Rift and WoW – the PVP flag issue

There are two world bosses up in WoW since yesterday, so we jumped into game as our normal trio to get those done early. In previous weeks we’ve not been free on a Wednesday and it gets rapidly harder to find the necessary pug raid to kill such bosses after the first few days. There is a tool, not quite as automated as the Dungeon and Raid Finder tools, that offers a way to look for groups advertising raids to tackles these bosses. After the first couple of days this tool is usually our only hope of taking a boss down.

Wasting time trying to heal a target I can't heal...

Wasting time trying to heal a target I can’t heal…

The first of the bosses we tackled was an imp-mother bonus boss in Suramar, it didn’t seem very popular as there wasn’t a group forming even when we arrived, so we queued using the aforementioned tool, and as usual got dumped in a group of randoms from various servers – half of which were PVP flagged. This aspect of pug-raid play in WoW really annoys me – I play two main-spec healers for the level 110 content and not being able to heal half the raid is so frustrating. It reminded me of my older experiences of public quest content in Rift, where there was almost an expectation from elements of the community to flag.

No mention of PVP here

No mention of PVP here

At least half of the time we’re dumped onto a PVP server anyway with this tool so I’m auto-flagged – sadly the tool doesn’t provide a warning that you’re joining a PVP-realm group and the majority of such groups, based purely on anecdotal experience, seem to be on PVP realms. It would be very nice if Blizzard could fix the tool to allow a toggle “exclude pvp group/realm” option or similar when searching.

I can contrast this with my more recent experiences of public content in Rift: the game has evolved quite a bit since I was last playing regularly. The faction divide has been lowered almost totally, meaning that I now regularly group both with fellow Defiants and one-time-foes from the Guardian faction.

Tackling a group with two Guardian heroes

Tackling a group with two Guardian heroes

Healing in Rift’s public content is now so much more viable, since all players in the group regardless of faction are counted as friendly targets. I’ve not yet seen any problems with not being able to heal other characters because of PVP flag status.

Healing in Instant Adventures - faction is irrelevant

Healing in Instant Adventures – faction is irrelevant

I’m not expecting Blizzard to head in this direction (less emphasis on faction) from this anytime soon, but it would be nice if we could at least have an option to avoid PVP given that I have always played on a PVE-RP server in the game…

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WoW: keeping it fresh and dungeon experiments

I’ve played enough of the Legion expansion to feel a bit bored with my main characters – there’s a bit of the Suramar questline left to do on my Druid but otherwise he’s mostly done with the expansion until this questline gets expanded in the next major patch. Of course there’s some stuff always to do, but grinding endless AP for tiny incremental increases isn’t my thing, nor is running Mythic + dungeons or raids for teeny, tiny ilevel improvements.

Stop yawning cat, it's rude

Stop yawning cat, it’s rude

My Paladin healer is likewise pretty much finished, I’ll not be doing Suramar on more than one character and he’s done his class hall and is nearly completed on filling out his Holy artifact weapon’s talent tree. So to keep things fresh a bit longer I’m looking at other alts to play going forward. I still have a bit more to finish on my Shaman healer: his weapon is less upgraded. But he’ll be done soon enough and then it’s on to characters that I’ve not yet even levelled to 110 yet.

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I’ve started levelling a Hunter now, a class I’ve not ever really played that much. In Legion, Hunter seems to have come into its own in a way – so many fights in group content (dungeons and raids) are high movement fights – so a class that can use all its abilities on the move is suddenly very appealing. Knowing the zones now means we pick and chose to some extent what content to do and what to skip, repeating some of the content is unavoidable in order to level and gear the new alt but I’m somewhat averse to rerunning zones without more of a gap in-between.

