Monday, October 28, 2013

Age of Conan is my teh hardcorez MMO, World of Warcraft is my guilty pleasure

It is no secret that I am less than pleased with my current Age of Conan content. Quite honestly I can either do T4 raids (which are fun) once a week or do pointless daily minigames (in which I get verbally abused increasingly often). Since a "try Mists of Pandaria for free" e-mail landed in my inbox I have decided to take ol' WoW for a spin after *gasp* 5 years break. I have to admit that I still keep tabs on WoW via The Instance podcast which is my all time favorite and it made me want to try WoW again more than once.
Of course once you actually log into WoW you will be hit with cheesy graphic, gnomes riding motocycles and naked Night Elves dancing the night away on the post box in Goldshire. I could have easly alt+F4 the game at that point and go back to my teh hardcorez MMO, but I knew all too well that AOC has nothing to offer and most likely I will just sit my ass in Kara Korum and wait for minigame window to pop. I have decided to "go with the flow" and just accept whatever I will be served without juding it too much. Think of it like going to weird-ass asian restaurant and getting some absurd dish like snake's penis.Fine, so there are gnomes, whatever. Since I had only lowbies toons (like 20 lvl warlock) I went to total option zero and just guessed it, A ROGUE. It took me a while to get used to the non-combo based system, but as I checked the possible builds it seemed like WoW has a very complex system of cross-skill synergies that can be mixed and matched for different results. I have to admit that quiting in Vanilla WoW (that is right kids, pre BC!) I am amazed how at every turn WoW just shouts at me: "hey dude! Remember this shit that used to piss you off? We fixed it!". Literally every single thing is different and in my opinion: BETTER. Of course this could be "new & shiny" factor, but WoW just wants to be so damn convenient. I remember how I used to get upset how it takes forever to get a group together for decent dungeon run and that issue is gone with dungeon finder (it puts DPS, healer and a tank in a group and then ports it into the dungeon). Comparing that to AOC is pointless as AOC is still knee deep in 2008 reality of "LFM need tank and healer".
I feel like I shouldn't compare those games at all. World of Warcraft has virtually unlimited resources that they can spend on whatever they desire. Flex Raiding? Sure. On the other hand Age of Conan takes 3 years to develop crafting system and even such a minor change as pvp weapon adjustment  is a challenge of a titanic proportions.
What I am interested in is PVP. WoW seems like it picked up the slack and not only it packs essential content like arenas and battle grounds, but also a very innovative concept of "PVP armor and weapons are best gear for PVP". Again, I hate to compare, but in yesterday's minigame I was actually THE ONLY PLAYER without PVE weapon - be it crafted T3 or T4. I am not saying that WoW is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I will be damned if I won't admit that it is just rock solid MMO with a lot to offer.
What will become of my recent dabble with WoW? Probably nothing as I am way too invested in AOC to "give up" that easily (trust me, if I could I would have done it years ago), but I would be lieing if I said that I won't be logging on here and there and paying close attention to what the future holds for Azeroth (with the next expansion right around the corner). Why not? It's not like I am missing out on anything significant in AOC. Oh, new unchained dungeons are coming?

[Slith]: LFM unchained scorpions cave, need 2 tanks and healer, gear & exp.

damn it... -_-

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Unchained loot

In a sudden turn of events CirithGorgor, a Senior Designer at FC, deiced to post full loot tables for upcoming unchained dungeons, thus effectively changing a bullshit policy of making the players data mine all the loot. You can find the post here.

This is smart and it makes giving feedback all that easier. So I am going to do JUST THAT, give out feedback on the new loot from Assassin class perspective.

I will give feedback by comparing new loot to the Khitai gear as it is, by far,  a best benchmark for all upcoming content. Why? Khitai gear provides best balance of power and accessibility which pretty much translates to one of the best gear in game that is one of the easiest to get. Nuff said, lets get to work:

Amulet of Ancient Python vs Amulet of Finesse: while Finesse still provides superior punch in terms of raw DPS Python gives that -hate rating. However I don't think that the trade off is fair enough to make Python a viable alternative to Finesse. As it is right now I would keep Python in my inventory for the fights where the tank is badly geared and I would need to up my -hate and downgrade my gear at the same time.
Suggestions: bumping up dex to 100 and hate to 30 to make it slightly more DPS friendly. Make it Dex based.

Trinket of Old Acheron vs Amulet of Finesse: Acheron offers great alternative to Finesse and the fatality rating is almost tailored exclusively to assassins (which I like). With the right gear configuration assassin can hit very high flat fatality chance which is great for solo PVEing. I very much like the fatality rating on it, it is VERY viable stat for assassin.
Suggestion: remove -hate rating. Having -hate makes it superior to Pyton and Finesse at the same time. Python should be low DPS but good -hate, Finesse should give balanced stats with hit rating and Acheron could be a raw DPS.

