Category Archives: WoW

WoW Legion: Content Patches over Expansions any Day! [#Blaugust 8]

In January 2007 millions of World of Warcraft players turned their gaze towards the Blasted Lands: after two years of living in vanilla Azeroth, the Dark Portal was about to open. After too many runs through Molten Core, Blackwing Lair and Ahn’quiraj, it was finally time for the Burning Crusade – also known as “back when WoW was cool”.

According to the timeline on WoW wiki, the wait time between a freshly launched installment and the announcement of the next one, consistently lies around 10 months on average (TBC being the freak) due to winter launches and Blizzcon happening in fall every year –

  • Vanilla WoW, November 2004; October 2005 TBC announcement
  • TBC launch, January 2007; August 2007 WotLK announcement
  • WotLK launch, November 2008; August 2009 Cataclysm announcement
  • Cataclysm launch, December 2010; October 2011 Pandaria announcement
  • Pandaria launch, September 2012; November 2013 WoD announcement
  • WoD launch, November 2014; August 2015 Legion announcement

The average lifespan of a WoW expansion is around 20 months. Only vanilla WoW and WotLK made the playerbase wait for longer than that. Looking back, I am shocked how soon into the glorious TBC Blizzard already announced WotLK.

Considering Blizzard have been running like clockwork for 10 years, my launch date speculation for Legion is September 2016. Given that they’re down to 5.6 subscribers as of now, I wonder what else they’ll come up with to span the second half of Draenor. Expansion hype or not, it won’t keep more and more players from unsubscribing until the next expansion is actually here. Poor guilds.

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Oh and I still don’t like expansions

In 2011 I wrote a lengthy rant (with very srs charts!) on why I dislike expansions in MMOs. While GW2 or FFXIV have made some progress on that front in the past few years, it seems no AAA-title can withstand them forever. WoW has always been notorious for its extreme play-cycles, with mad content rushes after a patch and profound pre-drop/-expansion malady that has players methodically unsubscribing. This vexed me a great deal as raider and guild organizer in the past, because it became increasingly difficult to keep a schedule going during the second half of an expansion.

“I want to feel part of the world I play in. I want to be included in a continuous and ever growing story. I want change happening all the time, not every 1-2 years in traumatic leaps. I want stable and lasting fun, not a curve that goes from player fatigue and long wait times to over-excitement, before tumbling back down into the valley of tears. I don’t want to regularly un-subscribe from the MMO I am playing because it’s delivering content in situational peaks.” (Syl)

Besides impacting negatively on social stability, WoW expansions have always had more negative side effects. They affected the game’s economy, rendered our gear and trophies obsolete (green is the new purple! even for legendaries) and deprecated a major part of the previous world and content. That last one is a particularly sore point for players like me.

One the other hand, regular and smaller content patches don’t exhaust their audience and don’t reset their status quo in the world over night. They don’t hit guilds with simultaneous player exodus over and over. And there’s also less pressure and therefore less potential disappointment riding on patches. Didn’t like a particular chapter or felt bored with it? Well, the next one isn’t far off!

So really, what can expansions do for MMOs that a patch cannot? Okay – there are a few things, in fact Spinks (who is dearly missed!) has written about the differences between expansions and patches five years ago on her blog. And I agree with her: expansions have a more fundamental power to reset/expand a world or introduce a new one. They’re a marketing tool for bringing players back and maybe recruiting a few new ones. The extra cash from selling copies and CEs might make up for 40% of your subscriber-base leaving several months before each time, I don’t know.

I can’t help but feel these apparent benefits aren’t what they seem at first glance; not if expansions basically act as a “correction” of your own business strategy. If they bring back players you lost along the way due to how you’re handling content in the game, that is not a very good argument pro expansions, even if it does the job in that case. As for continuously introducing new worlds and abandoning old ones, what does that say about the longevity and depth of your work?

The WoW expansion model is its own enemy. Blizzard can’t turn back and change their strategy of so many years and they’ve bred their very own audience since day one, so I understand that they’re stuck with it. However, their example doesn’t do a very good job advocating for expansions in MMOs and thus I remain as ever, respectfully on the other side of that fence. You could say I am not prepared. Again.

