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Archive for August, 2009

Frost mage PVP : Rogue in Cloth

Over the past week or so I’ve once again rediscovered the joys and frustrations of PVP in WoW. Except, this time around, as a Frost mage the former outweigh the latter.

See, prior to rolling my mage, I was a shaman. Specifically, a resto shaman. And after that, a Death Knight. And in many ways, the two are similiar. While the DK was more of an endurance melee powerhouse, the Shammy was an endurance healer.  Both were similiar in that they’re quite immobile classes. The Shammy stands still and heals and if(or rather when) he gets attacked, he ‘tanks’ the damage trying to outheal the damage being done to him and survive long enough for his teammates to deal with the annoyance. The Death Knight would wade into the ruck and try and get into trouble as quickly as possible. Both were not very subtle classes. They either outhealed the damage, our outdps’ed it. Both had tools to mitigate damage and try and survive the damage a little longer, but neither really had any get out of jail free cards.

Enter the mage. With zero resilience I found myself dying to opening rogue stunlocks before I could react, but most of that was due to being crusty at pvp. After a time I found myself accumulating some pvp gear and figuring out exactly how to use those mage cooldowns, and it became very apparent that PVP’ing as a mage is a vastly different experience to PVP’ing with a shammy or dk. While I couldn’t heal myself through damage spikes or simply mitigate it, as a mage I can prevent it entirely.

Blink. Frost Nova. Deep Freeze. Mirror Image. Ice Block. Counterspell. Invisibility. All rolled into some of the best burst available through shatter combos. The mage has some amazing tools at his disposal to exert control over a situation, which I find much more refreshing than the reactionary play styles of the previous two classes, and it’s why I compare a mage to a rogue in terms of how strong it is for pvp and how it plays in pvp. Both classes are incredibly slippery, able to get into and out of bad situations, where other classes have to simply weather the storm and hope they win or someone heals them. Of course, make no mistake, a mage can be killed quite easily if he’s a scrub or he’s caught with his pants down.

It’s this lack of slipperiness that holds hunters and warlocks, as the other two pure-damage classes, from attaining the same PVP highs that rogues and mages tend to enjoy. Warlocks can at least immunize themselves from this hindrance somewhat by being able to tank damage with Siphon Life and Drain Life, but Hunters don’t quite have the same ability to escape from bad situations that mages and rogues do, nor are they able to soak damage long enough like Warlocks can. But, perhaps, giving them the same ability to simply reset a fight would be too much considering they have rather powerful and permanent, scaling pets.

PVP’ing as a frost mage has been a rather entertaining experience, surprisingly so since I’d considered myself burned out on WoW’s PVP, especially since comparing WAR’s PVP to WoW’s and heralding the former as the pinnacle of true large group PVP. But, once again, it all boils down to perspective. I wasn’t having fun playing as a reactionary melee brute or healer in WoW. But being able to pick my fights, lock down opponents, and experimenting with a veritable bag of tricks rather than being a one-trick-pony has revitalized the entire WoW PVP metagame for me.

While I’m not sure slinging spells is the be-all and end-all of PVE for me – I miss my tanking days at times – for PVP the playstyle is right up my alley. And while Cataclysm will probably mean shelving my mage for PVE in favour of rolling a goblin tank, I think he will indubitably live on as a PVP powerhouse, particularly within the context of rated battlegrounds.

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Well, today marks the end of Champions Online’s Open Beta, and after getting one toon up to around level 7 and another still pottering about in the tutorial at level 4, I’ve come to the conclusion that Champions will not be seeing my subscription dollars. I might buy the box and a month’s time, but I’ll probably only join in the fun and games a little bit down the line.

But why, I hear you bleat plaintively. It’s soooo much fun.

Well, sure. It’s a fun little MMO. But the emphasis is on little. Having recently read both Keen AND his brother Graev’s take on the game, I agree with both of them. It’s a solid game, well worth a go if you like the idea of zooming about a city beating up evildoers. But something about this game strikes me as..well, shallow.

