Author Archive: Isey

BFA Launch : Slow Clap or Not so Fast?

This was my experience last night.

Get home from work, make dinner, be a pool boy for a bit.

Think about logging in to Battle for Azeroth at 6pm. Decide  against it thinking it will be a gong show.

6:30, I figure I will get in the queue – even if it is bad, will be interesting to see! Besides, I have dishes to wash from dinner. Get in queue, do dishes, maybe play at a low framerate.

Hit login. Log right in. Pick character. Straight to game.

No lag, no issues. Played through the Kul Tiras introduction. Get an achievement.

First impressions were:

  • Love the new “story telling” format, and curious if they keep it up throughout the expansion. (yay!)
  • First piece of new Azerite armor is a reskin from a piece you get on Argus (boo)
  • Difficulty is fine based on where my gear is at (yay!)
  • I am a bit lost, new areas and a bit uncomfortable after so long of knowing everything (yay! new is good!)
  • There was the first level 120 in 5 hours (boo! or maybe yay!, since I love alts…)

So, completely impressed at how smooth it was for me to enter and play. Awesome experience.

Then I started reading the internet. Lawsuits. Ombudsman getting involved. State Senators being called. Online petitions. All because of login issues. I’d say “first world problems” but there needs to be a more condescending term for people who get angry and threaten over access to a video game. I just can’t think of an existing term that wouldn’t insult the regular group more by being grouped up with the online complaining low-lifes.

Glad I wasn’t those guys. Smooth as a babies bottom.

Well done Blizzard!

(for my server, anyway.)

Battle for Azeroth Plans

Here I am, a WoW blog and blogger again. My normal cycle of getting in and out of the game. It has staying power, at least.

At the end of Legion I did my goal of getting my Bearform artifact appearance and then turned my gaze towards levelling some alts. For some reason I felt like I needed more 110s and a plan to have all the Alliance races and classes represented. I even made a spreadsheet to show what changes I had to make to do that, and what options I had. And of course, in the idea of having equal M/F characters would need one to change sex. Here was the plan:

F Dwarven Hunter
M Night Elf Druid
M Void Elf Monk
F Human Paladin
F LightForged Draenai Priest
M Dark Iron Dwarf Warrior
M Gnome Death K
F Draenai Shaman
M Worgen Rogue
F Blood Elf Demon Hunter
M Kul Tiras M/W
F Pandaren Ma/Wa

My Druid wasn’t changing from a Night Elf, so my hunter had to. I settled on needing a race change to a Dwarf. I had two Draenai – Shaman and Paladin. One needed to change. I decided to plan for changing one to a Human. Decided on Paladin. (notice I said the word plan, things changed…). I didn’t like the female form of the Werewolf so decided to plan on changing to a Male form for my rogue which left a Mage / Warlock needed. I don’t know class restrictions on the Kul Tiras yet so saving the option.

That leaves my NE Druid at 100, Soon-to-be Dwarven Hunter at 110, Soon-to-be Human Paladin at 100, Draenai Shaman at 110, and Soon-to-be Male Worgen at 110. 5 at max.

Next closest is the Blood Elf – who is a Horde – at 108. Rest are at different stages. This plan looked good for me except I found myself not loving the Demon Hunter playstyle. When I bought my Paladin Race change on a whim I did a faction change instead and made her Horde. Afterall, this expansion will have very different levelling experiences and I think I want to play through the Horde side as well. My tossup for “main” was between Druid and Paladin (Monk as well, but he’s only level 40 so will be a longer slog). So now I have two mains, one for each faction, and can enjoy the story from both sides. The Druid and Paladin will be my focus. To start at least.

I’ll be levelling the Void Elf Monk. Lightforged Draenai, and soon to be Kul Tiras Mage/Warlock and Dark Iron Dwarf Warrior as well. This happens with the excitement of each expansion but eventually it will wane and I will move on. Lots on the horizon. In the meantime I have a plan to play WoW and am very much looking forward to it – even if I couldn’t sort through a full Alliance lineup.

I am back from vacation just in time, and also am looking forward to finishing off my “Spec me out!” posts. So a health dose of WoW it is!

“Work” Opportunity!

This is very relevant to Blaugust.

Somehow, my team at work felt creating an awesome newsletter was the best way for us to communicate to our business network of ~350 separate business units.

It’s good information but a bad platform.

I’d like someone great with WordPress to spend some time converting 3 multi section newsletters into a blog so I can show the team how an interactive platform could be more beneficial.

I don’t have the time or the internal resources to get it done.

Now, due to international work laws, etc. instead of hiring and paying for it I am offering an Amazon Gift Card.

I’m estimating $200 as its a demonstration platform and all the content is already created, just needs to be cut/pasted, categorized, etc. I am flexible if it takes more time than expected. (budgeting 10-15 hours)

email me at chris at ihaspc.com if you would like to discuss further!

Spec Me Out! : Rogue

I have always loved playing a rogue. Generally my rogue was my “escape” character back when you were able to have those characters you went to when you needed a break from the guild, or just needed to be anonymous for awhile. I did not PVP on my rogue but instead did fun other challenges like pickpocketing for epics. When Combat Rogues became a thing I naturally gravitated to that specialization as I was always less about the sneaky sneaky and poisons and more about a swashbuckling style combatant. So here I am, wanting to play a rogue but my time and style in WoW often revolves around getting good 5 man queues – since I enjoy that the most. This eliminates any pure DPS class for me as a “main” as the 10-15x extra wait to play one hurts the enjoyment of the game for me. This is how I am deeply rooted in the thought that due to the way WoW plays every class needs at least one heal or tank spec. I am going one further in this series as I introduce ideas for every spec a class is missing. The Rogue gets to be the first! This is meant to be a thought starter and hoping people share their thoughts and ideas.

Swashbuckler – Tanking Spec

Dodging blows, parrying attacks, a nimble tank that steps in and out of trouble with flair and reckless courage. This is by far the easiest, because the Rogue already has so many great tools to tank. Feint, Evasion, Cloak of Shadows, Feint/Elusiveness, Cheat Death – you can almost tank as is, and some Rogues have done small stints in the past when the tank went down. The Rogue tank is only missing the ability to take consistent and big damage.

Tanking mechanic: Panache: Takes X% less damage to enemies within X yards of the Rogue. The focus on defensive mechanics lowers damage output by X%. Panache is meant to close the game on straight up damage soaking baselines of the other tanks while bringing their DPS in line. You can tweak dodge and parry mechanics to make up the rest. X% being the difference of what the rogue has versus current tanks and the X yards range is to keep things interesting and force good cooldown use and positioning. Abilities could increase / decrease the percentage DR (damage reduction) on Panache to allow good use of energy and combo points.

Really, that is all it would take to make a Rogue a tank, along with tweaks to their defensive cooldowns. Figured to start with the easy one!

Gunslinger – Ranged DPS

Living between the edges of melee and ranged the Gunslinger wields pistols with accuracy and lethality. With pistols being introduced to the Rogue class in Legion this is a great opportunity to have the Rogue as a ranged spec. Pistols: Range X% less than rifles. Dual wield.

Mechanic: Speed Reload – the Gunslinger starts with 6 Combo points (representing 6 bullets) and spends them on damaging abilities. They must be “reloaded” before being able to be used again at a rate of X seconds per point

The idea behind the gunslinger is to switch the combo points mechanic on it’s head. Legion already introduced the idea of 6 combo points being possible. It’s a midrange dps spec that needs to be closer to the action than their traditional ranged counterparts, and has almost complete mobility – except when they have to reload – for which they have to be completely stationary to do. This puts them in a niche spot where most ranged DPS classes are timing their DPS losses while moving – and the Gunslinger is timing their DPS classes on reloading while forced stationary. Skills and procs / shots can lower reload time by X% and the player needs to balance when to reload vs burst windows. This is also unique as most classes either have a priority system or a builder/spender setup. Tons of ideas on different abilities from trick shots to emptying the chambers – would be a really fun specialization to fully kit out and living between the melee and ranged dps puts it in a very unique spot.

Bandolier – Healer

This was the hardest spec to think about. I didn’t want to introduce magic to a martial class so had to go the route of alchemy. If they can use poisons to such good effect, why not concoctions that heal as well? The Bandolier supports their group by tossing potions that have strange and wonderful effects with buffing and healing during combat. Many are attached to his bandolier for quick access, but due to the volotile nature of these alchemized creations some of the more powerful ones need to be combined / mixed right before use (which explains casting cooldowns on use). Think shades of Professor Putricide.

To add some flair and to make this class more interesting it could be a bit off centre like Disc Priests – using Damage Reduction shields, concoctions to add hit points, stats, etc. More of a buffer than straight healer but with enough juice to heal solo through using the various means. The AOE healing would be a Mentos / Coke style item thrown into a group and the resulting spray has AOE effects.

Healing Mechanic: Oops! – while preparing a potion with a concoct timer there is an X% chance that the effect is increased by X%, X% chance that one or more effects are included in the potion, or that no concoct (combo) points or energy is used.

This adds a bit of “roll the bones” to it which I found a very fun mechanic (I know others disagree!) but a few elements of randomization can add some fun flavour to the class as long as that randomization is minimal and not dependent on the class performing against their peers.

