LoL TFT: Diamond Rank achieved

Back in July I posted that I hit Gold rank in Teamfight Tactics. This post is about me moving into Diamond, the rank above Plat, which is above Gold. According to this site, that puts me just about in the top 1%. Suck it plebs.

The big key to my recent success was basically forcing 6 Brawlers / 2 Gunslingers (Jinx + Lucian or Miss Fortune) every game. That build is currently VERY meta, but prior to the last update it wasn’t as widely run, making it much easier to force every game. Even now the top meta comp is dragons/shapeshifters/guardians, meaning zero overlap with brawlers/slingers, so forcing it still works. In terms of items it’s a bit flexible, but you basically try to stack Jinx and then adjust based on what you get.

Its rare the build gets me outside of top 4, where you gain rank, and if I highroll (3 star a brawler, 2 star Fortune, or get insane items) winning a game can happen. Forcing the build also means rather than focusing on the units I want to collect, or which items I might prefer, I can instead focus on what the other players are building and how to counter, whether that’s via items or board positioning. Positioning is especially crucial as the build runs Blitz, and a good grab of the enemy carry usually means an easy win. Additionally because the build has two hextech champs, late game you force the opponent into sub-optimal layouts, which you can then counter-play against. Overall I really enjoy the build, and the more I play it the more little details/tweaks I discover to optimize things.

Riot just announced that Season 2 of TFT will being in a bunch of new champions, while also making most of the current champions unplayable (I don’t want to say retired as I’m guessing they will come back at some point in future seasons). This will, of course, drastically change the meta and everyone’s understanding of what is good and how things work. It’s a soft reset, and I can’t wait.

Posted in League of Legends, PvP, Site update

China takes a loss, lapdog Blizzard is still a problem

Blizzard apologized with their actions, but not their words. That’s… something.

Let me be very clear about what the words and actions mean before I dive into what I think of it all. China, via Blizzard, reduced the penalty, which is an admittance of a mistake made. China, via J Alan Brack and the clearly-translated letter, did not apologize in the statement that was put out on Friday night (the time you put out news you want to be ignored). I don’t work in PR, but I’m pretty sure this is not what a smart PR strategy looks like.

Here is the good news as I see it; Blitzchung’s actions, and the supportive reactions of Blizzard fans, caused China to back down. Regardless of how big or small the back-down was, showing any weakness is a major blow to an authoritative regime, and that’s exactly what happened here (along with the NBA backtrack). As I said before, one canceled sub of $15 alone isn’t going to change the world, and this one defeat for China isn’t suddenly going to shut down their interment camps. But it is a step, and even small steps are important.

Here is the bad news; everything Blizzard. It’s terrible that the president put his name on a Chinese’s government propaganda statement, especially one so poorly translated it looks almost intentionally embarrassing, as if China here is punishing Blizzard by not even attempting to hide the source of the wording, and trying to save some face by making it clear they still control Blizzard and tell them when to jump and how high.

It also means that actions against Blizzard must continue, because while China backed down, Blizzard has not, and remain in the same position as they held prior to this incident; beholden to China. The only way this changes is if being pro-China costs Blizzard more money than supporting them, and that only happens if non-China fans continue to hurt them in the only way corporations care; the wallet. (I won’t get into how much the Chinese market is actually worth to outside companies, but do some research; today its not nearly the goldmine you might think).

Like it or not the world now revolves around capitalist, and that means money and profit justify the decisions made by corporations. In some ways that sucks (not all ways btw), but those are the rules of the game we all play. This doesn’t however mean that corporate actions don’t have consequences. If tomorrow we find out that Blizzard is harvesting baby organs to produce games, that kind of bad PR hurts them financially, and is the reason they don’t do it, regardless of the morals. This is the reason twitter backlash actually matters; the bad PR in turn results in loss of revenue. There are countless examples of a company quickly changing course because they are negatively trending on twitter, so pretending bad PR doesn’t matter is foolish. I hate twitter and basically all social media, but again in the world we live in today, it matters and can make a difference.

