Exciting new games, but which one to choose?

Hugh‘s away for a few day’s break, so the supply teacher is taking the class again – over to Johnnie.

Even though I love gaming, and MMOs in particular, I’m pathetically traditional in many ways. WoW is my game of choice, and has been for several years. I’ve dipped my toe into other gaming waters occasionally, but I’ve been pretty happy with Azeroth. Recently, though, I’ve found myself logging on less and less, and eyeing up other, sexier games with a lustful glare. That’s why it’s so nice that other bloggers are writing about their experiences in non-Azerothian locations: I can see what I’m missing.

  • Zubon at Kill Ten Rats has a great general post about how many games force you to be a bystander rather than a participant. This has become an increasingly big problem for me in WoW (perhaps exemplarized by the “PCs do all the work and Tirion goddam Fordring takes all the credit” storyline at the end of Wrath). Call me crazy, but I want to be the one who kills the bad guy. I don’t want to be the sidekick who stands at the back, cheering on the NPC hero as he gets to kill the bad guy. As Zubon says

“I’ll take fighting at the side of the Fellowship and being second banana there, and I’ll take being the hero of the B-plot while the Fellowship saves the world. I’ll not take being second banana in the B-plot.”

It’s a really great post, and eloquently sums up many of the frustrations I’ve had with recent gaming storylines.

“Maybe it was Tera’s action combat, or perhaps a general ennui with the genre as a whole, but I couldn’t find any spark of enthusiasm for Rift whatsoever. … The game was still as pretty as ever, but again, the incredible fidelity of a game such as Tera, whether you can stomach its design decisions or not, leaves other MMOs looking like so much aged tarnished brass.”

  • Guild Wars 2 is the game that I’m really excited about. If I’m honest, I wasn’t really too enthused at first, but after researching the game for a few of the Melting Pot’s info posts I’m totally sold. It’s been great to read accounts of the various beta weekends. Both Ravious and Hunter’s Insight have reviews of the latest changes. GW2 is looking excitingly pretty and pretty exciting!

  • GW players, incidentally, might be interested to hear that qq & pewpew are giving away 300k of in-game gold. All you have to do is reblog the competition stating what you’d do with the cash.

All of this is completely immaterial, though. I know exactly what game I’m going to be playing next. Mechwarrior Online didn’t appeal to me at all … until I saw Razer’s concept for a dedicated hardware controller. Woah, boy. It will be mine. Oh, yes. It will be mine.

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Sith Madness Sorcerer Quick Start Guide for SWTOR: rotation and priorities, talents, stats, gear, spec and companions

“Now, young Jedi – you will DIE!” ZORCHZAPSCREAM – etc. Yes, for most of us, that’s the reason we rolled a damn Sith in the first place – to cackle, look evil, and fry Mark Hamil with Force Lightning. Except it turns out that there’s more to DPSing in SWTOR, particularly once you get to Level 50, level cap, than just spamming lightning and cackling. So, for the confused, furrowed-brow Madness Sorcerer, here’s a guide to our best abilities, rotation (and priorities), talents and spec, gear, stats, and even our companions.

This is a work in progress! Star Wars: The Old Republic hasn’t been out for long enough for us to have a 100% solid idea of what talents, abilities and so on are best, so we’re going on the work of the top theorycrafters here as they figure the game out. However, this guide should give you a good start and put your damage well beyond what 95% of the SWTOR playerbase are able to do.

Obviously, this is a first draft guide – if you have comments or suggestions, please do post them below!

Updated 10th February 2012 for Patch 1.1.2

Sith Madness Sorcerer Ability Rotation

  • Top Priority: If Lightning Barrage has procced, use Force Lightning.
  • Second Priority: If the target doesn’t currently have Affliction on them, cast Affliction. Otherwise, cast Death Field or Crushing Darkness if they’re off cooldown.
  • Third Priority: If Wrath has procced, cast Chain Lightning if it’s off cooldown. Otherwise, spam Force Lightning.

Wrath: Ideally, you should use Wrath with Crushing Darkness. It’s a DPS increase to use it with Chain Lightning if Crushing Darkness is on CD, however.

AOE: Use Death Field as top priority, then multi-DOT with Affliction and use Chain Lightning. If there are 5 or more mobs, use Chain Lightning as top priority.

Sith Madness Sorcerer Talent Spec / Build

There is some ongoing discussion as to the best Madness spec.

This spec appears to be a generally good DPS spec.

This spec is more Force-efficient – use if you’re running out of Force regularly.

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Stats and Gear for Madness Sorcerers

Willpower is absolutely the most important stat for Sith Sorcerers in general, including Madness. Power is our most important secondary stat.

At the moment a good basic stat priority to use is Willpower, then Power/Force Power, then Surge, Crit, and Alacrity in that order.

