Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pre-Blizzcon Roundup

I'm leaving on vacation next week, and when I get back all we'll be talking about is the revelations of the next WoW xpac, and the Champions and Aion open betas and launches. I would really like to get a "should you buy the game?" post about Champions out there before I leave, since it will launch a few days after I get back. There are a few things that got lost in the shuffle, and frankly deserved their own posts, but I just don't have time for. Here they are.

1) This weapon, the Reclaimed Thunderstrike, drops from the new Onyxia. It is flat-out B.S. Can you guess why?

Here's a hint:

Not to mention the very high stamina and agility, and the aoe threat proc. Seriously?

Here's another hint, in the form of a quote from Ghostcrawler about why the blacksmithed DK tanking 2-handers with defensive stats were removed from the PTR before patch 3.1 went live:

"The two-handed Blacksmithing tanking weapons are not going to be implemented.

Indeed, we did not want to stick DKs with these weapons forever, nor did we want to start itemizing 2H tanking weapons forever. DKs were designed to tank with 2H dps weapons.

The new sigil and runeforge enchant should help players with low defense. "

So yeah, that dodge rating has got to go, or Onyxia goes from being "fun raid to goof off with" to "OMG I have to make sure we run this every week and hope that the tanking weapon drops instead of all the other stuff we shard every week." It's going to become the new Dragonspine Trophy: so much better than everything else that people will keep grinding the boss long after they are sick of it, just in hopes of one drop. Every other tanking weapon in the game immediately becomes obsolete for mitigation/survivability, and effectively you go from having dozens of roughly-equally-viable weapons to choose from for tanking (all dropping in different places, giving you a choice), to only. one. option. Not fun. For an analogue, imagine if the only one-handed weapon with tanking stats in the entire game dropped off of Malygos. Sure, lots of tanks would just use a dps one-hander, but those players would always be inferior to the guy who got lucky when farming Maly.

2) Paladins at max level are not as simple as they were to level up. You can see my impressions here, where I discovered that leveling a Retribution Paladin is ludicrously easy, and frankly simpler than any other class. Having spent some time as retribution at 80, I can now add that doing optimal dps does require skill and quick decision-making. Leveling your character, and even 5-man instancing and 1 on 1 pvp, may be complete faceroll as ret, but executing your First Come First Served dps method while dealing with conflicts between different powers coming off cooldown at the same time brings into play a skill gap between the best and the rest. I'd still maintain that it's easier to learn and figure out than many other classes (rogues and DKs are much more complicated in their rotations for example, IMO, especially if you don't have a guide), but at least raid performance as ret requires some thought.

3) Second Skin: This documentary was pretty eye-opening for me. I caught it on Hulu during a free preview last week, but now it's apparently only available on DVD and in select theaters. I enjoyed it, and normally would recommend you go into it with an open mind. But, it's hard to talk about it without spoiling anything, so I'm just going to say what I want to say.

First of all, I thought the documentary was skewed against MMO players. It focused almost exlusively on those whose lives are dominated by the game, and perhaps even ruined. It primarily follows three different groups of gamers: 1) a clan of four guys in their early 20's who live in the same house and play WoW every waking hour they are not at work, 2) A hetero couple who met in EQ2 and spend the film meeting in Real Life, 3) A guy in his early 30s who got treated for "MMO addiction" at a shady halfway house, then moves in with his cousin. None of these stories really go well, and at the end you are left with the distinct impression that everyone who remained immersed in their game is allowing their life to crumble around them, while everyone who reduced playtime or left the game is going on to a better life. Though the narrative doesn't explicitly cast MMOs as an addiction (and frankly those in the film who use that word come across as crackpots), it does treat it like an addiction, with those who recover suceeding, and those who succumb doomed to failure. So the value of the film is certainly not in its balanced approach to all MMO players.

The film's actual value is as a window into the lives of those who do allow MMOs to take over, and inevitably catalyze the degradation of, their lives. I had heard the statistics before, but actually seeing these people, having MMO dependency made flesh, really brought the concept home to me. Until now, those people weren't real to me, they were some kind of conceptual construct that didn't really exist.

But it turns out there really are people who live in a pig sty because they can't spare the minutes away from WoW to tidy up, and there really are people who kill themselves over WoW addiction. There are even people who will speak, without irony, of "cutting down to just 3 nights a week of raiding" while their wife, pregnant with twins, looks on in horror at the prospect of having to take care of THREE children instead of just the two in her belly. This man goes on to become a community rep for Warhammer Online, and presumeably his wife's evident terror (watch her eyes - poor girl!) over raising the children herself while her husband downs Illidan was unfounded. I wish Andy and his family the best, and I think it's pretty clear by the end of the movie that he's one of the people who escapes and gets control of his life.

That's not to say the movie was completely negative. There was a moving section about disabled gamers who can socialize freely without prejudice in the game world, and who enjoy a sense of liberation from being able to walk around in the game and speak freely via text while their physical body is confined to a wheelchair or unable to articulate their thoughts.

And that leads into the best and most memorable line in the film, worth the price of admission, delivered by an author about an MMO book whose name escapes me:

“If people are enjoying these mmo worlds more than the real world, what does that say about our current reality?”

And that is a question that needs to be asked.

Second Skin is far from a fair representation of fans of the genre, but is worth a view nonetheless. It definitely made me look at this whole MMO phenomenon, and the people in it, differently. But not too differently. It's easy to watch this movie and think that every player is like that, but in reality we can't really tell how many are. Most likely special cases were selected to make the film more interesting. I'll try to keep an open mind. And next time someone griefs me, I'll imagine them as living on the floor in the midst of a pile of trash while gaining weight and losing their job and girlfriend.

But before I say anything, I'll remember that they might be a parplygic rape victim, and maybe hold my tongue.


Ixobelle said...

as for thunderstrike, at least it won't require farming, since EVERY. SINGLE. MOLTEN CORE. EVER. dropped the first version of it.

and it won't be sharded, since it can't be disenchanted, lol?

Hatch said...

My DK actually has the original Thunderstrike/Shadowstrike. Even one goof-off run through MC, and it still drops!

If it really can't be disenchanted, I wonder if that's a joke about how it used to be known as "vendorstrike" or "thundershard".

Shawn said...


WOOT! I like how you put #2 - you are EXACTLY right. The best and the rest baby!

My next L2Ret article is on the FCFS rotation, keep an eye out :)