Ain’t no Drama Like Trailer Park Drama

So one of the truths of life is that people fight harder over the littlest shit.  My mother was a family practice attorney for a long time and divorces involving well off or rich people were usually bloodless and passionless.  When you saw an address listing a trailer or lot number though…  Woah baby.  Shit is about to go down.  She told me about a couple that was going claws out crazy over a $5 pot from Wal-Mart.  Keeping two lawyers (being paid 3 figures by the hour) and at times a mediator who cost even more.

But what does this have to do with EvE?  Well… Lowsec is the trailer park of EvE.  There’s nothing great in it, the people might be great people but none of them are changing the world.  And when these guys get their sandcastles rustled… Shit goes down.  Tempest in a teapot doesn’t begin to describe it.  Hurricane in a shotglass.  Cat 5 time.

The biggest dramastorm I have ever had to endure involved a lowsec alliance torn apart over some bullshit.  We had a nice high rarity moon that we basically held on sufferance of some local heavy hitters with R&K being the final arbiter of injustice.  None of us were getting much money, and Aridia is famous mostly for being a desolate hinterland in a game where 90% of lowsec could be used as a dictionary definition of “Desolate Hinterland”.  One corp decided they wanted a direct cut rather than just some vague promise of help in the future from money being thrown into the warchest.  So they did what politicians have done since time immemorial, they promised this money to everyone over and over and lied about the guy in power.  It tore everyone up.  Our corp had no doubt about who we backed, but watching the process play out was agony.  Over nothing.  This wasn’t a system with 20 tech moons.  It was one moon.  It was some lines over who got credit for what.  It was egos and preening and garbage and e-honor.  It was a $5 dollar vase that tore up thousands in time and tears.

At its worst lowsec is a screaming redneck family tearing each other apart over stuff you wouldn’t pay a buck for at a yard sale. But it’s not all drama, and it’s not all bad.  More on that later.  Fly dangerous, score kills.

I'm using it every time I can

I’m using it every time I can

Doffing the Fancy Hat

So if I’m coming back to EvE I’m doing EvE-lite.  I do not have the time or inclination to run a corp or take any sort of leadership role in any alliance or even corporation.  I want to PvP but I don’t want to spend forever waiting.  I want to jump into a community and have things ready for me.  Right now FW is waving a big flag even if Caldari (my normal faction) is a hot mess but right now I don’t mind winning or losing, I mind wasting three hours of my life when I’m newly married, busy at work and generally very limited on my gaming time.

So I’m looking at all kinds of nasty frigates and AFs and Ewar frigates.  I’ve got an app in for a corp and we will see where I go once the Fancy Hat is gone.

League of Laughs… Again

So I am dipping my toe back in LoL. Partly to play with an old EvE friend, partly to just get some PvP in. I’ve been working up to level 12, playing mostly support, and having a pretty good amount of fun along the way.

But let’s be honest, the community is hilarious. Where EvE has this vibrant community based on helping people engaging them and bringing these diverse groups together, LoL’s is based on trying to get 5 people on the same side to not shit all over each other for 30 minutes PLEASE. Obviously no one cares in games vs. bots, there just isn’t anything really on the line other than some IP/XP, but as soon as pvp shows up, whoah nelly. Shit is getting real son.

Everyone is guilty too. I’m a pretty calm person when it comes to gaming. I don’t get horribly wound up but man the stupid just hurts sometimes. I play support mostly so I’m paired with an ADC (Attack Damage Carry, basically I keep him from getting nuked so he can get all the kills and glory) which requires me to sacrifice my own gold/experience/life to let them stay alive, and get the juicy kills. I’m fine with that. I like winning more than I like my own glory. What I can’t stand is when I set up the perfect kill and some faceroller just whiffs the gank and leaves me holding the bag.

This happens a lot, sometimes it’s my fault too, I’ll be the first to admit it. I will, at times, loose track of my partners cooldowns and initiate a gank when he just has nothing to kill with. Other times he whiffs. My Champion of choice is Blitzcrank. He’s high risk, high reward, requiring lots of skillshots (aimed/dodgeable shots) and getting stuck in to make it work. In any fight I’m exposed. As a somewhat beefy melee range CC specialist I am going to be disrupting the enemy and drawing a lot of fire to give my teammate the chance to finish things off.

When my ADC whiffs it annoys me. A lot. The frustration ratchets up fast, and in my first PvP match I actually chased my ADC out of lane. I stole minion kills and went 1v2 against their ADC / Support team until my ADC wandered off to mid. Again I’m not a NICE guy, but I’m not a jerk.

