DDO: I’m just not that into you.

September 27, 2009 at 12:25 pm (Exile in DDOville, Navel-Gazing)

Okay, well, after last night, when I decided I preferred to clean my bedroom (well, some of it anyway) to logging onto DDO, I think it may be approaching the time to call the DDO experiment complete.  The portly soprano isn’t singing yet, but she’s definitely clearing her throat.  Since I don’t have to pay for it or anything, I’ll leave it installed and probably pop in every once in a great while.  But so far, it’s definitely not catching on.

For starters, the game has an incredibly weak story, and this is, for me, its fatal flaw.  It’s really a succession of dungeon crawls more than anything else.  Every quest you do is actually its own instance, which is kind of nifty, to be sure, but they start to seem very repetitive after a while.  And so far, at least, there’s very little feeling of an overall story beyond very broad strokes.  On the starter island, you have some sahuagin who are allied with some cultists, and there’s a dragon with them or something.  That’s about as deep as the story gets.  I don’t feel that I want to see what happens next, I just want to get to the treasure chest at the end.  In a sense, this is true to the source material (there’s a reason the company that created D&D was called Tactical Studies Rules).  But RPGs are not just tactical simulations any more.  Well, good ones aren’t, at any rate.

One thing I thought DDO actually does better than WoW (I referenced it previously) is in the area of puzzles and traps.  WoW simply doesn’t have them, and it’s poorer for it.  The problem is, the puzzles in DDO are largely repetitive – flipping around the squares to connect certain nodes to a power source was interesting the first time.  The third time, the novelty’s worn off.  And if you’re not a rogue, traps are just an environmental hazard, not an opportunity to actually do something interesting.

The controls are incredibly clumsy, and even less responsive than LotRO.  Targeting is incredibly irritating (particularly given the tendency to detarget when you’re using the mouse to steer the camera or your character).   You click for each individual attack (there is an autoattack option, but it doesn’t work very well, having a tendency to just shut off, even if the button is still lit up, and frankly, given the lack of special attacks, if you turn on autoattack, it would be completely insufferably boring).    Think “Diablo”, but awkward.

Now, I’m not prepared to call it a day entirely.  The primary thing I haven’t done yet is explore group play, using hirelings, or anything else – I’ve soloed all the dungeons so far.  This is, obviously, a rather gaping hole in my experience.  The source material, after all, is not designed for solo play.  Frankly, I’ve wanted to get better at the game before doing much grouping – nothing worse than being the noob who’s being carried through a dungeon.  But I’m rapidly approaching the point where the options are do some group play to give the game one last shot, or quit entirely.

Also, apparently, grinding instances is how you’re supposed to get the points that allow you to buy new content, or something.  Which would address another issue I have – accrual of whatever those points are that allow you to buy different features is l u d i c   r    o     u       s         l         y                     s           l             o              w.  Pretty sure I’m going to be old and gray before I’m able to buy anything.   Clever from the point of view of luring your players to subscribe.  But that’s not an option for me, so instead, it’s just annoying.

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DDO: On being a newbie

September 21, 2009 at 5:40 pm (Exile in DDOville, Navel-Gazing)

So, my little error in my first couple of posts (re: the character limit) made me think about how, no matter what new classes/races WoW releases, no matter what buffs and nerfs each class gets, what new content is released, or for that matter, no matter how long my little hiatus lasts, when it comes to World of Warcraft, I will never again be a newbie (I will leave aside the question of whether I can be, or am, a noob, as that’s a very different taxonomy, as all will agree).

In some ways, this is a plus.  There are some questions to which I would just as soon not have to spend long stretches of time trying to find an answer – basic questions like character limits, or how to turn off my helmet so I can’t see it (yes, some problems are universal, including ugly-ass helms that don’t mesh with the rest of your outfit).  These are not questions which preserve a sense of mystery, they are questions which interfere with one’s immersion in the game.

