Into the Mists of Pandaria

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So I finally gave in and went back to World of Warcraft to check out Mists of Pandaria – the expansion right after Cataclysm. Curiosity and nostalgia got the better of me. Last I played this game was about 6 years ago. In fact, the last report about it should be right here in the 2011 line of blog posts.

If you’re wondering how it’s like to level from 85 in 2017, in a time where two more expansions may have affected the balance of health and damage, look no further. It was all solo – no dungeons or raids.

And I can say right off the bat that it was too easy, even for a jellyfish like me. I can’t for logical reasons say if it was always like this or if the two later expansions and all their patches have affected the balance. I sure hope it was harder when the expansion arrived in 2012. I played my main Retribution Paladin and I could kill almost all solo enemies in approximately two ability attacks. Typically a judgment and then a follow-up. Solo enemies also did really weak damage to me, typically a total of much less than 10%. I rarely bothered with healing spells, food or bandages. The only place where it felt like Blizzard finally turned the tides was right after going through the wall gate into the north area of Townlong Steppes. There were a few mobs here that actually smacked my health bar down for me to see an actual gap.

But alas, it turned out to be the exception that proved the rule.

My Endeavors in World of Warcraft, Part 4

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This is part 4 in a continuous series about my time in World of Warcraft, from when I started playing in 2005 and onwards. Part 1 is here in case you missed the beginning of it.

May 2005

Izz from our guild (a level 42 Priest) and I went to Arathi Highlands where I managed to close a couple of elite quests. First we killed the stone giant Fozruk (he was easier than I thought) and then we entered Stromgarde Keep to get the artifacts in the tower. Here we found a Paladin and a Warrior had just wiped. I resurrected them both, and as thanks they helped us both get the artifacts. It’s in situations like these that the game really shines and shows when an online game can be really fascinating.1 May 2005

One thing I have skipped so far is that I wanted Bricaard to be a great enchanter. I had increased this skill meticulously by disenchanting a lot of gear and buying materials from the auction house.

I managed to buy the final reagents at the auction house and was ready for a trip to Uldaman to reach the enchanting master. Degaul and Sebastianus from my guild lent me a hand, and we quickly found the inconveniently placed woman. I bought the artisan level and trained from 225 to 250 using the reagents, thereby squeezing all the recipes available out of her. Nice keeping it to just one trip.3 May 2005

After a few short visits here and there in Azeroth, I went to Hinterlands and picked up quests. The town Aerie Peak used new building prefabs I hadn’t seen before. There were planes and tanks inside. I killed trolls and found a lot of feathers. After delivering the quests I dinged to level 51 and was finally able to get the new buff spell Blessing of Kings. It could increase all the attributes of a player with 10%.

My Endeavors in World of Warcraft, Part 3

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This is part 3 in a continuous series about my time in World of Warcraft, from when I started playing in 2005 and onwards. Part 1 is here in case you missed the beginning of it.

April 2005

I bought some plate armor at the auction. My level 40 paladin now had more than 2000 hit points and was getting close to 3000 armor. I redefined the keys Q for my mount and E for Seal of Command.

Along with Danes from my current guild we started a chain of runs in Scarlet Monastery, a big place that was split up in several smaller dungeon instances. The journey there was actually quite a hassle. We started in Southshore, rode past the magical sphere of Dalaran, swam through a lake with small islands, then rode through a low-level Horde zone with a couple of lethal “Level ??” PvP soldiers on our tails.

First we visited the Graveyard (the smallest with no quests) and then the Library. It went well for a while but on the way out we pulled too many. Here I tried using Divine Intervention, a timed shield of immunity to protect another player from harm while the enemies run back. Throwing this spell was always a suicide on my part and the other player was then supposed to revive the fallen party members afterwards.

Unfortunately the guildies didn’t know about this mechanism and we just wiped anyway.

Another not so cool thing was that our pulling player did so using his character instead of a ranged weapon or spell. Nevertheless it went better in the Armory and we even killed the boss Herod. As he died it started pouring in with several dozens of additional enemies, but luckily they were not elite and could be exterminated with area of effect (AOE) spells. We did okay – but there was still a lot to learn.

My Endeavors in World of Warcraft, Part 2

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This is part 2 in a continuous series about my time in World of Warcraft, from when I started playing in 2005 and onwards. Part 1 is here in case you missed the beginning of it.

March 2005

After getting the guild tabard for Bricaard (it made me look like a royal knight) I helped my friend Marc with my priest for a while, but it was boring doing the same quests again that I had already done with Bricaard. It was probably the first good hint that leveling alts wasn’t really for me.

Bricaard then went to Duskwood, the third zone that took place in an ominous dark forest with undeads. I was together with Bulwai most of the time, and he told me about a Scandinavian guild that he was also a member of. All of the members were grownups and there was a friendly tone. Unfortunately the guild leader was on a ski vacation, so I had to wait a while in case I wanted to change guilds.

Questing with Bulwai in Duskwood was great some of the time, but it wasn’t always fantastic.

My Endeavors in World of Warcraft, Part 1

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This is part 1 in a continuous series about my time in World of Warcraft, from when I started playing in 2005 and onwards. I can’t guarantee that I will go all the way, but I’ll try to add parts when I’m in the mood for more.