The rings are pretty unique so it is hard to find a good rings to compare them to. That means GOOD design right off the bad.

Ring of Ancient Python vs Death's Ward: While Ward gives great overall mitigation and protection and Python is more specialised ring with group PVE in mind. The -hate seem a little low (especially compared to Acheron ring).
Suggestion: downgrade the constitution to 50, but bump up Hate to solid 25. I am not even sure that -hate is the right stat at all for this ring.

Ring of Old Acheron vs  Bone Loop:  An awesome example of fair trade off in terms of stats. Bone loop pack a whooping 407 CR which is a clear advantage over Acheron's 314 CR, BUT Acheron brings great -hate and a offhand rating that shines in those long raid fights.
Suggestion: seems like a very nicely made item already.

Abyssal Cloak of the Death Master vs Cloak of the Garrison vs Bladekissed Cloak of the final Goodnight: With raw CR of 451 Garrison places right behind Goodnight's 470 and far behind Death Master with it's  531. Garrison still remains the cloak of choice for group PVE because of good DPS followed with good -hate. Death Master is not trying to be cloak for everything, but is offering great power coupled with much needed survivability. Death Master is surpassing Goodnight at everything, but Goodnight still could be an interesting choice in PVP for its Cold combat rating. Overall I like Death Master and it's even a good alternative to T4 cloak when it comes to solo PVE.
Suggestion: it's perfect already.

Dagger of the Blood Hunter vs Edge of the Night Spirits vs Requiem of Pain: I don't like new Hunter dagger at all. Requiem of Pain provides great 80 DPS just from base weapon damage and nothing post T3 that is not T4 comes close to that. I hate that all non-raiding daggers are trash when it comes to base damage. Night Spirits can get away with low base weapon damage because those are pretty unique. When you get two Night Spirits you can great fatality rating (top that off with Relish in Death feat of +15% base fatality chance), great offhand rating and decent cirtical and bonus critical.
Hunter brings a BIG NOTHING to the table: it doesn't have the raw DPS of Requiem not the uniqueness of Night Spirits. Lets check out the stats: base DPS is 0,3 behind Spirits which is a bit "no-no" right off the bat. Same DEX, much lower crit related stats and a 1 point better offhand rating. The only difference is health tap rating which pays off when you have good DPS which you won't get with this weapon. I am not sure what I am supposed to do with this item: it's not for raiding, it's not a DPSers wet dream and it can't be configured into any special build (as Spirits can fit into offhand/fatatlity chance build).
It needs to be teared down and made again from scratch.
Suggestion: base weapon damage needs to be 80 DPS, second you need to decide what is this weapon for. I would suggest making it -hate as there isn't really any good starter raiding dagger. Health tap can also make it a good solo PVE stat, but there are better daggers for solo PVE.

Dagger of the Blood Hunter (BOE) vs Abyssal Slicer: first I thing that I have noticed is a spelling error as "Blood Hunter" is spelled  "Bloodhunter" on the second dagger. I am not a big grammar guy but make up your mind about spelling and stick to it :D  This dagger is BOE so I figured it is a some kind a of starter dagger that you can get off trader. It offers too much DPS for a BOE weapon as compared to other unchained BOP drop - the Abyssal Slicer. First off base DPS is the same which is just wrong but it gets worst: flat CR is higher of BOE Blood Hunter with 314 as compared to Abyssal's 240. Furthermore Blood Hunter is offering more varied and usefull stats making it a clear choice over Abyssal.
Suggestion: lower base DPS to 74 and trade off some stats for a little bit of constitution and higher hit rating, thus making it a perfect starter dagger for someone going into Khitai. Right now it makes all previous, old world epic daggers obsolete (Widow's Pain, Scorpion's Pray and that golden Khitai dagger) and it also rivals Abyssal too much for BOE weapon.

Again this is hard to compare because the stats composition is pretty unique. I will try to analyse different pieces from different sets.

Vest of Blood Hunter vs Blade's tunic of silent kill: same armor and critigation. Blade is all about CR which it has 513 of. To my surprise Hunter isn't really all that far behind with 500! When it comes to constitution Blade is doubling what Hunter has which makes sense as Hunter has other stats that suggest it's different application. Blade's superior hit rating also makes it more viable in Khitai and other zones like Dragon's Spine. Critical rating and Critical damage rating are pretty much matched. Hunter rounds up it's stats with some -hate rating and some protection. Overall Hunter looks like a viable alternative while not challenging Blade at what it's best at: damage and survivability.
Suggestion: I slight downgrade in Hunter's critical rating (down to 50) and critical damage rating (down to 65) while bumping up hit rating to +30 somethings. Hunter is too close in terms of crits to Blades while Hit rating is waaay too low even for some Khitai dungeons making the armor user too prone to misses and evades on Bosses.