On the other hand, even in new content in WoW, I have a pretty good idea how my warlock, for example, will fare against most enemies.  I’m unlikely to be surprised, except in very high end raid content.  In DDO, on the other hand, I find myself approaching adventure instances (I’ll cover that later – if you’re familiar with Guild Wars, then questing seems to largely work that way) with real trepidation.  Not only not knowing what’s around the corner, but seeing that group of three or four enemies and realizing I’m genuinely not sure I can handle them.  My grasp of my class’s mechanics are shaky enough that I’m not entirely sure what my best strategy against a particular mob or party of mobs is.  I find myself asking myself “what if I try this?”

And it’s fun.  When my efforts to solve an underwater puzzle of sorts were running up against an absurdly short breath-timer, I decided on an experiment, and took off my armor.  Surprise surprise – when you’re not wearing heavy armor made of metal, you swim better, and can hold your breath longer.  I felt a sense of accomplishment and discovery.  This is a sort of thing that is hard for a game you’ve been playing for ages to accomplish.

Now, to be sure, WoW is a far better game.  That is already pretty clear ot me – in terms of game stability, graphic/sound quality, certain choices the programmers made (for example, any happiness I may have had about Star Wars: The Old Republic being fully-voiced have gone away, as DDO has made clear exactly how annoying excessive voice acting in a video game can be – bad voice acting, anyway, and the line between good and bad voice acting can be awfully slim).  Nevertheless, even though DDO is, by any reasonable measure (except one, which I’ll discuss in another post), an inferior game, I find myself intrigued by it in a way WoW hasn’t intrigued me since at least WotLK’s launch, or perhaps my first time setting foot in a raid.  And certain things, like my first boat trip to the city of Stormreach (which I just took) are exciting in a way I don’t remember seeing since the gates of Stormwind first came into view on my first character.  That first glimpse of something that is, in scope, vaster than anything I’ve yet seen in-game.

Some, of course, are not fond of the mystery.  I’m clearly not the only person giving DDO a shot right now, and I admit that every time I see somebody named Pwnsnubs asking “Where’s the skeletal mage?” (don’t ask) in General chat, a bit of me dies inside.  You’re only going to be able to discover the skeletal mage once.  Enjoy it, forcryingoutloud.

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DDO: My First Character (sorta)

September 20, 2009 at 1:03 pm (Exile in DDOville)

Okay, so, it’s time to create a character.  Through some trial and error, I’ve decided to have one of my two slots (/cry) be a Paladin.

Read the rest of this entry »

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DDO: The first login

September 20, 2009 at 10:16 am (Exile in DDOville)

Okay, so, after downloading, patching, repairing, etc., I’m ready to play Dungeons & Dragons Online.  Good to go.  I’ll show Blizzard, with its annoying making-me-pay-money-in-exchange-for-services policies.

I’m actually kind of excited.  I used to love D&D, though I haven’t played since around the time 3.5 edition was just coming out.   So it’s been a while.  The nice thing is, for computer gamers, if you’ve played Knights of the Old Republic, or Neverwinter Nights, you have the basic ideas of the mechanics down (i.e. skills, feats, armor class, etc.)

Anyway, I start up the game, and I’m at the rather-familiar-looking character selection screen.

Reinviting the wheel was clearly not a priority

Reinventing the wheel was clearly not a priority

Wait, hold on.  What’s that in the corner?

“Characters:  0 of 2”

Okay, that’s a bit draconian, but presumably, that’s only on this server.  Surely.  Pardon me while I go scurry off to the website to verify that.

Huh.  On a free-to-play account, I get two characters.  Period.  As an altoholic, that’s going to be a problem.  Apparently, I can buy more character slots – ay, there’s the rub.  I gather that, if I play/grind obsessively enough, I can buy (with in-game currency of some sort) anything I could buy with money.  I will be keeping an eye out to see how much grinding is “enough”, but already, I’m looking at the game with a bit of a jaundiced eye.  I’m pretty sure confining me to 2 characters is a violation of a Geneva Convention or something.  I’m one of those complete freaks for whom character creation (the more in-depth, the better, so WoW kind of falls down on this front) is actually fun.  The theme “You get what you pay for” is already making itself felt.  This will not be the last time.

