On RNG or Why Can’t I Pull A Good Hand

So stretching a bit for a topic here, but I’m trying to post more again.

This weekend, like the last few before it, were mostly spent playing Hearthstone and World of Warcraft. Most of Saturday I ended up working, but either way my gaming would have been the same. The majority of the latter half of Saturday night was spent on Hearthstone building and researching decks and trying them out. The one thing that always seemed to happen is that I’d lose a match because I couldn’t pull that one combination of cards that I needed, or in a couple cases top decked just the right card to pull off a very, very narrow victory.

That happening just reminds me of how much I loath RNG in games. Granted I see the point of it, especially in a card game, but that doesn’t mean I can’t loathe it. Especially when you start the night at rank 18 and end at rank 20 (though as of last night I’m up to rank 17). So I guess it is more of a love/hate relationship. I think there’s a saying for this, “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword”, something like that.

I do have some screenshots I’ve been meaning to post over on anook, so keep an out out there for them. I like taking screenshots of legendary / rares I get out of packs or really close matches.

I feel like I had more to discuss here, namely some memorable RNG in WoW but I got interrupted at work when I was typing this up (on lunch, not while supposed to be working) and lost my train of thought.

I’ve seriously considered streaming some Hearthstone, but I am not sure anyone would want to watch someone who loses most of their matches.

On 10 years 10 Questions

I’ve seen a few people mentioning this on twitter so I thought I’d give this a shot.

1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

I started playing mainly because all of my college friends were playing. When WoW first came out I was a full time college student, and I didn’t have a very well paying job so I was using the household PC. I didn’t jump on WoW right away either, because at the time I didn’t like the graphical style, so I was playing Everquest 2. Eventually I did pick it up, but had a ton of issues with my computer. Namely that while playing WoW my computer would reboot every 30 minutes. I’m pretty sure I leveled to 50 this way. But short answer, I started playing because I wanted to do stuff with my friends.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

I think that the first character I ever rolled was a hunter, but I don’t think he lasted very long. My second character was a mage and I still play him to this day. He’s always been, and always will be my main character and I use that name in every game I play.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

My friends were all rolling alliance, so I rolled alliance.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

I mentioned this in a post the other day, but one of my earliest raiding experiences is probably one of my most memorable times in the game. Another top memory is the night that Burning Crusade launched. I had pre-ordered the collectors edition and everything was patched up and ready to go. Everyone on the server was standing out by the portal waiting for it to open up so we could go in to the new area. I staid up way to late that night, but that remains my favorite WoW expansion launch still.

5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

Exploration and achievements have always been why I keep coming back to the game. There are always things to do in the game. A lot of other MMO’s I’ve tried over the years just fall apart after you reach the max level.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

I can’t really say that I have a favorite area in the game. I tend to find myself sticking to whatever area is the current one for content.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I honestly don’t know this right now, so I’ll have to update this later. I can say thought that it has not been continuous. Over the span of 10 years I’ve taken several breaks. Some for just a few months and at most a year. I always seem to come back though.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

I try to, but more often than not I just glance at it. That has, on occasion, come back to bite me in the rear.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

Not starting the game earlier would probably be my biggest regret. By the time I started playing all of my friends had moved on to the end game content so I wound up doing all the levels available by myself. I never got to do the starter dungeons at level for various reasons because of this. At the time there was no group finder, and I was much shyer than I am today. The only time I ever ran with a pug group was if one of my friends was there and they got me in.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

I’m having a hard time thinking of any effects that I could solely relate to playing Warcraft. I know for sure I spent more time playing than studying, which is one factor in why it took me longer to graduate than it should have. But I have also met some really good friends on there that I still play with and talk to out of game.

oh and here’s the source

On Warlords

So here’s the thing, I pre-ordered the Warlords of Draenor expansion yesterday. I know, I’m weak. I have no willpower. Hal Jordan I am not. There has been some discussion related to what people call an “item squish” that is going to reduce stats to be more reasonable (no more 1 million hit points you silly tanks you). But that discussion is for another day. Mainly one where I have time to fully research it and talk knowledgeably about it. This was more just me making a confession.

So yesterday my buddy Kodra (from the Aggrochat podcast) posted what he considered a significant grouping experience, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I’ve told this story to people on voice chat a few times, and it always gets a good chuckle. So I figure I can share it here as it’s a short story, and I need something to talk about.

