Memory is Fleeting

world-of-warcraft-screenshot-2017-11-20-06-05-56-43

world-of-warcraft-screenshot-2017-11-20-06-05-56-43

With all of the recent talk about the World of Warcraft classic server, I have found myself contemplating a lot of things about the game.  We recorded a podcast episode where we basically spent the entire time trying to determine just how vanilla classic would end up being.  The other side effect of all of this is that I seem to be playing my horde warrior over on scryers quite a bit more than usual.  Now if you were to ask me to rank the current expansions to the game that ranking would look a little something like this…

  1. Wrath of the Lich King
  2. The Burning Crusade
  3. Legion
  4. Vanilla
  5. Mists of Pandaria
  6. Warlords of Draenor
  7. Cataclysm

Notice that number one and number two are the second and third expansion, and that weirdly enough I rank Legion above Vanilla.  What you are seeing is that my memory of these expansions and the nostalgia that colors them does not adequately represent the experience of actually playing through them.  I’ve recently leveled through the Burning Crusade content in a fashion given that you end up dinging your way out of it long before you actually finish much of it.  I did do Hellfire Peninsula in its entirety, the majority of Terrokar and a good chunk of Nagrand.  I left the Cataclysm tainted Vanilla lands at 58 and similarly left the Outland at 68 and as a result have spent the last four levels completing pieces of Borean Tundra.  The reality I am straddled with is that the zone design of the first two expansions is simply not good.  I mean at the time it was released it was world better than anything Vanilla had given us and as a result felt like a breath of fresh air, however when you stack it up against modern zone design from say Legion…  it is objectively not as well designed.

world-of-warcraft-screenshot-2017-11-20-06-03-58-60

What I mean by this is that the quests don’t flow cleanly from hub to hub and instead it forces you to do a lot of travel time back and forth between a hub and its related spokes.  All the while I was leveling through Outland and so far in Northrend it feels like I am spending a lot of time needlessly travelling between two destinations and this might have been the initial intent.  However after seeing modern quest design it feels like I somehow failed and allowed my quests to get out of sync.  If you fight your way through a micro dungeon with quest A you often find that upon turning in you now have another quest requiring you to go back there.  It is maddening to have to wade through an army of minions to kill a boss that you were already next to and sometimes even killed while completing the first quest.  The other that adds to this feeling of tedium is the mob density and having no real way to get in and out of these destinations without a heavy body count.  Thankfully on my warrior racking up a heavy body count is fun, but on other more fiddly classes this causes the leveling experience to grind to a halt.  The truth is it will probably have taken me twice as long to level through Outland and Northrend as it will have to push through the next three expansions.

As games mature their design ethic shifts significantly and we forget what it was actually like to play these games at the time.  When it comes to Classic World of Warcraft for Project 99 in Everquest… what we are chasing is a feeling not an actual honest moment in history.  I think when players say that they want to play Vanilla again…  they want to return to a time when not everything was mapped out quite so clearly and they had a sense of accomplishment and discovery each time they looted a kobold (and the game subsequently froze).  This is why World of Warcraft Classic is going to be the challenge it will be.  That experience means different thing to different players, and none of the calculations that a game company can make actually take the social component into play.  When I think of Vanilla or Burning Crusade or even Wrath, those memories involve very specific sets of individuals that no longer play the game and I might not even have contact with.  For Vanilla it was the Late Night Raiders, and Burning Crusade it was No Such Raid and when Wrath launched we were excited to be the Duranub Raiding Company.  Three non-guild based raids dominate those feelings and memories and the simple fact that I went through three separate raid groups tells you that there is no way to actually ever join those broken pieces back together again.  All of this said I will have characters on the Classic server, and I will see how this experience actually shakes out in the end.  I just feel like it is going to be exceedingly difficult to please even a fraction of the player base because we all want something different.

Snipers and Hellboars

world-of-warcraft-screenshot-2017-11-16-06-34-55-57

desktop-screenshot-2017-11-16-06-38-25-22

One of the core problems with Destiny 2 is that progression is all about luck.  What I mean by that is especially as you wind down towards the end of the power curve, everything lives or dies upon what you happen to pull from your powerful engrams each week.  Once upon a time SquirrelPope told me that he started getting random world 300 blues when he hit 299.5 on his base light level.  I’m at 299.8 at this point and have yet to see one and nor have I actually seen any of the supposed vendor engrams that go as high as 300.  At this point on my Titan I need a chest and a class item to hit 305, which admittedly is way sooner than it happened during the console release.  That said everything is luck of the draw for me and this week my luck was just about as bad as I could possibly get.  In total I got six sniper rifles among the nine powerful gear packages that I have opened on my characters.  Sniper rifle being the only weapon that I consider utterly useless because I have yet to find one that is even close to being worthy of that power slot.  Grenade Launcher is traditionally a stinker as far as slots go, but even there I have Berenger’s  Memory and Play of the Game that I like using.  If I absolutely had to use a sniper… so far the only one that seems even viable is Gentleman Vagabond from crucible packages but even then…  there are so many other good weapons that I could be using in that slot.