EDITED TO ADD:  Okay, next time, perhaps instead of relying on what I read on the internet, I’ll try it out myself.  It’s two characters per server.  Much better.  At least this way, I’ll get to try out every class.

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I’m fine. Really. *twitch*

September 20, 2009 at 9:12 am (Navel-Gazing)

Well, I am officially no longer a WoW player.  Well, I’m officially no-longer-a-WoW-player-until-economic-matters-improve.

However, there’s still downtime when I can’t actually be tending to job-related-stuff, and what am I going to do, watch TV?  So, I decided to give a shot to a free MMO, and see what it’s like.  As it happens, Dungeons & Dragons Online just launched their free-to-play service.  I definitely could see the pricing model catching on, at least for a niche within the larger market, so it’s worth seeing how it works.  Plus, the company behind it is Turbine, and while there were aspects of Lord of the Rings Online I didn’t care for, it was certainly a quality game.  I did, back in my days DMing a group some years ago, know the D&D 3d edition rules pretty well, and I remember enough of them to hold my own, so I don’t have to deal with too steep a learning curve.

So, time to explore the world outside Azeroth.  No, not the real world.  That has bugs.  Of the bitey-stingey kind, not the crashy-laggy kind.  No it’s on to Eberron…and I’m passing the sardonic observations on to you, gentle readers.

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Anticlimax

September 16, 2009 at 5:46 pm (Navel-Gazing)

Well, having just returned to the blog, due to circumstances beyond my control, I’ll be letting my subscription to WoW lapse in three days.  While not necessarily inconsistent with blogging, I certainly expect it to dampen my ardor more than a little.  I can see the entry now:  “Patch Day today, patch looks great, pity I can’t play it.  Dungeons & Dragons Online anyone?”  Ah well.

Hopefully I’ll be back soon, economic recovery willing.  Guildies, keep kicking ass in Ulduar.  Non-guildies, thanks for reading, hope to see you again soon.

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Warlock Q&A with Shayzani & Kahleena!

September 14, 2009 at 12:17 pm (From Level One to Level Awesome!, Warlock)

What seems like ages ago, Shayzani and I decided to do a Q&A for beginning warlocks with questions.  Now, at long last, here’s the result!

Q:  I’ve got loads of questions, but they’re all kind of specific to my playstyle – like “what advice would you have for a level 66 Warlock trying to three-man Outland with a Cow Warrior and a Tree”?

KAHLEENA:  Cut down the tree and use the fire to cook up some steak?  Actually, my advice would pretty much be the advice I’d give anyone else, since you seem to have the tank and healer legs of the trinity covered.  Do as much damage as you can, but don’t pull aggro.

SHAYZANI:  You’re going to pull aggro anyway. You’ll die but hey, a healer will be right there! Get used to dying after pulling aggro, its a warlock legacy. Oh hey, that should be better now that soulshatter is on a shorter cooldown right? Warlocks are awesome because how many other classes get half of their threat taken away every three minutes provided the target didn’t resist?! Sigh. …I got off on a tangent in this post a lot quicker than I expected.

KAHLEENA:  In your case, as you are CC and DPS wrapped into one (and you have no backup), I might suggest learning to use seduction macros with your succubus.

SHAYZANI:  Ewwww seduction D:

KAHLEENA:  Out of the box, as it were, her cc is completely useless, but with adequate macroing, she’s very useful for crowd control.  Well, fairly useful.  Okay, she dies if you look at her crosseyed.  But she’s more useful in an instance, at any rate, than any of your other crowd controls (unless your enemy is a demon), given the tragic and untimely demise of fear-kiting (RIP Curse of Recklessness).  Consider Heroic Magister’s Terrace, which I’m led to understand from Tam’s blog is a favorite.  How awesome is it to be able to banish one of Delrissa’s minions,seduce another, and fear a third, all by yourself?

