Wednesday, 10 December 2014

[GW2] I Only Wear Skirts on Sundays - Trenchcoats in Guild Wars 2

What is ArenaNet's obsession with trenchcoats? Seriously, its getting a little bit old now. 
By my count there are 37 full medium armour sets in Guild Wars 2 and all but 1 include coats which extend beyond the waist. Furthermore, most are full-blown rain macs which go down past the knee (28/37). All but one includes butt-capes which stick stiffly out from our arse-cheeks, often they clip with boots, the edges of gloves or backpieces, weapons sheathed on the waist or back... every single medium armour player out there is dressed in a coat which you wouldn't be surprised to see donned by an old man hanging around the gates of the local primary school.

Frankly, its become a bit of a joke by now. One of the great things about MMOs is getting interesting and varied gear, so every player you see looks unique and individual. Seeing an announced armour set (or the illicit guilty pleasure of an as-yet unannounced datamine of new armour sets) is an exciting experience - but finding that, once again, the designers have created another trenchcoat is just disappointing. Its this disappointment I felt over the carapace/luminescent set, and the latest that_shaman find is absolutely no different.

I like the armours. I really do (Once I've completed the set I'm thinking of switching over to carapace or even luminescent if it dyes well). And I am super-super-super happy to have in-game armour added with at least some regularity now. But does it have to follow this exact same mold every time? Seeing players wearing these two armours at any distance but up close, it would be hard to tell them apart! Flared gloves, check, long coat, check, high boots, check. Its just such a wasted opportunity. 

This problem is not limited to the medium armour professions, heavy armour seems to be also cursed with an over-abundance of armoured skirts as do the casters. But I think this lack of imagination is felt most potently in the medium armour professions.

The GW2 medium armour professions have so much scope for variety. It doesn't just have to be leather or cloth coats! What about light chain mail or a bodice/vest of hardened hide or chitin? What about scales, shells or fur? We had all three of those in GW1 and they didn't need a leather tail to balance out the set! There is so much opportunity for imagination, and whilst I don't doubt that whatever style this new armour set ends up having (and its important to note we've only seen the bare-bones image as of yet), it still appears to be a long coat, just like 36 of the 37 (now 37/38) other sets we have already.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

[GW2] A Villain with a little Va Va Voom

Lewis over at Ten Ton Hammer wrote a piece recently detailing why he thinks a Guild Wars 2 expansion is on the horizon. I don't want to repeat all the stuff he said about why its coming, needless to say its an argument with which I agree - and I've seen other very clever people saying the same thing, so I'm inclined to believe that we are right.
He also asked what we'd like to see. I think most people's reactions are all stuff that I'd like to see too - new races, professions, armour, weapons and skills. To be honest I took these to be a given, what I'd really really like to see is a good ol' fashioned villain. 

I want a villain akin to Moriarty, Lex Luthor or Doctor Claw (ask your parents, kids!) and I'm going to tell you why the Elder Dragons simply won't cut it this time, at least not on their own.

Think of the baddies who make you squirm, the ones who make you gnash your teeth or slam your book, controller or theatre viewing binoculars down in disbelief  - jaw gaping at the sheer skulduggery of it all.

The ones who betray the hero at the last second, revealing their Machiavellian plan as they slowly wheel him or her towards a pit of lava or into a pool of ill-tempered sea bass. They all have real personalities and lives, relationships to the characters - more often than not they have qualities which the hero of the piece sees in themselves ("we're not so different, you and I"). Some are flawed, others are downright damaged (often by the actions of the protagonist earlier in life) and we get to know them personally and the connections they have to every other character and how our lives are interwoven with theirs and, in a way, how poetic it is that we should be the ones to face them in the end.
In some ways we see ourselves in them, or at least we understand how they reached the brink of madness on which they teeter... and so we hate them, because we know how easily it could have been us.
Given a different circumstance Bruce Wayne could have ended up mad like the Joker, Prof Xavier could easily have used his powers for evil like Magneto, and we even saw it in what I believe to be the best villain in a video game to date - GlaDOS (spoilers) - we see how quick and easy it was for Wheatley, our mild-mannered sidekick, to become corrupted by immense power.

An Elder Dragon does not have any of these qualities. An Elder Dragon is a whirling thunderstorm of hate, hunger and lust. They are elemental. They do not have personalities and so we cannot see ourselves in them, and so we cannot hate them. Our drive to destroy them is simply "they are a bad thing, if I do not kill them more bad things will happen and that would be bad". 

They are a daunting foe, sure, but they are no villain. If we are going to face Mordremoth (and there's no telling if this confrontation will be saved for the Living Story ending or if they might stretch it out to an expansion) then I think another soulless strategic campaign against an enemy which we have no real strong feelings for will not provide as compelling a narrative as one with a truly despicable (and hateable) supervillain at the end.

What we need is a pre-existing character. One who is close to our party. Someone who might betray the group and drag them to their lowest point - just when they think they are getting the upper hand.
No no no - Trahearne is far too obvious, come on use a little imagination. We need someone with a little vavavoom, a little mystery. There are, in my opinion, two main candidates:

Canach has shown a certain ruthlessness, a willingness to do a little bad in order to achieve a lot of good. This is actually a relatively common trope amongst villains, (Bane, Tyrion Lannister, Walter White, Gabriel in Constantine etc etc) and it is easy for the "little bad" to become "lots of bad" as things spiral out of control and the antagonist rationalises ever more evil deeds in pursuit of his or her noble goal.
He hits the "not so different, you and I" quota also. He is a good guy driven bad by circumstance and again that could have so easily been us.
The only drawback is that he is currently on a path of redemption, and I'm not sure the message ANet want to send with his story is "rehab doesn't work, kids". That might just be too much of a downer. I wonder if he could simply be a fall-guy - the one which we all suspect as being behind it all, the one which all clues point to until the very final second when the true puppetmaster is shown to be:

Faolain. She is a character who seems built to make our skin crawl, and we really don't know why yet. She has a past with Caithe, and claims to love her very much. They were close friends once, perhaps even lovers and Caithe still, on some level at least, trusts her. Caithe has always been seen to be stoic, infallible almost to the level of humourlessness but Faolain seems to be able to break down these walls and get underneath her leaves.
She is the leader of the Nightmare Court, an ostensibly evil character, an enemy even, but nevertheless she seems to be Caithe's one weakness and there seems to be the very strong suggestion that "Caithe's Secret" has something to do with her. Something in her past which she has buried somewhere deep inside and hopes will never see the light of day. Scarlet knew it, perhaps as a result of delving deep into the history of the Pale Tree.
I've ruminated on the idea that perhaps the sylvari could be the Pale Tree's natural defense against the Elder Dragons. In light of new information, perhaps the relationship between the dragons and the Tree is not so antagonistic, and this is what Caithe and Faolain know, and what Scarlet saw, on account of being "first born"?