Stats we don’t want: We have no use for Strength, Aim, Cunning, very little use for Endurance, and little use for Presence unless we’re using a companion a lot. Shield, Absorbtion and Accuracy are also useless for Sith Sorcerers in general, and Defence is basically useless.

Companions

Currently it appears that at end-game your best companion choices are Ashara Zavros for DPS or Xalek as a (rather weak) tank.

2V-R8 is completely useless for combat purposes for a Sorcerer.

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Are SWTOR’s customer support problems and bugs risking the game?

Things seem to be going pretty well in the long, long ago land of SWTOR these days. They’ve got a healthy subscriber base, and I’m seeing a lot of enthusiasm for the game still, a couple of months after release.

But there’s a storm building that could tear it all down.

SWTOR’s customer service and customer support has been a bugbear since release. And talking of bugs – SWTOR bugs have included some unprecedentedly major cockups, from not allowing people to unsubscribe to preventing them from playing altogether.

Now, today I’ve seen not one but two bloggers absolutely furious about the quality of support they’re receiving from SWTOR:

Scary Worlds is getting incredibly sick of both the bugs and the lack of communication from Customer Support. As he writes

“My good buddy Rer from Multiplaying and my guild, Delusions of Grandeur, hasn’t been unable to log into SWTOR for 20 days. He paid for a subscription, but the billing is not talking to the game. His account has been billed, but the game says he hasn’t subscribed.

For the past 20 days he has been fighting with Customer Service trying to play. He’s talked to supervisors, Twitter reps, and the dude that seems to have his head up his ass, but nobody can help him. They keep telling him they will call back because they can figure it out.

You know what? After 20 days I would call BioWare and insist I get my money back for the subscription and the price I paid for the game.”

At the same time, Hawtpants of the Old Republic submitted a bug-related ticket – and the ensuing customer support took her breath away, and not in a good way

“Can you tell I was mad? I spent 3 days waiting for a response to what I assumed was a fairly simple problem, and when I got the response, I was told that I hadn’t given information that I most definitely had and that I would be effectively penalized for their bug (which is a dumb policy right after launch when of COURSE there are bugs). Not to mention transcribing stuff from screenies makes me vaguely stabby.

I am totally aware that it took me more time and effort to write angry emails (and this post) than to simply earn the 12.5k, hop in my ship, and buy a new customization from the Taris or Balmorra vendor. And I certainly do not want an easily-obtainable item to count against my 3 restorations that I might actually need for something important. But it’s the principle.

Resolution (or Lack Thereof)

As of today, I have an open ticket in the system which was opened on 124. So that’s 2 weeks ago? I went and bought a new customization kit, and I should technically close the ticket but I want to see just what happens with it. If anything.”

Two weeks’ wait for a ticket response? Unable to play the game for nearly a month?

I’m rather enjoying SWTOR, and I hope EA fix the customer service issues soon, because it’s becoming apparent that the community are losing patience – and at this delicate stage, that could seriously damage SWTOR’s chances.

Have you had any SWTOR-related Customer Service Incidents?

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Two Weeks In: The SW:TOR roundup

Well, it’s been two or more weeks for most people, and we’re starting to see what SW:TOR will become in the long term. Opinions are starting to diverge, conventional wisdom is starting to be challenged, and in general, it’s all very interesting to watch.

So, with no further ado, here’s a bumper crop of recent SW:TOR opinion and comment!

  • Tobold answers the question of whether SW:TOR’s good value as a single-player game“You might niggle about the stories in SWTOR casting you slightly less as the savior of the universe than you would have expected from KOTOR 3, but otherwise the single-player experience comes very close to what you’d expect from a Bioware single-player RPG. “
  • Lono of Screaming Monkeys articulates one common sentiment – that SW:TOR’s bugs are really starting to bite“I can’t pinpoint any single bug that would make me want to quit this great game but I can see the sum of all the littles ones become an issue for many players, myself included, as time passes and the new game smell start to wear off.”
  • Melmoth of Killed in a Smiling Accident is resisting spacebar-bash temptation in conversations“Conversations go much quicker when you employ the SoEEE, but unlike skipping the quest text in other MMOs, while voice acting adds greatly to the immersion levels of the game, skipping over it does detract from the immersion levels in equal measure.”
  • And we’ve got some great general mid-game roundups from Tobold and Bio Break to boot!

*How are you finding SW:TOR two weeks in?

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And Far, Far Away In Another Direction… SWTOR, group quests, and more

As one life ends, another begins. And Star Wars: The Old Republic is really ramping up to full speed now, with even your humble correspondant now able to get in and start swinging lightsabers around. And as the game goes, so go the blog posts!

