Wednesday, December 06, 2017

World PvP in Battle for Azeroth

One of the most interesting elements in Battle of Azeroth is that Blizzard is doing away with PvP and PvE rulesets for different servers. Instead, any character on any server will be able to flag or unflag PvP in a major city. Then when they go out into the world, they will be (seamlessly) put into a cross-realm zone where everyone has the same PvP state.

This is a really interesting way to handle PvP. Limiting changing state to major cities encourages people to try out world PvP. If they decide it's not for them, it's fairly painless to switch back.

There are also lots of interesting things Blizzard can do with this system. For example, they could ensure that each PvP cross-realm zone is balanced between Horde and Alliance. It won't be like modern PvP servers where one faction outnumbers the other ten-fold.

Blizzard could also eliminate ganking entirely. Simply put the max level players into a different cross-realm zone than the lower level players. Absolutely unfair fights simply can't happen without the players forcing it through grouping shenanigans.

About the only major loss I can see is that PvP fights at raid entrances will probably go away. It would be very likely that a group intent on raiding will unflag before heading over to the instance.

All in all, I think Blizzard's plan for PvP is a good one, and it will be very interesting to see how it plays out.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Dropping FFXIV

I've decided to stop playing Final Fantasy XIV.

The first reason is that I've decide to try and get through the backlog of games I have to play. So I've decided to stick with one long-term game, WoW, and one short-term game which gets uninstalled after I finish it. Thus FFXIV is dropped and uninstalled.

The second reason is that I do not find the current meta much fun. I don't like running through the dungeon and mass pulls. I also played a paladin, which is a tank class. But the current meta is all about staying in DPS stance as much as possible and doing maximum DPS. I didn't find it as fun as actually tanking.

So I switched to playing a Red Mage, but my heart wasn't really in it. It's perfectly fine, I suppose, but spamming AoE was a little boring.

The main story quest and other single-player quests are still excellent. I may resub when the story patches are releaed. But the heart of FFXIV daily gameplay is regular dungeon runs and group content. And somewhere along the line, I lost the "fun" in that.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Battle for Azeroth Trailer

The next WoW expansion, Battle for Azeroth, was revealed at Blizzcon, and the cinematic trailer made its debut.

We make the standard observation that it is not as good as the Wrath trailer. But it's still quite good, and honestly, is a lot more understandable than the last couple of trailers. The graphics are excellent as always.

It's got some good moments for both factions. Sylvanas reminds everyone that she's the Banshee Queen and discovers Horde pride. Anduin, on the other hand, has a really cool helm, and realizes that healers win battlegrounds, thus putting him ahead of 80% of PvP players.

As for the theme of the expansion, way back in 2009 I wrote a post on The Nature of War, and I think it still holds up today. I don't think Blizzard can make this work without fully committing one side as the aggressor.

I do hope Blizzard doesn't make Jaina Proudmoore into the bad guy though, and butcher her character like they did to Fandral Staghelm. Her perspective is interesting, and I don't think it's wrong.

Monday, November 27, 2017

WoW Classic Announcement

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting Blizzard to actually make WoW Classic. It's basically a second game at this point, and I didn't think they'd be willing to go that far. But Blizzard is going to try, so we'll see how it works out.

I would like WoW Classic to be a success. If it is successful, maybe Blizzard will start nudging normal WoW back towards Classic, adding back some of the small decisions, inconveniences, and restrictions that have been smoothed away. Perhaps they will also dial back the focus on transient gameplay, bringing back an unapologetic focus on "extended" content.

Those are all changes which I think have weakened modern WoW, and I would be happy to see the pendulum swing back in the other direction. Of course, the opposite might happen. Blizzard might leave WoW Classic for people who like the rough edges, and make normal WoW even more smooth, in order to differentiate the two.

That being said, I think that a lot of people will try WoW Classic, run up against those changes, and start complaining. Are people really going to enjoy reagents, ammo, shards, dead zones, requiring exactly 40 people in a raid, top guilds poaching players from lower guilds, the hybrid tax, hybrids forced to heal, few viable specializations, very little loot, and all other sundry rough edges which have been smoothed away?

