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5

Emerald Nightmare Progress

KGC (the Keen and Graev’ Community WoW guild on Fenris) entered Emerald Nightmare this weekend and was able to clear out 3 bosses in about 2 hours.

Nythendra was a fun fight. I actually enjoyed this first boss the most, despite its simplicity. The slime mechanic was pretty cool, and having the avoid bugs exploding was neat.

The next boss we fought was Elerethe Renferal, a boss that turns into a spider and a roc. The two different phases each have their own mechanic, and involve hopping a platform in the nightmare Mulgore area. Really cool scene, and a fun fight.

Emerald Nightmare Legion Raid

Supposedly we chose the hardest boss to go first in terms of mechanics. Elerethe Renferal was indeed more complicated mechanically, only in that there was a lot going on which made things feel hectic. It was still only a couple tries to clear.

The last boss we cleared during our run was Ursoc. Ursoc presented almost no challenge mechanically since you just have to overcome one simple mechanic of standing between him when he charges someone. What kept hurting us was having to make sure the tanks didn’t get obliterated. This one took the most attempts, but shouldn’t pose a problem in the future.

KGC on FenrisSo far I like Emerald Nightmare. The setting really isn’t my thing. I don’t love the red/grey/brown palette, but I do like the concept of the dungeon. Going to different zones that are all in this nightmare state is neat.

We would like to recruit 2-3 more DPS to join our ranks. If anyone wants to raid with us please let me know. We’re on Fenris (Alliance) and would love to have you.

Our goal for this next week is to clear the normal raid and then progress to Heroic.

8

Raiding has become way too complicated

Old SChool Onyxia Raid

Running older WoW raids for transmogs these past few days has reminded me about how raiding has changed so much over the years. Raiding back in the days of Molten Core was so much simpler.

Molten Core fights were almost entirely gear checks and “can you perform this one simple mechanic” checks. For example, the very first MC boss simply required your healers to decurse. The second boss required nothing more than coordinated timing.

I enjoy the simplicity of old school Onyxia. She breathes fire like any dragon would, so avoid her face. Her tail is huge and can whip you, so avoid her tail. Attack where the dragon is weak behind her flanks. AOE whelp adds.

Modern raid are so beyond convoluted by comparison. We’re dancing around the room, juggling adds, dodging aoe attacks, standing in stuff that looks bad but is actually good if the boss is doing x y or z.

While the mechanics are more interesting in some aspects, the complexity has eclipsed the purity of the encounter. We no longer fight characteristics, we fight abilities. I miss looking at a boss. I feel like I stare at the floor or wherever it is I’m supposed to look to wait for some predetermined ability to dictate my actions.

Just the musings of an old school raider. But hey, I actually like tank and spank gear checks. I’m weird like that.

8

“I haven’t seen that in a decade…”

Had an interesting experience in EverQuest last night. I was healing the Unrest Fireplace on my Halfling Cleric and everything was going as you might expect. We had two rangers, a rogue, a mage, a shaman and me. Obviously with no tank things can get dicey, but being EverQuest people are typically a little more careful. Bad pulls still happen like the one we had last night. Puller brought in way too many ghouls and skeletons from the top floor and we ended being being rooted all over the place with no CC.

I found myself having to take a few hits, which is typically not a problem for a plate-wearing healer, but it can only last so long. I noticed the tank (the ranger with better gear) was rooted, so I ran over to him for him to be able to peel the mobs off me. He did, we lived, and all was well. I then received quite a shock: The tank was praising me for how well the fight went saying he hasn’t seen a healer run to the tank for over 10 years, and how I managed to maintain my mana pool with no gear (my cleric’s gear sucks) was a shock to him. I received a few other praises and we continued on for a few more hours.

Nothing I did was particularly worthy of praise. I used the right heals on the right people at the right time. I knew the mobs and what they were capable of, so I wasn’t healing people who had a mob I knew they could tank on them while someone else was risking death. I moved where I needed to be to let the classes do their job. I played correctly.

Their reaction stuck with me. I think they reacted the way they did because people, for the most part, aren’t used to games where people need to think. Modern games tell us where to move (out of the red circles) and UI mods tell us what to heal — or we have infinite mana and just mass heal everyone. Most groups in most games can just AOE everything down and death is unheard of while leveling up.

