Monday, February 19, 2018

Allied Races

With 7.3.5, Blizzard released four allied races if you pre-order the next expansion, Battle For Azeroth. There are two races for the Alliance: Void Elves and Lightforged Draenei; and two races for the Horde: Nightborne, and Highmountain Tauren.

Each of these races played a part in the Legion storyline, and recruiting them is a very organic development in the story. Each race requires a certain amount of reputation and achievements, which you basically have if you've been playing Legion.

I'm really happy that Blizzard chose to make playable scenarios about recruiting each of these races. A long time ago, I complained about Theramore, wishing its destruction had happened in game, rather than in an associated novel. It's heartening to see Blizzard put important story events in game, and give the player a role to play in those events. It feels like the Blizzard of a couple expansions ago would have just made the Allied races available to play, and put the story of how they joined in a novel or story online, or a cutscene.

Perhaps this change was prompted by competition with FFXIV, which is all in on the storyline occurring in game. Regardless, it's a good change. Hopefully the same thing will happen with the scenarios for Battle for Azeroth, especially the triggers for the war. I hope players have their bloody hand prints all over the burning of Teldrassil or the attack on Undercity, or whatever other events happen.

In any case, I created a Void Elf shadow priest, and have been very slowly levelling her up. She's currently level 35. I really like the scaling changes made to levelling, as well as having zone completion tied to the story lines. I've been levelling in Kalimdor, as I have not seen most of the post-Cataclysm stories there. The new levelling is very enjoyable.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Heroic Coven of Shivarra Defeated!

Coven of Shivarra was bidding to become our fight with the most wipes so far in this expansion. We finally got it down this week, only a few wipes short of our Heroic Avatar count.

Heroic Coven is an interesting fight in that the individual mechanics are not very hard, but dealing with the combinations can be very difficult. Some mechanics push you to spread out, some mechanics push you to collapse, and there's some randomness as to which mechanics happen when which makes it hard to learn the fight. You may see a certain combo only a few times a night.

For us, our big change was how we handled the marching adds. We switched to a strategy where we tried to lock down all the marching adds. This delays running behind them as long as possible, and makes it a lot easier to find safe spots during darkness.

It took us a little bit of practice, including several attempts where we got fairly close. But something always happened in the last 20% and the attempt fell apart. The final kill was fairly smooth. Hopefully we will be able to repeat this next week.

This is the one fight this tier that has really tested my mana. I was running on fumes for much of the last bit of the fight.

The only other thing to note is that the Legendary Prydaz makes a large difference this fight. It's well worth bringing it out for this fight if you have it.

Monday, February 05, 2018

The Problem of One-Tricks

The current major cause of angst in Overwatch are "one-trick" players. These are players who play almost entirely with a single character and refuse to play other characters. The problem is that Overwatch is a game where you can swap characters to better match different situations.

Add to that the fact that some characters are seen as weak, or specialized, and a lot of people become unhappy when another player chooses a character that seems sub-optimal.

The other problem here is that generally, if you play a lot on one character, you become better at that one character than you are at the others. A Torbjorn main can rightfully feel that she plays best on Torbjorn, and would be worse on the character her teammates want her to play.

Of course, no one complains if you one-trick a character who is in demand and who people don't play. Mercy players or tank players come to mind.

Not to mention that if you play in regular team, each teammate often gravitates to the same roles. Dave is the support, Sally is the tank. From an outside point-of-view, this is one-tricking, but the big difference is that everyone on the team is comfortable with it.

So far, Blizzard's stance is that--as long as you try to win--playing one specific character is acceptable. But there are signs that resolve may be cracking. One-tricks are often reported by other players, and can get caught in the automated banning systems.

I wonder what a purely mechanical solution would look like. Imagine that, in competitive, any hero who's playtime this season is more than one standard deviation away from your average playtime per hero is locked out. So your hero pool would be limited at the start of a game, and you'd be forced to play on a wider variety of heroes.

It would make matchmaking more difficult, as you'd now have to account for available heroes when assembling a group. It wouldn't do to make a group where everyone is locked out of the healers (as unlikely as that is).

