Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 approaches. This time, it seems like there really will be a game which turns our view of MMORPGs upside-down. Whether this is a good thing or not depends on your perspective.

GW2 is going to be a game which focuses on PvP and PvE in equal shares, according to Guild Wars developers ArenaNet. We won't know how accurate this statement is until the game is released, so let's not waste any time discussing this just yet. What we do know, however, is that an extensive PvP system is in the works which includes two main features:

Structured PvP
In Warcraft terms, this is a form of competitive PvP which ressembles a mix between Arena Pass and Battlegrounds. All characters receive the best available gear and the highest level (80), and you're able to either participate in 5v5 tournaments of different kinds or so-called "Pick-up play" where you queue for 1v1-10v10 battles. High rankings may result in aesthetic upgrades. It seems that the battlefields in general are rather advanced as they include destructible environments, trebuchets and dragons.

World vs World vs World
Also sometimes incorrectly called World PvP. These battles last two weeks and occur constantly in an instanced area called "the Mists". Three servers fight each others in huge battles competing for resources enabling them to build siege weapons, repair buildings and what have you. It all reminds of something we grew tired of long ago, doesn't it? In either case, you are able to level solely by participating in WvWvW (although when you enter you gain an artificial top level while retaining your current gear), and you can gain gear by defeating opponents. Depending on your server's success in the Mists, you may benefit from things such as an increased rate of experience gain and higher drop rates.

Wait, that's it?
I'm afraid so. In Guild Wars, there is only one faction (or rather, no factions at all), and the five races co-exist peacefully and partake in conflicts with other worlds only (WvWvW). As such, there is no wpvp of the kind that we're used to. It's a shame because it seems that ArenaNet has done almost everything else right, which I will go into now; I just wanted to give you the bad news first.

While certainly not unprecedented, the combat in GW2 is a step above your average MMORPG. You are able to dodge incoming attacks and projectiles manually, lift a shield to block a spray of fire from an enemy elementalist, and then shoot arrows through the flames to set them ablaze. Additionally, there is no auto-attack. All in all, this adds some extra skill and tactics to fights, something which is much appreciated.

When your health has been depleted, you don't die immediately. Your combat bars change and you are able to use a few abilities that may help you get back in the action. Certain professions (classes) have abilities that are intended to help allies who are in this state, also known as the 'downed mode'. 

Interestingly, there are no healers in Guild Wars 2. Instead there are, according to ArenaNet, support roles. So far I haven't heard of any groundbreaking developments when it comes to the supporter role, so I won't mention it further. All professions have some abilities which serve as minor healing.

Content scaling
As mentioned, in PvP modes your level scales to 80. This also happens if you want to do quests with a friend whose level is above yours - you can 'sidekick' up to their level while retaining current skills and equipment - and it also works the other way around if you want to visit an area which is below your own level. This would be excellent for World PvP if it existed, as it would mean that you could find opponents everywhere to fight and not be limited to those of your own level.

Payment model
Guild Wars 2 will, similarly to its predecessor, not have a subscription fee. Instead they will likely release numerous expansions as well as put aesthetic items on sale. If this will have any negative impacts on the development of the game post-release remains to be seen - and the positive implications hardly need mentioning.

A crucial factor in any MMORPG in my opinion. While great graphics aren't always necessary, I find that a lively and atmospheric world is important; Guild Wars 2 has both. The scenery is stunning and the cities immense. 

It's easy for those of us who are World PvP enthusiasts to some extent to feel disheartened by the apparent lack of it in Guild Wars 2. On the whole however, the game seems very interesting, and maybe the server battles will prove entertaining and dynamic. There's still quite some time to go before this game is released (no one knows exactly when, but I'd guess about 6 months from now), and much can happen in that time. 

Above is one of the few gameplay videos with somewhat decent quality. It shows a nice-looking human town and a charr (a cat with a Tauren's physique) participating in an open boss encounter. It also hints at a feature which role players might find annoying, which is that when you create a character you may choose personality traits which will not only shape your quests, but also govern your character's supposed past (having been a member of some gang or similar), but it's easily ignored for those who want their own background of course.

There are tons of videos out there, and be sure to check out ArenaNet's trailer found on their website.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friends, Foes and Fanboys

Naïma of sent me this awesome drawing upon request.

Hail rats and ratslayers.

It's been too long since last I updated this modest space of the internet - for this I apologize.
I even promised to come back with a full review on Rift, which quite obviously I haven't. In my defense, however, I said that I would do so as soon as I reached level 50, which I never did; pardon the roguish attitude.

