#Neverwinter Open Beta

 

Neverwinter

Over the weekend, I decided to give Neverwinter, now in open beta, a test drive and see how it was playing and how the gameworld was shaping up.  Apparently, I’m liking it… a lot…as a good chunk of my weekend got sucked into running around city and surrounding environs!

In true D&D style, I began by rolling up a character, a cleric in my case, and fortunately for me and my horrible luck with any kind of randomness, I had the option to keep tumbling the dice until I was happy with the weight distribution of my stats. I picked some presets on the skins, and jumped right into the game. 

The controls are akin to Tera, in that you have WASD for forward/strafe movement, but your turning is done by mouse. Number of abilities are limited as well, a trend that seems to becoming more and more popular, although you have a wide range of skills to choose from as you progress, as well as latent talents that provide buffs to stats and skills. It’s been a real boon to be able to swap skills in and out depending on whether I’m soloing or doing group play.

I was thrilled to see text for quests again. The questgiver will be happy to regale you in audio with the same information, but it’s lovely to be able to run up, read a quest, and keep on moving instead of being transported into some 30 second cutscene. Quest directions are still liberally painted all over your screen from the maps to a glowing trail of goodness that makes it almost impossible to lose your way while you travel. Even when you have to change districts within the city, there’s a pretty blue arrow that lets you know what quests you have that are continued in which district, so if you’re as bad with names as I am, you don’t have to write yourself notes because you can’t access your quest log.

In addition to questing, there’s plenty of things to do. Crafting comes to us in a SW:TOR model where you send your happy minions off to craft/collect materials, although you can also collect materials in the world if you have the right kind of kit and/or personal skill to harvest the various types of nodes. Dungeons, skirmishes, and PvP are also available and you can queue for them simultaneously or individually depending on what you’d like to do.

One of the most innovative and D&D-esque feature is the ability of players to create user content, called The Foundry. These quests are available in-game via bards and message boards, and quest-creators can cash in on their creativity with rewards from players. Foundry quests aren’t modded, and thus must conform to the game rules; however, that is part of what makes them so interesting. You begin foundry quests/campaigns in-game, and the characters/scenes act as any quest that you gain from the developer created content–no heading out to the menu or warping off to some obviously “created” environment. While there are still bugs associated with play in Foundry quests, the potential for a really hands-on environment is just stellar.

And one of my favorite features? No hiding your UI when taking screenshots. Just click “Print Screen” and it’s all taken care of folks.

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All in all, Neverwinter looks like it’s got a lot of great things going for it, and with the free to play model, it’s gonna be a no-brainer for me to have this one in the library.

 

#TSW Buzzing Along

imagesCAX2BT8XRecently The Secret World joined the massive hordes of MMO’s that have switched over to a F2P model. For 30 bucks, I figured it was worth checking out, so I spent a day downloading and started myself a new character. While I can say that there are many minor annoyances which I will get into later, TSW definitely lives up to the fun, and I can only say: I wish I’d picked it up sooner.

Since I got to shoot a handy assault rifle in my introduction to the game, I figured I’d stick to that, and set myself up a Templar gunslinger and started exploring. There’s a ton to explore, and I really enjoy stumbling across pieces of lore as I roam across the landscape. With plenty of main quests, side quests, and the dungeon or two under my belt, I thought I was flying pretty fancy. Until I discovered that I didn’t exactly have a game-plan for my skills, and absolutely no idea what the hell I was doing.

You see, you get these fancy scroll wheels which are awesome. You can have up to 7 active and 7 passive abilities, and through expert management and some luck you can create a powerhouse for anything imaginable.

TheSecretWorldDX11-2012-05-19-03-41-27-52

Unless you suck yourself into a survivability build which can’t damage a kitten, but isn’t exactly a healer either. And you never take the repeated hints from the loading screens to equip a secondary weapon. Oops.

So I rolled a new character thinking I could give myself some much needed time to re-evaluate. And when I did I discovered this *cough, cough* completely hidden panel on the left of my ability screen with all kinds of nifty starter builds to get me started. This time, I’m not finding myself sucked into some metaphorical jackrabbit hole of possibilities because I’m choosing to pace myself. Stick to the main build until I’ve firmly mastered enough other skills to create myself  a complete (and hopefully) effective build. And if not, I can just load my starter deck back up. Yay!

I’ll admit, I still haven’t found a use for a shop yet except as a repair depot, but hopefully that knowledge will come to me one day. Until then, I’m currently working on mastering the crafting system, an on-the-road do-it-yourself creation shop that can be done in the comfort of any glade that you’ve cleared of the minions of shadow.