Anyway I spent the last week working on Sona to give myself a bit of variety. I actually really enjoyed her quite a bit and was looking forward to her in PvP. Then I got trolled. Hard. By Riot when they made Blitzcrank one of the free champions this week. Blitz is a HARD counter to Sona. Like, really hard. So I spent my first game basically trying not to lose and enjoying watching our mid cruise to 11/0/0 followed by a surrender.

I’m having fun, and so far I haven’t gone so far on tilt that I’ve cost us a match although the guy I tend to queue with will tell you I’m still sloppy and tend to get ganked at times.

BTW my username is Corelin Lintu, look me up and watch me fail!

I'm using it every time I can

I’m using it every time I can

Lawful Stupid vs. Stupid Evil

Star this one is for you.

So, been getting into the whole Star Wars thing again and of course the repeated face-planting of the Jedi Order comes up.  One of my friends point out that the Jedi are the epitome of Lawful Stupid.  People so painfully lawful good, so incredibly cut off by their own perspective that they literally cannot get out of their own way.  I counter with the fact that the Sith are Chaotic Stupid and no less troubled by their own worldviews and the bizarre structured chaos that was the Sith Empire, concentrated down into the Rule of Two and then the Rule of One.

Let’s talk a bit about Jedi failings first.  In the prequel trilogy they suffer from a blindness to the oncoming threat.  They understand it as a waning of their own powers rather than the actual conscious action of an opposing force, like, the Sith Lord they take direction from.  Their desire to fix the entire galaxy in a static state overwhelming any sense of an external force working change.  Their philosophy at this time was… laughable.  Never mind Obi-Wan’s “Only the Sith deal in absolutes!” line (I name you Darth Sandrobe); let’s look at some of the problems they face.  First they use a power that apparently features an extremely seductive aspect of raw power that can only be accessed through “Dark” emotions, rage, jealousy and hate.  Rather than teaching the Jedi to handle these emotions they must either be bottled up forever (THAT always ends well) or unleashed completely (Like a poorly parented teenager).  No middle ground.  Once again absolutes and Sith people.  Jedi must be perfect, full stop, while anything else is Sith.  This leads to many of the greatest, most powerful Jedi being thrown into tougher and tougher situations where any faltering moment has the potential to turn them into a Dark Jedi or even a Sith.  I wonder why the Jedi have a sense they are getting weaker?

The result of this episode of willful ignorance is Order 66, with the Jedi murdered by their own clone soldiers, the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire with Darth Sidious at the helm (formerly Senator Palpatine) and Darth Vader (The Jedi’s “Chosen One” and champion) wielding the whip.  Had the Jedi encouraged pragmatism and a willingness to learn to control emotions and not subdue them, perhaps Anakin doesn’t become a Sith lord.  Had they considered an option other than their own weakening powers as the Sith lord used his own power to blind them, perhaps they catch the snake coiled at their feet.  Had they re-considered the wisdom of an easily given, impossible to rescind order that would demolish their own force, they might have escaped annihilation at the hand of their own troops.  Unfortunately they wandered around, blind to the doom approaching them, and paid for it.

The Sith aren’t a lot better.  In the Old Republic days the Sith Empire had a strict hierarchy that suffered from one key weakness.  Promotion was mostly by means of killing your superior.  This resulted in plenty of times where the Sith would win a battle and their finest leaders were promptly backstabbed by scheming juniors or promising juniors who jumped the gun were put down by their masters.  While this crucible did result in some very powerful warriors rising through the ranks it didn’t exactly encourage great wisdom in the higher ranks, merely power.  Darth Bane dealt with this by instituting the Rule of Two.  Only two sith, a Master and an Apprentice.  The basic foundation of this system was that the apprentice would grow in power and eventually kill the master and find their own apprentice.  That’s some dedication right there.  Maybe not the brightest candle in the box but certainly a bold one.

The end result of this is a dying Vader tossing the Emperor down a really really long shaft.  Also I’m sure there’s an OHSA joke in here somewhere.  That is not enough guard rail.  Now this doesn’t end the Sith but there’s a pretty big discontinuity in there now.  The One Sith at least restored the numbers of the Sith Empire, and instilled a great level of discipline in them but was sooooo over the top evil that it hardly had any greater power to challenge the new Jedi Order than the old Empire had.

I know this has been a roaming ramble of a rant but I think I’ve at least made my point that the Force doesn’t make you smart, and that excessive use apparently causes brain damage.

