Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cartoon Network's MMO: FusionFall

It seems just like yesterday that the kid friendly Wizard 101 was launched to the sound of a million Harry Potter fans squealing in delight. Despite not having the rights to that most illustrious license they've still managed to create a fairly nice wizard MMO. I'll admit that most fans of the game seem to be those who like things "cute", but others simply enjoy having a game they can play with their little ones. You have to admit that sometimes the focus of World of Warcraft and other MMOs really isn't the best place for kids. You leave a child alone in a competitive online world like most MMOs and you run the risk of making one of those XBL brats.

That's why I'm glad to see something like FusionFall being made by Cartoon Network. The trailer makes it look more like a 3D flash game then a MMO, but it's a nice to see another teen oriented game world. I noticed that the non traditional MMOs designed for kids are also the ones that tend to try out new game designs. Wizard 101 bases combat around a card game and it looks like FusionFall will play more like an action-adventure game. The weapons are varied and I've seen all kinds of cartoonish bazookas and guns. They also seem to be going for some humor since I swore I saw someone beating a monster over the head with a giant turkey leg.

The real draw for FusionFall is going to be the characters of course. It looks like Cartoon Network took almost every popular show its had over the last ten years and put the characters into the game. Of course to appeal to their target audience they magically aged everyone into a teenager. I thought the idea was a little bit ridiculous at first, but it looks like they put some thought into it. Dexter is apparently a young resistance leader who provides most of the hi-tech weaponry in the game. I also think I saw grown-up versions of the Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack running around. Overall it reminds me of a cartoon version of City of Heroes in some ways.

It'll be fun to see how Cartoon Network moves forward with the game. I know they are planning on have a small portion of the game free-to-play much like Wizard101. It's still up in the air though if the main game will be based on subscriptions or micro-transactions. I believe the small studio that designed the game said they were avoiding the traditional leveling system found in MMOs. Instead they have some sort of skill and item system which players use to increase their powers. If it follows the trend of other youth oriented game they'll also be lots of outfits and fluff to collect. I'll most likely be trying out the free portions of the game and seeing how it plays. While it most likely won't be complex enough to be serious competition for AAA MMOs, it does look like it could be fun.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gearing up for Arena Season 5

I had just started to feel well geared again when the new arena season arrived yesterday. I hadn't really been paying attention to when the season was going to start and I'm embarrassed to say most of my gear was tuned for DPS and not survival. As a result I wanted to avoid jumping right into arena matches and try some other PvP activities beforehand. This resulted in me discovering that my newly inflated hit points meant nothing without the resilience to back it up. I had forgotten how much I had increased my critical strike rating while leveling and that other people were probably doing the same thing. I mean everyone started off losing a lot of crit each level in Northend. But overall the new gear at level 80 seems to allow much higher critical strike ratings then we had previously.

And if you've ever done any PvP in World of Warcraft then you know that high critical strike ratings means instant death for anyone not wearing resilience gear. The only fun I had at all last night was when I had seven stacks of tenacity in Lake Wintergrasp and was going around hitting tanks for 8,000 damage. My hit points had actually ballooned enough with the tenacity buff that it didn't matter everything was hitting me for double damage. Still this made me realize that if I honestly wanted to try PvPing this time around I might actually have to collect two sets of gear. I don't really have a problem with using multiple sets of gear even though my bank is dangerously overfilled. The problem is how to go about it since I failed to think ahead and save up some honor.

Methods for preparing for Arena Season 5

1.) Use current dungeon gear and stuff high-end resilience and stamina gems into every slot.
Cons: Expensive and not as good as PvP gear. Will decrease effectiveness in PvE.
Pros: Saves bag space

2) Buy a set of player made gear that has resilience. (saronite, frostweave, etc)
Cons: Will have lower stats then normal level 80 gear. Will take up bag space.
Pros: Better resilience then trying to use PvE gear

3) Use the blue honor gear
Cons: Very time intensive to get, unless you had honor squirreled away.
Pros: Good advantage over other beginning arena teams

4) Just wear PvE gear while earning honor and arena points
Cons: Your rating probably won't be high enough to get many items
Pros: No cost and eventually you will be able to spend those arena points