Today we’ve got a particular focus on group content, with multiple views on the SWTOR instances as Early Access players start to get to them…

  • Lono at Screaming Monkeys has a really engaging write-up of his first instance experience – I’m itching to get into one myself now – “I love that setup to be honest, it feel a bit more authentic to me. I felt that WoW bosses were too often a matter of simply figuring out the dance and that was it. Swtor bosses in comparison still have some sort of dance element to them but it’s not only that.”
  • Syp at Bio Break also writes up his grouping experience as a healer“For some reason, pulling together a group to tackle these quests just seems to not be a big deal. With all the travel options, getting to where your group is isn’t too difficult, and right now (at least) I’m not seeing a lot of worry about group composition, especially with just planet-based quests.”
  • Tobold, meanwhile, as is his wont, has been learning more about crafting“You might have noticed that I am not looking up the recipes in some database on the internet somewhere. That is deliberate. I think I will have more fun if I discover the recipes for myself, even if that is not the most efficient way.”

Have you tried a SWTOR instance yet?

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Not gotten into SWTOR yet? Here are a couple of perspectives…

The SWTOR Early Access juggernaut rolls along, and as it does so, the blog posts about the entire thing roll right along with it.

And, in fact, that’s the subject of a post from Chris at Game By Night, who feels that the noise over the Early Access stagger might be the desired result of the entire scheme

“Hype. What’s happening this week? The launch of TOR. What’s a good way to keep it a #1 Google search? Keep a lot of people in anticipation. Everyone NOT in the game, rapidly writing blog posts (like this one), tweets, and forum rants ensures the game stay on the forefront of MMO player’s minds. It keeps us chomping at the bit until we can join our friends in the fun. You can be sure that EA wants this to be as big a deal as possible. This type of marketing is nothing short of viral… except insidious is probably a better word.”

Chris’s central thesis is that the entire deal’s being orchestrated primarily as a marketing tool, rather than, as claimed, as a way to keep the launch stable. That’s very likely, and he’s got an interesting take on it – that, essentially, EA have somewhat devalued the expense of buying Early Access in order to keep the hype machine rolling.

It’s an interesting point, because it’s the cost of Early Access that has really made people mad. Spotify used a similar staggered launch, and it worked like a charm, but they hadn’t made people pay for access first…

Meanwhile, Melmoth of Killed in a Smiling Accident has been taking his traditional sideways look at things, and presents us with some better ways EA could have staggered their release codes

Chocolate Bars In a completely unprecedented move, invite codes could be printed on tickets and distributed in chocolate bars. As a bonus, a limited number of special tickets (perhaps silver, or another precious metal?) could grant five lucky players the chance to tour the Bioware studios where karma would ensure an encounter in accordance with their failings (an inveterate ganker in PvP would end up being teabagged by a much more powerful developer; an erotic roleplayer who insisted on behaving inappropriately in public areas would end up… being teabagged…)

The Postal Service Just pop all the invites in the post, and thanks to the vagaries of the postal service they’re bound to arrive at random times (or be delivered to random addresses that might look a bit like the right address, if you squint. A lot.) Deluxe or Collector’s edition codes could be posted in envelopes, the rest in larger package that have to be collected from the post office, a bonus if release is timed to coincide with pension day in the UK.”

I particularly liked Melmoth’s “Safari Park Treasure Hunt Adventure” idea, it must be said…

Off-topic: don’t forget to nominate your favourites for the Piggie Awards !

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Weekend Bits And Pieces – SWTOR, WoW, and a manifesto

It’s been another bumper weekend for MMO blog writing, so once again I can’t confine myself to just a few blog posts to feature today.

Here’s some of the most interesting posts from Friday to today that didn’t fit under a single theme:

  • Tobold has a great summary and analysis of SWTOR’s crafting system – I’d heard bits and pieces, but this is a fascinating summary“I do think this is a very good system. Yes, it will annoy some people who want instant gratification. But it will allow others to actually craft items of value. And it will make crafting an important part of your main character, instead of being a task outsourced to an alt.”
  • Gazimoff writes a thought-provoking checklist of features for an ideal MMO – this is the kind of post that makes me want time to write a response myself! – “Once I finalised the list I realised something – I subconsciously judge each new MMO against this list. Some games do well in some areas but are poor in others, making the discussion difficult about which one is “better”.”
  • Cynwise is waxing passionate about a tiny-but-fascinating new game element in WoW- mailing transmogrified heirlooms“I told my friends about it, and they found it to be a lot of fun too. A LOT of fun. Simple things like character appearance matter. Looking put together makes you feel better about yourself, and it’s no different for our characters, too. “

Are you looking forward to SWTOR crafting? Subconciously running your own MMO checklist? Or just looking forward to decking out your alts?