None of these specs are much of a stretch in terms of lore or what has been previously introduced into the game.

Would you play any of these Rogue specs?

Spec Me Out! : A WoW Class Design Series

Yes I am on vacation, but have some extra time some mornings and like to keep up with what is going on in Blognation so will try to squeeze in a post or two.

The next series of posts I write will be around class design in World of Warcraft. I won’t be talking about current specs or the broader design principles that Blizzard has used over the years (or is using in BFA) but instead I will talk about what is missing.

And that is, a healing / tanking spec for every class.

Like many armchair developers this idea is very personal and applicable to me – so it must be important, right? The truth is – using my experience and aspirations as an example – classes not having a heal or tanking specialization  limits everyone who wants to play a DPS class. Directly – I would love to play a Rogue as a main in BFA but the lack of being able to mix it up or have options outside of DPS isn’t that enticing. Even worst, the wait times to do 5 man dungeons is currently 10-15x longer than a healer or a tank. For someone who might only get an hour to play here and there I don’t want to spend that hour watching a timer tick down and hope when it does I become part of a functioning group.

I have heard the counter arguments before – that people will feel like they have to use those specs if they are available (some sort of peer pressure?) and that balance is already hard enough (it is, but we have learned to live in imbalance in WoW).  Again – with my experience – all I can share that while I am sitting in a DPS queue bored to hell on my Rogue sapping and pickpocketing random mobs I could be tanking. And if I WAS tanking, that means three other DPS players also got in faster. Instead we are all sitting around waiting for more tanks and healers to join the fray. I want to – but also in the class theme that I want to play.

This series will explore some ideas on how to introduce different specializations for every class in WoW – and for EVERY type. For example Rogues – which is where I will start – I will introduce ideas behind a healing spec, tanking spec, and ranged dps spec. For Monks (as an example) just a ranged DPS spec since that is all they are missing. I am not going to talk about what specs to remove or what to change in existing specs – I’ll let you do that on your own if you like any of the ones I introduce.

Some will have some new and interesting mechanics and some will definitely be a bit of a stretch – but I know everyone  who plays WoW spends some time thinking about class design and for some fun and hopefully to inspire some conversations I wanted to stretch my legs a bit to do the same.

I’ll be starting with the Rogue next post!

 

Blaugust, Good Luck!

I know it won’t come to many a surprise that Blaugust has been reborn this year and just by you reading this here I know you are in the know. We have a small little corner of a community in BlogNation and if you look at my blogroll you will find many/most of the posts recently are about Blaugust.

I think it is a great initiative! And I am so very sad (and sorry) that I can’t participate. I had proudly displayed my Blaugust Champion graphic for several years (from 2014) like that guy who won a wrestling championship once in high school and still keeps the trophy on his desk well into adulthood. That was me. Blaugust was the first time I wrote more than 15 posts in a month (and the last time) and it was a fun exercise in though provocation, stamina, consistency, and routine. And I really loved it. That was 2014  and since then I have dedicated my first two weeks of August to teaching kids at a hockey school in beautiful cottage country in Canada. I literally have an hour every morning to check work emails and then its full go time – which leaves me no time to properly participate in Blaugust. I’ll still be reading blogs, of course, when I get spare time and breaks to keep up with the crew crushing posts, but that is about the extent I will be able to participate.

I love it, and I wish them well, and hope it gives me more blogroll fodder!

On that note – you probably won’t hear from me for the next two weeks – but I may try to squeeze in a post or two. Have fun, and I am suffering from FOMO already!

Battle For Azeroth Plans

I hate to call them plans because chances are they are abandoned / forgotten before they are done. That is just how life goes sometimes, and WoW life is something else entirely.

I was looking at what is in BFA and the normal “struggles” when there is a new expansion. Who to “main”? And while there is / has been a lot of discussion about mains and what it means in an MMO a the end of the day WoW has so many options and so many fun classes / specs that I don’t think you can make a wrong decision.  With that in mind, here is the schizophrenia that it produced and my decision making around it.

  • Druid (110) – my “always” main, that gives every playstyle in one package (Tank, Heals, MDPS, RDPS), my soul and lifeblood in WoW and sometimes the very reason why I feel compelled to play the expansions. His story will be told as long as there is a WoW to visit. Of course, just because the story needs to be told doesn’t mean he needs to be first, just needs to get there eventually.
    • Pros: Most comfortable with the class ins and outs. I have the new bear form. With tank/heals get almost instant queues to one of my favourite part of the game, 5 mans.
    • Cons: I have played him the most. I get bored easy.
  • Rogue (110) – usually my second class to level, because the playstyle is just so fun!
    • Pros: Fun playstyle. Singularly focused (I only like one spec of the three, really, so I don’t need to gear for any others, or learn others, etc.)
    • Cons: MDPS means long wait times to do dungeons.
  • Paladin (110) – either my first or second character to level cap past 3 expansions (second this time around in Legion)
    • Pros: all the same as the Druid in playstyle and wait times, but with Plate armor and a class theme I really align with
    • Cons: I don’t like healing or dps with the Paladin so I end up being a “tank only”.
  • Hunter (110)  – finally levelled one to 110 in Legion and was great fun!
    • Pros – Ranged class (that I normally don’t play), was my actually first WoW character (if you are the nostalgic type. I am). Survival spec is very interesting, to say the least.
    • Cons – Same as single role like the rogue (DPS only, even though there are both ranged and melee options). They changed a lot about Marksman spec that I liked for BFA.
  • Shaman (106) – My “other” main healer from the raid days. And current bank alt. Have been plugging away to get her to 110
    • Pros – love the shaman theme. Has a healing, ranged, and melee DPS options (of which I usually go melee / heals, although Elemental is an interesting spec to explore)
    • Cons – No tank option, which is something I enjoy in 5 mans. I have read that the Enhance spec is a mess in BFA so far.
  • Demon Hunter (105) – My only Horde character. (I regret that, kinda mostly).
    • Pros – good class thematically, can glide, and tank.  Tank and glide is the new slip and slide. I like how the class plays and feels.
    • Cons – I’d most likely reset and start an Alliance DH since it sucks not being able to pass/share gold, etc between your own alts. I am pushing to play WoW “free” so time away from the Alliance is time away from working towards WoW tokens.
  • Death Knight (58) – A Gnome. How cute. Also undead.
    • Pros – would be a mostly new experience with a tanking and MDPS plate class that is interesting.
    • Cons – the class lore and feel hasn’t really grabbed me with anything that exciting so far.
  • Warlock (26) – Another Gnome. Why so low? I mean, in levels. This is my main candidate for my 110 boost.
    • Pros – have never played a cloth caster at level. Would be a completely new experience!
    • Cons – have never played a cloth caster at level. Would be a completely new experience.
  • Mage (14) – see above. Yup, that simple. I may have to delete this guy if I want to do a Kul Tiras…

The next three classes, I have pegged to do with the new races. Two of which I already have unlocked.

  • Monk (26) – This is a high candidate for being a “main”. I love the monk thematically, both in WoW but in a broader, fantasy sense (if I ever get to play D&D for reals this will be my class).
    • Pros – Covers my three favorite roles – Tank, Healing, MDPS. Is an elf. I like elves. But a new kind of elf. The void elf. Has a cool name, Bleys. Bonus points if you know where that is from without googling it.
    • Cons – need to level to 120 the old fashioned way (will explain soon).
  • Priest (20) – Not interested as a main but haven’t ever explored a priest class.
    • Pros: Can heal (high comfort) and DPS (ranged), and is a cloth caster so that’s completely new to me. Is a Lightforged Draenai. Has a cool name – Llewella. Bonus points if you know where that is from without googling it, and is related to Bleys.
    • Cons: Do not love the class thematically, need to level to 120 the old fashioned way (will explain soon)
  • Warrior (Null) – I know I have to level this class to 120 at some point during expansion.
    • Pros – Can tank, is plate wearing. I don’t play enough plate wearing classes.
    • Cons: No heal option as a secondary. Can’t exist until BFA launces, since I want to be a Dark Iron Dwarf. Need to level to 120 the old fashioned way

Yes, that is a quick summary of every class. I mean, at expansion time everything is on the table, although some are far more likely than others.

With the bottom three classes and the new races, they introduced cosmetic “Heritage armor” that you earn by levelling one of the new classes from 20-120 without a boost.

They are beautiful, and incredibly detailed.

At first I felt like I would be fine only doing the Dark Iron Dwarf one. I don’t have a dwarf. After seeing the armor, I definitely want/need one. Here it is. And it looks far better (and has some animations) when you see it in game. (You can view it at the Stormwind Embassy).

I

compliments of wowhead

I really love it. And even though it can be transmogged onto anything (I believe?) it would fit a Warrior type well. Here are the Lightforged Draenai and Void Elf, respectively.

compliments of WoWhead

complimeants of wowhead

Sure, they are pretty good, but not Dark Iron Dwarf good. Again, in game the animations are really good and the details are awesome.

Odd, because i have never been a collector of these kinds of things, but I am not sure why I want these.

I have been playing in and around and messing with all the classes above both in game and in my head, and trying to sort through my plans for the expansion. Do you have any plans or thoughts for BFA?

What is it that thing they say about plans and planning…..

