STO: Thumping Tholians

Since my Klingon captain turned level 50 he’s received a bunch of missions all at once. The game has level-scaling to allow you to play lower level content still with some challenge so there’s a wealth of content still to be played. Indeed my character hit level 50 while still playing the Romulan Mystery arc, which is pegged for level 26+. This session however I ended up setting course for one of the mission markers on the sector map, Nukara, to see what adventure awaited.


Turns out this is a Y-class planet (a.k.a a ‘demon world’) with an extremely hostile environment. I had to wear an environment suit to venture beyond the shielded base camp. Of course my character didn’t have one and I didn’t know where to get one, but they’re available in the Dilithium store, the basic one is very reasonably priced.


This planet is actually home to a level 50 adventure zone (Tholian Incursion), a public quest style area. The mission giver back at base camp gives a couple of different missions (kill X Tholians, collect Y items etc). For content that was launched back in July 2012, it seems to be relatively popular – I saw dozens of other players running around in the zone. Anything I shot a few times counted towards my particular mission objectives so there were no issues with competing for targets as you might find in more old-fashioned MMOs.


I only had time to complete a few basic missions here but there are more to do and some upgrades that are probably worth the time to gather. Some loot drops at random from the Tholians, I received a new rifle that seemed a decent upgrade. I think I’ll have to give the zone at least one or two more goes just to see how far into this repeatable content I can get solo. Adventure zones are group content of a sort however, so it seems I can’t bring any of my bridge officers with me. However dumb the AI can be at times, I do rather miss having a pet healer and some heavy-weapons support with me when on a mission!

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Alt-unfriendly MMO design

I finished the leveling journey on my first character in World of Warcraft’s Warlords of Draenor expansion almost two weeks ago already. Since that time my playtime in WoW has mostly involved a bewildering array of Garrison Campaign quests and getting started on the Tanaan zone that was added in the last patch.


It’s enjoyable enough content, for example I’ve written previously about growing rather attached to my assortment of followers. The more epic quest chains like the Garrison campaign and the legendary ring quest chain are some of the better content in the expansion I think – I like the idea of building up to a reward gradually in stages.


However a lot of the Garrison is busy work, it’s very “needy MMO” territory. There are the mine and herb garden to process, lots of clicking without the interactivity and deliberate choice the Halfhill garden in Mists of Pandaria had. Moreover it feels odd to have such a rich source of crafting resources so easily in every garrison. I haven’t yet started a second character on the Draenor expansion but I have two very close to level 90. The one, my Balance druid, is a herbalist/alchemist yet he’ll barely need to step out of his garrison to level his alchemy since I’ll have two or three herb gardens churning out insane amounts of herbs on demand.

16 herbs from killing one easy plant monster...

16 herbs from killing one easy plant monster…

The layered gear grinds for your own character and for your followers is also ok for the first character but will quickly get out of hand as I level alts. This isn’t unique to WoW, I never really bothered with gearing all my companions for my main character in SWTOR let alone multiple companions on alts – that at least is something Bioware is addressing in the upcoming expansion.


As I look towards playing Wildstar again for a while I’m left thinking about whether I’ll continue to log my Exile engineer to farm herbs in his housing. We’ll probably be playing Dominion-side mostly, at least initially, so there’ll be no benefit from keeping the herbs growing to make some health or buff potions for the new characters. But once I’m in-game it reminds me that that garden remains untended. Are MMORPGs becoming less alt-friendly or is it just me?

Must tend garden...

Must tend garden…

Posted in Gaming, SWTOR, Wildstar, WoW | 3 Comments

Wildstar: servers and intros

With the conversion of Wildstar to Free to Play last week my plans for some duo Chua gaming were at last possible. Wildstar is likely to be a side-game, something to play together when we’re not playing WoW or Shadowrun Chronicles so the removal of the subscription barrier was important to us. As others have reported already the relaunch has suffered from its own success as often happens. That’s certainly at least a partially good thing, at least the devs (Carbine) can take comfort that there are a sizeable number of players interested in trying the game now.


