[Hearthstone] Mixed Blessings

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My PC crashed taking down one of my hard disks and corrupting my OS. It had been a little buggy since the last Windows 10 update decided that it didn’t like my graphics driver and would freeze/reset the screen for a few seconds before popping up a warning box then continuing like nothing was wrong. On Friday it did decide that something was wrong, and by the time it started working again, Windows 10 wouldn’t load. I spent the weekend struggling to do a re-installation (install Win 7, authenticate, update to Win 10, authentication failed, contact support, get them to fix it). Then I installed Avast, but made the mistake of using the top link on Google and got a downloader that was stuffed with spyware, spamware and viruses. It is all cleaned up now but I still have a lot of to downloading going on in the background before everything is back up to speed. As a result, my gaming is mostly limited to Hearthstone since that has a relatively small footprint.

As it turns out, that was something of a blessing. My first couple of games were with an OTK warrior deck which did OK. The best combo I managed was 20 damage (Raging Worgen, 2x Inner Rage, Charge) but the hardest part in playing was trying not to waste combo resources and fight for board presence. I switched to an evolve shaman which I much preferred and promptly won 7 games on the trot. That cleared out all my achievements and took me to a new personal best of rank 14!

Vote for Facts

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This is a politics post. I will try to keep it quick.Full Fact.org Twitter banner

Most politics these days is be two opposite sides who either shout anything to get the public to agree with them, or exaggerate a scenario to absurd lengths to prove that they are correct. Everyone proclaims “facts” that support them while claiming that their opponents’ facts are wrong, leaving voters feeling as though overwhelmed yet ininformed. For that reason, I’m putting my voice out for Fullfact.org

Full fact are an London-based charity that do independent fact checking on UK politics. They are supported by donation (with a little fact checking and statistical work for news organisations) and have become my first port of call checking that statements made by politicians are supported by fact. I think that Factcheck.org might provide a similar service in the USA but you will need to check their impartiality for yourselves.

Getting Old and Grumping

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In the last couple of days, I have left comments on gaming sites about the following:

Annoying people in cinema – http://fyre.it/Sba9wF.4
No longer being able to cope with twitch mechanics or anything that requires reactions – http://fyre.it/yAQeYM.4
Disney liveaction remakes – (cannot find link)
My inability to distinguish between toast produced by a toaster and a graphics card. – https://disqus.com/home/discussion/pcgamerfte/nvidia_posts_gtx_1070_specifications/#comment-2690477751

I am sure I must of posted something relevant for each thread, but most of the evidence shows that I am becoming old and grumpy.

1849 – The Game I Am Not Playing

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As usual, there are too many games to play and not enough time to do it. I am taking another WoW pause, hoping to complete some other games before the pre-expansion patch goes live. I have made a bit more progress on Dragon Age and finally got my main to the current content in SWTOR; the little extras on offer through May seem to be adding some value to my playtime. That means GW2 has gone onto the back-burner for a while. I have also nearly completed my XCom Enemy Within play-though. It would be nice to say I have actually finished something.

One game that has distracted me of late is a town-builder set in the California gold rush called 1849. The campaign builds slowly, with lots of similar but slightly different challenges where you have to produce different products while having to complete your build chain with imported goods as required and it would make a very good mobile game. Unfortunately it is lacking the depth required for a true PC game, with their being no balance beyond slowly building your town as you wait to buy the next building and buy/sell trading goods. There isn’t much to do and it takes a very long time to reach completion. However there is an alternative. The quickest way to complete any map is to flood the map with free building plots and ignore the rampant hunger and crime, while accumulating a huge pile of cash that will let you buy yourself to completion in a couple of minutes. Doing that makes the levels tolerably quick but removes the challenge .
For those reasons I cannot recommend this game. I have wasted a couple of hours in the vain hope that it would get better but the formula remains unchanged. I have too many games I want to play to waste any more time on this rubbish. This is one game I will not be trying to complete.

1849-11

[edit] Shortly after writing this up, by old graphics card drivers combined with Windows 10 to mess up my OS, meaning I won’t be playing anything until I get my hard discs fixed.

