Tuesday, May 31, 2016

So Today Is Kind Of A Big Day

In April, I was perusing my Twitter feed when I saw an announcement from Matt Walsh aka Rhidach.

Matt and his wife recently had a baby and I remember well from those days with both my baby Hammers that neither free time nor energy was in great abundance.

I’ve wanted to write for Blizzard Watch for a long time, going back to their days before they were called Blizzard Watch. Once I heard about Matt stepping down, I contacted the editors to apply. I had applied a couple of times in the past for different positions, but each time I had come up short.

After detailing my experience both as a long time Tankadin and Blogger, I was offered the gig. I’m now the new Protection Paladin Class Columnist for the premiere Blizzard games fan site on the Internet. I am at once amazed and humbled. I also might be in completely over my head, but I guess we will see soon enough.

I'll still be blogging here at Honor's Code. My column on Blizzard Watch is only once a month, and much of what I post here wouldn't be applicable to my Blizzard Watch column. You’ll continue to get the ongoing adventures of a Dwarf trying to make his way in the World (of Warcraft).

By the time you read this, my first column will have gone live on Blizzard Watch. This is really happening.

Hey, Blizzard Watch!!


Friday, May 27, 2016

Blizzard Address Low Level Content Concerns

In early April, I talked about my experience with leveling a fresh toon in World of Warcraft as part of the Hearthstone promotion to get the new Lady Liadrin Paladin skin. The main issues I ran into were: combat was too short, other players were antisocial and heirlooms made dungeons not fun for anyone who lacked them. Rohan of Blessing of Kings had similar issues leveling for the promotion though he also had issues with the story in the low level zones.

I didn't think that the Warcraft Development team would have time to address these concerns with Legion Alpha and now Beta taking up most of their efforts. They proved me wrong.

The Devs started rolling out hotfixes to address some of the issues with the low level experience and one specifically to address what Rohan called the TTK (time to kill) issue.
Due to the accumulated effect of years’ worth of max-level tuning adjustments, many classes were killing low-level enemies nearly instantaneously, even without heirloom gear or other advantages. 
Reduced player damage at low levels to improve overall combat pacing. In general, Strength and Agility classes saw a larger reduction in damage than did casters. Damage dealt is unchanged from level 40 onwards. Level 1-10 enemy NPCs now deal slightly more damage. Reduced the bonus to out-of-combat health regeneration that players receive when below level 20. 
Rogue I used was an Agility class. I've heard stories of Brewmasters one shotting things with Keg Mash well into the 40s. As I was leveling my Rogue, I never got more than one or two combo points built up before the mob was dead.
Most quest bosses from level 1-20 should now be multitap and will scale their health with the numbers of players fighting them. Added dynamic respawn behavior to most level 1-20 outdoor areas, so that spawns will be more readily available during times of high player traffic.
While I didn’t encounter any problems with tapping, other players, especially those in the Blood Elf starting zone, ran into issues. There is one quest that you need to progress to the next phase and it requires killing a specific ‘boss’ type of mob. There were more players trying to kill him than his respawn timer could handle so you had players waiting around and those who could were AOEing trying to make sure they tagged him as soon as he spawned. Many were on trial accounts and therefore could not form groups nor chat effectively which only made the issue worse since no one could talk or form groups.

Clearly, these players were not leveling Paladins as the Sunwalker (Tauren) is the superior choice for your Horde Paladin if you have to roll Team Red. For Team Blue, there’s really only one choice – Dwarf!

With the Warcraft movie giving out free copies of World of Warcraft in select theatres, a barrier to entry will be removed for some people and I'm sure Blizzard is hoping many will try the game. The low level experience still needs plenty of work but hopefully these fixes will make their first impression with WoW more favorable.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

[SWTOR] Chapter 13

What do you do with a free night and no Legion Beta invite? SWTOR!

I finished Chapter 13. It was pretty good, but again, like all of them, I found it too short. For this chapter, I was really looking forward to seeing Vette enter the KotFE storyline. 

Recently, I started a baby Sith Warrior with a guy I used to work with and I've been getting to know Vette better through that toon. Spoiler Alert: I like the way this character is written quite a bit. The initial interaction with her sets the tone well with her wisecracking the prison guard.  In Chapter 13, Vette is more the supporting actress. The star of the show is the Bounty Hunter companion, Gault. I never got far enough with my Bounty Hunter to meet Gault. He was something of an unknown to me and it didn't take long at all for him to turn off my Light Side Jedi Knight. I would have liked the Chapter better had Vette had more screen time. She is still the fun, wise cracking side kick but you can see the last 5 years of dealing with the Eternal Empire have taken some of that lightheartedness away. Perhaps BioWare could have gone into their vaunted "choice" bucket and let you choose which companion you spend more time with like the Koth/Senya choice in one of the earlier chapters.

