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Games. Tech. Musings.

Games offline and online. Technology. Random stuff.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Guild Wars: Balancing TODO shortlist

Things I'd think would be on Izzy's - that'd be Isaiah Cartwright, the GW skill balancing chief - balancing list. They're all complicated problems so I'm not going to pretend I have any answers right now.

1. Damage Options

As I outlined previously, there are really only 2 build types - Pressure and Spike - in Guild Wars, with a fair number of variations. In competitive GvG, Spike loses right now (thankfully) so you're left with one build type.

And that build type requires warriors to actually do the damage, as Ensign of iQ's exhaustive analysis concluded.

So then the build consists of this:
  • Warriors
  • Things to stop their warriors
  • Things to stop them stopping your warriors
That's it. Healing monks and ritualists stop their actual damage. Mesmers are there to stop their warrior hate (miss hexes, blind) and/or healing.

This is why skills like Draw Conditions are currently so good - keeping your warriors clean is really the way you win with pressure builds. As Ensign pointed out, the only reason you don't run 3+ warriors all the time is that the support infrastructure to shut down their warrior hate gets overstretched. One method of doing this - the IWAY technique - where you do run a zillion warriors does actually work but not well enough to be really competitive.

It would be nice if Warriors weren't the only option to do damage. Maybe Nightfall will help with this - it certainly seems like Dervishes are poised to provide at least one other option.

It generally seems that Warriors are very good but I'm not altogether convinced that that's a problem in and of itself. Having melee characters being good makes for a more interesting game but less choices is also bad.

2. Elementalist Elites

I'm not a huge fan of the elite system, to be honest. But Elementalists are particularly horked right now since basically your option 90%+ of the time is Ether Prodigy. Anything else and your profession falls apart. Note that most of that energy is going to disappear into Blinding Flash, Extinguish and Heal Party - 2 of which aren't even elementalist skills. There are occasionally exceptions like a dedicated warder running Obsidian Flame as a spike assist but I'm not convinced it's better than a straight-up Prodigy character.

3. Assassin Elites

Well, you thought Elementalists were a bit broken. Say hello to Aura of Displacement, the only playable Assassin elite. Like Prodigy, this is a tricky one to fix because if you just take it away or nerf it the whole profession falls apart.

There are a lot of other more minor things - e.g. Eviscerate being the sole axe elite, Warrior skill damage ignoring armour - but none of them in my mind are as significant as these.

I should note that I'm just talking about PvP here. There are a ton of PvE issues but unless it enables serious solo farming action (hence making it easier for bot farmers) it doesn't generally appear to matter to ArenaNet.

Guild Wars: PvP Unlock Packs


$10/profession for full skill unlocks on that professions... for Prophecies only. $40 for all 6 Prophecies professions.

Update: my random thoughts on this.
This seems most relevant to people who bought Factions, liked the PvP but then were faced with another PvE marathon to get the Prophecies unlocks. I didn't see a requirement to own Prophecies, so instead of spending the $40 on the game they can cut to the chase and just get the skills.

Update: apparently you may have to own Prophecies too right now, which does seem a bit expensive.

Guild Wars: Live Event at PAX

Here's the official writeup of the Guild Wars Live event. The designers were Teeuwynn Woodruff (my wife) and Mike Selinker. I spent most of Sunday helping out at the main booth.

The Kurzick faction won overall - for some reason, a lot of Kurzicks signed up late Saturday and on Sunday. People were encouraged to group up with other people in their faction - and apparently on Sunday a giant mob of Kurzicks romped around the challenges. By the time they were heading over to the Red Lion for the final 2 challenges, there were 25+ Kurzicks on the shuttle bus... and 1 Luxon. Apparently some trash-talking occurred.

People generally seemed to like the game and were having fun. I asked players which were their favourite challenges and it was normally one of:
  • Assassin (precision crossbow)
  • Warrior (shield vs. blowgun)
  • Necromancer (skull death puzzle)
with a smattering of Elementalists and Mesmers also around.