Playing my class well mattered last night. I liked that feeling. The praise was nice too, but it was knowing I was good at what I did and that very fact influenced what we were capable of doing as a team. I’d like to see that matter more these days.

11

TimeWalking Dungeons & Getting Loot Easier

WotLK Timewalking

I decided to take a break from the sea of endless quests in Nagrand to start running some dungeons. Amid the streamlining of this and that, and the confusing design elements which I’m pretty sure have even Blizzard confused right now, I see some things they’ve done that I really like.

I participated in this whole Time Walking event dealy they got going on every so often where you can queue for dungeons from past expansions but they drop loot that’s good for your characters today (iLvl 630’ish?). This time it’s Wrath of the Lich King. WotLK was the best expansion in WoW’s history for many reasons. I think they even had the most subscribers during those days so I bet I’m not alone in that opinion. The dungeons in WotLK are really, really good. For whatever reason, I’ve never been able to run dungeons ad nauseam quite like I can those WotLK.

Well I ran three of them last night in my 1.5 hours of play and I was able to upgrade 4 items right from dungeons. I started earning these tokens–I can’t even remember the name because WoW has so many stupid currencies–which turns out I can spend on even better gear than drops in the dungeon. Sure enough, I upgraded 6 items last night and skyrocketed my character’s potential. I’m now able to do half of the available raids in the raid finder and will start queueing for those here soon. Remember, my goal is only to see all of the content in WoD before Legion comes out.

Not only have they made old fun dungeons relevant and worth running again, but they’ve made getting gear for someone in my situation a lot easier. Those are both plusses. I’d like to see dungeons provide more opportunities for people to get gear more easily. Not only that, I’d like to see opportunities to get the gear I want more easily. But I’m also in the group that wants raids to be more about story and seeing the content rather than the challenge of grinding it out.

34

Early Thoughts on my Return to WoW

Yeah, I returned to WoW. I’ve put in a few hours casually over the last 4 days and have to say I’m starting to really, really enjoy the leveling experience in Warlords of Draenor. In fact, so much so that I am regretting having not played from the beginning. Technically it would have never worked given I was busy getting married, etc., but there is definitely a twinge of “Ugh I missed out on this in its heyday.”

This post is simply going to serve as a place to dump a few quick thoughts on my experience thus far, and maybe even get a little bit of your feedback and help on some questions.

I decided to roll up a Hunter. I plan to convert him to a melee spec Hunter when Legion launches. I’m enjoying how Hunters have changed since I played one as my Main from Vanilla through WotLK.  Any advice on a particular pet?

Khadgar has Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian

Why does Khadgar have Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian?

Lore

I love the emphasis on lore and story. Right from the get-go we meet Khadgar and Durotan and really big players. So much early RTS lore being thrown at me. However, I’m sorta confused. So uh.. where’d Khadgar come from? Wasn’t he in Outland in Shattrath? And why does he have Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian?! Isn’t that Medivh’s staff?

WoW Garrison

Having a useful, functional place to upgrade and work on is a welcome change of scenery

Garrisons

The Garrison system is fantastic. I think adding a place to call “home” is definitely a much needed change of pace from everyone roaming around a capital city. The feigned sense of social contact in WoW was off-putting. We were never there to chat. At best it made for inspecting people and suffering from gear envy. Having a practical and useful place that generates items, income, and something to do — a reason to log in that isn’t the same kind of daily quest — is welcome.

[su_lightbox type=”image” src=”https://www.keenandgraev.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/frostfire-ridge.jpg” class=”pointer”][/su_lightbox]

Atmosphere & Quests

The zones themselves seem much grander than typical WoW expansions. MoP was so bland and the lore and atmosphere stank in comparison. I really feel a sense of “Warcraft” here.

Quests in Frostfire Ridge were quite good. I like the emphasis on cinematic and leading me around via story. On the main map there is a Story Progress indicator which is nice to see how far I should be progressing through a zone. Thus far, the story has taken me to all of the outposts and I feel like I finished everything I wanted to do in Frostfire Ridge by the time the story took me to the next zone.