Minor spoiler

Initially, I was disappointed when Chapter 13 didn't address the cliffhanger at the end of Chapter 12 in any meaningful way. I felt the hand waving "lost communication with all parties" was a little weak. They did finally address it in the epilogue of Chapter 13. While I liked the impact and consequences it had, it felt like they could have done more. Basically, you get a "here's what happened" kind of resolution. I have a sneaking suspicion the ending would have played out exactly the same way regardless of my choices in Chapter 12 which is a weak point in their narrative. If my choices don't matter much, why am I bothering making them?

Two for the Road

I've been having a great time playing with my buddy as we work through the low levels. SWTOR is a really great game for a duo. Unfortunately, our Presence is so high from our other max level toons that we are blazing through everything with little trouble. It also helps that I (prepare to be shocked) rolled a tank (Immortal Juggernaut) and my friend rolled a healer (healer spec Operative).

We are basically playing through the story like it’s a single player or co-op game. SWTOR works very well like this and the leveling stories are really solid, though I'm finding the Sith Warrior story to be inferior to the Jedi Knight story to this point.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

[WoW] Raiding Hiatus Leads Back to Pandaria

I work the first Wednesday night of every month and I had told our raid leader I wouldn't be on for last week's run. Technically, I volunteer, since the job I'm doing on Wednesday night doesn't pay me, but I like to think of it as work in my mind. I love my Wednesday night job so it's not work in negative connotation, but it's easier to tell someone I can't do something on Wednesday night because I'm 'working' and it has 'work' level priority in my schedule.

Much to my surprise when I did log on the next night, I was greeted with a new guild message of the day that stated we were on a raiding hiatus until Legion.

Old Raids

Even though we have Beta starting today, Legion is still months away. A couple of the team wanted to work on the old Mists of Pandari Meta achievements and I joined in. I'm a relatively easy Dwarf to please, just point me at something that wants to tear my face off and I'm happy.

We started with Pandaria Raider which covered Mists' open trifecta of Mogu'shan Vaults, Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Spring.  It was interesting being back in these old haunts and I was amazed how quickly my muscle memory took over. I raided more in early Mists than any other time since and as I pulled a boss I started moving almost instinctively to my old tanking position.  It was like my fingers knew what to do before my brain did. It could almost imagine Wichita's DK right there alongside me. Man, I miss tanking with that guy - we were such a good team.

Feng the Accused is still one of my favorite fights in that raid, and with my knowledge of the fight I kind of took over the raid and made all the calls so we would get the achievement. It felt really good to have some success in a quasi tanky role for the group. It reinforced to me that my biggest problem in Warlords has simply been a lack of practice. My other favor fight in there was Will of the Emperor, but they died before we could even do the first 'dance' for an Opportunistic Strike.

Somehow, Garalon, in Heart of Fear, still managed to frustrate me. His achievement for the Meta is to kill him without killing one of his legs and one of our Hunters hit an AoE (Chimera Shot?) by accident. The other achievement we couldn't finish was Power Overwhelming which requires you to kill the 3 bosses in a specific order. We figured out which order would complete the achievement for most of the group and did the fight that way. A good number of us did finish Pandaria Raider and got their Cloud Serpent. I was not one of them. The plan is to go back in next week and finish up the ones we need for the rest of the group. After that, we'll move on to Throne and Siege. I'm not in any way looking forward to seeing Siege of Orgrimmaar again, and I'm more than a little nervous about my two nemeses in Throne, Tortus and Durumu


Rophe (Elemental Shaman) is starting to get his Garrison in order and Theogrun's (Beast Mastery Hunter) Garrison is doing well. I still haven't decided which server to put my future Level 100 boosted Brewmaster Monk on, but I'm thinking I'll put him on Greymane/Tanaris (Rophe and Theogrun's server). I already have two max level alts there so that might become my alt server.

The next guy up is my soon to be renamed Fury Warrior, HonorsSword, He's currently working his way through Pandaria although he's nearly done despite the fact that he's not even out of the Jade Forest (first zone) yet. Originally I wanted to blast him up to max level to get his Garrison going but after seeing the investment it took to get Rophe up and running, I'm in no rush to do that again. He's on yet another server (Arygos) so I can't borrow funds from another max level toon to get it going. I may need to think about getting him to Greymane. Man, I wish Blizzard would go to shards so I can have the whole team together or at least let us mail items and gold to any toon on our account.

My lone Horde max level toon, Ice Mage Kishuf, is still plugging along. None of these alts has the oil production to really do much with shipyards.

That will be 5 Artifact questlines (Shaman, Paladin, Monk, Warrior and Mage) I can see when Legion hits. I've got no real interest in DK, Rogue or Warlock so that leaves Druid, and Priest as classes I lack. I'd rather level a Druid, but there's one rather large problem with that. They can't be Dwarves!!