Warmachine: The Battle Boxes Part 1

Ok I’ve been knocking around the idea for this post for a little while.  Privateer Press offers what they call Battle Boxes.  These offer a ‘caster and some supporting ‘jacks that give you a balanced, fun set for some really basic games.  I’m going to run down the boxes for the factions I have seen.  I haven’t seen Convergence or Retribution, the rest I can speak about.

Cryx

Cryx has become my primary force.  Their battle box has a lot to do with it.  Deneghra (pDenny) is an immensely unbalancing walking catastrophe of a ‘caster.  Her ability to cripple and nullify the enemy at extreme range, using the excellently supportive ‘jacks in this box makes this a singularly not fun box to play against.  For strength it’s about a 12/10, for representing how fun the game is as far as your opponent is concerned it’s about a 2.  pDenny is just that un-fun to play against.  The ‘jacks are a solid supporting cast, although not superlative.  3 Arc Nodes make Denny that much more powerful, but the Slayer and Defiler are under-powered, in a battle box or a regular fight.

Caster – 10/10 – because if I voted lower than that she’d cripple me and finish me off.
Deathrippers – 8/10 – Fast, fairly accurate, hit somewhat hard, arc nodes are awesome with Denny.  You get two of them in the box.
Defiler – 2/10 – Just an arc node.  Doesn’t do a lot else.
Slayer – 6/10 – an heavy.  Focus intensive with a caster that wants to cast.

This box will leave you with a lot of choices.  You can sacrifice an arc node early to get some upkeeps out there early.  Crippling grasp does what it says on the tin.  It slows down faster models so you can catch them, and slower models may as well go home.  They can’t even run.  Parasite is another fun one to throw out there, helping Denny be a bit less helpless should someone look at her funny.  The defiler can actually be a tiny bit of a threat to an enemy caster, but don’t count on it hurting anything else.  Keep the slayer far enough back that it doesn’t eat any charges or heavy hits on the way in, with its speed delivering it won’t be a problem in most battle boxes.  Also figure out what you want to do with it, the one huge benefit it has is that it can do pretty much everything.  3 decent P+S attacks.  2 Open fists (meaning: all the power attacks) and a combo-strike to drop the open fist attacks and get 1 HEAVY attack.  It still dies if you look at it funny, but if you’re playing Cryx you’ll need to get used to that.  The Deathrippers are just solid little toys.  They move fast, hit pretty well, and are supremely accurate with their attacks.  They die fast, but I’m sure you were expecting that.  They make great flankers and if one can get a charge lane on an enemy caster that isn’t camping focus you might want to let them know they can start cleaning up the table.

Cygnar

Cygnar loves to shoot.  Despite a purely meh ‘caster this is a really really solid battle box.  Ironclads are very very popular, potent heavies that mix accuracy, power, and a great support ability.  The lights are a mixed bag.  The Charger is the premier shooting light in a faction that loves shooting.  The Lancer is a very defensive arc node.  In a game that loves offense, defensive abilities just aren’t as fun.  This ‘jack is far from as weak as the Defiler, and it has its uses, but it’s not ideal.  This box won’t dominate or cripple the enemy like Cryx, it cannot disrupt the enemy with nearly as much ability, but it can still set the tone in a game.

Caster – 5/10 – I’ll admit I’m not a pStryker fan.  He’s very defensive.  Warmachine loves offense.  He can be tough as nails, he can support a few models, again mostly with defensive buffs.  Just not inspiring.
Ironclad – 9/10 – probably the best heavy in a battlebox.  The only chink in the armor is… its armor.  It’s fast, hits like a truck, with accuracy, and it can knock down the enemy to ensure successful follow-up attacks or clear the way for the:
Charger – 9/10 – Ok Warmachine doesn’t like shooting.  It’s just not as potent.  It’s also very focus inefficient.  Except for this bad boy.  With 3 focus it can give you two very accurate, fully boosted shots.  With snipe it can shoot a long way.  With Ironclad you can knock down bad guys blocking Line of sight to let you see the target you want.
Lancer – 5/10 – a terribly defensive arc node.  It’s more useful than the Defiler.  Probably.