I am decent enough to at least grant you an explanation for this uncouth behavior. A couple of weeks into playing Rift I went on holiday, also lasting nearly two weeks. Upon my arrival back home I realized I hadn't spared a single thought for the game at all - highly alarming for a MMORPG, I am sure you all agree - and this was enough for me to discontinue the subscription without hesitation.  In short, while Rift had some impressive features it wasn't enough to cancel out the general bland and uninspired feel of the game. In my view a MMORPG is supposed to pull you in, leave you spellbound - a task at which Rift failed miserably. I still had a week or so gametime left which I simply used during one evening to bid my farewell to whoever would listen.

Speaking of bidding one's farewell, when my WoW gametime ran out, I asked Grego to announce my departure on the forums for me. His post was deleted before long, as it mentioned that I was trying my luck in Rift. Despite myself I couldn't help but appreciate Blizzard's never faltering ability to moderate their forums and filter out inappropriate content, and indeed their great sense of task allocation and rational use of resources...

In either case, I have gone through my 2500 or so World of Warcraft screenshots and uploaded roughly 220 of them at They range from July 1st 2007 to February 15th 2011 and are divided into six categories for each significant guild I've been in.

Hallow's End  here back when we were blissfully unaware of the impending instance teleporting.

Let us get back to the present day. What have I been up to? Gaming-wise, not a lot, which unfortunately is the topic that this blog covers. Since I quit WoW, my appetite for MMOs hasn't quite recovered, something I regard with mixed sentiments. On one hand I welcome any extra spare time I can use to focus on things other than games, but on the other hand I earnestly miss my MMO friends and ganking rats.

I do not wish to appear sulky, however. In a not-too-distant future I may have enough free time to delve into the world of MMORPGs, should an interesting one surface. I am keeping my eyes peeled for a PvP-friendly title, but as of yet upcoming ones seem dreary, to be frank.

My perception of 'PvP-friendly'

This will seem rather off topic, but I just have to post a couple of screens of Joev's user interfaces. Some of you still run around with those hopeless UI packs with a centered minimap at the bottom of the screen, over a large black bottom panel covered in runes. Shame on you all.

So simple.

So, Star Wars: The Old Republic is coming up. This is exciting because:

a. It's Star Wars. Quite plainly, many people like Star Wars, it's a safe card.
b. It's a space MMO. Space equals potential for great freedom.

First off, I am not in the beta for this game. Despite a lack of first-hand experience with the game I am wary, however. From what I've heard and seen, it doesn't seem particularly interesting. Lack of good news about PvP aside, even the looks of the combat (not to mention general graphics) seem dry, and we mustn't forget that a Star Wars MMO is likely to bring out the worst kind of gamers - think besserwisser fanboys and neckbeards with Darth Maul face paint - these are the people we'd be playing with. On the bright side, we'd be able to gank scores of players with stupid Sith-inspired guild names.

I may very well try TOR when it is released, but I shall do so with the bitter knowledge that my fantasy of flying around in space with a small gang of gankers with an entire Galaxy at our feet will most likely remain just that, a fantasy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rift - is it worth it?

Hail rats and ratslayers.

I have been away from WoW and Ravenholdt for a while now, and before I left I wandered around bored and annoyed with the direction Blizzard is taking the game - which shouldn't come as a shock to any ganker who's been playing for a while - yet time and time again we are taken by surprise and duly slapped in the face and kicked in the groin.

After a couple weeks of not playing any mmorpg I decided to try out Rift with some friends. I was told that the world pvp was exquisite, but I had my doubts because it looked eerily like WoW; the user interface could very well have been Warcraft's had they decided to brush it up at some point. However, I carefully placed those doubts aside in the back of my mind as I gave the game a go. At this point the beta stages were over and the 8-day head start for those who had pre-ordered had just come to an end.

The adventure commences - Firesand EU, PvP-RP
You begin in a starting area which is cut off from the rest of the world, Telara. The quests are simple and straightforward, but most of all uninspiring. The thing that catches your attention early on is the talent tree. It is rather complex at first, but soon enough you get the hang of it.

The talent trees, or soul trees as they are called in Rift, grant abilities and passive bonuses through branch and root advancement. The former works much like WoW's talent trees, you spend points and you unlock tiers as you go higher up in the tree. Root advancement automatically unlocks abilities after you've spent a certain amount of points in the soul tree. Each level you get 1 or 2 soul points, and at the maximum level, 50, you can spend 66 points.

As you progress throughout the first levels you unlock and choose your first three souls. They work similar to the different talent trees of each class in WoW (such as the rogue's assassination, combat and subtlety trees), except there are 9 to choose from (the remaining 6 are unlocked later on by completing quests).