 

Magic The Gathering Beta Key Giveaway

I have 5 keys that I will /random off Friday, at 5pm EST.

All you have to do is leave a comment below (and have a valid email address so I can send it to you if you win). I don’t keep email addresses, I don’t have a mailing list, and I won’t use it for any reason but to send you the key.

Based on my readership and number of comments I get here, you have a 90+% chance of winning!

MTGA is a really fun card game, and is very generous with it’s starter decks and rate you get free decks. It’s been a lot of fun so far and I still play daily (to get my daily quest gold).

You can read my MTG:A posts here if you are curious

Keeping this short and sweet so people can be up and running for the weekend!

 

Mission “Impossible” Accomplished

I was so excited I forgot to take a picture. Compliments of Icy Veins

Well, turns out I don’t completely suck.

Only partially.

And I had little confidence going into the weekend.

When I realized the new Artifact appearances were going away in Battle for Azeroth it was enough for me to resubscribe. One of the issues I have always had with the Bear form of my druid is that you don’t get to change looks that often – and while a lot of that changed with the Artifact in Legion, the Mage Tower was truly unique as it was a were-bear kind of thing (how would you describe it?). This was evolution! No longer would I have to walk on all fours.

As long as I could beat the challenge. Which in prior posts and comments even here, seemed to be reserved for the Mythic+ raider type and not the Joe Isey Casual player like me.

It definitely didn’t start off well, either. I banged my head against it with a 920ish ilvl for Guardian spec until I realized that I needed to focus on gearing up the best I could in the time time remaining to make it easy. So I would do all the weekly events that would give me a chance at a gear upgrade and throughout, periodically, do ten or so tries of the challenge to keep fresh on it and also see how I was progressing.

For those who don’t know the challenge I will link the Wowhead Guide  explanation here – as it is far better written and it would take a lot of space to replicate what is already there. In short, the tanking ones – and the Guardian Druid in particular – are considered some of the more challenging ones. It definitely felt that way. I struggled to get out of Phase 1 fast enough to limit the number of Smoldering Infernos in play (who smash you off the floating island to your instant death) and as such, was recommended to get Luffa Wrappings so I could safely DPS the first phase boss in a safe place. I managed to get three more legendaries (total of 9 on my druid), none of which were the Luffa Wrappings. Still, by the time I won it I had two “better” legendaries that really helped me be successful (along with a 937 ilvl).  Fury of Nature, and Soul of the Archdruid. Both of which will be replaced with greens in a month. Along with the other 9 plus my awesome weapon.

But not my form. I can always Transmog to it now, and now that the base is unlocked I can also take my time and unlock the different color palettes as well whenever I want. You just need to have the base.

Winning for me was the combination of getting really comfortable with the fight, having the right gear and consumables, and last (but not least) using some macros that really limited the buttons I needed to use in order to focus on what was going on around me. It was the first time I had a strong feeling of challenge and the resulting confidence of actually accomplishing something hard in WoW since we were raiding the original Karazahn.

My angst now, is that if enough people complain about it that Blizzard brings it back EZ-Mode to appease those who didn’t get it in time. The effort was well worth it, and they announced it well in advanced so I would hope not. And yes, it would feel like a minimization of my accomplishment due to the fact I had to put in extra time, money and effort and was up against the wall. Dammit, here I am all drunk with elitism and power already.

My conundrum now is whether or not I even keep playing with an expansion so close – especially since the Artifact Weapons are being demoted / neutered in Tomorrow’s patch. I don’t know if there is enough to keep me excited for another month’s token fee. I think I have a few days left to figure that out.

 

Warriors of Waterdeep

Not sure how I got on the mail list but somehow a mobile game for Dungeons and Dragons entered early access (yes, that damn thing again..) and out of sheer curiosity I downloaded it.

The gist of the game is a top down, class and group based dungeon crawl. You get XP and levels and abilities are tied to equipment (which can be upgraded). You get packs of cards for completing new dungeon areas under “Play” and once you finish off a section of the dungeon you can do a “Challenge” mode. The challenge mode allows you to do the same boss over and over with increasing difficulties (And rewards). At the end of the crawl, you get an option to “keep rewards” or “continue”.

After a challenge mode you get a chest with a timer. The better the contents of the chest the longer the timer (minimum 3 hours so far, longest I have received was 12. There is at least a 24h one that I have seen an “ad” for.) So the game manages to hit all the right monetization notes – gold (in game currency farmed) or gems (paid for, and you can exchange for gold) card packs (get on completion or buy) and chests (timer unlocked that gems can speed up).

Outside of levels on equipment (number of cards to upgrade, gold to pay for the transformation) and levels of the characters (equipment is gated by levels) they also have a “renown” levelling mechanic which is the total “fame” of the party. Unlocking renown gives new character unlocks (of which you get a choice of at each unlock). So there is plenty to grind out and level here, and plenty of ways to spend your money (if you aren’t patient like me).

So far it has been fun and taking up more of my time than Clash Royale lately and there is enough carrots and “next level” points to keep me going for now. My only real complaint is that it is very slow to play and unlock. For example, if I do a 3 round challenge it takes me over 10 minutes (whereas three rounds of CR is 3-4 minutes each) so you can’t bite-size it as much. It is also pretty hard and I haven’t even unlocked the second challenge mode yet – because my group is only around level 6 each and there are creatures already one-shotting me. (You can also continue if you die in a dungeon, but that costs gems…)

I think it is a bit uneven and they will have to make it easier to unlock the first 2 or 3 challenge modes or people will lose interest. Going from level 6 to 7 on each charcater will probably take me a few weeks and I need level 7 to finish off the second dungeon leg. I have the patience many may not.

All in all, will see how it progresses but at this point I don’t feel the need to reward with cash yet, but happy to help them sort through their balancing before they go live. Which is probably in 2020. (Yes, getting cynical on EA titles…)

Hurry Before It’s Gone! : World of Warcraft

As per my normal modus operandi for World of Warcraft I was done with this expansion. Truth be told this expansion was the longest and hardest (that’s what she said?) I have played a WoW expansion since Wrath of the Lich King. It was a fun, well put together experience overall. Sure, I felt the story went from great (Suramar) to a bit silly (SPACESHIPS!) but hey, Blizzard has never been known for their storytelling. Anyway it is with a bit of shock and surprise to myself finding myself re-installing WoW so close to a new expansion – especially because I always (purposefully) enter an expansion well after launch so things aren’t so crowded and annoying. Heck, I don’t even know if I am going to play Battle for Azeroth at all. What was the impetus? The artifact bear form appearance.

courtesy: Wowhead

Part of the reason why I even bother to play WoW is my attachment to my Druid. With each new expansion I feel like his story deserves to be told until the day he officially enters the Emerald Dream. This has meant some long forays into the game (WOTLK, Legion) and some really short ones (Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor). I usually Bear / Heal as my main specs (not necessarily in that order) and when they launched the new bear form above this year I was really excited to get it – until, it turns out, you have to be really, really good to or have an insane ilvl. Neither of which I am/have. With the news that these forms are no longer able to be attained once Battle for Azeroth starts, and that the time locked mechanic which gates the attempts to get it are now permanently unlocked I knew I had to go try.

Besides, now is the best time – you get a free, maxed out artifact weapon on a simple quest. So the ilvl will climb a bit. While it is good to have a purpose, the short timeline adds a bit of stress and since it is a solo mission I can’t just find help.

This may be my last adventure with my Druid, so wish me luck.

(Aether) Revolting : MTGA

Well, the new MTGA decks have really kicked my ass. I dropped from a high silver in the ladder placements to right back to entry level Bronze. Turns out, like most online card games, if you don’t keep with the Joneses you get kicked out of the neighbourhood.

Things were getting a bit boring anyway.

The good news with the Kaladesh and Aether Revolt decks is 264 and 184 new cards – respectively – of all new cards, features, and playstyles.  The new resource “energy” is another thing to manage and does make an interesting dynamic on card interactivity. So I spent ALL of my saved up gold and bought all packs from the sets and built myself another deck. I also burned through a bunch of my Wildcards when I wanted to duplicate some of the cards I found. Here is my deck:

I know that doesn’t tell you much, but I will break down the important parts and how they interact. But first, I want to explain how I ended up with 78 cards in a 60 card base game.

From what I have learned, in MTG proper you play two out of three matches. You play your core deck – of around 60 cards – and then you have a “sideboard” of cards that you can swap in / add in to your main deck after your first match when you see what kind of a deck your opponent plays. This builds in the ability to counter certain decks but to not face a bloated deck with too many options. In MTG:A this is why people quit so fast (and often) is because they don’t have the cards to beat certain win conditions so at the first sign of them them just give up. Not me, since I can face everything, I hang in there and make the games interesting. The number of times I have come back from “certain” doom with this approach is enough to have me keep playing that way.

In Ladder Constructed gameplay in MTG:A they are single games, so you have to be able to handle all kinds of decks and opponents. Mine does that pretty well, with a 57+% winrate over every colour – except Green, oddly enough.

Onto my deck. Which, I will say, probably loses 9/10 in real competitive play but online in beta mode is doing just fine (thank you).

