Found out today that Chris “Rivs” of A High Latency Life has passed on.
Still in shock, not much to say.
So I’ll leave you with something in his memory.
Found out today that Chris “Rivs” of A High Latency Life has passed on.
Still in shock, not much to say.
So I’ll leave you with something in his memory.
Gah, I got busy and didn’t get to play all the characters from last week’s free rotation! /cry
But Sonya (D3 Barbarian) is up this week and I’m playing the hell out of her.
(Honestly, she feels a little weak to me, I need to spend some time skulking in the forums and see if I can find what I’m missing.)
Alright, map number 2 on the list – The Haunted Mines! Continue reading
By virtue of the RNG giving me a couple back-to-back games in Cursed Hollow this is where our map tour of Heroes of the Storm will start.
I did my best to grab shots that highlight different aspects of the map… when I remembered.
And don’t worry, I’m grabbing all these shots in AI practice games so no one else had to rage at me wandering all over hell’s half acre on my photography shoot.
Some of the map basics that I’ll cover today are common to all (or most) maps. I’ll try not to repeat them too much in the later posts, but this post will probably be the largest just to cover some of those features common in Heroes.
Without further delay, here is the first of the four map installments – Cursed Hollow. Continue reading
OK, no real Heroes of the Storm post today, but I started taking a TON of screen shots last night so I can dissect the contents of each map for you.
(At least, how they look now. All of this is subject to change. Alpha and all that, yada yada yada.)
But here’s a real quick look at what we talked about this week: Continue reading
OK, thought I would switch gears a little bit to stop bitching and start talking about the good stuff. I mean, I do really enjoy what I’ve seen of the game so far and I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression (especially since – can’t stress it enough – we’re still in alpha).
Innovation 1 – Pre-game character selection. At least for solo queue. (I will talk about group queue when I find someone to play with.)
So you log in and choose which type of game you want to play: Practice, Co-op, or VS.
You select your character.
You join the queue. (And wait a while…) Continue reading
Forgot to actually write the post for today!
Hopefully will have time for something tomorrow, sorry!
Yesterday we looked at a few concerns about issues that I would like to see addressed.
Part of the problem (a huge part) is that this is a technical alpha – really the infancy of the game and the first time the developers are allowing someone to hold their baby and comment on it.
My first concern, about muting and reporting, can most likely be chalked up to alpha status. I can’t imagine Blizzard actually releasing the game without those features. The same goes with concern #3 regarding some method of dealing with AFK players.
There isn’t a lot of basic information available, even to the testers. I’m not sure if it was my timing and getting my invite right before the weekend or if it is deliberate, but there doesn’t seem to be as much Blue interaction in the alpha forums as there was in the D3 beta forums.
When a new WoW expansion comes out, we pretty well know what to expect – another chunk of WoW with a new coat of paint and a couple new tricks, but nothing really ground breaking. WoW isn’t going to turn into an FPS overnight. (Leave that for Titan?)
When SC2 came out, we pretty well knew what we were getting – Star Craft; better and faster and prettier and bigger, but still the same space-based RTS we enjoyed for a decade.
For D3, we knew it was a dungeon hack-and-slash loot grind. The ability to respec on the fly might be one of the craziest changes to the franchise.
All three built off an existing franchise.
When Hearthstone came out, I saw a few references to Magic and a couple other collectible card games, but for the most part people didn’t know what to expect and just let it all happen. Most seem to be pleased with the result of this entry into a relatively small game genre.
But Heroes of the Storm dares to tread where there are not only big names such as LoL and DOTA, but there a probably two dozen of the little guys trying to claim a piece of the MOBA pie.
As such, comparisons between them (which I’m sure happened when WoW first came out against EQ and happens every time a new game comes out to “compete” with WoW in the MMO space) are inevitable.
This is really where concerns 2 (compelling players into VS mode for quests) and 4 (gold acquisition/character advancement) come in. Any time it looks like Blizzard is trying a new approach, it’s met with “BUT LOL DOES IT THIS WAY AND THAT MEANS THAT ALL MOBAS HAVE TO DO IT THAT WAY.” Which I find really amusing since even in LoL you can progress in co-op mode.