I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to video games in general. Back in the 80’s and 90’s on the C64 on Amiga, I was much more interested in coding, making chiptunes and being part of the demo scene culture. This continued in the 90’s on the PC where I was into AdLib music. I dabbled a little bit with adventure games and the first couple of Tomb Raider games, but I never considered it serious.

This changed radically in 2001 with an epiphany, almost like flipping a switch. Suddenly I was grabbed by single-player PC games and played them back to back, like I was possessed. Every game was pondered and described in my digital diaries, a writing habit I had started back in 1996 and still do to this day. I now considered it an honorable and fascinating hobby to experience and complete PC games.

I listed my victories in Excel and to anyone else, it might have seemed like genuine OCD.

But burning through single-player video games like that of course made me step up several times to keep the hobby fresh. I started playing RPG, a genre I had never really touched before. I didn’t only play the new stuff, I also went back and played a lot of the classic RPG and FPS. I completed isometric RPG like the Baldur’s Gate series and then Morrowind in 2004, a game I found too overwhelming at release.

After having completed more than 250 games and reaching 2005, I was starting to get a bit bored with a lot of single-player games. It was getting harder finding innovative titles and the novelty was wearing off. To make matters even worse, I was sort of slapped completely silly by one exceedingly impossible mission in Tribes: Vengeance that frustrated me enough to actually make me consider quitting the hobby.

I needed a change, and that’s when I started hearing about World of Warcraft.

Animated Day Cycle

I’ve made a nice crossfading experiment in jQuery just for fun.

A while ago, while I was exploring the new zone Enedwaith in LOTRO, I decided to stand still on a hilltop and gaze into the distance for quite a while, taking a screenshot as the day grew brighter. This gave me three screenshots ranging from night to day.

A little later I combined the three screenshots and saved it as this GIF animation:

Spoiler: GIF animation

Dawn in LOTRO (Thrór’s Coomb)

But then earlier this week I had this thought that perhaps the transition could be made really neat by crossfading the images using jQuery. Yesterday I threw the idea together and you can now see the result by clicking the DEMO link below.

DEMO    DOWNLOAD

Note: If you use the slider for a faster speed and the current crossfade animation is slow, you have to wait a bit for the current stage to finish before the new speed is actually applied.

If you wish, you can download the lot (468 KB) and replace the three “stage” images with your own. Perhaps there’s another computer game you’d like to see a dawn effect from? You’re also welcome to adapt and post it on your own web site.

SWTOR: 1+ Hours of Gameplay

Here is an interesting link to 1 hour and 30 minutes of gameplay in Star Wars: The Old Republic. The player procrastinates a bit here and there, but it’s still worth checking out if you have any interest in this upcoming MMORPG.

I actually didn’t want to post it at first (the name of the page is “Don’t Say a Word!”) but since then I’ve seen it pop up in forums and other blogs, so I guess the rabbit is out of the cage anyway. I wonder how long it will take before it is “foxed” by BioWare? UPDATE: Not long. The video is already gone.

Back when I first saw the link in a forum I actually watched most of it and wrote down a few notes:

  • Generally there are many conventional MMORPG clichés. A bit worrying.
  • Nice UI layout with health, pets, buffs and more all in the bottom, close together. Makes it fast to see the important stuff in battle.
  • The chat window in the top left corner is a little strange, however. But maybe I just need to get used to it.
  • Very odd “blue soap bubble” map. It even goes partly transparent when you run while it’s still open – I wonder if they were inspired by Rift there?
  • Combat seems a little boring to be honest. Same old. And of course no blood.
  • Tooltips are very WoW/LOTRO-style – even has bonus sets too. But there’s a nice delayed “slide-out” comparison with gear tooltips.
  • Some textures are too WoW-style for my taste (i.e. cartoonish), especially inside caves.
  • The KOTOR-style voice NPC talk and choices are pretty cool. Nice lip sync and voice acting. Also a nice touch with the good or bad choices in debates showing a cyan or red tint on the screen afterwards.
  • Some humans have long faces. I don’t have a problem with that, actually – the models still look good. It’s those textures on the cave walls I’m worried about.
  • Action icon GCD cyan refresh is too interfering – can’t see icons well enough.
  • Groups of 2-3 mobs seems to be quite common?
  • Many mobs stand still (LOTRO-style). Good. I’ve had enough of excessive patrolling like in Rift for a while.
  • Not a lot of background music – often silent. Perhaps this will change in the final version?
  • Almost devoid of loading bars. Interesting.
  • Taxa on small speeders.
  • Large inventory – 48 slots! I hope that makes it to the final version.
  • I saw the player enter a big building that had its entrance obscured by a wall you had to run around. It’s 2011 and we still need this trick in 3D engines?

Rift: Fat and Fifty

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Finally hit level 50 in Stillmoor a few days ago. I was surprised there wasn’t a lot of additional solo quests left after that. I barely completed less than half a dozen quests for Icecrown Citadel The Endless Citadel in the west end, and then the same quests just turned into dailies.

