Monday, December 7, 2009

Player Death, again

Haldir Halith, Warmage 12/Knight Phantom 1 died in battle with an ancient green dragon last night. He and his party had tracked the dragon to it's lair, after skirmishing with it in mid-air aboard their elemental galleon, The Nirvana. Upon reaching the lair, the party engaged and slew most of the dragons guardians, and skirmished with the beast again, scoring a crit with the Nirvana's heavy cannons. After pursuing it into it's lair, the group withdrew, knowing their spells and ammunition were sorely depleted. The group then maintained a position flying 1800 ft above the forest canopy, sleeping in shifts to prepare for battle the next day.

Six hours after the initial confrontation, the ancient green attacked the ship, having first warded himself with spells. This ambush culminated with Haldir being snatched off the deck of the ship, and flown off with, only to be thrown down to terra firma, first being subjected to a point blank breath weapon. Haldir was slain instantly as he failed his fort save against massive damage.

This is the second time that the players have withdrawn midway through a siege, only to camp out within sight of the area being sieged. Both times, this resulted in them being attacked while some or all of them slept. Both times, this resulted in player death.

Seriously guys, stop it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"'City of Heroes' character 'Twixt' becomes game's most hated outcast courtesy of Loyola professor"

Bullshit. I know I'm a little late to the party on this one, so be it:


Dear Professor David Myers,

Hi. You don't know me. We play on different servers. As such, I had no feelings for you one way or the other. So, I immediately take issue with this article that portrays you as some sort of infamous celebrity in the world of CoX. You're not.

Having seen a few dozen videos on YouTube of you getting killed in Siren's Call and Recluse's Victory, I take issue with the article portraying you as a good PvPer. You're not. Also, the article neglects to mention that you also posted on the forums of this game, purposely stirring up ill will. We call that trolling, dear Professor. The act of intentionally upsetting people to cause a negative reaction.

I'm sorry that you became a social outcast on the Freedom server by TPing into Drones. We both know it was more than that, but that's not the issue here. Droning people isn't particularly skillful, but at the same time, it's entirely the fault of the people being Droned. With how large the zones are, you have to be fantastically close to the enemy's base to ever risk it happening, and decent players rarely fall victim to it. So, in my opinion, anyone you ever Droned had it coming, cause they were base hugging.

I've received plenty of nasty tells from other players in my time. Most of them while PvPing. I've never Droned another player. I've killed people within their own bases. I've hidden inside their hospitals and killed them when they respawned. I've hidden atop high ledges and swooped down on them without warning, killing them in mid-air. I've hounded Heroes and Villains alike within multiple zones and inside the Arena. I've stalked players that gathered launch codes or meteor shards, and robbed them of their hard won treasures just when they were sure they would reap the rewards of their efforts.

But I've never Droned.

I've even gone so far as to lure the "robotic firing squad" away from an enemy base, with the help of my SGs sniper unit, to leave an entire Villain base undefended, so that my group could swoop in an occupy the whole base, preventing any players from entering on that side. Safely at least.

So, when I read this article, about how you are universally hated and reviled, when the worst thing you've done is Drone some players, or break up some Fight Club in SC, it makes me want to laugh. You're not grieifing anyone. You never did anything that good or bad. The real crime here was the trash talk and mockery that you lent to this conflict, that the article neglects to mention.

I guess the crux of my issue is this: There is nothing inherently wrong with Droning. The Devs, from day 1, have established that nothing save from trapping someone within the geometry of a map is griefing. So, when you TP someone into a Police Drone or Arbiter Drone, you're not breaking any rules. Once someone tells you they have a problem with that action, the dynamic changes. If you TP someone, knowing it will upset them, you are 100% responsible for their reaction. I'm not justifying how they act, most of them sound like very immature people, but you still knowing act in such a manner to cause that reaction from them.

For instance, when in Warburg, I ganked many, MANY other Heroes. It was even the subject of discussion on the Justice forum (that's my server). People talked about whether it was right or wrong for me, roleplaying a biped Police Drone, to kill other Heroes. So, at that point, I changed how I addressed other Heroes in Warburg. I would still attack and kill any player I could, regardless of faction. However, if any Hero ever asked me to leave them be, I would after the first kill. I took responsibility for the consequences of my action, regardless of whether or not what I was doing was wrong. Why? Because that's how all adults should act, online or offline.

Also, I should point out that my SG, the Paragon PD, was the subject of much hate and griefing, simply by existing. We were a top 10 SG for several years, with hundreds of players. Our mere presence spawned rival SGs (Anti-Drones, Rouge Isles PD, etc), our players were subject to constant griefing and harassment, and some (including me) were even kicked from teams for being who we were. On more than one occasion, I've had whole zones of players turn against me just for my name and uniform. Feel free to read my blog, Professor David Myers. I've fought massive battles against both Heroes and Villains simultaneously, outnumbered as bad as 4 to 1.

And not because I intentionally upset players as part of a study on small group dynamics or how the anonymity of the internet emboldens people. Just because I was me.

So, I hope you book is a success. I hope it's more honest and truthful than that article.


-Police Drone TH, lvl 50 Assault Rifle/Energy Manipulation/Munitions Mastery Blaster, Justice Server, Circa Issue 3, proud owner of the 400 Rep PvP badge, and server FFA Arena Champion for 7 Issues.


PS- Zone PvP wasn't introduced until Fall of 2005 with the release of Issue 6: "Along Came a Spider", not Spring of 2004 like the article would have people believe. Issue 6 is also when City of Villains was released. PvP didn't exist until Spring of 2005, and that was limited to the Arenas. The social environment that fostered peaceful interaction between Heroes and Villains existed for a year and a half before zone PvP was a factor, and 90% of the Villains that were created with the advent of CoV were initially Heroes. Again, something the article failed to mention. Furthermore, from Fall of 2005 till Spring of 2006, the PvP zones were the only place where Heroes and Villains could meet face to face, making the only zone where social interaction was possible between the two factions. Pocket D, Cimerora, and the Rikti War Zone didn't exist at that point.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Save vs. Awesome!


Another house rule has favored the players strongly.
Last session, we experienced our first meaningful character death: the bard entered melee with a foe that possessed a vorpal weapon. She was decapitated on the very next action of said enemy. A small outcry arose, and the party's warmage declares an attack on the bard's killer. The warmage lands a crit of his own (thanks to his choice of Improved Critical: Ranged Touch at lvl 12) on a Sudden Empowered Orb of Fire, and ends up doing 40d6+24 damage to the target. That's a damage range of 64-264 fire damage. The warmage then roles all 40d6 at once, being very dramatic, and totals a modest 153 damage. Factor in fire resistance, and the target took 148 damage, 2 hp shy of being dropped in one hit.

However, I run rules for death from massive damage. Each creature has a threshold based on size, and if you exceed that threshold in a single attack, you must make fortitude save of 10+damage over threshold. For example, a medium creature has a massive damage threshold of 50 damage, for a large creature it's 65, for huge it's 80, etc.

So, the target of this Empowered Orb of Fire was subject to a DC 108 fortitude save.

Good job Danny, you killed the bad guy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Set the pace.

Normally, the success of a group isn't measured by how many enemies they beat, or how good the XP per hour is; merely how fast the team perceives itself as moving through spawns.

Don't get me wrong. When I'm gaining multiple bars of XP per mission, leveling more than once with the same group post lvl 20, yeah, that group is badass. However, in general, the teams I remember most are the ones on which I felt like I was unstoppable.

Now, as awesome as my Blaster (Police Drone TH) is, he is made stronger by good teammates. Specifically, Tankers and Defenders.

Now, this isn't some post extolling the virtues of the "Holy Trinity" (Tank/Healer/Mage). Instead, I'm saluting the people who control how fast the team rolls. In CoH, it's the Tankers and Defenders. Tankers who eat alphas and manage agro, and Defenders who buff (not heal).

Tankers get a bad rep sometimes. They can be regarded as glory hounds, or seen as trying to do all the work just to show off. However, the real strength of a Tanker is in his ability to embolden the team, and make them strike harder and faster, having faith in the Tanker to keep the agro off them while they rain hell. This applies equally to all classes, not just "Mages". It's safer to debuff once a Tanker has moved in. It's safer for a Scrapper with a mandatory agro aura to engage the foes. Additional agro is less of an issue if the primary spawn is being adequately managed. Tankers, when performing their job properly, help set the pace at which a team does it's job. The better the Tanker, the faster the pace, without team safety being sacrificed.