[WoW] Fixing the levelling process in 4 easy steps

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Bottletop Bill and his best frield Corky

When you’re right Dobablo, you’re right.

Yesterday I commented on how Blizzard were aware that the only activity that the majority of it’s players did was the levelling game, yet it was mostly an experience that they suffered through due to a number of flaws that have evolved into the game. Less than one hour after that post, someone from Blizzard had read it and was responding to my concerns in a Legion developer update. The following extract comes courtesy of MMO-Champion.

  • The level up experience through classic zones is pretty broken right now. Questing is too easy and leveling not paced well. You are spending more time running between things than you are questing.
  • The team aims for 12-15 sec combat times for a single mob at max level, but that isn’t very fun at lower levels when you have one skill. Three seconds is too short though.
  • The team made leveling through previous expansions faster to reduce the barrier to entry for people that want to catch up and play with their friends. The Character Boost system solves this problem, so there is no need to rush players through leveling anymore.
  • We listen to the feedback that Dobablo provides possibly more than any other person. We would be impotent without him.
  • You shouldn’t be outleveling zones before you finish their story.
  • The game should be a fun and epic experience at every level, and it isn’t always that kind of an experience while leveling.

So assuming that there are levelling problems, how could Blizzard fix it, without repeating Cataclysm and putting half the developers into old world content.

Step 1 – Double the experience required at each level to put an end to out-levelling zones before completing their story.

Step 2 – Slow down combat. Double mob HP. One-shot kills on every mob is to quick.

Step 3 – Add abilities earlier. The first 3 combat quests in the starter sub-zone should all reward abilities along the lines of attack1/attack2/survivability/other. A warlock might have up with dot/nuke/guardian pet/cookie and a warrior gets attack/debuff attack/AoE/short defensive cooldown. This will partially offset the increased mob health and also give you more buttons to press and consider.
Fill that out with some extra stuff over the first 10 levels and, once people have chosen a spec, they should have at least the basic requirements to fill their roll in a dungeon.

Step 4 – Speed it up? Hang on a moment. Haven’t this all been about slowing things down and making the levelling experience more meaningful? Yes it has, but not everyone wants to do the levelling thing. Buying a level boost is one option, but that is not for everyone (and costs money), so we need a less painful way of playing to max. That method is via the bonus objectives as seen in Draenor. Every zone, should have a bonus quest area that rewards several levels worth of experience. There is no need to need to create new quests because some of the pre-existing but non-main story quests can be repurposed into a bonus mission. For example, Redridge has a sub-zone full of Gnolls and several quests to kill those gnolls and steal their gear. Merge those quests together and you have a perfect all that into a bonus objective.

That should provide a very simple [1] four step guide to take the current low-level game and turn it into a much more fun and enjoyable experiences with very extra effort from the developers[2].

[1] – I am not a WoW developer. I do not know what is or is not simple.

[2] – I am not a WoW developer. I do not know what work would or would not be required.

[WoW] Every activity is a minority, except for one

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Watcher has delivered an absolute goldmine of a post on the official forums in reply to a commenter complaining that Blizzard default response was “We appreciate the feedback given, but not a damn thing’s gonna change.” This post, springing out of a discussion on the high cost of some luxury items in the Alpha, gives us some ideas about Blizzard planning process and the ways in which they balance, separate and build reward structures for the different player groups. The subject that I want to focus on is this little gem;

Virtually the only activity that a clear majority of players participate in is questing and level-up dungeons, but even then there’s a sizeable group that views those activities as a nuisance that they have to get through in order to reach their preferred endgame.

The current levelling game is heavily dominated by the preference of that second group. With the prevalent attitude being that the game begins at cap, the levelling experience has been neutered. Dungeons and levelling zones reward so much experience that they are quickly out-levelled to irrelevance long before being completed. Combat is trivial, abilities are handed out in a hap-hazard fashion so there is no thought involved in combat and non-heirloom player gear often goes so long between replacements, the slot might as well be empty.  The focus on boosting players to cap has resulted in a neglected levelling game which, as Azuriel puts it, is “both too fast and not fast enough.

