Isabelle (Izzy), our fruit bat. She is a domestic short haired, and that's all I know about her breed. We adopted her when she was a few weeks old, as a stray rescue. She was obviously the runt, and going on two years old, she's still pretty small. Of any cat I've ever known, she's the only one who would play tag. She would run after a person, slap their ankle, then run, expecting you to chase her. If you did chase her, and slap her tail, she'd whip around and return the favor. Playing tag with her was good exercise, back when we got her. However, she stopped playing a long time ago, and is now fairly prissy, as far as cats go. She loves attention, on her own terms. Doesn't like to be picked up, and makes some very bizarre sounds when angry. She was dubbed a fruit bat, in part because it makes a nice play on words, and her ears are frickin' huge.


Meet Alexander (Xander), our polar bear. Xander, like every cat that's been in our care since getting Izzy, is a feral rescue, born in the wild, raised in our home. I found him after he and his litter-mate took a spill off of a 30ft drop onto some concrete. His litter-mate needed medical attention, so I had Animal Rescue take him. However, Xander seemed more or less ok, and since his mother had since fled, I felt it was right for me to keep him. This picture was taken right after I brought him home, last November, before Thanksgiving. He has since grown, dramatically. As it turns out, Xander is a Maine-Coon mix (1/4, I believe). He now weighs almost 18 pounds, at a little over a year (pictured below, he's only 6 months old). From what I've read, I am to expect him to continue growing until age three, and expect him to live for twenty years, easy.

Xander was raised with Izzy, and eventually, nine other kittens, eight were feral rescues (caught by myself), and one was a stray rescued from the median on I-95 Northbound (Dubbed Jersey, she later died of an infection that the vet missed. She was the first and only cat to die in our care, and it was hard watching such a young cat fade like that.) Because of this, he is very comfortable around people, and greets most visitors at the door. He is also the only act I know of to play fetch. And much like a dog, he'll enter the room and wake me up, so I can play with him. He will still rough-house with me, and is very animated. But he still sounds like a kitten, and his meows and chirps do not fit his robust frame. Quite often, when watching TV or using my desktop, he'll jump into my lap, look up and my, and whine till I scratch him. And whine loud, while trying to maintain eye contact. I've never cared for a pet more than I do for Xander. My sister-in-laws started calling him a polar bear, after watching him lumber around our apartment.



Lastly, we have the most recent addition to our family, Benny, the dairy cow (in need of orthodontic work). Benny was one of three kittens captured, the last full litter I recovered last spring. His brother and sister were adopted by a very loving couple, who dote on them constantly (we got some nice picture back not long after the adoption). Benny, is small for his age, and heavy for his size. When his baby teeth fell out, something shift wrong, cause his upper and lower canines to overlap wrong. While his ability to eat has not been impaired, and his demeanor is still incredibly upbeat, it caused him to droll for about two weeks straight, and now his canines are seemingly inverted (the upper canines rest in between the lower canines, rather than the other way around). He doesn't meow, he moos. That, combined with his girth and coat, earned him the nickname "dairy cat." He's most likely to pick on Izzy when in the mood to play, even though he refuses to play with me.

As I'm sure you noticed, I mention several times that I had rescued/captured many cats. My place of employment has many wild cats that roam around, and sometimes it causes problems. The county I live in stopped trying to control the feral population, so I got permission from my Sgt to place live traps. With a little luck, and a little poking around, I was able to live-trap seven kittens, and five adults. I also performed a manual capture on one kitten, and there was also Jersey, but finding her was pure luck. The kittens received medical treatment from a local clinic, to verify they were healthy, and treat them for any parasites found. They were all spayed/neutered at this same clinic. Of the eight kittens that lived, seven were adopted, six of those by people I work with. My Aunt-in-law adopted the seventh.

The adults were spayed/neutered, were given rabies shots, and had their left ears 'tipped' (a small portion of each left ear was removed, so that we could identify, at range, cats that had already been captured, and been given treatment). These adults were then released back where I had captured them. One of the adults needed surgery, to treat a latent wound. All of this was paid for out of pocket, although we were fortunate enough to receive some money back from the people who fostered kittens, which covered the shots and surgery each one received.


