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First Impressions: Diablo III

Level Up!
Diablo III is out May 15th. Buy it, it’s really good.

You want more than that? Fine: Here’s what I learned from playing the beta, which is Act I of the game. There won’t be very much in the way of story spoilers.

World of Warcraft: Dungeon Finder Woes

Back in February 2012, WoWInsider posted a Scattered Shots article entitled What to do in-game when there’s nothing left to do. Having felt bored with my usual World of Warcraft antics, I turned to the article in hopes of finding some idea that I had not considered. It was then that I learned of the existence of a guild on Icecrown-US comprising of nothing but Dwarf Hunters called the Warcraft Hunter’s Union. Brian Wood (a/k/a Frostheim) did a good job enticing readers to join because his description of the guild’s activities had me create my Dwarf Hunter that very same day. While my experience in the guild has been very positive, it was through the leveling of this new character that I became increasingly frustrated with the mechanics surrounding the dungeon finder.

World of Warcraft: Addon Incorporation

We can fix it!

In the past Blizzard has made changes to the default user-interface (UI) or added new features which had been previously part of popular addons. Most recently, it seems Mists of Pandaria will be incorporating the ideas seen in an addon called QuestHubber, which is a fantastic idea. It is very nice to see Blizzard taking ideas from the community and putting them into the retail game. In keeping with this idea, I would like to make two recommendations for features that should become part of the default UI. This is based entirely on my attempt to play my main, a Warlock, in the Mists of Pandaria beta where addons are currently disabled.

Awesomenauts First Impressions

Action real-time strategy (ARTS) games are a dime a dozen these days. It’s quite easy—and valid—to say that all ARTS games are the same. Pick one of a gazillion heroes to play as. Escort your bots along lanes toward the enemy base. Push through the enemy bots and destroy their turrets. March into their base and destroy their core. If you’ve played one ARTS game, then you’ve pretty much played them all.

When you think of an ARTS game, what do you think of? I think of boring grind fests and sitting in one of the bot lanes for the entirety of the game. I think of an ongoing balancing nightmare by the developer in an attempt to add new content to appease the voracious appetite of the player base. I do not think of a game that is easy to pick up and play, nor a game that is fun to watch.

And then there’s Awesomenauts by Ronimo Games.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Sequences 1-3

Assassin's Creed Revelations

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is the fourth installment in a popular series of third person sandbox-style games where players take control of an Assassin fighting an old enemy over ancient mysteries. Being a fan of the series from the very beginning, I was very excited to dive head-first into the experience. Join me as I take a critical eye to the game and explore what worked and what could have used a little more tweaking. There are spoilers within. I tried to keep them to a minimum, but you have been warned.

The Dire Consequences of Quest Rewards Based on Spec in Mists of Pandaria

You’re playing World of Warcraft. You’re out in forest on a quest, killing boars, monkeys, and snake-man hybrids. You collect all the entrails, brains, tears, scales, slime, tusks, pelts, and tails that you need. You return to the client who sent you on this errand. What’s your reward? Up to (and including) Cataclysm, you would have a choice between several rewards. Some only reward gold, while others may offer several rewards. In the case of the latter, you would often have a choice between several different item slots, different armor (or weapon) classes, and a pick between primary stats. A single quest’s reward table looks like this more often than not:

From the quest "Fire Upon the Waters"

If none of those items appeal to you, then you can select whichever one is most visually appealing—assuming the item can be equipped. If you can’t do that, then you can select the item that sells for the most amount of gold. According to a recent Blue post, that is going to change in Mists of Pandaria. You turn in the quest and then you will be awarded gear that is appropriate to your spec. You’ll never get an item that is wasted! Read on to see Ghostcrawler’s statement on the matter, as well as what it means for players.

Blizzard’s Dungeon Design Philosophy (Part 2)

Last time, I explored the changes from The Burning Crusade’s end-game content to Wrath of the Lich King’s end-game content. It concluded with a discussion of something I like to call the “difficulty threshold.” It just means the point at which content becomes so difficult that the rewards are no longer sufficient motivation to make players overcome the challenges. This time I will be exploring the changes Blizzard implemented to make content that appealed to players’ wide range of difficulty thresholds, and how successful those efforts were.

Skyrim: Dark Brotherhood (Part 2)

Dark Brotherhood Part 2 of 2

For a faction that focuses on contract killing and conspiracy, the Dark Brotherhood is the last place one would expect to find quests that really resonate with the player. We’re introduced to characters—clients, targets, and assassins alike—and we can sympathize with them. We can see why most of our clients want their targets dead. We can see that our targets are not simply targets, but are people with their own lives. Our fellow Dark Brothers and Dark Sisters each have their own stories that brought them to Astrid’s Sanctuary. It is perhaps the most well crafted faction in all of Skyrim.

We join the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim by investigating a rumor that Aventus in Windhelm wants someone dead. After killing Grelod in Riften, we’re abducted by Astrid and forced to pay for the stolen contract in blood. From there, we’re as good as in with the Brotherhood, having been given access to the last remaining Sanctuary in all of Tamriel.

The funny thing about killing people is that their relatives tend to want revenge. In Oblivion, Lucien Lachance killed Mathieu Bellamont‘s mother; Bellamont joined the Dark Brotherhood and rose to the rank of Speaker in the Black Hand, which is the Brotherhood’s leadership structure. From there, Bellamont conspired to destroy the Brotherhood by using the player as his instrument. The Black Hand is aware of this betrayal from within, and suspects Lachance to be the mastermind of this treachery; the Black Hand kills Lachance.

Contract killing can be an ugly business.

In Skyrim, we’re going to find out what happens when you kill the wrong person.

World of Warcraft: Additional Character Slots

On Monday, March 19, 2012, the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) was lifted on a Blizzard press event held the week before. The topic of the press event was the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria. As a result of the end of the NDA, the internet was flooded with new information regarding the expansion. Among the topics fans eagerly awaited news for was the issue of character slot limitations. Currently players are limited to 10 characters per server with a cap of 50 characters per account. With the introduction of a new race and a new class, players began seeking an increase in the number of allotted characters per server. Blizzard heard their requests and announced . . . an 11th character slot. Upon reading the news my immediate reaction was “that’s it?”

Blizzard’s Dungeon Design Philosophy (Part 1)

I have been playing World of Warcraft since July 2008. That means I began playing during The Burning Crusade expansion when patch 2.4.3 came out, the last patch before preparations began for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. While I did manage to hit the level cap of 70 prior to Wrath of the Lich King’s release, I never experienced any of The Burning Crusade’s raid content with the exception of Karazhan. Even then, Karazhan was not “current” content and I was unable to clear the entire thing. I never even did heroic 5-man content. My guild was a close-knit group of friends that mostly did regular (non-heroic) 5-man content.

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