Goodbye World of Warcraft

It has been over a month since i stopped playing World of Warcraft and frankly I’m not missing it. I miss playing with other people but the game itself wasn’t fun anymore, for me anyway. What is odd is that technically the game is now the best it has ever been, however over the years it has lost its charm and spirit, in my eyes at least.

Since its launch the game has slowly been refined and brood down and streamlined. Each of these changes on paper was a step forward but together they have done damage. In essence they have stripped back the world and now the mechanics of the game itself are too visible to me and the majority of players. It’s hardly surprising that a large fan base the size of WoW’s rips every little detail apart to see what makes it tick . I liken this to Morrowind and Oblivion, Autoleveling and Fast Travel are great ideas on paper but they end up killing the feeling of a living world. Something which the Blizzard is well aware of and they have been fighting against this for a long time.

I am not done with MMORPGs in general, well at least not with ones that work outside the WoW formula. I couldn’t give a fig about Starwars Republic of the doodad , like Rift it is a WoW style mmo refined to the N’th degree. I’ve had enough of that thanks, I want something fresher.

I’ve been playing Age of Empires Online since closed beta which is very good blend of traditional RTS gameplay and MMO style gear collecting. It can get a bit repetitive if you play it for several hours at a time but to is good for a few hours a day. I cannot say how it will cope in the long run however as there isn’t much in the way of end game content at the moment but we shall soon see. It’s also free to play so you have no excuses not to play!

My point of light somewhere off in the distance is Guild Wars 2. It promises several features that aren’t currently being done to death in other MMORPGs. They are saying there will be very little in the way of leveling quests, most of the game will revolve around events which randomly spark up around the world, these will of course will repeat eventually but it will definitely be more dynamic. You would never know what was ahead of you each time you log in. Combat should be fresh due to the lack of tanks and healers, everyone has to look after themselves. There are no tanks, everyone has to avoid taking damage, if you do take damage you are the only one who can effectively heal yourself. There are other heals but none of them allow you to target a friendly party member. We will see over the coming months if this pans out according to plan or ends up being a pile of broken dreams. These guys have been ambitions, but that comes with big risks.

I’ve enjoyed my time playing world of Warcraft and I’m not going to start being bitter about it. I still have very high regard for blizzard and await more details on project titan. Whatever it may be I know that they know they cannot create a WoW killer. They have to cut a new niche just like Guild Wars 2 is trying to do.

Cataclysm in 3D Vision

Planting 3D vision glasses on your face for World of Warcraft is a worthwhile experience. When you fire up the game you will have a couple of extra settings in the Advanced Graphics section in addition to the depth modifier built in to 3D vision.  The two sliders can be adjusted on the fly to fine tune and will probably need to be altered on a user basis to account for taste and eyes.

Once you get it to good spot however, WOW. There is a supurb “model village” effect, all of the models look simply amazing and it really adds a sense of scale to the enemies you face.

All the model, world geometry and spell details work perfectly. The models and the art style come alive with an extra level of detail that as apparent when you view in 3D. Things like floating crystals around weapons become more prnounced when they have depth, in fact many models look different due to their newly imbued chubbiness. Mounts in particular look a lot grander and bolder.

There are several quirks like the interaction between the clouds and skybox which looks like it is being rendered closer that it should be. Also directx 11 mode currently appears to remove the extra 3D options from the game leaving you with just the 3D vision depth slide to play with which removes a lot of the graphical improvements. I suppose i can’t hold it against them too much as it is only their for testing at the moment.  The mouse cursor also takes some getting used to, you effectly have to refocus your eyes to look at the cursor as it sits on the UI level.

The only major graphical problem is the new fluid water which seems to render the edges twice with a small gap between them. This spoils the experience so I would recommend setting the water to either the old animated water or the lowest setting for the new water which renders it as a opaque liquid.

In all the game has some minor flaws when presented in 3D. It does however give you an extremely beautiful and flexible world which feels richer and more alive. This makes me believe 3D has a place in gaming.

Mind Spike I Like!