My only major gripe is the amount of time I spend criss-crossing various locales as I pick up new main quests while completing side quests, and really…isn’t there a way to coordinate these?! I’m also a little spastic in my fear that I’ll overlook some vitally awesome quest that happens to be lying in the mud somewhere, or buried under a decaying carcass, but I’m busy enough thus far not to be too anal-retentive and actually find a quest database to cross reference my completed list with all the possibilities.

The other thing I’m having a bit of trouble with is the numerous (and male-oriented) quest scenes. While I think it’s cute that so many women desperately want to make me lose focus through sultry inneundo (good luck with that ladies), it does get old after awhile. Why isn’t that cute cowboy trying to give me an affectionate shoulder squeeze and suggesting after all this mess is cleared up we can start a nice ranch somewhere, huh?

All in all, it’s a really enjoyable game so far, and has a wonderfully gritty, modern feel. While I can’t say I’m home, it’s definitely a step in the right direction!

A Change of P(l)ace

Life changes. It baffles, amazes, and challenges us with its constant gyrations and demands. While I’m still playing my beloved MMO’s, I’ve have yet again hung up the towel with WoW. I didn’t notice it at first, with my own absences, and those cannot be helped absences from others, but after a month of no raiding, I realized another month had passed without me logging on… and then a second. While WoW has a lot to offer to the enthusiast, I discovered that I no longer fit the profile. Coupled with some drastic changes in my personal life, I realized I wanted a different scene, a different pace, and a different game.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find exactly what it is I do want. I’m too old and set in my ways… a bit jaded you might say. I’ve been playing both TERA and LoTRO to pass the time, but I’ve yet to find myself immersed in the culture of either game. The thing which is driving me from WoW–a lack of a permanent place–keeps me from really finding myself drawn to something new. I’m lazy. I have yet to expand myself beyond the bounds of just finangling with my own character to find myself a new home anywhere else. And that is ultimately, for me, is the allure and defining characteristic of an MMO. The ability to not only interact, but to connect with team-mates to challenge the group to meeting a goal. Without that essential component, MMOs rapidly lose their allure, and one is left wanting.

Will I find my place, my pace, the vital something that connects me with a new world and a new set of goals within it? I want the excitement and challenges of group content, but find myself reluctant to commit myself to a new dynamic when so many things in my own life seem uncertain. How can a business model predict the effect of personal upheaval? Of the loss of a vital link to the game at the very moment when it is most needed to keep interest alive?

While I hate to close up shop here, at my personal place of reflection and notes for the last few years, I must admit that it will be unlikely to be revived unless I find myself enthralled within a new gameworld, and further still, with a solid, dependable group that depends on my expertise and skill. To all those who have supported me, I thank you. For those who have found some niggling question answered, I’m glad I could help. I wish you all the best of luck in your gaming adventures. I hope to speak with you soon.

The Method

Although I’m generally pretty good about giving a nice picture and the list of addons I use, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the method behind the madness. I always find, when breaking down a new UI, that I can probably get away with ~6 core addons, with the rest being a bunch of fluff that I enjoy for making my screen prettier or making a task in-game easier.

If you missed the last post, this is my current UI. The changes (for those who *did* see the last post) are my failure to update my DBM skin and a play session with Grid2 which I’m test driving (and enjoying.. but more on that later).

realdeal

The things that are *really* important to me are all clustered in the middle, and as I indicated earlier, can really be narrowed down to 6 addons.

grandcentral

Weak Auras (a replacement for Power Auras) provides my most important cooldowns and OMG PAY ATTENTION reminders. While the cooldown bar *is* redundant in many ways (why not just use Bartender?) I like that it provides a different visual flavor because I can increase/decrease the size of the useable/cooldown status of my favorite spells. I’d also run it regardless of my nifty bar, so why not maximize the things I like about it?

Raven (a replacement for Satrina Buff Frames) lets me filter out the stuff I *really* need to know during a boss fight. Under my frames I keep track of short-term buffs, while above I keep an eye on my debuffs. My longer duration buffs get tossed up top so that I can ensure I have all my raid buffs in between attempts, but in reality, once the fight is started, I don’t want to scan through a lot of miscellaneous crap to see how much longer is left in Tree Form or whether or not my trinket procced. I also found that having debuffs floating up top meant that I never noticed ‘em until I was dying of something horrible!