See, the thing about fantasy MMORPG’s isn’t so much the elves in chainmail bikinis, swords and magic. It’s the depth. The lore. World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings, even Warhammer Online, each is filled with a richness that surrounds them. They have storylines, NPC’s that you care about, dialogue that matters. Champions doesn’t. It took me a fair amount of time to stop reading WoW’s quest text, and the same for Warhammer. In Champions, by the second or third quest I was jsut clicking accept. I’m not entirely sure it’s me being a jaded old MMO veteran, but I jsut don’t care about those civilians I’m supposed to be protecting. Let alone finding their briefcase in the rubble or some shit. A noble task for my suped-up cloaked avenger, indeed.

Champions Online is, well, bland. It’s a bland and boring game. Nothing about it’s early game strikes me as awesome. The best part ends when you exit the character creator. You won’t be gearing up your character watching his aesthetic improve as he grows in power either – you look as cool at lvl 1 as you will at the level cap. While walking through early Millenium City, or some radiated desert, all I could think about was how I’d rather be doing my WoW dailies, or jumping into a BG, or doing a heroic. There’s something indefinable about WoW’s ability to grab you, hook you and keep you coming back for more. Champions Online just doesn’t seem to have that element. By totally embracing the casual element, you’re left with a game that offers you no reason to come back, to try harder. It is, ultimately, eminently forgettable.

Maybe the game needs more time for people to knuckle down and get through the early game. Maybe it picks up later. Maybe the combat becomes a little bit more interesting the deeper down we go. But as of right now, where Warhammer and Conan had great early games and lacklustre endgames, Champions has a boring early game and…we know nothing yet about the endgame. Which is why I won’t be one of those first-six-months guinea pigs this time round. If word on the street after a month or two is that endgame is good, and fun, and has some longevity, then I might commit to wading through the early borefest that is Champions Online. If not, it’s no huge loss to me. But to cut to the chase, I don’t think Champions will be seeing too many MMO gamers vested in other titles, making the switch. Maybe they’ll capture the City of Heroes crowd, and if being a tiny niche game is what Cryptic was aiming for, all power to them. I won’t be part of it, though. At least not yet. Time will tell whether I end up eating those words.

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Having just watched the trailer, browsed the site and ogled the screenshots and artwork, I must admit I’m pretty smug.

Cataclysm’s announcement is a wet dream for every current WoW fan,  burned out Ex-WoW fan, or in fact anyone whose played WoW and quit because of the boring, empty old-world content.

First up, goblins for the Horde. I’m amped. I love goblins. During my brief Alliance dalliances, I vacillated between dwarf and gnome. A short-guy race for Horde is what we needed.

goblin

Worgen are a bigger deal though. I mean, just look at em…

worgen

Bad ass. And Varian Wryn”s new badass Alliance needs some badass wolfmen.

Beyond the new races a quick bullet list reveals…

  • New race/class combinations – Tauren Paladins, Gnome Priests, Human Hunters and more.
  • Virtually all old-world content radically redesigned. Some of those zones from the trailer look awesome.
  • Old instances and raids tweaked and ressurected. Heroic Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep to name two known ones.
  • Flying mounts in Azeroth.
  • Team-rated Battlegrounds
  • and probably what I’m most excited about, more new raid content than any expansion before. Even Burning Crusade? Even Burning Crusade.

So do yourselves a favour, have a look at some of those features, take a gander at the trailer, and realise. WoW ain’t goin nowhere. Four more years, baby.

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Yesterday, after another quick patch, I was actually able to join a tutorial instance and actually play my character (a hulking cyborg called Watchtower) for about half an hour before the server went down. Wasn’t able to reconnect after the server came up, and am hoping for a little more luck over the next few days/weekend. Unfortunately I’m on the road for most of next week, and by the time I’m back the Beta will have ended and the actual game, launched. So everything hinges on the next 2 days or so, at least for me.

The half hour I got to enjoy killing ten rats and doing fedex quests in Millenium City were, well, alright.

The highs

  • Character creator is awesome, best ever
  • Really nice engine, I like the look loads.
  • My character’s animations, stance, the way he moved, hit things, jumped around…this felt good. Solid. “Chunky”. Many MMO’s have this indefinable, weird ‘floaty’ quality about them, like stick-figure animations, animating at the wrong times, and a general feeling of disjointedness. I noticed this in Guild Wars, I noticed it in Lord of the Rings and, to a lesser degree, in Warhammer. Not the case in Champions Online. CHO nails it. ‘Felt’ like I was playing WoW in spandex.
  • Cool sound effects, cool music
  • You can pick up and throw stuff at other stuff. Rawr.