On the other hand, perhaps your rating in Competitive would be more representative of your ability in the game as a whole, and not just with one hero.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Overwatch League

You have to hand it to Blizzard. They went full-bore into eSports with the Overwatch League. Paid rosters, teams associated with cities, branding, professional sportscasting, even allowing fans to purchase team skins. They're really treating Overwatch League as a true professional sport.

The question, of course, is if this will work out. So far, it looks to be doing okay. I think they had 400,000 viewers for the first matches, and future matches seem to be about the 110,000 viewers mark. The real test is if they can attract significant advertisers and sponsors. That is what will make OWL profitable.

I've only seen part of one match: the last three games of the Los Angeles Gladiators versus the Philadelphia Fusion. LAG came back from being down 2 games, and won the last 3 games to win the match. It was reasonably interesting, more or less like watching regular sports on television. Blizzard integrating the stream into the Battle.net app was an excellent decision, as it made it very easy to check out.

The only issue I had with the actual broadcast is that it was sometimes hard to keep track when the camera switched to a different player. Adding a fast wipe or transition there would be really nice.

The structure of a match is pretty interesting. It's technically best-of-five games, but teams play at least 4 games. This gives it a similar feel to halves and quarters of a football or basketball game, with one possible period of overtime.

One thing I noticed is that OWL really validated Blizzard's decision to allow hero swapping in Overwatch. On the last game, LAG started with an unorthodox 3-damage lineup including a Widowmaker. They then switched to a 3-tank lineup when the Fusion reacted. It reminded me of matching lines in hockey. I was impressed by that, and am considering using my free currency on an LAG skin.

(Everyone gets some free OWL currency, enough for a skin for one character.)

I'm unlikely to really follow OWL, but it's definitely an intriguing experiment. I hope it proves successful for Blizzard. If you haven't seen a match, it's worth catching one just to see the league in action.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Patch 7.3.5 Tomorrow

Patch 7.3.5 comes out tomorrow. I've been really impressed with Blizzard's release discipline this expansion. Each patch has come out like clockwork 11 weeks apart.  Amazing job by the team, especially the project managers.

Now hopefully they can bring Battle for Azeroth in with the same discipline.

Patch notes for 7.3.5 can be found here.

From the notes, it looks like this patch is all about revamping the mechanics of the leveling game. Level scaling is being introduced everywhere, and there look to be lots of changes to improve that part of the game. I think it's about time. Out-leveling a zone while you're still questing in it is annoying.

The other part of the patch looks to continue to the story in Silithus. It will be interesting to see how the denouement of the Legion story plays out.

There's no mention of the Allied Races, so I imagine that they are saving them for BfA, or possibly as a pre-order unlock.

Finally, if you have authenticator, 4 extra bag slots! Blizzard CS even got in on the latest meme:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Heroic Kin'garoth and Varimathras Defeated

In this week's raid, we continued advancing, this time getting Heroic Kin'garoth and Varimathras down.

Kin'garoth

Here we made a couple of adjustments to our strategy. We aimed to kill an Annihilator robot first. We were having problems with having Ruiner targeting the people who were soaking the annihilation pools. The other change was to split the dps into 3 groups, and each group go after a different robot. The group going after Annihilator was weighted with more of the top dps players, to guarantee that robot died before the end.

It worked pretty well, as it minimized a lot of movement in that phase, and we got a kill a few attempts later.

Varimathras

This is kind of an easy fight, really only a challenge for the healers to keep everyone topped off before they have to run out of the group. It was really just a matter of getting everyone to recognize the two debuffs, and to stay in for Marked Prey, and run out for the Necrotic Embrace.

Coven of Shivarra

This is the fight we're working on. It's pretty crazy, with lots of abilities overlapping and coming in a random order. I think it will be our Avatar for this tier, as it hits a lot of our weaknesses with movement, positioning and dealing with multiple abilities simultaneously.

Loot-wise, I really need a helm, as I'm still using an i915 tier piece from Tomb of Sargeras. Other than that, everything is going well.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Last Jedi

This post contains significant spoilers for The Last Jedi. Seriously, I don't think there's anything that I do not spoil.

When the DVDs for The Last Jedi come out, someone will immediately make an abridged version where pretty much every scene of Finn's is cut. And that version will be superior to the theater version.