Crafting Map of Terraria

So I’ve been playing Terraria for a while now. For those that don’t know, Terraria is a small game that borrows elements from several games, like Minecraft, Zelda and… well, lots.

One of the curious parts of Terraria — and the most controversial — is the crafting part. It’s curious ’cause you don’t have a full view of what you can craft (if you don’t have the materials, you won’t see it on your crafting list). Controversial ’cause a lot of people accuse Terraria of shamelessly stealing it from Minecraft.

(Personal opinion: Although I never played Minecraft, it seems, from what I read, that Terraria offers more than just crafting stuff, so it actually shamelessly steal from several games — almost like every game these days. I bet if you look at game story, you’ll find some game that took crafting way before Minecraft. But that’s not the point I want to bring here, so let it rest for now.)

Since I was curious about what could be crafted, I made a map using Dot to draw things for me ’cause… well, ’cause I’m kinda used to Dot, although some options I can only remember by looking at the source of their examples. And, to be completely honest, because I don’t know most of the options, the output doesn’t look that nice. If you want to take a look at the source, I pushed all the files to a Github repository, so you’re free to fork it and make it look better. Any suggestion is welcome.

Because the output doesn’t look that nice, I tried to recreate the same thing in Omnigraffle. The result is that, 1/4 through the list, Omnigraffle decided to crash. Adding a node was crashing it. Changing the node order was crashing it. I send the reports to Omni, but since the Dot was working and it’s a lot easier to just add a single line and let the application worry about connecting one point to the other instead of trying to find one node to graphically connect to another node, I kept using it.

Also, I used all Graphviz renderers (dot, neato, fdp, sfdp, twopi and circo, although that last one makes a 6Mb image, which is too big to upload to my server), trying to find the one with better results. Unfortunately, not much better results, as most of them don’t worry about lines crossing nodes, it seems.

Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, I present you: The Crafting Map of Terraria (in various formats):

Dot

Neato

Fdp

Sfdp

Twopi

(And before you say it: Yes, hot damn wood is used everywhere!)

Star Trek Online, Early Review

My history with Star Trek Online started way before their first beta. When it was announced, I created an account hoping I would get a beta key when it started. I got a key indeed, but it was (and still is) a Windows only game and I wasn’t in the mood to do a Boot Camp just to play a game when World of Warcraft was playing fine on OS X.

The story would end there if it wasn’t for an offer appearing on my Steam window after playing Terraria. The game was now being offered at US$ 3.75 and, since I now have a Windows partition (just to play games), I decided to finally check it.

Installation

Not that many people take notice of the install process, but I kinda felt there was something wrong when the Steam installer said it would need “10.000 Mb”. I mean, such round number seems someone really didn’t care how much space it takes; it was just someone saying “Meh, just make it 10Gb” instead of doing their job and checking how much space the game really uses.

With 20Gb free, there went the installer. Downloading 5.5Gb. Compressed around 50%? What a damn compression they have there, huh? Toping at 300kbp/s, it took a whole afternoon to download the thing. Rift, on the other hand, have to download 8.5Gb, but it goes up to 1.1mbp/s, giving me a playable game in around 2 hours.

After the download completed, the launcher appeared: A complete white screen with “Wait, loading…” Again, another sign that something was wrong: A launcher that looks like crap. After a while, a somewhat decent launcher appeared, asking login and password. The only reason I can think of for such awful thing is that the launcher is, actually, an HTML that needs to be downloaded from the server — or maybe they never heard of parallel programming or threads. Also, another sign of things going bad: pressing Enter after entering your password does not work; you must click the “Signin” button. After all that, the launcher pointed that “there was a problem with my account”, the problem being I didn’t had the game in my Atari account.

The launcher will launch the launcher when the launcher launchs

I got the keys from the Steam launcher, which kept popping their damn overlays all over my Firefox all the time telling me to add the keys to my game account in every chance it could. After a while, I got really fed up, copied the key to the clipboard and set it to go away and never come back.

Adding the key to the Atari account was as easy as you could imagine: You log in on your account, point that you want to add a key, paste the key, done. After that I thought I could finally play the game.

Not so fast. After the key was there and the “problems” with my account were solved, the game decided it needed patching. Another 4.5Gb download. And yet another sign something was wrong. I mean, if suddenly your patch is almost the same size of your initial download, maybe it’s time to redo your initial package install, as downloading large amounts of data only delays the experience for new players — which is something you’re trying to get selling your game at US$ 3.75. After a whole afternoon just trying to get it run, I gave up and went to bed.

Next day, new surprises: This time, the Steam launcher sent a 2.5Gb patch to the game. At first I thought it was the remaining of the previous day patch, but after it completed, the launcher went into patch mode again. Again, no amazing speeds.

The game

After the whole downloading was done and gone, I could finally see something that assembled a real game instead of a flash, in-browser game.

Captain, who you want to be today?