It didn’t take long for me to swap a spec over to shadow. As i hit 81 and paid a visit to my local trainer I picked up the new mind spike ability. I wasn’t expecting much from this, it removes DOTs. Thats horrible for shadow priests right? Wrong

After swapping a spec over to shadow to check it out i got to grips with its intended use. Typically DOTs are wasted on trash and leveling mobs as they die to quickly. In steps mind spike, it does a nice bit of damage, reduces the cast time of mind blast and increases the crit chance of mind blast. These effects stack 3 times, this leaves with you a mind blast which is instant with a +90% crit chance.

So shadow priests effectively have two modes of attack, DOTs for long fights and Direct Damage for short fights. This simple spell has made a big difference and is a welcome addition.

Next stop Inner Will

An owed to WOTLK : For better or worse

Before we out geared him Loken killed more players than anyone else

Its honest to say my love of Warcraft has lapsed over the last few months. Content burnout mixed with the knowledge that the gear slate is going to be wiped clean shortly has taken its toll.

Wrath of the lich king has been a mixed bag for me. Over all it boils down to the old gameplay quirks being “improved”. During the late TBC and WOLTK expansions there have been lots of changes that improve the game on paper but these changes ended up changing the game in bad unexpected ways as well. One place a lot of these intersect is the heroic dungeons which has lead them to be not fun but in my opinion a chore.

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The end is nigh! 4.0.1

So the cataclysm is rapidly approaching, before then however we have the 4.0.1 patch which applies all the new system mechanics and class mechanics.

This includes:

New Talent System including Mastery

All of the new 31 point talent trees are in along with Specialization and Mastery. So now at level ten when you get your first talent point you get prompted to select the tree you want to specialize in. Once you do this you are locked to that tree until you put 31 talent points in to it, but in return you get a set of abilities and bonuses to make you feel like you are really specialized in that tree. For example, Frost Mages get a 25% increase to their frost spell damage and get the permanent water elemental pet. Discipline Priests get Penance, a 15% increase to intellect and 50% mana regeneration in combat.

Think of it as a down payment, you put a deposit down and get to instantly reap the benefits. For those at level 80 you will find that when you login after the patch all of your talents will be reset. Once you start respecing you will probably notice that at some points in the tree you hit a roadblock where you have to pick Utility or Survivability talents to continue down the tree. This is intended as it lets you customise your character without gimping your DPS or Healing by choosing sub-par talents.  Not all talents trees are as good as each other at achieving this however you should find that at least at one point you will have to choose between something like receiving 6% more healing or increasing the range on a utility spell. For me this really improves the fun of picking talents as it really does give you options, DPS increases talents are not options.

New Character Page

A much needed improvement was needed to the character screen. All the stats now sit on a pop out window and these have been cleared up to make the system a lot more transparent. The stats now tell you directly for example the chance you have of missing enemies and raid bosses so you no longer have to go somewhere like wow heroes to find this information out.

New Spell Book

The spell book interface has been reorganized and been given a general polish. All spells now only have one rank and adjust their power at each level. In addition all spells are visible in your spell book from the beginning for the game, they are initially greyed out but light up when they are available from your trainer.

New Glyph System

The glyph changes are two fold. Firstly when you buy a glyph and use it you learn it forever. Just like the spell book all available glyphs are listed but are grayed out unless you have learned them. As you can see all the glyphs that you don’t have i expect many people will feel like they need to complete their set and buy the lesser used glyphs.

The second change is that  there are now three types of glyphs. Prime Glyphs directly increases the effect of an ability (fireball does 5% more damage. Major Glyphs change the mechanics in some way (Circle of Healing heals one more person) and Minor Glyphs change cosmetic or trivial things. You get 3 slots of each.

New Guild UI

Continuing the UI changes is the guild UI. In addition to the polish there are added functions such as profession and crafting lists for every character. Although it won’t be active in the 4.01 patch the provisions have been made for the guild XP and leveling system which will hopefully lead back to more people doing runs as guilds rather than individuals. There is now a cap of 600 guild members per guild, which doesn’t seem unreasonable.