It’s a Green/Black deck, the same two land types I played on my main deck.  First I will go through the “energy” based cards I use – and some cards I use to protect and enhance them.

My deck consists of a lot of easy, low cost cards that if not cleared quickly can become powerful cards. Here, the Longtusk cub is a simple 2/2 card that when successfully attacking a player, generates 2 energy. Which it can then consume to become a 3/3 creature. And then a  4/4 the next time. This card is great because it forces players to block it or it can grow in power (where often, I could let a 2/2 creature do damage to me to use my cards for other purposes).

Another energy using/producing card at a low cost. The “Menace” attribute means that this creature can only be blocked by two or more creatures – which makes it a safe, early attack. Drawing cards is a huge benefit in MTG and it is worth it (especially early) at the cost of one life.

This card has a quick 2 energy generation, but the added bonus of of acting as a land card for the cost of one energy. This helps get low cost cards out quickly, early. The next two cards work in tandem to defend these cards by removing defenders and protecting them.

Channelling a bit of ‘300’ here with the kick, this low cost card remover is great to get rid of those early, low cost cards you may face (I am looking at you, mono-red decks) and has the added bonus of “Revolt” – meaning at a tiny cost you can remove bigger cards as well if you lost a permanent in the round.

This card is amazing to protect your low cost energy producing cards and it is great to watch an opponent burn a removal card only to counteract it.

Getting into a higher cost card this great attacker and defender has two benefits from its interaction with energy. One, and the big one, is that it gains “Hexproof”. Hexproof protects it from direct counter cards from an opponent. For example, if they cast a “do five damage to target creature card” I get the opportunity before it hits to pay three energy and protect it from any direct cards, so that card is wasted on it. Plus it keeps the +1/+1 power gained upon use so it’s another avenue to increase the strength of a card.

Those six cards are the core and crux of my early plays in matches. The second is all about the Walking Ballista – but I will build up the cards that make that card special first.

The winding constrictor is an amazing low cost card that feeds into itself (and additive, the more you have on the board).  Energy accumulation is also affected by the +! bonus. To best explain how it works I am going to introduce the tandem low card I usually play right behind it:

Rishkar not only makes every card with a counter on it a potential land (allowing you to play higher cost cards far earlier) the +1/+1 feeds perfectly into the Winding Constrictor. If I play Rishkar right after Winding and clock both Rishkar and Winding as the two receiving the counters, Winding Constrictor becomes a 4/5 card and Rishkar a 4/4. That’s a lot of power for a total cost of 5 between the two. IF I had another Winding Constrictor on the board and clicked the 2 WCs as the recipients of Rishkar’s entry benefit both would be 5/6 cards. That’s huge considering they represent half of the total starting life of your opponent.

The real gem of my deck is this card:

What makes this card so powerful is that at any time – ANY time – you can click on it, remove +1/+1 from it, and do that damage to a creature, planeswalker, or opponent. And because you can consistently add +1/+1 through it’s self mechanic (4 land cost) you have a constant clearing card. The other big benefit to this card that even if your opponent plays a removal card – an exile, or do X damage that would kill the creature, you still get to remove as many +1/+1 as you have before the clear it takes effect. This card is a monster. It does cost 4 land to make it a +2/+2 base (or 6 for 3/3) but if you had Winding Constrictors on the board, that +2/+2 entry is now a +4/+4. The way the last three cards interact with each other is amazing – and best part is even if you don’t have them all together they are powerful individually.

If I have any combination of Wild Constrictors or Walking Ballistas on the board and I introduce this card, the opponent usually quits immediately. It’s a high cost card but with the combination of cards that can act as land cards above (at low cost) I can get this out on the field of play quickly and often.

Those 10 cards make up the bulk of my attack and defence. However,  I have had to add cards into my deck to protect myself from often played decks. These cards have good general use as is but critical when facing specific opponents.

How to Counter a ‘Blue” Counter Deck

Blue decks focus on stopping you from getting your creatures on the board, and/or removing them once they are there.

Journey to Eternity means your creature cards get played straight from your graveyard meaning you can “bring back” any card that was put there without having it countered as a card play directly. It’s a very powerful card and when facing a blue deck I sort out how to get it activated as soon as possible. This way if they counter a creature card I play, it is put into my graveyard. Meaning my next turn I can get it on the board without fear of it being countered.

The Cat Snake (amazing concept) can’t be countered and while alive means that your other creature cards you play can’t be countered as well. It can still be removed once played so it is a good idea to hold onto a Blossoming defence while it’s on the board because any blue deck will be looking to remove this as fast as it can.

How to beat a White Vampire or Blue Merfolk deck

We see these decks a lot and they are low cost creature cards that build off of each other. For example with Merfolk, you have unblockable 1/1 creatures. Then they play a Merfolk Wizard which gives all Merfolk +1/+1. Then another, then another, etc. Now those unblockable cards are 5/5 cards suddenly and you can’t do anything about it. The key is to clear them early and often before they can grow into powerful cards, using this one:

It’s a good clearing card and the key is ensuring you don’t play it too early or too late.

How to beat a Scarab God / “Return to Owner’s Hand” deck

Some decks have a powerful creature – such as the Scarab or Locust God – that even if you kill them they immediately go back to the hand of the player and can be played next turn. It’s a really frustrating mechanic and often a player getting those cards out can outlast most decks. This is where Vraska’s Contempt comes in:

Because the card uses the “Exile” mechanic instead of “Destroy” the card is fully removed from play for the rest of the game. I keep a couple of these in my deck in case I run into one of those card types.

So there you have it. This is my current deck in MTG:A that I am rocking a near 60% winrate with and have a winning record against all colors EXCEPT green. Not sure where my luck is with green, but going to pay close attention to how they are beating me to see if I need to add some more cards to the deck.

Even if you don’t play magic, check out the cards – the art is definitely amazing and I appreciate that side of things.

Any questions, thoughts, or comments?

I’ll Show You Mine : Steam Spend

Steam recently added the ability to see how much you have spent with them.

Here is the link.

(You have to log in and all that jazz).

In the spirit of fun, and transparency (because why not) let’s see who the true spending addicts are!

External Funds Used
This is a sum of external funds that have been applied to your Steam account, either to purchase games on the Steam store or fund your Steam Wallet. This value is used to determine if an account is a “Limited User Account”.
Type Time Calculated Amount in USD
TotalSpend 2018-06-09 08:30:02.783 $948.97
OldSpend 2018-06-09 08:30:02.783 $500.96
PWSpend 2018-06-09 08:30:02.783 $0.00

$948.97 USD. Yikes. I could have gone on a vacation.

Still, Not all that bad. Not as bad as I was expecting, of course. And of course that doesn’t count any other platform, box sales, etc. Just steam. I’m actually mildly disappointed I didn’t crack 1000. Anyone know of a game for sale for 51.03?

Care to share your steam spend? I know that is treading on some pretty personal ground, but we are all friends here.

Could be therapeutic.

 

Counterproductive Inducement : Battlefield 1

I have been sticking with Battlefield 1 since it is included in my annual pass for Origin. Entering an “old” game is hard as you are around a lot of players who have been playing a long time. Games like Battlefield 1 have perks and benefits for playing their games (as they should) that are not pay to win. But playing over time gives two benefits: first is knowing the maps really well, which gives a historical and practised advantage and the second is due to special skills you get by unlocking the game. Some of the requirements of which encouraged me to play counter to the needs and goals of my team. More specifically, trying to actually win.

I want this. But the advanced version.

I tend to play medics in shooter games (as I often play healers in MMOs) as it is usually underappreciated, underrepresented, and a very powerful way to play. When someone kills you in BF1 it shows you information about them – their rank, what dog tags they have, your K-D ration with them for the round, and what weapon – how they killed you. It also shows what “perks” they had equipped at the time. This is how I learned that perks even existed, and I decided to do some research on which fit my favoured role the best.

The perk I fell in love with is the Concealed Rescue specialisation. One thing I learned from Coppertopper in a previous BF1 post that you can “spot” a downed ally which lets them know you are coming to revive them – encouraging them to wait a bit longer and not release so fast. It also gives them a handy tracker to see how far away you are from them. Concealed Rescue automatically pops smoke on them to conceal they body so you can revive a bit safer.

That’s amazing.

Due to my experience in Project Reality and other, better paced shooter games using smoke and cover as a medic is key, and something I do quite often. Taking out that step (and the supply step of running out of smoke grenades) is a dream. An amazing dream. I want that!

The pathway to it wasn’t so bad. I had to unlock three different “getting started” service assignments. Since I was primarily playing medic I was fortunate that I unlocked this through normal play (which I wasn’t even aware of). And also, since I am often happy to hop into a tank or APC I almost had that one done too. The other three – Assault Kit, Recon Kit, and Support kit I had nothing in. Time to bear down.

Much made sense. Resupply 20 different teammates. Perform 10 Suppression assists. Etc. Except when I got to the last one, which I HAD to complete, which was “Kill 20 people with crossbow grenades”. Which is something I didn’t use at all. And it was the barrier for to move on. (Get 20 kills in a tank was easy and part of normal gameplay). The crossbow grenade is exactly what it sounds like and challenging to hit from distance. I tried to be mindful of using it when it made sense only and completing map objectives. In 10 hours I had 1 kill with it. This was not going as planned. So, I bore down, and started using it exclusively. It still took me a long time, but I would get 2-3 kills a round. I would usually end up doing horribly with 2-3 kills and 15-30 deaths. The more I died, or more I just missed kills (did good damage but not enough for the kill and a teammate would finish them off) the less and less I cared about how I was doing for my team and more and more I just wanted to get it done. And when I did, I was ecstatic!