OTC – Good is Good enough Edition: Massive Opportunities, the TGEN Tribunal and Why I’m not playing WoW anymore

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OTC is a multi-topic category on mmogypsy.com

By now everyone’s heard of the layoffs by AOL which will affect MMO community news hubs such as WoW Insider and Massively who have since been able to open up. Massively is to close its doors by February 3rd 2015 – that’s two days from now. The news of these shutdowns came with a peculiar, not to say unnerving timing for me personally, the type of uncanny jinx-sensation when you’ve just said or thought something that comes to pass shortly after. Only 2 weeks ago while recording the next Battle Bards session, did I bring up the topic of the future of MMOs and how that may affect places like Massively with Syp on skype: were there any worries on their front as to what may happen with the genre and by extension, the website? But Syp was all positive and cheerful – the genre might be going places but as far as Massively is/was concerned, the page has only ever known growth. For those that only care about numbers, Massively is doing better than ever. Too bad good ain’t good enough for multi-billion companies like AOL – because reasons- (insert generic corporate speech).

I’m sad to see Massively close its doors like that. I’m sorry for its staff that poured all their love, time and enthusiasm into keeping it running. I wasn’t the closest follower of Massively at times but it constitutes one of only few constants in the MMO community, graciously linking back to bloggers like myself. I would visit to read Eliot Lefebvre’s strong opinion posts and of course Sypster’s Jukebox Heroes or Perfect Ten. I always marveled at how Syp could juggle his Massively “job” with Biobreak, several podcasts, his real life job and a family – but such are the workings of a labor of love. My jaw dropped when he told me his monthly quota was 90 posts, which makes Syp the real superman as far as I’m concerned.

When one door closes, another opens. Sometimes life’s endings and goodbyes are just a great new opportunity we cannot yet perceive. What Massively doesn’t lack is a following and talented writers; I am more than positive they will be able to recover and build something new from here, with help of the community.

Introducing the TGEN Tribunal

Our network of gaming and MMO-related podcasts has just launched the first episode of the TGEN Tribunal, a quarterly exchange between different co-hosts from all eight shows. In this first episode we are discussing our individual experiences getting into podcasting, from the more technical aspects to general advice for podcasting newcomers. I happily consider myself a complete amateur in this field but it’s fascinating to hear others talk about the future of this particular medium. Speaking of which, this is the first show I’ve been the producer for, so if there’s something wrong with the editing or sound quality, you know whom you can blame (but hey, I think it’s good enough!).

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Why I’m not playing WoW anymore

My recent FFXIV:ARR shares on the blog and twitter may have given away that my sudden, unexpected WoW-comeback of last November was somewhat short-lived. I had immense fun re-discovering Azeroth for a while, getting in touch with new old zones, my holy priest and the Garrison but after a few run-ins with the more toxic sides of its community, I have quickly realized why I’m over this MMO. Hell is other people and WoW is singular in amassing a crowd of elitist jerks, overbearing endgame achievers and forum kids ever since 2004. Even if you’re doing your best and focus on yourself only, someone is going to unload their frantic achieverdom on you sooner or later, trampling all the roses.

I’ve said it before – I am over this. And I feel ancient when met with the endgame crazy of raiders (in LFG too) and min-maxers. The hardcore vs. casual debate is alive and well in WoW and listening to some of the conversations or reading yet another condescending list of tips or srs rules written by a young person with lots of time on their hands and no notion of good is good enough, I find myself utterly disenchanted with the World of Warcraft and how it holds no escape. Maybe worse, there is that humbling self-awareness, never depicted with greater accuracy than in this recent Dark Legacy comic #471: A Decade of Love and Hate.

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srs WoW players in LFG.

It is the horrors of full circle I am feeling whenever I venture too close to Azeroth’s deafening underbelly. We can have our rationalized “fun vs. satisfaction” and playstyle debates all day long on our blogs – it won’t change the fact that there was a time when I too made other players (and guild mates probably) miserable in WoW for wanting to play the game differently or not being as good or good enough according to an arbitrary measure, through an overbearing raiding queen attitude and caring for progress and riches over people. I know this and for that I am sorry.

This is not a message for those who are still in WoW striving for glory irrespective of cost; by all means, knock yourself out. You have your own path to follow and maybe it will lead you to a similar place, maybe not. But I am not that person anymore, I am glad that I’m not. Friendships are precious and fragile – many people are worth knowing and caring for outside our immediate realm of ambition. So long WoW, you have nothing left to teach me.

[WoW] How to Unlock your Pet Menagerie the Quickest Way (for Noobs)

So, you are late to pet battles but would still like to activate that pet menagerie in your garrison? Then like me, you will require a little help!