New Raid UI

The new raid frames have been updated to be a bit more user friendly. In addition there are new tools including the ability to put smoke signals down in the world to mark areas.

Ability Re-balance

All abilities are now balanced around level 85 which means classes will generally bit a bit imbalanced. Don’t worry too much, if you are a bit underpowered at the moment it should be worked out at 85. Equally there are now specs that were previously completely unviable like Rogue Subtlety and Mage Frost which are now viable.

New Spells and changes to when you get existing ones

The timing at which you get all your spells has completely changed during leveling. Generally you get either a talent point or a new spell every level whilst leveling. This should help eliminate problems with  trees such as the Mage’s arcane which currently rely on spells they don’t get until much later in the game. There are additional spells for some classes however these do not include ones gain between 81-85.

Spell and Proc Notifications

There are now two new features to help you with your abilities and procs. Firstly there is now basic built in power aura like on screen graphics to tell you when your big talent procs go off. These work very well, looks great and should be very useful for those that don’t currently use power auras. However they can’t customizable in any way so current power aura users may want to stick with what they already have although it mays still be worth looking at.

Secondly action bar buttons now light up and glow when they are being buffed by something and should be used. For example Beast Mastery hunters have an ability should be used when their pets have 5 stacks of a buff, the button for this ability now lights up when their pet is at 5 stacks.

These two parts combined are wonderful additions, hopefully the button light ups will be incorporated in to bar add-ons such as dominos.

New water and light Effects

The Cataclysm water effects are coming with 4.0.1 and with them so are a few new lighting effects. The water looks extremely good on open areas of water in peticular however it does sometimes have a slightly plasticy look for small pools. There are 4 slider levels for water, the lowest being the current water. In addition to this there are also light effects such as “God Rays” which are produced by things like the sun making shafts of light through the trees.

New points system replacing emblems/badges

The old Emblem of *Inspiring Word* system is now being replaced with a system that is a little more like the current PvP system. All of your current emblems of Triumph and Frost will be converted in to points, any other older badges or tokens will be converted to goldz and posted to you. If you want to buy heirlooms do it today as the price will be going up by a LOT.

Steamlining of Raid Buffs and removal of Reagents

No more Pallypower! ALL class buffs now only have one version rather than separate single target and group version, secondly no reagents are required for them anymore. Some buffs have been consolidated together such as Mark of the Wild and Blessing of Kings. In addition paladin buffs have had an overhaul so there is now only blessing of might (which does the old wisdom effect and attack power) and blessing of kings (% stat increase and spell resistance)

Beginner Tooltips in Plain English

There are new tooltips switched on by default which explain abilities in plain english and tell you when best to use them. These can be turned off by going to Interface->Help->Disable Beginner Tooltips

There is no I in team, but there is ME

So how is my is few days back in world of warcraft going? I’m fed up with it and have remembered why exactly dislike it so much at the moment.

There can be only one

Dungeons were once group activities, you worked as part of a team to solve the problems layed before you. It was more than just a case of people using crowd control, it was about teamwork and respect. Somewhere along the road this has changed, i suspect party in 3.0 when the dungeon mechanics were laid out and again in 3.3 with the introduction of the dungeon finder tool.

Now we have tasks that require no co-ordination, with people that have anonymity and get rewarded you for finishing as quickly as possible:

  • Team tactics are never needed, there is no reason to act as a team. You are playing a single player game that happens to have other people in it
  • As people are randomly thrown together from several servers they act exactly like their actions have no consequences.
  • Why would you want to keep in a group that isn’t rushing at full speed when it could mean you are missing out on emblems?

I think World of Warcraft suffers from the same problem as many other games at the moment. They have been over analysed and had too many enhancements that looks and sound good on paper but have knock on consequences elsewhere. Yes you can find groups easily, perhaps too easily. People are effectively spoilt by the ease and throw away nature of it.

Res Pls!