I hope Blizcon is a disaster for Blizzard, and that the big news coming out of Blizcon is Hong Kong-related rather than the next Retail expansion or whatever was planned to be the big thing. Blizzard leadership at the top has to change (I suspect most employees are currently angry or at least embarrassed by the actions of the company they work for). They had a chance to do so here, and so far they have failed in spectacular fashion. I only hope that game fans, including those who like Blizzard products, continue to do the right thing and continue to push Blizzard to change. With enough pressure they will, as it will be the ‘right’ thing to do for their shareholders. Until then, the boycott continues.

Posted in Mass Media, Random, Rant, World of Warcraft | 7 Comments

Blizzard picked a side, I’ve picked mine

Blizzard recently banning a Hearthstone player due to a statement they made about Hong Kong has now put me in a personal quandary. On the one hand I’m really enjoying WoW Classic and want to keep playing. On the other hand giving money to Blizzard is pretty directly telling them its ok to side with a dictatorship, and that money is a higher priority than free speech. I can even understand why Blizzard did it; they are ok with losing some customers outside of China over losing potentially all their customers in China. It is, at the end of the day, a purely financial decision, as I doubt anyone high up at Blizzard is especially pro-dictatorship (you’d hope?)

Back to me, do I stop playing a game I’m enjoying just to make a statement, however small that statement is to Blizzard? Yes, as obviously cancelling my sub is the right thing to do. And there is even some wiggle room here as I have a 6 month sub, so I could cancel now and keep playing, and by the end of the sub period maybe Blizzard has changed course (not likely) or maybe I’m done/bored with Classic (also not looking likely), or at that time I make the minor sacrifice of not playing Classic. Stinks if it comes to that, but in some ways it really is a reflection of the times we live in, and the stakes behind the decisions we make. Plus compared to those in Hong Kong who are protesting, its not exactly a large sacrifice on my end.

Posted in Inquisition Clan, Mass Media, Random, Site update, World of Warcraft | 30 Comments

WoW Classic: The game-changer expansion

I posted my initial thoughts on what a Classic expansion might look like. It was basically ‘more of the same’, and avoiding what WoW gets wrong with WotLK and beyond. But the more I think about it, a lot of those suggestions (new zones/quests, new dungeons, new raids) fit better into a patch vs a full-on expansion. And while I think Blizzard should 100% try and get such patches into Classic (again whether New Blizzard is capable of doing it right or not is another question), an expansion has to be bigger, and ideally focused around a theme.

I think I’ve found said theme.

The first Classic expansion should add a third faction.

Think about it, right now by far the most popular server type for Classic is PvP, and the only PvP going on in Classic right now is open-world randomness. You know what would make open-world PvP more interesting? A three-way battle of course! Out of all the things Dark Age of Camelot got right, the three-way fighting was very high up on that list. Imagine a third faction fighting in Hillsbrad?

The lore in Classic already supports this too. You have goblins and their allies as neutral to both Horde and Alliance, right? Well now they are playable and a bit less neutral! Plus you also have neutral-ish races like Ogres, Wargen, Kobalds, and the Naga. Classes that fit right in would be Pirate (Trickster ranged/melee hybrid), Tide Caster (water-based caster/healer), or Mechanic (turret pet class) to suggest a few. Perhaps Pirate is faction-only, and Alliance/Horde can also roll some of the new ones, to match the current Pali/Shaman setup.

The third faction would then need their own starting and ‘controlled’ zones, but could also be easily worked into existing contested zones, with perhaps a few new settlements created for questing and flight points. Booty Bay is upgraded into a capital city, with the unique bonus of being ‘true neutral’ and still open to the other factions (so you don’t have to rework all of STV).

In addition to the third faction, the other big add of this expansion would be to bring more meaning to open-world PvP. Give contested zones control points to fight over that give minor zone-wide bonuses, or grant a flight point. Add a Darkness Falls-like open-world dungeon for everyone to fight over/in. Maybe add a few spread across the level range, like lvl 25, lvl 45, and lvl 60 versions. Add a true reason to raid other faction’s cities and capitals. Basically, give players a real reason to care about world PvP beyond the fun that is bashing heads as people do in Hillsbrad today.

An added bonus to going down this path is now you truly separate the lore and story direction of Classic from Retail. Keep the main story about Horde vs Alliance, but now with a meddlesome third faction AND additional threats like the Burning Legion or whoever you need to be the big-bad of a raid.