 Each class (rogue, mage, warrior and cleric) having 9 different souls to choose from, which often include tank, dps and healer souls, is both a blessing and a curse. While it means that there is huge flexibility (not to mention that you can not only have dual spec like in WoW, but quad spec if you've got the gold), it also means that in PvP situations many will be running around with strong self-heals.

You exit the starting area at around level 6 and enter either Freemarch or Silverwood, depending on whether you chose the Defiant or the rats. This is where most people will start to appreciate their surroundings. At about level 18 they have stopped appreciating their surroundings because they're still in the same, huge zone. At this point there is no world pvp either, and you are unlikely to find any until as late as level 25 when you get to Scarlet Gorge, which is the third zone (if you count Freemarch as the first). Since my biggest concern and source of entertainment in mmorpgs is ganking, I skipped the second zone, Stonefield, and headed straight for the Grand Canyon-esque Scarlet Gorge.

The difficulty of questing varies depending on your spec, but in general I would say it's much more challenging than WoW's. I doubt anyone will manage to get to 50 without dying a few times. Personally I must have died 30 times while questing, and I'm currently at level 38.

PvP: quality or quantity?
And so we come to what we regard as the make or break of an mmorpg: PvP. There are no arenas in Rift, and the gear you get doesn't depend on the skill factor as much as the time factor. Similar to vanilla WoW, you get better PvP gear as you progress through ranks at level 50. As I am level 38 at the moment I have no first-hand experience, but according to Reavan the grind is monumental, and you are better off simply getting PvE gear. The fact that the Defiants lose the vast majority of Warfronts (instanced cross-server battlegrounds), if you are to believe Reavan and Astartel's incessant whining, doesn't help either.

This brings me to my next point: Warfronts. They are very similar to WoW's battlegrounds, and slightly less entertaining. It also feels as if a victor is decided in the first minute of each game. There are rarely any matches where the score is more or less equal, rather once one side starts to fall behind they all seem to give up. Personally I have won the majority of the warfronts I've entered, but it remains to be seen how it goes at 50.

The Black Garden: capture the Fang and hold it for points.

Scarlet Gorge rumble

None of that matters of course, as long as above is good. So, is it? First off, you encounter it very late. When you do, it's rather good. It doesn't surround you, it's not behind every corner and under every rock - but it's definitely not hard to come by. If you feel like you haven't gotten enough, you can simply waltz to the nearest rat hub and start nuking. If you do it well, you won't attract any guards, and if you do, they're quite easily dispatched.

Another thing is that a higher level doesn't necessarily mean you will kill all below you. Apply some common sense and skill and you will soon find yourself toying with people 5 levels above you granted that you're using a good spec. Some specs are strong. Some specs are shit. The spec that I am currently using is mainly sabotage. It's so fucking overpowered that small planets have begun revolving around me.

I started out as assassin/riftstalker, but with that it is virtually impossible to kill a warrior of the same level. A guild member was killed by a warrior ten levels below him. Another guild member couldn't kill a level 36 healer while he was at 50. Oh, and pretty much everyone in the guild is a rogue. The class balance is very poor at the moment, although it seems that every class has a few combinations that come out on top.

At this stage being a melee rogue is rather tough, regrettably - and personally if I cannot kill every class in a certain spec I tweak it so I am enabled to. On the whole PvP is enjoyable however. There will always be a flavor of the month, such is unavoidable. What is avoidable on the other hand is making yourself a victim of the fotm specs.

Something I like about Rift is that you can communicate with the rats through /say, /yell and /emote. This is good for RP, good for taunting your opponent, but mostly good for receiving whines and complaints in person. No need to log onto the forums and shed tears, now you can pour your heart out (figuratively and literally) to your aggressor without delay! To the left you see some rat calling Voidwatcher and me cowards. Interestingly they outleveled and outnumbered us.

The name of the game - a novelty soon to fade away or something that will remain interesting throughout? Rifts spawn randomly all over zones with mobs pouring out of them. When you approach one you can choose to join a public group, which enables you to defeat the rift invasion with other players.

Sometimes you can defeat rifts on your own, but the extra amount of planarite (currency used for e.g. buying gear) is not worth it most of the time. Do them as often as you can and you'll benefit from the rewards. To the right you can see a Scarlet Gorge map filled with rifts (dots) and invasions (crossed swords).