Any player can tell you that they feel much stronger when an Empathy/Thermal/Pain Manip/Kinetic/etc buff is cast on them. The very nature of buffing powers in CoH lends huge strength to a team. Strong characters are bold ones, and a buffed team is more confident going into battle. While they may still be numerically inferior, they will most times still press on, putting faith in that extra +18.5% def the Defender gave them, or the extra +500% regen the whole group has. Knowing that they are backed by a vigilant Defender (no pun intended), a team is more likely to stand it's ground when people start to fall. More likely to keep fighting when they would otherwise run away. I've seen more team wipes resulting from premature retreat then from failing to run away fast enough.

When solo, I know my own limits. I can ride the razors edge, and tackle odds far greater than most other players. Most players perform better when solo, as they only have themselves to consider in any given situation. When teamed, everything changes, because up to seven other people can be impacted by what you do. When teamed, I have to exercise restraint, since more than my own fate rests in the balance (and usually, the odds are vastly stacked against me). However, when teamed with the right people, when there is the right combination of agro management and buffing, I can once again become the engine of death that I know I am. And this applies to the rest of the team as well.

Monday, October 26, 2009

MMO Manners


People online are notoriously rude. Whether or not one is actually being rude, it is usually how they are interpretted as acting anyway.

Two days ago, I was running some RWZ (Rikti War Zone) missions with my friends. We had a team of heroes and villains, are were doing the story arc where Longbow (think S.H.I.E.L.D.) tries to steal Vanguard's (think an even more badass S.H.I.E.L.D.) thunder. One thing leads to another, and much to the delight of the villains on the team, we start busting Longbow skulls. Fun.

Eventually, our battle takes us head to head with a Longbow Hero (Archvillain), who could make Chuck Norris's blood run cold. He smashes into our group like an angry bull, and we wipe. Once. Twice. Three times.

Finally, we re-order our team a tad, trade one or two of our players, and lower the difficulty. We go in for round four, and we start to win, but then our tank panics, jumps into the backline, right as the Hero fires an AoE at him. The result is a lot of dead support characters, and a fifth wipe. We rally, and keep the fight going. The tank runs back in, then gets knocked back into us. Again things get hairy, when I realize that our tank has no KB (knockback) protection. I try to get him to stand in a corner, in order to negate the KB, but he won't listen. As a result, he keeps getting bounced back into the team, who then eat AoEs in the face.

It doesn't take long before I flip a monumental shit, and start screaming at the guy. A few moments after my tirade, he falls in line, and we are able to take the Hero out.

We exit the mission, get ready for our next run, and I apologize to the guy. It turns out he was brand new to the game, so I took the time to explain what was going wrong, and what could be done in the future to fix it. As it turns out, he did have KB protection, he just failed to use it. I give him some slotting advice, as does the scrapper. As I wrap up with our tank, one of the villains chimes in:

"Wow, that's the first time I've ever seen someone apologize for something like that."

And that bothered me, because he was right. Online, far too many people are not accountable for what they "say" or how they "act". I play games, online and offline, in order to relax, not to yell at people. I don't enjoy acting like that, and it's important to me for people to understand that.

That's why I apologized, because I meant it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

0.0125%

As long as my incredibly simple, done with a calculator math is correct (funny thing, it was wrong the first time, but I fixed it), then that is the chance on any given attack that it results in an instant kill (That is, rolling three natural 20s back to back). It's a rule variant from the 3.0 Edition DMG, one that I've used in every game I've run.

I've actually, as a DM, rolled trip 20s three separate times, twice against player characters, once for an NPC attacking a Slaad. Both times it resulted in player death, and much endless bitching. Sorry guys, player death happens. No character is invincible, and sometimes as a DM it's important to remind the players that they are mortal.

But last night, my wife's Paladin 5/Pious Templar 4/Griffon Rider 2 rolled trip 20s on a smite against a mature adult dragon (CR 13), slaying it instantly. Now she's a Griffon Rider 3.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Um, what should I call you?

One of the things that I've always found fascinating about playing MMOs, or any game with online multiplayer, is how people choose to interpret the names of others. That is, how a persons name, or the name of their avatar/character/toon is changed/shortened/altered to make it more convenient in conversation.

Now, character names break down into five rough categories:
  1. Actual names
  2. Long multisyllabic names
  3. Statements as names
  4. Plays on words
  5. Other
  6. Actual names are easy enough to work out. Guild Wars requires you to have a first and last name for any of your characters, so usually you simply need use a player "first" name. I have a Warrior named Roland Dresden, a Paragon named Rook Enassi, a Mesmer named Freya Dresden, etc. Whenever I played them, people simply addressed me by my character's first name.

Longer names pose a small problem. When I played WoW briefly (Up to level 33), I had a Troll Warrior named Alavatus. While not a huge name, it is four syllables, and in general, people addressed me as "Ala" or "Al". Then, you have other names I've used like Kammorremae, which people shortened to "Kamm". I know people like Quatermain, or Abraxxus, who's names are shortened to "Quat" and "Brax" respectively.

Statements as names is where is gets weird. If you hook up with a mage named "Fase Pwner", what do you call him? "Fase"? "Pwner"? Generally, people will just use the first part, and call you "Fase", but every once in a while you get someone who recognizes "Fase" as the adjective, and "Pwner" noun it describes, and then everything goes to hell cause the whole team except the smart ass healer is calling you "Fase", while he is calling you "Pwner". Ass.

Plays on words sometimes overlap with Statements as names. For example, my Defender is named Combative Medic. My old friend Patrick had a Defender named Apathetic Empath. I have no idea what people called Patrick (other than asshole, cause he was one, not that I'm not), but people refer to me as "Medic" or "Med". Why they shorten it to "Med" is beyond me...

Finally you have Other. And honestly, most names these days are Other. My sisters-in-law ran characters named "Super Funky Peach", "Snuggle Bunnies", "Gorgeous Tsurugi", "Panda Mei", etc. My most recent Guild Leader in GW had characters like "The Devil Himself" and "The Devil Herself", while a friend of mine from CoH has toons like "Molten Slowa", "Insane Slowa", or "SWAT Drone SL-OW".

And frankly, that's the best way to go; having a common theme amongst your names that allows people to use the same moniker for all of your characters. These was an asshole from my old guild who had the name "Cangzhen" as a preface to all his character, with their. profession following it (Cangzhen Monk, Cangzhen Warrior, etc). Of course, that naming convention can defeat the point of some MMOs, like City of Heroes or Champions Online, where the point is to create a truly unique avatar that represents precisely the type of character you want to play.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

RMTs

Real Money Traders (RMTs) hurt games. So do the players who buy from them. They cause inflation, they harm drop rates, they generate underskilled players. In extreme circumstances, they hack and steal players accounts.

Don't be a dillhole, don't buy in game cash (or gear, or runes, or powerleveling, etc).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Crab Battle!

Firstly, I squandered yet another Double Xp Weekend, having fun instead of religiously powerleveling my toons. How dare I? All told, I gained a scant 16 levels across all characters (and that includes a Brute I soloed to 12 on Virtue). I even teamed with Icey Pants 2 again. During my absence, the ability to "rate" players was introduced. I currently have it set so that all my personal rankings are displayed above a players head, and the game tracks these ratings across the player's account (So if someone rates me a well deserved 5 Stars, that rating is reflected on all of my other characters). So, upon joining a team with Combative Medic, I saw that my team leader was ranked 1 star with the comment "Hates tankers and scrappers". However, I then saw that there was a lvl 28 Martial Arts/Regen Scrapper on the team (and better yet, the Scrapper was a brand new player!). Icey Pants 2 certainly had her rating go up after that.
Regardless, last night, I decided I wanted to take one of my mid-40 characters up to 50. After a brief debate, I settled on Police Drone TH-01, my human-form Peacebringer. In short order, I was teamed up with the Vampire's Coven SG (none of whom seemed to be vampire themed, oddly enough), saving the world.

No, literally, the name of the mission was "Save the World".

After a lot of fighting, and I mean a lot, we finally reach the +4 AV. After a pitched battle, waves of ambushes start spawning and attacking us while we're still engaged with the first AV. Once he drops to 1/3rd HP, and cutscene triggers and we get to see a second +4 AV approach, promising much doom. The battle continues, we defeat the first AV, and engage the second. This AV, not to be outdone, also triggers ambushes on us.