I would like to see Faolain be the Eldritch Horror at the end of Guild Wars 2's first expansion. As a servant of the Elder Dragons - a part of the earth, just like the Pale Tree and the Dragons themselves.

How I'd Like to See it Go Down:

Imagine a story in which we delve deeper into the dream, and the deeper we get the more clues about the connection between the Tree, the sylvari and the Dragons are unearthed. But the closer we get to the truth, the more drawn and distant Caithe becomes - she warns we are digging too deep, and might not like what we find, she argues with Canach and they both disappear into the darkness. The group suspects Canach (and perhaps there is some handily planted evidence to support our suspicions) has kidnapped Caithe and is some kind of Dragon worshipper.

The final confrontation takes place at a bloodstone site somewhere in Maguuma, we face off against our foe - who we suspect to be Canach, he is standing alone shouting fos us to "stay back!". Nonetheless, we march forward, but as we approach to make an arrest a thick vine appears out of nowhere and impales him!
Riding upon a twisted tendril is Faolain and at her feet is the mangled body of Caithe. All these years, she tells us, she had been grooming Caithe for this - this blood sacrifice to bring about the rise of an age of Nightmare. Using Caithe's first-born blood, Faolain channels the Elder Dragon energy from the earth, absorbing it all and driving her mad in the process, she can't contain all that energy in her small body - she explodes into a gigantic sylvari nightmare beast!

We struggle to keep up with the pace of battle, but are no slackers, we persevere but just as we are about to strike the killing blow the dragon takes over, knocking the entire party to the ground and rising up above us - preparing to consume us all!
Off to the side comes a beleaguered groan - the air seems to stand still and silent - Canach claws his way to his knees and grits his teeth, snarling at the dragon beast in front of him. Struggling he rises to his feet but bereft of energy, he stumbles and is caught by a flash of light - the image of the Pale Tree draws him to his feet. Just as the Dragon poured all his energy into Faolain, so too does the Pale Tree pour her energy into Canach.
Enraged, the Faolain/Dragon beast screams of the injustice of a second born being granted such a blessing - drawing up all her hate and spite, the beast lunges at Canach but he swats her away easier than a fly, Faolain smashes against the trunk of the Tree and the Dragon Spirit bursts forth from her body. The love of the Pale Tree is no match for the choas and hate of the Elder Dragon.

We then begin our final battle with the dragon spirit itself, but we are imbued with great gifts of strength and ability from the Pale Tree's blessing and with Canach at our side we fight our way through the spirit and to Faolain's body - the conduit which is giving him form - just as we did with Scarlet, we finish her once and for all.

After the battle we mourn the loss of Caithe and Canach who cannot return to his former life, he must now live as the vision of the Pale Tree, one with the eternal alchemy having restored balance for a while at least. His is truly a story of redemption, willing to sacrifice his own life to save others, but not in such a way that he takes the fight away from us. Faolain is a villain who betrays us, kills our friends in front of our faces but is still ultimately a victim of the draw of the power of the Dragon.

Sales soar. ANet become billionaires. Everyone is happy.

Apart from Trahearne who was killed at some point.

ps. The only drawback is that it would be yet another female sylvari corrupted by dragon power. Maybe they all just look evil to me, I dunno.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Whatever Happened to the Wizard?

There are, perhaps, three significant stalwarts of wizardry in fiction - relatively evenly distributed across time, they are comparable in a number of characteristics: wisdom (typically they are advisers and guides, trusted by less experienced characters), great big white/grey beards (almost, some might say, essential) and most significantly for this article they are similar in their extremely advanced age. They are Merlin from the stories of King Arthur, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings and most recently Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter. 

Its the advanced age (and general wizenedness) which I want to focus on. All three are immensely powerful beings, venerated across the lands and respected as such. There is the implication that their immeasurable power was gained through many years of learning, training and reading dusty scrolls on the arcane arts. So much time and effort has to go into developing their skill that they presumably forget to shave for a couple of decades, leading to impressive beards. Similarly, with time being of the essence, they don't want to waste precious seconds unbuttoning or unzipping flies, so they all go for cloaks and cowls which allow just a quick lift and you're ready to roll. My point is that their training consumes decades of their lives, and by the time they reach the kind of power where they might legitimately call themselves wizards they at least appear to be very old men.

So where on earth is this trusted archetype in modern gaming? The Guild Wars elementalist, the Warcraft Mage, the Diablo Wizard, Amadeus in Trine, the wizards in Magicka... all fresh faced youths in the prime of their lives. Have they even had half the time to develop skills through which they might call themselves spellcasters of note? I say nay. Some games (like Skyrim) give you the option to change the appearance of age of your character, but this is for appearances sake only - to all other agents in the game you will still be a youth of relative inexperience.
In fact, the old wizard archetype is often employed as a secondary character to your own: the greybeards in Skyrim being a good example. Again, they are elderly bearded advisers - though their wisdom could be somewhat questioned. But still I miss the chance to play that character - a character whose staff is not only a deadly weapon, but also an essential walking stick to soothe his aching back! In the future I want my RPGs to include in character creation a slider for "hunchbackedness" and the further I slide it to the left, the more broken and bent my character becomes. Instead of dodge rolling, he could shift or phase out of the way, instead of fizzing out puns like no tomorrow, he can dispense golden nuggets of wisdom ("a wizard arrives precisely when he means to!").

Power does not necessarily need to be communicated through vim and vigour, the kind of boundless energy which the Guild Wars elementalist seems to possess in spades - shooting around, throwing out wise-cracks and one liners like no tomorrow. Power can be like Yoda - old and immense, but with the appearance of being small and inert. These old characters, Merlin, Gandalf, Dumbledore were thoughtful in their movements, slow and steady, their calm masking their immeasurable power because when required to act they act swiftly and decisively, I understand that there are certain examples (I believe the wizard character in Gauntlet is old and beardy) but rarely are we given the chance to factor age into a game which allows character customisation and certainly in MMOs the robe-wearing bearded wizard seems to have been superseded by the young spell-slinger type.
I get that game developers want us to identify with the characters we create, and its easier for us to identify with a character who appears to be of a similar age to the standard gaming demographic. Perhaps I'm getting a little more advanced in age now and with my back I can't see myself dodge rolling much in the near future. Instead, I'd rather play a character who is as immobile as I am, but still gives me the feeling of being old and powerful. 

There is a whole other article about how wizards are venerated, but witches (until the Harry Potter franchise at least) got the shorter end of the stick and largely still do. That's a topic for another time and one I'm sure which is tied up with various cultural views on power and femininity.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

[GW2] Here's your feedback - The Gem Store [UPDATED!]

For a TL:DR (and particularly if you are an ArenaNet dev) see the bottom of the post.