So then, what's my verdict? So far I am enjoying the game. It exceeded my expectations and as long as you don't get feared into rocks (hasn't happened to me yet, but I've heard plenty from Astartel), you will barely find any bugs or other technical faults. I can scarcely imagine that there has been a cleaner mmorpg launch in gaming history. What 50 looks like I am not one to say, but once I get there you will get the full report from your favorite investigative journalist.

Over and out.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lunar Festival

The Lunar Festival celebrates the Azerothians' victory over the Burning Legion in the War of the Ancients roughly ten thousand years ago. To make a long story short, the Night Elves, under the rule of their beloved queen Azshara, practiced arcane magic for a few thousand years and summoned a demon army, a mess which Malfurion, Illidan and Rhonin had to clean up.

Anyway, as in most wars, there was naturally a lot of slaying, and it is through slaying that we must uphold the tradition of the Lunar Festival - and don't let the Cenarion Circle have you believe otherwise - hugging trees and visiting Elders is the worst way of honoring our ancestors' sacrifice. 

Click on the Dark Legacy comic to the right to see just how painful it is for our Elders to deal with us, the idiotic players, every year.

Instead, head to Moonglade and slay rats in the dozens!

Getting there: use a portal (from Orgrimmar or Stormwind depending on your faction) to Mount Hyjal and fly northwards past Winterspring for a couple of minutes.

     Where to slay?

The red area represents an area full of NPCs such as rocket vendors and glaive-wielding guards of death. Don't make the same mistake Artturi did several times by attempting to gank there.

The orange area is of course Nighthaven itself - visited by many players but also heavily guarded. In some areas of the village there are only harmless level 65 guards, but the glaive-wielding motherfuckers are lurking as well, especially around the seasonal vendors - gank at your own risk.

The green area is the most interesting one. This is where players summon Omen, and this is where I performed the vast majority of my Moonglade kills so far.

"Hurt me? Hah! I know no pain, rat! Wait, what are you doing?.. OH MY GOD HE'S RAPING MEEE"
Above screenshot was taken in Nighthaven. I had attacked some warlock who flew away (sensible decision, albeit less fun for me), and decided to test the guards. I ran around for a bit, aggroing a level 65 Moonglade Warden or two. Then I approached the vendors and, well, it turned out rather ugly. Notice how the cuddly and harmless Warden's name is written in pink while the glaive-wielding maniacs are like, LUNAR FESTIVAL MOTHERFUCKING SENTINELS, BITCH!

With the arrival of flying mounts in Azeroth, we must find ways of adapting. Artturi and I made a habit of sapping players who landed with their flying mounts, after which I would do a stunlock (cheap shot and kidney shot) while Artturi shadow danced. 

The only ones who escaped this were the ones who were lucky enough for either of my stuns to miss.

You cannot always have friends backing you up, of course. Using the same tactic alone is difficult, seeing as you use most of your energy on stuns. Sometimes you get them because you get a few lucky crits, other times because they dismount out of sheer stupidity or... well, stupidity. 
To the right is a druid who had pretty low health, so he died midair. Again, out of stupidity some druids don't HoT midair, just like some choose names such as Stórmrage out of stupidity.

While things such as forgetfulness and nervousness can be attributed to such a mishap, I think it is more likely that it is once again stupidity that hinders you from using a spell such as Typhoon on a small roof. 

Anyway, I suppose it isn't very considerate of me to e-bully someone just because they choose the Warcraft equivalent of 'Légòlas' as their name. We'll just pretend that it's a lame attempt at irony and move on...

If you don't have access to sap and/or stuns, there are other ways of dealing with enemy players who have landed on the ground but are still on top of their flying mount. In fact, there are better ways: hex, polymorph and maybe even mind control.

How To Honor Your Elders Properly 101: hiding under Omen's corpse and ganking.

User interface competition!
Have you got a nice ui you would like to share? Send it to me (by e-mail, skype or just link) and the readers will decide which they fancy the most in an upcoming poll.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ravenholdt's Honor Kill Ladder

It's back. I am sure you have been biting your nails out of sheer eagerness, yearning and hungering for the list to once again learn who holds the title as the most enthusiastic HK farmer of Ravenholdt.

Rnnak  - 422434

Ufoz - 287327

Zylopfa - 276707

Wampyra - 257289

Parashade - 246196

Thibbledorf - 215232

Tagrid - 204355

Orçun - 188223

Canarion - 183162

Kaitel - 180890

It comes as no surprise that Rnnak, who is now apparently climbing towards 85 (three levels to go), remains the top slayer. We have also gotten our realm's fourth Bloodthirsty player - congratulations, Wampyra.