What we have so far from Blizzard is, “A FRESH TAKE ON THE TEAM BRAWLER,” and “THERE’S NO ‘I’ IN TEAM,” or “BATTLEGROUNDS THAT SHAPE GAMEPLAY.” (All taken from the “GAME” page.)
Not, “LOL BUT WITH MAGIC COWS, DEMONS, AND ALIENS.”
But still not so much on the details of what the exact nature of this “fresh take” is.
We know Blizzard. They bring the gaming experience to the masses. Raiding in WoW has changed from the 1% to everyone can at least jump in to a flex game as their schedule allows. Hearthstone is pretty quick and painless. SC has a single-player campaign and matchmaking for multiplayer (I don’t know how effective the multiplayer is, I haven’t played since the days of the original bnet.) In D3, I can solo play to my heart’s content or co-op with friends.
So even as they advance into the world of MOBAs, the likelihood of creating a LoL/DOTA clone is slim. The very nature of the Blizzard experience is to be inclusive rather than exclusive. For people like me, this represents an incredible opportunity. I like the mechanics of the characters, the maps, the objectives… I don’t like the people. (And really haven’t since the days of the original bnet – which is pretty much what soured me on the PvP environment in the first place.)
Combine the vague “we’re doing something new!” with the people expecting/demanding a LoL clone with Blizzard skins, and add in a health dose of Blues only responding to threads dealing with specific bugs like character clipping, the forums are mostly just back and forth between the “hardcores” and the “casuals” and whether one or the other has any more “right” to earn gold in the game.
There is so little information about the game play, that sometimes we don’t know if something is a real bug, a placeholder, or a deliberate design.
For example, I leveled my account to the point where I unlocked the daily quests. Which you then had to have read the patch notes (under a section about an XP cap) to discover that daily quests can only be completed in VS mode. The game itself doesn’t say that and if you started after the release of the patch notes you probably wouldn’t know to look for the notes (not to mention it was under an unrelated header). Oh, and that patch notes were sort of tucked away, as they were old news by the time my invite came through.
But there has to be a couple dozen threads, “BUG: Can’t get completion credit for daily quests.” I try to be smart and look for similar threads before I post, and those people certainly could as well.
And I wish they would, because it pushed my question down the page about how many daily quests should I be getting and when they are supposed to reset. Other people are getting 3. I’m getting 1. Sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t reset. But we don’t know if this is a bug or an issue tied to my level or my time zone or what.
So I know a lot of my concerns are probably being considered somewhere, we just aren’t getting any Blue responses to acknowledge most issues. And that feeds concern 5 very strongly – does Blizzard have a clear design in mind and they just don’t have time to tell us or are they in a ship being tossed about in the storm of the community and the destination will depend on which side blows the hardest?
Previously, Blizzard has always staunchly stood by a line of not allowing community demands to influence game design, but that hasn’t always held true. Ultimately, they play the balancing game of what is good mechanical design and what will keep people plugging in quarters.
The gaming world has changed a lot in the past few years. When I was first playing SC, I never thought anyone would ever win significant chunks of money for sending swarms of zerglings across the map. But they do now, and as Tir pointed out to me the other day, the lure of eSports seems to hook deeply into Blizzard. The alpha forums don’t seem to think that eSports are a contributing factor, but with as hazy as the design is, we’ve got to consider it.
MOBAs are popular eSports. They are fast to watch and generally don’t require a lot of commentary to get the gist across. Instead of watching dozens of units, you can focus on only a handful of heroes running around. You can root for your favorite character, independent of the person playing it.
The decision to move the quests (and any account progression at max level) into VS mode only could have happened for any number of reasons. There was a short Blue response concerning they felt it was “too easy to farm rewards,” which is easily fixable with reduced rewards. With another option available, the given reason feels… flimsy. Usually when the answer to something is “too easy,” Blizzard goes to great lengths to tune the encounter appropriately. This was like saying, “Well, everyone can beat this raid boss so we’re removing it from the game.” That isn’t how Blizzard works. They tweak the encounter until they are happy with the pass/fail rate.
Maybe they wanted more people in the queue to improve wait times or stress that specific portion of the game. Maybe they want to watch account progression with less co-op mode. Or they are testing the waters to see if they should try to be more of a hardcore LoL/DOTA clone or if they do have enough of a co-op player base to make it worth their while to support co-op play. Or maybe they have the end goal of being the next hot item in eSports and they want us all in VS mode now so we won’t be disappointed when co-op gets no support later.
