Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I hold in my hands...

an actual, physical box of Starcraft II.

And the peasants...err..SCVs...rejoiced.

Seriously, I thought it was vaporware 3 years ago.  I thought it was vaporware when I pre-ordered it.  I thought it was vaporware when they claimed to have shipped the bloody thing.  And, frankly, I'm still fairly convinced it will end up being an empty box when I open it tonight.

Here's hoping the humans lose at the end of their campaign.  Scorched from the skies...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cataclysm Beta: Why no faction bosses?

Cataclysm is supposed to be all about ripping things asunder.  The world destroyed by Deathwing's emergence and the tentative truce between Horde and Alliance rent beyond repair.  Indeed, many of the major faction cities will be significantly tougher nuts to crack, with new walls, new guards, and leaders placed in more defensible positions (I always did wonder why Thrall stood so far away from his potential defenders in the auction house).

However, their ability sets are still fairly boring, and there are still no serious in-game rewards for killing them.  Given that the storyline now gives players ample reason to go after them (we're at war again, after all), this strikes me as a little inconsistent and a little sad.  I realize that Blizzard doesn't want world pvp in the cities to be so prevalent as to make them unwieldy, especially for low level players, but a long respawn timer could fix this (quests would need to be turned in to a regent in the meantime).

Spontaneous, open-world pvp, if properly controlled, is one of the things that makes the game fun and unpredictable, and gives it some legs.  So long as low level players are still immune in their capital cities (unless they attack first) and so long as quest givers can't be killed (or at least respawn quickly and/or have an alternative, like a regent), the only real problem is a little more lag.  And frankly, I don't think a little additional lag would be noticed in Stormwind or Orgrimmar.

C'mon, Blizz, give us all a reason to subscribe to the global defense channel again!

Cataclysm Beta: Starsurge Graphic

One more comment.  Hopefully the starsurge graphic in the beta now is a place holder.  If it is not, I would strongly encourage Blizzard to create another graphic for it.  (this has been noted on the beta forums, but there hasn't been an official response)

The current graphic is a noxious large glowing green ball.  It's look like sickly swamp gas meandering towards its target, and would be far more appropriate for a warlock (or a truly demented mage) than a druid.  Yes, Wrath is green, but wrath is a deep, natural green.  Starsurge is currently a sickly, corrupted green.  Further, starsurge suggests that it would have some blue or white in it, something along the lines of the colors in starfire, starfall, or moonfire.  Maybe two intertwined beams (ah...double helix!), one the color of wrath and one the color of starfire.  It is not, after all, supposed to be a pure nature or pure arcane spell.

Cataclysm Beta: First experience with Hyjal leveling zone

I should preface this by saying I've only spent about 2 hours in the zone all told, and that druids are fairly broken in the most recent two beta versions, so my experience should be taken with a grain of salt.

That said, I was able to proceed without difficulty most of the time.  Unlike in much of the old world, I did not encounter instances of randomly getting shifted out of flying form and falling to my death.  Which is too bad, really, as it added a bit of excitement and adventure to my explorations in the Eastern Kingdoms...

The graphics in Hyjal are amazing.  I can literally hear my graphics card chug into high gear (well, I can hear the fan, at any rate) when I fly in under Nordrassil.  This beauty may be difficult to appreciate with lower spec hardware.  The sky is also a work of art (literally) and probably my favorite of any zone so far.

The epic quality of the zone is bolstered primarily by the fact that many of the quest givers and other NPC characters are Big Important People from vanilla who we only got to see back then, if at all, in raids or in the Shifting Sands quest chain.  This includes the villains.  It's pretty fun to run into old raid bosses wreaking havoc out in the world.  There is also a battle going on between the Cenarion Circle (or associated forces....they are a new faction) and the twilight cultists/fire elementals.  It's not quite as intense as the opening siege for those who first stepped into Northrend as hordies in the Tundra, but it's not bad.  It's also a bit more dynamic than the standard "there are some bad guys and some good guards fighting."  There are some bigger characters and druidic types that react to some of the Big Bad Lieutenant abilities, and if you don't follow their lead, it's pretty easy to find yourself extra crispy.

The epic feeling is brought down a bit by the lack of content (at least, I hope it will be filled in before release) in some of the twilight camps.  Some of them have no cultists at all....just a few empty wagons.  Which is weird, especially when your quest is to destroy the camp.

Some of the initial quest lines also remind me of one of my favorite zones in Northrend - Zul'Drak.  Like the quests sending you to each temple to discover the current status of its god and then handle the fall out appropriately (which was great because it gave you an overarching plot line with a bit of tension and excitement, but still mixed it up and had you do something different for each god), you are sent to the shrines of four different ancients (actually, Ancients with a 'A'...not just the big trees, these guys are the remnants of the great spirits of nature that fought and fell in the War of the Ancients) to try and help bring their powers forth to drive the cultists back from Nordrassil.