Grid2 is what I’m currently test-driving for raid frames, but any solid raid frame would fit the bill. I’ve played a couple of nights with the default raid frames, and while they pass muster in a pinch, they still don’t have the functionality of an addon.

DBM, like Grid, has not always been my raid timer, but I’ve always had *something.* Winging a fight without one is possible, but *whew* isn’t it fun to have those dingers blaring to tell you that something important is coming up.

oUF is another personal choice at the moment. It’s not as user friendly as a number of replacement frames out there, but it *is* pretty. Like a raid frame though, a replacement unit frame allows for a lot more customization and control over the standard frames.

Bartender is my last staple, and more of a die-hard prettiness issue than anything else. Plus it makes keybinding a breeze.

While I love the beauty of a crafted UI, I got involved in addons in order to position information on my screen in a way that made it easy for me to process. Next time you’re thinking of overhauling your UI (or just doing a minor tweak here or there) give yourself the essentials test.

What is essential for me to get the maximum amount of information in the smallest space with the least number of addons.

It can make crafting your next UI a real success!

MoP: State of the UI (Includes Restoration Druid Weak Auras)

As much as I love my Remix UI, I’ve been having a number of issues with Stuf this expansion, and decided to rebuild my UI around a new set of unit frames: oUF Karma. A slight twist on the stacking ideal found in Quse, I find that I really like the slight offset to provide more nooks and crannies to hide various auras that I’d like to track.

I’ve also updated my strings for my restoration druid Weak Auras, as well as a full listing of addons.

The UI

MOP_UI_DEC_SOLO

MOP_UI_Dec_Party

MoP_UI_December

Addon List

Restoration Druid Weak Auras

Harmony

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Lifebloom
Not target specific. Tracks personal Lifebloom duration and stacks cast on any party/raid member.

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Mana <80% and Innervate Available

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Restoration Bar — Available for Use
Wild Growth – Swiftmend – Barkskin – Tranquility – Tree of Life – Swiftmend – Rebirth

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Restoration Bar — Abilities on Cooldown
Wild Growth – Swiftmend – Barkskin – Tranquility – Tree of Life – Swiftmend – Rebirth

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On Healing in Mists

As I was thinking about this post, I really wanted to talk about the mana cap and the effect it had on healing. But really, you can’t talk about the mana cap without talking about healers in general and the expectations we hold as players and raid members when it comes to the role of healing. Is healing fun, or just necessary?

I was first exposed to healing in BC. I was a tankadin, and while my raid team loved me, it just didn’t always make sense for the consecration maker to tank every fight. We had other options, and so I not only became a switch hitter, I became an off-spec healer. To say that I hated paladin healing would be an understatement. I did not understand how people enjoyed hitting button one or button two in response to falling health bars. I think I aspired to be such a great tank in part to avoid ever having to heal anyone ever again.

Wrath changed my perspective on healers. It wasn’t that I loved paladin healing–I didn’t. But I finally got around to leveling a priest, and lo, it was awesome. I played holy, I played discipline, and there was so much variety and fun to be had, that I finally understood why people would want to do this whole “healing” thing.

A lot of things that appealed to me as a tank appealed to me as a healer. Healing is a dynamic role that requires a good understanding not only of the flow of the fight, but of your fellow players, and their foibles. While you might be tempted to fall into a rotation, there are plenty of times when you chuck the rotation and do something on the fly. I feel a personal responsibility for my playmates.

What I hate, and when I know something is horribly, horribly wrong is when I have to be the savior. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it saves an attempt. But it shouldn’t happen. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a tank, dps, or healer: all can play a vital role in saving a bad attempt, but it should not be the norm. I just want to perform my function to ensure that my raid team meets success. Nothing is more satisfying than a clean, well-executed fight.

healing_team

Because of how I feel about healers, and how they relate to a healing team, I’m of two minds on the healing cap issue. Overall I think it’s a good thing. Having a cap requires me to be what I consider a good healer: a player with a good understanding of my tool-box, well-prepared with a game plan for tackling major healing issues during a fight, but able to adapt and work with my team to cover mishaps. I really think it’s very difficult to heal well if you are responding to health bars, and don’t have a fundamental understanding of the mechanics of a fight. Being proactive is essential to providing excellent and consistent healing to your team.

The reason I’m not totally behind the mana cap is the amount of dead time that incurs over the course of a night. It’s hard to always be casting if you must conserve mana for peak times in a fight. While it’s great to have areas where you’re really pushing the envelope, it sucks to have to stand around twiddling your thumbs because it’s the only way to have the oomph you need at the right time.