After much gnashing of teeth, and player death, we finally work him down to 25% of his HP. So he triggers Personal Force Field.

A collective groan issues forth from the team, as we watch him regenerate much of the damage we dealt, but then the force field drops, and we start working him over again. And again, at 25% HP, the field goes up.

Such is the battle for the next hour. Whittle whittle whittle, shield, regenerate, whittle whittle whittle, shield, regenerate, whittle whittle whittle, shield, regenerate, whittle whittle whittle, shield, regenerate, whittle whittle whittle, shield, regenerate, whittle whittle whittle, shield, regenerate, whittle whittle whittle, shield, regenerate, whittle whittle whittle, shield, regenerate, whittle whittle whittle, shield, regenerate, whittle whittle whittle, shield, regenerate...

You get the idea.

It reminded me of the fact that City of Heroes is functionally very similar to dozens of other RPGs, in that at the beginning of each fight, either you are, or aren't, strong enough to win. Where as, in some games, pure skill can overcome a statistical disadvantage, it usually cannot in a game based almost purely on preprogrammed percentages.

So, despite the fact that we were all very competent players, with powerful characters, our team was mechanically insufficient to handle the task at hand (we needed either massive regeneration debuffs, or large amounts of stacked holds to prevent him from casting PFF).

It's a shame really. For 95% of the game, a group can get away with having an unbalanced team, since competent play wins battles, not powersets and ATs.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"We don't team with your kind here."

With the release of Issue 16, Defenders were given access to the Assault Rifle secondary set. My heart leaped with joy when I found out I could finally roll up an Empathy/Assault Rifle Defender, so first chance I got, I did.




At the time, I had been trying to find a way to turn this picture into an outfit, as a way to lure a friend of mine into playing CoH again. In the process, I fell in love with the idea of playing a medic from a Warhammer 40K or Starcraft scenario, so I rolled up Combative Medic (and I changed the outfit, along with color scheme).

Combative Medic is now level 26, blasting and buffing his merry way through all manner of task force, AV battle, and general tomfoolery. I'm still trying to find my inner Defender, but having a Council Assault Rifle to blast my way to said inner Defender with helps.



So, yesterday, after having some trouble finding a team, I end up grouped with two Controllers, whom we will call Icey Pants 1 and Icey Pants 2. Both were Ice Control/Cold Domination 'Trollers from the same SG. Upon joining them, the leader (Icey Pants 1) laments how few people are within our level range, and how none will join. I comment that I have a friend who will join us, to which the leader reacts favorably. After a few minutes of plowing through Sky Raiders at +1, I mention that my friend is now ready, with his Tanker.


And so it starts.


Icey Pants 2: Oi vey.

Icey Pants 1: No tankers, no scrappers.

Combative Medic: As a policy?

Icey Pants 1: SG rule. We don't allow them.

::After a few moments of politely testing the waters of the issue (while
still performing my job admirably), I address it directly::

Combative Medic: So do you also exclude Brutes, Stalkers, Blappers, and
Kheldians?

Icey Pants 1: No, just tankers.

Icey Pants 2: And tankery storm defenders,

Combative Medic: Why?

Icey Pants 2: We deal with enough of it on PUGs, so we don't allow it when
our SG runs a team.

Icey Pants 1: Chasing a tank around as it runs blindly into spawns get old
fast.

Combative Medic: Why not ask them not to, and boot them if they refuse?

Icey Pants 1: Have you ever asked a tank to listen to you?


The rest of the conversation is more of the same, but you get the gist. Rather then exclude all melee or melee capable classes, they simply exclude the two ATs most suited to deal with the damage they will inevitably take (I love my blapper to pieces, but anything less than perfection when I play him at +4 results in bloody violent death for moi). And this exclusion isn't truly against the ATs, simpley how some people chose to play them. But rather than having 30 seconds of patience with a player to see if they will play nice with others, they discriminate against a large portion of the player population, then lament that there aren't enough people around to join their team.

In the end my response to them was this: I will give almost any player and any AT a chance. Unless my team absolutely does not need, or will be hurt by the presence of a particular AT (a team with 6 blasters doesn't need a 7th), there is no reason not to include another player. If said player causes issues via their play style, I speak with them. If they adapt to the needs of the team, they can stay. If they refuse, I politely ask them to leave, and failing at that, I simply boot them myself. Conversely, when I play my Tanker, or any other AT for that matter, I almost always defer to the judgement of the team leader. If he has a problem with something I'm doing, I'll stop. Sometimes this means I end up doing stupid shit cause the leader sucks, but other times it means that I help the team running better by accepting the fact that my way isn't always the best way. Maybe I should be corner pulling on a Nemesis map, or maybe I should be on the opposite side of the AV from the team to protect them from melee cones (these are things I already do, btw, but that many Tanker neglect).

However, at no point can I ever expect another player to accommodate to my wishes if I refuse to do it in turn. Icey Pants 1 & 2 refuse to play with 40% of the available ATs, based on what they perceive as an issue with the classes, when in truth it's an issue with play style (one that can be found in every AT, Red or Blue side). I have no time for people who discriminate, but at the same time, to their credit, Icey Pants 1 & 2 were very polite, and answered all of my questions. So, rather than leave in a huff, I finished the mission with them, politely excused myself, and went off to team with my Tanker bud who had been left out.


This applies equally to all classes, ATs, professions, in any game, MMO or otherwise.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Level Cap=/=Fun Cap

I don't play World of Warcraft, for many reasons. Almost all of them are personal preference; as much as I don't like WoW, I can't say that it's bad. Far too often, people mistake their own opinion as fact, and I want to go ahead and put that out there before I go on.

Now, there is one thing that Blizzard has done, that I hate, and it's the repeated increase of the level cap in WoW. Also, by proxy, how this practice has lead to droves of people carrying over a faulty logic to other MMOs that, in increasing the level cap, one can make a game more fun.

Firstly, why I dislike increasing the level cap in an established, persistent online game. It tends to invalidate the work and effort of a player. If I've spent the last two months raiding with my guild, to complete my Tier # armor, I'd feel pretty shitty when the developer of the game decides that everything my character owns (and that I thought was good) is now worthless junk, because there are ten more levels for me to grind out, and each one has gear more powerful than the last.

Now, increasing the level cap certainly isn't bad for newer players, or ones who haven't dedicated depressingly large amounts of time to pimping out a character. It sucks for the hardcore players. Of course, they are also hardcore enough to suck it up and grind out those ten new levels, and work up to the newest Tier of gear. I sit somewhere in between casual and hardcore, where I care enough and play just enough to be well equipped, but I haven't religiously cleared the same instance dozens of times to earn a particular set of gear (this doesn't exactly translate into CoH and GW, but close enough).

This brings me to the crux of my rant; I'm tired of hearing people suggest upping the level cap as the best way to make a game better. Wrong, bad, fail. Firstly, not all games revolve around high level play. Secondly, not all games have an endgame the involves endless grinding for loot. For example, City of Heroes is more about the (admittedly downplayed) story of a world recovering from a massive invasion, and your role as a fledgling hero trying to save it. You start as a scrub fighting riots and taking down low level drug dealers, to traveling between dimensions, defeating evil super-powered despots and liberating entire worlds from tyranny. The scope of such an evolution is hard to appreciate if you blast past low level play to get to high levels, and it's completely lost when you replace one plateau of power with another one.

Guild Wars is another great example. While Prophecies, Factions, and Nightfall vary greatly in their PvE application, it's undeniable that the endgame in Guild Wars is PvP. Lots of PvP. Coordinated, uncoordinated, pro, scrub, hardcore, softcore PvP. Wanna do small scale? Arena. Large scale? Alliance Battle. Ultra cut-throat internationally competitive? Guild vs Guild or Hall of Heroes. Increasing the level cap offers absolutely no benefit here.

What can make a game better? What can extend it's life? Additional content, not at the expense of the effort players have already invested in the game. City of Heroes publishes a new issue of the game every three to four months, adding more content each time (including but not limited to: New Powers, New ATs, Inventions, New Zones, Power Customization, New Villain Groups, etc). Guild Wars released an expansion meant almost exclusively for max level players. Additionally, they added (early on) the ability to play all the low level areas as elite lvl 20+ zones.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Invention Origin enhancements: The mandatory option.