So far, the zone is beautiful and has a nice epic feel, and most of the quests are even completable (added bonus!).  We'll see how it goes from here....it's a big zone.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cataclysm Beta: Pamela Redpath

Pamela Redpath is still in the game.  Thank god!  She starts a new quest, in addition to finding her doll, entitled "I'm Not Supposed To Tell You This" about finding her father's lost sword.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cataclysm Beta: Water graphics a little funky; zone transition graphics a little clunky

It's entirely possible that this stuff is already up for more changes; I don't know.

My first impression of the water graphics:  On my card, with my settings, the reflections don't work properly from most angles.  Whatever is above the water on my screen reflects from the water, even if it wouldn't be above the water in the physical model.

Further, the water seems less 3D and more like a flat pane of smoky glass.  It looks pretty awesome from above (reflections aside), but if you get too close it starts to look flat compared to the old water.  From beneath the water, it just looks like a perfectly flat, dark ceiling.

My first impression of flying between old world zones:  I'm not going to lie.  Flying in the old world is awesome (especially up to things like the top of Blackrock Mountain or the Ironforge Airfield that I've been longing to get to for ages).  However, there is often a very, very sudden split between old world zones graphically.  The Northrend handles transitions by having them be slow and spread out, and/or by simply having each zone be similar and united in their snowy-ness.  The Outland has slow transitions that seem to make physical sense (like going down a mountain path from Hellfire to the lower, wetter Zangamarsh).

Now compare that to the weird fissure that separates the big hot mountains of the Searing Gorge from the big cold mountains of Dun Morogh.  That fissure reminds me more of the Outland in terms of "oh my the world is rent asunder and the terrain is changing like mad" than some of the Outland zone transitions do.

Now, I realize that Deathwing's escape did rend the world asunder to some extent, but there were no major changes in either the Gorge or Dun Morogh, so why are they acting like they're on separate tectonic plates?

Is this something that in any way affects the gameplay or my enjoyment of it?  No, not really.  In a perfect world, the transitions would be a bit less intense (except stuff like the Barrens where Deathwing really did rip it apart).  But somehow, I'll survive...

Cataclysm Beta: New fishing and cooking dailies

I have done one set of the new cooking and fishing dailies on the Alliance side.  The quest givers are, for the moment, standing outside in the western half of Stormwind (they may be in each capital, I haven't checked).

I like them.  The ones I did are much along the lines of the ones in Dalaran.  Go catch me a fish, or go do something simple in the city itself (in my case, flying around and right-clicking on barrels to steal NPC fisherpeople's catfish).

Each quest gives you a token AND a single skill point in that profession.  The closest I've ever seen to the latter reward is in the Death Knight starting area where you get talent points as quest rewards.

What do I like about these?

  1. It's easy, mindless, and internally consistent.  All quests shouldn't be easy and mindless, but having a couple each day that are quick and fun is a good thing.  Stealing ingredients and recipes from other NPC foodies in the capital cities is a cute prank that spices up the quest a bit.  It's a simple but believable story.  
  2. You don't need to go farm random monsters in random areas to get meat (at least, I haven't had to yet).  That's good.  It's fine when you're leveling or need to actually make food for yourself, but it's frustrating when you're at the level cap and suddenly need to run off halfway around the world to kill a tuskarr.  
  3. I am strongly in favor of handing out a skill point upon completion.  I realize that the serious anglers out there will probably complain, and rightly so, that this devalues the vast amount of time they put into leveling their fishing skills.  At the same time, it would still take me the better part of a year to get my fishing maxed out if I started doing the quest every day right now.  Therefore, I think the anglers' concerns would be a bit overblown.  For everyone who would otherwise never put in the time to get the secondary professions (fishing especially) up to max, this is a nice crutch that allows you to do it slowly over the course of each expansion.  It fits with Blizzard's WotLK policy of eventually letting all players experience all content.  I like it.  

Cataclysm Beta

So, I made it into the Cataclysm beta.  That was random.

Thus far, I've spent a day installing the client (which, to be honest, is about the same amount of time it takes to install the retail WoW at this point), signed in, emptied my bags, set up some boomkin and resto talent trees (warning: trees are only about half implemented), and had a helluva lot of fun flying around Stormwind and blowing shit up on the Ironforge Airfield.  I've wanted to do that for 5 years now.

I plan to make some new characters in each faction and try out the 80-85 zones for each faction eventually (right now, things are only implemented through 83, and I use "implemented" loosely, though I don't mean that as any slight to Blizzard - it's early beta and anyone complaining about lack of content now is a bit of a fool).

I'll post thoughts, comments, suggestions, concerns up here, and cross-post them to the beta forums where appropriate.  It gives me an excuse to use this blog again...