The Guild Wars 2 gem store has always allowed players to convert their in game gold into "gems" which they can use to buy items from the gem store.
This system has worked in tandem with the ability to buy gems with real money.

Before this latest update players could choose the amount of gold they wished to spend to buy items.

Need a key for 125 gems? Then buy 125 gems! Need an outfit for 700 gems? You guessed it, buy 700 gems!

The new system works like this:

Need a key for 125 gems? Buy 400 gems and have 275 left over! Need an outfit for 700 gems? Buy 800 gems and have 100 left over! Because reasons!

Players can now only convert their in game gold to gems in increments of 400. Once again ArenaNet's justification for this change has been: new players found it confusing and as veteran players we wouldn't understand. 

"Hey there,
Here are a few tidbits from the team:
  • A lot of newer players had trouble with the interface. That doesn’t apply to you, you’re veterans who have been around the conversion block a time or two. But newer players will benefit from the updated system.
  • The goal was to make the Gem Store more like other shopping experiences, and if you think about it, there is more of that feel to it now.
  • You may be surprised to know this (I know I was) but very few people bought gems at smaller denominations than the first one offered in the new system. That’s not to say they never did, nor that there wouldn’t be the desire to do so. But overall, the current options were selected based on player purchases in the past.
  • The team is going to listen to your feedback and, if and when it’s practical and desirable, they can look towards adjusting the new system to better meet your needs.
So please keep your thoughts coming on the new system. Feel free to make suggestions but please, keeping them constructive would be very much appreciated."

This is an argument they've used before, and I've written about here.

As one eloquent redditor quite rightly put it: "Bullshit". First off, if the interface is confusing players - then change the fucking interface. This has nothing to do with the ability to convert however much gold you need. The interface is just the way the player interacts with the system, not the system itself.

Second, which "new player" has the gold stashed away to be able to convert gold into 400 gems anyway!? At the current conversion rate that equals 75 gold! I played for a good 6 or 7 months before I had that kind of currency lying around, and even then I wouldn't have thought of converting all my worldly possessions into gems to buy a cheap looking outfit! There is nothing about this update to this system which is helpful to new players, in fact it isn't even a system which new players will have the option to use because they simply will not have the gold to buy the required 400 gems.

I'm afraid the actual motivations for this change are very thinly veiled. Before you might convert a small amount of gold into gems to buy a Black Lion Chest Key from the store, now you are far less likely to have the spare change required - so instead you BUY the gems with real money. That's the reason this change  has been made - the only thing confusing is why ArenaNet are so brazen about it. It is mind boggling.

So, just to spell it out for ArenaNet - feed this back to your team:

There is absolutely no way that a new player will have the in game gold to buy 400 gems, so they will spend real money instead. This is NOT a system which is friendly for new players, it is absolutely the opposite. This is a system to rinse more real money out of new players. You. are. fucking. it. up.

Kotaku (I know, ew, but bear with me) are claiming that ArenaNet will be reversing the changes to the gem system in light of our "ranting". They don't actually give any source for this announcement but I anticipate a statement from ANet soon if its true. The system works. Rant for justice. All haile the rant.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

[HS] Seatstory Cheerleaders Tarnish the Event

One of the first big flashy Hearthstone tournaments ever held was the ESGN Fight Night series first held in January 2014. It was run like a big-budget TV show, with a colourful studio set up, interviews, animated player profiles and, most controversially, boxing style "card girls" who would saunter across the stage at the start of each match with the "Game Number".

The girls were an effort on the part of the organisers to inject a flashy sports-style professionalism to the broadcast, but what it ended up being was an embarrassing mess. Viewers and players broadly criticised the decision. Dressed as "sexy schoolgirls" (a still relatively unnerving, though not uncommon trope) aside from the actual gameplay, the girls were the element of the broadcasts which attracted the most attention.

The whole debacle was not helped at all in that there was not a single female player in the whole event. I don't believe that is unheard of - whatever stats you believe about the percentage of gamers who are female, it can't be argued that they are relatively underrepresented in pro-gaming. During and after the event, criticism ranged from "they don't add anything to the show" through "they didn't even speak to the players" and up to "its pretty much straight up exploitation". 
I was a little disappointed when a number of the players, talking on the popular "Turn 2" podcast after the event, did not seem to recognise the sexism argument and as Wunder (at Liquidhearth) recognises:

"It doesn’t help that Ek0p, one of the members of Dogehouse, said on Turn 2 that you should consider them “decorations or something, to make the show prettier”. Now, he goes on to say that not all women are decorations but that was the purpose of those two girls’ existence."

Wunder goes on to note that though the girls were only a very small part of the show, if that was the case, then why include them at all? Why alienate such a large section of the Hearthstone community? It's only anecdotal evidence, but Hearthstone does seem to have a large proportion of the playerbase who are female (perhaps more-so than other games) - so why risk it? Its simply the most blatant form of objectification, the girls existed simply as an attractive sign-holder, nothing more.

It didn't even achieve the purpose of making the event seem professional and sexy - all the players looked awkward and uncomfortable. It would have been interesting to see what the reaction would have been if the sign-holders were muscular gentlemen in hot pants and crop-tops. Perhaps the male members of the community who defended the girls' inclusion as being "all part of the fun", would re-evaluate their opinion if they were faced with some well-toned man meat in between each round.

Regardless, as good as the gameplay was (and, to be honest, aside from the girls the event was a lot of fun) ESGN eventually ran out of money and had to shut down. But thats another story.

Fast forward to the past few days and the Seatstory Cup. And exact same arguement emerges. Seatstory is a different beast to the Fight Nights. It's a house cup: taking place in a single apartment rather than a sprawling studio. It still feels just as slick, but the ambience is much more laid back and I believe its an event which many of the players were very much looking forward to due to it being a nice social occasion as well as a competitive tournament. 

Unfortunately, Seatstory (and TakeTV on whose Twitch account it is being broadcast) seem to have learned nothing from the debacle of Fight Night - including scantily-clad pom-pom wielding cheerleaders alongside the exclusively male cast of pro-players. 

The exact same arguments as with Fight Night emerge - perhaps the disbelief is even more prominent here as its hard to believe someone would think it appropriate given the ambiance of the event doesn't seem to fit, and the backlash which emerged as a result of the Card Girls at Fight Night. There has been some suggestion that the girls are an ironic nod to the mistakes of Fight Night itself - but I believe that's a bit of a longshot, and even if that is the intention, the effect is still to alienate the same female audience which occurred in January

Its a huge shame and is astoundingly misjudged especially considering that sexism in gaming is just about as hot as a topic can get at the moment. And this all comes on the heels of a smaller event cast by Kripparian and Reckful where they were accused of sexist remarks towards the female players in the event.