Until the next unlock revealed itself (which it doesn’t unless you unlock the step before).

Good news is, as you advance you don’t need all of them but just 5 of 6. So I had some room here.

The “bayonet charge” will result in more suicidal / waste of rounds for assault specialties.

There were 4 sensible and 100% applicable ones to the medic class and playing as a medic. Revives. Heals. Kills with a specific medic gun. All things you would get in the normal gameplay of being a medic. And then two which sucked big time. The first is win a game of RUSH mode. Which, each time I has checked, has had zero servers using. So there is the 6/6 I would have to skip. And the next is get 20 kills with a specific handgun. I have everything else I can get but that, and in all of my rounds I had 3 hand gun kills. So I did a few rounds that I “wrote off” and just used the handgun. Doubled my kill count. Up to 6. I will have to spend a full night to get there, I think.

The grind is bad because it’s forcing me to act counter to my team’s best interest in the short term to better support my team in the long run. It’s bad game design. The thing I hate is that I know I have another bad one in the next step to finalize – getting kills with rifle grenades – which means, as a medic, I have to drop either my ability to heal or my ability to revive (that ability only fits in one of those slots). So in order to be a better medic I have to reduce my capability to be a medic.

Even after all of this complaining I am still trying to get there, because the reward is worth it. The hours of gaming to get there will be un-fun and a writeoff for me though – and that is frustrating. They should have built in tasks that required you to be a great medic, to get great medic rewards.

Hopefully Battlefield V remedies this.

Mind your Manners : Twitter Snitch Tagging

I am not an avid Twitter user. I have an account, I consume tweets sometimes and I even interact with some of Blognation there now and again. I wouldn’t classify myself as a regular user or even that interested in the platform – let alone take the time to blog about it. Except for an article I read this morning which rubbed me the wrong way. And normally I don’t mind being rubbed.

The article is here, go ahead, and enjoy the read.

I actually thought it was satire at first.I thought I was reading the Beaverton, or The Onion, but no.  If you don’t want to read it here is the basics of it – and I have never even heard of the term “Snitch Tagging”.

The general notion of Snitch Tagging is that when people are talking about you, in a public forum, they should be able to do so privately. And the act of “snitch tagging” is when a third party who reads you referencing or talking about somebody “tags” them in the thread so they are aware.

For example.

  • @ihaspc tweets – “I am a WAY BETTER Blogger than Bhagpuss. I can’t believe people read his stuff”.
  • @memyselfandI tweets – “@Bhagpuss”

And somehow, many people have a huge problem with this. It is akin to “I want to publically shame/criticise/make fun of/reference these people in a global, OPEN forum, but I don’t want them to know it is me!”

That is such bullshit.

First off I never say anything about someone I wouldn’t say to their face. That is just good manners. And if I have a problem with something someone said or did, I should approach them about it. If I am not comfortable with that, then i should just just keep my mouth twitter shut.  At bare minimum, if I want to talk about someone and them not know about it – I can do that in private, direct messages to my friends. (I still don’t do that). Or, just say it, and who cares. But don’t get mad at people for letting subject matter people know how you are sharing your non-private thoughts in a global, public forum about them.

Is this old school thinking? Where and how do people think it is fair and fine to talk about people – in a completely open, global forum, and be upset that someone else made the person aware?

In fact, I believe it should be the opposite – that Twitter should automatically notify someone when their handle / organisation is referenced.

In the article, the reason they use is that less people are sharing less information. BUT – if you are sharing a personal opinion, you should be able to defend or stand by it. If you are sharing facts, you have nothing to worry about. The only people that have anything to worry about when sharing information about someone or an organisation is if they are trying to slander them or use it for their personal benefit. Or hide behind their computer screen.

I can’t see any reason why this is an issue – is this an age / demographic thing? Am I missing something that is actually important here? Or am I just taking crazy pills?

 

Paying to Fix your Mistakes: Destiny 2

Much hubaloo was made yesterday when the Destiny 2 Year 2 Roadmap was revealed. They are finally addressing some of the long standing issues and bad design decisions they made in the sequel, and it is release on September 8th, 2018.

In a paid expansion, with annual pass option.

Oh, hello greed! Nice to see you again!

It is no surprise that Destiny 2 was a pretty big step backwards in terms of expectations, reception, and engaging their player base long term. Heck, D2 fansites stopped reporting concurrent players because it showed how steep of a cliff the population was jumping off of and didn’t want to “present a false narrative” to the wider customer base. With all the disappointed customers, and people who paid for expansion packs but didn’t bother playing because the game was so bad (hi, that’s me!), you would think the answer to winning back their customer base would be to fix the issues and invite the community back before charging them.

Well, not this guy. Destiny 2 remains dead to me and I hope other players are smart enough not to buy into this scam as well. I know it will bring some hopefuls back. I don’t remember, in my almost 10 years blogging, being so disappointing in a company or title.  So much so, in fact, that I am worried I am misplacing it a bit. Still, this is my rant-how-I-feel-off-the-cuff post after watching the live stream yesterday and absorbing the news. Of course, my disappointment is only equal to the high expectations I held for it, so that is probably also their fault. Right? =)

Information about the changes can be read here (or anywhere, if you google it). I am not convinced this solves all the problems either, but there is some intriguing decisions made (randomisation of rewards is the biggest one I am shocked they stepped back from)  To be fair – I would 100% try it again if this was a free launch of system fixes and a mea culpa “hey, we heard you – sorry!”. The timing of the expansion, pass fee and changes is what frustrates me – although you will still get the QoL changes without the expansion it just reeks of cash grab. I think they would have won me back if they launched the QoL fixes first, then the expansion 90 days later.

I’ll stop now. I don’t think anyone here cares about Destiny 2 anyway.

Quitters : MTGA

I am annoyed with the MTGA community on a few fronts. The first I have spoken about in most of my MTGA posts about the “money is for nothing and your kicks for free” entitlement attitude on the beta forums. The doomsayers explaining that if you can’t get most things for free extremely quickly that the game will fail horribly. Keep in mind this is the same, extremely slick game I have been saying is amazing. This is the probably the best representation of the decades long, arguably one of the most popular card games in existence successfully ported to digital format. I think they will be safe to charge reasonably, and I feel like the game is already too generous with the speed and scale it gives away cards and gold to buy more cards. I have stopped reading doomsayers posts about the economy in general on the boards.

The second, more annoying thing is that people quit fast in MTGA.  It seems like the instant I play a card that poses a modicum of a challenge the player gives up – often instantly. I can’t believe the lack of competitive spirit of taking on a challenge to see what you are able to do in the face of adversity. In MMO terms, it would be like the main tank dying on a pull and everyone logging out of the group instantly when it happens. It drives me bonkers.

The main reason for the frustration is I frequently come back from the abyss in games. Heck, just yesterday I was down 20-1 against a Blue/Black deck with Merfolk. He had 8 creatures in play and I had zero. They were all 2/2 and 3/3. The play before I was down to one health I exiled a 2/2 Merfolk that granted all his Mer-creatures +1/+1. Then he knocked me down to 1 health and played more creatures – but all of them were 2/2 or less now. My next turn I played all enemy creatures get -2/-2 and cleared the board. He is now ahead 20 health to 1 with a clean board. I play a 2/2 card that spawns a 1/1 creature at the end of every turn (mine and his) and since I have enough land cards that temporarily boosts the summoned creatures to 3/3. And soon as that lands he quits.

I would call it a one off but yesterday I was on a roll and in 15 games I had people quit early – at the first sign of trouble – close to 50% of the time. I have said it in an earlier post and I’ll say it again – I never quit early. If I am getting outplayed that badly then my opponent deserves to win with their combinations and checks. I have lost badly on draws, and decks, but the truth is I built my deck in such a way that it is good against all opponents but it too big to be efficient. I have several win conditions and can handle most of the decks I face if my cards come out right. And for that I need to stick it out and get the draws.

Perhaps my opponents have built decks with such narrow win conditions that when I throw a wrench into their plans they just assume they don’t have a chance and quit. Still, that seems like a big limitation in the brand and format if that is true. Or they just build bad decks. I know my deck isn’t meta, and isn’t a guaranteed win – but it can handle most of what is thrown at it and the way it plays is really fun because it is different from game to game – and I really enjoy that. I’ll share the deck in detail in the future.

I wonder if the in person card version/variant is the same? Do opponents quit soon as you show a challenge to them – is it a part of MTG proper or just an unintended consequence of the new online field of battle?