[Spoiler ahead] When Ga’arn told his brother the tribe needed their Warchief and Durotan’s eyes widened… then Ga’arn sacrificed himself and yelled “LOK’TAR!!” I had the best nerdy goosebumps and was on the verge of getting emotional. Whew… starting to feel it again… okay, moving on.

Questing itself is definitely not bad. Yeah, it’s the same old stuff but man when you go to other games and do their quests and you come back to WoW it’s like a warm chocolate chip cookie giving you a hug. As far as themeparks go, WoW is king and no one else should even try.

WoW Rare mob spawns

Gathering treasures and hunting “rare” mobs adds fun

Treasure and Rares

One of my absolute favorite additions are the treasures and rare mobs/items around the map. I LOVE the exploration element that exists even when I cheat with this UI mod that shows me where everything is located. Personally, seeing these rares on the map is even more push for me to go out of my comfort zone. I also like how they can require a little effort and acrobatics.

Gear Upgrades

REALLY cool feature I just discovered is random gear upgrades. I got a quest reward that I swear went from a green to an epic. I now have like 5 epics that are way better than the quest reward was going to be. Such a neat dynamic element to a very stale questing model.

Gorgrond

I’m excited to see what adventures the next zone brings

I’m just now entering the second zone: Gorgrond. Setting up my outposts was yet another “cool, that’s neat,” moment. Those moments will keep me engaged and wanting to continue logging in to level.

9

Bring the Player Not the Class

For a while, Blizzard followed a “bring the player not the class” mantra… or tried. Now whether or not they actually stick to this isn’t really what I want to debate. My big question here is why can’t it be both? Why can’t we look to the person who plays their class best AND plays a class that brings something interesting, unique, and needed to a group or raid?

I believe that every class should offer something useful and be so different from the other classes that you can’t so easily bring one over the other. I want to make a distinction here that I’m not saying every class should be mandatory. I’m saying that no class should be at a distinct advantage, and no class should be unwanted. If two DPS classes are both LFG, one should not be at a disadvantage because their DPS is inherently inferior and they offer nothing else to a group but their raw damage output.

Similarly, I don’t think that every class should be an easy ‘push a button and win’ combination. If Rogues are the “best melee DPS”, not every Rogue should be the top DPS. If Clerics offer the best direct heals, not every Cleric should immediately be the best healer just because they play a Cleric.

And lastly, no one class should be able to do everything.  Duh [At least you’d think so.]  Homogenization is a detriment to fun.

TLDR: Balance the classes, please. And while you’re at it let truly skilled players stand out above the rest. Bring the player, AND bring the class, for the RIGHT reasons.

 

8

EverQuest Ragefire Raids & Instancing

Yesterday I wrote about why I like the instancing in EverQuest. I think Daybreak did a nice job of meeting the average player’s needs quite well. After yesterday’s post went up, Daybreak announced some changes to the instancing system as it pertains to raiding and zones which contain popular raid monsters.

Let’s take a look at the patch notes.

[expand title=”View the Patch Notes” swaptitle=”Hide the Patch Notes”]

At launch, as now, there is only one Lord Nagafen and only one Lady Vox. If you defeated them, you also had to compete with a server full of people who wanted to defeat them, too. That’s a pretty big accomplishment.

So, in the spirit of making raid content more available while still allowing for competition and accomplishment, here’s what we have planned for an update in July:

  • Nagafen’s Lair, Permafrost Keep, the Hole, and Kedge Keep are now load-balancing zones. This will let more people have access to these zones for XP and non-raid items (WTB GEBs, PST).
  • We now have a way to prevent raid targets from spawning in extra load-balanced zones. We have done this with Lord Nagafen, Lady Vox, Master Yael, and Phinigel Autropos so they will only ever spawn in the base version of their zones.
  • All raid targets (dragons, Phinigel, Yael, and gods) now spawn more often than they used to, but have a much larger variance in their spawn times so they’ll be more difficult to predict.
  • We’ve made the raid bosses more difficult, so that they will require coordination of more adventurers to tackle them successfully. Healing and support should once again be very important in these encounters.
  • Speaking of Hate and Fear, while we didn’t implement load balancing, we did reduce the respawn time of all non-raid targets by two thirds. Any mini-bosses that didn’t have persistent timers (such as the Fear golems) now have them and have additional variance in their respawn times. This means that they won’t necessarily be spawned when the server first comes up.
[/expand]

 

Now before I begin, I’m not a raider in EverQuest. I don’t enjoy the toxic community currently dominating that space. I don’t plan to raid. I’d participate in invite, but do not consider raiding necessary to enjoy EQ. So really none of this affects me except the part where I can now get more gear easily from the non-raid encounters.