In a funny twist, one of the litters was actually related to Xander. The kittens, pictured left, have the same mother as Xander (unsure about the father, but I read that a female cat can have kittens from multiple fathers in a single litter). Pictured here are Bubbles, Scrappy, Fuzzy, Tibal, and Shy Guy. Tibal was a manual capture, Bubbles and Shy Guy were caught in the same trap, while Scrappy and Fuzzy were caught individually from the same area. Scrappy earned her name by ripping up my right forearm, and having my boss send me to Patient First (thanks Scrappy). Initially, all the kittens we rescued were hostile, but this is mainly a result of them being scared. Luckily, none of these cats were alone, and it helped them a lot to be with familiar creatures. Many people I've spoken too want more cats, but are concerned with how the animals they already have will react to the visitor. The first few weeks are always rough, but if you are patient, and give it time, they will acclimate to each other. Just because they hiss at first, or try to hide, doesn't mean it will never work. Many people sabotage themselves by expecting the first encounter to foreshadow how they will get along for the rest of their lives. This is not true.
For example, Tibal (Tai for short), was adopted by my Aunt-in-law. They have a golden retriever named Chance, that's huge. Tai, at the time, was about 6 pounds, still very small. At first, Tai was terrified of Chance, while the dog wanted desperately to play with the act (Chance kept bringing Tai his toys). These days, not only do the dog and cat rough-house with each other, but when Tai wants to go inside, Chance will walk up to the door and bark till they open the door, just so Tai can go in. If a dog and cat can do that in a matter of months, please believe your pets can do it too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Expanding Horizons

One of the things I enjoy most about Guild Wars, over World of Warcraft, is the ability to change skills and attribute points on the fly. I love the flexibility of it. I especially like being able to save builds, and access them at will. It makes it so much easier to change up between missions and quests.

However, for the longest time, whenever it came to a hammer build, I'd only use the elite Backbreaker. Frankly, Backbreak is brutal. Unconditional knockdown, pair with solid bonus damage, and the longest knockdown in the game. However, in order to put my warrior in line with some more effective builds, I brokedown and capped Devastation Hammer.

Damn.

What gets me is how cheap the skill is, only 7 adreneline. Backbreaker is 10, while Earth Shaker and Magehunters Smash are 8. Unconditional, and it applies weakness. I had been using Backbreak with Pulverizing Smash, for the same effect, giving me better energy management, as opposed to using Crushing Blow for my KD follow up. So now, I'm running the standard hammer bar, Devastation, Crushing, Hammer Bash, Bull's Strike, with four wild-card picks (self-heal, IAS, IMS, rez, etc).

Well, I can certainly see why it's so popular.

I ended up having to craft a new set of gauntlets with Stonefist insignia, which was a bitch, cause ever since the last patch, the material merchants have been out of Amber. Luckily, I found a guy who had been hording some, and I only had to pay 300g a pop.

Due to the fact that I had been using Backbreaker for so long, I never had to learn how to 1/4 lock an opponet. For those who don't play warriors much, this is when a hammer (or anyone with multiple KD skills) times a KD to strike the foe right as they stand, leaving them a window of less than 1/4 of a second to act. It requires me to be a bit more active when PvPing, but durring an AB today, I locked down a poor Wammo for 12 seconds, while the rest of his team was scrambling around (we ended up losing, 492-501, but it was damn fun). Normally, I'd have planted him down for 4 seconds, then had to build adren for a while before I was able to do it again.

Yes, I know, I'm a noob for getting all excited and worked up over something this stupid. Sorry. Late bloomer and what not.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Electric 6

I don't know if you know this band, but it might be worth your time to check them out at www.electric6.com

I like them, in part, because they possess that same attitude that Tenacious D does. For example, take this excerpt from their website:

'Show business is often referred to as “the last frontier of Communism”. Think about it. Performers are beholden to the common interests of a faceless collective who demand more for less. In the advent of technology, the ability of the artist to make massive profits has been destroyed. Artists, performers, midgets, musicians, jugglers, magicians, deejays – everybody – all of us – we’re all fucked now.