Poorly placed as I am (being male) to effectively communicate how crap a decision this was by the organisers. I thought I'd just post a quote by /u/Shavri on Reddit (emphasis added):

"As a girl who watches HS regularly, this was a 10/10 facepalm moment. I thought maybe after the backlash from the signholders on ESGN people in the community might have realized this is pretty cringe-worthy. I understand that I'm in the minority for the e-sports community, but can you at least pretend there might be some women watching. From an advertising standpoint I think it was pretty insulting to the guys watching too---or maybe I'm wrong. inb4 women-hating/jealousy comments"

Viewers, players, casters and event organisers need to recognise that even "jokey" casual sexism is not acceptable. Not only is it unprofessional, but its damaging to the Hearthstone and gaming community at large. It just continues to reproduce the perception of the gaming community as male dominated, chauvanist and unwelcoming to girls.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

[GW2] Why Your Opinion on the New Player Experience Doesn't Matter

I had a big long post detailing the problems I had with the new update - the fact that it appears to have removed more features than it added, the patronising way it treats new players, the frankly ridiculous gating of skills and gameplay features etc. Ultimately, I just encountered the one single sentence which encompasses it all and it comes from this comment from a new player on Reddit:

"It gave me freedom to play how I wanted, something sorely lacking in most MMOs, which force you to do things a certain way or unlock things in a certain order."

and later...

"What the hell is this! That constant drive for success, and the feeling of connection that the story and world quests combined to give has been skewed to all hell. I tried playing again today, but these changes changed the parts of the game I liked the most, the freedom of progression at your own pace."

And I think ultimately, thats what this update has all-but removed from the levelling process - the freedom to play how you want. Wasn't that central to the all-holy Manifesto? Play how you want! 

Now its: play how you want, as long as you don't want a second weapon set until level 15. 

Play how you want as long as you don't want to customise your stats or gain access to interesting traits before level 30!

Play how you want as long as that involves dying one way before level 5 and dying another way after level 5. 

You can no longer play the game your own way if you're levelling, that feature has gone out the window (its by the bins along with the personality system and the game's eSports ambitions). Play the game ANet's way, please - where skills are unlocked when ANet say you're ready - wouldn't want to overheat your likkle brain by challenging you in any way.

Unfortunately, ArenaNet hold the lion's share of the cards when it comes to this arguement: we've got only anecdotal evidence and experience, but ANet have, presumably, done user testing and those tests have shown that holding an item in your main hand takes up almost 100% of a new player's cognitive capacity, and providing them with an item to feebly grasp in the other is just far too psychologically taxing unless they've been playing the game for a good couple of hours.

I'm exaggerating for comic effect. But the truth is that ANet have already disregarded our opinions on this new experience. We are simply too experienced with the game to have a valid opinion on what a new player's experience with the game might be. Even when we were new players, we weren't really new players like the new players are now - we had watched all the videos, voraciously absorbed all the information ANet were willing to divulge about the game pre-release and then when the game finally dropped we rushed in alongside many thousands of other super-fans and experienced the whole thing together. How could we possibly know what its like to be a player coming in blind nowadays?

Well, a whole lot of us are what can legitimately be called "experts" when it comes to Guild Wars 2 (studies show that someone can be judged to be an "expert" after 7500 hours of interaction with a task or concept) but just because we are experts does not mean we don't know what it is like to be a new player, just like how not being an 8 year old doesn't mean you can't teach an 8 year old the alphabet. It really doesn't take an expert to know that hiding key features from new players so as to teach them how to play the game is just arse-backwards.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

[GW2] Flipper Tested, Aquaman Approved

In these troubling time of community chaos, bad PR and dilapidated dungeons I think its important we refocus our attention on the important issues facing the Guild Wars 2 community:

Why is it that we don't have more underwater breather skins?

I mean, the opportunity for flavour is immense, many of humanity's greatest tales take place deep below the sea, and they've come up with innumerble means through which us feeble fleshy pods can venture deep below the waves. Just a few ideas I came up with on the fly:

Bubble Head Charm
This is perhaps most famous for being the charm used by Cedric Diggory and Fleur Delacour during the Tri-Wizard Cup in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. In the movie these character use the charm to rescue their friends and family from the bottom of a lake. Interesting piece of trivia: Fleur also used it to steal a sneaky glance at Edward Cullen all wet before he became a vampire. The more you know.
Imagine your character with an undulating bubble of air surrounding their head instead of the boring old mouth-breather they currently have. That'd be pretty sweet - eh? EH?
The effect could encompass the entire head, or just the mouth and nose. Maybe it could even expand and contract as if your character is breathing?

Big Old-World Divers Helmets
Olde-worlde divers donned cumbersome diving helmets to provide a constant supply of air and to protect their head from falling fish and sharks and stuff. The helmet had a pipe which lead to the surface and air was constantly pumped down to the diver. Crucially, the helmet was just a part of an entire air-tight suit (you couldn't just pull the helmet on and hop into the ocean, you crazy person. tsk).

I guess the whole suit would be a bit of overkill for simply underwater-wear (though, perhaps an outfit for when we take on The Deep Sea Dragon? ANet? Gotta get dat Gemstore dollah), so in-game we could make do with just the helmet resting on our shoulders and we'd have to suspend disbelief and trust that it provides adequate oxygen (perhaps a pipe could also trail from the top of the helm and fade off a couple of foot above the characters head?)

Some Kind of Animorph?
Again - an idea I stole from that one chapter in Harry Potter, so sue me. In the book/film Viktor Krum transforms himself into a half-shark-half-man-bear-pig in order save Hermione from the lake and sneak a peak at Edward Cullen all wet n stuff. 

I'm no marine biologist, but I reckon ol'Vik must have changed into a Bull Shark ((Carcharhinus leucas), one of the fresh-water versions - thanks wikipedia), but there's no reason why we as open minded Tyrians of the world couldn't branch out. Alligator heads, seal heads, PENGUIN HEADS come on people, seriously. Jees.

Freaking Snorkel
I mean - why isn't this already a thing? Hang on, let me check the wiki to see if this is already a thing...

It's not. Seriously? Stick it on the Gem Store for 100 gems and I bet people would buy it. We've already got the goggles skin and the aqua breather skin - just stick them together and poke a pipe out the top. Bobs your uncle, Fanny's your aunt. Thanks ANet I'll expect a cheque in the post.

Kevin Costner style Gills (Are they merely vestigial or are they functional now?)
Just kidding. Kevin Costner, Ew.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

[GW2] 5 Glaringly Obvious Omissions from Guild Wars 2

There have been a lot of improvements to Guild Wars 2 over the past (almost) two years (!!), but there are still those few features which - if they were in the game - you would not even mention to a friend who you were trying to convince to play the game, because they would probably think they are in the game already. These are features which, for some reason or another (time, the engine, finances, goblins disrupting production), ArenaNet refuses to introduce, despite them being either heavily requested or absolute no brainers.