Keep in mind, at the time World of Warcraft had only been out for maybe a couple years and at this point I had no raiding experience what-so-ever. Most of my grouping experience came from doing the end game content. Which at the time was Scholomance. I knew my role, go pew-pew and tank the floor. I was good at it. Especially tanking the floor. But I also had some skill in crowd control, which sadly has become less useful as the game has progressed.

At the time my college friends and I were in our own little guild, not part of the larger guild that most of us ended up in. They were part of a raiding group consisting of older people who generally only could play in the evenings. You know, adults with real jobs. They had formed a group of people that did the raiding content, and did it well. I heard my friends talking about it at school and eventually I started doing some group content with a few of those people. One of which turned out to be my future buddy Belghast (he wasn’t playing as Belghast back then so I didn’t know).

At some point or another they needed an extra dps to fill in for a night when they were running Zul’Gurub and they asked me to come along. This was back in the day when that was still a 40 man raid, not an entirely soloable 5 man dungeon. I don’t remember the entire run, other than things were going pretty smoothly up until the point I almost wiped the raid. We were in the middle of some trash pull and I was clicking buttons as I do when I accidentally cast a portal to Stormwind. Some people, not paying attention clicked on said portal and were whisked away right out of the fight. Back then all the portal spells were separate in the spell book, and I had them on my hotbar so I could get around without having to look them up.

So I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Don’t have portal or teleport on your hotbar. EVER.

I also didn’t get to raid for awhile. But they eventually let me come back. A while later Bel bribed me in to joining his guild which had a lot of those people and I started doing raid content with them. I don’t raid much anymore, but that one experience is up there in my all time favorites, even if all the details on it aren’t clear. Namely, I’m only fairly sure we were in combat when that happened, it might have just been a funny accident outside of combat.

On Road Trips

If you listened to the last AggroChat podcast you’ll have heard this bit already. I’m going on vacation tomorrow driving up to visit my friends Belghast and Rae. It’s not a very long drive, but I don’t get to take these kinds of trips often. I’ll have my phone hooked up to my aux jack in my car listening to “Death Masks” by Jim Butcher as read by James Marsters. This series of books has quickly become one of my favorites, and nothing beats having Spike read to you. If you’ve never read the Dresden Files of books I would highly recommend it, and if you have that much more disposable income I’d get the audio book.

While I won’t get in to the details of where I’m going, or where I’m driving from I’ll say that I’m very much looking forward to this trip. Partially because I’ve been really busy at work and really need some time off, and also because I’m getting to meet some good friends for the first time.

As a bit of background I started playing World Of Warcraft around the time it was launched, back in what veteran players call “Vanilla”. Some time after the launch of the first expansion several of my friends were raiding with a group that called themselves the “Late Night Raiders”. Belghast was part of this group, at the time a hunter. On occasion when they were desperate enough I would get invited along to raid. This was way back before I was serious about raiding, and I’ll admit I wasn’t very good at it. I was commonly referred to as the floor tank because I was dead more often than I was alive. So that is to say I’ve been playing with Bel for a long time, longer than I actually realized since at the time his character name was not the one I came to know.

Eventually I was talked in to joining the guild that Bel had started up and proceeded to get more in to doing current content, whether that was dungeons or raids. I was never the “best” mage in the raid but I did my best. Eventually I hit a bit of a burnout phase and left the game for awhile. The thing about our Bel, is that he is a lot like me. We both try out a lot of MMO’s when they come out though he tends to stick around longer than I do in most cases. This applies to a lot of folks in our guild though, so whenever a new MMO pops up there are usually at least enough of us to have a regular group to play with.

This is how I met Rae. I’m sure that we played together in WoW at some point, but I think the first time we started actually having conversations was when we were playing Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn together. Rae, like Bel, myself and a vast number of our guild mates are all software people with similar interests which is why I like hanging out in voice chat with them. If not for them I probably would have given up on MMO’s a long time ago and not met many interesting people from all over the world.