That said it did appear for three days or so that the mega-servers were crushed by the demand. By Friday evening we’d managed to create characters but not actually play them, it wasn’t until early Saturday morning that we could log in and play. For now our new Chua pair are housed on Jabbit-2 – it’s less laggy than the original server by all accounts and the login queues are certainly shorter.


This is what a server bug and gremlin look like

Now we’re in the game I’m in the curious position, from a blogging perspective, of knowing much has changed with the F2P mega-patch but not necessarily realising it all at first. I’m playing a Chua Spellslinger for a change of style paired up with an Engineer.

Prepare for trouble, and make it double...

Prepare for trouble, and make it double…

The remake of the spaceship intro zone (Dominion side) is interesting. I wish I’d paid more attention to the original now, it seems like the new version is snappier with a stronger story to it but they also seem to have removed or missed out on some fairly important information. We got through it quickly enough and chose to go down to Levian Bay. But we realised there had been nothing obvious telling us about how the path system is supposed to work – I’d played scientist before so could tell my husband to press G etc. For myself I stumbled into settler building activities pretty much at random.


Beyond some path confusion I’m feeling mostly at home as I have recent gameplay experience of Wildstar. The idea of having three different introductions to the game is good, although maybe they still need to make a few adjustments to what is taught where. Based on the descriptions of the three options I would still expect paths, something unique to Wildstar, to be told to those running the spaceship tutorial zones.


At the second quest-hub after landing we were given a new set of shoulder armour by an NPC who informed us we “should know about runes”. It was a simple quest, speak to the NPC, get a pair of shoulders and a rune and done. But she didn’t actually tell us anything about attaching the rune to our new shoulder armour! Apparently you can attach them out in the field, I had thought I needed a crafting station to do that.

Despite some confusion over a few aspects to the early-game, I’m having a blast back in Wildstar once more. I’ve just unlocked more skills than I have LAS (skillbar) slots for so there’s some fun to be had in experimenting with new abilities and their combinations!

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MMO turn-offs

Syl at MMO Gypsy has a list of “turn-offs” for the MMORPG genre: features that quickly drain her enthusiasm for a game.

Here’s my shortlist of MMO annoyances:

1. Lockbox spam
This is very common in the genre now, almost every game has lockboxes dropping like rain. In most the key is only available for real-money bought currency (Zen in Neverwinter, TP in LOTRO etc). They are particularly annoying when the type changes very frequently so your bags and bank can fill with a profusion of the things. I’m just not a fan of gambling for items in my gaming.

2. Forced PVP
Nothing will turn me off a game faster than force-flagging me for PVP or giving players the power to force-flag me regardless of server type. It simply isn’t my idea of fun. The Mists-era legendary quest in WoW committed this grave sin. I include a lack of clear PVP demarcations in this category as well. Neverwinter actually did this really well – with a coloured border on the ground surrounding PVP areas and a system message warning you were close. Other games would rather just surprise you if you stray to close to the border (e.g. WoW).

3. Excessive pathing/walling
I played Guild Wars 1 despite the awful ‘pathed’ nature of the game. Zones were barely explorable at all, just a patterns of paths you could walk on and lots of intervening spaces that were effectively window-dressing. World of Warcraft even today has plenty of annoying walls blocking areas and hillsides that cannot be scaled despite how easy it looks climb. This isn’t just an “old MMO problem” since Dungeons & Dragons Online had very open areas (including jump and fly spells!) and that MMO has a very old game engine.

4. Ability shoutfest
Asian MMOs like Tera and Aion like you to hear your characters use their abilities. Strangely Turbine went down a similar route with LOTRO if you play certain classes (e.g. Warden). Such games make group gameplay somewhat annoying over time. How many times do I need to hear “YAAAARRRRGGGH!” in one dungeon?

5. Stepped levelling curve
I’m not a fan of the tendency to make the last X levels (usually 10) ‘harder to earn’. It becomes worse when the game adds an expansion and new levels but doesn’t adjust the levelling curve to account for this. Gradual progress is fine with me, I don’t need to be levelling at hyper-speed. Conversely glacial progress as an attempt at dragging out the game’s longevity won’t keep me in-game longer – I’m more likely to just move on to pastures new (EQ2!).