I used to be a pet collector in WoW up until WotLK and only now that I am back for Draenor, did I start looking into the pet battle feature. I’ll be honest, I might have disregarded this entirely had it not been for that empty spot in my garrison, where 5 of my collected pets could be running around the menagerie. Well, it so happens that where there’s a will, there’s a way! I am in no rush to get to any endgame in WoW these days, so I might as well start working on that achievement. The following quick guide is based on my own research on how to  –

  1. get you started with pet battles in WoD
  2. get your first lvl 25 pet(s) quickly
  3. beat the pet menagerie quest “Pets versus Pests

I am on the second stage myself still and have managed to get several lvl23 pets now within over an hour (give or take, depending on your luck in Kharazan). For step three I have spent the evening reading up on wowhead in order to find pet options for players who don’t have any “fancy beat-all” pets like Pandaren Water Spirit or Chrominius. I’m sure you could look into those but I’m generally quest-lazy and would rather just work with what I have got or can capture!

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How to unlock your Pet Menagerie the Quick & Dirty Way

Step #1:
Talk to the first pet trainer in your capital city (for alliance that means Stormwind next to the Cata portals, for horde Orgrimmar) to get you started with pet battles in WoW. After this, the pet menagerie quest will appear in your garrison and you will also start seeing lots of green pet battle markers wherever you go. Choose mechanical pets for your first team because they tend to take less damage and are more beginner-friendly (some of them are dirty cheap on the AH).

The intro quests are fast after which the trainer will send you off to beat several other trainers in Elwynn and Westfall, as well as Redridge and Duskwood (as alliance). Around the Duskwood stage, your pet party should be roughly around lvl 5-6 which is enough to continue to step #2!

Step #2:
Continue using this excellent guide on how to obtain your three Arcane Eyes in Deadwind Pass and two Dragonbone Hatchlings in Dragonblight. The pets in Karazhan are found around the entrance as well as on all the upper balconies and terraces of the fort. They are not rare spawns but if more players are looking for the same thing, you might need to check back several times. Also, note the Hatchlings will come with two additional allies per fight(!) but you can still definitely do it, even if it means some of your Eyes will die and will require a rez after the fight.

A few tips: if you struggle beating the Hatchlings, aim for lvl 22 ones rather than lvl 23. Heal up after every fight (cooldown ability and stable master if you have no more bandages). Once you got a victory, start using your new pet right away!

After obtaining two Hatchlings, head straight to Pandaria for the Eternal Striders in VoEB. Continue to level up your lvl 20/21 Hatchlings (when you capture them, they lose two levels!) as well as the Arcane Eye and don’t trust the time frame in the guide – it will definitely take longer than 10mins to level 25 (maybe more like 2 hours)! Try not to let your pets die or they won’t get any EXP and keep in mind only the ones actually active in battle will gain experience. The stable master in VoEB is Jaul Hsu (I alternate between visiting him and using my own pet healing cooldown).

Step #3 (in progress):
After you got at least two pets to level 25, you can start boosting a third. There are several boost guides around the official forums but so far, I haven’t found one that doesn’t require you to already own very specific other battle pets as boosters or to be on certain parts of a questchain (if you have any other info, let me know!). This means I am likely to boost my next pets the normal way, by battling for EXP in Pandaria. Since I can battle almost all high-level pets at this point, this means I will try capture lvl20+ pets of the pet families I need instead of boosting any low-level pets.

The three encounters in “Pets versus Pests” require specific lvl 25 pet abilities to beat them. You can spend some time on that wowhead link like me to check if there’s any comment that includes pets you already have. For my own mundane setup, my picks against each boss will likely look as follows:

  • Carrotus: A frog and any water striders (capture some of those you are fighting as part of the first lvl25 pet).
  • Gorefu: 2 moths and any other pet.
  • Gnawface: 3 spiderlings of any kind

It appears that for some fights you’ll only require two appropriate pets and maybe any third to finish off. As for the rotations to make this a success (each pet has 6 abilities of which you can only choose 3), check the comments in the links I included.

I obviously haven’t tested this stage of the guide myself yet but it’s been verified by other players and should lead you to success in a few hours. Most importantly, it will let you skip all the other pet battling business and trainer questlines in order to unlock that lvl1 pet menagerie the quickest way! Good luck!

