Tag Archives: opinion

Picking a Gamepad

I’ve been thinking for a while about picking up a gameboard, as my playstyle seems to be leaning that way – it’d help with mobility, and my healing is evolving into a click-casting style which I find fast and efficient.

It’s come down to two options, I think: the Belkin n52te, the latest iteration of the Nostromo; and the Logitech G13. I think I like the look of the G13 more, but it’s nearly twice as expensive as the n52te.

Does anyone have any experience with using both of these, to tell me how they compare?

And does anyone have any experience with using either, or both, on a Mac? Both are allegedly Mac-compatible, but I know that’s not always the case despite what it says on the tin.

Where WotLK Failed: Arthas

This post contains a) negative opinions, and b) spoilers. Feel free to skip this post if either is likely to spoil your day.

Before Wrath was launched, Blizzard reps publicly said that they wanted to bring Arthas to the forefront as the very visible face of evil in WotLK. The comparison was drawn with Illidan, where – although his machinations were involved in almost everything we faced in Outland – players rarely interacted with Illidan himself until they made decent progress into Black Temple. There was the odd quest here and there where Illidan would show up and pwn someone back into the Stone Age, such as the event when you reached Exalted with the Netherwing. But, by and large, Illidan was the “you are not prepared!” guy from the trailer, and many players never saw him at all.

So, Wrath was set to change all that. Good, great! Right?

Wrong. It feels cheap.

The first wrong note sounded for me when I rolled a Death Knight. You log in as a Death Knight and the first thing you see is Arthas’s boots, followed by the rest of him as you pan up. (He’s pretty tall.)

Despite the fact that you’ve only been dug out of the ground as a newly-turned Death Knight, Arthas himself is there to greet you, and to impress upon you just how much cooler than you he is. Unfortunately, this is nonsensical – Arthas is a being of vast power; he shouldn’t be standing in front of you as the first questgiver your Death Knight ever sees.

If meeting Arthas had come later in the progression, it would have felt awesome – it would have felt like a meaningful reward in an epic quest chain, meeting your mighty master as a reward for your exemplary service and impressive potential. Meeting him before you’ve done anything to earn that leaves it feeling a bit anticlimactic, in my opinion.

And then let’s look at Northrend. Some encounters with Arthas are cool, lore-appropriate and frankly gave me goosebumps the first time I saw them – such as, for instance, his appearance in Gjalerbron when you’re hiding behind the fallen body of Queen Angerboda as Arthas appears to whisk King Ymiron away to serve him in Utgarde Pinnacle.

Equally, the first Arthas encounter in Drakuru’s storyline – wherein you’ve inadvertently helped Drakuru to take over Drak’Tharon Keep, and Arthas turns up to pat you all on the head for being useful minions – is awesome, in an ‘oh god, what have I done?!’ kind of way.

And then, unfortunately, you come to the ‘Let’s Jam Arthas In Here Despite the Constraints Of Logic’ appearances. Okay, so you manage to sabotage Drakuru’s efforts in Zul’Drak, and luckily Arthas finds it amusing and ironic and refrains from squashing you like a bug.

The Lich King says: I spare your insignificant life as a reward for this amusing betrayal. There may yet be a shred of potential in you.

He still warns you, though: “When next we meet I shall require much more to justify your life.” Except, apparently, he doesn’t. He somehow fails to recognise that you’re the same pest (if you’re Alliance) who helped Thassarian break the Cult of the Damn’s control over Alliance forces in Borean Tundra, despite the fact that he ordered your death at the time:

Prince Valanar says: Allow me to take care of the intruders, lord. I will feed their entrails to the maggots.
Image of the Lich King says: Do not fail me, San’layn. Return to Icecrown with this fool’s head or do not bother to return.

And again, when you encounter him while you’re busy killing another of his servants in Icecrown, he just makes some more threats and then leaves his servant to carry on with getting killed. (Edit: he does the same thing when you turn up during his Valkyrifing of Svala Sorrowgrave in Utgarde Pinnacle.)

Where’s the menace? Where’s the malice? This is a being of pure evil, who can strike down pretty much anyone in single combat. Why are you even still alive after inconveniencing him multiple times?

To me, at least, it stretches credibility, and weakens Arthas’s impact. He is reduced from the figure of terror and menace he was, to a comedy bad guy muttering ‘and I’d have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids’.

Seeing Arthas turn up should be, I think, more than just a ‘oh, look, it’s the Lich King again’ moment. There should be actual threat to the players. There are other quests that kill you as part of the quest; I can think of three off the top of my head. Why isn’t Arthas killing us when we inconvenience him? Constant threats of doom stop sounding scary after a while, and Arthas deserved better treatment than that. He should be a lot scarier than he is; in Wrath of the Lich King, his ubiquity weakens him.

PvE Is Not Easy

If you peruse large WoW communities – the official forums, the big gaming websites, trade channel (*shudder*) – you’ll see a common thread: ever-so-terribly leet players telling us that PvE content is easy, that if you fail on X encounter you’re terribad, that anyone with half a brain could faceroll through this stuff, et cetera.

Well, they’re wrong.

I’m not talking about the current level of raiding content – that is, indeed, pitched at a less challenging level than most, if not all, of TBC content. (Which is not to say it’s trivial – it’s certainly not, especially for inexperienced raiders.)

No, I’m talking about the blithe statements, usually made either by hardcore raiders, hardcore PvPers or disparaging ex-WoW-players, that all raiding is easy, that you can’t help but win if you don’t suck.

One of the popular measures for ‘not being bad’ is managing spatial awareness and 3D movement. Well, you know what? Those tests of spatial awareness and movement (Frogger boss, I’m looking at you) probably are trivial if you have the reflexes of a 20-year-old, or you grew up playing FPSes, console games and arcade games.