I don’t want to be all doom and gloom, so perhaps there is some hope. Perhaps this statement from Blizzard will give them the focus to tidy up a little of the mess from the levelling game. Perhaps we have already seen the first implementation of the solution to too fast/too slow levelling in Draenor, where the 90-100 experience can be savoured by those want to enjoy the journey, or power-levelled in 2 hours by those who want only to reach their destination as quickly as possible.

 

[Blizzard] We have a problem, but we don’t care.

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Oh look. It is a company of bro-dudes bragging about how cool they are. Blizzard does some great things but they just cannot quite twig the whole diversity concept and how to apply it. The fact that they choose to base a promotion around their having a 5-year sword implies that the problem might lie in their corporate culture.zofqs8k1cirs1462228239859

I think it is great they are adding a Diablo transmog item that has symbolic meaning for the employees at Blizzard. It is good to see a company rewarding their employees in imaginative ways, but let’s look at how their presentation portrays the company. A sword, combined with the employee pictures on their website, give the impression that this is a company set up for boys and their toys who want to play at being an alpha male. That might have been fine in 1996, but the gaming industry has to move on. Their range of anniversary rewards has grown over the years and is impressively progressive. I cannot begrudge them having a sword as part of that range, but I don’t want to see metal-peen being waved about as the focus of a macho advertising campaign. Why would any woman want to get into game design or programming when the publicity shows the workplace to be a testosterone filled wanna-be-bro-fest? No wonder Blizzard have difficulty in hiring sufficient female talent. Their marketing sucks.

I will concede that a woman on the promo page in the group photo. She is the one sitting passively while her head is about to be cut off.

[Hearthstone] Opening the Old Gods

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I have previously stated that I do not think that Hearthstone likes me much. With the release of a new set of cards and lots of packs to open, this was the opportunity for Blizzard to prove me wrong.

Focusing on legendary cards, I started with a Shifter Zerus from only the 6th pack. Nice and early leaving plenty of opportunity for more legendary cards later. Then I drew another Zerus 17 packs later. That makes two sets in a row where my first two legendaries have been duplicates. Fortunately I noticed that this one was golden before I started having Icehowl flashbacks. I can disenchant it into the same amount of dust as it would take for me to craft an normal legendary  making this effectively a free re-roll. The 42nd pack contained the new paladin-based Ragnaros . My final legendary of the night came 35 packs later, when I draw a Fandrel. Four legendaries, one of which is wild seems like a good haul from 89 packs.
Playing with probability I get the following outcomes and expectations.

Received Expected Gaps remaining Expected gaps
Common 319 319.7 98 97.3
Rare 103 101.8 64 60.1
Epic 19 19.0 20 17.8
Legendary 4 4.5 3* 4.5

That puts me almost entirely in line with the par score. I am a little low on the legendary count but that probably balances out with my golden legendary. That is assuming I can actually decide on something to craft (My dust pile is getting stupidly large).

I humbly beg for your forgivenes

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I have an apology to make. I have just discovered how WordPress treat cuts in a news feed.

Mitsubishi President Tetsuro Aikawa being sorry

I am very sorry for my transgression.

My posts have followed the introduction-cut-main body format. This was to avoid filling feeds with overly long waffle while allowing readers enough information for them to decide if they want to know more.

Starship Troopers. Would you like to know more?

If you want to force someone to click through, be totally shameless about it.

Having seen this in action on elsewhere I now understand my mistake. The section below the cut is not available in my feed. To read the full article I must click through to their site. My feed hosted nothing more than what is effectively a tease line, the result of which is to turn a decent article into click-bait.
Knowing how this impacts my reading, I will resolve to make a few changes.

  • I will be stop using cuts for the majority of my posts. If someone has me in their feed, I will assume it is because they want to read my posts.
  • I will try even harder to keep my posts succinct.
  • Detailed arguments, reasoning, and calculations will be put below the cut after the end of the main body, acting as an appendix.

Of course, no one actually reads my posts and I say I blog only for myself. Now I am being a hypocrite too!

Bill and Ted and Socrates

Dude, I said hypocrite, I think we have the wrong philosopher.

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