This is a schizophrenic box.  Stryker can help deliver a jack by boosting it’s armor and defense, and he can throw Snipe on the charger to give it more range.  He’s also an incredibly accurate attacker in his own right, even if his strength is pretty run-of-the-mill.  The one thing he really has going for him is that he can boost the heck out of the Charger.  The key to this box is clearing line of fire.  Ironclad can drop the hammer to knockdown an enemy, this could let the charger pop off two boosted shots at something your opponent thought was safe IF the Ironclad itself didn’t move into the way.  Remember, you do not have to charge directly towards your target, you can charge tangentially.  Don’t block line of sight in order to clear line of sight.  The Lancer is best served as an extension of your caster, being an arc node it can apply Stryker’s buffs or other spells at arms reach, however you really want it in close to your battlegroup as it has the armor of a heavy and a defensive ability that simply demands your opponent find a way to work around it.  See the card.  The Ironclad is a beatstick with 1 fantastic attack, 1 decent attack, and a game-winning special ability.  It’s not unbelievably tough (see Warjack, Heavy, Khador) but it can take a pounding.  It also has pretty good speed for a heavy and it synergizes well with the Charger.  The Charger is your all-star.  It’s fast, fairly tough, fairly hard to hit, accurate, and it does more with three focus than any jack in the game.  2 Fully Boosted shots from a fast, accurate platform.  This is your game winner here and your opponent knows it.  Your Lancer will probably spend more than a little time charging around keeping this guy safe, and that’s ok.  Unfortunately this box is far more predictable than the Cryx one, as you will pretty much be running around with Stryker a little behind and between the Ironclad on one side, and the Lancer/Charger on the other, trying to find a good angle to smash the screen your enemy is setting up in front of his Caster.

 

If I ran it…

So GW posted one doozy of a letter to investors.  I mean.  Wow.  Look at THIS whopper.  If he wasn’t leaving he should be thrown out anyway.

Games Workshop has had a really good year.
If your measure of ‘good’ is the current financial year’s numbers, you may not agree. But if your measure is the long-term
survivability of a great cash generating business that still has a lot of potential growth, then you will agree.

W ell, sure.  If you ignore some other facts.  Successful, capable competition, stagnating internal ideas, technological advances threatening production.  Everything is lovely!

He also announces he’s stepping down.  Thank.  Almighty.  God.  For those not paying attention that’s their chief lawyer and their CEO.

So I thought of what I would do if they picked someone more capable.  I figure there’s got to be 4 to 5 billion people who could do a better job running GW than the buffoons right now, and for once that’s not hyperbole.  This company is still operating like the economy is going great, there’s no source of information on alternatives or their own activities, and that local brick and mortar stores are unnecessary to their operations.  None of these things are true, and their inability to realize this is leading them down a dark spiral, and they are even ignorant to this fact.

So what would I do?  Well first off the whole pricing structure needs a radical restructuring.  Prices for GW minis are absolutely ridiculous even granted their high quality.  The prices for the books are even worse.  I would operate on the theory that bringing new people in is absolutely essential to the game.  Books would receive between a 50 and 75% price slash.  If that meant selling them for a loss then so be it.  People without books are people not playing my game.  I want this to be the marketing scheme for next year:

The second thing I want to do is change how the boxed armies are done.  I think GW is inching in this way already (look at the dwarf one for example) but they need to really look at how things are being done outside the company.  They can outprice Privateer Press handily and still attract fans.  Their games are good and their fans are rabid, but they need to encourage more people to pick it up.  Here’s my ideas for their established products:

OVERALL

  1. Get rid of Finecast.  Yesterday.
  2. Reprice all books to 25-50% of their current cost.
  3. Better staff and stocking at GW stores.  These places should be destinations, palaces of GW hobbies with examples and demos going on every hour.  Not sad slovenly stores stocking the most basic material.
  4. Stop.  Suing.  Everyone.  It pisses people off and it is being done far in excess of what is necessary to preserve copyrights.

WARHAMMER FANTASY

  1. Every Box like the Dwarf Box!  Useful models, a good solid core and a little something extra tossed in.  Islands of Blood is another great example.  For $100 dollars you get at least 3-4x what you pay for AND the rulebooks.
  2. Box sizes should equate to regiments.  20 for elite infantry, 30 for line, 40 for swarms.  Pricing will also be going down.  3$ for elite minis, 2$ for the rank and file, 5-7 for cavalry.
  3. Army books brought up to date for legacy armies, Brets, Skaven, Vampire Counts, Tomb Kings, look there’s a lot that needs some love.

WH40k

  1. 1 Book for Marines.  3 Tops.  Not a dozen.  (Not counting CSM)
  2. Price reduction on boxes.  Box sizes are ok.  40 bucks for 10 basic tactical marines isn’t.
  3. Rebalance everything.  I mean a serious balance pass.  Fliers especially but every army needs a good hard look to avoid spamming of OP units.
  4. Encourage the “skirmish” aspect.  Too many games end up like WWI slugfests with neat weapons rather than fast sci fi games with Marines shrugging off loads of fire to desperately try to accomplish their objective.