Posted in DDO, EQ2, Gaming, Guild Wars, LotRO, Neverwinter, Tera, WoW | 2 Comments

EQ2: Pre-expansion events

Last night I had intended to create a couple of new alts in Wildstar but the Free to Play avalanche kept me from logging in all evening. Reading about the forthcoming announcement of the next Everquest 2 expansion (EQ2Wire: 1st October) and the pre-expansion Sundered Ground world event series tempted me to dive back into Norrath again instead.

Oops, looks like I missed a contender in my recent Skybox post...

Oops, looks like I missed a contender in my recent Skybox post…

I think I’m past the point of trying to work out Everquest 2 quests all on my own. I simply don’t know the world well enough and haven’t really a clue what I’m doing half the time. Perhaps my Iksar character should know that Lxena T’Kith (the quest giver for the pre-expansion quests) is obviously a Teir’Dal (Norrath’s version of Dark Elves) name – I am sadly not so attuned to this world’s customs. So on the wiki I popped and soon had the waypoint link to find the initial quest giver.

Laxena T'Kith

Laxena T’Kith


After an initial foray into the world, I returned to Madam T’Kith and was sent on to a different NPC, this time with a vague idea where he might be. My warden alt spends almost all his time in “Down Under” where the crafting stations and NPCs are to be found.



A bunch of elemental slaying followed. Handily I did the chain on my solo-DPS specced shadowknight, so he could safely pull large groups and grind them down simultaneously with area damage spells.


I missed on the earlier stage of this series of world events, each stage is only available for a few weeks it appears. I’m ok with that though, honestly it makes perfect sense for pre-expansion events to be time limited. I’ll be following the forums closely for news on any future additional quests.

This character is still 94 as the game espouses an old-school pace of character leveling.  However despite not having a max-level character I can still take part in these pre-expansion events thanks to the game’s encounter scaling tech – I really like this aspect of EQ2. Bhagpuss noted this in a recent post comparing Guild Wars 2 with EQ2, Daybreak Games seem better than other MMO devs at providing a good mix of content for characters of all levels in their updates and expansions.

Posted in EQ2, Gaming | 2 Comments

“a healer I didn’t like”

I was watching a Massively OP Twitch by M J yesterday of the Otherland MMO and during the stream she mentioned that the healer class “Energizer” was, on first impression, a healer type that she actually didn’t like. That thought stuck with me afterwards as I can empathise with that being an unusual situation. Although I didn’t really play healer (or tank) at all for the first few years of MMO play, I have since played healer classes more and more.

Personally I can’t think of any healer class I didn’t actually like at least of those I’ve played for a good amount of time. I spent some time healing dungeons in World of Warcraft this past weekend so I’m back into this role once more and loving it. Looking back at my post archive this playstyle has dominated my experience of MMOs since the early WoW years – if I could play healer for any group content I have done. Here are a few of my healer characters from different MMOs:

World of Warcraft, Shaman (Restoration)


Although my ‘main’ character initially in WoW was a Balance druid for solo, duo and general gameplay I did swap later to playing Restoration shaman for much of my group gameplay, especially for raiding. This class and spec was known for strong group heals and very good condition removal (how I miss cleansing totem!) with a positional element from the good placement of the totems.

Star Wars The Old Republic, Jedi Sage


I leveled a healer as main in this game and actually healed a good number of flashpoints with my guild. It was, and remains, a really fun game for small group content. I never really tried the other healing styles to compare but the Jedi Sage was a fairly standard single-target healer with some damage shields.

Final Fantasy 14, Scholar


Technically I healed with Conjurer/White Mage first in the game as until you have unlocked the Scholar job, Arcanist cannot queue as a healer. But once I had Scholar available I didn’t look back. Having a healer pet is pretty cool in this game and I prefer the slightly more hybrid healer/damage dealer style of the base Arcanist class to the Conjurer. That said after I started duo’ing the game with my husband he was playing Scholar and I Summoner so my healing experience in the game is quite limited thus far.

Tera, Priest

It's not easy to take screenshots of combat in this game...