Overall I'd guess there were something like a thousand players, with about 150 or so finishing every challenge. Not too shabby.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Guild Wars: Sealed at PAX

Since I've just about recovered from PAX, I thought it would be a good idea to write up a report of the Sealed Guild Wars competition from my point of view. The official report on Day 1 is already up - I'm the guy pictured with not a whole lot of hair. I'm just going to talk about the Sealed competition here since mostly apart from that I was helping my wife out on the GW Live event.

Firstly, a description of the format. You were playing Team Arena with the normal arenas. Each player in the team of 4 got 16 skill cards to share with their team. The cards were randomized with 3 levels of rarity, listed as "ranks". It seemed like basic toolkit cards were rank 3 (commonest, I think), stronger cards were rank 2 and narrow cards were rank 1. Update: apparently elites were rank 1. For example:
  • Lyssa's Balance - rank 3
  • Drain Enchantment - rank 2
  • Icy Veins - rank 1
From your pool of 68 cards total, you had to build 4 normal PvP characters. Charm Animal and Resurrection Signet were "freebies" - any character could use those without a card. Multiples of cards were possible.

16 cards per player seemed a little slim - it felt a bit like playing old-school Magic sealed where you only got 1 booster on top of the sealed deck and no extra land. There were some pretty wide distributions in terms of skill pool power although I did feel that play skill and build strategy was still very significant. I should note that no matter what the skill pools are people will bitch, moan and complain about it. A classic example of this syndrome was the last sealed game I played at the Factions prerelease, where our opponents complained bitterly that the skill selection was unfair - but it later turned out that both teams had the same skill pool to build from.

I was playing with some of the other PIE guildmembers. Sadly, we only had 2 players there who are really active PvP players right now. In the first round, we had a draw with some good defensive stuff (Expel Hexes, Mend Ailment and a selection of solid healing spells) but very limited offense. Specifically, we had:
  • no interrupts
  • no knockdowns except Whirlwind and Bane Signet
  • a total of 3 Warrior skills (only 1 of which actually did damage)
  • no lead attack for an Assassin
  • 4 elementalist damage skills (Ice Spikes, Whirlwind, Lightning Touch and Meteor Shower)
  • no damage spells for a Necromancer
  • no damage preps for a Ranger and Melandru's Shot and Focused Shot as the only bow attacks
We did have Zealot's Fire, Strength of Honor, Scourge Healing and Bane Signet. This was the source of my first big mistake here - we ended up running a smiter. This was a terrible call since Zealot's Fire doesn't really do a lot without some really spammable spells and energy management to back it up. The second mistake was that the Necro ended up running Blood is Power as his elite - whereas given our lack of offense Wither would have been a much better call.

Our initial build was an axe W/R with pet, a smiter, a healer and a necro. Empathy on the necro was good but not a lot else - we didn't have a really good energy sink for BiP that justified the massive health sacrifice.

Our opponents had done a much better job of assembling a build and had (if I remember correctly) an Assassin with full attack chain, a shutdown Mesmer, a Necro and a decent Monk with Life Sheath. Predictably, we were crushed both due to our bad build and some bad play - we should really have instantly targeted the Assassin and tried to DP him as much as possible. Once we'd played a round or two we were playing a little better so there was an actual fight but it was still pretty pathetic. We were swept, 3 games to 0.

In retrospect, the build I would have run with the skill pool we had:
  • the same axe W/R with pet
  • a bow R/A with Focused Shot and Melandru's Shot, a pet, Caltrops and nothing else
  • the healer monk
  • the necro with Wither, Parasitic Bond and Empathy
Milling around between matches, I did notice a few players I recognised from the various GW forums - notably Wasteland Squidget (team UAX), Vindexus (team Reconnects) and Samyel (spectating).