[WoW] Where Meters Reign Way Past Their Glory Days

In her latest blogpost “Living by Numbers”, the ever-enthusiastic Mistress of Faff deplores the meters game and status quo of hunter DPS in Warlords of Draenor. This struck a particular cord with me because ever since returning to WoW, I perceive this dissonance more strongly than ever – a dissonance between what is essentially a very casual-friendly game and a rabid, vocal group full of stat zealots. Naturally, the latter is hardly new: WoW has been heavily modded and then datamined, optimized and cookie-cut from the get-go. Yet, having been away for three years and finding things unchanged in that last department strikes me as more incongruous than ever.

I’ve been playing my shadowpriest since the expansion, mostly because I am over healing in WoW and so far it’s been very enjoyable. I run no mods whatsoever and until yesterday, I had not looked into shadowpriest state of play or rotations for Draenor. What I have noticed however is that my DPS seems lower than some people’s I met during quests and dungeons, that it’s hard work for me to get all my DoTs running before everyone else has already killed half of our enemies and that getting silver in Proving Grounds at ilvl 600 wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for my untrained DPS muscles (I did it on third try but without much time left).

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Me, looking damn sexy in shadow. Anything else I should know?

And that’s okay. Or should be, but it didn’t stop an overeager ingame buddy of mine, coincidentally a MM hunter, to comment on my damage during an Auchindon heroic run, where my DPS was apparently around 10k when his was at 22k. This was a contrast to all the PuGs I have run since returning to WoW and that have been shockingly friendly, successful (not a single disband) and meters-free, to a point where I am tempted to declare the state of PuGs today a 180°-turnaround since I shared my passionate “no-pug policy” on World of Matticus in 2011. The continuous changes that have made this a way more flexible and accessible game over the years have clearly helped turn things around in LFG, color me impressed.

Yet, meter culture persists in some corners of the player base. WoW oldtimers especially and grumpy veterans who have never left the game or never smelled the meter-free roses in other MMOs like GW2 sometime, are clinging to an era where WoW endgame was firmly ruled by numbers and raidguilds. I hate to break it to all the elitist jerks and e-peeners out there but: meters are over. For anything outside minuscule, competetive top-tier raid content, optimizing specs and rotations are not a requirement in order to beat anything in WoW. Players can play whatever spec they enjoy. They can run whatever rotation feels most natural. They don’t require epics with enchants and gems (thankfully both abolished) in every slot of gear. Welcome to World of Wacraft, 2014 edition! Maybe it was time Blizzard did away with these mods altogether? What purpose do they serve exactly?

On the bright side, my brief brush with the meters-nostalgia in WoW has benefited me in two ways: I went to check out current shadowpriest guides and realized that there’s nothing I am “doing wrong”, not even according to those that spend copious amounts of time on numbers. Draenor or not, priests remain late bloomers early into an expansion (as it ever was), struggling with ramp-up time in fast 5mans and versus single-target and multi-phase encounters. I simply don’t compare unless I unleash risky AoE on every single occasion. On the bright side, I never die and make the healer’s job a lot easier.
The even more important realization for me was that I really don’t give a toss. This is a trap that I am simply over. Thanks to so many experiences with other games and communities, I am a better and smarter player today than I ever was and most certainly a happier one. I am playing this for myself and that’s what an increasing number of players in WoW, be they in PuGs or elsewhere, have come to realize as well (shocking truth that it is).

It’s okay WoW players, you can have fun already! Maybe it’s time we re-defined our idea of success.

Treasures of Draenor

It’s about the little things. It always has been. Whether it was finding Sheddle Glossgleam in Dalaran for shiny shoes or so many other secrets in World of Warcraft safely hidden away. Draenor is a beautiful world with its long leaves of grass moving in the wind and snowflakes swirling across the plains of Frostfire Ridge. There is more treasure to find these days than ever, with a map for achievers or without for the more exploratively inclined who’d like to think the world an endless place of mystery.

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And then there’s the secrets. The things only found by chance that someone had to come across, maybe on an errand or erring with nothing in particular on their mind. I love early expansions; between exclamation marks I’ll make time to follow the footprints in the snow, climb a mountain, swim out to the sea. Or levitate, rather. That’s how I came across and island to the southernmost edge of Nagrand and on that island there was a path leading up to something –

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It’s the little things – an odd scenery where you least expect it, mementos thrown away, curious and without explanation. Finding a magic lamp hidden in the grass right next to them, letting you activate whatever is stored inside. Maybe a cloud of dust, a string of words long forgotten or a dark spell? Or a wink from far away, a well-known phrase by a genie called Robin.

