Sunday, March 30, 2014

Back in Defiance - for now

Not sure exactly what prompted the current itch to run around and shoot things, but there it was.  Part of the reason I think was that I've been seeing the advertisements for the next season on SyFy.  Part of it was just that it had been close to a year since I played last, and I wanted to see if they'd finally polished up the game to the point it should have been when it launched.  But regardless, during a lull between playing my protection warrior in WoW and leveling my rogue deck in Hearthstone, I found myself patching up Defiance.  And let me tell you, it was quite the patch too!

I'm like a goldfish
Part of the joy of getting older is you become a bit more forgetful.  So it was I found myself reading my own beginner's guides that I wrote about the game a year ago, to help me remember how things worked and what was what.  But like riding a bicycle it comes back pretty quick, and before long I was blasting hellbugs at arkfalls, and helping Van Bach find his missing piece of ark tech.  I'm taking a very story driven approach to the game this time, pretty much ignoring all of the side missions, and just advancing along the main story arc, and doing the episode missions.  I have no misgivings about a long term committment to the game, so while I'm here I want to get the most out of it, and not get bogged down in grindy kinds of content.

The Good Stuff
Most of the rough edges really have been polished up, and Defiance is surprisingly good at delivering what it promises.  It really is the shooter for MMO players - which is just about perfect for me.  There's most assuredly plenty of PvP content, but you can ignore that stuff if it's not for you, and progress through the game upgrading your guns, killing mutants, bugs, and bad guys, and you get lots of talky bits, occasional cut scenes, and great use of voice over.  And of course there's the fun of zooming over the landscape in your ATV.  Trion's excellent cooperative gameplay elements are made good use of here, so you often get help in missions, and there's always a pretty good collection of people at the arkfalls.  In fact, if the one thing I've actually found myself most pleasantly surprised about are the number of people I have found still actively playing the game.  It's nothing like opening month, but there's always a few people at the minor outposts, usually a dozen or so at the major outposts, and a few dozen running around the major arkfalls.  And I suspect there's higher numbers over in the Bay Area across the bridge - but I'm not that far yet.

The Meh Stuff
Defiance still suffers from the same things it always has.  Mostly a lack of discoverability of their game mechanics, an obtuse weapon mod system, and an unnecessarily convoluted progression system.  I will say though all of those things are better than they were at launch, at least, because the UI is significantly improved.  They've made it much easier to do the main thing you have to do in a game like this - compare one weapon to another.  It's still though not always clear which weapon is better than another weapon, but at least it's easier to compare them.  Oh and chat works.  Finally.

Play the Game - Watch the Series
I also must admit, part of the reason I'm back in the game is I really like what they're doing in tying the game and the tv series together now.  The television series has been renewed, and season 2 is coming out in June. In anticipation of that, they're released "Season 1 Rewind", and you can now play all of the game episodes that coincide to particular tv episodes, and watch the tv episodes over at SyFy Now at the same time.  It's pretty slick, and has me watching the episodes on my iPad and then playing the game immediately afterwards.  You can read more about how that works here.

Needs more MMO
Honestly, about the only reason I think Defiance still doesn't have real stickiness for me is the lack of a feeling of world, for lack of a better term.  It feels like a series of quests tied together by vendor and npc hubs, and not much more.  And instanced cooperative missions. The quests are fun, and the equipment is good, but it seem like they could do more with towns, and social centers, and non-combat related activities.  But for now I am having fun, and it's a nice diversion from WoW, and who knows, maybe I'll pick up some of the DLC's so I can play a castithan!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

An Embarrassment of Riches

It's been a busy and fun last couple of weeks for anyone that plays Blizzard games!  And all of this has contributed to make it a fine time to return to World of Warcraft - which is course is exactly what they intend.  So I thought I'd share some of the cool things that have recently become available.

Reaper of Souls
Things got kicked off in a big way earlier this month when the Loot 2.0 Patch dropped for Diablo III.  This brought a complete revamping of their loot and difficulty systems, and as of yesterday I believe, the shutting down of the auction houses.  Pretty much everyone I've talked to has agreed that this is absolutely the best thing to happen to the game so far.  It's suddenly returned the fun to finding cool stuff, makes finding cool stuff more likely, and that in turn brings the fun back to the game.  But even better, was that if you pre-ordered, you got an awesome treasure goblin pet in World of Warcraft! This little fella is both creepy and awesome at the same time, and is arguably the noisiest pet in my collection.  Within 30 minutes of him following you around you are either going to love him or absolutely hate him!