By the way, the blog has now been viewed 4000 times. That's one small step for man, one giant leap for Zylkind... or something.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My user interface

Welcome to the complete guide to Zyl's addons. First a short bit of history...

September 9, 2009. I had recently bought a new 13" laptop since I was moving to another country and I didn't want to bring my desktop computer with me, so from then on I've almost played full-time on a very small screen; this makes things somewhat difficult (such as making quality movies), but it's alright.

So this is what my ui looked like back then. While quite ugly, it is, in hindsight, not very different from how it looks today... shit. Under the minimap is the Quest Helper addon which I no longer use (thank fuck), and I can't really understand why I kept it for so long considering I do quite few quests. 

May 16, 2010. I was obviously in a UI crisis at this stage, so I asked fellow rogue Joev if he could procure a nice compilation of addons for me seeing as he has a good eye for the aesthetic.

This is what it looked like at first (after removing and adding a few addons). Much cleaner thanks to removing the slightly superfluous right sidebar. You can see Grid in the upper left corner which I later removed since, well, I'm a rogue, I'm too cool for it. There were a few issues with out of date addons here however, so I could unfortunately not keep this look for long.

Another one bites the dust

Here you can see the ScrollingCombatText visible (the one managing the scrolling combat text if you hadn't figured it out) which at this point I had used for a year or so. It's a very nice addon, but I later removed it because at least on my 13" screen it felt too spammy - using fan of knives on ten rats was, surprisingly, an ugly sight. I turned the minimap into a square using simpleMinimap, which was also removed due to some sort of compatibility issue. The combat log is visible here because I was hunting for a Ganking Game victim.

Today my user interface looks as seen above. I made some additional changes today since I didn't want to post what in my view was a slightly defective ui. Itafeer and Naïma were kind enough to help me test the ui one last time before showing it to the scrutinizing public. As seen in the screenshot:

MoveAnything: I use this to move my character and target portraits into the middle of the screen which makes it easier to keep track of what your enemy's up to. This is my most important addon. Since Cataclysm I've experienced some minor bugs with it, but I haven't found any substitute. 

Vanas KoS: The rectangle above the minimap (which is transparent during combat) shows any nearby enemies that the combat log has picked up. I use this to find rats when I'm out ganking - when you're out of combat you can click the names in the vanaskos window to target them.

Bartender 4: Allows me to add, disable and move bars. These include but are not limited to action bars, micro menu and the bag menu.

OmniCC: Indicates the cooldown of abilities on my action bars. In the screenshot you can see that Kick (2s) and Sprint (55s) are on cooldown.

oGlow: Shows the duration of active abilities on my action bars. In the screenshot you can see that Slice and Dice (14s), Rupture (17s) and Sprint (2s) are active.

MikScrollingBattletext: Similar to ScrollingCombatText, but it's less spammy  in the way it displays AoE as e.g. '10533 [4 hits]' instead of displaying it four times. It also does the same for an ability that hits with short intervals such as Instant Poison's '3218 [2 hits]' as seen in the screenshot. Thanks to Droc for suggesting it some months ago. P.S: SCT might also have such a feature of course, in which case I've missed it and I look like an idiot.

Mappy: I downloaded this addon today because I was tired of a very circular map.


And finally ArkInventory: Allows me to sort my bags by adding compartments. The ones I use are gems & jewel crafting supplies, ore/metal & engineering supplies, food, equipment, miscellaneous and (not displayed due to there being none in my bags) trash. This addon also allows me to check the items in my bank without visiting it as well as check items in my other characters' bags.

There is one thing I do not like about my ui at the moment. I do not like the character portraits. Got a nice addon to suggest to make them more... square? Then let me know here or ingame.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reavan's Sunday event

There is a wpvp event planned for Sunday the 16th at 19:00 server time. It is to take place in the Crumbling Depths, more commonly known as the Therazane daily cave in Deepholm. 

I have a feeling there will be a large amount of rats present, so it is adamant that as many Horde as possible be present to avoid an event similar to Hearthglen, the final part of the pre-Cataclysm wpvp events.

Taken from the original post: 
Idea: Horde defend area past the big worm initially.
Alliance come in try to destroy horde, afterwords regardless of who won initial battle players must secure blue green and red areas for their faction. 
Faction that can secure most areas and keep them, wins. 
And along with it was a map... of which the quality strongly correlates with its author's wit.


Anyway, out of the kindness of my heart I made a map which doesn't look like it was drawn by a three year-old with ADD:

Alliance and Horde gather at the gunship and the cave respectively at 18:40, and the rats attack at 19:00.
The official battle ends at 19:30 but is likely to continue for a while. Happy slaying on Sunday.