Monday, April 25, 2016

[Legion] Artifact Catch Up Mechanism

If you recall, at the end of my last Legion post, I was discussing my concern for hybrids being able to maintain two artifacts. Some nights you are going to have too many tanks or too many healers online and you'll need someone to switch to DPS. Most players want to do well in whatever role they are be performing and having a decently progressed artifact looks like its going to be key to that.

Blizzard recognized this issue and today, Watcher gave us some details about their proposed solution called Artifact Knowledge. Artifact Knowledge is something you build through Order Hall missions and works as a kind of multiplier to your Artifact power.

This system is key to the pacing of overall artifact progression, and to making it easier for players to maintain multiple artifacts if they so desire. For example, at Knowledge Level 7, you would be earning Artifact Power at over triple the base rate. Thus, if you wanted to switch to a spec you hadn't yet tried at that point, you'd find yourself very quickly able to get that artifact up to par with your primary one. (emphasis added)

This is exactly the kind of thing players needed and I'm really glad to see this system has been developed. There is still the open question as to whether we will have access to all three Artifacts (one for each spec), but the Artifact Knowledge system demonstrates the developers have thought through some of the potential issues with Artifacts and are working on solutions. If they saw the issue with maintaining multiple artifacts, I'm confident they've also thought about if players will have access to two or three of their classes artifacts. Demon Hunters need to not worry since they only have two specs and therefore two artifacts.

Where the Artifact Knowledge system doesn't help is your alts. Artifact Knowledge is tied to the character and it's not account wide so each alt will have to build it up for themselves. Most of my alts are pretty much one spec ponies so I don't think this will be a huge issue for me but for a more dedicated altaholic it may be something of a hurdle.

Friday, April 22, 2016

[SWTOR] Chapters 10, 11, 12

I've now completed SWTOR Chapters 10, 11, and 12 on both my Light side Jedi Knight Guardian and my sort of Dark side Republic Trooper Commando. Major spoilers for the story are included. Consider yourself warned.

I'm encouraged that each chapter has gotten better and I'm looking forward to them resolving the cliffhanger ending of Chapter 12 when Chapter 13 launches. If they leave it hanging and move on to the next bit of story, I will be most put out.

My main issue with all three chapters was length. Each one felt like it was about 90 minutes or so of content and I knocked each one out in a single night. The problem is I'm paying a sub to get these chapters and 90 minutes of content per month isn't enough to justify it. I'm not sure how long the original KotFE chapters were, but they certainly felt longer, but maybe that's because we got all 9 at once.

Chapter 10

I found Chapter 10 to be fairly weak. I did play with Kailyo some on my Imperial Agent alt, but I never really liked her, and getting to play with her again wasn't that big of a deal for me. The constant running around on Zakuul felt like mostly filler. I still don't understand how I as "The Outlander", only the most wanted person in the entire galaxy, and a guy who had his image flashed all over Zakuul, keeps going back to Zakuul and merrily strolling around again and again. Arcaan is sitting up on the throne, getting all upset that Vailyn can't find The Outlander. Maybe check the Lower City, guys. At first, I didn't find the end 'choice' of the chapter to be that compelling but as you get into Chapter 11 you see the consequences a little better (at least on my Dark side Trooper - there we no consequences for my Light side Knight).

What's Up with Koth?

I don't understand Koth deciding to leave my Darkside trooper. Yes, my Darkside trooper both let the power plant explore during his initial escape from Zakuul and in Chapter 10, he allowed Kailyo to target civilians with her explosives. As far as the power plant goes, Nissi (that's my trooper's name) is a soldier, he understands collateral damage and at the time, escape was the better tactical choice over quite possibly self sacrifice to save a bunch of citizens. As for Kailyo, Koth needs to understand that we are fighting a freaking war against Zakuul. He needs to figure out what side he's on. Civilians are going to get hurt. If he's so mad about The Outlander hurting civilians, he needs to go back to Zakuul and put back on his freaking Paladin armor. Of course he's all buddy buddy with my Light side Knight who stop the power plan from exploding and wouldn't let Kaylio target civilians.

Chapter 11

Chapter 11 was an improvement and I actually did this chapter first on my Trooper because of the starring role of Aric Jorgan. I didn't get to spend as much time with Jorgan as I would have liked leveling up. As a DPS trooper, it made more sense to run with Elara (healer) than Jorgan (DPS). This was back before you could choose your companion's role.

The dialog and story in this chapter were solid. For some reason, Jorgan brings out more light side in my trooper than normal. He gets most of his dark side points from refusing mercy to his enemies. (Spoiler) In the case of the helping the refugees in Chapter 11, Nissi saw a tactical advantage in helping and then arming the refugees.