I tweeted this comment out last night and I thought I would post it on my blog as well this morning.  I promise I meant this to be helpful and not ragey, but it does frustrate me when I see players effectively wasting the scorch cannon rounds spamming the crap out of them.  I admit that I did not know this was even possible until I got to run the Wrath of the Machine raid in Destiny year three, so I went that long effectively using them wrong myself.  The scorch cannon at face value looks like a rocket launcher with a lot of ammo, but it is way more than that even though the bosses that use it never actually use them to their full power either.  With Titan being the weekly flashpoint planet, you are going to encounter a lot of scorch cannons considering 2 of the 3 available events on that planet involve Fallen Walkers.  The weapon has a somewhat hidden alternate fire that involves holding down the trigger after you have fired the round and letting the munition grow in size before releasing and letting it explode.  You are going to have an auditory and visual queue to this and while you can continue to let this go and keep gaining strength as Squirrel pointed out last night, my personal experience is that the 4 second rule seems to be the most efficient for killing those walker tanks.  What I do is fire a round and then duck behind cover while holding the trigger allowing the munition to grow in size and about 4 seconds into holding it visually doubles in size.  At this point I let it go and let the damage get dealt while lining up a shot for another round.  Basically doing this will burn your target faster and easier I might add than spamming rounds and also give you more than enough ammo to take out both tanks with a single Scorch Cannon.  The AOE explosion is also fun for dealing with waves of yellow bar captains and such, but unfortunately this is a tidbit of ancestral knowledge that has not yet circulated through most of the population given that I see most players wasting these weapons.  As a result I just wanted to toss this thought out there and hopefully it sticks.

world-of-warcraft-screenshot-2017-11-16-06-34-55-57

As far as last night goes however…  after my crushing disappointment of being in sniper rifle hell…  I decided to chill out on the sofa with my new favorite orc.  At this point I am just shy of level 64 and am still in the Hellfire area cleaning up the quests.  In theory I should be able to completely skip Zangarmarsh and go to Terrokar, doing the every other zone leapfrog across Outland much like I have done with Legion content.  There is something extremely relaxing about Warrioring it up and all the while chatting occasionally with the Facepull crew horde side.  Mostly World of Warcraft is serving as this super relaxing comfort gaming time for me, and with work being as stressful as it has been lately I guess I am finding I need it.  Right now it is looking like I won’t really get to take much time off for the holidays other than the default days they give us off.  I have too many deadlines crashing in together at the same time, and this is also throwing a massive monkey wrench in my traditional Pax South plans.  Right now unless something massively changes I will not be attending this year which is a bit of a bummer considering I’ve gone every year since its inception so far.  It also means I will miss out on meeting up with friends and hanging out… and the biggest bummer of all is that I just found out my friend Cuppy is on a panel this year.  I would have loved to have seen that, but then again I am absolutely horrible at actually attending panels at Pax.  I tend to miss them while wandering around doing other things.  Even if not for Pax I am hoping to make it back to Austin as some point in the future.

Outland

AggroChat Episode 25

Last night we recorded yet another episode of our weekly podcast AggroChat.  This week we were missing Rae, but had Ashgar, Kodra and Tam to join me to talk about stuff and things.  Of the four of us, three of us have almost spontaneously started replaying Dragon Age: Origins.  In truth Ashgar started it and then Tam and I decided it was a pretty excellent idea to follow suit as we all realized we didn’t really have a good save to feed into the upcoming title Dragon Age: Inquisition.  As such we have been lost in that title and remembering just how amazing it really is.  We gush about about the writing behind the title and some of our favorite and least favorite characters.  We try not to give many spoilers since Kodra has yet to make it terribly far in the game, so should be safe to listen to for complete Dragon Age nubs and pros alike.

We meander our way through a couple of indie games, namely Crypt of the Necrodancer that Kodra has been playing, and Outland the awesome metroidvania that I am reviewing as part of my Steampowered Sunday.  Ashgar hooked me up with a copy originally with the intent of playing this co-op…  but it seems like the latency for co-op play is still absolutely atrocious.  So instead I played it all by my lonesome this morning… we at least as lonesome as you can be while streaming it to the internet.  Finally we talk about Final Fantasy XIV and the odd sense of compartmentalism in that game.  How you can progress among multiple vectors without the need to really mess with the others.  Also we walk about how much we are looking forward to the as of yet completely announced 3.0 expansion, which is rumored to have as much content as the original 2.0 release had.