Angry panda

Angry panda

There are other aspects to keeping it fresh though beyond which alt I’m playing at the moment. Playing with a wider group of people from my moderately large guild brings the occasional insight into how to approach dungeon fights from new angles. In a recent run of Halls of Valour (Mythic), a guild-mate told us how to climb up onto the overlooking hill to skip a particularly nasty group of trash mobs – easy to do if you ever thought to try it. It is not always possible to induldge in such experimental gameplay, some fights or areas are too restrictively designed, but when we find a new way of tackling something it always makes me happy.

There are quite a few different ways to tackle Fenryr...

There are quite a few different ways to tackle Fenryr…

Legion requires a lot of repeat dungeon runs on a given character, so if you play alts you can multiply that repetition up quickly enough. Having people to play with who like to try different approaches to the same fights or challenges then is important to me – repeating the exact same rote runs through such instances, especially if its just for the sake of speed or efficiency, quickly leads to boredom (IMHO).

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Rift: back to leveling

A few different things have inspired me to take a peak back into Rift once more. I logged back in recently to do some Instant Adventures and to try Intrepid Adventures (a raid version of the former). In the course of a few play sessions I got my Cleric from level 58 to 60 and finally, just over 2 years later, reached the next expansion: the Nightmare Tide.

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I’d actually returned to the game three times last year, starting in January/February when we briefly played as a group of four through various leveling dungeons. That fun experience of the game kept niggling away at the back of my brain. I actually returned to Rift a total of three times last year albeit for brief stints. Mostly I wanted to level my main to 60 of course, but I also wanted to actually finish some of the storylines for Storm Legion. Not seeing the expansion’s story to its (open world) conclusion irked me somewhat. I’d done a good chunk of Morban and Steppes of Infinity in the most recent sessions and had found the natives’ stories of the horrors of fighting against the Plane of Death’s worst monstrosities rather compelling.

Dungeon fun

Dungeon fun

I ran out of story content with my character still at level 58 back in December, and ran out of leveling steam too, but reading about the Starfall Prophecy expansion since has inspired me once more to get back on with leveling. It’s not as though I’ve not had recent exposure to a slightly more “old school” leveling experience – EQ2 has that by the bucketload. This time though I stuck to public group content as the easy way to conquer that XP bar once and for all.

Hammerknell Intrepid Adventure

Hammerknell Intrepid Adventure

Instant Adventures are akin to a rollercoaster ride of randomised questing. You queue (usually for a few seconds literally) and then get teleported to a group of other players in a leveling zone (can be the base game or an expansion’s zone) with your level sync’ed appropriately. The Adventure then leads you through a series of randomised tasks, like any normal quest, with the odd “close this rift” thrown in for good measure. The grouping is chaotic and fast-paced as you might expect from public quest-style content. Group size varies but is usually a raid between 8 and 15 people, it varies a lot as people drop in and out throughout the Adventure’s duration.

Following the pack

Following the pack

Intrepid Adventures are somewhat different in that they take place inside one of two different raid dungeons. I’ve not experienced the raids in their original form but the system guides you through the raid somewhat with the teleport option from Instant Adventures to take you to the next section of the raid after each boss is killed. Again I’ve no idea how the difficulty levels compare but they are certainly more deadly than Instant Adventures – it’s easy to die to boss mechanics in Hammerknell if you’re as clueless as I am!

Goblin-slaying

Goblin slaying

The experience from both types of activity are good, I have my character at level 60 and have made a start on the Nightmare Tide expansion’s questing content – time to get wet!

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SWTOR: five suggestions for the next expansion

Ravalation has a recent post on desired changes to Star Wars the Old Republic. Reading this got me thinking about what I’d like to see changed or added to the game for or by the time of the next expansion. Here’s my shorter and more broad-brush thoughts on what I’d like to see done differently in future.

1) Fix coop play (a la GW2)

This is a big bugbear for me with the current development of the game, at launch and for some time afterwards SWTOR represented almost the perfect coop MMORPG. Great for couples and friends to play in duos or trios. Leveling together was, for the most part, a great experience – perhaps the only major downside is the spoilers from seeing other people’s class missions. After the Hutt Cartel expansion the game main storylines became much less group friendly, however. That’s a big mistake in my mind – all this content (including KOTFE and KOTET) should be group friendly. Playing with friends is, in my mind, a big part of the stickiness of MMORPGs as games!