Other Games

  1. Epic 40k will be back.  Armageddon was a great ruleset that rubbed people the wrong way.  That can be fixed.  Big battles in 40k have always been amazing and there’s no reason not to have this product out there.
  2. Blood Bowl is GW’s best game ever.  Seriously it’s fun, it’s fast paced and it needs to be out front.
  3. LotR… does anyone play this?  How much are we paying for the IP?  Create some fancy models and move on.
  4. Necromunda.  Am I showing my age yet?  This is a hoot of a game and should be re-release with gorkamorka as a twofer.  Maybe even a “big scale” 54mm model game.  Something to throw down once in a while to mix things up.

Finally attempts have to be made to reach out to the community.  A lot of the games biggest supporters have been turned off by GW’s litigious nature, and heavy handed treatment of the humble LGS.  This has got to end.  GW should be proud of each and every store and should offer incentives to high performing stores, not harsh quotas and minimums.  For example a store that runs a tourney every month with a minimum of 10 players gets free scenery packs.  X amount in total sales gets a discount on product, or more favorable payment terms.  Finally I would practically dismantle the GW website for orders.  Let the retailers handle the retail.  Every GW sale takes dollars out of the pockets of the brick and mortar stores that host most Fantasy or 40k games.  Treat these stores well and they will reward GW with higher sales.  Treat them badly and they will wither and it will be more and more difficult for gamers to find a place to play a game.  It will be more and more difficult to bring new people into the hobby, and it will be more and more difficult to increase the companies sales.

This was fun.  Next up:  Privateer Press, and then CCP Games!

Warmachine Coming Right Up

So I’m getting back into Warmahordes.  Dusting off the Cryx and blowing the dust off the books.  Warmachine has a lot to recommend it; not the least being that it isn’t made by GW.  I’m going to go over some things I think are awesome about it, some things that aren’t and some things that are both.

AWESOME

Ok the price of this game compared to most other minis based games is pretty darn low.  It’s not cheap, and some models/units are downright expensive (BANES!) but overall you can land more than a couple hundred bucks under a 40k army, let alone a fantasy battles army.

The Mechanics of this game are really neat.  So much more of your strategy will happen on your side of the table.  What order you activate units in, how you will set up your attacks, when to roll the dice and when to stand pat for a moment.

All offense, all the time.  Models die fast and furious.  You can delay it but you can’t prevent it.  People who turtle suffer.  I’ve seen people who are used to historicals, GW games, and a lot of other metas just get swallowed by a fast and aggressive Warmahordes player.  My fiancee crunched my nemesis in her 2nd or 3rd game because he’s used to doing nothing on his first turn from other games, and he still won’t play the game because his favorite strategy is completely useless.

The models are gorgeous.  Good lord these armies look fantastic.  The “Recommended” paint schemes are bold, simple, and effective.  You don’t have to be Mike or Allison McVey to make them look good.

The game is designed to be accessible.  $50 gets you a battlebox with a ‘caster/warlock, some jacks/beasts and rules.  That gets you a book in some other games.  Rulebooks are handy, but not required, and rulebooks, army books, and expansion books, are very reasonably priced.  Even with some minis being on the pricey side

NOT SO AWESOME

Rules Lawyering.  This game follows a very nice meta, saying “Here’s some simple basic rules” then following it with “And here’s more enough special rules to choke an elephant” This is fine in and of itself, but it leads to lengthy errata, as rules have to be bounced off each other, and the very lethality of the game means that such minutiae as measuring, and proper rolling will need to be followed to the letter.  This can really slow down the game, especially between new players, and in advanced games with death clocks… woof.

Knowledge is Power.  Players need to know at least their own army like the back of their hands.  It is very easy to fall badly behind an army you haven’t faced before and get trounced.

The Great Grey Horde.  People build armies fast.  The “I just need this and my army will be invincible!” feeling, combined with the moderate prices mean that every game shop and every gamer is faced by monolithic walls of grey or silver miniatures staring at him begging for paint.  I spray mine black to shut them up.

Assembling some of these miniatures is so frustrating that it makes me want to sit on the floor, kick my heels and throw a tantrum.  And I haven’t even bought Terminus yet.  I’m not kidding either.  Look here.  Honestly it’s one of the worse models they’ve made from a pose AND from an assembly standpoint but he’s so incredibly powerful I want to use him, I just do NOT want to put that mess together.