We don’t know. And we don’t know if they know. (But do they know that we don’t know if they know?)
Anyway… more mechanics, less politics! (I know I said that yesterday.)
Concern 7 – Clunky movement.
Movement is point and click. And click. And click. And click. CLICK.CLICK.CLICK.CLICKITY-CLICKITY-CLICK. Coming off a couple days of playing D3, with its smooth “hold down the mouse button to move” this was an absolutely jarring experience. Outside of the constant clicking, sometimes the heroes don’t feel very responsive and are slow to change course. Thankfully, you can click on the minimap to move long distances, but you’ll hear more about that later.
Concern 8 – Lack of a party frame.
Want to see if one of your teammates is low on health? Has enough mana to cast their ult? Too bad. You can hold the TAB key to bring up a list of your party members, but no useful information outside of experience earned, kills (sorry, “takedowns”), deaths, etc. Since the HUD is roughly a reskin of SC2, we do have a huge 3D portrait in the lower left that does nothing except an idle animation. Your character basically just watches you and breathes heavily. Creepy.
Concern 9 – Shrinky-dink map.
Again, due to the (hopefully temporary) use of the SC2 HUD, the minimap is pitifully small for the level of detail trying to be shown. Each character is represented, each merc camp, the towers, your projected path, and any map objectives (some of which sparkle and pulse on the map, taking up even more space). The minimap tends to be a blur of red, blue, black, and yellow with some bits moving around and covering everything up. Trying to use the minimap to get to a distant point is a bit of a crap shoot as it just sort of gets you in the general quadrant of the map you are trying to get to.
Concern 10 – The chat log is primitive.
I’m sure this one will get better over time, but currently we have a very tiny box that shows only 3-4 lines of chat/pings with no timestamps and no way to scroll back. On the one hand, I may have been brutally insulted in a game and just happened to miss it, but on the other I may have missed an important coordination explanation.
Concern 11 – Very difficult to review a character’s abilities.
From the character selection screen, you can click on a character and see their starting abilities. It looks like you get all of these out of the gate and that’s it, right?
Your heroic ability will be a choice when it unlocks, but you start with the others. Doesn’t say you only get one heroic, you just have to know that.
And… as you level you will unlock new talents that will either modify the starters or be new abilities entirely.
Where do you go to see these? (Outside of actually being in a game.)
The shop, of course! Even if you OWN the character, you have to go to the shop to review your build options.
Where you can’t even see the talents on the same page as the abilities they modify. You have to go to a separate talent page to see what you will be asked to choose from in the game. And from this page, each level unlock is showcased separately. And you better hope the talent isn’t very wordy. Anything past the first four lines gets cut off with no way to expand the content.
But the opposite problem is usually true – the descriptions are too short or incomplete.
Diablo has an ability to collect Soulstones as he kills things. You collect these and then have the option when you die to use the stones for a 5-second resurrection instead of the usual 10 second to 60+ second wait. There are two talents to modify this ability. One increases the carrying capacity to 200. One decreases the number of stones needed to 75. But nowhere in the base ability or character description does it say how many he can carry or how many it costs as a baseline. (We can guess his baseline capacity and cost is 100 stones, but it’s just an educated guess.)
While you’re in the shop and reviewing your character’s options, you can’t be in queue. While in queue, all you can see is the same items as from the character selection screen.
You can see your abilities in game – and I’ll try to get to that next time!
If there’s anything in specific you want to see discussed or screen shots taken of, let me know!
First things first – this is a fun game. But it is in alpha which means everything is in flux. The list of concerns below is not intended to be a negative rant, just my agressive-sounding grocery list of things that I would like to see addressed. And it will be multiple posts.
On to the rant!
Got the invite Thursday evening, installed overnight. Easy peasy through the Battlenet launcher. I played most of Friday and Saturday.
I do have *some* previous MOBA experience, I may have even blogged about my LoL shenanigans. However, LoL is pretty much my only prior MOBA so any comparisons I make are limited to that. And my LoL install is buggered so I couldn’t log in real quick to check on a few things and it’s been awhile. So comparisons are also at least a year old.