I bring here the experience of Guild Wars 2, which from launch back in 2010, had a slick system for progressing story quests when in a group. Similar to SWTOR, any story instance had an ‘owner’, however in GW2 when your group finished the particular instance anyone coming along to help would be presented with a simple yes/no option to either progress their quest to the next stage or to leave it where it was. That same, long-established system, would allow SWTOR players to group up for say KOTFE missions to play with their friends. If the choices made, using the existing multi-player conversation system, didn’t work out as they wanted, they could always choose to not progress the mission and do it again solo on their own to get the result they want. Perhaps to be 100% sure no-one has problems you could even have that same yes/no choice for the instance owner too as they might ‘loose’ a few conversation choices as well.

2) Explorable new planets

Adding new planets always makes me happy, but only adding them for a short walled off story instance makes me sad. It’s also a pretty big waste of developers time compared to the potential for those areas to be opened up for resource gathering and future content such as daily mission hubs or new world bosses. Why not fix it so the Alliance base has a door leading out into Odessen’s forests, for instance?

3) Open world content

Should SWTOR have more “public quest” style content? It does have world bosses, although I suspect these are mostly targetted by guild groups. Seeing how the Legion expansion of WoW handles open world content, and how other games like Rift have long-had such content, I do wonder if open world content in SWTOR would be a good idea? The game is pretty heavily instanced for grouping, so it might be good to see more content that happens out in the open, such as the Relics of the Gree event.

4) Break from the big story

After two very ‘big story’ expansions, with tightly focused and very epic storylines, I’d be tempted to say we should have a change of pace. The next expansion could be less focused and more about the aftermath of such a galaxy-encompassing conflict. It would give the devs the chance to tie up missing or underdeveloped companion stories and to address any hanging issues, such as the aftermath of events on Voss. A less focused story would also allow for the introduction of new planets or the expansion of existing ones without needing to conform to a set narrative. We could have an expansion of lots of little stories rather than one big one.

5) Give me my ship back

Although this is only partly an issue, we never actually lost it from a gameplay perspective, I think in the next expansion our characters should, from a story perspective, get to reclaim and use their own spaceships again. The gravestone is cool and all but it’s not my Defender, ok?

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SWTOR: zones and faction impressions

Have you ever had a different impression, negative or positive, of a zone in a MMORPG because of one faction’s story versus the other’s?

Flapping the skies of Alderaan once more

Flapping the skies of Alderaan once more

I’m currently playing through Alderaan on my Imperial Agent, and have found the planetary storyline (it is faction-specific in SWTOR) to be very engaging. I have played Alderaan once before on our Imperial trio but I don’t remember the story as standing out particularly when I was playing a Bounty Hunter.

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There’s some great interaction between your character and the murky, fractious politics of this divided world. Although the politics does feature equally for Republic-side characters, I’m left with the feeling that the Imperial story is more impactful and has some less obvious¬† plot-developments. It might just be that this world ‘suits’ my Agent’s class and personality more than it did other characters so I’m identifying with the story more for those reasons.

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I’ve also been especially engaged by the Killiks this time around, probably because of the extra dimension that the Imperial Agent’s own class story brings (no spoilers in comments please!). The Killiks are pretty borg-like but more subtle a threat, perhaps – the people of Alderaan can and do negotiate with the Killiks. I liked the presentation of that threat on the Republic-side well enough, but I have the impression it’s handled better Imperial-side. I may have to replay the planet on a Republic character now, to refresh my memory for the comparison!

These zones, that I have played through four times already, have managed to present me with a fresh perspective on the planet. So not all content in MMORPGs has to lack repeat-play value, I’d say that’s one of SWTOR’s strengths.