1. Filtering the TP for Wearable Armour
Seriously, why doesn't this exist?
Currently, when you search for armour about your level in the trading post you get all of the armour around that level, regardless of whether you're able to wear it. My Guardian is sick of having the silly caster skirts and endless trenchcoats suggested for his wardrobe - he simply doesn't need them. It makes searching for armour a complete pain.
I see the TP as like a spreadsheet and, surely, amongst the metadata for each wearable item there must be an "armour class" column - light, medium, heavy? Right? Just give us the option to select one of the three by which to filter.
Or better yet just give us a "Filter for items I can equip" button. That way all we would need to do is set a lower level limit and all of the wearable items for our level would be shown - jackpot!

2. Filtering the TP for Back Items
Whilst we're at it - why can't we search for back items? They're a wearable piece of gear, yet the TP offers no support for searching for them. Instead you have to be a master in the dark arts to find the special combination of search terms to find them. Muchos confuso.

3. First person mode.
This is the first of a few "we had it in GW1" features. Completely different game, I know, I know - but every other MMO seems to have a first person mode, so Guild Wars 2 seems to fall just that little bit short. You zoom and zoom and zoom until finally - BUMP - you hit the back of your head and can go no further.
The screenshot takers amongst us are at a loss.
"Nice screenshot - it would be a shame if someone were to, I dunno... get their fucking head in the way"
And don't tell me to buy a tonic to change into an air elemental and zoom right in - its not the same!

4. Guild Capes
Or capes in general. Maybe the server would explode if it had to render 300 fluttering mantles during a WvW zerg, but considering the avalanche of back-gear we've recieved over the past couple of years its incredible we haven't yet recieved the item no self-respecting guild warrior would leave home without - the humble cape.

5. Hiding the Quest Log
I did a survey last year for my ergonomics class. I surveyed 400 GW2 players to find out their opinions on the UI. The absolute top requested feature was the ability to customise it further, and out of the many suggested customisations - the ability to hide the quest log reminder in the top right was absolute premium.
For those altaholics amongst us, sometimes we don't want to be reminded that it's time for us to take back claw island, or to assist a Queensdale resident, or Dwayna forbid - tackle Zhaitan. We'd like to put that little bit of the game out of our minds for now and focus on other things, but noooooOOooo we have to be constantly reminded with flashing and obnoxious green stars everywhere we go.
At the community meet-up I went to a while back Colin Johansson said that this was to ensure that newbies knew where they were going. Well, thats all very well and good Colin - but give us more experienced players the option to turn it off, please? Put it on by default, sure, but just the option would be nice.

Honourable mentions for glaringly obvious features now implemented after far too long: minis not depositing with materials, wardrobe for our gear skins, TP text size actually readable, last log-in date for guilds... etc etc

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

[Hearthstone] Dreamhack Final Controversy

Over the past few days the biggest (to date) Hearthstone tournament at the Dreamhack festival in Sweden. With a $10000 prize going to the winner, it was a pretty big deal in the community, and it was all the reddit and other community sites could talk about for the days preceding and during the tournament.

The final boiled down to two very good players: the popular Korean streamer Amaz and the less well known, but no less skilled, RDU.

The set was a best-of-three series - throughout both matches RDU seemed to be receiving a lot of innocuous messages "hi mom!" etc. But during the final few turns of the second game the messages changed in nature:

At the bottom left is RDU, and at the top is Amaz. The message reads (roughly): "he still has a bow and a hunter's mark"

It's worth putting this message into context for those who don't know Hearthstone, because that small amount of information is very important for how the match progresses.


At the bottom of the screen is RDU, his hand of cards is laid out in front of him, in front of his hand is his Mage hero (with his HP indicated by the red "1"), in front of that is the board (with an Azure Drake in play) and then on the other side is Amaz's Hunter hero (29 health) with 2 secrets in play (the green "?"s) and a single card in his hand.

RDU knows that Amaz has very few options, with only a single card in hand. But Amaz has a substantial health lead on RDU - being almost at full health with 29, with RDU on the verge of death with just 1.

RDU himself has a single secret in play - an "Ice Block" which, when he takes fatal damage, will protect him from dying till the end of that turn.  He is holding an Alexstrasza card: a big minion card which can bring a hero to 15 health immediately - he can choose to use it on himself (to bring himself up from 1 to 15 health) or use it on Amaz (to bring him down from 29 to 15 health).

This card is vital for RDUs deck: the aim being to use Alexstrasza on the enemy before the turn you intend to kill them, then pass the turn to them knowing that you cannot die during his turn due to the Ice Block protecting you. You then burst them down with spells the next turn for the win.

BUT the Hunter, in his arsenal somewhere, has a card called "Flare" this single card is unique in Hearthstone in that it removes secrets from the board. If Amaz has this card in hand then the win is his - he waits for RDU to play his Alexstrasza and pass the turn to him - then he plays his Flare, removing the Ice Block and he swings in for the lethal damage and the $10k prize. Its important to emphasise that this play would not be uncommon and, indeed, we'd already seen it earlier in the tournament - in an earlier game Reynad held a single Flare in hand the entire game (holding off on numerous chances to play it earlier) in order to play it after his opponent played Alexstrasza and to swing in for lethal damage.

The safe play then, for RDU, is to use Alexstrasza on himself - bringing himself up from 1 to 15 health and allowing him to attempt to win the game in the long-run.
But with this new piece of information - Amaz only has a "Hunter's Mark" card as the single card in his hand - RDU doesn't need to worry about Flare. Consequently, he is free to reduce Amaz to 15 health and pass the turn - safe in the knowledge that he can do 15 damage to him when the turn is passed back to him (double Fireball (6x2) and a single Ice Bolt (3)) and there is nothing Amaz can do to stop him (unless the single Flare card in his deck is pulled off the top of the deck that turn - which is unlikely) - and of course that is what happened.

The Upshot

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly (because this contradicts message that Artosis and other guys surrounding the event have been saying) regardless of whether RDU arranged the message - there is absolutely no way you can guarantee that the information did not effect the way he played out that turn. 

Granted, whether Alex'ing himself or Amaz - RDU still had a very good chance of finishing the match off. If he did Alex himself then he'd still be able to deal 24 damage to Amaz next turn through spells and the minions on board (likely taking only a couple of points of damage in response), before doing a possible 10 damage with Pyroblast the next turn. So it was unlikely to alter the outcome of the match - but you simply cannot guarantee it, you cannot account for the longer turn leading to possible miss-clicks (particularly because this was one of the, if not the, first pro gaming tourney to be played on a tablet), you cannot account for Amaz potentially getting a really lucky draw and being able to cycle his cards till he gets his Flare and enough damage. Stranger things have happened, and whilst it is very unlikely, I don't think you can argue with absolute certainty that it wouldn't have happened this time. So making the argument that "it doesn't matter" is incredibly short sighted, it absolutely does matter if a player is receiving outside help which influences their decision making process, and how it came to happen needs to be investigated.