Hi, I’m thirty-three, and I avoided combat games like the plague. I never owned a console growing up, I spent very little time in arcades, and the first time I had access to a computer capable of running games more advanced than NetHack was in my second year of University. Granted, I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time playing games since then, but they’ve largely been RPGs and strategy/simulation games because I’m not a particularly aggressive or competitive person. (Please note that ‘not competitive’ and ‘not performance-oriented’ are not synonymous.)

Frankly, I’m sick of the attitude that treats WoW like another twitch-based FPS game, and that rates these skills above everything else. If you’re going to ignore the fact that my tanking is good, my DPS is fine, or that I just saved your ass with a split-second heal, just to mock me for dying on Frogger? Kindly shut up.

(True confession: sometimes, just sometimes, I turn with my keyboard. Gasp! Yes, it’s true! Guess what? It’s never gotten me killed, and it’s never caused a wipe.)

Edit: Based on some of the comments, I should probably clarify: this is not ‘Confession of a Terribad Raider’ time, because I don’t think I am. I certainly could do better, particularly on movement issues, but I do okay. (For the record, I’ve only ever died on Frogger twice – once in a 40-man because I’d never seen it before and no-one explained it, and recently in a 10-man, purely due to lag. I’ve never failed the Thaddius jump, I’ve never been beaten by the Ledge Boss or the Pipe Boss, and I haven’t been hit by a lava wave on Sartharion since the first time I did the fight. I did, however, once fall off a ledge in Karazhan for absolutely no reason at all, which caused a lot of hilarity.)

What this post actually was intended to be – and this probably didn’t come across clearly, since I was writing it at 7am after a night of zero sleep – was expressing my frustration at the elitists who’ve been practising these skills for half their lives, who do not ever stop to think that not everyone has the same training they do.

A Note of Dissonance

Blizzard has tried hard to make so much of the game smooth and fun, cutting out factors other MMOs think necessary (like, say, corpse runs or XP loss on death) because they recognised they’re not fun.

Take tradeskills. For the most part, they’re streamlined and simple to execute – I have some issues with the amount of reward they offer, but there’s no “because we can” obstacles…

…except in Enchanting.

If I’m levelling up Alchemy on an alt, I can give her a couple of stacks of herbs, a stack of vials, and click one button. I walk away to get a coffee, I come back, I’ve got a stack of elixirs in my bag and 20 shiny new skill points.

Getting those skill points for an Enchanter? You have to execute your recipe individually each time – and if you’re grinding your skill up a bit, you’re probably re-enchanting the same item over and over with the most efficient recipe you’ve got. Each re-enchant requires an extra click to confirm that you really did mean to overwrite the last enchantment on the item, which is identical anyway. So your twenty skill points cost you forty mouse clicks instead of one, and a lot of boring staring at the screen. It’s as bad as fishing, and you don’t even get to get out and look at the scenery.

It’s only a minor niggle, and the world’s not gonna end if they don’t fix it – but it’s so jarring and tedious in an otherwise streamlined world.

Find the Joy

I’m sure everyone knows people who only play characters of one type, whether it’s the healer who comes equipped with a pally main and shammy and druid alts, or the tank with one of each type, or the pet-lovers who play hunters and warlocks.

The trouble is, once you’ve played a character to the level cap, and spent time and thought and practice on how to be the best darn whatever-you-are you can be, it can be very easy to fall into a rut of always thinking like that character.

I’ve known a number of rogues who rolled a druid alt, feraled it up, and were deeply unhappy that their druid couldn’t Vanish, or pick pockets, or open locks – no, my friend, you’re not playing your druid. You’re trying to play another rogue. And you know, if that’s the play experience you want, more power to you! Roll another rogue! Heck, I’m levelling a new babypaladin at the moment because I haven’t played Ret since about patch 1.8 and the class has changed amazingly since then, and I want to see how Retribution plays now. There is nothing wrong with having multiple characters of one class.

But if you want to enjoy your alts, stop worrying about the ways in which they are similiar-but-inferior to a class you’ve loved before. Look for the ways they’re new and different. All the classes are basically balanced, on a broad scale – each class has advantages and disadvantages, and a unique playstyle. Blizzard did not save up all the cool toys and give them to a single class; each class has one or more factors that makes it unique, and therefore potentially fun. Stop thinking about all the things that your new class is lacking – things you used to rely on or enjoy with your last character. Instead, look at what your character can do in a way that’s unique to them – try and think about how Blizzard made their choices.

“Okay, all the cloth-wearing classes need to be able to DPS solo without a tank, but how do we make them different? Okay – mages are the squishiest, so we give them Frost Nova, a way to snare mobs at range and then cast at them from a safe distance. Shadow priests can heal themselves in a pinch, but they can’t rely on that, so let’s give them a way to mitigate the damage they wind up taking anyway – we’ll give them Vampiric Embrace. And warlocks don’t have shields, and don’t have snares, so they’ll need other ways to keep the monsters away from them – let’s give them Fear, and maybe a pet that can tank (until they do too much damage).”

When you’re playing your warlock alt instead of your mage main, don’t bemoan the fact that you don’t have Frost Nova or Sheep or Ice Barrier. Look at what you do have – Fear, a voidwalker, a succubus, Drain Life. Learn how to play the class you’ve chosen to try out – if you’re truly unhappy that it’s not more like a mage, then delete your lock and roll another mage! No-one expects everyone to enjoy every playstyle – heck, I still can’t make myself play a warrior for 20 levels or more – but it’s unfair to any class to expect it to be just like the last class you enjoyed, and to blame the class or the devs when it isn’t.