In the second round we played, instead of that we did add the R/A and replaced the smiter with a W/E with Ice Spikes as his only real skill. Alas, this time round we were playing against Vindexus's team with a Crippling Shot ranger who predictably wrecked our hapless Warrior duo. Another savage beating. Ah well, lessons learned and all that.

On Day 2, we ended up being one of the lucky teams selected to play against the devs. It may well have helped that one of the QA guys (mentioning no names here...) was a friend of ours. This time we switched out one player (StonkingBytes for Spleen of Nannor, who really wanted to play). We had a better skill pool this time up on offense but our monk skills were nonexistent. We ended up running:
  • Rt/Mo with Preservation and Union
  • A/W with Black Mantis Thrust -> Fox Fangs -> Nine Tail Strike and Disrupting Blow
  • Beastmaster with Disrupting Lunge
  • Blood Necro with Dark Pact / Vampiric Gaze
which was a lot better although weak on defense. We ended up losing 2-1 in some hard-fought games. On game 3 in the Ice Arena I personally kited 3 of their team round the length of the map at less than 50 health the whole way, which was quite amusing. Alas, when my Chariots of Fire impression ended up at our Priest he was already dead and the game was over shortly after. Some great games, though.

I was playing the Necro, one of my favourite roles. I have the skill bars for the Necro and Beastmaster, both of which were pretty reasonable for Sealed play:
  • Necro: Dark Pact, Vampiric Gaze, Icy Veins, Reckless Haste, Drain Enchantment, Inspired Hex, Lyssa's Balance, Resurrection Signet.
  • Ranger: Disrupting Lunge, Maiming Strike, Dodge, Viper's Nest, Kindle Arrows, Needling Shot, Charm Animal, Resurrection Signet.
Personally, I'd probably have switched out Needling Shot for Comfort Animal on the Ranger since I think the opposing team is much more likely to target the pet if you have Disrupting Lunge.

The final 2 teams came down to team UAX (Squidget) vs. team Reconnects (Vindexus) with UAX walking away with the gold and a $4,000 prize. Alas, I was working and couldn't watch the match although I heard that both teams had strong builds and the games were a real battle. Congratulations to the winning team!

Update: the official site now has coverage of the finals including the builds.

Update update: more coverage of the Sealed from Dimlight (thanks Samyel!)

Update The Third: Weapon of Choice has interviews with a couple of the players.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Guild Wars Nightfall Release Date

I'll cut to the chase: October 27. Prerelease Bonus Pack on September 15.

More details:
Guild Wars Nightfall introduces new customizable Heroes who level up, follow player instructions in combat, and use skills and equipment of the player's choosing.
Persistent henchmen, in other words. Catering more to solo PvErs.
And for the ultimate one-on-one challenge, competitive players can choose to enter the new Hero vs. Hero Battles, where they group with a custom team of Heroes and fight against other players from around the world and their customized groups of Heroes.
This is presumably a new definition of "ultimate" I'm not familiar with. Maybe it'll be better than I think but I'm not too hopeful. Fingers crossed for some other PvP options.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Star Wars, Robot Chicken style

Mere words cannot do this justice.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Guild Wars: Dervish Preview Video

Alas, I didn't get to play in the Nightfall PvP preview since I was on vacation. Apparently some people thought the Dervish needed "a little" balancing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Guild Wars: Live Event at PAX

The official announcement for the GW Live Event at PAX just went up. Full disclosure: the wife is a co-designer for the event. Should be fun - note that you don't have to be a GW player to participate.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Guild Wars: Standard GvG Characters

Still in progress but invaluable as is - JR- has an excellent summary of "standard" GvG characters up at Team-iQ. Highly recommended and very useful.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Still alive. Kinda.

A 4-hour commute (2 hours each way), combined with double-kid-minding and deadlines mean that right now I have negative amounts of free time. That is, if I had any free time I'd be sleeping. I haven't even played a game for nearly a month.

Hopefully my life will be returned with minimal damage at some point in the next month and regular service here will be resumed.