A more minor additions that also fits the theme would be allowing everyone to have two specs, ideally one PvP and one PvE, but that could be useful even for pure PvP or PvE players as well. Respec’ing often in Classic just isn’t financially feasible, and while I believe assigning talent points SHOULD be a serious decision that is costly to change, specs lean too far towards either PvP or PvE to not allow for a second option.

Do I think this will actually happen? Eh, most likely not. Should it? Yes, of course. Make WoW what is should have been all along, an MMO rooted in PvE, that also has PvP as a core feature of the world, not a side-show of battlegrounds and silly arena fighting.

Posted in MMO design, World of Warcraft | 4 Comments

WoW Classic: Nostalgia or Design?

What Blizzard feels is the correct answer to the question “Why are people playing and enjoying Classic” will go a long way in determining the game’s future direction. If the answer is heavily towards ‘nostalgia’, then the key to Classic’s continued success is feeding players more nostalgia. If the answer goes more towards “because the design of Vanilla results in a great MMO”, then you need to feed players more of that design, right?

The nostalgia route means either keeping Classic as-is, or going down the known path towards The Burning Crusade and perhaps beyond. If people are playing because this reminds them of 15 years ago, keep feeding that and people should be happy. Launch fresh servers from time to time so people can repeat the ‘fresh start’ feeling, and you are good to go ala EQ nostalgia servers.

The great design route means creating more of what makes Classic work in order to keep people playing/paying. You can’t just go down the known route of TBC and beyond, because at some point :cough: WotLK :cough: things go too far down the path towards Retail, and we know how that path ends. Instead you need to support Classic as you traditionally support an MMO; more content, and hopefully that new content is what your current players actually want, and again not towards the direction of Retail.

I wonder what, today, Blizzard feels is the bigger driver in the success of Classic? I wonder what most players feel is the reason?

My personal opinion is that nostalgia was the primary reason most people showed up to try Classic, along with the hype of this release being the big to-do in the MMO space for 2019. People like to be part of a big event, even if the core ‘why’ behind the event isn’t something they are overall super interested in.

I think Classic still going strong, and the fact that demand continued to grow after day-one, is because of the design. Gamers like to play good games (crazy huh?) and Classic is a good game. It hits the right notes, its design is deceptively brilliant, and the whole thing has aged far better than I think most expected. The moment to moment feel of the combat is just as smooth and enjoyable as it was in 2004, perhaps in large part because no one has done it better since that time. The downturn of the MMO genre in recent years isn’t because gamer tastes have moved on, its because actual good MMO design has been lacking. Classic is a ‘new’ launch of that good design, and people have shown up.

Assuming I’m right (99.9% of the time, I am), this leaves Blizzard in a difficult position. They need to update Classic like a real MMO, and not a nostalgia experience, because an MMO that isn’t getting updated is an MMO that’s dying, and the suits don’t want to see that 223% revenue increase just drift away. This means new content, but that new content needs to be in the same spirit as current Classic content, and not what they do today for Retail. Can New Blizzard do that? And even if they can, if the new stuff is on-target, how will those who ARE here purely for nostalgia handle that? Will we need a “True-Classic” server?

Blizzcon in Nov will perhaps give us some clues to the answer to the nostalgia-or-design question, and also perhaps more clues into what Blizzard intends to do with the title that is suddenly the biggest game under their umbrella. They simple can’t say/do nothing, can they? (Spoiler: New Blizzard certainly might, because lets be honest, if you can release HotS, you definitely can find a way to spoil Classic)

Posted in MMO design, World of Warcraft | 9 Comments

WoW Classic: Alt-itis

One of the big surprises related to WoW Classic for me has been my enjoyment of playing alts. Back in Vanilla I only had my Orc Warrior, and later had a lvl 19 twink undead Rogue. But I never got a second character even close to 60 originally, and when I came back for TBC I also only leveled a single character (goat Shaman) to the cap. Back then my focus was on raiding, helping to run a raid guild, and doing the million little things to make raid progression happen.

Right now in Classic I have my human rogue at 38, a human Pali at 15, a gnome Warlock at 13 (might retire him), and now a night elf Hunter at 14. I don’t care much about reaching the end-game of raiding, in part because I’ve seen it, but also because it ‘doesn’t matter’ this time around. I know it also didn’t matter back then, but it felt like it did. There are no illusion of the sort this time around.  The journey IS the game this time around, and what a wonderful journey it is. One that feels different on each alt, even if they overlap in some of the quests and dungeons they run.