Maybe a wish that some things could be preserved forever when memories are all that remain. Life is a treasure. Happy weekend everybody.

Returning to WoW: Everything is the same, everything is different

It is a mixed bag of feelings going back to an MMO you convinced yourself never to return to for lack of better judgement. An MMO you once called home and then were absent from for three years, maybe looking for closure. When I played WoW between 2004 and 2010, I did like so many of us in our mid-twenties, with passion and zeal and an exclusive all-or-nothing attitude. All or nothing, that also means quitting when you feel things ain’t going your way any longer.

Warlords of Draenor is nothing I had planned on; that too was a mixed bag of spontaneous curiosity, lack of content in new MMOs like Wildstar and winter is coming. And I made it very clear to myself: This time around, it will be about me taking my time re-discovering Azeroth in peace. I will sub for one month and find out if I still like this, no pressure. I will enjoy running around incognito after all this time, minding my own business.

Or something.

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Where do I go from here?

Everything is the same
WoD was off to a rocky start with DDoS attacks and massive server queues (how very vanilla!) making it impossible for many players to log in during the first week. After I spent launch day re-installing the game, it took another day before I managed briefly to log in for the first time in three years, finding my character standing in front of the Dark Portal, lagging horribly. After ten seconds of being unable to move like this, I got my first whisper from a very old guild mate from vanilla WoW: “SYL!”.

I disconnected right away. My game wasn’t stable and I really didn’t expect to be discovered so early into my return. But this is how it’s always been on my server – those who have been on Stormrage since 2004, the early guilds and raiders, they remember each other. And so many have come back for Draenor, it is bewildering. My friendlist shows names online I had never expected to read again. Already I find myself guilded once more in the very same raidguild I helped build in vanilla WoW, with almost its entire core and founding team back. A decade later it’s as if no time had passed at all. Sure, everyone’s gotten a bit older, some are married now and some have kids or better jobs. Everyone definitely agrees they won’t be raiding ever again but there’s much else to be enjoyed nowadays.

The player base has aged and so have Blizzard with them. Yet, on the surface everything about WoW feels and looks exactly as before. I spent my first week in Draenor getting used to and then charmed by the beauty of its dated graphics (especially in the old world) and cringing over its messy, gargantuan UI that has been so aptly compared to the old “Weasley’s house” in a conversation between Rowanblaze and Belghast. After I discovered void storage in combination with transmogging, I wasted another day on costumes until I finally felt prepared to see the world, which is why I ran straight into Elwynn Forest, love of my life. To my delight, it was not deserted and not any of the old zones I went to visit from there were either – Duskwood, Redridge, Burning Steppes, everywhere I went I saw players. After 10 years, there is still life in these old zones, I have no idea how that works.

As is tradition, I went to pay Ragnaros and Illidan my respects and announced my coming. They still dropped hunter loot mostly, so nothing has changed in that respect either. Even on the auction house, the same items that used to be expensive in vanilla are still on top of the list today (who would buy a Burning Brightwood Staff today is beyond me but I still want that blasted Greenwing Macaw!). So far, so familiar.

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Draenor is beautiful.

Everything is different
In their mushy Looking for Group documentary from this Blizzcon 2014, which has played no small part in bringing more WoW veterans back to Draenor, Chris Metzen talks about how WoW really has always been about two entities – the world and the player, and he couldn’t be more correct. The successes of this MMO are as much thanks to developers trusting their instincts as to a very passionate and creative player base that has an undying love for Azeroth. This huge and rich canvas of a world with its plethora of maps and music has been such a welcoming and ever more accessible home to players of every color and creed for years.

All the while, Blizzard have continued to re-invent themselves and I believe this is the secret of WoW’s long lasting success. With every expansion, they pushed further to offer something new to more people without dismissing the hard core entirely. Comparing WoD today to when I left three years ago, I can confirm that WoW is a changed game in so many ways, trying to keep up with increased standards, never daring to rest on its laurels. This is apparent in today’s casual and solo-friendly approach to grouping, dungeons and raids for one thing, with flexraids and bronze, silver and gold heroics. It’s the democratic spread of loot and gear models, combined with all the tier look-alikes available. It’s adding small stuff like treasure hunting similar (but more involved) to Rift, jumping puzzles like in GW2, pet battles à la Pokémon and a pseudo-housing system with private nodes, the way Wildstar has them (only in WoW, the Garrison is actually a lot more useful). The talent system has been simplified to match modern MMOs with more minimal action bars and while quests and loot aren’t FFA, important quest mobs are shared nowadays.