Because I had gone Light side with my Trooper, the chapter played out similarly with my Knight except for some of the dialog which referenced Aric's previous relationship with the trooper.

Chapter 12

Chapter 12 got off to a great start. I really liked the war room scene that opened the chapter. I tried to make some different decisions (Knight favored Jorgan and blowing up the transmitter, Trooper favored Kailyo and slicing it), but both got the "you can't please everyone" speech from Lana. Guess I didn't make the choice different enough.

It was nice to finally get us back to Valkorian who had been oddly quiet through Chapter 10 and 11.

I understood him being pissed with my Knight who had refused to kneel and refused to use his power on every occasion and has consistently said he will destroy Arcann AND the Emperor. I didn't understand Valkorian's hostility toward my Dark side Trooper. My Trooper knelt to the Emperor and has used his power. Both were seem by my Trooper as the correct tactical decisions at the time.
Valkorian said basically the same things to both of my characters.

Near the end of the chapter, you have to make a choice between whether your character believes in free will or fate. My Light side Knight didn't like either choice chose instead to cling to Jedi code. I'm curious where that will take him. I considered having him be harder on Satale for allying with the ghost of Darth Maar, but he had allied with Maar both on Yavin IV and again on Marr's Star Destroyer.

The end of the Chapter was back in the war room and it built up to a great cliffhanger that I can't wait to see resolved.

Then I saw the announcement of Chapter 13 which seems like another diversion and side quest. The story seemed to building towards a confrontation with Zakuul and this one looks like filler. I hope I'm wrong.

I'm sure the Sith Warrior's are excited about getting Vette back. Where's Kira, dagnabit!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

And We Have a Date [Legion Edition]

There it is.

We have a concrete date for Legion. Everything in Warlords just got an expiration date. Legion drops between Week 3 and Week 4 of the NFL Preseason. Week 3 is the most important week, the dress rehearsal. Week 4 is pretty much a bunch of guys who won't be on the team the following Sunday.

As far as my own Legion plans, the only thing I know for certain right now is that I want to stick with my Paladin. He's been my main forever and even the couple of times I tried to switch, I always seem to come back to him. After that, I'm lost.

The artifact system has me concerned. As a hybrid, I need both artifacts, I would argue that really Druids, Monks and Paladins need all 3. Its still not clear from Alpha if we can even get all three. Even if we CAN get all three, it sounds like maintaining even two is difficult. Blizzard Watch writer, Matthew Rossi mentioned in today's Queue:

At present my level 109 Warrior has the Arms and Fury Artifacts and switches between them based on mood. It’s rough and if there’s a catch up mechanic in the alpha I have not seen it — I’m forced to simply split my Artifact Power items between Artifacts, and as a result neither is as progressed as it should be. If they do implement such a [catch up] mechanic, I’d be all for it. Right now, you basically can be a dilettante like me, or you can have focus and get one of the Artifacts leveled at a reasonable pace, but you can’t have both.
Image that instead of Arms and Fury, he said Fury and Prot, or in my case Ret and Prot. I can see this being a very common scenario for many hybrids. If maintaining only two artifacts is rough, maintaining three must be almost Herculean.

If we are limited to only two, then that effectively locks Druids, Monks, and Paladins out of their third spec. If your guild ever needs you to switch to that third spec, it likely won't be an option. This will only put more pressure on the shortage of geared tanks and healers at endgame. Right now, any Druid, Paladin or Monk could get geared reasonably quickly and be able to slot into your team. In Legion, that might not even be an option.

It also discourages players from experimenting. All specs are getting changed to some extent, though not all as radically as Shadow Priest or Survival Hunter. If a Hunter wants to try Survival, but then finds out that yeah, he's still not digging melee, then, with only two artifacts, he's locked out of either Beast Mastery or Marksmanship. The problem only gets worse as some issues with a spec won't appear until max level and by then you blown a bunch of artifact power on the 'wrong' one.

Personally, I'm intrigued by the changes to Holy. It looks like its finally the front line healer I've always wanted it to be. I could still be in a support role but still have the team aspect of DPS. As a Tank, there no one else to pick up your slack. DPS and to an extent, healers have someone else there. Also, mistakes are less impactful in a Healer or DPS. Many times, a mistake by the Tank leads directly to a wipe. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

I've never done much healing and I've not loved it when I have . I've always been Prot/Ret. If we really can only get two 2 artifacts, I can't even consider trying out Holy because if I wind up not liking it, I've locked myself out of either Ret or Prot. How can I give Holy a real shot when I'm dumping Artifact power into Prot or Ret.

I don't know what to do about my spec. Tanking has long been my first love in game but I have to face the reality that I don't have the time to devote to my character which I'll be behind in gearing and neither my DPS artifact nor my tanking artifact are leveled up enough. It's great to have an experience bar beyond max level, but it may mean someone like me never catches up.