My prediction is that a massive number of players will sign up for WoW Classic, but they will all dwindle away in a year or two. The players remaining will be complaining that their guilds cannot maintain raids, and calling on Blizzard to smooth away the restrictions to attract more players.

I also think the mod community will make a determined effort to eliminate many inconveniences via mods. For example, I bet we see a Party Finder mod (with Gearscore!) quite quickly after WoW Classic is released.

Finally, I think the community will be surprised at how easy WoW Classic will be. I don't think WoW Classic will prove difficult for raiders used to modern mechanics and theorycrafting. Especially as everyone knows the strategies for all the old content.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Blizzcon Predictions

Blizzcon starts tomorrow. What do you think will be announced?

I predict:

  • The next WoW expac is announced. It focuses on Kul Tiras and the nagas. The void will be in the background (perhaps for the expansion afterwards).
  • No new classes, but playable Vrykul and Nightfallen.
  • A completely new gear slot which uses the artifact mechanics. We go back to normal weapons.
  • Overwatch announces a new support character. A male healer that heals like Ana or Mercy.
  • Diablo announces a new Druid class for 2018, released much like the Necromancer.
Those are my wild guesses. Of course, by the time you read this, Blizzcon will probably be in full swing. What do you predict will be announced?

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Final Thoughts on Nier: Automata

I beat Nier: Automata last week and I'm still exhilarated by the ending. What they did at the very end was nothing short of brilliant. A beautiful use of video game mechanics and conventions.

Overall, Nier: Automata was an excellent game. It played well and had an interesting story line. Combat was fun and fluid. The sequence before the final fight was beautiful. I liked a lot of the mechanics like skill chips and the auto-use chips. The game did quite well at reinforcing the idea that the main character was an android through game mechanics.

I strongly recommend Nier: Automata to everyone. One thing to note is that game says it has multiple endings, unlocked through multiple playthroughs. That isn't quite right, and it is a little confusing at first, but it's hard to explain without significant spoilers. Just keep playing, and you'll know when you've reached the true end.

Some thoughts on the "true end' are below the break. Lots of spoilers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

First Impressions of NieR: Automata

An awful lot of video game conventions just make sense when your character is a robot.

I picked up NieR: Automata a couple of weeks ago, and have been steadily working my way through it. So far, it has been a delightful game, with some very interesting design decisions.

The setting is a post-apocalyptic setting where alien robots invaded Earth and drove the surviving humans to the moon. You play a female android, named 2B, who is working for the humans. It's mostly a straightforward console action game. The story line is very Japanese, which is somewhat hard to explain. If you watch anime, you'll recognize a lot of tropes. However, at the same time, it is also very weird.

Speaking of console games, the mouse and keyboard keybinds are next to impossible to play with. It's clearly a game designed for a console controller. After trying the game with mouse and keyboard, I promptly went out and bought an Xbox 360 controller. Given that the last console I owned was the NES (regular, not Super), this has been an interesting learning experience.[1]

Though the trailer above is in English, I'm playing with the Japanese voices and English subtitles. The English voices aren't as good, in my opinion. The only downside is that sometimes there will be a conversation while fighting, and it can be hard to catch the subtitles in that situation.

I started the game on Normal difficulty, but couldn't beat the first level, so I dropped down to Easy. Easy is interesting because your character has "auto-chips" which automatically control your character. However, you can enable and disable specific chips to customize your game. For example, I use automatic ranged fire from your pod and automatic evading, but manual melee attacks and manual weapon switching.

This whole theme of your character being an android and mechanics reflecting that is quite well done. For example, saving is literally your character uploading her current memory at a terminal. If you die, your memory is loaded into a new body at the terminal. You can find your old body and pick up all your gear.

Similarly, your characters "skills" are slots in memory. It's really nice system, and I'd like to talk more about it in a future post.

I really like the camera work as well. The game often seamlessly switches into a side-scroller or overhead view for specific sequences. It's quite well done. Character control is also very well done, and the game just feels smooth and easy to handle.

All in all, I'm really enjoying NieR: Automata, and I recommend it. It doesn't do anything too revolutionary, but it is a highly polished and fun experience.

1. As an aside, how do you console gamers handle the Left/Right Button and Trigger? Do you use your forefinger for both, or do you use your forefinger for the Button and middle finger for the Trigger? Neither feels quite right to me.