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WoW: alt characters and repeating content

Since returning to the game last August, one of the side projects to my World of Warcraft sessions has been to finally get a Horde character caught up to the current expansion. We’ve always played a lot of alt characters in this MMO, end-game wasn’t that appealing (or accessible) to me or friends so alt leveling was a good way of passing the time between content patches. Up until Mists of Pandaria I had kept a kind of balance between the factions – with a clear bias towards Alliance – but I had leveled Horde characters to the cap several times. My engagement with the Pandaria and Draenor expansions, however, was so late in each expansion’s cycle and so short-lived that I didn’t make any real effort with Horde character leveling.

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We’ve been slowly leveling a trio of Hordies (I have a Troll priest) through Pandaria and Legion via dungeon runs. My husband and I wanted to see Frostfire Ridge, the one Warlords of Draenor zone we’d never played through (the Horde starter zone). It was good to see this ‘fresh’ content finally, but after playing the zone’s main story we then used dungeons again to level through the rest of the expansion – I’ve done the Draenor zones on enough characters to be bored with re-running the same quests.

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I feel I’ve probably reached the same point in Legion, starting Azsuna again on a fifth character (my priest) doesn’t appeal at the moment. The storytelling in the latest expansion is really good, but does this also make the content less repeatable? I think perhaps it is the combination of super fast leveling and highly directed stories in the zones. When we first started playing leveling was much slower and you didn’t have instant high level characters. Unless I created several alts at once, and played them in parallel, the time between repeating zones was not nearly as close as it is now.

Azsuna tour mark 4

Azsuna tour mark 4

This issue of repeatability extends forward past the leveling in Legion to the end-game and the Class Halls system. Although the Class Halls encourage alt play by their class-specific storylines and lore, they also have a lot of overlaps and systems that are identical. Likewise Suramar, it’s a beautifully designed zone with layers of quests to complete, but the majority of the play-through will be the same each time you repeat it.

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Although I want to level various classes through the expansion, I think that will have to wait some time, I can focus on world quests and the upcoming patches (7.1.5 this week and eventually 7.2) on my druid for now.

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Is falling damage a good or a bad thing?

Playing SWTOR again I’ve noticed how much falling damage is a thing still in some MMORPGs. Not all games have this – The Secret World doesn’t, and Rift patched it out quite a while ago.

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These days when I play SWTOR on my Shadow (and equally on my Imp. Agent) I tend to do a lot of sneaking around or randomly exploring. In this bit of one of the KOTET chapters I happened to spot an objective down below and decided to find a way to jump down. This time around it worked well, another time my character got stuck on a vine on the wall I was jumping diagonally to and in getting out I plunged down two levels and almost died.

Always climbing up in this game

Always climbing up in this game

Other games that do have falling damage do offer more ways to avoid it; I’ve mentioned the new movement options in the Legion expansion of World of Warcraft but then the game has always had ways of preventing falling damage (levitate, slow fall, Paladin bubbles, crafted items).

Testing the kite toy.

Testing the kite toy.

Although I can appreciate games not having falling damage, I think on balance I prefer to have it. Exploration as gameplay loses something if there’s no element or risk or danger. I saw this transition in Rift and overall lost some of the joy I used to take in climbing mountains at every opportunity when I could leap of the tallest peak without fear. MMORPGs are far from realistic in many ways but the ability of our characters in TSW to jump from high buildings without any noise or reaction to a fast and hard landing from our characters has always seemed a big immersion killer in that game.

WoW and EQ2 deal with this issue the best in my mind, they have falling damage but give characters the tools to deal with it if it’s a problem. SWTOR has falling damage but doesn’t give you much to mitigate the risk – so exploration can be thrilling (some of those datacrons are placed in very high places!) but equally it’s frustrating for my Bounty Hunter not to be able to break his fall with his jet pack or for my Jedi Master character to be able to reduce his falling speed with the force…

Do you think falling damage is a good or bad thing?

Posted in Gaming, SWTOR, WoW | 8 Comments