The result? I’m not going to bring out your hamburger and fries in a timely manner. I’m going to take cigarette breaks every 5 minutes. You’ve made me wait in a bread line, and I’m going to rest my aching dogs while your white ass salivates over that burger just sitting there, taunting you under the heat lamp. And I’m not going to bring it over to you until I’m good and ready.

That was the Soviet Union then and this is Hollywood now.


But even in the belly of despair, there is always hope. We know of a small town, north of Star City, in the woody fields of evil Mother Russia. The town, Gorchakovagrad, officially never existed. But we know it was there and we know how they danced. They danced around a fire created not by accidental nuclear disaster, but a fire fueled by their own desire – a desire to once again be entertained. And to sell the entertainment at a high price so that they and their families might once again live as higher beings with swimming pools shaped like Mickey Mouse.

Gorchakovagrad made Ibiza look like Houston, made Vegas look like Newark. Men dressed as neon gods. Women dressed as lizards. Dancing was cutthroat, dangerous. Music was loud, sensual, sexual, brave, sexual and sexy. The deejays were Italian. Money changed hands. Fashion conquered all. The girls, though reptilian, were hot. They were sexy capitalist pigs that knew their way around a deck of turntables…..and they liked to fuck.

There were no iPods, no computers, no websites. No file sharing. No intentional neutering of America’s teens. There was only 100% pure entertainment created by humans….for humans. And love.

This happened in the Soviet Union. And this will happen again on Oct. 21 when Electric Six releases its fifth record entitled Flashy.'

That's so hawt.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hollow words.


I mentioned a 3 vs 11 skirmish in a previous post, and was able to dig up this screenshot. One of the stalkers started talking smack over broadcast, so I gently reminded him that I'd already killed him, three times. He denied my claim, so I took this screenie, as proof.

Huzzah.

My teammates in this battle were Police Drone M8, a controller, and Shadow Man, a scrapper. Good times.

Friday, November 7, 2008

PvP is srs bizness yo

One of my greatest pet peeves about PvP are the stupid PvP music videos people post on youtube.

Don't get me wrong, I like to watch PvP. I like to observe high ranking GvG and HoH, see what builds are in, what team compositions do best, etc. Sometimes I'll log on and watch matches while I wait for guildies to show up for missions and dungeons. I find it constructive, and I think a person can learn a lot by watching skilled players compete against each other.

What I don't like are videos that are put on youtube featuring a single person, edittied by that same person, depicting nothing but victory, to the tune of Scatman and Linkn Park. Anyone can be epic if they cherry pick footage that shows nothing but success.

Take for instance, this vid:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFPDjJ7JVzA

This is Counter Strike: 2D. It's fun, and free, and a nice way to waste time if you feel jaded by your normal routine. This video shows Circa, the clan leader of Killcrazed, kicking ass. However, notice how almost half, if not more, of the kills are against bots (names prefaced with [b]). Not real players, but bots. Secondly, they show him knifing an AFK CT in slow-mo. What. The. Hell. You stabbed someone who wasn't playing. Do you record yourself knifing the wall too?

Now, I play on their servers a lot, and they're good people, and good players. But I've gone 107 and 17 on their server, against their players. I've had them reset the server on me half a dozen times in a row to wipe my score, while they were filming. After every kill, Circa (or whomever they were recording) would ask "got?" to make sure they captured the kill. I ended up getting slapped by the admin a few times cause I started asking "got?" after each kill too.

Now, I might end up being a hypocrit, cause I'm fixing to download the program "gamecam", and start recording ABs. I figure rather than continuing to tell stories in this blog about cool moments, I'll just post them. Maybe I'll just make sure to finish each vid with me getting owned, to keep it fair.