The lows

  • Don’t care about the lore or universe at all.
  • Feels really, really cheesy, and I prefer my superheroes a little more Dark Knight and a little less Batman and Robin.
  • Kill ten rats. The very first quest I did was Kill Ten Rats. Champions Online doesnt even pretend its’ trying to innovate at all. It’s not. This is Every Other MMO, just with neon tights.
  • Instancing. Everything seems instanced. I’m not a fan of instanced worlds. Not even maybe.

Bottom line? Looks like fun. But will it still be fun after the first month? Skurmish says, Don’t know. But I wouldn’t buy that lifetime subscription. No sir.

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Blogs for the Blogroll!

Since I’ve been out of the blogging scene (in a sense) for a while now, I’d like to reconstruct a blogroll of worthy MMO blogs. If you have any suggestions who to link to, or have a blog of your own you’d like to see linked, send me a mail to skurmish (at) gmail (dot) com. No guarantees – I won’t link to any sites or blogs that have gold spam/tons of ads/etc, or blogs that aren’t frequently updated (frequently being, in my book, at least once a week)

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Champions Offline

So, after 3 days of struggling with Fileplanet, patching and a general feeling of helplessness and no idea WTF was going on, I was able to finally experience the Champions Open Beta in all it’s glory.

championsoffline

After half on hour of waiting before alt-f4’ing in disgust I must conclude that, at the very least, it’s a very pretty “please wait” screen.

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I know I quit the game with an epic rant. I know I went from pledging my firstborn to the gods of Chaos, to purging it from my consciousness in fire and brimstone. But, after an extended hiatus of around 3 months, I booted up Warhammer the other day, created a new trial account, patched it up and took a few steps into Tier 1. And I had fun. It was good.

Did anything change? After about an hour I couldn’t really say. It was the same game I quit in an emo rage. But, perhaps, after 3 months of allowing all preconceived notions and hype wash away and playing Warhammer for casual lulz, I had some fun. Perhaps not a blast f epic proportions, but after running a few Scenarios I was just about ready to resubscribe.

Of course, I didn’t, because the thing is, as much as we all believed WAR to be an animal of a different colour to WoW, there’s a glaring issue that MMORPG developers seem to be oblivious of.

MMORPG gamers have to choose one game to play. And the reason is time investment. Even WAR, a relatively casual game, requires an inordinate amount of time to grind to 40. And then the Renown grind starts. All MMORPG’s have grinds built into them and that’s what keeps us playing them. But it’s also what keeps us from playing the field. These games require a commitment of hours a day. Even a casual WAR player, who chooses to play WAR instead of WoW, will do so because he doesn’t have the time to play WoW. So while he may only play WAR 1 or 2 hours every second night instead of a hardcore WoW gamer spending 4 hours every night, fact remains that gamer still only has X amount of time to dedicate to his gaming hobby, and WAR will monopolize it when he does.

There may be some MMORPG gamers entertaining 2, 3 or more titles simultaneously, but most of us will affix on our character in our favourite MMORPG and spend all our free time trying to level him, gear him and pimp him out.

To many it came down to a choice. WoW, or WAR. And WoW won. And for all WAR’s faults – it’s laggy Keeps and Forts, it’s somewhat faulty RvR design and it’s mundane PvE, the game is fun, it has a lot going for it. And if I wasn’t the sort of gamer who has to try and gear his mage up as best he can (hint: 90% of MMORPG gamers are clones of myself), then I probably would seriously entertain playing 2, or 3, or more MMORPG’s. Sadly, in the long run, WAR turned out to be a fun albeit short term diversion.

Mythic are working on reinvigorating things, and with patch 1.3.1 or perhaps 1.3.2, I may very well resubscribe for a month to check the scene out. But because it’s not better than WoW, keeping my interest permanently is a very hard sell. And, ultimately, that’s why WAR was kinda doomed from the start: it was built to appease a casual market with a short attention span, but that element is also the kind of audience that’s loath to pay a subscription fee over any kind of long term.

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