The available play options are:
Character selection is like LoL with a rotating group of free characters and you can pay to own a character. This week’s characters are:
Each character is classified by a role:
There are 4 maps randomly available, each with a unique mechanic (Note that the names are not accurate, I didn’t write them down and they aren’t neatly showcased anywhere):
And there are quests. These are very similar to Hearthstone and include things like, “Play a game with a StarCraft hero.”
Of course, there is a shop to purchase new heroes, skins, and mounts.
Oh yeah, there are mounts. Everyone has the basic pony model right at the start.
Your account levels up as you play games and earn experience. Leveling your account unlocks new features (like an extra free hero and accessing quests) and provides a small amount of gold.
There is currently no ranked matchmaking system in place. This is something in progress so is not, in itself, a concern. But it does mean that all players in VS mode are in the same pool based loosely on account level. And, like a traditional MOBA, it looks like we’re already attracting toxic players.
Concern 1 – There is currently no report or mute feature.
But there is a practice and co-op mode, why don’t I just play those?
I actually really enjoy the practice mode and play it almost exclusively. Since this is an invitation-only alpha, I don’t have any friends to co-op with. A pre-made co-op of strangers doesn’t seem that different to me than a VS game. The game might be a little easier against the AI instead of human opponents, but it’s still 5 people more or less randomly grouped together.
And here’s where it gets tricky.
There is a daily XP cap for combined practice and co-op modes. I’m OK with that.
But there are also quests. And quests are the best source of gold. (Only source once you are at max level.) Quests were originally available in all game modes but were suddenly moved to VS only.
It looks like I’m not in a minority when I say that I want to play games with my friends or by myself. With a leveling cap in place for my preferred game play style, and quests being the only real option for earning gold, I (and many others) feel compelled to play in VS mode.
So us “filthy casuals” are trying our best to enter the VS world.
See first paragraph about no ranking or matchmaking system.
Can you see where this is going?
Concern 2 – Putting quests only in VS mode compels non-PVP players to enter the PVP environment.
This wouldn’t be so bad, except for the lack of reporting and muting. And somehow, even though this is an ALPHA there are people that are already god’s gift to Heroes of the Storm demanding to know why everyone isn’t as uber elite as they are.
And there is no “all” chat – you are limited to your own team mates to spew venom at.
So many non-PVP players are AFKing in a match just to get their daily quest done. I’ve done 4 VS mode games and I’ve been lucky so far. Either I’m pulling my weight and playing well enough to fly under the radar or the people are nice/as new as I am. (I really doubt the former.)
Concern 3 – There’s no way to report or remove AFK individuals. And if someone does leave, I hear you get an AI bot.
Now all the PVPers are upset because the casuals that were getting abused decided it was better to just walk away from the keyboard and get quest credit rather than even bother trying. And there’s nothing they can do to remove those players from the game. No one is happy.
Concern 4 – Gold acquisition is painfully slow and comes from limited resources.
As far as we can tell, you get a little gold through the leveling process, but this is limited as there is a cap at level 40. Other than that, gold is only available in quests.
I am perfectly fine with VS getting more gold than practice or co-op. I’m playing practice to relax and just enjoy playing. I recognize that in game design terms, that isn’t as challenging as someone going toe to toe with another human. (There’s also a recognition that for some people, the AI is probably more than enough of a challenge, but I think everyone can agree that other players tend to be more unpredictable and are generally considered to be more challenging.)
But without being able to earn gold outside of VS mode, I will hit cap, buy the 2 or 3 characters I can afford with my hoarded gold, play those until I’m bored, and then walk away.
A bottom tier character is 2000 gold. Mid is 5500, and top is 10k. (Currently, prices are subject to change.)
I’m at level 9 and have 6700 gold. The biggest chunk of this was a 2k bonus for hitting level 4 (the only bonus of its size that I am aware of). Then I’ve done 4 quests at about 250g each. The rest came sporadically from leveling with a level being worth 600g after level 4.
Skin recolors are already locked behind heroic quests (which I will have access to at level 10) and I believe are available in VS mode only. Why also lock earning gold for champions behind VS mode?
Concern 5 – Blizzard doesn’t know what type of game they are trying to make.