Each alt also offers a different view into what makes Classic work. The hunter is my latest character, and I’m somewhat obsessed with him right now. I’ve always liked pet classes in an MMO, and the Classic hunter is pet-class perfection. The need to feed them, the fact that they eat different things, the skill training, the decision to focus your hunter as a beastmaster or a marksmen, the fact that the hunter isn’t a pure ranged dps class, even just the fact that one of your bag slots is a unique ammo pouch that can also be upgraded. So many different mechanics, and they all come together to make playing a hunter feel like you ARE a hunter, killing bears because you need the meat for your pet, or you go fishing because your cat can eat fish, which itself is a huge bonus for taming a cat vs a different animal.

Taming rare spawn pets is itself a game within the game, and one that is exclusively of interest for just that one class. Every other class sees that rare spawn animal as bonus loot; a hunter sees it as a valuable find to tame. All in the same world, without the whole thing being overly staged or force-fed to everyone. Hunters are also on a constant loop of taming something new to learn its skills, and then passing those skills off to your ‘favorite’ pet. It’s another unique class gameplay loop that just works.

All of these mechanics matter and you notice them because Classic isn’t faceroll easy. If everything scaled and you could succeed with minimal effort, you wouldn’t feel the push to keep your pet strong, to make good decisions on talents, and to ensure your gear is staying decent. But because even in the teens the game does challenge you, you care about all of that. It feels good to get more comfortable controlling the pet, of knowing when to heal it vs when to continue dealing damage to end a fight. Plus the pet being an agro magnet if not controlled correctly is a challenge that is again unique to the class (and Warlock I guess, if using melee pets).

In my last play session I had a quest to go into a cave of Nagas and pick some mushrooms. Typical stuff. But I was entering the cave a few levels lower than the mobs, and the density was tight. This made it basically impossible to progress, especially because the ranged Nagas wouldn’t move, but sending in the pet would draw additional agro and lead to death. So I grouped with another hunter, and even with the two of us the entire trip into the cave was a death dance of killing Nagas fast enough to keep pace with the respawns, all while pushing further in to get what we needed. The final item you need is guarded by two mobs that are significantly higher, and we ended up sacrificing our pets to loot what we needed and attempt to run out. We died halfway out of the cave, and then just escaped after our rez, jumping out of the cave and down a waterfall to safety. Classic creates moments like these all the time, especially if you let it (don’t always do at-level or below content).

Posted in MMO design, World of Warcraft | 5 Comments

WoW Classic and TFT, by the numbers

Lets talk numbers on a late Friday afternoon!

First up is info from Riot on the success of Team Fight Tactics, the non-WoW game that I’m still playing heavily. The big number is that 33 million accounts play TFT a month. That’s silly big, and then you realize that TFT isn’t the most popular game mode in LoL (Summoners Rift ranked is), and yea, LoL still has more than 100 million active accounts. Remember when we thought WoW having 12 million accounts was massive? How cute was that? Anyway I’m very excited for the future of TFT, because my god is it a ton of fun.

Speaking of WoW, over at TAGN Wilhelm has his monthly SuperData post up, and while I consider their ranking lists junk (the list is only who gives them numbers, but is presented as a view of the whole gaming space), there was a note that clearly came directly from Blizzard that WoW revenue is up 223% (how oddly specific eh?) in August compare to July. As I stated over at his site, here is why that number is crazy; current Retail players that play/played Classic aren’t factored into the revenue increase (already had subs), but do count towards the number of people playing Classic. So on top of all those who switched or double-dip, you have 223% MORE people also jumping into Classic. It’s no longer a conversation of whether Classic is bigger than Retail, its now a conversation about how much bigger. My guess is its about 70/30 right now Classic/Retail, although that 25 minutes of new content the last Retail patch added might swing things back in Retails favor…

If you’re Blizzard, and more specifically, if you’re a shareholder of BlizzActivision, aren’t you not-so-gently nudging Blizzard execs right now to focus on the real breadwinner in the WoW family? Some people in Blizzard might have thought we don’t want that, but now that our wallets have slapped them in the face about 223 times, I’m guessing they are singing a different tune.

Posted in Blogroll, League of Legends, Mass Media, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment