Monday, January 16, 2017

Buff Spells and Abilities

A couple weeks ago, a Blizzard CM posted the following in response to a forum thread:
Why do you feel blessings and auras are fun? I can understand that it feels "nice" to help other players with buff spells, but, in general, they were just niche spells that actually didn't contribute much to meaningful game play (Seals are a different story, I guess). I never thought to myself on my Pally that turning on Retribution or Devotion Aura was going to result in an exciting change besides some passive armor or thorns-like-damage reflect.
Buff spells are fun, but articulating exactly why is a bit of a challenge. They're not difficult decisions, which leads to the claim of "not meaningful gameplay." But not everything needs to be a difficult decision. The mere presence of a buff spell means that before the group even starts playing, people in the group are better off. Buff spells enhance the idea that the characters are stronger together.

It's also part of the ritual before starting something. Food, flask, buff up and then pull. When all decisions and actions occur in combat, I think something is lost. These actions in preparing for combat are important too.

I think buff spells might be most important to healer players. They're a concrete manifestation of your support. You buff your allies, you buff random people. I liked joining a group with a druid and seeing Mark of the Wild go up. I liked having Blessings and Auras.

Now, buff spells do have a lot of problems. The presence of buff spells mean that you want specific classes, rather than letting people play what they want. If the class was balanced around the buff spell, then the best plan was to only take one person of that class, and not multiples.

(Though, it seems that without buff spells, play what you want basically becomes "take the top parsing specs", so I'm not sure that we've truly gained anything.)

Blizzard tried to get around that in previous expansions by handing buffs out to every class. But that kind of watered down the whole concept. So in Legion, they've pretty much removed buff spells, or made them "interesting". Of course, it turned out that the new Blessing of Might was too interesting for Retribution paladins to handle, and so it had to be removed.

A Design for Class Buffs

Here's what I would do to reintroduce buffs:
  • Three buff types - 5% damage increase, 5% damage reduction, 5% healing taken/output (numbers are subject to tuning)
  • One cast buffs the raid. 
  • Buffs of the same type don't stack.
  • Healing specs get the buffs
  • Holy/Disc Priest - Prayer of Fortitude (healing)
  • Resto Druid - Mark of the Wild (tanking)
  • Mistweaver Monk - White Tiger statue (damage)
  • Holy Paladin - Blessing of Might (damage), Wisdom (healing), Kings (tanking). Only one blessing at a time.
  • Resto Shaman - Totems: Windfury (damage), Strength of Earth (tanking), Mana Tide (healing). Only one totem at a time.
Basically, your healer brings a buff to the group, an iconic spell for most of the classes (I'm not entirely sure what monks had). Paladins and shamans, being the traditional buff classes, have versatility. A full raid heal team with several classes will bring all 3 buffs. The specs and classes who I think most enjoy buffing get them back, without overloading everyone with complexity, or needing a spreadsheet to fill out a raid.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Since I don't seem to be doing well at actually writing posts, here's a round-up of what I've been doing gaming-wise.

World of Warcraft

My paladin has gotten the 35th point in The Silver Hand, and I'm at 34 in The Ashbringer. I've done all the Suramar quests, and am pretty much ready for 7.2.

I have a Horde warrior at 110, and have finished the class order campaign. However, I haven't done much else with it.  I also levelled a Demon Hunter to 110, but that character hasn't even finished the class order campaign.


This is pretty much dormant, waiting for the next patch. The interesting thing here is that I haven't done the second 24-man raid, or the 2nd and 3rd 8-man raid. I play a tank, and I seem to have concluded that those pieces of content are too complicated for me, for some reason.

Diablo 3

I started a Demon Hunter in Season 9. Really, I did this because my 70 Crusader has the same name as my current 70 Demon Hunter, and I want a Demon Hunter with a different name. I'm not sure if this character will make it to 70, though.