It’s not easy to take screenshots of combat in this game…

The healing gameplay shows off the very best and worst of Tera in my view. The solo questing/levelling experience is pretty grindy and average. The game shines when you’re in a group in combat either doing BAMs (open world elite monsters) or dungeons. The negative side of this is that the game’s combat proved to be just too frantic for me, I game to relax remember, and healing in such a game is pretty stressful. It’s a shame really as I did enjoy the targeted healing style quite a bit but didn’t get experienced enough to feel comfortable in the role.

Neverwinter, Devout Cleric


In Neverwinter I played three classes to the original level cap; Control Wizard, Devout Cleric and Great Weapon Fighter in that order. However I played the Cleric the most overall, he has the best gear and the most progression in the various campaigns. When we returned to the game last summer for a lot of dungeon-running fun with some WoW guild-mates I either tanked on my GWF or healed with my cleric. Healing in the game is similar to Tera although the game is slightly easier overall and I found my cleric’s skillset to be more versatile than that of the Priest in Tera.

The Neverwinter cleric can be built for heals, damage or a mix of both although when we were playing the healing meta (i.e. the effective builds) were centred around spells like Astral Seal (mark an enemy, anyone damaging that receives a heal). That aggressive playstyle coupled with some shields and emergency channeled heals allowed this class to be a real hero in tight situations, it was very fulfilling to play!

Do you have a favourite healer class, or one you actually disliked playing?

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, Neverwinter, Rift, SWTOR, Tera, WoW | 2 Comments

DPS debate and Balance druids in WoW

Last week there was a discussion about the role of DPS characters (and players ) within holy trinity group gameplay. Murf had an epic post bemoaning the lack of role responsibility in more modern MMOs for the damage dealers, that is to say the group members who are not the other trinity roles of tanks or healers.

Bhagpuss had a follow-up post discussing Everquest’s more expansive role diversity. There’s a lot in his post but I agreed in particular with his point that combat in MMOs has become faster and in so doing has lost something. That’s certainly the case with World of Warcraft but also it’s a fundamental MMO design evolution that games like Guild Wars 2 have embraced.


This brings me to the topic of Balance Druids, a k a Boomkins. For me, personally, Boomkin was the perfect spec for at least half of the years I played the game. Until the big skill revamp of late Wrath brought the Eclipse mechanic in, Balance was considered by many to be “a poor DPS spec”. Druids were expected to heal (tree) or maybe off-tank (bear) or use the other DPS form (cat). But I was lucky enough to play in a friendly, no-stress guild that didn’t care about min-maxing any variant playstyles out of the game. We had rogues, mages and hunters to bring the killer damage. I was there for other reasons, including

  • Crowd control (root, sleep, typhoon, hurricane, soothe)
  • Distraction (trees)
  • Strong party wide buff
  • The only combat res in the game (until Death Knights)
  • Strong emergency group heal (tranquility)
  • Mana regen for healer or other (innervate)
  • Racial stealth as a Night Elf (shadowmeld)
  • plus some damage via over-time effects and wrath or starfire

As a ranged caster with heavy(ish) armour and excellent survivability skills I was able to sit back from the fight and do whatever was needed to help the group succeed. For example:

  • Back in Burning Crusade heroics you would often have respawns before you’d finished clearing the dungeon. So shadowmeld allowed me to drop out of combat just before a wipe to then res all the other players before the boss reappeared without the long corpse run back to the dungeon and the fight past the respawns.
  • Tranquility could be a real life saver as a backup if the healer was stretched too thin – especially coupled with barksin to avoid interruption.

The advent and refinement of the eclipse mechanic made Balance competitive for damage but following the ‘rotation’ was so important to damage output that it felt, to me, like a straight-jacket on my gameplay. I was so busy micro-managing the darned eclipse state-switches that I no longer had the luxury of doing other things. That coupled with fights becoming ever more complex and faster paced and it just doesn’t feel like the same class anymore. Really I just wish WoW’s trinity hadn’t become so starkly focused on damage dealing over the years.


P.S. I’m not saying Balance was the only class that could do more than deal damage, I remember rogues that could stun the most awkward to reach opponents and Frost mages that could freeze and kite unexpected adds to death with flair. But Balance did have a remarkable variety of abilities back then.

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