Hey, What’s Going On? : Battlefield

EA recently announced the newest edition of their critically acclaimed first person shooter series, Battlefield, would be having it’s latest instalment launching in October. Weirdly named Battlefield V. I say weirdly named because they went from Battlefield 4, to Battlefield 1, to Battlefield V. They need to work on some consistency with the naming convention. Long time readers of this blog might recall how much I love(d) Battlefiled 2142. BF2142 was a PC only, up to 64 v 64 FPS with personal servers you could rent for your clan and select your own rules, map rotations, etc. It has an amazing combination of infantry and vehicular combat – at the same time, good personalization of kits, and was a great, semi-strategic shooter. I say “semi-strategic” as it did suffer from bunny hopping, etc. but had the potential for good teamwork and was a bit better paced than the Call of Duty titles at the time, which was it’s main competitor.  This was also a title I played very frequently within a clan – funny how some of the best gaming memories are when you are a part of things with other people. I still connect with that clan and they are talking about the launch of Battlefield V, to which I replied that it might be worth checking out since I haven’t really played since 2142. Which launched in 2006.

At least it is honest

The follow up to 2142 didn’t appeal to me – and it had a silly rule that you couldn’t go prone. That was one of those things that drove me batty. What, the human race has lost the ability to lie down on it’s stomach suddenly? Prone is a base position for cover, as well as a favourite for MG nests, snipers, (etc.). Taking away prone is like taking away jumping. I never could reconcile how I felt about that change to actually buy the game. I stuck with 2142 with each new release, and the servers became quieter and more quieter, and once again, I was left behind in a game I enjoyed playing while others moved on to bigger and shinier things. Why can’t we just be happy with what we have?

Instead of buying Battlefield one and all the DLC I opted for the annual Origin Pass – on sale for $30. That got me the entire expansion, as well as a huge vault list of EA games – many I have not played. If I do decide to buy Battlefield V I will also get 10% off my order for being an Origin member. I did this when I bought Andromeda as well because the price of the membership was offset by the purchase. Logging into Battlefield 1 it is clear how amazing the art and production values are. It put me into a single player campaign that hopped me around different stories of different soldiers – facing waves of enemies that I wasn’t supposed to outlive. It was a “fight until you die”, hopeless situation. I can’t imagine what it was like fighting back in the trenches during WW1 (which is the setting of BF:1) but I felt nervous, and hectic, and scared as I tried to survive the onslaught. Which didn’t last long, before putting me into a different body of a different soldier in a different setting – who would also not survive long.

When I ran out of bullets and was overwhelmed they would put up a name and a born / death date. Added a human element to it all. I had a struggle identifying friend / foe but with friendly fire off it didn’t really matter. BF1 did a great job of sucking me in quickly. To get a better feel for the game I continued down the single player path which is not built around one soldier, but revisits different war stories in different countries with different protagonists. The first I tried was about a tank crew, and I was the driver.

I’m not claustrophobic

Seeing the war through a peephole didn’t capture the stress of the battle as much, but thethird person view was much better at doing so. I made it to step 4 of 5 before getting to a stealth style mission that I struggled with, and going full Rambo wasn’t really working for me either. Who cares, I am ready for multiplayer, which is where the game truly shines! I jumped into a Conquest match – which is a multi-point, capture the flags style of game. Each time gets tickets for kills and points captured (and held) and it is in true BF style where tanks support infantry and planes battle up above fighting each other (while dropping bombs on the ground). It truly is a spectacle, all those moving pieces and madness happening all at once, all around. And to be fair, the explosions are spectacular!

I feel like I am going the wrong way…

I did the safe thing I always do in these games – grab a medic profile, find a squad, and try to stay 10 steps back – watching flanks and reviving when it is safe. Except, only, it seems like it is NEVER safe. A few things I learned quickly (and disliked) was the fast rate of respawn. There was no real penalty to dying and you could force a respawn in 5 seconds for yourself. This is hugely unsatisfying when you kill someone (to know they are back in the mix pretty much instantly), but even moreso for a medic specialist. I can see on the screen someone who is revive-able. I clear out the enemies in the way. Throw a smoke grenade. Get to the body and – he force released. Heck, even the slow release is only 15 seconds. Once again the hyperactive ruins the immersion. How is a 30-45 second penalty for dying too much? You could kill someone, and they could kill you back in under 10 seconds (you can also spawn on your squad, not just rally points.)  That part was very disappointing.

close one! I did like the voting for next map

The different maps and countries are great, and the beauty of the game, the slick shooting, movement, vehicles, infantry and specialist kits – they are all ruined somewhat by the HURRY HURRY HURRY gameplay that used to be reserved for Call of Duty, but has now completely bled into the BF series. Maybe it happened several launches ago but I very fondly recall in BF2142 the benefits of sticking with your squad, and being able to protect objectives (and each other) with smart play, positioning, and teamwork.

No more. This game is just a huge spam and revive fest. The only strategy is that there is no strategy. Rush forward, die, revive, die, revive, die. Pretty packaging – actually, to rephrase – absolutely GORGEOUS packaging but not much depth.

the in game maps are pretty too

I have gone back and tried a few more times and it’s “ok”. It is definitely not what I am looking for in a long term shooter. Yes, I am entering a game at the end of it’s cycle so against a lot of seasoned players but the core gameplay at the crux of it isn’t strategic enough to be fun for an old FPSer like me. I will still give it a whirl now and again as I haven’t written it off completely but I also downloaded SQUAD from steam last night – which is the spiritual successor to Project Reality, which was the ultimate strategic FPS experience.  I’ll check that one out and let you know it goes.

Beta Fatigue : 2018 Version

I wrote about Beta Fatigue back in 2009. For me, then, it was the start of the changing process of how Beta tests went from actual bug hunting and shaping games to public marketing stunts. We have become even worse with beta phases lasting several years while “testers” pay for the honor of supporting a beta cycle. Heck, I was once a part of a group that was paid to beta test. Yes, you rea that right. Paid. The organisation was tasked with stocking beta testers who actually gave focused feedback. (The testers didn’t get paid, but the company did.). Still – that kind of engagement, where beta testers could lose their spot if they weren’t being productive and helpful is a better start than what I see in betas today. You can tell on the beta forums for Magic The Gathering: Arena a very vocal group who are trying to sway developers to basically give everything away for free because those individuals have zero intention of actually ever paying a cent. The idea that they would have to pay for any part of a game in 2018 is appalling. That is the sole focus of this loud group it seems – get the game as free as possible so they don’t have to invest in or support the company financially. Those that speak against them are attacked as employees of the company or rich whales that want a monetary advantage.

So much for civil discourse. Still, I am on a similar side of that but for other reasons.

The new Beta fatigue is more damaging in my real upcoming world example. I love the game, MTG:Arena. I have played around 1000 matches. I have several decks I love, tons of cards to build more, and over 20,000 gold (around 20 packs worth) that I haven’t spent because I have no need to. The game is slick, fun, challenging, and has a bright future.

Except I probably won’t play it.

I can’t imaging having to play another 1000 games just to get back to where I am today. I love where I am. I’m in a great spot. I am invested and have invested a TON of time and energy into it. But starting from square one on “launch” day just do do everything and collect everything I already have will not happen. Having this realisation over the weekend I almost logged out and was done – but then I realised that no, this is my time to play. When they wipe everything I have done and accomplished to date, when the “final” beta wipe happens is when I will be done with the game. And it is a shame because I won’t be supporting them financially after all (and they do deserve it). Before you get mad at me for that last line – the truth is, the game could be out right now. It doesn’t need to be in beta. They are choosing to leave it there and have people invest hundreds of hours (and dollars, the payment system is live. When the final wipe happens no one gets refunds of cash but gets refunded  the crystal currency to start fresh). The game runs well enough and with some avatar tweaks and basics the game is ready for prime time.

The only option I can see that would change my mind would be if I were able to pay for the option to keep my beta progress. Have a supreme collectors edition. I’d pay well over $100 to keep my deck and current progress.  That would also keep me playing, and paying in the future. Unfortunately, as of now, I will just be a beta player – who did help shape the game, but will not be a part of it when it moves to live status. Which may be 2 years from now, with how many other betas have run recently.

Free 100 : Everquest 2

I keep refreshing my sidebar to see if Bhagpuss has already made this post (or one like it) – and I think if I type fast enough that I might just beat him to the punch this time. That is probably because he is away somewhere (is my guess).

Still, Everquest 2 is giving away (yet another) free level 100 Heroic Character.

This is exciting for me as I had recently spent a lot of time levelling several characters from one to as high as fifty – across both live and public test servers. My highest, the Warden, was indeed the most fun to play and as such the Public Test Realm is now my EQ2 “home”. This offer is limited until the first week of June and last time there was a free level 100 I did not log in in time to get the benefit – so now I am feeling the pressure to make a decision and do it quickly before life gets me busy and I forget once again. While always a tough decision I have been thinking out loud about what to do. I basically have three choices, with the third counting as 20+

The first, obvious choice is the Warden. I could zoom by 50 levels on what is (so far) my favourite character. I could then join the “end game” of EQ2 (which for me is solo questing, really. Or whatever solo players do in “end game”). In that case, am I just cheating myself? I have really enjoyed playing him thus far. So it is a conundrum – do I take away the levelling fun to myself or do I just accelerate it because I would then be doing “relevant” content? Is the Warden I see myself as my “main” in EQ2?