You ever found a really sweet free to play game online? Maybe it was a simple 2D flash game, or a really badass 3D freeshare FPS, but either way, it was way more fun than it should have been.

So you play this really sweet, free-to-play game for a few weeks, at which point you find out, "Hey, there is a whole 'nother level here I've yet to touch!" But then you find out that level comes with a $15 price tag to it, or that you can buy in game money (which takes forever to earn), or that in order to access a certain realm, where all the good items are, you need to purchase a subscription?

Yeah, IOs are like that.

They don't cost money (real money, at least), but the principle is the same. You don't NEED them to play. Quite the contrary; most players have been dominating in City of Heroes/Villains for years without them. However, the gulf of power between a Hero without IOs and a Hero with them is staggering. Furthermore, you can see exactly which bonuses a player possesses by looking at their powers tab. If you click on a Scrapper and find out he has 3 Ultimate Recharge Bonuses, you know that this Scrapper is filthy rich, as he probably has billions of influence worth of IOs slotted into his powers (::cough::Karou Non' Drak::cough::). Using this, people are able to pick characters which are seemingly more powerful, or at least wealthy, based on how many IO bonuses they have (Within SGs, this practice is nearly unheard of. In PUGs, in can be, at times, rampant.).

Now, I have no problem with IOs. They add a new level of depth to the game, and allow a person to make their unique Hero (or Villain) even more unique. However, I think it's a tad misleading to say that IOs are completely optional. By that same logic, all gear is completely optional. You don't need it, it just helps.

And I think we can all disagree with that (barring Vow of Poverty).

Issue 16: Power Spectrum

Powers Customization:

Hundreds of powers have been updated to allow new color selections and customization. Players can now pick new Themes for each powerset, adjusting colors, appearance, and even animations for some sets.

Key Features:
  • Thousands of Tintable particle and geometry effects for powers, such as Energy Blasts and Stone Mallet colors.
  • Customizable Primary and Secondary colors for powersets, with color choices themed to match the selected powerset.
  • Powerset Themes selectable for a complete set, or individual powers.
  • Powerset Themes selectable at character creation, as well as in the tailor screens.
  • Independant Theme selection for each character costume.

New Theme selections:
New Themes of Spines and Thorny Assault available, including themes of Thorns, Metal Spines, Crystal Spines, and Slate Spines. New Animation Themes for Super Strength and Martial Arts.Huge variety of customizable powersets, including Cold Domination, Dark Armor, Dark Blast, Dark Melee, Dark Miasma, Devices, Earth Control, Earth Melee, Electric Armor, Electric Assault, Electric Blast, Electric Melee, Electricity Manipulation, Empathy, Energy Assault, Energy Aura, Energy Blast, Energy Manipulation, Energy Melee, Fiery Aura, Fire Assault, Fire Blast, Fire Control, Fire Manipulation, Fire Melee, Force Field, Gravity Control, Ice Armor, Ice Assault, Ice Blast, Ice Control, Ice Manipulation, Ice Melee, Illusion, Invulnerability, Kinetics, Mental Manipulation, Mind Control, Necromancy, Plant Control, Psionic Assault, Psychic Blast, Radiation Blast, Radiation Emission, Regeneration, Sonic Resonance, Sonic Blast, Spines, Stone Armor, Storm Summoning, Super Reflexes, Thermal Radiation, Thorny Assault, Traps, and Willpower.
_______________________________________________

New Character Creator:

* The Character creator and Tailor screen have been updated to be easier to use and even preview the animation and color choices for powers!

Key features:

  • Tabbed Character Creator: Jump between Archetype, Power Sets, Costumes, and Character ID in any order without losing progress.
  • New Powers Customization screen, for adjusting powers and previewing animations.
  • Select colors and themes for each individual power, or apply it to the entire power set!
  • Preview live animations of all powers, showing the selected Theme and color choices.
  • Save and Load Theme settings for each powerset, saving colors and selections for all powers.

Costume slots: Your active costume slot is stored when you log off will be the costume slot used when you log back in. It will also display that costume in the character selection screen. _______________________________________________

Powerset Proliferation:
More power sets are now in the hands of Archetypes who couldn’t use them previously!

  • Archetype - Blasters * Radiation Blast
  • Archetype - Brutes * Claws
  • Archetype - Controllers * Cold Domination
  • Archetype - Corruptors * Archery * Trick Arrow
  • Archetype - Defenders * Assault Rifle * Traps
  • Archetype - Dominators * Earth Assault
  • Archetype -Masterminds * Thermal Radiation
  • Archetype -Scrappers * Electric Melee * Electric Armor
  • Archetype -Tankers * Electric Melee * Electric Armor
  • Archetype -Stalkers * Broadsword

_______________________________________________

Enhanced Difficulty Options:
The old notoriety system has been removed and replaced with a new difficulty system of independent settings. You can now fine-tune the difficulty levels of the missions you play by telling the game exactly how you want to be treated:

* Choose to fight monsters between a -1 to +4 level difference from the player's level.
* Choose to set your personal team size (1-8).
* Choose if you want bosses to scale down to Lieutenants when soloing or not
* Choose to have AVs scale down to EBs.

The difficulty settings of the mission owner dictate how the mission is handled. Actual team size overrides any difficulty setting, so you will always get Arch-Villains if the team has 6 or more members. The difficulty setting is per task, so personal team member sizes do not add together. You can change your difficulty settings at any Hero Corp.’s Representative in Paragon City or Fateweaver in the Rogue Isles.

_______________________________________________

Sidekicking Changes: Super-Sidekicking! One player can now sidekick or exemplar the whole team, everyone can always play together!

  • Each player in the group's level is set to the level of the owner of the active team task. If no team task is selected, everyone in the group's level will be set to the level of the team leader.
  • When the team level changes, players will be notified via a dialog and have the option to quit the team or immediately accept. The dialog will time out after 30 seconds at which point acceptance is implied.
  • While in the pending state, players cannot receive rewards and any critters they damage will be worth no experience.
  • Players can choose to auto-accept team level changes 0 to 50 levels above or below their current level.
  • Exemplars will now earn XP and a level capped person will get XP converted into influence like exemplars used to.
_______________________________________________

New Badges: Last issue we announced our future plans and design direction for new badges. Here’s a list of the new badges that can be obtained in Issue 16:

  • Master of Reichsman Strike Force
  • Master of Reichsman Task Force
  • Master of Imperious Task Force
_______________________________________________

Epic/Patron Powers Pools:

The balance between the Epic/Patron power pools has been revisited. Now all Epic power pools have 5 powers to choose from.