Pillars of Eternity

I made it to Act 3, and I just can't seem to push myself further. Maybe I'll spin this out into a full post.

The basic problem I'm having is that I don't like anyone in this world, so I have no real impulse to keep going. It's kind of like my attitude to Game of Thrones: if you kill all the characters I care about, I'm left with a book full of characters I don't care about, and that rapidly becomes a book I stop reading.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Diablo's 20th Anniversary

It's the 20th anniversary of the release of Diablo, and the various Blizzard games are celebrating. These are the events I've tried.

World of Warcraft

In WoW, there are Treasure Goblins which spawn in the Broken Isles, in the Dalaran Sewers, or at the end of instances. Kill them fast enough, and you can take a portal to the Cow Level, which has a lot of diabolical tauren, cows, and the Cow King. Killing the Cow King gives you a toy.

I recommend going for a Treasure Goblin in the Dalaran Sewers. You can pick up a guard from the guard captain for 5g, and that will keep you out of PvP (for 5 minutes or so). There are usually lots of players in the sewers, making it easier to kill the Goblin.

You can only loot the Cow King once, no matter how many times you kill him. However, you can loot multiple Treasure Goblins. Apparently the Cow King is a mess on PvP servers, but that's what you get for rolling PvP.

All in all, a short, fun event with some Diablo-themed loot.

Diablo 3

Diablo 3 has a small area and dungeon which mimics the original Diablo. There's a filter making all the graphics look old-school and pixelated, though all the mechanics are still Diablo 3. There's 16 levels in total, and four old bosses.

I recommend that you start with a new level 1 character in an Adventure game on Normal. You can portal right near the entrance to the new area and enter it without killing anything. Completing the dungeon on normal with that character gives you an achievement and pet. Plus it gives you the enjoyment of low level gearing and gaining levels and abilities.

One thing I wasn't sure about was if you were allowed to go back to town before finishing and still get the achievement. I ended up just dropping all the blue and yellow items that I didn't equip.

I did it with a new Crusader, and it was pretty easy. If you're thorough, you can get almost all the seasonal achievements in that one run. The only one that takes multiple runs is the achievement to kill all the unique mini-bosses.

This was a lot of fun, and the old-school graphics did a good job at invoking nostalgia. And at the same time subtly pointing out that normal D3 is a pretty good looking game.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rogue One

This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: Rogue One.

I saw Rogue One yesterday, and I am not quite sure how to word my feelings. It wasn't a bad movie, but it wasn't a very good one either. Decent enough, I guess.

The truth is that Rogue One commits the same sin as most modern action movies: there is too much action.

As a result, you can't really tell much about the characters, as they spent 95% of their time being shot at, shooting people, or running away from stuff. The characters certainly seemed serviceable enough, though I don't really remember their names or much about them.

The action set pieces all seemed fine and well done. I do wonder if the movie would have been better as a pure infiltration/heist piece, rather than the warzone of the last third.

I did like the bureaucratic in-fighting in the Empire, with both Tarkin and Krennic struggling to make sure they got credit for the Death Star. That felt very true to life.

Tarkin was CGI, and I thought that was pretty decent. I hope it doesn't start a trend of making movies with dead actors, though.

Vader's cameos were pretty good, especially at the end of the movie.

I don't really know what else I can say about Rogue One. A bunch of disjointed observations for a movie which really was a bunch of disjointed scenes strung together. Each individual scene was pretty good, but it never really became a whole, complete thing.

Monday, December 12, 2016

SWTOR's Command XP System

In their latest expansion, The Old Republic introduced a unified item reward system for endgame. Basically, all activities give some amount of "command" XP. Once you gain enough CXP, you gain a command level and get a lootbox. The lootbox has a random item in it. The quality of item you get depends on your current command level.

The community reaction to this is very negative. Personally, I don't think it's that bad a system. Its one great advantage is that you can do whatever activity you like, and you'll earn gear. You aren't "forced" to do raids or PvP.

