Sunday, November 24, 2013

We Can't All Be Espers: The Spellslinger

It's been a little since my last post, mostly due to the fact that I was out of the town the past few days and have come down with a bit of a cold (damn you, sickness!) The large amount of dancing and yelling I did at a wedding two days ago did little to help the situation, but alas, here I am fighting through my illness to bring you my thoughts on Carbine's newest class drop: the Spellslinger.

I know, I know, this is an Esper blog. But I would be remiss if I did not mention our gun-toting brethren, who we may have to share some gear, tactics, and group space with. And despite not being nearly as cool as the Esper, there are some takeaways from the Spellslinger livestream that can be applied to not only our class, but the entirety of the game.

We have some things in common...

Like the Esper, the Spellslinger is a ranged class that has a focus on healing and/or DPS. They stand in the back and heap huge piles of damage on the enemy, or pewpew their friends in the back of the head with heals. In addition to this, both classes wear light armor, and as such, there will be some competition for armor (more on that shortly). Overall, that's about where the similarities end. It looks as though both classes may spec to be somewhat similar, but what's the point of different classes if they do everything the same?

We have our differences...

Unlike the Esper, whose telegraphs range from wide cones to huge point-blank AOE's, the Spellslinger is a far more mobile class with a larger amount of straight-line, narrow telegraphs. During the class livestream, Hugh Shelton frequently referred to the Spellslinger as  an "assassin," likening the abilities to that of a sniper who lines up long range skill-shots and fires with deadly accuracy. While the Esper looks to allow a bit more room for error with their wide telegraphs, anyone playing a Spellslinger will have to get used to lining up their abilities. This holds true for both damage and healing specializations.

As I mentioned previously, the Spellslinger allows for a bit of the "run-and-gun" offense, if specced to do so. At the expense of raw power, they can utilize a variety of quick strikes and movement abilities to make their away around the battlefield at a quick pace. This differs a bit from our Esper, who utilizes CC abilities to prevent the enemy from moving around as much. The stationary vs. mobile dynamic will definitely be something to keep an eye on in PvP.

Secondly, while both classes use light armor, the attributes they focus on will be different. Shelton mentioned that Espers focus on "Moxie" (whatever that is), whereas Spellslingers focus on "Finesse". The (perhaps obvious) takeaway here is that all classes have a few primary attributes. While this holds true in nearly all games, it's good to see that both classes will not be competing for the exact same gear every time they roll through a dungeon. A little variety, despite narrowing down the choices in armor, may keep conflict from arising when two players feel the armor was "made for their class."

What else we learned...

There we a few other little tidbits that made this stream particularly juicy. The biggest for me was the drop that not only would dual specs be available, but Hugh Shelton mildly hinted that they may be additional chances to create more loadouts. One of my biggest fears was that I wouldn't be able to switch from solo DPS to dungeon heals on the fly, and thankfully that fear has been assuaged. I guess I shouldn't be overly surprised, as this feels like a feature that is sort of becoming a must-have in MMO's nowadays (for better or for worse). I do not miss the days of being limited to one specialization at a time, with a huge money sink involved to discourage players from changing roles rapidly.

Another interesting note that I think will prove important to Espers, Shelton mentioned that as opposed to abilities devoted to granting long-term buffs, most buff skills would have something else tied to them; i.e. a damage ability might grant attack power to any friendlies caught in its radius, or a heal might grant extra health for a time. This is very important, as Hugh pointed out; with only a limited number of abilities able to be placed on a hotbar, having a singular ability that is only used once an hour feels like a pretty big waste.

Also, and this is a brief note, but it's something that I find super cool: disorient. They team only briefly mentioned this, but when your character comes under a disorient effect, it randomizes your movement keys (forward could be back, left could be right, left could be up, etc.) I love this sort of stuff, and I hope we see more examples, such as abilities that blind perhaps effecting your view of the screen.

So in conclusion...

I recommend everyone go take a peek at the Spellslingerstream, even if you have no intention of playing one. The bits the team shows of Stormtalon Lair are great, and they address a bit of the random dungeon idea in that as well. A lot of questions are of the "Esper vs. Spellslinger" variety, which is good, and you even get to see Nick Roth (Content Systems Designer) play an Esper and wipe the floor with Marc Matzenbacher, as a Spellslinger, in a duel (then, subsequently, have his own butt handed to him). Tasty bit of PvP action there, if you're so inclined. So while the Spellslinger may not be as inherently awesome as the Esper (they get real bullets, we get mind bullets), I have a feeling I'll end up enjoying one as an alt at some point.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to down some Dayquil and condition my stomach for turkey and stuffing. You gotta start early if you wanna put on a show.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

WildStar Town Hall Funsies

I had the extreme pleasure of meeting some of WildStar's leaders in the community yesterday when I attended the WildStar Town Hall, hosted by MrNyxis, Pseudo Nihm, and JKKennedy.  In addition to those fine moderators, I found myself joined by a host of community and guild leaders who all are doing big things (much bigger things than this meager blog!) It was a very humbling experience.