The restoration toolbox also plays a role in why I’m uninspired by the mana cap at this point in Mists. The only real decision I make with my spells are whether I have enough mana to cast a Rejuvenation, or whether I should hold back. The new mushrooms are so lackluster I only plop them down if I’m 1) twiddling my thumbs and 2) I don’t expect the melee group to move at all.

For the most part, I agree with other restoration druids about the state of the class even I raid in a 10, and not 25 setting. Having two spells I never use anymore (Nourish and Healing Touch) and a band-aid burst spell that does pretty much nada have not really improved the efficacy of our class, and lead to a rather dull time over the long haul. While I don’t need a spell for every occasion, I’d like a bit more variety in the choices I have to make.

So far, I’m giving Healing in Mists a rating of Neutral. I’m not dissatisfied per se. I feel like the mana cap could be a good way to keep healing interesting up until the end of the expansion, preventing healing “bloat” by requiring healers to make decisions about their spell choices. On the other hand, having to stand and regenerate mana during a fight sucks. Having a limited toolbox is likewise uninspiring. I’d love to see a better balance between mana consumption and casting availability, and for the love of Elune, give me tools that are relevant!

Appearances

Back when I was playing the Realm Online there was a dye feature. You could tell who’d been playing the game awhile as they’d be running around in flesh colored robes and wielding a huge purple stick. Dye color was a status symbol, the earliest wave of tier gear. Looking back, I think dyes were so popular, not for their fad value, but because there was such a limitation on clothing style and personal appearance. It was damn near impossible not to see yourself every screen as you wandered around the landscape.

I wasn’t very good about using dyes myself. You could pretty much be guaranteed to find me with a black suit of something chain-mail like. I’ve been pretty poor about keeping up with my own appearance in general. I did spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to track down my swashbuckling hat for my red mage in Final Fantasy, and various tiers during my time in Warcraft, but I could always argue that I did it for the stats. My lack of interest in actually bothering to transmog gear would back this up…

If it hadn’t been for Guild Wars 2. From what I’ve seen so far, there’s not much variation in actual gear appearance from class to class. As a hunter, I tend to get dusters and tall boots (no heels, thank you very much) and call it a day. However, the variation in coloring is dramatic.

 

While I don’t change my colors every single day (honest!) I do swap around my color palette quite frequently as the general outline and shape of my clothing changes or I just get tired of the same old thing. There’s three things that I really enjoy about the way dyes, and appearance in general have been adapted in GW2. One is the ease. The pane above is from my character screen which I can access at any time, anywhere in the world. It makes fiddling with my appearance intensely gratifying as I can instantly do a wardrobe change.

Another thing that is fairly fun, if very random is the discovery of the dyes themselves. They are a simple lootable item, but you literally have no idea when, where or how your color palette will turn out as you start a new character.

The last thing isn’t really dye specific, but I have found to be quite shocking: I have yet to see a clone of myself. I haven’t exactly chosen a look that’s out of the ordinary–I’m a freaking blonde bombshell, right? Yet, I haven’t seen another player with my exact look (even if I’ve seen my hairstyle now and again). While much of this has to do with the character selection process, I think the bulk of this has to do with clothes.

Like I mentioned earlier, there isn’t actually that much variation in cut of clothing style by class. Hunters tend to have one style, guardians another, casters a third. And while the first thing we notice about another character is their clothes, it’s very hard to peg someone as a certain level or progression point in the game, or even to find a matching set of clothes from one player to another.

 

 

The dye system is an integral part of this unique appearance of players in game. Each item of clothing can be dyed in several fashions which allows for very distinct looks from player to player. While I could live without this feature, and I have in game after game, the ease of access makes it a very fun addition to getting a new item. I never have to look like a multi-colored vagabond unless I choose to. I think the downside to this array of color options is the very lack of variety in actual clothing design. I can imagine that item styles are limited in order to handle the variations in color schemes and body types that a person may choose.

However, after having the heavily detailed armor styles of WoW and the simple but color rich gear in GW2, I think I would take color customization over fancy epaulets in future games. Because of the cumbersome time/gold sink that is transmog, there is a lack of variety from tier to tier among players, resulting in a homogenization and twinning that can take away from the immersion of the game. It wasn’t until I didn’t find a twin of myself that I realized how fun it can be to be unique, not because of accomplishment per se, but just because I am unique, a player with singular tastes and sensibilities.