I'm not saying RDU in any way organised for this message to be sent to him: it would be pretty stupid of him to tell someone to just obviously blurt out the contents of his opponent's hand during the turn. It is being filmed, after all, with thousands of people watching in the arena and countless others watching the stream, it would be utterly ridiculous for him to even consider attempting to cheat in this way. I believe it is more likely that he has some pretty slow people on his friends list who don't know how to act appropriately.

So my second point is: unlike Trump, I believe that RDU is absolutely responsible for the kind of people he adds to his friends list. He's not responsible for their actions, but he is absolutely responsible for adding them in the first place, and if they are going to act like complete idiots during one of the most important moments of this guy's early gaming career then perhaps he should reconsider their place on that list.

Finally, the community's response has ranged from dismissing the incident as inconsequential to the outcome of the match, therefore not worth debating. To calling for disqualification for RDU and the awarding of the prize money to Amaz (who, incidentally, still received a $5k prize for second place). Disqualification or even a replay seems unlikely now - the tournament is over and even Amaz has asked people to drop this particular path, which I think is wise.

But I think it is important for a few things to be learned:

For Blizzard - we need an observer mode to allow easier access to both sides of table. Hearthstone, in the short few months it has been running, has evolved into one of the biggest pro-gaming scenes out there. Eclipsing Magic the Gathering as an eSport at least. An observer mode is absolutely vital, not only for the big tournaments such as Dreamhack and the upcoming Blizzcon Tourneys, but also for smaller scale community driven tourneys such as Deckwars and iHearthU's King of the Hill.
We also need a "tournament mode" for the friends list, which will block all incoming and outgoing messages whilst it is active. I think that's a no-brainer.

For players: you are absolutely responsible for who you add to your friends list. Particularly at the moment when there is no way to block messages if you're in a competitive setting. It shows a lack of maturity and forethought to add random people to your friends list who might act in such a way as to compromise your reputation - as has happened at Dreamhack for RDU.
I honestly don't think the community will let RDU forget this particular event, even if this all blows over he will always be remembered for this particular incident, simply because it was so public, there was such a large amount of money on the line and his opponent Amaz is such a popular player in the community. His lack of forethought will have long-standing repercussions for the perception of him in the community for a long time to come.

EDIT: Turns out Amaz is Chinese, not Korean, my bad - *slap on wrist*

EDIT 2 (the Salt Continues): So the third placed competitor, a popular streamer called Reynad, who was beaten in the semi-finals by RDU, has straight come out and accused RDU of cheating (in both his semi-final game and the final itself) and agreed to put his own money on the line in a one-off match to win the title from RDU.

First off, he needs to grow up. He can't throw his money around and essentially lay down a gauntlet that a 17-year-old RDU can't really afford to run. That leaves Reynad in a pretty comfortable position to say "well he won't play me because he knows he will lose" - that is the arguement of a bully and regardless of RDU's actions during Dreamhack, Reynad should be pretty ashamed of himself for that.

On the flip side, this is further evidence against the Artosis arguement of "all the pros agreed to drop it". And, unlike some of the people Artosis is likely to referring to - Reynad is one of the players directly effected by RDU's supposed cheating. I don't think, at this point, it can be just "dropped" - and the organisers of Dreamhack really really need to take a look at the games and their set up and consider a course of action. If, ultimately, this comes back to "drop it" then so be it, but Reynad needs to let other people take care of this rather than starting some kind of one-man schoolyard bullying campaign against RDU.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

[GW2] Living Story Season 2 Thoughts

My fellow Brit WoodenPotatoes put up an interesting (and very well researched) video about what he expects (and in some cases, kinda hopes) to see in Season 2 of the Living World. There are things I agree with and things I don't and I've been tossing this particular post around in my head for a while, so when WP posted his vid I thought it might be about time to try to coalesce those thoughts into some kind of cohesive word structure.

I think there are three main threads ANet are going to have to address in the next season, simply because it would leave far too many questions open if they didn't touch on them. In addition to these three main ones, there are innumerable other questions which still remain unanswered from Season 1, and even more which persisted even before the Living World was introduced. I'm only going to cover the biggies in this post though, and they are Lions Arch, Mordremoth and the Black Market Traders.

Lion's Arch

At the end of Season 1 Lion's Arch (LA) is kinda like the ruins of Zanarkand in Final Fantasy 10: a ruin of its former self, it feels more sad than dangerous. Lion's Arch is such an icon for many Guild Wars players, and has been right from the very start of GW:Prophecies all those years ago. LA has been a focal point of trade, community and celebration.
Unlike WP, I don't think they'll wait too long before starting the process of rebuilding. For one, I don't believe they could justify it lore-wise: LA has already been re-secured and wrestled from Scarlet's forces; the many thousands of people who lived there and the numerous traders and factions who operated out of the city simply wouldn't stand for it staying a ruin much longer - it's bad for business!
But, as WP rightly points out - the Captain's Council, those responsible for running LA, are in ruins themselves. They are without a base of operations and they're battered and bruised. They will probably require assistance to get the city back up and running.
Obviously, they'll get help from us, but I think that there will also be other interested parties:

I think the rebuilding of Lion's Arch will likely involve some interaction with the Consortium. This shady conglomeration of traders have been actors in the Living World from the start, they were heavily involved with the early parts of the story, but their involvement dropped off as Scarlet became the focus of our attention. I think this kind of operation is exactly the kind of thing they'd like stick their grubby little hands into, and the Captain's Council, under pressure from the traders and factions of LA and without the man-power to do it all themselves, will have to cede a little power and give the Consortium control of the project.
I believe it will be up to us as players to gather resources, artisans and, most importantly, gold and bring it to the Consortium who will put it all to work in rebuilding the city. I don't believe this will be plain sailing, and I think this will eventually lead to us discovering a lot more about the Consortium's motivations and ultimate end-game. Additionally, I think that LA will still suffer from the aftereffects of Scarlet's drill boring a hole in the centre of the port and into the ley-lines beneath.

That is my conservative estimate about how the rebuilding of LA will go down. If I were being a little more optimistic I might suggest something a little more daring:


We know that the Tengu retreated behind their walls in response to the rise of Zhaitan*, but how long can they stay cooped up (lol, puns) in their fortress now they know that the Elder Dragon has been defeated. It's reasonable to assume that the emergence of Scarlet was further justification (in their eyes) to keep the walls up and the gates closed, but I think now that evil has passed they will be more open to interaction.
The rebuilding of LA will require a fresh look at the place, perhaps new materials and new building techniques will lead to a more defensible and efficient city overall. But where might we get these new materials? Perhaps behind the Tengu wall?