That said, for the people who DO like to raid in EQ, but aren’t apart of the 1% doesn’t this have much of the opposite effect? I have a few questions that just do not make sense.

  • What stops Raid Guild X from filling all spots in the raid zone, forcing everyone else out of it and never able to enter?
  • Doesn’t increasing raid variance make it more difficult for casual players to have a chance at participating since those players aren’t regularly camping mobs for 12 hours a day?
  • If the targets spawn quicker, doesn’t that mean the rich just get richer?

I’m curious if Daybreak really thought this one through. All this will end up doing is creating a competition for the 1% to sit around in the base instance of the raid zones. But hey, I’ll be in /pick 2!

18

Great Weekend in EQ + Some Good Grouping Lessons

My weekend was filled with great gaming. I played Assassin’s Creed Unity and Splatoon with my wife, then spent a good deal of time leveling up my characters in EverQuest. I’ll write more on the other two later because I really want to write about a few of my EQ highlights from this weekend.

Keen the Bard progressed a little bit. My bard is the character I most want to play later on in levels, but I’m keeping him part of the guild static group we have going.  For a group around our level(levels 17-21 at the time) it’s sometimes tough to find a spot in Unrest given how crowded it can be. Three of us decided to take our group and head over to Upper Guk to check out the leveling scene. We build a lower sewers team that ended up bringing in about a level and a half before we decided to call it for the night.

My Mage is where I spent the bulk of my time this weekend. I’m having an absolute blast leveling him up! Twice this weekend I found myself in stellar groups pulling constant streams of mobs in Unrest. I was the main DPS in both groups which, in EQ speak, means it was my job to burn something down very quickly if we got a bad pull and also my job to make sure things generally do not stay alive for too long and drain the healer’s mana. That leads me to a couple of important lessons I encountered this weekend: (1) Know your role, and (2) When you get a good group you need to socialize.

Know Your Role

This might be one of the best things about EverQuest. Even in a state where things are generally easier, roles are clearly defined. As I mentioned before, I am a Mage and that makes me the DPS. I’m not the puller. I’m not the tank. I’m the guy who blows things up. The puller’s job is to make sure we have a steady stream of mobs — without him the EXP is slow. The tank is responsible for tagging what the puller brings in and keeping it (generally) off everyone else. The Healer is responsible for managing their mana and ensuring no one dies (notice I didn’t say at full health). I could go on and highlight more specialized roles like CC and other support, but that’ll suffice.

I ran into a few people this weekend who seemed to either forget their role, or never learned what it was to begin with. When roles are played properly everything is amazing and smooth, but the opposite is true. We had an enchanter who never used Mez. I don’t know if he thought we didn’t need it, or simply was lazy, but he was nuking constantly. As a result, our healer’s mana was always low. That meant I had to nuke more to keep the mobs from killing people. The dominos kept falling from there.

Having clear roles makes everything more fun for me. So much more dynamic than everyone being DPS and having a healer and tank loosely filling their role while DPSing as much as possible.

Get to Know Your Group

Last night I was in a group at the Fireplace in Unrest. Awesome spot to EXP in. I went from level 20-22.5 in like an hour and a half. We had a few hiccups getting started, but quickly found our rhythm. We started chatting and having a good conversation as time went on. I learned about their past experiences with EQ. I learned what alts people were playing. Loot was dropping and we would congratulate each other and try to pull named mobs to get the other guy who wanted the tunic a chance at the drop.

The genuine consensus was that everyone was hoping everyone else was going to stick around a good long time, and generally we all did. At the end of the night when it was time for me to log (curse getting up at 5am for work) several people said they added me to their friends list. I used a line I hadn’t used in over a decade: “If you guys are ever looking for another and need a Mage to blow things up, definitely give me a shout!”