The second choice is the Coercer. I love Enchanters from EQ2 and funny enough I had decided to “main” the Coercer in EQ2 at launch – and boosting this character would be boosting the first character I made at launch in EQ2. Oh, the delicious irony of that. I have had fun messing around with this character more than playing it directly in a way that enchanters often do. Can I solo this instance if I can land a charm on that way to powerful for me NPC? Let’s try! The gifts of magic give you fun options in MMOs and to be fair I have never mained a caster class in any of my games. I usually revert to healer / tank to take advantage of being “needed”. (Which is also why i loved enchanting in EQ1 – was a very sought after class). Charming things and pushing limits is a fun playstyle.

The third, of course, is to take a brand new shot at any of the other 20+ something classes and start fresh. This could very much be a waste if I don’t enjoy the character.

At this early stage of thought, I am leaning to the Coercer because I know I enjoy the Warden – which means I won’t mind levelling him up the “old fashioned way”.

Any ideas? Have you used a character boost in EQ2 and how did you decide? Did you regret the choice?

Otherwise – even if you don’t play EQ2 regularly – go install and take advantage of this offer because it is limited – and regardless you get to keep the character. You never know if you ever want to jump into EQ2 you might enjoy it. I definitely have.

If you want to read the posts on my return to EQ2 this year they are here.

Playing Second Fiddle : LOTRO

In my “bounce around in many titles” mood and mindset I did go back to Lord of the Rings Online. As mentioned here (often) but worth the review – the Warden is a class I strongly identify with thematically. I had big issues with the fact that you couldn’t play the Warden without the expansion even though there was no new starting area for them – and that turned me off of trying back in the day. Still, I actually invested in the opportunity in 2014 finally, got to level 5 on a human Warden, realized that at some point I would want to head West so rerolled an elf (my true calling, sorry  Syp!) and didn’t get out of the “tutorial area”. Around level three. At the time I didn’t even know it was a tutorial area until just last night it told me “finish other quests before this one because this one takes you out of the tutorial area”. Clarity is a benefit.

Dream sequences always win positive reviews

The graphics are not, of course, and there is a weird, floating movement I feel (and find) just running around doesn’t feel natural. Combat seems to play out that everything is off the global cooldown – so when I am trying to get a Warden combo in it’s special attack / auto attack / special attack / auto attack / finisher. Feels like it would be smoother if I could skip the auto attacks. It’s not terrible, of course, just something I noticed felt off that I was waiting to do things while things were just being done automatically.

I was being harshly unfair when I noticed that her lips weren’t moving when she talked in the dream sequence. It looked unnatural. Then, OF COURSE I remembered that she didn’t speak out loud in the dream sequences in the movie either. I don’t even remember which came first. I definitely don’t remember if she mind-spoke in the book or not. Either way, at that point, I was able to be proud of them for sticking to the movie script and then unsure which came first. Maybe the movie copied LOTRO?

 

 

 

This part of the pre-tutorial ending dream sequence is the bit that made me go AHA! and remember that in LOTRO, you aren’t the hero. You are the supporting cast. This is a new territory to be explored in common MMO land where I have saved the world a thousand times (or every time?) in most other games. I actually appreciate that of the game but still thought it would be nice to support directly. Perhaps I do get to at some point. I hope I get there.

Bonus points to hit to other popular and big plot points in Middle Earth just to remind you what is going on. While I just recently (last paragraph) mentioned that I didn’t mind being the second fiddle, at the same time it is hard to play a story out when you already know how it ends, no? No matter what I am doing there is something much more important going on and no matter what I do, the outcome is already concluded. The movies are already out! Is that stuff Canon yet? Now I feel less comfortable with that position and whether that is a good thing or not. Perhaps they should have gone pre Lord of the Rings and hit the major conflicts not covered in the movies (books. I mean books. I did read them. When I was 12.). None of this matters of course. Just thinking out loud. I just got off a 7.5 hour flight from france and now on a 2 hour train ride to get home.

The final instance is not all dream sequence (however) and we do get to try and stop a necromatic event. The exciting part here (of course) is seeing Dwalin from the Hobbit’s Journey! The second trilogy movies that made him really famous. Again, I find myself happy to see a familiar name and then back to pondering timelines between LOTRO expansions and movie releases (while still not being bothered enough to google it to find out for myself. More fun trying to guess / sort it out.

Then the map, of course, which is one of the most unfriendly maps to use I have seen in pretty much anygame in the last decade. That is fairly explained that LOTRO is over a decade old. I will, of course, give it props for having a great style to it though. Feels like a King’s Quest map, if that game had any.

All in all, despite the tongue-in-cheek post I actually had a lot of fun. There is so much comfort in the levelling game and early levelling is always the most fun. Not sure of the staying power here, but I will dip my toes back in much quicker than the four years since last time.

Do This 4x a Day and You Go Blind

Total lie. FAKE NEWS!

I was just commenting on the Magic: The Gathering forums that I am completely happy and satisfied with the pace of gold and pack accumulation as a free to play player. I felt it was important to balance out the view of what seems to be a vocal lot that if you can’t get everything for free, immediately, and that will somehow make it lose out against competitors such as Hearthstone(!) because of the “ease of acquisition of cards in that game”.

I’m not drunk. I quit Hearthstone because they release must-buy expansions quickly to enjoy the game. This is more proof that developers SHOULD NEVER EVER LISTEN TO THEIR PLAYER BASE. EVER. Well, not when it comes to monetization, anyway. Let them vote with their wallet. This post feels silly to write because I am in a silly mood. I haven’t posted much lately because I’m not playing much. And what I am playing is either so old news (the new player experience in LOTRO is not a hot topic these days), so old (Walking Dead: a new frontier was released in 2016. Wasteland 2 was 2014) that I feel it pointless to write uh, pointless articles. (Shush you who say that’s why the come here in the first place!)

making it faster than I can spend it

The game I am most consistent with is Magic The Gathering Arena. I play four wins a day. By doing this I already have over 10,000 gold and oodles of wild cards – but I have no desire to build any new decks or try anything new. I am very happy with my deck. So I play the game to have fun, and while doing so am racking up in game currency that I have nothing to spend on. To be fair it really isn’t much of a surprise to me that the mother of all card games (is it the mother? Who would the father be? Pokeman? Should I be using gender neutral identifiers in that situation?) is the most fun of the card games I have played. There is so much to see and do.

Further compounding the “how does this game make money” conundrum is that I already have collected half of the entire card collection – just by playing and collecting free packs. To be fair, up until a few days ago I would buy packs every 1000 gold but now I am hording it. In anticipation of Horde vs. Alliance. I might actually play Horde this time since I am getting good practice at it. (To be fair, every new expansion I say I am going to play Horde this time..).

In the Ebbs and Flows of blogging I am definitely in an ebb mood – and I know that is pretty common for many bloggers while the pros blog away with great writing, interesting insights, and groundbreaking news. Will see what the summer brings in terms of content and gaming. I’m in airport about to fly to Europe, putting a pool in this summer, and already have two weeks planned away. I’ll try to squeeze in a blog post here and there between my four matches per day.

 

My Dominaria Pack Openings

With Dominaria launched for Magic:The Gathering both in “real life” and the digital world I was fortunate enough to have have saved up a lot of gold (free to play currency) to buy 8 packs. I also received three free ones, and through the first few days of winning daily contests and matches I also have received a handful of others (again, through the free to play currency). The update enabled real world currency but I’m not playing in that space yet. And the truth is, the game is extremely generous. I don’t think I ever received the generosity from other card games – especially Hearthstone (which is the one I played the most. outside of MTG.)

I’l share a picture (you will have to click to enlarge) and I’ll pick my favorite card of the bunch and explain why. Fun stuff for Izlain, fodder for most of you!

 

 

Opening pack 1 of 3! The Freebies for the launch.

I am still not up on the Lore of everything in MTG, but whoever that is probably pretty important. That would be my guess.

First pack, first Legendary (two actually)! Marwyn introduces a new race connection – Elves – that she can play off of to gain power. I play green / black as my main and currently don’t have any elves so the interactive play is minimum to me from the get go. The white card is a common ‘wildcard’ which you can exchange when deckbuilding for any common card.

Second pack has 2 ‘Saga’ cards. I haven’t played one (or played against one outside of killing it with a Naturalize card the second it was played) but from my understanding, Saga cards are three step cards that advance on each turn. So playing them once gets 3 things to happen in succession. I am always happy to see green cards.

I already added Nature’s Spiral to my deck but feel Sylvan Awakening is a bit too situation for me to play. Still – more green!

Another Marwyn (you can carry 4 of any / all cards in your deck). The blue wildcard is for uncommon cards.

Two Legendary Creatures in this pull and the Black one would be quite the card to play in a red/black deck – although the cost seems pretty high.

I zoomed in on Grunn here (and yes, that’s me reading Tales of The Aggronaut in the background!) to show the “kicker” mechanic. I am not sure how new that is but it is the first time I have seen them show up on cards – and they are pretty common in Dominaria. Not sure if it is a resurgence or a new mechanic.

Gilded Lotus is an interesting artifact but one that I wouldn’t use until really late rounds (cost of 5) at which point, mana is not an issue for me. So seems counter-intuitive to get a card you can’t play late game that has less impact at that time.

At this point I tipped my vault – and the Mythic wildcard is always nice, as well as the two rare and three uncommons.