SHAYZANI:  Quick story to illustrate that point:

In BC, before I finished leveling my warlock, I had a very scary looking lock in my Underbog party. The pulls were beating me up and back as the tank so I asked if the lock could do something to CC one of the Naga mobs. He said he’d take care of it so I pulled. He got its attention with Searing Pain and then ran away down the stairs we had just come up with the mob following after. Then he was gone for a very long time. Just as the rest of us killed the last mob in that pack he came back up the stairs alone. I asked if he had managed, he said he had taken care of it and was fine and shouldn’t we be pulling the next group?

Warlocks have an amazing box of tools for managing mobs, learn how to use them and you’ll make other people blink in awe.

Q: I’m running Destro at the moment – if you can remember anything about how Destruction plays in late Outland that’d be cool.

KAHLEENA:  Destruction, in late Outland, played for me like shadowbolt spam, but that was the old 0/21/40 build.

SHAYZANI:  When we were gods among men! /brandishes fist

KAHLEENA:  Destruction now is far more interesting, thankfully.  But I have no idea how it plays in late Outland, as I only started playing it at 80.  One suggestion:  pick up the glyph of Conflagrate.  It is absolutely critical to a functioning deep destro build.

Q:  Ooh – that was what I wanted to ask: should I invest in Improved Soul Leech?

KAHLEENA:  Depends – Improved Soul Leech is a tradeoff.  You’re passing up on the opportunity to gain DPS in exchange for utility.  Replenishment (the buff ISL procs) is a very important buff in group play, but there are several possible sources for it, including frost mages and shadow priests. Basically, given the three-person group you describe above, if you go into ISL, you’ll be doing it to help your tree stay in mana (you don’t need it personally, as a warlock – this is pure party utility).  Personally, I have it for raiding, because I’m not infrequently in situations where I don’t have a shadow priest or frost mage in my party, and in raiding, Replenishment is critical on long boss fights.  I look at it as doing my part for the healers that keep me in HOTs as I Life Tap my blackened, withered little heart out.

SHAYZANI:  When you’re out leveling or grinding on your own or what not you tend to get beat the hell up as Destruction. No pet to take the heat and no Haunt healing coming in can really make you feel like you’re made of paper. ISL can help you feel like slightly more resilient paper. Brawny paper towels kind of paper maybe.

Q: I would like to know why it is that your T3 set (which looks like a gas mask in garish colors and is just plain horrible) is beloved of warlocks? They seem to think they look GOOD, when really, they just look comical. Is bad taste a thing that goes with playing a warlock? I just don’t understand.

KAHLEENA:  The questioner must be a mage – “You’re ugly and your art department dresses you funny” is the level of discourse one expects from vending machines. Besides, the mage set has glowing purple crystal antlers.  Such things breed hostility towards one’s sartorial betters.

Seriously, though, I actually agree with the criticism of the T3 set.  In fact, when I read that they were recycling the art, I wrote a post on the forums (which I now can’t find) more or less /wristing over it (my precise phrase was, I believe, that the set looked like the 1970s had thrown up all over a hazmat suit).  I’m still not entirely crazy (to put it mildly) about the 10-man T7 (which is identical to T3).  The recolor in T7.5, on the other hand, is very, very nice looking, and quite warlock-y.  Black and red suits the design much better than  yellow and green and brown and whatever other colors form the T3/T7 melange.

SHAYZANI:  Like the 1970’s had thrown up all over a hazmat suit… goodness that’s the best description of that set that I’ve ever heard in my life. While I also hate the T3/T7 look I do have to say one thing in its favor. The shoulders emit poison gas. That’s pretty darn cool.

Q:  What glyph(s) do you find most useful? Why?