Two other really interesting things happened during the episode.  For starters we announced that we were now part of TGEN The Gaming and Entertainment Network of podcasts.  Quite honestly I am a bit humbled to be included with such illustrious podcasts as Battle Bards, Beyond Bossfights, Cat Context, Contains Moderate Peril, Couch Podtatoes, Massive Failure and Roleplay Domain.  I am also quite humbled to be the first podcast to officially be launching the network, since we record on Saturday nights and launch Sunday, we are the first show sporting the new network bumper.  Additionally we talk about the upcoming Extra Life gaming marathon and our team.  Right now you can check out Ashgar, Kodra and Myself on the donor pages and our progress… and then tune in Oct 25th to the Alliance of Awesome hitbox team to watch the streamers.  Being our first year I set a very low team goal of $200 and so far we have raised just shy of $600 dollars in pledges.  Really looking forward to the event, and I hope you join us.

Outland

Outland 2014-10-05 11-02-19-011 For a few weeks now my friend Ashgar has been talking about this particular metroidvania with some interesting twists.  Last weekend shortly after recording the Steampowered Sunday for Mercenary Kings he hooked me up with a copy on steam, suggesting we might play it for this Sunday.  Apparently there is some really cool co-operative play in the game, but at the time of writing this it is apparently completely broken in that the latency makes it absolutely unplayable.  I can see how any matter of latency would be a problem, as there are several places where you have a very slim window to time a jump or an attack.  Since the co-op was out of the picture, I opted to still play the game but do so solo… or at least as solo as you can be while streaming.  At face value it is a really artistically slanted metroidvania game.  It follows the artistic style to some extent of the current crop of mostly silhouetted figures against a colorful background.  This almost always makes a game feel far more detailed than it actually is, and I tend to enjoy this style of art.

Outland 2014-10-05 09-55-37-778 You play the role of the ancestor of a great warrior who tamed the twin sisters of light and dark to save creation.  To be truthful while well done the narrative doesn’t seem to matter that much other than add a bit of flavor.  You wander through the levels collecting coins and rare pieces of treasure and sometimes unlocking special abilities.  The twist on the traditional Metroidvania genre however comes in the fact that over time you can harness the power of the Light Spirit and the Dark Spirit and use these to bypass certain obstacles.  The Light is represented by blue, and the Dark by red and while in the same color as an obstacle you can pass directly through it.  You can also use your color to active switches and platforms allowing you to traverse the levels.  You are rationed these abilities slowly and I didn’t get the second color until I had defeated the first boss.  Some of the later puzzles require you to switch colors midair to take advantage of a platform that activates when you land on it with a specific color.  This is facilitated by hitting the right shoulder button on your controller.  This definitely feels like the sort of game that is greatly improved with a controller, so I did not even attempt to pay attention to the equivalent keyboard controls for things.

Epic Boss Fights

Outland 2014-10-05 10-30-24-270

At the end of the first level you have to fight a giant golem that is blocking your way.  The scale of the fight is extremely impressive and makes the game feel much larger than it actually is.  The camera zooms in and out based on how large the chamber you are in happens to be, and this gives a more dynamic feel to the gameplay.  The boss mechanic was rather simple but extremely effective in that you had to avoid a ground slam and then climb the giant itself while it was temporarily drained of its power to attack and exposed weak spot.  As the fight got on there were more details that had to be avoided, like a rain of red and blue bullets that gives the game almost a bullet hell feel to it.  I had to stand in the blue beams to avoid taking damage from the red beams, and I am imagining that in later encounters you will have to shift back and forth between red and blue to soak specific abilities while flipping to the opposite to be able to damage your target.  While you can soak beams of the same color…  mobs of that color can still damage you, and you can only damage them when flipped to the alternate polarity.

The game is constantly compared to the fabled bullet hell shooter by Treasure called Ikaruga in that it has similar soak/polarity mechanics.  However any many ways it reminds me of the gameplay of Silhouette Mirage and earlier title with the same basic mechanic by Treasure.  Similar to Outland it was a side scroller and you had a dual polarity of absorption and repelling based on which direction you pointed your attacks.  You can check out my entire hour and a half long play session this morning in the embedded Hitbox video.  I have to say I dig the game so far and want to play more of it.  I just felt like I needed to wrap up this mornings session so I could get my blog post out, however I played significantly longer than most Steampowered Sunday mornings… so that should tell you something.  Right now the game is under $10 on steam, and more than worth that price.  I would have paid at least $20 for it to be honest, had someone not ever so graciously gifted it to me.  If you like the Metroidvania genre and especially like ones with interesting mechanics like Guacamelee you should check this out.

#Outland #AggroChat