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Stupendous SW:TOR Sights – an album of planets

Having only managed to play about 4 hours of the beta, I’ve been very interested to see what Star Wars: The Old Republic has to offer in the way of eye candy. One of WoW’s strongest points has always been its extremely visually striking and distinctive zones, and whether TOR will manage to match those with its planets will be a significant hidden factor in its success.

Plus, I just like looking at pretty things.

So I was very interested to see MMO Gamer Chick’s “Planetary Album” post today – and from the first image, it’s pretty obvious that both she and the game are more than a little artistically gifted

There are some awesome shots in here, and they’re matched by her thoughts on each planet, which are interesting in turn.

Obviously, beware spoilers – if you want to experience everything for the first time, probably best to avoid this post. Otherwise, though, go look at the gorgeous images!

What have you thought of SW:TOR’s visuals so far?

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Star Wars: The Old Republic beta weekend – unexplored perspectives and interesting points

So, as you’ll almost certainly have heard/seen/participated in, this weekend was the Star Wars: The Old Republic mega-beta-test, where hundreds of thousands of eager testers leaped onto Bioware’s servers for a weekend of play on the new MMO.

Whilst we’ve already covered one pretty epic crop of SW:TOR reactions , here are some of the more interesting and as-yet unexplored snippets that popped up from the blogosphere this weekend:

  • FAIL PUG is having some problems with the human male body options“What you won’t notice in that list is anything remotely resembling a normal male body shape. Whilst I’m totally in favour of having body shape diversity in the game, none of the available male character models look anything like Lando, Han, Luke or Obi-Wan, which is a bit odd in a Star Wars themed game.”
  • We Fly Spitfires didn’t play the beta, and thinks you shouldn’t have either“I’m going to be melodramatic and say that betas are disingenuous elite events that kill the fun for everyone else and serve little function other than to fuel the hype machine.”
  • In An Age goes through the experience for several different classesTrooper: This was the class experience that immediately gripped me by the balls, and threatened to never let go. You barely have time for 2-3 dialog choices before your ship gets blown up, and you stumble out into a heavy fighting zone with blasters and explosions going off every which way.”
  • And Tobold is looking at future class balance in SWTOR“So in the unlikely case that every class and talent tree is equally popular, we end up with 3 tanks, 3 healers, and 18 damage dealers. And it is likely that there will be even more players going for the damage dealing talents instead for healing and tanking, based on the experience with other games of this kind.”

What corners of the SWTOR beta did you explore this weekend? Or are you avoiding it too?

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Lies, Damn Lies, and Gaming Stock Market Predictions

You may or may not have heard the story that shot around the gaming sphere last week – that a stock analyst at Lazard Capital Markets had downgraded Blizzard/Activision’s stock from “buy” to “neutral”, based on a survey of 381 online gamers, which implied that WoW was about to drop a lot of subscribers.

There’s been a number of comments on this article, mostly talking about the advisability or inadvisability of relying on such small numbers. However, today we’ve got a piece from The Undercity, talking from a position of some expertise about the problems with the analyst’s approach, and where they actually were or weren’t

“Ok, first things first. Idiots on the internet, 381 people polled is –precisely- the right amount for a survey to have a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error in a population of 10 million. This is the industry standard for polls, btw, the 95 with 5%. What it means in simple terms (and keep in mind I don’t know anything about this except some common sense deductions) is that:

  • the numbers the survey shows are accurate within 5% (so when they say that 50% of players… the real number could be 45% or it could be 55%… within 5%).

  • 95% of the time these numbers will be accurate. So if you did this poll 100 times with different groups, you’d get the same numbers (within 5% as a margin of error) 95 times.

Got that? The numbers are fine. And surveys/polls are very easy to do. No matter the size of the population, if you’re going for the industry standard of 95% with a margin of error of plus minus 5%, you never need more than 380ish people. That’s just how the math works. If you wanted a smaller margin of error, like 2%, you’d need about 2400 people. That’s all.”

The article goes on to talk about what appears to have been wrong with the poll, which is at least as interesting – how were the poll-takers chosen? How were they advertised for? Are the pollsters comparing active SWTOR beta players with bored WoW players?

It’s really interesting to read a more sophisticated take on this news – it’s pretty obvious that an analyst isn’t going to change a major stock buy recommendation based on anecdote alone, but it’s also interesting to see where he or she may have gone wrong.

Overall, though, the question still remains – will the prediction be accurate? As the SWTOR beta weekend has shown, the Star Wars gameplay is very close indeed to WoW, and it’s clearly targetted at the same audience – doesn’t that almost necessarily mean that Blizzard’s fortunes will be on the downturn from December, if SWTOR is even half as good as it seems to be?

What do you think? Will Blizzard hold steady?

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