  • Force Mastery (Blaster) Existing Powers * Personal Force Field * Repulsion Field * Temporary Invulnerability * Force of Nature New Powers * Repulsion Bomb - Ranged (Targeted AoE), Moderate Damage(Smash/Energy), Foe Knockdown
  • Flame Mastery (Blaster) Existing Powers * Bonfire * Char * Fire Shield * Rise of the Phoenix New Powers * Melt Armor - Ranged (Targeted AoE), Foe -Res, -Def
  • Fire Mastery (Controller) Existing Powers * Fire Blast * Fire Ball * Fire Shield * Consume New Powers * Rise of the phoenix - Self Rez, Special
  • Psionic Mastery (Controller) Existing Powers * Mental Blast * Indomitable Will * Mind Over Body * Psionic Tornado New Powers * World of Confusion - PBAoE, Minor DoT(Psionic), Foe Confuse
  • Dark Mastery (Defender) Existing Powers * Oppressive Gloom * Dark Consumption * Dark Embrace * Soul Drain New Powers * Soul Transfer - Self Rez, Special
  • Power Mastery (Defender) Existing Powers * Conserve Power * Power Build Up * Temp Invulnerability * Total Focus New Powers * Force of Nature - +Res(All but Psionics)
  • Blaze Mastery (Scrapper) NEW Existing Powers * None New Powers * Ring of Fire - Ranged, Moderate DoT(Fire), Foe Immobilize * Char - Ranged, Minor DoT(Fire), Foe Hold * Fire Blast - Ranged, Moderate DMG(Fire) * Melt Armor - Ranged (Targeted AoE), Foe -Res, -DEF * Fire Ball - Ranged (Targeted AoE), Moderate DMG(Fire/Smash)
  • Body Mastery (Scrapper) Existing Powers * Conserve Power * Focused Accuracy * Laser Beam Eyes * Energy Torrent New Powers * Physical Perfection - Auto, +Regen, +Recovery (50% of the values offered by Stamina and Health)
  • Darkness Mastery (Scrapper) Existing Powers * Torrent * Petrifying Gaze * Dark Blast * Tenebrous Tentacles New Powers * Nightfall - Ranged (Cone), Moderate DMG(Negative), Foe –To Hit.
  • Energy Mastery (Tanker) Existing Powers * Conserve Power * Focused Accuracy * Laser Beam Eyes * Energy Torrent New Powers * Physical Perfection - Auto, +Regen, +Recovery (50% of the values offered by Stamina and Health.
  • Soul Mastery (VEAT) Existing Powers * Gloom * Soul Tentacles * Darkest Night * Dark Obliteration * Summon Widow New Powers * Darkest Night - Toggle: Ranged (Targeted AoE), Foe -DMG -To Hit
  • Leviathan Mastery (VEAT) Existing Powers * Spirit Shark * School of Sharks * Bile Spray * Summon Guardian New Powers * Arctic Breath - Ranged (Cone), Minor DoT(Cold), Foe -Speed, -Recharge, -DEF -Res, knock down
  • Mace Mastery (VEAT) Existing Powers * Mace Blast * Web Envelop * Disruptor Blast * Summon Blaster New Powers * Shatter Armor – Melee, Superior DMG(Smash), Foe –Res
  • Mu Mastery (VEAT) Existing Powers * Mu Lightning * Electrifying Fences * Ball Lightning * Summon Striker New Powers * Static Discharge - Ranged (Cone), Moderate DMG(Energy), -END Mu Mastery (Brute) Existing Powers * Mu Lightning * Electrifying Fences * Ball Lightning * Summon Striker New Powers * Static Discharge - Ranged (Cone), Moderate DMG(Energy), -END
_______________________________________________

Mission Architect:
Check out the improvements made to the Mission Architect:
Custom Critter XP Scaling
  • Custom Critters with Custom powers now reward XP proportional to the number of powers added to the critter.
  • Critters with no powers are allowed, but they are worth no XP.
  • Standard and hard critters are worth less than extreme critters.
Mission Browser Improvements
  • Author Hyperlink: Author names are now hyperlinked and will underline on mouseover. Clicking on the name of the author in the Mission Browser will do a search for all the other arcs that author has also published. Clicking it will search for arcs by that author only
Mission Creation Improvements
  • Runaway Boss Dialog: The boss now has dialog when he runs away.
  • Health Dialog on Allies: Allies and Escorts can be set to say things as they lose health.
  • Betrayal Options: Allies and Escorts can now be set to betray on any normal objective. They can also say something when they betray.
  • Drag & Drop Mission Goals: Goals in Architect missions can now be dragged and dropped to change their order.
  • Objective Counts: A count is listed on each detail creation button of the number of details that can still be placed.
Custom Villain Groups
  • If a player has all three basic critter types in their CVG, they will receive full rewards for the mission. If one critter type is missing they will receive 50% rewards. If two critter types are missing they will receive 25% rewards, and if none of the core critter types are in the CVG, there are no rewards. o This applies only to critters auto-spawned by the mission, not specific bosses called for by objectives XP Curve Adjustment
To go along with our new changes to sidekicking and exemplaring, we've made some adjustments to the experience awarded from minions, lieutenants and bosses in the level 5 to 24 range. In short these enemies are on average receiving a 20% experience and influence increase. This will slightly speed up the pace at which heroes and villains advance through the 5 to 24 range

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"'Burailion' Red!" or "I dream of heroes"


Last night I had a dream, in which I came into possession of a decoder ring. However, it matched up catchphrases in addition/instead of keycodes. As I examined the ring, I saw that one of the movable options was "'Burailion' Red!"

Needless to say, this stopped me dead in my tracks. I then spent the rest of my dream trying to get in touch with NCSoft or someone from Paragon Studios, so that I could collect my royalties.

Good times.


<---Original outfit, sans Piston Boots

Friday, September 4, 2009

Police Drone TH


Posting pictures in this blog is always a crapshoot; either I screw up royally and it looks terrible, or everything fits together supremely well, and it looks like a work of art. Anyway...
Police Drone TH, level 50 Assault Rifle/Energy Manipulation Blaster. He was my second character to hit 50, and by far my favorite character. Even with the PPD long gone, and most likely being one of the last "drones" patrolling the City, I still feel proud to wear that outfit.
As you can see, TH has been fully outfitted with IOs (on his primary build). Among other things, he has Sting of the Manticore 5-slotted, three sets of Positron's Blast 5-slotted, two sets of Thunderstrike 6-slotted, three sets of Mako's Bite 6-slotted, Gaussian's Synchronized Fire Control 6-slotted, Essence of Curare 6-slotted, and a few other unique IOs tossed in for flavor.
I specced him for ranged defense, and I succeeded. With Combat Jumping on, he has +32.88% defense to ranged attacks. Math time!
Base accuracy for an even con minion is 50%. With my defense applied, an even con minion has a 17.12% chance to hit me (effectively, I take 66% less damage than other blasters, at range). Of course, it's always important to understand the difference between positional defense, and typed defense.
All attack are classified by "position" and "type". An attack can only have one position (ranged, melee, area of effect), but it can have multiple types (smashing, lethal, fire, cold, energy, negative energy, toxic, psychic). For example, if a Council mech fires an energy blast at you, it's a ranged attack that deals energy and smashing damage. Resistance is applied separately to each type, however, only one defensive value is applied. If I have 30% ranged defense, 15% energy defense, and 10% smashing defense, the game will roll to hit against me using the highest relevant value (in this case, ranged defense). If the same mech runs up to me and tries to back-hand me with its' gun arm, the game then rolls to hit against either my melee or smashing defense (which in this case, my smashing defense is probably higher).
This is more important for melee characters, because different sets run different defenses. Super Reflexes is all positional defense, while Invulnerability is mainly typed defense. Knowing which you are when slotting is paramount for making sure IO set bonuses synergize with your character.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Battle Suit Justice Burailion


An insane anime mecha, Burailion has almost no IOs slotted up, but is still one of my favorite characters. I went Invulnerability/Energy Melee because I wanted him to be a PvP character, but interest in him PvPing gave way to mild RPing with him.
This isn't his original outfit, but it's my current favorite (mainly because most of the pieces didn't exist when I stopped playing). It's a combination of Cyborg (arms, legs, shoulders, belt, hat, face plate, and chest plate), Enforcer (gauntlets, chin piece), and Techbot pieces (torso and head), with Piston Boots tossed in for good measure.
I'll be adding some binds and macros to him later, fleshing out the whole deluded crazy robot angle. Such catchphrases to be added:
  • "Burning finger!"
  • "Battle Suit Justice beatdown!"
  • "I've seen this episode; it's the one where I kick your ass!"
  • "Last time on Battle Suit Justice Burailion: I was awesome!"
  • "Battle Suit Justice Burailion has high insurance premiums."
  • "You are a fly in the soup of justice!"
That last one seems more in the vein of what the Tick would scream out, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oh, what's that you say?

Rather than apologize for months of inactivity, and pledge to remedy my ways, I'll just act like there was no sizable gap in my posting.

Sup.

So, not only has Blizzard announced a fourth class for Diablo 3, but NCSoft has released a trailer for Guild Wars 2. Huzzah! The trailer depicting the new D3 class, the Monk, was very reminiscent of Fist of the North Star. I was initially skeptical of introducing such a decidedly eastern flavor to D3, but given the art I've seen, he fits quite nicely. Meanwhile, the trailer for Guild Wars 2 may or may not have turned me on (just a little). Z-Axis, Norn-bears wearing armor, Charr with guns, Asuran mechs. Let's just say, I hath been sated.
---------------

But forget all that, I have real news to share:

I renewed my subscription to City of Heroes.

BOOYAH. I never really realized how much I missed that game. It's been almost five issues since I last played (I stopped in I11, and I16 is nearing release). But now I'm back, many of my gripes have been addressed (Invul balancing, Kheldian performance, etc), leaving me with less room to bitch, and more things to enjoy.