THE AWESOMELY NOT-SO-AWESOME

Now for the bits of both.

There are models that are so not fun to play against they can make people rage quit the game.  Without ever playing it.  See War Witch Deneghra, and most of Cryx.  Menoth and Everblight have this too.  But only Cryx has it in their battlebox.  That’s right, Privateer Press threw a rage-quit inducing miniature in the starter sets.  The alternate box with Asphyxious is an improvement, but facing Cryx can be soul crushing, and that is the right term.  The down sides of this is obvious, but on the plus side it inspires some gamers to say “well what does Cygnar have that will make people throw dice?”

The game can change so fast you have no idea what just happened.  Seriously I’ve seen whole games change so fast that the player that won literally doesn’t know they’ve won.  One lucky attack, one miss, one perfectly/poorly positioned mini and a game goes from a crushing defeat to a stunning victory.  This is awesome as it keeps you playing even in a game that you don’t think you have a chance in, but it also makes you want to cry when your perfect attack run falls apart because you rolled a 3 to hit on a sure-fire attack.

All in all I really enjoy this game.  Not everyone that plays it is a wonderful character and my last burnout was solely to do with people, not the game, time to toughen up and roll some dice again.

LotRO Raids Aren’t Easy

Ok so last time I talked about how Turbine had decided to trash raiding because there aren’t any raiders to do them.  In itself that probably isn’t completely false.  It does ignore that the reason for these raiders being so rare is that the raids are dated, buggy and generally poor in quality.

There’s even another layer to this.  Making raids for LotRO isn’t easy.  I’m going to give a brief overview of the classes, starting with the tanks, then the DPS, then the healers, then the troublemakers.

There’s two classes that are primarily tanks:

  • Guardians – Traditional Heavy Armor tanks.  High morale, high mitigations, lots of taunts.
  • Wardens – Medium Armor tanks.  Over the course of a fight they build up very high mitigations, and have a bewildering array of self-buffs, self-heals, and shenanigans that make them easily capable of soloing three-man content.

Primary DPS Classes:

  • Champions – Melee blenders.  Heavy armor.  Great close range area of effect, and very good single-target damage.  Ok mitigation.
  • Hunters – Nukers par excellence.  Orlando Bloom would be jealous.  Serious heavy sustained damage in multiple flavors.

Primary Healing Classes:

  • Minstrel – Medium Armor, lots of buffs, lots of heals, some bubbles.

The rest of the classes are troublemakers.  In other words 4 of the 9 classes make a challenge for the traditional paradigm of tank-dps-heals.  Let’s look at why.

  • Captain – My current main.  One class can fill three roles.  Tanking?  Decent.  Heals?  Decent.  DPS?  Decent.  Most importantly it adds heavy buffs to the list.  Every raid will have a captain.  They add a solid character in any role, even if they are a bit behind the top rate at any position.  Their buffs take other classes into the stratosphere and make them a requirement.  They also mean that balancing requires you to take into account that a well played captain is going to break metrics.  A raid set for a group without a captain will get crushed by a raid with a captain.  A raid set for a captain would be impossible without one.
  • Burglars – A really good DPS class to begin with.  They add debuffing, and crowd control.  WoW Rogues drool with envy.  This class can cripple enemies and deal with dangerous adds with contemptuous ease.  A well played Burglar is nearly indispensable in some fights.  While not as raid-breaking as a Captain, they add another flavor to balancing that certainly makes things rougher.
  • Lore-Master – Not your daddies cloth caster.  A 2nd tier DPS choice, that adds debuffing, healing and ridiculous crowd-control.  Oh and Power (mana) regeneration.  For everyone.  They also add pets to the party.  This class is simply a requirement.  It’s easy to game for something everyone is going to bring, but still the kind of power a good Lore-Master includes means that raids are going to have a pretty hefty difficulty.  A good LM can keep everyone fed with power in a 12 man raid.  Imagine running a 10 man dungeon in WoW without ever worrying about mana.
  • Rune-Keepers – This one is challenging for everyone.  A very good RK can jump between damage and healing mid-fight and provide high quality (not quite top tier) performance at both roles.  A merely good RK can provide elite levels of either DPS or Heals with nearly contemptuous ease.  The ability for really good players to swap roles mid-fight makes this class difficult to deal with when tuning different phases.  DPS races and healer intensive phases just mean the good players are swapping back and forth.  This class is again not as game-breaking as the cappy, BUT that the presence of them, especially multiples of them, can potentially make any challenge phase much less of a challenge.