KAHLEENA:  Depends on your build.  I could simply recite the cookie-cutter list of the glyphs that Elitist Jerks claims are the highest DPS glyphs, mathematically speaking.  As I’m a raider, and so much of raiding comes down to math, I tend to be partial to such lists.  It doesn’t help that warlocks are a bit (well, a lot) short on the “sexy” glyphs.  As I mentioned in response to Temi, even ignoring those lists, if you are Destruction, you simply must have Glyph of Conflagrate, or the rotation doesn’t work.  That may be the closest thing we have a to a truly sexy glyph.

SHAYZANI:  Nearly all the warlock glyphs are fairly boring “increases damage of x by y%” or “reduces cooldown of x by y seconds” sorts of things. Conflag is, as mentioned several times already, absolutely a must if you’re Destruction. If you’re feeling spiteful towards your raid members you can opt for the Glyph of Succubus. This makes it so Seduction clears away all debuffs on your target. You can do this after the mages put up Scorch and Living Bomb and what not to lower their dps.

Not that I recommend doing that!

Q:  Aside from pulling worms and standing in fire, what should I absolutely NOT do?

KAHLEENA:  Never permit a mage to show you up on the DPS charts.  Never Life Tap to 5% moments before the pull and expect your healer to heal you.  Never put your pet on aggressive.  Never cast Fear in an instance (Death Coil may, and I stress “may”, be okay, depending on layout and proximity, but “Fear” or “Howl of Terror”, absolutely not – better to die than to wipe the group/raid by pulling more adds, which Fear tends to do).

SHAYZANI:  Its shocking how many warlocks will cast Fear in a crowded instance. If you’re ever in a situation where a mob is coming after you because you pulled off the tank or something then you damn well better handle the consequences like one of the big kids: stand up straight, look stoic, mash the crap out of soulshatter and when that fails and your tank doesn’t like you enough to get the mob back, you die like the fragile scrap of tissue you are and then do your best to act sheepish about it.

Q: I tend to use my voidy and felguard as pseudo-tanks when I’m levelling, and the imp for (what I understand to be) a party-boost in instances… but I have this nagging feeling that I’m overlooking better ways to use my pets. Do you have any recommendations?

KAHLEENA:  For soloing, use whatever works (felguard/voidwalker for tanking is definitely one effective approach – I tend to either drain-tank, if affliction, or nuke-the-mob-down-before-it-reaches-me, if destro).  In instances, pet selection is very situational.

SHAYZANI:  Yes use whatever works. The imp works for Destro, the felhunter or succubus for Affliction and the Felguard for Demo. The voidwalker doesn’t work for anything and even if he does work, he works poorly.

KAHLEENA:  If you’re Demonology (you mention the felguard), you should be using your felguard in instances, not your imp.  Make sure, however, to turn your felguard’s taunt off autocast (I would say “ditto the voidwalker”, except you should never be bringing out a voidwalker in an instance anyway).  You might also consider turning off cleave, unless you’re facing multiple mobs. Cleave’s a major mana-suck.

SHAYZANI:  With the point in Mana Feed the cost of Cleave shouldn’t be too problematic, especially if you’ve got replenishment going. It used to be that Cleave would sometimes break crowd control if your positioning was bad but that’s not so much an issue in a time when crowd control is needed so rarely.

KAHLEENA:  The succubus has a bad reputation as a crowd control, largely because without macros, her Seduction is nearly impossible to use effectively without a level of micromanagement that gimps the rest of your performance. Also, she dies if she’s so much as downwind of a mob.  With assistance, though, her crowd control can be useful – see wowwiki for a good one-button seduction macro.  Also, as of the last time I checked (which was, admittedly, 3.1), the succubus is the top DPS pet for an affliction build.

SHAYZANI:  Right, I haven’t seen anything yet saying any other pet outperforms the succubus for Affliction after the patch. Just to make sure the point is driven home, the succubus dies quickly and easily! She has absolutely terrible performance anxiety, give her something important to do and she’ll muck it up quick.

Don’t be fail and use a voidwalker in instances.