Starting tonight, I'll be posting character bios for everyone I still play, to give some reference to everything I babble about.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My wife, the Semi-Gamer, Redux

My wife is still a pansy girly gamer (no offense to macho girly gamers out there). We recently started playing Phantasy Stay Online: Ep 1&2 Plus, again. The game is damn near a decade old and it's still fun to play it and get some split screen monster slaying/loot whoring in once and a while. However, once again, a performance gulf appears between my wife and I.

-Cortez, RAcast, Lvl 34, completed chapters 1-4 NM, completed chapter 1 on HM, 350k Meseta banked
-Denicia, FOmarl, Lvl 13, completed chapters 1&2 on NM, 3465 Meseta banked

We made the characters together, but one cannot complete quests in mutliplayer mode. So, we were forced to play separately in order to progress through the game. Needless to same, I got ahead of her. I beat the game, beat all the quests, and started again on Hard Mode (there are four difficulties, each unlocked by beating the one below it, Hard Mode is only the second). Fortunately for her, being a RAcast, I can't use spells, or increase my mind stat. So, whenever a high level uber-spell or mind boosting item comes my way, I tuck it into my stash, to give to my wife at a later date. As a result, she already knows every spell in the game, and has quite a few shift mod for her armor.

However, it's unlikely that we'll have a chance to play together anytime soon. In PSO, you only receive and XP reward if you deal damage to an enemy, even if it's only one hit. Because of the level difference, I'm liable to kill most enemies in one hit, preventing my better half from gaining any XP.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Vanquishing with Warriors

I've bitched and moaned in the past about how difficult it is for a Warrior to get a team, or to be useful to one, many times in the past. And I've bitterly muttered to myself about it far more often. Sad as it is to admit, Perma-Sins, Cryers, and Old School Ursans are and were simply more useful to teams, leaving little to no room for Warriors to join in the fun. However, today, my Alliance and I had a little fun in Melandru's Hope, an area within Echovald Forest, home of the Kurzicks.

"Vanquishing" is the act of killing every single last enemy in a zone, while in Hardmode. The game tracks how many foes are present, versus how many you have killed. When you kill 100% of the enemies present, the area is considered "vanquished". The area on the map goes from red to gold, and you get another point in the title track to Vanquish all of a particular campaign. In Factions, if you vanquish a zone while under the effect of a blessing (Kurzick or Luxon respectively), you receive a very large bonus in the form of both money and alliance faction. In short, it's a way for PvEers to earn lots of faction for their Guild and Alliance.


So today, we went and vanquished Melandru's Hope. With four warriors.

I can honestly say, it's been a long while since I had that much fun PvEing, much less with 50% warriors. Myself, Noble (Officer within [CoF]), Cloud (Officer within [HELL]), Tam (Officer within [HELL]), and Travis (member of [HELL]), plus three heroes (monk, elementalist, and necro respectively), cleared the zone in less that one hour. All told, we each earned about 14k faction, which isn't bad at all, especially given how fast one earns it in PvP (1.5k-2.5k per battle, each battle taking 10 minutes or so).


But to me, the best part was how efficient we were. We killed fast, kept our back-line safe, and suffered only a handful of deaths, always at the hands of bosses. I ran my Imba-War, while Cloud was gracious enough to run a Tactics spec and keep the back-line covered with Protector's Stance. Meanwhile, Noble and Tam ran more offensively oriented Warriors, giving us a good mix of mitigation and single target DPS (Although Noble just ran my build with "Save Yourselves!" swapped out for another attack).

It went so well, in fact, that everyone involved is eager to vanquish in other areas of the Echovald Forest, to earn more faction, and in general have more fun.

(this post will be prettied up with links once I get home, the work computer is now blocking Guild Wiki)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Kongregate: Social Gaming Site for the Masses

Back when I was in high school, flash games sucked for the most part. Aside from 3D Pong (which is still badass) and Spank the Monkey, there wasn't much worth playing that wasn't an interactive flash video or stick-figures doing stupid crap.


However, a while back, I read an article about a flash game called "Desktop Tower Defense". The concept interested me somewhat, because I had played many tower defense mods for Warcraft 3 in years past. Eventually, I googled it, and tried it out. Was great fun, and I wasted many, many hours trying to stave off my inevitable suckage. Through this game, I learned of a flash portal known as Kongregate. Always leery of words that needlessly start with "K", I visited it to find the most amazing and diverse collection of flash games I had ever seen.

Using a format similar to youtube, the site lets you play games, upload games, rate games, favorite games, and links all games together with a series of mutual chatrooms, so you can make and talk to friends while you play. Not bad. But even better (or worse), the people who manage the site saw fit to not only integrate tech for scoreboards hosted on the site, but to add XBL style achievements and points to some games, allow players to amass badges and points, to increase their rank (which means literally nothing). Even better, Kongregate actually publishes a few games of it's own, most of which are multiplayer. One such game, Kongai, is a cross between MTG and rock-paper-scissors. You collect cards that are offered as rewards on a twice weekly basis, and use them to play.

Now, all of this is fine and good, but the most important aspect of this site is the games that it hosts and offers. Games are divided up by category, and ranked accordingly. Among my favorite games are shooters like Dinosaurs That Shoot Beams When They Roar!, intrusion, Bubble Tank 2, Last Stand 2, Luminara, Endless Zombie Rampage, and Areas. Even with a premise as simple as "shoot some shit", each one has a very amusing and unique flavor too it. No two play alike, yet all have simple, and sometimes very similar, controls.

The people who develop these games can win cash prizes based on how well their game is ranked, both on a weekly and monthly basis. Furthermore, tech was implemented that allows players to directly donate money to a developer, with a system that somewhat resembles paypal. The incentive to create and release games on this site seems solid.
I'll probably be ranting and raving about games from this site more and more as time wears on, so look forward to some very entertaining flash games in the future.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Crossfire: Ghetto Counter Strike, or something better?

A couple of my guildies introduced me to an online FPS called Crossfire. It's currently in open beta, and free-to-play. I downloaded and played it for a few weeks, and I'm both impressed and underwhelmed with the game.

Firstly, let me prove that I've played it enough to voice an opinion. I have a KDR of 2.15, average 20 kills a game over 222 matches, and just over a third of my kills were headshots. Frankly, I don't count honor for much, but for what it's worth, mine is good. Had I not wasted so much time in "Ghost" matches (explained below), my KDR would be much more impressive. Unfortunately, Ghost mode is the favored match type of one of the guildies who got me into this (meaning I got talked into playing it, a lot). Moving on.

Pros
  • Persistent Stat Tracking
  • Persistent Character Inventory
  • Functional In-Game Clans
  • Multiple Games Modes

Cons

  • Weak Graphics
  • Poor Hit Detection
  • Poor Weapon Balance
  • Hyper-Inflated Weapon Prices/Minimal Money & XP Rewards

I want to like Crossfire. I really do. I enjoy that it takes the CS formula and tries to build on it. While it doesn't have the CS equivalent of Hostage Rescue (which I think everyone is thankful for), it has Search & Destroy (bomb map), Team Deathmatch, Elimination, and Ghost Mode. Team Deathmatch and Elimination both play out mostly the same; each team tries to kill as many opponents as possible, the only difference being, one has rounds (Elimination), while the other has players constantly respawning. Ghost Mode has much potential, as it's a bombing variant where all the Black List players (Terrorists) are armed only armed with knives. However, they are completely invisible when motionless, and almost invisible when moving (It's quite nerve wracking to play as Global Risk [Counter-Terrorist] in that game-mode). It also offers a much wider array of weapons to the playerbase, without restricting players from owning certain firearms based on which team they are on (In CS, CTs get M4s, while Ts get AK-47s). Also, the idea of having a persistent character inventory is novel, especially for this type of game. I like being able to pick what weapons I'm going to fight with each game, and be able to start with them (as opposed to CS, where I have to earn money to buy them, and I lose them if I die). In the same way, I like the ease with which I can find and view my own and other players persistent stats. Rather than assuming a player is good because he is a higher rank than me, I can look at this profile and find things like his KDR, number of headshots scored, number of knife kills, and how often he leaves a match before it's finished (the last one is tracked as a players "Honor").