These four classes make raid design an incredible challenge.  WoW and most of its clones have traditionally dealt with this by simplifying their class structure.  Turbine has not followed this route.  They have kept the classes diverse, with controllers, buffers, debuffers, and the traditional trinity.

None of this excuses the buggy messes.  The poorly thought out mechanics, and the severe gating of radiance had nothing to do with the problems of class balance.  While Turbine has its work cut out for it in developing raids, they cannot blame that for the problems that have traditionally plagued them.  The simple fact is they don’t have the wherewithal to develop raids that are current, that work, and that are interesting in the modern MMO paradigm.

Turbine has a fiscal issue.  They have to prioritize their spending and that’s fine.  They need to recognize that by saying “You guys don’t play raids so we won’t make raids” to an educated audience burns bridges.  The raiders left in the game keep waiting for Turbine to support them.  Now Turbine is blaming them.  Sure they don’t make up a large part of the game, but they make up a far larger part of the community.  Turbine is stabbing them in the back and you would think someone as savvy as Sapience would know better.

Well Why Aren’t There Raiders, Sapience?

So Sapience, the Community Manager of LotRO has announced that Raiders are less than 5% of the Lord of the Rings population, and probably more like 2-3%.  I’m not sure what exact methodology was used to determine who is a “raider” but the two definitions I would consider most “normal” are: first, someone who has completed a raid, killed the bosses, looted the chest; second, someone who has completed a raid multiple times.  Maybe does things on a regular basis.  The second is what I think of as raiders and I would put this group around 2% of the population at best.  There isn’t a lot of argument that raiders are a small part of the population.  How small is a matter of some question but I’m willing to take Sapience’s numbers at face value.

Here’s the thing.  Sapience is saying they don’t make raids because there aren’t raiders.  He’s saying the root of the problem is the lack of raiders.  That’s not the root.  That’s the trunk.  That’s not the cause, it’s the effect.  Raiding in LotRO is nowhere near where it is in SWTOR or WoW or any other big name game, because the raids suck.  Really Bad.  The SoA raids aren’t terrible but they are dated.  Really really dated.  No one knew what they were doing back then, players or devs and it shows.  The Moria raids were poisoned by the Radiance system and still don’t feel right, although they can be fun they’ve never really worked even after the disaster that was Radiance was removed.  BG and OD were good raids.  In fact they might have represented the golden age of LotRO raiding.  Two worthwhile raids that people could run that justified a gear grind by granting access to good, challenging content.

Then there’s Risengard.  It has the best raid in the game, ToO and the worst in the game, Draigoch.  ToO has not been updated to the level cap and people run it.  It is still fun, and still challenging.  That’s a good raid there.  Draigoch probably killed raiding.  A buggy, confusing, poorly done mess that results in the boss bugging out more than wipe-quits and victories combined.  And it’s still not fixed.

That’s why people don’t raid in LotRO.  For the same reason that EvE players revolted over the lack of iteration.  Because things get left undone and then the outcome gets blamed on the players.  The Rohan raids were more like encounters than raids, they simply didn’t have any grandiose feel to them, and I doubt really affected people’s feelings on raids in either way.

Here’s the thing, Turbine can make great and innovative instances.  School and Library probably have more runs per active player than any instance in any game.  They are that popular, that fast, and that useful to the players.  The Barrows are a lot of fun and the Misty Mountains quests are quite neat.  When it comes to 3 and 6 man content the Turbine staff can go toe to toe with just about anyone.  I’m going to run down the list of instances you can do on level at the current level cap.

  1. Great Barrow (3 Instances, 6 man)
  2. Inn of the Forsaken (3 man)
  3. Seat of the Great Goblin (3 man)
  4. Iorbar’s Peak (3 man)
  5. Webs of the Scuttledells (3)
  6. Bells of the Dale (6)
  7. Fornost (4 instances, 6 man)
  8. Halls of Night (3 man)
  9. Glinghant (6 man)
  10. Ost Elendil (6 man)
  11. Huadh Valandil (6 man)
  12. Library (3 man)
  13. School (3 man)
  14. Sword Hall (3 man)
  15. Dungeons (6 man)
  16. Warg Pens (3 man)
  17. Sammath Gul (6 man)
  18. Lost Temple (6 man)
  19. Sari-Surma (6 man)
  20. Northcotton Farms (3 man)
  21. Stoneheight (3 man)

So 26 choices at level cap.  Twenty Six.  All of them are fun, all of them are worth at least a run through, and some are worth going through on a regular basis for fun and profit!  You can even get rewards for slapping hobbits!