Gloves of Blood Hunter vs Darkblades of the secret doors: Items are matched on armor and Darkblade has more critigation (it's not all that important stat for Assassin anyway).  Darkblades with it's CR of 251 falls short of Hunter's 335. The rest fall into Hunters favor: more critical rating, hit rating, offhand rating and -hate.It's a good trade off for Darkblade's 113 protection and 32 Constitution while Blood Hunter brings only 65 protection to the table. Hunter seems like a good alternative while not surpassing Darkblade at what it does best which is giving out loads of protection.
Suggestions: it's fine

Facemask of Blood Hunter vs Hood of the Usurper: both items are matched on armor and critigation. Usurper opens up with slightly more constitution followed by stamina stat which is pretty much useless in 4.0 reality. Hunter tops the Usurper with 521 CR over 439.  Usurper has a bit more hit rating, but a bit less cirtical rating. When it comes to those item's applications in group PVE Usurper gets the number 1 spot with more than double Hate Decrease Rating. The protection stat on Hunter doesn't really shines all that much.
Suggestions: Hunter is an interesting item when compared to Usurper. I think its fine for what it is trying to be good at which is a group PVE item with balanced stats. Usurper is more specialized gear.
I would strongly advise to change the model for assassin head gear. For years now the game doesn't offer any real "assassiny" head gear and by that I mean: ninja mask, hoods, hoods with masks, face bandanas etc. This is another obscure head gear that doesn't fit assassin theme at all. Assassin armor needs to look like it is made for assassin and not some kind of shaman or other weirdo.  You can re-use Bossonian Prowler mask for this as it would fit the design of this re-used and re-painted model.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

No progression hurts AOC

I am very upset by a feeling that Age of Conan ia stuck in this perpetual cycle of waiting for "better stuff that is coming" and receiving stuff that is aimed at fresh/intermediate lvl 80 character that no one really wants (fresh lvl 80 characters have almost too much content options already).

Age of Conan is not build on tried & true MMO rules such as faction split and raising level cap and that creates a lot of issues in the long run.

Let me be honest: I like that the pop is not split into two factions (a'la horde vs alliance) and I like that we are at lvl 80 cap while trying to re-use old content and make the whole world more dense and usable. That's cool, I can get behind that. What I don't like is the fact that for the last 2-3 years game pretty much stood still for me with little to no new content. You might be shouting now (if you gave two shits about it) "No new content Slith? We had tons!" sure we did, but I believe that at the very core of MMORPG lies the very basic idea for progressing your character and that is sorely lacking.

AA progression
I like the AA system even thou I am well aware of it's flaws. It was an elegant solution to the "lets rise lvl cap to 90 and make old world empty shell" and it worked, for the most part, very well. In truth you just need about 50% of all AA perks because whatever else you will get after the essential stuff is just a filler that won't benefit you with passive buffs nor you will ever  use other active stuff that most popular 2-3 perks.
A lot of veterans are by now capped on AA progression, not only on that meaningful 50% of stuff worth getting, but literally they have bought every AA possible. I am also AA capped and by this time and, considering how casual I am about group pve, I think many others are too. Too add insult to injury I am still getting mastery/prowess points so by the time we get new AAs, say in 2015, I am almost sure that I will be able to simply buy out everything with few clicks. For this reason alone I think new method of progression should NOT be part of AA because, since programmers didn't have the forth sight to cap AA points at certain amount, veteran players have already hoarded tons of AA ready to be spent on new stuff.

Item progression
I am sure that this is the "Achilles heel" of AOC as the game have struggled with itemization from it's very beginning. The issue with old system was that it made creating "meaningful gear progression" very, very hard (I would agree) so it was re-written into more classic stats system in 2009. Four years later Funcom got cough in it's own loop hole as it's super hard to create anything that it better than Khitai, but not so close to T4 that it makes raiding obsolete.


T3 quest item. Awesome at it's time of realise.

New unchained dungeon drop. An utter shit in 2013
 So freshly made lvl 80's have lots and lots of loot options while veterans can just get all Khitai stuff and stay in T4 raiding (if they want and CAN raid T4 with their guilds). It makes the new dungeons in Dragon's Spine very unattractive and, while they are  PUGed on Crom, on Fury even guild teams are not doing them.
If there is not item progression incentive then only people that are extremely "PVE passionate" will go there. There is nothing wrong with making hard dungeons with weak loot that are ran only by said passionate players that all are about PVE challenge, right? Well I am not a game developer (but I play one on TV!), but spending a limited resources to create content that will appeal only to niche group of players at are small percentage of overall population, generally speaking, sounds like a very bad idea.