But as opposed to sitting on my hands and dumbly trying to take notes of everything that was said (which I was trying to do, at first), I found the conversation very accessible, and was able to jump in. Everyone was so friendly, and after some initial hesitation, I fully embraced the meet-up and ended up staying about an hour and a half longer than I originally intended.

Without further ado, allow me to recap what was said for those of you who were unable to join us:

The first topic up for discussion (once we got past some of the community event bits, which will have to wait for a while until things get sorted out by the folks over at Subterfuge Gaming) was that of the business model. For those of you unfamiliar with the system, feel free to go educate yourselves; the basic gist of the system is that you can accrue enough gold in-game to buy credits that you will eventually be able to use for game time. Most seemed in favor of the system, though Zap-Robo of WildStar-Central brought up a point that I found particularly interesting: since the market for CREDD will be based purely on individual servers, what happens if the conversion ratio is higher on one server than the other? For example, is it possible for one economy to price their CREDD at 5 million "gold" while another server that is less developed has theirs priced at 1 million? It's an interesting idea, and one that was discussed at length.

Another point that was brought up during this topic, and one most seemed to oppose, was the idea that CREDD cannot be gifted to others, but rather can only be bought from anonymous sources at the lowest posted price. Most in the meeting agreed that we would love the opportunity to gift CREDD to friends and guildies; it would be a great way to reward others for something, or to simply be an awesome and generous friend. Perhaps Carbine could allow so that only individuals on your friends list would be able to gift you CREDD? In which case, friend requests would have to be accepted by both parties. Something to think about.

The next topic that was addressed was that of PvP and how WildStar would fare in the realm of not only world PvP, but structured PvP, all the way up to the e-Sport level. I was fairly useless during this portion of the conversation, only really able to pop my head in and state, "I liked PvP in Dark Age of Camelot, but I suck at it otherwise!" I really do hope they consider the idea of allowing us to capture "Eldan relics" that can provide buffs for individuals who are not participating in PvP. It's one of the traits I found most awesome in Guild Wars 2 and Dark Age of Camelot. As I've said before, most PvP discussion flies totally over my head, but there was also an in-depth discussion about the merits and pitfalls of the "80-85% effectiveness rule" in terms of PvP to PvE conversion (and vice-versa, I assume), as well as some talk of why MMO's struggle in the e-sport category when going up against MOBA's and RTS games.

Following that was a discussion that turned to PvE, and I can pretty much sum up most people's thoughts on dailies in this one quote from Cali of CKN, "Eff 'em." To probably nobody's surprise, daily quests were very unpopular; I can see the reasoning in this, but to play devil's advocate, I will give a reason why I think daily's are good: they provide an ongoing stimulus to the economy. I'm not going to elaborate on that point at all, as I'd probably just make a jackass out of myself, but I can see the good (and, of course, the bad) they do. The other benefit that was brought up was using dailies as a means of encouraging world PvP: throw the opposing factions into common ground for quests and let them duke it out.

At this point I should state that I had to step out due to work obligations, but I will do my best to relate the information on the stream, just because I love you all so much.

Cali dropped some knowledge about how raiding would work in WildStar, the difference between 40-mans and 20-mans (the established raid sizes of WildStar), and Pseudo added in some information about attunements. It's interesting to get people's opinions of raid-sizes and raiding in general, because it's such a big topic in games. For the most part, raids are the real game that you work towards throughout your leveling experience. When it comes down to the bare-bones of MMO gameplay, all the leveling and such is done to feed you a steady stream of abilities and allow you time to learn to use them so that when you ding that final magical ding, you know what you're doing and are ready to step up and take on the big baddies. Obviously there are a lot of intricacies that go into raiding (raid size, difficulty, attunement, etc.) that are all up for debate, and that's why this portion in particular is a great listen, as they touch on all of that.

One point I want to touch on here: Sang of CKN pointed out that the randomness of WildStar's raids would be an interesting factor that adds a bit of variety to raids. I really, really hope he's right. Raids can get a bit repetitive (duh), and there are typically at least one or two stretches during raids where my mind begins to wander and I start to think "Bleeeehhhhh this is so booorrriiiinnnnggg." Randomness would mess all of that up (and probably make a big mess of many groups as well!) However, it's very easy to say that you're going to implement randomness in raids; it's a different thing entirely to actually do it. Throwing in a few extra random abilities doesn't make a raid random. I could go off on a whole separate tangent for this, but this article is getting long enough as-is.