After about three weeks out Warcraft it looks like my hand is being forced to reintegrate myself with it.
Forced by whom? Ahune and the Ruby Sanctum

Cataclysm Talent Preview Re-Vu

We are finally starting to see official previews of the new Cataclysm talents , for a few classes at least. There are a couple of things that need to be pointed out before I go another further:

– None of this is final
– Generally all talent trees have been nerfed down however this because you also need to take the new mastery system in to account.
– You shouldn’t be able to get all the good talents with out taking some “filler”, that is the whole point of the update

There has been the idea for a long time that if an talent isn’t increasing your damange or healing it is either rubbish or for PvP. Hopefully Cataclysm will be changing this.. Lets face it in a world of min/maxcraft if your not doing 100% of your possible damage your taking up someone elses raid slot, or so I’m led to believe. So the only way that people aren’t going to take all these talent is to not give them the option.

Priest

Well for a start I don’t think the shadow tree is anywhere near finished there is after all a talent at the top that increases spell damage, this is what the mastery also does. There is also improved spirit tap but no spirit tap, shadow priests are also not meant to be actively going for spirit anymore so I’m not sure this really fits in at all anymore. Shadow gets a new raid buff in place of their to hit chance buff which is always nice. They also have a talent that increases they Hit rating by a small amount of their spirit, this is in place due to feedback that people felt it was unfair that Druids and Shaman could get one set of gear to use for caster and healer roles.

The two healing trees concern me slightly due to the priests unique ability to drip in to two healing trees which might lead to people picking up more healing talents rather than utility talents. For example at the moment if i spec Disc but then start working in to Holy i have no incentive to take anything but healing improvement talents, i really think they should be layered with more utility talent road blocks for your to choose from.

The Smite and general holy damage talents are a welcome addition, that said I doubt they will make anyone a raid viable holy dps spec. What they are for is general utility for spare talent points, got 10 spare points? Should I pick up some quasi dps talents for when I don’t have to do big heals or pickup the talents that reduce my spell damage taken and quickens my mass dispel casting time. These are good choices to make and shows a well designed system. They idea of doing damage to supplement your Healing output is something that is currently already in the Paladin Holy tree, which i expect to see extended when their preview comes out.

Shaman

The Shaman preview doesn’t give any massive changes, there are more evolutions of current ideas. Totem of Wrath is replace by Wrathful totems which gives the standardised 10% spell power increase buff which will be a god send to those that are currently fighting their buffs against warlocks. The long awaited earthquake finally shows its face and should provide a good niche chunk of aoe damage mixed with PvE and PvP Utility, if you think its not good for PvE think about kiting things through it or using it as a source of damage reduction. Finally elemental should also have more of a dynamic rotation given that the DoT effect of flame shock will be reseting lava burst’s cooldown.

Enhancement again is a refinement rather than a revolution. All of the old intellect based talents have been removed and the mana regen on stormstrike has been buffed accordingly. The only major new machanic here is the idea of Shearing Flames and then its interplay with Lava lash.

Resto is almost unchanged, the only point of interest being  the idea of shocks improving your next healing spell.

Druid

Druids sadly are my weakpoint so I won’t comment too heavily, It is one of my Cataclysm goals to raise and nurture my own druid. Suffice to say their Resto tree also has a new bit of damage buffs your healing interplay going on. On the note of Tree of Life I’m actually quite happy to see it become cooldown rather than a permanent model change, it really didn’t serve any function in terms of gameplay.

Rogue

Our leather clad friends are actually get lots of minor changes across the board to refocus and improved each of their trees. Assassination is confirmed as the poison tree which isn’t really a suprised, the first addition here is the inclusion of backstab in to their rotation when targets to get a low percentage of health. They also get the free use for expose armor to which gives them another finishing move to hit from time to time. Together these changes should liven up an otherwise rinse and repeat rotation.

Combat is reinforced as the weapon damage tree and gains a big boost to armor giving it the ability to stand toe to toe with enemies rather than resorting to stealth and stunlocks.

Subtlety has finally got the work over it needs in order to become viable for PvE. It is now the bleed tree given that it has talents to boost rupture, do more damage while bleeds are on the target and refresh ruptures duration by using eviscerate. I expect there may be a few more changes needed to get it up to standard but it certainly looks like the tree is headed in the right direction.