That’s not even counting the Skirmish and (still buggy) big battles.  Both of which can provide an interesting instanced challenge for 1-12 players.  They may not be as intricate as a more traditional instance, but they are an interesting challenge and a big change from the current standard of Dungeons or Open World Quests.

Turbine can do good content, they just haven’t wrapped their heads around traditional raids, and they are blaming the players for it.

I'm using it every time I can

I’m using it every time I can

LET ME LOVE YOU, LEVIATHANS!

Ok, tabletop gaming talk time.  I’ve been a table top gamer for SLIGHTLY less time than I’ve been a vidya gamer.  My first minis were the famous “30 Space Marines for 30 dollars” box back when GW wasn’t in the running for “Most idiotic evil corporate empire on earth” and I’ve played ever since.  Battletech, Every GW game out there, Johnny Reb, Age of Reason, Command Decision, X-wing, Warmahordes.  You name it I’ve probably looked it over.

Leviathans very quickly earned a special part in my heart.  This is an incredibly fun, not tortuously complex, immensely characterful game.  Seriously, who doesn’t love Pre-Dreadnought flying battleships blasting each other to bits over Victorean Europe?  It’s a great game and if you can find a copy I strongly suggest forking over for the (overpriced, and more on that soon) box.  The miniatures are fascinating, and you will be fondling them gleefully, the rules are fun and the fluff is entertaining as hell especially if you are familiar with early 20th century naval personages.

But there’s a fly in the ointment.

That’s not true.

There’s some ointment on the wasps nest.

Leviathans has been mismanaged, unlucky, and royally screwed over since the beginning.  Their kickstarter ran well, but since then.  Woof.  I’m not entirely conversant with the chain of events but whatever research they did on their suppliers apparently missed the fact that Don Corleone was less crooked, and Chicago less corrupt.  Catalyst (which runs a shoestring organization to begin with) faced numerous… well… shakedowns in getting their product released, and ended up selling either for a loss or for a bare profit on the $100 dollar box set that staggered onto the market nearly a year late.  They released three box sets, the core one, and two fleet box sets that never saw the shelves here for about 50 a piece.  They contained the same miniatures as the big box, with variant ships.  Some e-pubs followed and lots and lots of promises.

And that’s it.

The new factions?  Not ready yet.  More miniatures?  Not even close.  Now there’s just no way to even GIVE them more money to continue development short of waiting for another kickstarter.  That will basically get us back to where we were 2 years ago when the product first launched.  If it succeeds.

Recently the extremely clever and devoted developer of the game, one Randall Bills, posted a statement basically admitting that they had lost all control of the miniatures (renders, molds, everything) and that their initial production model had been a failure for many reasons (not the least of which being malfeasance by the mini producer) and everything but the rules needed to be done from the ground up.

It looks more and more like Randall needs a boss.  Someone with more business experience to provide oversight, rigor, and experience to prevent the kind of catastrophes that have plagued this program since the first kickstarter.

The tone of this last message reminds me of Bruce Graw of Agents of Gaming.  Bruce created a game called Babylon 5 Wars, based on the TV series, and it was a rather similar game to Leviathans in the way the game flowed.  The game even had some pretty considerable success, which is amazing when I think on how incredibly difficult to assemble many of the miniatures were.  It fell apart towards the end when the license for the game wasn’t continued despite Bruce’s considerable efforts and investment and the company disappeared like a soap bubble.

Both companies were exposed to point failure, that is one single bad player in the scheme could ruin them.  Bruce didn’t have much control over it, his whole concept required a partner to play along, but Randall didn’t have to use that company, and he could have given himself surety that protected him from getting screwed over like he did.  Especially after it happened once.

Both companies had major supply issues as well.  B5W minis would show up with molding flaws that were simply ridiculous, enormous bubbles, or concavities, detail so worn away that ships looked like metal bricks, B5W was not immune to issues with their producers, and Bruce had to spend a lot of time cat-wrangling.

B5W suffered an ignominious demise because of these problems.  Leviathans seems to be heading that way.  I want it to succeed, I want to see the Germans, Italians, Russians, Austrian, American, and Japanese fleets sail the skies.  I want more miniatures, I want the amazing mapboard to have neighbors, and I want expanded rules.  I don’t want Leviathans to be a footnote, but unless they get some supervision I fear that Bills will be the next Graw.

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