Again, a bunch more about raiding is discussed on the stream itself (which can be re-watched HERE!), as well as a ton of other juicy bits. However, things are getting a bit lengthy here, so I'm gon' hafta snip this short. All in all, the Town Hall was an awesome experience, and I very much look forward to doing it again!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Limited Action Sets and the Illusion of Choice?

(The title up there reads like the title to the worst Harry Potter book ever.)

So I had previously intended this post to be about what we know about paths, but after reading one particular thread over on WildStar Central, I decided to shift gears. Instead of taking a look at paths, I instead want to focus on one of WildStar’s key features: limited action sets and the ability to quickly swap them. Specifically, I want to discuss the impact these action sets have on gear (and vice-versa).

For those who aren’t fully aware, WildStar employs what they refer to as “limited action sets.” What this means is that instead of a bunch of cluttered action bars, you will have access to one singular bar located on the bottom of your screen. This is done intentionally, and used as a means of providing easy access to 8 abilities instead of playing your keyboard like a piano in an attempt to maximize your DPS. That said, you aren’t only going to receive 8 abilities throughout your entire career as whatever class you play (it better be Esper). Instead, you will have to make specific load outs with the intention of performing whatever role you’re aiming for. For example, if you’re looking to be a healer, you’re going to want to place a fair amount of support and control spells on your bar, things that are going to help you accomplish the task at hand with the chosen role. If you’ve watched any of the Livestreams, you’ll notice that these abilities can be switched out easily and often, and this is in fact encouraged.

However, a problem lies there.

In any game that involves specializing in a specific role, there is the obvious question of gear. You’ll obviously want to collect gear that works for your spec; it doesn’t do you much good to throw on a bunch of +healing stuff if you’re hoping to lob hefty fireballs at your enemies. Without knowing much about how WildStar’s stat system works, this raises some question. With the goal of allowing players to rapidly swap out abilities and change roles, how will players gear up? Will it be necessary to collect two sets of gear in order to totally maximize the potential of all the tools at your disposal? If so, does this really save more time than respeccing?

Of course, these problems are neutralized if the same stats handle multiple things: for instance, would an “Intelligence” skill potentially boost both healing and damage? If that’s the case, do we run into the risk of there being too much competition for the same pieces of loot? Would all “casters” (I use that term loosely with this game) be rolling on the same equipment? What about tanks/melee DPS?

One thing that Blizzard has recently discussed implementing that I think is interesting is the idea of your gear sort of “respeccing” itself to fit your spec. For example, if you’re playing an Esper who’s specced for damage, your light armor would boast stats that grant bonuses to healing. The second you switch around and become more damage-heavy, the gear would change so that its stats supported damage dealing abilities instead. The only problem with that is that, to our knowledge, WildStar doesn’t feature a hard-and-fast speccing system that just says “Hey, now you’re a healer!” Instead, our abilities and some wide-branching trees that we’ve only had a glimpse of dictate that. It’s not like WoW in that all 3 trees have a specific job; it’s much more complicated.

What I foresee happening is that, despite having these awesome load outs, we will have to decide what we intend to focus on, and then gear into that. We’ll be able to effectively play as our “off-spec,” but unless you spend time gearing that way, you’re never going to be quite as effective. I know, right now you’re probably thinking, “Well hey, no duh:  you can’t play everything at once!? Shocking!” But the reason I have to conjecture this is because we’re being sold on this idea of swapping everything out and still being effective. I would love to be able to be out pew-pew’ing stuff on my own, then get pulled into a dungeon with some friends and be able to heal flawlessly without having to worry about my gear not being up to snuff.  And I haven’t even touched PvP and all that because, frankly, I don’t know jack-squat about it and I can’t go making myself look like more of a fool than I already am!

Again, I know a lot of this is conjecture based upon what limited info we know, but I hope that load-outs and limited action bars are in themselves limited because of the gear I have. As one poster astutely put it, “The freedom they’re giving us isn’t really freedom at all.” That may be a little dramatic, but I feel it sort of speaks to the point I’m trying to make. I don’t just want one or the other; I WANT IT ALL!!!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Esper's Hot Stream

Before we get started, let's get this out of the way immediately: I always approve of bodily function jokes. If they ever cease to be funny to me, then I will know I've officially grown too full of myself.