I know from experience that I WILL get a /tell from one of these people in the future. They will be in a group or leading a group one day and they’ll see me on the LFG tool and say, “Hey guys invite him, he’s a great Mage!”  Seriously, even if I wasn’t the best Mage ever they’ll still vouch for me because I know my role, I perform it well, and I was personable.

8

Need vs. Greed

Need vs. Greed

Mind if I roll need?

You’re in a dungeon group camping the epic sash of awesomeness. This sash is one of the best you can get for your melee abilities. You realize you are the only melee DPS in the group, and the only one who can use the sash. It drops! YES! But wait… why is everyone rolling ‘need’ on the epic sash of awesomeness? You ask, “Hey, why are you all rolling need?,” to which they respond, “I need money bro.”

Need vs. Greed is one of those glorious debates that sorta fizzled out over the years. I don’t know whether it’s because loot has become so individualized, or everyone just rolls need on everything because they no longer care. I for one have an opinion.

Only those present who can use the item as an upgrade are entitled to a chance at obtaining the item. I believe that the warrior filling the warrior role should get the warrior drops, and a wizard filling the wizard role should get the wizard drops. No, it doesn’t matter if you have a warrior alt! I don’t group to feed your alts. Greed rolls, or FFA rolls, are for items that no one can use as a direct upgrade.

There’s a school of thought out there which supports the ridiculous idea that any item is up for grabs by anyone if that item can provide any use — whether that use be liquidating it for cash or being used by an alt. These brilliant people seem to completely ignore the ‘greed’ side and lump everything into a need.

Some games have a built-in system to protect players. Warrior items can only be rolled on by warriors, etc. Some systems are more loose where you can roll if you can pass the check of simply being able to equip the item. While better than nothing, you’ll still lose items to the guy who wants to fund his other melee character when that awesome melee gear drops that he already owns.

Advanced Loot Window

EverQuest’s Advanced Loot Window

Some games do not have any of these systems at all. EverQuest is a prime example, and the source for my recent thoughts on the subject. I know that the advanced looting system was added and will be present on the progression server. This introduces a rolling system like WoW has/had where players can roll need and greed, etc. I fear this system may induce idiot loot

How to protect yourself against idiot looters:

  • Start your own groups and use master-looter
  • Decide on the rules upfront when forming a group
  • Know the rules of the group you’re joining before you join

As I alluded to before, this debate over the years has given rise to the clamoring for individualized loot. Such an idea isn’t completely out of the question for me, as I have often championed this very thing be present in all raid environments. However, something about forming a group to go into a dungeon and camp an item makes it more real if that item has a tangible presence for everyone. I think it all boils down to the world feeling connected and shared between everyone, and no part of the game being instanced — even the loot.

I welcome your thoughts.

14

An MMO Without a Focus on Loot

I was having one of my regular MMO discussions with a friend yesterday when we brought up a subject that started to make a lot of sense. MMOs didn’t used to be about the loot; sort of, but not really. The following are just thoughts we came up with while having this discussion.

We started thinking about a few examples of the older games we played extensively, and tried to identify in as few words as possible why it is we played — what was our drive or our reason for logging in each day.

Ultima Online – We were essentially living life. We made houses, started careers, accumulated wealth, and everything centered around making the act of living life easier.

Asherons Call – The world was constantly changing and we wanted to see it evolve; all about seeing what happens next.

EverQuest – Building relationships and creating dependencies on others was what kept us logging in. EQ (before Velious) wasn’t about raiding or looting as much as it was seeing how far we could advance and what challenges we could overcome.

Dark Age of Camelot – We lived in the world to defend our realm.

Loot can’t be the focus in a MMORPG that is going to recapture our attention. An MMO can and should have loot; we decided to nix the idea that maybe an MMO didn’t need loot at all, but can’t be the center where all roads lead.

When loot isn’t the focus, the other aspects of the game suddenly because exponentially more important and visible. There’s a reason players don’t participate in things like exploration, socializing, housing, or care about things like “realm pride” anymore. Those things do not actively drop epics, nor should they because that doesn’t make sense.

An MMO without a focus on loot is set free to be so much more. Design becomes a slave to gear when too much focus is placed upon it.

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