I'm leaning towards either method 1) or 2) at the moment. I have a friend who can make the saronite plate gear and its might be the best solution since I only have 10,000 honor. I wasn't expected the battleground items to cost so much, but it looks like Blizzard raised the amount of honor you earn per battleground. It might be awhile before I get into the PvP groove again, but it still looks like a viable method of progressing in the game.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Arena Season 5

The PvP patch is coming today and starting off the new arena season for World of Warcraft. With it comes the delightful addition of PvP armor and weapons that are sure to be on most player's Christmas lists. Still there are some changes to the way things works with the newest arena season. Blizzard has learned a lot about PvP rewards from the previous expansion and they're trying not to repeat any mistakes. In the Burning Crusade they made the season one arena gear a little too powerful compared to the gear from heroics. This sort of resulted in a dead period where people mostly ignored heroic dungeons. It really wasn't until the Badge of Justice loot started to get better that heroics and Karazhan started to see a resurgence in popularity.

This time around it looks like Blizzard is allowing multiple ways of getting the arena gear. Players will be able to use emblems, honor points, and arena points to gear up for their cage matches. Blizzard also seems to be using a more complex tier system this time around. The new arena season looks like it will have three tiers to start with. Most likely as new arena seasons are introduced the lowest tier will be dropped.

Main Set Pieces and Weapons (chest, legs, etc)

Tier 1 - Blue Arena Gear (Savage Gladiators)
(Honor and Arena points: No Ratings) or Emblems of Heroism
Equal to the Blue level 80 gear from Heroic dungeons

Tier 2 - Epic Arena Gear (Hateful Gladiators)
(Arena points: Ratings from 1600-1800) or Emblems of Valor
Equal to the Epic level 80 gear from Heroic dungeons

Tier 3 - Epic Arena Gear (Deadly Gladiators)
(Arena points: Ratings in the 1900-2100)
Equal to 25 man raid gear but with more PvP stats (stamina, resilience)

Secondary Set pieces and accessories (bracers, rings, etc)

Tier 1 - Epic Arena Gear (Hateful Gladiators)
(Honor Points: Ratings in the 1600-1800)
Equal to the Epic level 80 gear from Heroic dungeons

Tier 2 - Epic Arena Gear (Deadly Gladiators)
(Honor points: Ratings in the 1900-2100)
Equal to 25 man raid gear but with more PvP stats (stamina, resilience)

I must say that I was not a fan of the introduction of rating requirements to PvP gear. There were too many ways to cheat the early versions of the arena system. Even with rating requirements a lot of players simply bought spots on high end teams or created a smurf team. By the time Blizzard ironed out all the bugs the cheaters were already a couple tiers ahead of most other players. This gear advantage made it impossible to compete fairly and I found myself wandering to other games that promised PvP glory. The same thing could happen again, but not unless a new flaw in the PvP reward system is found. Otherwise I think Blizzard has a fair chance of keeping a static, but somewhat satisfying PvP game going for quite some time.

Some good Arena Gear Links:
MMO Champion and WoWhead

Monday, December 15, 2008

Having Fun in Heroics

I've been real busy at work for the last month, but thankfully this breakneck pace tends to wind down for the winter holidays. It has put a damper on my free time though and the only game I've been able to enjoy has been Wrath of the Lich King. Luckily, the dungeons are proving to be quite entertaining if a bit too easy. My normal group of dungeon runners has pretty much skipped normal mode and jumped right into the heroics. In the Outlands if we had jumped straight into heroic mode this would have meant were almost out of PvE content. Thankfully, though it looks like a lot of ten man PUG groups form for Nax and the Wintergrasp raid instance.

In general, its been much easier to find pick up players to fill out our heroic runs in this expansion. I guess some of this could be related to the ease of the dungeons. More people feel comfortable doing heroics since they don't feature trash mobs that hit you for 10,000 damage. Still I think the revamp of the reputation system has also helped pick-up-groups in the expansion. Since you can earn reputation for any faction just by wearing their tunic, there's less fighting over specific dungeons. I know in the Burning Crusade people only ever wanted to run Mechanaar or the Daily Heroic. Mechanaar and the Daily Heroic was considered easy badges and the other dungeons were considered to be "not worth the effort".