All of these changes and additions make WoW not just one of the most approachable MMOs today but the richest in terms of content diversity. Draenor is the pinnacle of that philosophy: jump in right away as a level 90 character, learn basic skills and talents from scratch by playing through the intro scenario (which for once ain’t in a cave!). Get some money and bags to start with and oh, we also boosted your professions so you can join for all these new quests! As for the Garrison, it might be the first example of useful ‘player housing’ with meaningful choices in over a decade.

The genius of Blizzard
In a competitive industry as this, Blizzard’s achievements are really twofold:

  1. Making a niche genre more accessible and creating their own faithful player base in the process.
  2. Continuously re-inventing themselves rather than resting on the laurels of vanilla WoW.

Some will say this is the mark of smart decision making and market observation over at Blizzard. However and without denying the aforementioned, another more simple answer also lies in the Looking for Group documentary where an aging core of lead designers and developers is still creating for a game “they themselves would like to play”, more casually now than in their late twenties. More mature too, giving more thoughts to their diverse target audience than before. It’s not just the players in WoW that have grown older.

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And so it’s the greatest irony of all that, while so many MMO developers raced to emulate what was essentially vanilla WoW’s successes, Blizzard themselves moved on and branched out, leaving their past to others. According to the latest news WoW is back to 10 million subscribers, something that is difficult to swallow when new and shiny titles like Wildstar are struggling to maintain an audience. But who is to compete with a ten-year old AAA-fantasy themed MMO this rich and loaded on diverse content? Comparing other titles to WoW is never fair.

To be continued
As for me and Draenor, two weeks in I admit that I am charmed once more by the world of Warcraft – more patiently this time, more laidback and happy to smell the roses on the way. There is so much to do and learn for me after three years and I am not rushed to get anywhere with anyone. Most of all, this explorer is enjoying the vistas of Draenor (and there are so many beautiful ones nowadays) and a soundtrack so reminiscent of our vanilla days. Yes, for now I believe I do like this again and that is all that matters.

[Wildstar] Of Unexpected Turns and Raiding Pains

My recent blunders into Wildstar’s raiding scene were more of a happenstance than anything, a surprise to myself first and foremost. At the end of 2013 my plans for this year were quite clear: play TESO, ignore Wildstar. Fast forward, I find myself not only among few remaining bloggers in our blogosphere still subbed to Carbine’s MMO, but attuned to raids and geared for endgame. I’ve written about my first raiding experiences here but having gone through a streak of heavy back pains these past weeks, I’ve decided to put an early end to a raiding career that I never meant to have. Too scary is the prospect of another episode of what I have come to call my “post-WoW raider back” since I left WoW in 2010.

A passage dearly paid.

Not many MMO raiders and ex-raiders (myself included) speak of whatever physical backlash, temporary or permanent, they may have experienced due to their focus on top tier PVE/PVP endgame. I’m not saying that every MMO player or raider is like me in terms of poor posture control, but I suspect that there are many among us who come to know such side-effects after reaching a certain age latest. If you’ve raided in a competitive and dedicated manner consistently over several years, it’s hard to avoid any form of physical repercussion for so much sedetary amusement. I remember a time when my youth would cradle me in blissful ignorance of such concerns, yet after I had turned 28 years old with five years of WoW raiding (12 hours a week on average) on my literal back, the physical reality of my hobby caught up with me. I’ve always had issues with my neck but from that point in time my back pains took a life of their own and spread to the rest of my body in one neurological fun fest.

Combined with was generally a deeply troubling and stressful time in my life, a fact that must be emphasized, my unhealthy way of slouching through long-session gameplay (during which I ignored all warning signs for lack of judgement) turned into a chronic pain condition that, after the usual series of medical examinations, is fair to say will never leave me. After quitting WoW and spending considerably less focus time in front of the computer, as well as regular massage therapy and healthier living, I’ve been able to recover slowly from the more acute and crippling pains that used to overshadow my life for at least three full years. I know I have partly my lack of discipline to blame – I have never been great at self-control when it comes to the things I love doing (and I am hardly a sports-fan either). I also realize that many people gamers or not, deal with backpains which are always multicausal; in a way, what happened five years ago opened my eyes to a variety of issues I had ignored for too long in my life. Treating myself better in every sense was one consequence, so in retrospective I’d like to see my time spent raiding as a catalyst, rather than the root cause of all the pain.