So the Esper had its day in the sun today as we were taken on a guided tour through the various abilities and functions that the psychic phenom possessed. Mr. Stephan Frost (producer), Hugh Shelton (lead class designer), Jade Martin (lead Esper designer), and Chris Lynch (lead combat designer) showed off how the Esper solo's, how they heal in dungeons, and even a bit of how they perform in PvP. It was a great watch, and despite a few technical difficulties (mostly on the part of my shabby internet), I really had fun and it got me itching to give the game a go.

One of my major fears after watching the Warrior stream was the feeling that combat progressed a little slower than I thought an action-combat based game should go. I realize that the Warrior was spec'd as a tank, but things still felt a little sketchy. The Esper stream did a TON to assuage this fear for me. The fact that they demonstrated the "burst" of the Esper class helped to put my mind at ease. I believe it was Shelton who stated that if the Esper timed their build-up abilities and one of their stronger attacks correctly, it would generate a big strike of damage; this was something I didn't see the Warrior do. Granted, we only had a limited snippet, and perhaps the Warrior provides more sustained damage over time, but it's good to see that there is a distinct "feel" to each of the classes and how they play.

Something else that sort of surprised me was the Esper's reliability in PvP. Matched up against a Warrior, the Esper seemed very capable of holding its own despite the armor disadvantage. I am used to PvP in WoW when melee used to be able to pop down a caster in practically no time. Now, I should point out here that I am by no means a PvP guru and that a lot of what I say may be perceived as ignorance from more practiced hands, but I like the way combat looked a bit more measured and took a bit more time. It's the exact opposite of PvE for me: PvP should be deliberate, difficult, and take some time, and that's what I saw. The Warrior had his chances, but Jade Martin played well and timed his cooldowns well. I'll be curious to see how Espers fare as more players get their hands on the class.

There was one minor point of concern for me in regards to the performance of the Esper. Watching the short bit of Stormtalon's Lair, a dungeon shown in the stream, things seemed difficult. Don't get me wrong: I like difficult. It adds to that feeling of accomplishment. That said, I struggled a bit to recognize what exactly the Esper was doing with the heals at his disposal. Granted, the pulls weren't totally on-point and things were a bit messy, but there were times when it looked like the Esper struggled to bring his tank back from the brink, even when he had a reasonable amount of time to do so. I didn't notice any good "Oh sh*t!" buttons that helped to turn the tide of a fight. I'm making a lot of assumptions here, since I don't have a list of the abilities and what they do on hand, but hopefully we have enough juice as healers to help turn the tide of a fight that's going south.

Overall, the stream was great, but I wish I was a bit more familiar with the class as a whole on a mechanical level. That's obviously wishful thinking, given that these are meant to be little introductions to the class and you aren't going to understand all of what's going on. The game is still in beta and there's a lot of data to be crunched and systems to be tested. It was still fun, and I'm looking forward to more information trickling out as we move closer towards December's beta.

Be sure to check out the Esper Live Stream linked here and at the top, and share your thoughts with me in the comments! Also, tune in next time as I discuss Paths from an Esper's perspective, and why I think Settlers are awesome!

Thoughts on the Re-Reveal and AMA

The Esper: Re-revealed

When I heard the devs at Carbine were going to be re-releasing each class individually with new, more detailed information, I was pretty excited. The old information was sparse, and fairly generic. I mean, we knew that the Esper could do some cool “psychic things,” but we weren’t entirely sure what those “things” were and all they entailed. The re-release meant we would get clarification, or at least a bit of additional information. What I didn’t expect was so much concrete information on some of the mechanics that the Esper utilizes (specifically, the Psi points- that’s awesome). Join me in this article, as I fill your brain with all sorts of mind gold that is the Esper re-release.

I should also note that I’ve included info from the EsperAMA that took place on reddit. This info was as much a part of the re-reveal as the actual class-drop itself. If you ever get confused as to what exactly I'm talking about, I've placed some links throughout that will direct you there, so please feel free to browse that as well!

Know Your Role

The most basic thing we should go over is that the Esper comes in two flavors: healer, and dps.

I don’t think this comes as any big surprise to anyone who has followed the game, as none of the other (revealed and confirmed) classes seem to fit the mold of a healer. The closest you could come would be the Spellslinger, who could shoot wonderful healing bullets into someone, I guess? Ouch. Anyway, the healing the Esper possesses comes in the form of glowing gold as opposed to the typical purples and translucent blues that we’re used to with our mind daggers. Based upon the AMA yesterday, Dev Asyreal (Jade Martin) has stated that we will be the best single-target healers, which is perfect for me. I’ve always leaned more towards single-target; AoE’s feel like cheating!