Also the heroics were actually a little too hard in the Burning Crusade. It was considered much easier to run Karazhan and Zul'amon for badges rather then try to do them. In the Wrath of the Lich King most of the dungeons are simple and fairly quick to run. Most can be done in under a hour even with some accidental wipes. Heck, a few barely have any trash mobs at all and are just filled with boss encounters. The ones that are a bit longer often have better loot tables. Halls of Lightning in particular is more challenging then some of the other dungeons, but has the only epic two handed weapon from the heroics.

Anyways, I'm glad its been pretty easy to pick up additional group members since I'm currently in a very small guild. We're mostly real life friends and co-workers who been playing MMOs together for awhile now. Heck, some of them used to clear Kurn's Tower with me back in the original Everquest. We've seen how raiding has changed with the more modern games and how the classic hardcore approach has faded in popularity. Wrath of the Lich King may be a little too easy, but it gives us much more freedom to approach raiding without sacrificing our first born to a guild. As a result this might be the first game where we actually have a chance of seeing all the raid content.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Cooking now rules the Secondary Professions

When I first started playing World of Warcraft back in the day the best secondary profession to have maxed out was fishing. This was simply because it was great for making money. The random trash that you caught actually sold for a decent amount to vendors. People were making a fortune just by sitting in Ogrimmar or Stormwind and building up their fishing skill. If you were willing to travel a bit you could make even more money since several in-demand potions required special types of fish. Underwater breathing in particular was highly sought after since there weren't as many ways to get it back then. As more options were added to cooking and alchemy it became less dependent on fishing.

I think it was about this time that bandaging started to become more important. A lot of classes didn't have self healing capabilities and it became necessary for them to max out first aid. I know warriors in particular found it necessary especially if they wanted to level by solo questing. Blizzard most have thought this was unfair and they've slowly added many self healing abilities into the game. However, I don't think the first aid skill has scaled up at the same pace as gear in the expansions. In the original World of Warcraft a heavy runecloth bandage always returned a sizable amount of health. But the increases of stamina on modern gear have made it so bandages returns a much smaller percentage of health.

I know a heavy netherweave bandage in the Burning Crusade returned 3,400 health, which was about half my life before I got my hands on epic raiding gear. Nowadays though a heavy frostweave bandage in Wrath of the Lich King returns 5,800 health which is only about a third of my life in level 78 gear. I know several people who have over 20,000 hitpoints at level 80 and this is without any epic gear. While bandaging seems adjusted for standard gear inflation it seems to quickly fall behind at the end game. I think this plays a big role in why it's not as vital a secondary profession as it used to be. Even the higher level dense frostweave bandage probably won't heal more then 50% of a player's life if they have Naxxaramas gear. It's gotten to the point where eating cooked food is better then bandaging since its easy to get and adds decent stats.

Cooking used to just help players recover mana and hitpoints faster then if they ate normal bought food. It was a handy profession since it saved you from buying food or drinks, but it wasn't particularly vital. This of course changed when Blizzard added a few high level recipes that increased player statistics. Raiding guilds started using stat food as part of their strategy to max out buffs for raid encounters. This did cause some resentment for casual players since early stat recipes like Chamaeroks Chops often required raid encounters to learn. Eventually, Blizzard decided that stat food should be more widely available and gave them to trainers in the Burning Crusade.

Wrath of the Lich King followed the same trend and several powerful recipes can be learned from the trainers in the starting zones. Most of these recipes use drops from normal mobs and raise vital stats like stamina or crit rating. Even more impressive is that once a player has maxed out their cooking skill they can learn recipes which give them different abilities. Dalaran has a daily quest which gives out special recipes for gaining the ability to track humanoids or beasts. There's even feast recipes that allow players to basically lay out a mage table. People can then click on the feast to regain health, mana, and even gain a bonus stat. Its a great way to start out a dungeon run and nothing beats shouting out FEAST like in those snickers commercials.