I decided to finalize my time with Rift after that. I rode through Freemarch and Stonefield just to see the zones and then parked my Cleric in Sanctum. I actually have a level 16 Rogue at the Defiants side as well and I was thinking about playing him through those zones, but I must say that I’ve had more than enough of Rift now. As mentioned in an earlier blog post it just feels like a shallow game world devoid of much soul, and the quests were for the most part uninspired.

Shimmersand
The only quests I really enjoyed occurred in this fortress in Shimmersand.

The dynamic rifts and invasions were an interesting new gimmick, but often an inadequate experience one way or another. Either there are no or too few players and the rift is too difficult, or there are zillions of players and the rift is too easy.

Last week there was a world event invasion in Fortune’s Shore in Shimmersand. It started with the usual intimidating villain speech and smoke rising from the town. Hundreds of players from both factions soon arrived and in the beginning it was exhilarating that we were so many beating on these elite mobs, but soon it dawned on me how undirected it was. I had no feeling of who or what was healing or tanking, if at all. Some gave orders in raid chat, but I think most players minded their own business. Lots of gravestones, layers upon layers of sound effects, and spells flying in all directions. Sometimes an invasion was defeated and the rabble floated onwards like a colony of ants. I got a lot of nice rift rewards out of it, but I wish it didn’t feel like something that will grow old quickly.

Disconnect Gift

Once upon a time, back in May 2005, I logged on my Paladin in World of Warcraft. I went to Silithus to grind Dust Stormers in the hopes of acquiring a few drops of Essence of Air for crafting. It was tedious business as I had to kill a lot of them for just a few measly drops of those, but that’s what I did back then and I actually enjoyed it.

But just as I started killing the umpteenth Dust Stormer, my World of Warcraft client froze. Oh no, I thought – it’s going to disconnect, and when I return, I bet the Dust Stormer finished the job. I was right. Disconnect, relog – and my Paladin was dead. Cursing and shouting commenced.

Being killed because of a disconnect was rare for me back then as it is today, as I usually make sure I have a stable computer and ditto internet connection. Not much I could do about it anyway, so I ran back, resurrected, and continued killing Dust Stormers. A few minutes later, something extraordinary happened; one of them dropped an epic item. This one, to be precise:

Jeweled Amulet of Cainwyn (WoW)

It doesn’t look like much today, but back in 2005 it was pretty good. It cheered me up and I instantly used it, but it also had me thinking. Was a GM looking over my shoulders, saw me disconnecting, felt sorry for me, then decided to make it up for me? Nah. Probably just a coincidence. Occam’s Razor and all that. I continued grinding and that was that.

6 Years Later

Fast forward to May 2011 – actually it was just yesterday. I logged on my Cleric in Rift. I went to Shimmersand to do some solo quests for XP, as I was only level 48 (still not quite there yet). Killed some basilisks around a pond and a few humans. I took another look in my quest log and saw that I needed to kill four Volcanic Flames, so I walked into the relevant canyon and spotted one.

Hm. It’s elite? Strange. Perhaps there’s a trick about finding a thing that will weaken them, so I didn’t think more of it and walked past a few of them. Then I took another close look at one of those fire elementals. It was indeed elite, but it didn’t look all that tough. Only about 11K health. I decided to give it a try and pulled it. It was a tough fight and I had to use a few potions, but I actually thought I was on top of it. I could have won it.

But then the game client froze. Oh no, I thought – it’s going to disconnect, and when I return, I bet the fire elemental finished the job. I was right. Disconnect, relog – and my Cleric was dead. Cursing and shouting commenced.

I thought this felt familiar, but never mind. I took a look in my quest log and only now I realized that the quest was for groups of three players. Bleh. I abandoned it and went back to the pond to kill some more basilisks and humans.

And then, just a few minutes later, this item dropped from an unimportant solo mob:

Gnawbone Staff (Rift)

Not only was it an item I could use for my class, it was also a pretty cool update. How convenient, wouldn’t you say? I’m not buying this anymore, developers. You have some kind of “Disconnect Gift” algorithm going on, don’t you? If someone is disconnected in the middle of a solo fight and dies, you activate a high chance of getting an epic item within the next few minutes. Just as some sort of apology and to make sure the player doesn’t do anything stupid like, say, rage quitting.

Actually, this could still all be a coincidence and I just got lucky both times and there really is no trick going on. But how about you? Have you ever had a suspiciously cool drop in an MMORPG shortly after a death due to e.g. a disconnect?

Fog of War

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I was reading the Bullroarer Release Notes for the upcoming Update 3 for LOTRO the other day, and one thing immediately caught my eye:

“Fog of War” on the world map no longer exists. You will now be able to see the world map in its entirety without having to visit every area.

I guess a lot of players would immediately find this to be a nice change. No more guessing, no more not knowing. It also fits with the latest trend of dumbing down our MMORPG bit by bit. But it actually saddened me, even if the “Fog of War” in LOTRO was only the crude version.

Fog of War (LOTRO)
A map in Lord of the Rings Online. Everything below Windfells is unknown.

Is “Fog of War” in MMORPG slowly becoming an endangered feature, soon to be extinct?