Monthly Archives: September 2011

The gear divide and the upcoming raid nerfs

We had an interesting discussion last night whilst killing trash on our way to Beth’tilac.

The topic under discussion was the incoming nerfs to the Firelands prior to the release of 4.3.  If you haven’t already heard, you should probably crawl out from underneath your Azerothian rock and have a look; it’s plastered all over the interweb after all.  Essentially however, there will be an across the board reduction in difficulty of both normal and heroic modes in the Firelands (FL).

“So what?” you say, “isn’t this standard practice now?”

“Only in part” would be my reply.

If we take Bastion of Twilight and Blackwing Descent as examples of Blizzard’s philosophy moving forward in Cataclysm, there were significant nerfs to normal modes but the scale of changes to Heroics was very much reduced in comparison.  This had three outcomes: firstly it gave those who had not seen or finished the content an easier time getting through it.  Second, it provided a challenge in the form of still hard (imo) Heroic modes for those who wished to push themselves.

Third, which is not so obvious, is that it meant there was a gap in the relative gear item levels between those raids that had cleared heroic mode fights and those that had not when starting the next tier (FL).  Ok, so this meant that those guilds who had only cleared normals started FL with an average item level (for arguments sake) of about 359.  Those who went in having cleared (or near enough to) Heroic modes had an item level of about 372.  As you are aware, FL drops item level 378 in normal mode.

As the discussion went out, it was pointed out that we had spent the first month (at least) getting our average item level to that equalling what we would have had from the start if we had cleared Heroic modes in the previous tier.  Still with me here?

I know it’s obvious, but as you get better gear when raiding, the fights are just so much easier.  So going in with the advantage of having Heroic gear from the previous tier is simply enormous.

Where all this is going is that Blizzard’s philosophy of keeping Heroics at or near enough to the original difficulty levels (unpuggable, give or take a few inevitable nerfs) meant that there was always a huge gap in the gear levels and subsequent progression rates of guilds.  Now I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing.  However it meant that if you did clear Heroic modes it would be very difficult for any guild to catch up to you progression-wise without putting in a much larger time investment (up to the weekly limit of killing X number of bosses).

The shift we are seeing in the upcoming nerfs, moves away from what happened in the last tier.  By lowering the difficulty of Heroic modes they are lowering the entrance barriers and expanding the potential for competition in the progression race and server firsts by allowing more raids to start the next tier (4.3) with more gear from Heroic FL and a higher average item level.

If Blizzard follow the pattern, the first or only raid in 4.3 (normal) should give drops with an item level of about 400.  With more raids clearing more bosses in Heroic FL, more raids will be starting the next tier with average item levels around 391 instead of 378.  This should make progression through normal modes in 4.3 faster overall, all other things being equal.

Does this level the playing field?  No, of course it doesn’t.  It does however, expand the number of starters in the race.  My guild has only killed Heroic Shannox.  We have had some attempts on Heroic Staghelm and Rhyolith with no success.  Maybe after these changes go through we will have a much easier time of it.  But bear in mind, so will everyone else.

We certainly don’t see ourselves as a hardcore progression guild but we do enjoy pushing ourselves to see how far we can go.  It was nice to be able to say that we cleared normal FL before the major changes hit, but in my mind it will be just as nice to be able to clear some more Heroic modes prior to the release of 4.3.

Could we have progressed further without the nerfs.. undoubtedly, but with 4.3 just around the corner, these changes are welcome.  If only in the hope that I get to see Ragnaros with legs!


‘Tis a good time to be a gamer

So I was checking out a trailer for Skyrim tonight and was thinking that the game looks absolutely fantastic. It made me think that there are so many games on the horizon (near and far) that I am really excited about.  Looking at what’s coming, I think that it is a really good time to be a gamer.  Whilst there are so many classics from the past and indeed I own a few (check out my list of 100 games I own over here), there are so many more coming that looking back in the distant future (you when I’m 40 and old :P), I feel, could make the grade as classics.

A Skyrim Dragon!

It’s kind of hard to see them as such now, but remember that once, Baldur’s Gate 2 was brand spanking new, sparkly even! (but not in a weird Edward Cullen kind of way).  But that aside, there are a very large number of games either just landing or on their way.  We are continuing to see a revolution in the gaming scene.  With ongoing rapid growth in the app markets (I bought Plants v Zombies for the my phone the day for $0.99!) and the high popularity of consoles and the resurgence of my beloved PC there is greater scope and vision for creating games than ever before (comparatively speaking of course).

I have featured a few of the MMOs I am keeping a close eye on a couple of times (see here and here) but this time I’m going to list a few of the games in general that I am looking forward to and I think genuinely excited about.

Without further preamble here is my list (in the order I think of them):

1.  Skyrim

2.  Diablo III

3.  Borderlands 2

4.  Farcry 3

5.  Torchlight 2

6.  Batman: Arkham City

This list is probably not complete, and you may have a few to add or remove from my list – but for what it is, there it is.

I do note a certain trend however; all of the above games are either sequels or build on previous canon.  This is not a bad thing per se, but it should be noted that there have been some terrible sequels in the past (a certain Deus Ex: Invisible War springs to mind).

Mmm cell shaded goodness

What do you think?  Have I missed a really important game?  What would you add or remove from your list?

P.S. Yes I know about stuff like Mass Effect 3, Battlefield 3, etc.  I kind of feel they are likely to be more of the same though.  I mean lets face it, if you’ve played one Modern Warfare, you’ve played them all.


Firefall – Alpha Prime

The following is an extract from the Firefall timeline found here  It describes the discovery and colonisation of Alpha Prime – a planet significant in the Firefall universe.  This is only one of 12 extracts, and if you are interested, head over and read the rest.  For me, I can’t wait for this to go live.