Another big event that happened this past week was that after months of alphas and betas, Hearthstone has officially gone live.  I've been playing Hearthstone since the closed alpha, and absolutely love the game.  My secret mage deck is probably still my fave, but I've had good fun and decent luck with many of the heroes.  And to celebrate, once again Blizz is there with the WoW tie in.  Get three wins in either Play mode or Arena mode, and you get another awesome mount - the Hearthsteed.  This mount is as cool as its name is lame, lol.  It's best described as kind of a stone.. arcane.. flying.. horse thing.  I know right? How can you not want that.

Boost to 90!
But the big happening this week was the release of preorders for the Warlords of Draenor expansion.  If you preordered the digital deluxe edition (which I did, natch!) you got this crazy cool mount - the Dread Raven. And you got a matching pet - the Raven Hatchling.  And of course, you got a boost to 90 - one of your existing characters (or even a brand new one) boosted to the current max level in the game.  I absolutely love the new mount and pet.  And with Shimmerblade's tier 2 recolor transmog set, the entire ensemble fits together really nicely.

But the big question that's on everyone's mind that's playing the game right now is of course:

What class do I boost to 90!!?!!

What if I pick a class I don't like?  But if I boost a class that's close to 90, I feel like I wasted my boost!  I've never played mage - maybe that's what I want!  Heheh.. I heard this conversation and variations of it from many folks over the past few days.  I have to admit, I was having the same dilemma myself, until I learned the finer details of the boost program.  See, if you boost a class that is level 60 or above, not only do you get boosted to level 90, but that classes primary crafting professions are also maxed out to 600.  Until I learned that, I was seriously considering boosting a class I'd never played before - maybe shaman, or priest.  But I've had a hunter sitting at level 62 since Wrath was released.  And I know I love that hunter.  I just never got back around to leveling her.  And honestly, I enjoy the early game quite a bit in WoW, so I knew I'd have no problems getting through 1 to 60.  But from about level 70 on, it's more of a slog for me.  So suddenly this was a no brainer. Boost my level 72 hunter to 90, get leatherworking maxed to 600. Now I can make cool gear for my hunter and my rogue, and I have another class at max level that I'm running around having an absolute blast with.

However you decide to choose, there's never been a better time to get back into the game, on a variety of fronts.  And if you do decide to come back to the game, and you got your freshly minted level 90 warlock, but arent' sure what do to with her - there are two resources you absolutely should bookmark now.  The first is this fantastic Level 90 Guide from WoWhead.  It's got everything you need to know about where to go and what to do to start outfitting your toon in something a little better than those gifted greens.  And if you're looking for help on picking those talents, and putting those abilities on your bar and how to work for them, be sure and check out the class guides at Icy Veins.  Each one gives incredibly good information on talent choices and rotations, as well as glyphs, gear, and everything else you want to know to get started with your class.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm swinging off to plunder some pirate booty with my new level 90 Draenei Hunter!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why are there no tanks?

So this line of thought got kicked off actually a few weeks ago, when I saw this blurb, from the letter from the producer for Final Fantasy XIV - ARR, in response to the question What can they do about the continued lack of tanks in the game?

We review player data every day, and recently there are actually a significant number of players leveling tank classes. When participating in the low level duty roulette, for example, you'll encounter players leveling their tanks and even players that just started a tank class. The number of tanks around level 40 is growing as well, and I believe this number will continue to increase. However, as you all know, there are also a number of players who are simply leveling a tank class because it's easier to queue in the duty finder, so whether or not these players will continue to play as tanks in the long term is still an issue. As things stand now, however, the number of tanks is growing, and I'm sure there are many players who will find tanking to be fun and continue leveling them up, so we're going to keep an eye on how many decide to use their tanks as their main class. If tanks are still in short supply, we would like to consider adding various bonuses such as a specialized mount.

And quite honestly this just flumoxed me.  The need for tanks is so great in Final Fantasy that the producers of the game are considering bribing people to roll up tanks with specialized mounts.  And Final Fantasy XIV certainly isn't alone in this.  WoW has stuck with a strong role combat model (that is, a model that incorporates the oft referred to trinity of tank, dps, and heals) for over a decade, and it still struggles with a lack of tanks in random group play.  And if it's not tanks, then it's healers. And it struck me - we've been doing this for over 20 years.  Why isn't this a solved problem yet?