Nonetheless, my gametime is something I will always have to control in the future, no matter how tempting some aspects of MMOs might be. I’ve tried the whole “getting up during biobreaks”- and “loading-screen workout”- routines and for me, they simply don’t work. I can spend half a day casually at the PC, blogging, podcasting and carousing Steam, but raiding puts me into a state of emergency in which I grow tense and too absorbed to notice lousy posture. I don’t think there’s any gaming activity quite like online coop when it comes to demanding exceptional focus from each individual. If you ever get up from such a session and feel the pang in the back of your neck, don’t ignore it.

Alas, I have been there, done that and no epic pixel nor fleeting friendships were worth the physical pain that was caused or amplified. I love MMOs and the competitive aspects of online games but if beating endgame and obtaining shinies require me to sit still and focus in front of a screen for 3-4 hours on end, then I am happy to leave such feats to a younger generation – a generation hopefully wiser than me. Hindsight is 20/20 – and the story of how much their bodies must hurt is never told in Surrogates or similarly intriguing movies about virtual life.

Thus my raiding chapter for Wildstar is officially closed.

So, why is Wildstar not doing better?

Yesterday, Rohan tried to put a finger on why Wildstar isn’t doing so well only 3 months into launch. Wildstar the great AAA-hope of 2014, the polished, cartoony WoW-esque holy trinity, theme-park MMO that appeared different yet similar enough to accommodate the mainstream. I agree with Rohan that WS has a higher difficulty level than WoW, although the leveling process never struck me as hard or tedious on my Esper. WS is packed with some fun quests and a very linear, well-paced progression to level 50. I’d happily place bets on FFXIV:ARR being grindier than WS, only FFXIV is so fortunate to have a faithful, asia-based community on top of all the western influx since revamp.

However, it’s true that WS dungeons are tough and by the looks, raids even tougher. Even if you’re not after the attunement, bronze runs are a tricky to pug. That said, I don’t think endgame is the problem either – at least WS has an endgame that poses a bit of challenge and brings guilds back to the table. What does GW2 have? No endgame, failing guilds and not even great housing. Somehow, there’s always something to complain about.

My veranda in Wildstar.

I’m not convinced anymore that WS would be faring better if endgame was toned down to accommodate pugging. What I will say is that like ANet before them, Carbine took their good time to fix long-standing player concerns as far as the UI, submenus and other optimization concerns went and they are still far from done in my book. I personally know three potential subbers that still cannot run WS smoothly on their machine and have therefore given up playing. Then there’s players like this one who believe Carbine aren’t doing such a great job in marketing their title to a wider audience – but how big an issue is this, really?

Maybe it’s just that simple: WS isn’t WoW just like none of them are. And we have crossed the notorious 3-month mark. The dwindling player base was to be expected. Today’s MMO market cannot reproduce the successes of WoW, not with titles that are “similar enough” and not with titles that are completely different or exactly the same. Even if you own a niche like EVE does, you need to content yourself with 500k subscriptions. And while some WoW attachment still lingers on and declines only gradually, the rest of the market must cope with grazers and players opting for f2p or b2p over subscriptions.

Wildstar is a fine game. It can’t be helped that it wasn’t released in 2004. We’ll see if mega-servers are a blessing or curse for its core community. Maybe it doesn’t matter either way.

[Wildstar] Silver Dungeons and the Return of the DPS

(Is anybody still playing Wildstar out there? Well…I am!)

Before disappearing from gaming for the past few days due to real life, I got my Esper in Wildstar ready and prepped for silver dungeon runs. No doubt the bronze patch is incoming soon to speed up that attunement process somewhat but silvers are still on the table for many players and frankly, I was curious about difficulty compared to WoW heroics. Turns out, Wildstar silver runs are really more like mini-raids than WoW-style 5 mans. There’s no way a random group of mostly inexperienced people will finish anything for hours and hours.