“The following is a recorded except from Cornell University’s “Planetary Colonization and Husbandry Fundamentals” class as taught by Professor Jean Greenfield in 2228. This lecture is intriguing for its speculation of the Arclight’s purpose and the possible disposition of Alpha Prime.”

Aris Holden – Historian

Alpha Prime was founded largely out of necessity. The incredible time and cost of transporting mass across interstellar distances would not otherwise be justifiable. It takes enormous amounts of energy to reach speeds even approaching one tenth of the speed of light, which is why our first probes were powered first by nuclear fusion, and then by nuclear pulse propulsion. Even so, it took the first crystite powered probes several years to arrive and map out Alpha Prime.

It was the advent of crystite reactors, with their incredible power output, that finally cut the trip down to more a more manageable seven to eight years. Even so, the mass of crystite required for each leg of the journey was enormous, requiring starships with mile long reaction chambers constructed and fitted entirely in orbit. It is for this reason that so few starships have ever been built, especially those with the power to actually leave the solar system.

It was, of course, crystite that drove the push to the stars. Crystite, not naturally occurring on Earth, is born of interesting star stuff and sprinkled sparingly through the universe. The devastating Firefall event deposited a generous amount of the blue crystals on Earth, but if mankind wanted more, it would have to venture outside the solar system.

It was Hadrian Ashworth, the Omnidyne mogul, who led the movement. He founded the colonizing subsidiary, Centauri Company as a part of Omnidyne and sold shares to major governments in exchange for mineral rights to any crystite found in the Alpha Centauri binary-star system. By doing so, the Centauri Company amassed the huge sums required to build the ships that would eventually colonize the distant star. More importantly, it pushed the world into a united ceasefire as nations were forced to work together for their common good.

Alpha Prime was discovered thanks to the very asteroid that nearly destroyed us. By understanding the small differences in the way crystite reacts to gravity, Omnidyne scientists were able to discover that the asteroid was not in an elliptical pattern around our solar system. By recalculating the reverse trajectory of the Firefall Asteroid before it collided with Earth, they were able to map the asteroid’s path back to Alpha Centauri. Confident enough to invest in its hypothesized trajectory, Omnidyne next sent crystite powered probes to further investigate the system. By pure luck, or the anthropomorphic principle, depending on your beliefs, spectral scans were done on Alpha Centauri with an emphasis specifically on Centuari A. The scans revealed the presence of overwhelmingly more crystite, located in captive planetary debris, forming a ring and circling a marginally habitable planet we now call Alpha Prime.

Three colony ships were built for the voyage. Led by the CMS Ichizoku, all of the ships were fully dismantled upon arrival to provide the raw materials and habitats for the new colonists. With a total population of over 3500 individuals, the tested genetic pool showed sufficient diversity to become self-sufficient and for robust population growth to begin…

(Dr. Greenfield looks over her glasses at the students)

That means sex and children.

(The room erupts in laughter)

The colonies are tailored specifically for the mining and extraction of crystite from Alpha Prime’s planetary rings. The first freight ship to leave and return, the CMS Victoria, arrived back at Earth only three years ago. It was a full eighteen years after the launch of the Ichizoku.

To ship ore more frequently, and to bring news, supplies and a semblance of order to the colonies, two massive starships were constructed: the CMS Aegis and the CMS Wei-Ling. The next shipment of crystite, aboard the Aegis, is still eight years away from today. Meaning it’s a staggering eleven years between shipments.

The ships are intended to eventually operate on seven year rotational cycles. When one ship is arriving at Alpha Prime, another is returning to Earth, carrying a precious cargo of crystite to be unloaded and dropped planet-side, quite literally, to fuel our hungry economies. Of the six starships ever built, the Aegis, Wei-Ling and Victoria are the only three currently in operation. There is enormous pressure from Centauri Company shareholders to develop a faster way to ship crystite.

Now, in addition to the issues of profit, the management and development of remote colonies is extremely difficult. Made more so by the four year transmission time for messages between planets. These types of remote challenges haven’t been encountered since the 16th and 17th centuries when the British Empire attempted to control roughly a quarter of Earth’s available land mass and over 480 million souls. Which, of course, did not work out so well for the British.

It therefore seems inevitable that issues of independence and the tensions that accompany them will take their natural course, and that the colonies on Alpha Prime will one day cut their ties with Earth and form humanity’s first extra-solar sovereign nation. Such a nation would have an exceeding amount of influence, given its control over crystite production. A point not lost on both Omnidyne executives and investing nations.which may explain the tremendous effort being expended by the Centauri Company to develop a faster than light warship.

Make no mistake, the Arclight, albeit currently cast in the mold of humanity’s next great triumph of science, is indeed a warship… armed and designed to project Earth’s authority over this distant colony and its most valuable resource, hence the capacity to carry an entire marine division, known as the Centauri Accord. Of course, only time will tell if Omnidyne’s technology and strategy is enough to overcome the lessons of history.



Ragnaros Defeated

We finally killed Rags last night!

After a frustrating learning curve on the 2nd sons spawn we managed a solid run into the final phase and played a bit of tennis with the meteors to seal the kill.

Of course a meteor was accidentally punted into a group of 3 right at the death meaning a nervy 10 seconds of so was seen out before the kill.  Annnd right at the end Engulfing Flames spawned right on top of me, so I popped AMS and ran into the lava!  Still it worked, he died and we had 3 (yep count them, 1,2,3) raid members alive when he died.

But a first kill is a first kill right?  We were stoked, our hunter and shaman especially who came away with a shiny new bow and helm respectively.  All up, props to my guildies who hung in there week after week – we made it in the end!

Till next time,


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