Furthermore, we know that the next big threat that Tyria will face will be the "Jungle Dragon" Mordremoth. It's long been theorised that this dragon will have strong ties to the Maguuma Jungle and so we will be combating this threat in new zones in this area. The Tengu were able to retreat behind their walls because they could shut out the terrors of Zhaitan as he was focused on Orr and the Krytan coasts, but the Jungle Dragon seems to have his eye fixed on Maguuma, which would put the threat much closer to home for the Tengu - maybe even on their side of the wall.

This is more what I'm hoping for, than what I'm expecting: but I hope that Mordremoth begins to threaten the Tengu lands beyond the wall and, seeking help from the rest of Tyria, the Tengu reluctantly open their gates to allow heroes to pass through and assist in the defense efforts. In return for assistance, the Tengu promise to help rebuild Lions Arch with new materials from the Dominion of Winds.

What this would mean is that, at least in the early parts of the Living World Season 2, the story will not push us north-west towards Bloodstone Fen, but instead take place in the Dominion of Winds between Caledon Forest and Lion's Arch. I believe, like WP, that Mordremoth will have some connection to the Pale Tree and Caithe's secret. But, I think this new dragon will directly threaten The Grove and the Dominion of Winds rather than impacting first in Maguuma to the north-west - (perhaps through a new (TBD!!) dragon Champion in this area?)
Later in the story I don't see why we wouldn't progress further towards the Bloodstone (an incredibly powerful seat of magical power - ie, dragon food), towards the dragon's lair - I think that would be a fascinating story, but for the moment, at least, I hope that we will be able to peak beyond the wall.

The Black Market Traders

Right at the end of Season 1, during the celebration at the Dead End Bar in Divinities Reach, we were introduced to a new character: Belinda Delaqua - the sister of the shark-jumping necro Marjory Delaqua. Belinda is a Seraph, and has recently been reassigned to the Brisban Wildlands - a section of the Maguuma Jungle which borders Caledon Forest and Kessex Hills.
She has been reassigned from Fort Salma in order to investigate and combat a group of black-market traders who are headquartered in the Wildlands. You don't just drop that kind of Chekhov's Gun without following it up, one would hope.

The Brisban Wildlands is already a pretty heavy bandit infested area, so it's not unreasonable to expect some nefarious activity to stem from the zone. Bandits in Lionshead Outcrops can be seen building a bridge leading to a currently unreachable portal - if we eventually gained access to this portal it would lead to an area north of the Wildlands (closer to the Bloodstone etc in the north).

It's difficult to say what this storyline might lead to. I think it might eventually lead to an excuse to open up a zone north of Brisban and lead to encountering Mordremoth dragon-spawn further into the Maguuma Jungle. I don't believe, however, that this will happen straight away. I think this will be a parallel storyline to the one leading to the rebuilding of Lions Arch. I think the first parts of Belinda's story will take place in Divinities Reach and Brisban itself, rooting out bandit-holes and secret underground markets. Once the rebuilding of LA has begun in earnest and we start encountering Mordremoth dragon-spawn in the currently existing Maguuma Jungle (and the Dominion of Winds), I think we'll then eventually move through the new portal in the North to combat the HQ of the traders directly.

As to who these Black Market Traders are, and what they actually want. Well, it's difficult to say. Nefarious traders screams Consortium to me, but they tend to work out in the open, with a corporate front, rather than in secret. Perhaps it could be less-than-savoury characters scavenging items from the ruins of LA and selling them on in Divinities Reach? Who knows, I'm quite looking forward to being surprised by this storyline... It may even simply be a filler in order to give us something to swing our swords at while they work on the Mordremoth story.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

[GW2] Rediscovering the LFG System

As a replacement for the good old yell in general chat, the in-game LFG system has, in the past, had a rather uninspiring run. I've always been part of a reasonably active guild, so it usually isn't too much of a problem to gather 2/3 people together and then try to pick up (and ultimately probably carry) a PUG through a dungeon path or fractal run.

However, with the latest update requiring all accounts to run through the Story mode of each dungeon in order to unlock the attributed PvP reward path, I've been dusting off my little level 45 thief and turning my eye on a few of the story modes.
Even with this update encouraging at least one run through, there still isn't a huge influx of players looking to do story modes. Old players only need to run through it once more after all, and no-one is looking to the story mode as a means of repeatable content they can return to for a regular income. So, as is customary for me, when I came to do the content a few days after the initial rush, I had to turn to the LFG system to scrape together a rag-tag bunch of PUGs to get the job done.

And I have to say, I've been pleasantly surprised.
The system worked fine: I posted my advertisement, within about 15 seconds I had a team together and we entered the dungeon. That's it. That's absolutely all I needed. No bells and whistles, just "this is what I want to do" "That is also what I want to do, lets do it together".

Honestly, I don't know why I was so surprised - but I was! For a long time I've been floundering in this game, I completed my second legendary and turned towards yet another long-term crafting goal (Infinite Light) but that was just because I really didn't know what else to do. Any and all time spent afking in LA (or Gendarren) was time wasted, I've got a thesis to write after all. If I wasn't afk then I was hopping from meta-even to meta-event, doing the same 7/8 events over and over was becoming soul-crushingly tiresome  - if I'm going to waste it then I want to waste it doing something fun!
I think I started to think that there was nothing left to do in the game which lead to boredom and frustration, but with the LFG system I've been able to rediscover some of the early-game enjoyment I had in the very first few weeks of the game by re-exploring the story mode and explorable paths of the earlier dungeons. I'm hoping to progress this exploration of the world of PUGs into the more difficult areas of the game and whilst I recognise that this is riskier, I've never had a horror PUG experience (excepting PvP) and I really hope this good-PUG-luck can continue.

Having said all that, they could do with making the system a little more visible.

Monday, 24 March 2014

[FIFA] How KSI Monopolised the Kick-Off and Nep Crashed the Market

FIFA has a strange community. I often think that it might be so strange because the players aren't primarily gamers, they're primarily football fans. Nothing wrong with that, of course, I count myself as a fine helping of both.
Compare the community to something like Guild Wars 2 - obviously the game community with which I've been most involved. GW2 has a whole myriad of media circling it - official and unofficial blogs, numerous active forums and reddits, Twitter feeds (concerning news, lore, fansites etc etc) and podcasts. FIFA, conversely, has only a few fansites (sparsely updated), a few twitter feeds, little interaction with the developers (they are EA after all) but perhaps the most active and vibrant element of the FIFA community are the YouTubers.