However, in as many ways as Crossfire impresses me, I'm very disappointed with it. Firstly, I've been fed up with one-hit kill sniper rifles since CS 1.6 (I hate the AWP, and will only play on servers where it's banned, if I can help it). No amount of arguing or debating will convince me that having such a weapon in a game makes it better. It doesn't. Allowing players to forgo accuracy with a sniper rifle by virtue of sheer firepower cheapens the game. Maybe if the sniping mechanics made zooming in a greater risk (drifting crosshairs, more severe movement penalties, etc), I'd be ok with it, but as is, it's merely a way for poor players to beat better ones, purely on the basis of who's using what gun. Since players have persistent weapon inventories, you really can't prevent someone from joining a game and using one (you can votekick them, but that's a horribly un-reliable function).

Also, there are vast amounts of server-side lag. I've died hundreds of times by foes, who on my screen, are on the other side of a wall or corner. In reality, they killed me before I hit cover, but the server doesn't process fast enough to display that on my screen. Instead, I get pasted after I'm out of view (on my monitor). This also affects aiming, in a small way, because every so often, an enemy is displayed as being a few in-game feet away from where he is actually located in game. Accuracy is further fouled by firing from a crouched position. Certain weapons have more kick than others, and thusly cause your character to recoil more. Rather than simply have this affect accuracy, the devs made it so it physically makes your character recoil, affecting his body placement. Translation: if you're using an SG-552 or an AUG A1, and fire while zoomed in and crouching, the hitbox for your head will rapidly move up and down, making it very, very hard to score a headshot on you. Quite lame.

Money and XP rewards aren't based as much on kills or performance as they are on time spent in a map. A player with a KDR less than 1 can earn far more than a player with dozens of kills and no deaths, provided the first player has been in the map long enough. Giving people extra XP for things like most damage dealt, most kills scored, and last kill, is nice however. But, it doesn't make it for the majority of matches where a decent player gets dicked over by a poor rewards system.

And then there are ignorant quirks about the game, like a target hit in mid-air ceases moving forward, the just drop. I've died far too many times while leaping for cover, just to get tagged once, drop, then get lit up in the .5 seconds I'm perfectly still. Maybe this is another defect due to server-side lag, but it's still completely lame.

The game is still in beta, but progress made here will carry over to the live version of the game. So if, down the line, I decide to go back to it, I can, while retaining everything I've earned. I appreciate that. However, if things stay more or less like they are now, I'll be content staying with the five years young Counter Strike: Source.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Taking 103: Warrior DPS and IAS

Most warriors I encounter within the game, alliance, and my guild, seem to think they must choose between dealing damage, and taking it. They either spec into what they feel is an overwhelming offense, or into something they hope is a faultless defense (sadly, despite their specialized builds, quite often neither is true).

However, it is quite easy to deal damage and take it while on the front line. Now, you may not be as tough as someone who devotes all eight of his skill picks to survival, and you'll never outshine your teams Ele; but you can contribute substantial and vital DPS to what your team is already generating, allowing you to quicker deal with things like bosses, enemy casters, or loose agro.


  • IAS: IAS stands for Increased Attack Speed, and it's the easiest way to jump-start your DPS. Even though the stance says it increases your attack speed by only 33% (which is the cap), that translate to you attack 50% more. That means you do 50% more damage (and gain 50% more adren, steal 50% more life with a vamp weapon, etc). If you were doing 30 DPS before, now you're at 45 DPS, by simply using one skill (which also helps you generate more agro, since you've now become a bigger threat to the NPC).

  • Attack Skills: The place most warriors go wrong. You don't need six attack skills, ever. Even assassins, who are dependent on chaining attacks skills, don't need that many. In general, don't take more than three. If you're tanking, your elite should be tailored to that end (Gladiator's Defense, Defy Pain, Obsidian Flesh, etc). Too many warriors use elite attacks cause they're OMGWTFBBQ awesomesuace on the battle field. Too bad your dead teammates don't agree. If you have to use an elite attack, use one that helps you tank (Dragon Slash is a good example, as it can feed skills like "Save Yourselves!"). Less is more with attack skills. Simply adding Power Attack to your skill bar can give you a boost of up to 14 DPS (which, plus the 45 you already have, give you 59 DPS, which is actually quite good considering). Being able to add you damage to that of your team against tough targets can create shorter battles, meaning that your team has more resources left when it's over, making the next battle that much easier (if you help end a fight even 5 seconds faster, consider how much energy your monk or ele didn't have to spend casting).

  • Conditions: Warriors have the ability to apply almost every single condition in the game, with the exception of Cracked Armor, Poison, Disease, and Burning (and all of these can be found from a secondary profession). Degeneration can be a great boon, especially against high armor targets, or ones that ignore damage (Mist Form, certain PvE only boss skills). Each pip of degen equals two HP a second lost, meaning Bleeding adds 6 DPS, Poison 8 DPS, Disease 8 DPS, and Burning 14 DPS (degen caps out at 10 pips, or 20 HP a second). A W/R running Power Attack, Flail, and Apply Poison could easily net 67 DPS. Deep Wound is even more fun, as it reduces your targets total health and ability to heal (a valuable and often overlooked feature). It will reduce a targets health by 20% (maximum of 100 HP). What most people don't realize is this not only affects maximum HP, it affects current HP. That means an attack that adds Deep Wound can deal up to 100 damage over the listed value, that ignore ALL damage reduction and armor.

Warriors shouldn't ever be relegated to the role of meatshield. Warriors should be mobile little tanks that run around slicing, chopping, and smashing everything in their path, while their team rains down holy hell on their foes. A warriors high armor gives them the unique ability to go deep into the enemies backline and raise hell; an ability that is all to often overlooked. Just today I was running Eternal Grove with a guildmate. Each of us took up defense of a separate ramp. While he engaged the foes with his minions and heroes, I flagged mine to stand guard by the tree, while I ran out and played with the Luxons. At one point I found myself holding agro against a Siege Turtle, three Luxon Rangers, two Luxon Warriors, and two Luxon Elementalists. I killed them all in time to run off and catch the next turtle. All in all, we only lost a single Tree Singer, even when we experienced half a team wipe and Afflicted flooded into our base.


In my opinion, every warrior should be able to do what I did and more.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Two-Fisted Monkey Style

I would apologize for not posting recently, but I spent the time gaming, so I have not regrets. I'll be trying free-to-play MMOs and FPSs, and relaying opinions and feedback about them here. Figured it would be a nice change to me babbling about GW PvP and Counterstrike.

In other news; Youtube has a nasty habit of putting entirely unrelated junk into the "Related Videos" box on the right hand side of the screen. Because of this, I quite frequently end up watching horrible videos I have no interest in. To make matters worse, once I've watched these videos, they end up getting factored into my suggested viewing tab, further flooding me with bad and undesirable options.

le sigh

While browsing MMA videos, a video was suggested to me by the title of "Shaolin vs Ninjas". Ever the ninja fan, I clicked the video, and watched as a single monk owned a dozen or so ninjas, sometimes with their own weapons.

Well, let's ignore, for the moment, that we have ninjas fighting in the daylight. Or, that they are fighting at all, in a head to head contest. As everyone knows, the effectiveness of a ninja in combat is inversely proportionate to the number of ninjas present. 100 ninjas will fail where one would succeed (Ninja Scroll vs Ninja Gaiden). The same holds true for Stormtroopers. 200 Stormtroopers will get their asses kicked by Han and Chewie, but it only takes five Stormtroopers to capture the whole gang.

Damn you Youtube, damn you for spreading these lies.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Guild Wars Update: March 5th

Some changes came down the pipe today, and frankly, ANet hates Rangers. Taken directly from the Developers Updates page:


Read the Wind (PvP Only): functionality changed to: "For 24 seconds, your arrows move twice as fast."
Flail: decreased duration to 1..15 seconds.

Rangers had been outshining spellcasters at dealing damage and could do so while being much more resistant to pressure damage. This made them ideal for spike builds. By removing the damage bonus on Read the Wind, we're cutting the damage they do with each attack, and by dropping the minimum duration on Flail we've made it harder for them to get an attack speed boost without any real drawbacks or costs. (Rangers can't put points into the Strength attribute, so they can never increase the duration on Flail. Warriors who use this skill should be unaffected by this change.)

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

Ok, saying that they "hate" Rangers in an embellishment to say the least. However, this is the second time they've nerfed key skills in Ranger spike builds (in recent memory). Skills like Sundering Attack and Experts Dexterity have already been nerfed to the point of near uselessness in PvP (they still retain their PvE shine, in all fairness). However, it's kinda obvious what the meta will shift to now (Favorable Winds anyone?).