KAHLEENA:  The felhunter is another situational pet – I recommend practicing with its Spell Lock and Devour Magic until you’re very comfortable with them.  They are very powerful abilities, used properly.  The Int/Spirit buff isn’t terrible.  Despite that Felhunter-buffing talent in the Affliction tree, though, the felhunter is not top DPS for Affliction (or any other build).

If you’re Destro spec, then barring special cases (for example, I’m Destro spec, but I tend to drag a felhunter with me through around half of Naxx10’s Military Quarter to eat the bone shields), you bring out the imp.  Also, if your party needs the stamina boost to survive, bring out the imp.

SHAYZANI: …I’m totally useful in the Military Quarter like that too. Definitely. I never forget to do helpful things like create soulstones or healthstones or dispel things or… ok so sometimes I’m a little fail. I can change!

Some of those pet control macros at Wow Wiki really are quite good. Damn near essential really.

Q: Even when I’m spec’ed destro, I seem to be doing lower DPS than the fire and arcane mages of equivalent level (high 60s/low 70s) I run around with a lot. If nothing else, I FEEL less effective. What should I be looking at first to improve my damage?

KAHLEENA:  First, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples – is your gear equivalent?  Second, not to sound like a broken record, use the Glyph of Conflagrate.  Your cast priority (and it’s not a rotation, it’s a priority) should be: (a) Immolate (don’t clip, don’t let it fall off), (b) Conflagrate (this is why the glyph is so key, because if you’re not glyphed, you have to then reapply immolate, or drop Conflagrate altogether), (c) Chaos Bolt, (d) Incinerate.  If it’s a lengthy boss fight, go Curse of Doom, otherwise don’t bother with a curse (unless your party needs CoE – something you should be doing at the beginning of every instance run is looking for a Boomkin or an Unholy Death Knight to see if Curse of Elements duty is covered).  Now, you’re missing about ten talent points from what a level 80 Destruction warlock would spec, presumably from the Demo tree.  So you’re missing some nice DPS-boosting talents like the talent that improves Fel Armor.  Finally, realize that even in your burstiest tree (Destruction), you still take longer to get up and running than a mage does.  I often start runs in the mediocre middle of the pack.  Then we hit the first boss fight, and I tend to jump ahead (and stay there).

If you’re not specced Destruction, then at least on short fights, you have no possible way to keep up with a mage.  So don’t try.  Know that where you really shine is long fights, the longer the better.  On that 10-minute boss fight, when the mage is gasping for mana, you will be continuing to perform at the top of your game.  If you’re Affliction, the longer the fight, the higher your DPS goes.  Until the mob’s down to the last 25% of its health, and then you really start to bring the pain.  Embrace it.  And make sure to look at boss-fight-specific DPS meters – you’ll be more encouraged.

SHAYZANI:  One thing I notice a lot with people new to caster dps is that they don’t chain-cast like they should. You aren’t melee so you don’t have an auto-attack doing white damage while you ponder what you should cast next.

Increase the number of Incinerates you cast, increase your Immolation uptime, keep Chaos Bolt on cooldown, mash Haunt whenever its up, don’t waste Decimation procs, don’t let your dots fall off generally. There shouldn’t ever be a time when you’re just standing around with nothing to do. Time your casts so that the second the first one goes off you’ve got a second one starting immediately. Again, no gaps between casts!

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Miss me?

September 14, 2009 at 11:24 am (Navel-Gazing)

So, around the point I got an are-you-dead e-mail from a fellow blogger, I realized my little mental-health hiatus may have run a bit long.  No, I’m not dead, I just haven’t had a whole lot of WoW-related space in my life the last few weeks (and what space I have had has been dedicated to my guild).  Some of the reasons for this are happy, some unhappy, but all are uninteresting to everybody but me, and I plan to resume more regular updates.

Later today, I’ll have Shayzani’s and my Q&A session on warlocks, and there’s a rant I have burbling away in me about guild-hopping I’ll probably give voice to shortly.  Suffice it to say, I made a rather rookie guild-leadership mistake.  Stay tuned…

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