For Guild Wars 2 we've obviously got some big YouTubers (Woodenpotatoes, MattVisual etc) but they mostly act as news/opinion sites. The FIFA YouTubers, for a lot of people, are venerated as deities. KSI, perhaps the biggest of the lot, has recently been on an international University tour and has attracted massive crowds just to come and have the chance of playing a game with him.

As an example of how influential these YouTubers are on the community, here's two cases where a single video has effected the way the entire game is played:

1)  On 11th October 2013, KSI posted the following video:

It details a cheap method to score a goal straight from kick off by passing straight back to a midfielder once you've kicked off and then simply whacking the ball up the field to a big striker. It abuses the incredibly poorly programmed AI of the defenders in FIFA 14. It's a method of scoring which was around around 3 years ago, but we generally thought that advances in AI had squashed it, apparently we were wrong - it's become known as the "KSI kick off" and is incredibly frustrating to go up against.

The outcome KSI posting this simple two minute video is that EVERY SINGLE PLAYER is now doing this exact method straight from kick off. 90% of the time it doesn't actually work, but whether or not it is successful is entirely based upon the luck of the draw, will your defender stand around like a numpty or will he be in the right place to head it away? Who knows, lets hope the luck is in your favour. KSI is just one guy, but he's managed to influence the play-style of 75% of the players of one of the most popular games in the world.

2) Another popular YouTuber Nepenthez, made short video "Easiest Trading Method EVER!" The general idea being "buy cheap Irish players a month in advance in preparation for the St Patrick's Day Cup, when their prices will drastically rise".

A simple idea, but it was so influential that everyone bought Irish players, and I mean EVERYONE - the price of Rep of Ireland players rose steadily for the month between the release of the video and the much-anticipated St Patrick's Cup. Then when the tournament was announced everyone dropped the THOUSANDS of players they'd been hoarding back into the market.
Now, it doesn't take a degree in economics to work out what happens if you flood a market with players which everyone has already bought a month ago. What actually happened is that almost everyone invested thousands of coins into Irish players, and almost all of them lost all that money because no-one  was buying them. No-one needed to buy them! They were trying to sell their stockpiled players, not buy more! The whole thing was a debacle.

These are just two examples of the strange position of power held by FIFA YouTubers. I'm not really placing any blame on them, they're just doing their job, but a single video can crash the market or influence the play-style of the entire community, and I don't believe that is necessarily a good thing.

Friday, 7 February 2014

[GW2] E is a Chekov's Gun

The question of who "E" is might prove to be one of the most important ones we can ask over the coming weeks. 
I'm viewing it as somewhat of a Chekov's Gun* at the moment - the only interaction with "E" that we've had is that one mail around Dragon Bash which asked us to contact Marjory Delaqua (and tell her "E" sent you - she later confirmed she has no idea who it is). 
Whilst this brief interaction might not suggest a large role at the moment, plot devices such as a "mysterious stranger" are rarely inconsequential when applied in good storytelling. So, as our various questions get answered and we begin ticking off the remaining mysteries, the ones left unanswered will become more and more important (and suggest a centrality in the narrative). 

Contacting Marjory has proven to be a pretty good move - she has been instrumental in taking down the Tower of Nightmares and puzzling out Scarlet's clues in the Dead End. This would seem to be a pretty big tick on the "Good" side of the debate regarding E's intentions. 

On the other hand, who knows how deep the plan might go? Perhaps E's Machiavellian scheme includes bringing Marjory into the equation. Without Jory and Kasmeer's anti-toxin, Scarlet wouldn't have been able to perfect her poison, after all. 

It's difficult to say at this stage. I've got a feeling one of the continuing threads after we finally take Scarlet down will be either the identity of the big-bad who is controlling her or the identity of E (or both!); and it will be this question which will take us into the next story arc.

*"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." - Anton Chekov, 1911

ps. Could it be Ellen Kiel? ANet wouldn't call them "E" without "E" being in their name. Plus, the story would work just as well if we'd voted Evon Gnashblade into office (?) I dunno. Just wankin' in the dark here.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Five Easy Steps to being an Utter D**k in Hearthstone

Have you tried, filled with sincerity and naive hope, to play Hearthstone honestly and conscientiously? Using balanced cards and solid, well-thought-out decks? Have you done so and found yourself smashed for the 50th time by some who simply outplays you and has the audacity to wish you "Well Played" before finally finishing you off? Did this infuriate you beyond belief?

Perhaps you should try being a complete dick!
Being a dick is the number 1 way to get the most out of Hearthstone. Why try to learn the mechanics of the game, make value trades and maintain board control and card advantage when you could just be an utter dickwad about the whole thing and frustrate your opponent into submission?

Step 1: Remember to abuse imbalanced cards and decks. 
Build a cheesy deck which requires little more than a simple keyboard face-roll to execute. You don't want the game to distract you from your quest towards dickification - throw out your minions willy-nilly. Try warlock murloc or one of the one-turn-kill decks. Even if your opponent beats you, it's not because of you: they cheated, the game is broken and you weren't trying anyway.

Step 2: Be patient.
The race to become a dick-maestro is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember to wait out every turn and pass only when the timer is about to run out. Especially turn 1: turn 1 is the most important turn and even if you have no cards you can play it's important to give yourself the longest time possible to enjoy this moment. You and your opponent are going to have an experience together, he or she will thank you later for allowing them so much time to enjoy quite how much of a dick you are. Remember, the most important quality a dick like you can have is patience.

Step 3: Be as impatient as possible.
Your opponent is being an asshole if they make you wait any longer than 2-3 seconds before passing the turn back to you. Remind them of this fact by continuously taunting them. Say "Greetings" or even "The light shall burn you!" whenever possible. The chat clips are condescending for a reason, remember to use them as often as they are available. For maximum effect remember to pop Draxxus and shout "OBLIVION" 50 times.

Step 4: Never say "Well played".
Your opponent is a scrub and you bested them - in both the game and life. Say "Thankyou" before stealing a minion with Mind Control, a quick "Sorry about that" before finally opting to finish them off and, of course, 50 "OBLIVION"s every time you make a move will really add a dickish finesse to your playstyle.

Step 5: Never finish your opponent quickly - even if you have lethal.
Your opponent will appreciate the time you take to clear their board, taunt them a few times and shuffle the cards in your hand - perhaps even play a couple of minions and pass the turn if you know they cannot retaliate. It's all part of the dicksperience which you and your opponent are going through together: savour it! Rest assured that your opponent is most likely sitting at their computer with tears of adulation in their eyes, slowly clapping and shaking their head. "I can't believe this dick" they'll likely say.

Just follow these five simple steps, as many thousands do every day, and the path to complete and utter dickdom will open to you.
Friends and co-workers will mutter "dick" or "wow, what a dick" or even "Hey, is that X, I heard he's a complete dickhole!" as you saunter past.
Enjoy that, you dick, you've earned it.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...