There is one change that makes me happy:


Disciplined Stance: decreased duration to 1..4 seconds; decreased armor gain to +10.
Defensive Stance: decreased duration to 1..5 seconds; decreased armor gain to +10.
Soldier's Defense: decreased duration to 1..5.
Shield Stance: decreased duration to 1..6.

These stances were originally balanced with 8v8 combat in mind. In 4v4 play, where there are fewer attackers and enemies cannot have as wide a range of utility skills on their team, Monks using these stances have become a problem. We've lowered the durations and armor bonuses to help 4v4 teams fight through these defenses.

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

I hate stanced Monks. Nothing pisses me off more than a Monk who uses Disciplined Stance and Shield Bash to fuck up melee spikes (granted, while I was pissed, I always conceeded it was legit, since they sacrificed team support for self protection). Granted, my plans to start playing PvP Monks have now been backburnered, but playing Saru just got more fun.

Oh, and finally, a handful of skills that just got buffed:


Shadow Refuge: increased duration to 6 seconds.
Ether Feast: increased Health per Energy drained to 20..65.
Aura of Restoration: decreased Energy cost to 5; increased recharge to 12. Functionality changed to: "For 60 seconds, you gain 0..1 Energy and are healed for 200..500% of the Energy cost each time you cast a spell."
Healing Signet: increased Healing to 82..172.

To split effectively, characters typically need more self-sufficiency than they do when fighting in a big group. With that in mind, we've made a selection of self-healing skills more powerful.

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

Interesting, I might stop running dual-attunement now, since Aura of Restoration now gives a smidge of energy back (we'll see). Also, a whole new reason to run Tactics again, Healing Signet is now a healing nuke. Protector's Stance+Healing Signet=ftw?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Call of Geneva


I recently read an article where a kid is made to read the Geneva Convention, and adhere to it when playing first person shooters (specifically Call of Duty).

Firstly, I want to applaud his parents in taking an original and unorthodoxed approach to proactive parenting, in the realm of violent video games. Too many parents take a hands off approach to this, and hold the game developers, not themselves, accountable for what their kids play. Kudos.

That being said, other than being a nice historical footnote in the kids daily gaming regiment, the Geneva Convention applies almost solely to the treatment of PoWs and civilians. I fail to see how, if at all, this will impact their sons gaming experience (maybe I simply haven't played the same iteration of Call of Duty that their son plays, and that one allows him to abuse civilians and PoWs). Now, if the article had discussed the boy playing Civilization or Fable, I'd see a direct correlation between the parental concern and the response.

In my opinion, this idea is ultimately a failure, because it does not impress any change in the childs "behavior" towards this video game. Perhaps if their son pick up Turok for the PS2, they'll be pleased to see that he doesn't execute the surrendering bi-ped dinotroopers. Huzzah.

My suggestion; if you're child is entering the realm of online multiplayer first person shooters, focus on his behavior, not gameplay. Place rules on how he talks to others (some of the most vile trash-talking I've ever heard came from 13 year olds). Forbid him from having insulting or vulgar sprays (images a player can paint temporarily onto a surface in game), forbid him from teabagging, corpse humping, or firing his weapon into other dead players.

Other than that, the best parenting option, when it comes to first person shooters, is to not let your kids play them.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tanking 102: Builds and Skills

At the request of Greg (my guild and alliance leader), I'm adding some more specific info on tanking. There are several key skills that can assist the playing of a tank, depending on whether or not you spec for Strength or Tactics, and whether you spec for energy or adrenaline use:
  • Strength/Adrenaline: Defy Pain (+hp, +AL, -DR), Lion's Comfort (self heal, +adren), "For Great Justice!" (double adren gain)
  • Strength/Energy: Warrior's Endurance (+energy), Flourish (+energy, skill rech), I Will Survive (+regen), Endure Pain (+hp), Dwarven Battle Stance (+IAS, interupt)
  • Tactics/Adrenaline: Auspicious Parry (100% block, +adren), "Watch Yourself" (+AL), Bonetti's Defense (75% block, +energy), Riposte (100% block, +dmg), To the Limit! (+adren), "For Great Justice!" (double adren gain)
  • Tactics/Energy: Gladiator's Defense (75% block, +dmg), Protector's Stance (75% block), Deadly Riposte (100% block, +dmg), Victory is Mine! (self heal), Bonetti's Defense (75% block, +energy)

Signets were not listed because they don't cost adrenaline or energy. Dolyak Signet and Healing Signet are the two most common signets you'll use as a Warrior. Keep in mind both have very serious draw-backs. Dolyak Signet makes you nigh-immoble, so make sure you won't need to move once you use it. If you feel you will need to reposition after casting it, bring along a shadow-step skill (Death's Charge works). Running Warrior's Endurance, Dolyak Signet, and Death's Charge will turn you into a teleporting infinite energy tank. Healing Signet causes -40 armor. For those who don't know how armor works, that means it doubles the damage you take while casting it. Makes sure you're running a block stance while casting it (and make sure that it won't end on skill activation).

Skill synergy is paramount too. Consider running a hammer tank, with Gladiator's Defense, Protector's Stance, and Renewing Smash. Now you can keep up near infinite block, and protect your team too (requires you to stand with the backline, so it's better as an off-tank, or when facing enemies without AoEs). Running Brawling Headbutt and Steelfang Slash in any adrenaline fueled build will give you a constant boost in adrenaline gain, and give you a solid interupt on nasty enemy skills. A Warrior/Paragon build that uses Spear of Fury along with Barbed Spear and Blazing Spear can jack up the teams DPS, while being able to spam "Save Yourselves!", with either a Strength or Tactics spec.

For tanks that run energy intensive builds, the use of a Zealous weapon is highly recommended, especially if you are using an IAS stance (keep in mind, you can only activate one stance at a time; you'll need to decide whether or not attacking faster is more important than blocking). Even though most IAS stances list an increase of 33%, that translates to 50% more attacks. Blunty, if two identical warriors, without attack skills, auto-attack the same target, the warrior under the effect of a 33% IAS stance will do 50% more damage. So, for terms of DPS, no skill is more important to a warrior than one that provides IAS.

I prefer to run Strength/Adrenaline builds. I'll run Flail, Enraging Charge, Lion's Comfort, Defy Pain, "For Great Justice!", "Save Yourselves!", plus two attack skills, either energy based, or the Brawling Headbutt/Steelfang Slash combo, to increase the rate at which I spam "SY!". In my opinion, Defy Pain is the best and most versatile warrior primary tanking skill. With a 20 second duration, it's easy to keep in up indefinitely durring combat. At 16 Strength, it gives +314 HP, +20 AL, and -11 DR. All from one skill. This puts the average tank at 120 AL vs physical, 100 AL vs Elemental. Math time:

NPC deals 100 physical damage with attack 1, and 100 elemental damage with attack 2 to Tank A, who is wearing max AL armor. Tank A takes 50 damage from attack 1, and 70.71 damage from attack 2. The same NPC then attacks Tank B, who is wearing the same armor, but is also running Defy Pain at 16 Strength. Attack 1 does 24.36 damage, while attack 2 does 39 damage.

Now, “SY!” is also, in my opinion, one of the best ways to protect your team:

An NPC boss hits your team with Searing Flames, at 20 Fire Magic, dealing 230 damage (130 base, x2 for boss damage, and we’ll pretend the whole team is on fire because you’re in lava). You monks, mesmers, ritualists, and elementalists all take it on the chin at the listed damage. You assassins and dervishes get hit for 193.41 damage. You paragons and fellow warriors take 162.63 damage, while the rangers laugh it off at 115 damage.

The boss hits you team again, but this time, you’ve cast “SY!”. The monks, elementalists, ritualists, and mesmers all giggle as they take 40.66 damage. The assassins and dervishes tell knock-knock jokes while they take 34.19. The paragons and warriors have an arm wrestling match while they take 28.75 damage, and the rangers shed a single silent tear for the boss as they take 20.33 damage.

The above assumes that no one wears a shield or has native damage reduction, and doesn’t use insignia that boost AL. “Save Yourselves!” is a warrior PvE skill gained from either the Luxons or the Kurzicks. It’s +100 AL for your team, for 4 to 6 seconds, at the cost of 8 adrenaline. It’s pure hotness.

I’ll add more tidbits as they present themselves.