 Our DPS also doesn’t come as much of a surprise: we cause extreme pain and suffering via a variety of glowey daggers and blasts of mental energy. That said, it was interesting to learn a bit more about the mechanics of the class, most notably the “psi points” that we will use to cast our big, nasty abilities. Additionally, I’m pretty damn excited about our ability to “run and gun,” firing off weaker spells for the sake of mobility. In an action-based game like Wildstar, mobility is so important to keep things feeling active and exciting. Knowing that I can make the trade-off between standing still and unleashing a big hellish bolt of energy vs. keeping on the  move for the sake of escapability is exciting to me.

What may come as a surprise to some, as it certainly did to me, was that the Esper could function somewhat as a pet class. As pointed out in this Massively article (which, again, links to the AMA), one dev stated that he tuned his build to include three small minor illusions and one big baddie illusion (ala Guild Wars 2’s Mentalist?). How much people will actually be able to play as a pet user remains to be seen; my money is more on these abilities being utilized a bit like cooldowns and less as consistent pets.

Tools of the Trade

The next bit of reveal was how our equipment would function. We are provided light armor (otherwise known as “clothes”) to protect our behinds, while also wielding what I would describe as a pinwheel of death. It’s like a giant, psychic ninja star. The website describes the psy-blade as a “wit-sharpened stiletto forged from 100% superego.” I like the idea of my character not having to really worry about using his hands to throw out a weapon. I mean hell, I’m a nasty little psychopath, why should I bother using physical force when I have a near-endless supply of kinetic energy at my disposal?

Also, the Chua who is used as a model for our armor is freaking adorable.

Once Upon a Time…

The bit of info that was probably the least exciting to me came from the lore section. What it basically comes down to is that we were once social outcasts, but have basically risen in the ranks due to need and the desire for others to exploit our God-given talents- the talents that allow us to melt a person’s brain into a substance that I can only imagine looks like pink milk. I’m hoping Carbine gives us an Esper “class lead” to rally around, so we can see how the different factions approach the class from a lore standpoint.

Join Me Next Time!

I could go on and on with these sections, as I’ve barely touched on what the AMA has taught us, but alas, I have to go prepare myself for the wonderful Livestream that will be taking place at 3pm EST (the only timezone that matters), as well as recover from a night of debauchery that has resulted in one nasty headache (DID YOU DO THIS, ESPERS?!?) Please check back here either later tonight or tomorrow morning to learn more about our beloved class as I share my thoughts on the livestream!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Psychics (and psychopaths), unite!

Welcome, one and all, to the only blog dedicated to all things Esper! This is your one-stop-shop for the illustrious illusionist, the panacea provider, and the psyblade psychopath. Also, a lot of alliteration, so if you're big into English, there's that as well!

You may find this blog appealing if you enjoy any one of the following:
- Melting your enemy's brain
- Making your enemy's brain explode
- Eviscerating your enemy with blades of blue energy (can be anywhere, not just the brain)
- Providing psychic Xanax in the form of magical golden mind love
- Transforming into golden spirit animals

You may not find this blog appealing if you enjoy any one of the following:
- Picking a worse class than the Esper
- Not playing Wildstar (though, honestly, why are you here then?)

In all honesty, I am creating this site to provide active, ongoing discussion about the Esper class. I found this to be a very opportune time, given that the class was recently (as in, yesterday) re-revealed. With all sorts of fun and new information leaking out of the mouths of Wildstar devs, this seemed like the best time to jump in feet first and hope I don't suck at this blogging thing!

Allow me to tell you a little about myself and my gaming interests: I'm a 20-something fella who's been gaming since he was a wee tyke playing Super Mario Bros. 3 on my Nintendo. I got into MMO's when I purchased Everquest in 8th grade, and it's been all downhill since then. I've tried my hand at all manner of classes, but I've always drifted a bit towards healers and psychic-based characters (what a weird subset, right?) For example, I played a druid healer in EQ, a priest in WoW, I ran a Psychic character in City of Villains, and a Psionicist in Vanguard. For some reason, those two subsets have always sort of appealed to me.

I couldn't be more excited about the Esper and Wildstar in general. The game looks exciting and I'll do what I can to provide fascinating content moving forward. My first post (after this one, of course), will focus on detailing the recently released Esper information and how it might affect our play style. Obviously there is a lot of conjecture at this point, but that's not necessarily a bad thing! I encourage you to check back regularly and join in the conversation, as I'm always looking for new friends to chat and game with.

PS- I'm working on shaking up the look of this place, so bear with me for a little!