Obviously they are trying to make a MOBA. But their advertised emphasis so far has been this will be the new MOBA that appeals to a wider variety of players (read: more wallets). And it’s true. So far in the alpha I’ve seen the forums pretty evenly divided between non-competitive players (practice and co-op mode) and the competitive hardcore traditional MOBA players. If anything, I would say the scales tilt a little heavier towards the casual side.
Someone made a good point about this on the forums – most of the hardcore players will stay in LoL or DOTA or whatever they are currently playing because the technical aspects of the game is what holds them.
Heroes is a simplified game compared to LoL. There is no gear to buy during the game. You choose your talents, but every talent you are presented with has at least *some* benefit for your character. You might not pick the ultimate best talent for your team composition, but you can’t take anything that is completely useless.
You also level as a team so there is a significant loss of self-importance. Try as hard as you can to level yourself and you drag your team right up with you. (Which is awesome for support. I can feed a lane partner creep kills in LoL all day long but then I have to spend my meager earnings on wards and lag behind the rest in gear acquisition. Here I unlock skills with the rest of my team.) The recorded stats are virtually non-existent so there isn’t much basis for individual bragging rights.
With all that, the game play itself screams, “Hey! Just join and have fun playing a character. The size of your epeen is irrelevant.”
So Blizzard has advertised for and successfully attracted much interest from the more casual player that wants to play a low key MOBA. But then they go and build account progression around either competitive play or deep wallets – or both.
Concern 6 – The hero pricing model is ridonkulous.
In LoL, I could pick up a champion on sale for about $2. Actual cost would vary based on how many Riot Points were purchased at a time. A newer champion would be closer to $7 or $10. I didn’t buy any skins, but I looked at a few and decided that the price point was acceptable if I stayed with the game. And all those items could be earned by grinding up Influence Points if I didn’t care to shell out the cash.
Right now, there are a couple bundles on sale in Heroes.
Wowsers! 60 and 70% off!
Now, the basic premise of a bundle is to group items together and offer at a better value than purchasing the items individually.
So let’s look at the Starter Bundle at 70% off.
Note that original price of $96.40.
That is the actual cost of buying all these items individually. (The unicorn mount is the most expensive piece at $19.99 all by its lonesome. Yep. Another $20 sparkly pony. Although this one does appear to shoot rainbows out of its butt while it runs.)
The bundle itself isn’t on sale for 70% off. The “sale” price is the reduced price one gets for purchasing the bundle.
And bundles can only be bought with cash. (I don’t really have a problem with that, but it ties in to the next points.)
As of right now, and this could just be because we’re so early into development and have a limited roster of only 25 characters, there are no true “sale” characters.
There are the three tiers and there are the bundles. But there is no “This week get Malfurion for 1500 instead of 2000 gold!” or “This week get Malfurion for $1.99 instead of $3.99!”
This could be a deliberate difference in the sale structure, but I prefer the LoL rotation that allows individual characters to come on sale instead of being forced into an entire bundle to get a deal.
And I prefer to have the opportunity to buy heroes on sale individually with gold. Especially since earning gold will effectively be nonexistent once I hit level 40 – unless I want to go muck up a VS match to complete my quests.
Skins can only be purchased with cash, either through a bundle or individually. Again, I’m OK with this. They have to make their money somewhere.
For only $7.49 you can lose the hat! (Rumor has it you also get a new voice and new lines for the “Death Knight” skin, but overall, you’re paying $10 to turn off helm visibility.)
Recolors of skins appear to be locked behind hero quests which become available at level 10. My understanding from the forums it that these are also VS mode only. So again, If I want the pink Diablo recolor I’m off to potentially ruin someone else’s competitive game play just long enough to unlock a pretty pink prime evil.
For me, LoL’s shop was perfect. There was a good rotation of characters on sale, and could be bought with time or money. The items that were cash only were vanity only items, priced reasonably (not an 8 buck hat removal service), and could also be purchased on sale.
And, most importantly, you can earn IP (slowly) in a co-op environment.
Back to concern 5, Blizzard has set up the shop in such a way as to nudge people into VS for skin recolors from hero quests (totally OK) and the purchase of champions will require VS to earn gold through daily quests.