But perhaps people like being able to "optimize" their gear hunt. To go after specific pieces in specific different activities. I complained once about grinding blue bars in WoW, specifically because you could not optimize your gameplay, and thus it was less interesting. In a way, this CXP system is very similar.

Or perhaps it's because the optimization is really obvious. Find the activity with the best ratio of CXP to time spent and spam it. Perhaps if Bioware made the CXP system artificially more complex, like having diminishing returns on activities, players would find it more "fun".

Another group of players complain because the system is entirely random. What if CXP had been a straight currency system, where you spend CXP at a vendor to purchase items? The grind is still there, but at least there is no random factor in obtaining loot. But then the random system gives you more gear because it expects you to end up wasting a large amount of it. A true purchase system would have very high prices to compensate.

Another possibility might be to "seed" the game with set tokens. Certain bosses or activities can reward specific set tokens, maybe with a cap on how many tokens you can earn in a week. So people can target those activities if they need that exact piece. The Command XP system would still exist, but would be more supplemental.

I don't know. I'm rather sympathetic to Bioware here. People always complain about "needing" to do activity X, which they dislike, to get gear. Bioware makes a decent system aimed squarely at letting you play whatever you want. And they end up with a huge community outcry.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Personal Loot and Set Pieces

I was musing about Personal Loot a bit more, and began to wonder if Personal Loot would fall out of favor with guilds when Nighthold is released.

A somewhat unique element of the raids released so far is that there have been no tier sets released. The first Legion tier set is coming in Nighthold.

At that point, though, guilds may feel that guaranteeing X set tokens for the raid each week through Master Loot is better than leaving set bonuses up to random chance. Sure, on an individual level you may have to wait, but eventually it will be your turn.

I'm also watching The Old Republic's new loot system, where all loot, including set pieces, comes in a random lootbox. It does feels like the the largest complaint against the system is the possibility of getting very unlucky and never getting your set bonuses.

Well, the SWTOR community doesn't like the system as a whole, but I think that the set pieces are the single biggest complaint. I wonder if Bioware could mitigate a lot of the complaints simply by having set tokens drop from a few raid bosses, even with leaving set pieces dropping from the lootbox as well.

It will be interesting to see if Nighthold does change the dynamic, and push organized raids back towards Master Loot.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Raiding and Time Management Issues

My guild is moving along steadily. We're currently 7/7 Heroic Emerald Nightmare (Ahead of the Curve!), but now we're running into time management issues.

It's actually kind of interesting how things have turned out. I think the guild leadership expected to be a casual Normal-mode guild for the most part, and maybe work on a few heroic bosses in the time left after the Normal raid ended. So we've ended up with a Normal raid on Friday where everyone in the guild is welcome to come. And then we have a Heroic raid on Saturday which you have to "qualify" for. 

The qualifications are really low, but it's just enough that you actually know the correct rotation for your spec and have minimal gear. But it's kind of indicative of the mindset of the guild, in that they see Heroic as "not for casuals".

The problem, however, is that even though we raid two days a week, it's sort of like we only raid one day a week, but in two different worlds. Friday we do 7/7 N EN, and there's maybe enough time to poke at Odyn. Saturday is 7/7 H EN, and again, barely enough time to poke at Trials of Valor.

If you add to that the casual inclination to farm gear before tackling something hard, and you can see how--even though we are relatively successful--we're kind of stuck at the same time, and not really progressing forward.

To me, the best solution would be to see if we can take the Friday group to Heroic EN. The vast majority of the raid is the same for both nights. (Though a lot of people now play alts on Friday.) If we can kill 3 or 4 Heroic bosses on Friday, I think that would free up enough time on Saturday to make solid attempts on Trials of Valor.

But I don't know if that squares with the way guild leadership views Heroic raiding. Ultimately, in their heart of hearts, I think they still believe we are a Normal mode guild, and the majority of people in the guild aren't really ready for Heroic raiding.