Another two legendary creatures and a supporting elf for Marwyn. I can start building my “annoy Syp” deck soon.

The Cabal Paladin introduces “historic” spells to me – will be interesting to see where and how those play out.

 

Not a single green card in this hand. Totally feel ripped off. Semi-satisfied with yet another legendary creature.

Excited to see another Saga card, but curious as to when it is a good play – clearly not if you are in the lead in creature count. Seems like a board clearing effect with the added bonus of complete exile of them if you can keep them in there an exgtra turn.

Another green-free hand. What are the odds? I suspect I would need to know total cards available to know that. 8 in a deck, 5 colors, X cards total.  Some sort of factorial, 8r!5nX? (I don’t remember high school algebra. Completely making that up).

Another elf! I am not truly excited about that as I would need to burn a lot of wildcards to build some sort of a deck to support elf-play, but the thought of a mono green deck is very interesting. Just need a Nissa Planeswalker.

So there was my first couple of days of the new pack set, and as you can see I received many cards, legendaries, wildcards across all colours and play styles. One thing I can’t complain about MTG:Arena (among many others!) is that it is pretty easy to get several packs per week. I hope the economy stays as generous at launch.

Small Update Post

I hate going a full week without posting, but that happens from time to time when I have nothing fun or exciting to write about. Both of those should be qualified a bit – things I fun fun or exciting. I have been writing about un-fun and boring things from you, the gentle reader’s perspective for (almost) 10 years now. I have been playing 4 games regularly but none of them have inspired an interesting post to write, let alone read. So I figured I would just touch on each.

I can’t stop playing Magic The Gathering. I go through these feast/famine stages with many games and right now I am at an all you can eat buffet, 10th trip up, and still plenty of room on my waistline. Even better is that a new expansion is coming out (in the real world) and they are right on top of launching it at the same time in the digital world. Each day you can get 500ish gold in game just by playing – so I have been doing all the daily quests and grabs, stocking up on gold. Currently I can buy 6 new packs when the expansion drops end of week and hoping to get that to 10. I have a deck I love and am cruising with a ~60% win rate with it so I see little reason to change at this time. Eventually at this rate I will climb up and start seeing more competitive decks that will probably wipe the floor with me – but will stick with my fun deck until that time. The post about my deck and why I built it that way is coming soon!

I finally bought MLB the Show 2018 – the baseball season is in full effect. I played a TON of the 2015 version (maybe too much?) and I dislike that sports game release annually, so give them several years before buying in between to see if there is any real change. My favourite mode – Road to the show – where you are basically playing a Baseball RPG – is back and refined. Levelling is more skill based (grows by using) and they even get worse if you don’t do well. Maybe there is even permadeath – who knows! The fun/annoying new aspect of it is the social media sidebar, where fake, digital fans trash/ support you on twitter and other social media. Pretty sure the Russians are behind it in game, too.

Slay the Spire’s daily challenge is fun but already starting to feel a bit repetitive. How a new and interesting daily game mode gets repetitive is not really clear to me either, but I am just getting that feeling in that game. I know they are planning on launching new modes and even a new character to play – hence the joys of early access.

I bought Starbound on whim and a mood for some reason. I have enjoyed it and played through to getting my ship. I can’t even recall what the impetus was….

So those are the 4 I am playing right now. World of Warcraft has fallen off the playlist. I was close to unlocking the new races, but don’t have a desire to level a full new character – especially when I only have a couple that aren’t at max or near max levels (Mage / Warlock). No desire to level up another character again, just for a new race look (not even story?). If I really want a new race I suppose I will just pay for a race change at some point. I’m still undecided on the expansion (as I am every expansion…)

In other, awesome news Battletech – I game I early accessed (And a cross between the original, board game format and the new X-Com) launches fully this week. I am already pre-loaded and super excited. I am expecting this to take up a lot of my time when it goes. I’ll have much to.

I dislike when I am going through the motions in gaming – and writing, but sometimes that is just the way things are.

MTG Arena : Joy in Learning

The way rewards work in MTG:Arena is twofold – daily and weekly. The daily is a pretty easy to hit challenge by just playing the specified card colors, and the weekly grants you a pack of cards at 5, 10, and 15 wins. What is good about this in the early stage of the game (you can’t spend money yet) is that that 15 wins stays up all week – so it acts like a counter of sorts for how many wins you got for the week. I did over 40 wins last week and am quickly figuring things out.

I came back and won this match with my new favorite card drawn next turn (shown face up on the draw pile)

In this early stage there are no statistics (which would be interesting) and matchmaking at this early stage is clearly more interested in getting you playing quickly than evenly. I don’t even know if they are matchmaking by level at this point. It doesn’t matter because one thing I am learning quickly is that there are so many variables to a successful match that is out of your control – but enough that is IN your control – that you can clearly tell this game has been played and tested for years. However that doesn’t seem to set the learning curve.

Sometimes you just  have to fail and fail hard, and then head to google for the answers. I think that is the new, life metaphor we all live by. Yes that was mostly tongue in cheek.

As a noobie I tried a bunch of preset, 60 card decks. They seemed to all be interesting and have their own nuances, but I wasn’t getting better by swapping decks so quickly. I needed to grab a deck and focus on it and become good at it. The answer came to me in the form of a pack of cards. I drew a legendary Pathfinder – Vraska, Relic Seeker. Pathfinders are high(er) cost cards with a health pool based abilities. One that adds to the health, and two that take away from it. They can be directly attacked by creatures and spells in the game as well.

Love of my life! A little tentaclely, but I am not superficial.

The + health card gets you a nice 2/2 Pirate that  needs to blocked by 2 or more. The small, -3 health ability – destroy target artifact, creature, or enchantment is an amazing controlling benefit and the -10 power really changes the state of the game. Armed with my new girlfriend I had to pick a deck that she would fit in. Some comfortable digs. The base deck – The Golgari Exploration (which is a swamp/forest based deck, the same two land cards you need to play Vraska) had to be it. So it was.

It’s a fun deck based on cards and enchantments the have the “Explore” feature. Which allows you to find and play more land cards. From what I have learned it also has a good amount of control cards (clearing out enemy creatures) but I quickly found decks I was weak against. And this is how I started getting better at the game.

A very popular deck I see a lot is a “blue” deck – which has a lot of counter creature and counter spell cards. Frustrating when every time you try and play one of your cards the other player negates it. When you finally get your Pathfinder on the board only to have it negated by a 2 power card it feels like the tables turn. I needed a way to counter that. I found my own, two power card that allows you to retrieve a card from your graveyard (where dead creatures go) so I placed a couple of them in my deck – and have been able to use them successfully. The trouble there is that they have all sorts of “remove / negate” creature cards so I needed a way to look at my opponents deck before bringing a card back. I found one and placed a couple in my deck. Those cards have helped me compete against blue decks – even though I am still very much at the mercy of which of my (and my opponents) 60-70 cards are drawn at any time it is far more fun knowing you have counters to your counters in case it happens.

card images found at https://scryfall.com/

So now I could deal with those pesky “blue” (island) based decks. Then I kept running into issues with a card called The Scarab God. It was literally a “game over” card for me every time I played against it. It’s a strong 5/5 card that can grab any card from your (or your opponents) graveyard and make a 4/4 zombie of it. Terrifying when you face him, and when you kill him, he has the pesky effect of going right back into your opponents hand next turn. Like a cockroach, you can never really get rid of him.

Or can you? Magic has 2 discard piles. One, the graveyard, cards can be pulled back from with various cards. The other, is the “exile” pile – when a card goes to exile it is gone from the game. So how do I kill the Scarab God, and exile him, all in one turn? Is that possible? Yes it is! And thankfully there are great in game (and on web) resources to find cards to help you with your issues. Enter the low cost, Deadeye Tracker.

There. Now I can kill and exile that card all in one. Building up defenses so at least I know I have the right cards to counter him if I face him. Keep in mind that any card I add has to be a swamp or forest cost card or I can’t play it. In MTG you CAN add more land based cards (tri color decks, etc.) but due to how many cards most people carry that’s a high risk on a card draw. So while I chose the above cards to deal with my issues based on the land cards my deck is based off of there are other cards for other lands (and even other cards for my lands). I tried to find ones that work with my style of deck – and the above card also “explores” on that use – and I have several cards that gain benefits / interact with the explore mechanic.

My last big challenge was enchantments. Often I’d get a strong hand and my opponent would play an enchantment card that would remove my card / creature from play until the enchantment was dealt with. The base Golgari Exploration deck has zero counters for this. I had one on my Pathfinder, but that is a high cost card AND often when I played my Pathfinder that was the card my opponent would enchant. Enter another easy and low cost counter.

And with that card I now have a deck I feel comfortable with countering anything that I have played against so far. This doesn’t mean I win every game of course, but it means there are far less “lose for sure” scenarios. I have the tools to counter my opponents. Each game I learn new ways and face better opponents. I am loving that losing is just another experience for me to consider how or what I could have done differently. And if the answer was “nothing”, then I can search for ways I don’t already know to help myself out in the future.

That part has been almost as fun as playing the cards to begin with.

 

 

As a note – I do have an extra code if you are interested in joining in the closed beta. There is zero monetization in the game currently so it’s for fun and testing.