But they are attracting the more casual crowd that just wants to play with a couple friends and relax. And then telling these people they have to frolic in VS to earn their champions.
Vanity items (skins, recolors, and mounts) are great things to require cash or use to “incentivize” VS modes.
Having a couple steady heroes to choose from is probably going to be important to a lot of players. I know it is for me. I like to pick 2-4 characters and really learn them. Heroes are the most important thing in the game and for a player like me, knowing that I have a couple I can call upon when I want to relax instead of picking someone new to learn based on the random rotation that week means a lot.
Here’s a fun psychology tidbit about me: If a non-vanity item is available to me with the choice of a long grind doing something I like but is also available for cash, there is a chance I will purchase the item as a small convenience or a reward for a tough week at work. If it’s locked behind something I don’t want to do or only available by cash I get stubborn and walk away.
Moral of the story: Just because I can get something for free doesn’t mean that I won’t pay for it.
But if you can earn all the heroes for free grinding in co-op, why would anyone else pay for them?
You could ask the same question of the people in VS mode. If you can grind out all your quests in VS mode and enjoy it, why would you buy any characters?
If you get to play the game in the way you want and earn rewards, why can’t the rest of the people play the game in the way they want and have access to similar non-vanity rewards?
“Challenge” isn’t a good answer. Blizzard doesn’t get anything more from you playing a “challenging” game versus a player playing a less “challenging” game. If bots or farming is the worry, lessen the reward for practice/co-op. (It’s not like we haven’t seen win trading or the like in the competitive PvP world. Or even bots in AV…) But unless Blizzard has some sort of PvP-powered generator and that’s what’s powering the servers that support the game, it makes no difference what mode the game is in to offer rewards.
D3 and WoW are both great examples. Want really nice gear? Play at the higher difficulty levels. Want to experience the game in a relaxed manner with some friends? Skip through on normal or flex. But you will still get rewards. Not as shiny or not as fast, but the carrot is still there and that’s what keeps us coming back.
And who knows? Maybe after hitting level 40 and earning a few champions in “casual” mode, maybe I’ll find the one that really clicks and I’ll gladly wade into VS. But to be successful, anyone making the transition should do so willingly and not because they feel it’s the only way to advance a character.
We did see a Blue briefly pop into one of the threads and comment that they were taking it all under advisement, so we’ll see what happens.
But we’re nearing 2500 words, have to save some for next time!
And the next one will be more nuts and bolts, less “what is Blizz trying to do here.”
And a little confusing.
(And two posts in one week? What madness is this?)
Anyway, looking at some achievements, I hadn’t played my barbarian since the middle of 2012. Or any other character in D3. I effectively dropped the game for nearly two years.
But all the fun with the Crusader got me thinking I should check in on my Barbarian.
After a good 20 or 30 minutes of cleaning out oooooooooooold, baaaaaaaaaaad gear on my mule characters, I was ready to enter the game.
I vaguely recalled that I was in Act II in Inferno level difficulty. The game had definitely stepped it up a notch and I was forced to evaluate my skills every few quests to pick what was best for the upcoming battles. It was certainly doable and I’m just a tad miffed at myself that I didn’t focus long enough to finish Inferno up… of course, I assumed Inferno would still be there.
And I assumed that with the original difficulty tiers being wiped, the game would dump me in Act II with a higher difficulty level, maybe Master since I wouldn’t have completed Act V yet.
Survey says… Creating Game…
Welcome to Westmarch! Continue reading
I am successfully taking some much needed time off of work to relax – without being sick or having a ton of homework to do.
My WoW subscription has officially lapsed.
So what’s there to do?
Play the D3 expansion!
Tir and I started Crusaders at roughly the same time. Seeing as how I hadn’t logged into D3 since before the patch – the FIRST patch, not the expansion, but the very first big balancing patch back in 2012 I think – I started on normal mode. I think he’s been bouncing between master and elite.
With the difference in difficulty, I’m usually a couple minutes ahead of him in completing a quest arc. I have fewer elite packs to deal with, but I also take more time poking around in my inventory so it almost balances out.
The big difference is in level. By the time I was level 10 I had caught up to him in the story, but he was level 20. I’m now level 30 and I think he’s 42 – but we both just started Act III.
So far, I’m really enjoying the Crusader class. Continue reading