So considering I’ve known Bel for the better half of my 20’s and now in to my 30’s we’ve never actually met in person. I finally have gotten to a place where I am mostly financially comfortable to take a weekend trip, so I’ll be driving over to hang out. There probably won’t be any video games played unless I get bored in my hotel room at night, in which case I’ll probably mess around in Hex or Hearthstone. However, Friday night we’ll be breaking out some board games and pizza and having a, hopefully, good time. I might fail to post for a couple days, or if I do it will either be very early in the day or very late.

On PVP – Player Choice or Mandatory

PVP is something that I’ve discussed a little bit before when talking about ArcheAge and that games “always on” PVP. After reading another blog by my friend Ashgar where he mentions PVP I thought that I’d go a little bit more in to the subject.

It is an established fact that I am not the worlds biggest fan of PVP in games, whether it is option or required. One of the most annoying things that can ever happen to me is being killed by another player, in some cases repeatedly. The first MMO that I ever played that had what I’d consider “always on” PVP was Lineage 2. Leading up to the game I thought it looked amazing, the graphics looked great and I thought I’d have a lot of fun playing it. I don’t remember the specifics of their PVP system, but I know that if you attacked another player you were basically red flagged as a player-killer (pk’er). This essentially flagged you for pvp allowing anyone to come and kill you without consequences.

So naturally the first thing that happened when I hit left the starter area? Someone attacked me and immediately disengaged, but I still ended up killing them in self defense. However, since they had disengaged from the fight I got the flag. This lead to them standing there farming me, so every time I would respawn they’d just kill me again. Needless to say I got tired of that very quickly and I stopped playing that game within a day and I haven’t played it since. That’s probably the prime example of why I don’t like a PVP system that doesn’t give me a choice. People are jerks.

As I’ve mentioned the one aspect of ArcheAge that I am not looking forward to is PVP. From my understanding there are areas where you will always have to worry about being killed/farmed by other players, but, you can also be attacked and killed by players of your own faction. That in and of itself is a problem, but where it gets annoying is that the game seems to reward certain types of players for doing this. In ArcheAge players can become pirates by essentially being a-holes. Every time you do something illegal you get crime points, and the justice system allows players to judge you and sentence you to jail. Eventually this will make you a pirate. So what’s the quickest way to be a pirate? Be a jerk.

Now, I don’t have a problem with responsible PVP. If you want to do that it should be up to you. I don’t want it forced on me when that is not something I enjoy. In my opinion games like World Of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online have it right because, while they have PVP, they don’t require you to do it. There are certainly benefits to it such as titles and other rewards, but you certainly don’t have to do it. World of Warcraft has specific server types that do allow for “always on” PVP, but you don’t have to play on those servers. Personally I prefer RP servers because the communities are generally more mature, not guaranteed but at least more likely.

Now there are also games that are specifically designed for PVP and they are gaining in popularity. These are games like League Of Legends and the upcoming Heroes of the Storm from Blizzard. These types of games are called MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas). I’m not to familiar with the objectives of these games, but I would consider them PVP based so these types of games will probably never be installed on my computer.

So to summarize, I don’t think PVP should be required in a game. If it has to be there then I think it should be optional either by having non-required areas set aside for it, or servers where you opt in to always being PVP flagged. I can guarantee if I play ArcheAge the minute some jerk starts farming me just so they can become a pirate I will quit the game.

On Character Defense – Active Dodging And Stats

This subject came up the other day when I was filling in on the Aggrochat podcast for my friend Belghast, and I thought I’d expand upon my thoughts a little bit.

For a bit of background, I’ve been playing MMO’s for many years now starting with Star Wars Galaxies. Before that I dabbled in MUDs (Multi User Dungeons for the youngins’). So you can say I’ve been around the block a few times. Most of the games that I’ve played up till this point have used stats for determining how much damage you take, and how much is deflected. Recently I’ve played several games that have started implementing “Active Dodging” systems. “Active Dodging” sits on top of your defensive stats, but introduces the ability to try to avoid taking damage by timing your dodge and moving out of the way. This is usually accomplished by double tapping a direction which makes your character doge in that direction.

The first game that I played that had this system was Guild Wars 2, and it is currently being used in Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online. I’m sure there are others I am not aware of, and I couldn’t say for certain Guild Wars 2 was the first game to use it. These are just examples from the games that I’ve personally played.