What is the solution? It sure as hell is not plain "better loot" because indeed at some point devs will crank out something that is T4 equivalent or better and whole kind of hell will get lose. At the same time shitting out garbage like Hell Walker amulet is just aggravating. We need a new system to address this because this issue is otherwise solved by raising level cap. Sure raising level cap makes your hard earned epics worst that trash blues in the new zones, BUT you have new stuff to be looking forward to. I prefer THAT over buying a hyrkanian dagger in 2011 and getting stuck with till 2014.

Before Funcom got re-structured ye old game director had this idea of set bonuses. The idea was if you were wearing full set of certain armor you would get bonuses for doing so. It was far from perfect, but you couldn't argue one thing: it made getting full set kinda desirable. Otherwise I am sure as hell NOT getting new Crawling Chaos pants to get 7 hit rating upgrade over my Brittle Blade ones. And so I didn't. I am paying for Dragon's Spine content as premium member, but to say that I have underplayed it is a gross UNDERstatement. Dragon's Spine is just bad and it is prime example why Funcom can't create new content without introducing new mechanics first.

Talking about beating a dead horse here :X The amount of pvp lvl 10 players is just staggering and that is not only thanks to Bori (I am of the opinion that Bori PvPers left the game long ago out of sheer boredom), but because, it the end, it's not THAT hard if one it really into pvp. The upcoming unchained minigames, as I see this, are same old same old minus gear.

which brings me to other issue called......

"Catching up game"
It very much seems like Funcom is making everything with "new people that need to catch up" in mind. By the very design if FC makes any more progression to veterans it will create bigger gap. Why that is an issue? If someone has 3 years of advantage playing AOC then no one should be handled tools to "catch up" aka given a shortcut to reach a destination which took others years to reach. I am not saying that new customers shouldn't be taken care of, but I fail to see the reasoning to give them preference over veterans when creating content. Unless... Oh yeah, it just occurred to me that it's easy as pie to create new content for fresh lvl 80 characters and it's very hard to do the same for vets. Still it is the veteran players who keep this game running and keeping one vet in game will probably create more income than several casual players who will just do some F2P gaming and jump onto new & shiny MMO that is coming  out soon.

What is the solution?
I am big fan of customization. HUGE fan in fact. Buffing veterans further is not really all that creative and +5% to my GC damage won't really add all that much to the game play and my enjoyment of the game. 
Here are few ideas that I would like to see in game in some shape or form:

1. leveling up weapons - kinda borrowed from LOTRO, but it would be nice to be able to get that form of personal attachment to the weapon, especially if you could name it.

2. glyphs system - WoW has this. It's pretty much a way to customize your old abilities with new stuff. For example we could have glyp of souls and glyp of lotus weakness. If equiped these would add to the lethargy combo either chance to capture soul shards (gryp of solus) or add -10% magic damage debuff (glyp of lotus weakness). Of course this would another issue with the balance of the classes, but at SOME POINT Funcom needs to face this (over avoidance of it is painfully evident).

3. class specialization and new trees - it would be awesome to upgrade your character into "hero version" of it's original class. Assassin would be Master Assassin, Dark Templar would be Dark Crusader and so on. This would open up another tree similar to current feat trees and in order to get points to spend them there you would need AA points. Again it is question of balance.

4. New levels a'la paragon system in D3 - What are paragon levels?

The current system of Paragon levels was added into Diablo III in the v1.0.4 patch on August 22, 2012.[1] The system is an end game feature that provides additional levels and bonuses for characters once the reach the max level of 60. Once at max level all experience gained by a character counts towards his Paragon level. Characters can level up to Paragon 100, and each level awards that character a passive bonus of 3% to Magic Find and Gold Find, plus the same attribute bonuses as a normal level up (3 to the class main stat, 2 vitality, 1 to the other two stats).
So this is a small benefit that you can get over time. Not my definition of "fun", but is still a form of progression.

5.  crafting - crafting can be a form of progression, but it doesn't have an universally appeal. Some are just NOT crafters nor they will ever be regardless of how good the new system is. At the core of the game is brutal combat and cranking out "really good mage pants" via crafting will never have same impact on general population and it's enjoyment of the game.

6. new pvp levels - YES PLEASE! If Funcom intend to keep this game around (the company have Conan license up to 2019!) you need to throw pvpers a bone.

I hope that 2014 will be the year of meaningful changes to AOC and not a constant stream of unchained, old dungeons with loot that leaves much to be desired.