Silver progression goes the same for most groups and guilds: STL first, then KV, SC and SSM, that last one being a nightmarish place created around a jumping puzzle. There are only four dungeons to run in WS albeit in three different modes. In no way can they be compared to adventure difficulty. Silver comes with a timer and extra objectives/bosses compared to bronze. Gold on the other hand, comes with everything and zero deaths. So far the theory.

I’m halfway through silvers now myself, thanks to running with experienced groups and vocal leadership. It still took several attempts per dungeon due to the unforgiving mechanics, yet that is nothing compared to what early progression teams had to go through. Even if you keep the same people around to crack a dungeon, and that’s what anyone does who wants to reasonably progress, you’ll spend entire afternoons learning WS dungeons before silver. You’ll be resetting over and over, going again after an early wipe or unlucky deaths slowing you down. You’ll consider mastering single bosses a success, rather than entire dungeons. You’ll be back after dinner. Persistence is the only one way to crack silver dungeons, so you better bring a good-humored bunch of people.

Ready for battle! Well...sorta.

We’re ready for battle! Well…sorta.

Or maybe you just get very lucky sometime and have a team invite you that’s already done most of the work together, with willing leaders and/or imba DPS (or the stars will align for you once every 100 years while pugging). At encounters like Stormtalon your damage dealers easily decide over make or break – a difference most acutely felt by healers.

Bringing DPS back to the Table

There is something that dawns on the traditional healer in WS at silver runs latest. It’s an obscure hunch the first few times you keep dying horribly during an encounter, a hunch that solidifies once your group keeps going on without you for minutes on end, sometimes until the boss dies. A guildie of mine condensed it best in a related forum topic on healing, a comment that hit a nerve for me too –

Tank is most important
Dps need 2 out of 3 good
Average healer = complete adventure/ dungeon.

the worrying thing is that in every other MMo I have played the healer was rated as important as the tank now with the interprets we are last even behind the Dps. imho.

WS is a game of self-sustainability first. Even if the healer dies, at least half of the encounters allow for the party to continue (and DPS finish fights). That doesn’t mean healers should die by any means or that bad healers cannot still screw up your silver runs – they definitely can. However, nothing is quite as devastating as missed interrupts in WS, the mechanic all major encounters revolve around thus far. And the responsibility of timing and rotating interrupts is almost exclusively on tanks and DPS, even if every class can theoretically do them. Needless to say, I concurred with my guildmate’s points although way more cheerfully so:

WS healing is indeed quite different to the position it holds in many other MMOs. I’ve been a healer in many games and I agree with you on this. the reason is Wildstar’s game / encounter design:

Mechanics are more unforgiving and a lot more about individual survival skills (dodge that shit, use a pot) than in other classic MMOs (not GW2, GW2 is more similar and has no roles anyway). I was used to being able to ‘save’ most of my party members all the time in WoW – you can’t do this so much in WS. People die quickly if they screw up and so does the healer, so your overall playstyle needs to be a lot more centered around your own survival + MT. There’s less leeway for the ‘extras’ (not the normal damage but the unnecessary one) in WS than in other games that I’ve played (and then there’s also the telegraph / cone thing that gimps healing). Sure, once a healer has better gear, stats, etc. he/she can make up for more screwups but still, many mechanics are just unforgiving and up to the individual player. You can’t save a one-shot, and depending on the situation not a 2-shot either.

And that’s why you feel the healer matters ‘less’ in WS which is true; because the onus of survival is more well-spread in Wildstar. So really, think of it as a good thing. The fact that even the healer is allowed to die first sometime (for some encounters it doesn’t matter), is a good thing. It means responsibility is shared more evenly, which is also true thanks to the interrupt mechanics in WS. So, imo we are more even now / not less. DPS finally aren’t just being carried in this game. [Syl]

I love it. I love the fact that DPS don’t get the back seat in a trinity-based MMO. Enrage timers aside, there was never a time during my WoW era (up to Cataclysm) where pewpew were nearly as much on the spot as they are continuously in Wildstar’s encounters. The scales have evened out and while some oldschool healers might feel that sting of lost power, they should also feel the relief of shared pressure.

Wildstar silver KV - cheat when you can!

Wildstar silver KV – cheat when you can!

Tangentially, I realized that there’s still a strong WoW healer beating in this chest; I installed GRID right away and am still working on “untargetting” my healing style. And I still die way, way too often because I choose to try save others over ruthlessly minding my own six. That simply doesn’t fly with heroic telegraphs – it’s be there or be square for each and everybody!