Now as far as I can tell, the act of “active dodging” is optional. You can stand there and take it if that is what you want to do, but I think the fact that the system is implemented is a good indication you should use it. You still have defensive stats based on your armor class, and attribute points, so you don’t have to rely purely on your double tapping skills. Personally I kind of suck at it. If I had to rely solely on my ability to time a dodge I’d die a lot more in games.

I have mixed feeling about “active dodging” still. The more I use it the more I adapt to that play style but there are times I do miss not having to worry about it. I’ve played World Of Warcraft so long that I am used to the stat based defense where you just look for better armor ratings and let the damage be mitigated by your stats.

That being said, I do think the new dodging system is pretty interesting. You have to have some actual skill to avoid attacks as you cannot simply rely one your armor anymore. This requires the player to be attentive and know what they’re doing. Most of the games I’ve seen with this system show you a sort of attack area that you need to get out of, similar to the area of affect graphics (or poo on the ground) from older games such as WoW. Of the games that I have played recently Elder Scrolls Online handles this the best. There is a nice combination of dodging skill, but there is still a fair amount of mitigation based on what type of gear you’re wearing.

There is an added benefit that I thought of while typing this up, and I’m not sure if it is as effective as I’m thinking. But, in games like Elder Scrolls players who do not actively dodge might have a harder time surviving solo play. This might be an effective bot deterrent since I’m not aware of any bot smart enough to block/actively dodge. This might be why you always see them in clusters though. A solo bot at least would have a harder time.

So to end today’s post I will say that I think that I’m starting to enjoy the new “active dodging” system when it is done right. I might not be very good at it, but I think that is is a welcome addition to the genre and requires people to have actual skill.

I do understand that this system might not be for everyone, and I believe this is discussed in the podcast linked above. For some people this might be enough of an issue to prevent them from buying the game. That’s fine though, every player enjoys different things. It doesn’t bother me enough that I wouldn’t at least give the game a chance.


On Different Graphics Styles

Lately I’ve been talking about various aspects of player preferences, housing, and character customization to be specific. Today I plan to talk a little bit about preference in graphical styles. In my opinion these styles can be broken down to “cartoonish” to “realistic”. That’s a fairly broad description but I think it’s fairly hard to judge because most games fall more in the middle.

I’ll probably catch some grief for this, but when I say “cartoonish” graphics the game I would use as my primary example is World of Warcraft. Though with the upcoming release of Wildstar I’d say that this title may soon be transferred. When I talk about “realistic” design I’m talking about something that looks like Elder Scrolls Online.

When I look at graphic styles I tend to look at three main characteristics, character design, and color palette. I can’t really count world design in this because I have never seen a game that didn’t have what I’d call standard terrain. Character design and color palette are a bit more unique depending on the look that the game is going for. Now when I talk about character design I’m not talking about “Eastern vs Western” character designs, I’m talking about design.

When you compare character design between Wildstare/WoW to Elder Scrolls Online you can see the obvious differences. Body proportions and physical appearance. It’s hard to describe this in words so screenshots.  The biggest difference that can be spotted is the hands.

WoWScrnShot_051114_103140 Screenshot_20140511_103922

The other noticeable difference is the color palette. Just saying a game is cartoony based on brighter versus darker colors is not entirely accurate. I think this more of a personal opinion than any definitive proof, but when I think realistic I think of a lot of shadows and darker tones. When I see bright colors I think of all the cartoons I watched growing up in the late 80’s & 90’s.

So this whole thing boils down to what do you, as the player, prefer when you play a game. Personally I would go for a middle ground. I like the brighter/cartoony colors, but I like my characters to be more realistic. I think the most accurate representation of what I would like graphics wise is Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn, and from what I’ve seen of ArcheAge. The character models are what I would consider realistic. Neither of these is a make or break factor for me though.  I prefer the realistic models over the cartoony ones, so if you offered me a choice between one or the the other I’d pick the realistic one.

A Wild Podcast Appears

So to close this up, I have a special treat. I’ve mentioned my friend Belghast a few times, and if you follow me on twitter I’ve been linking his podcast. So this past Friday I was laying around watching Netflix when I got a chat message from our friend Rae asking me if I’d fill in for them. Two of their regular co-hosts were out this weekend for family stuff and could not make it. So I got to be on their podcast. We talk about a lot of different topics, and I had a really good time. So feel free to go give it a listen.