There is nothing fancy about the character creation screen: You have a character list, a create character button… Which gives access to Federation characters, and an option to create klingon characters, although you first need to unlock them (how is not explained). One thing you can notice there is that you can rename your character using Atari Tokens. Lots of content is available through those tokens, which you can buy with real money in the Atari Store and use on whatever games Atari have. My account had about 500 Atari Tokens and a rename costs around 180, if my memory doesn’t fail.

After you create your character, you’re greeted with him/her standing in the lounge of a ship.

Future captain Thor, of the U.S.S. Asgaard (believe it or not, I did manage to create such character)

The first thing you’ll notice is how cramped the screen looks. And how bad the graphics look. There is a reason for that: Apparently, STO is not capable of getting your current resolution, so it defaults to 1024×768, which is not my monitor native screen resolution. It took me a while to realize that was the problem and not that the game actually looks that bad ’cause… well, ’cause I didn’t had to change a game resolution for ages. World of Warcraft starts in the right resolution, Portal 2 starts with the right resolution, Rift starts with the right resolution. STO starts with whatever resolution the developers feel like.

Also, disregard the yellow bar right in the middle of the screen. To take screenshots on a MacBook Pro, the key combo it kinda messy like Shift+Fn+Alt+F11. In the game, Shift gives you a running speed, which can only be kept for a while, indicated by the yellow bar. Since I was pressing the Shift key, even without doing any movement, my “run power” was running out.

The first thing you learn is how to interact with your surroundings.

Aaannndd.... ACTION!

The action in itself is good and bad at the same time: Once you get close to anything you can interact, a popup appears asking what you want to do with it (most of the time, there is only one action, though). It’s good ’cause it helps to find what you need to interact to continue. It’s bad ’cause it’s a freaking box that pops up right in the middle of your screen and there is no way to dismiss or move it. It may not look so bad here, but once you’re in warp space (I will get there, don’t worry), near a solar system, trying to find the next point you need to go to complete a mission and the damn box is right in the middle of the screen, covering whatever you have there, including the names of the solar systems — even the one you’re trying to find — you just want the thing to blow up and die horrible in a fire.

One of the things I like is the ground combat. It is not that different from combat from Rift or WoW, but it gives a bit more stuff, like “couching”, which increases your damage, resistance but reduces your movement speed. And that’s basically it, but it gives a bit of a different taste to this game compared to the other MMORPGs. Everything else is the same: Move with WASD, use the right button to select a direction with your mouse, move the camera with your left mouse button… pretty standard movement.

Yeah babe, shoot that borg! Shoot that borg good!

You have access to a map but… Meh. It does it’s job but there is nothing impressive. The first times I looked at it, I couldn’t figure out if there was a waypoint to my quest or not. It took me a while to realize that there was a circle and the “i” pointing to the direction. “Oh, you dumb”, you must be thinking. Well, there is this: First, the starting zoom doesn’t take the zone with your waypoint. Second, if the waypoint is out of screen due the zoom, there is no indication about that. Third, even when the waypoint is in the screen, it doesn’t blink or have a higher contrast to get your attention. If you’re not used to it, it just looks like another element in the whatever you are.

Damn, Google Maps in the 25th century looks really bad.

As you progress through your missions, you get equipment that can be attached to your character, to your team or to your ship. The interface is basically the same.

This goes... here!

The game changes the borders to where the piece can’t go in red, with low contrast again, which doesn’t get that clear that the piece can’t go there. If the places where the equipment would go in, say, bright cyan, the location would be much much easier to find.

Once you complete the ground missions you get your first ship. And that’s where the game falls flat on its ass.

Space Movemento and Combat

Space! Spaaace! I'm in space! SPAAAAACE!

Knowing how the other Star Trek games handle space movement (I had one for the PSP), I knew I’d be steering a cow in molasses. What I wasn’t expecting is that they would put such stupid restrictions in space like having a fake horizon, not allowing your ship to pitch up or down more than 45 degrees and make the ship “center” on the horizon every time. I played EVE 2 or 3 years before this game was released and they didn’t had an horizon, which gives a better illusion that you’re flying in space, not on Earth.

Not only that but, in space, you have to use your keys to control your ship. Oh, you can use your mouse, yes: Left clicking select a target, right clicking select a target and both keys let you move your ship — and your camera. There is no way, with mouse, to move your ship still looking for your target.

It may not sound that bad at first, but when you’re fighting 3 destroyers, twice the size of your ship and you want to change the side of your ship to face them, allowing your shields to regenerate, it becomes simply impossible to do. Either you have to use the damn keys or you’re fucked.

Not only the game takes you to that route, but warp is, actually, just another space. “Data, set destination to Wolf 359, Warp 0”. And then there is the damn action window popping when you just got into “warp space” and you’re looking for the damn system you need to go to complete your missions.

Once you complete the incredible easy starting missions — one single ship destroying borg drone ships? One guy with a single phaser killing borg drones with just 2 shots? — you get to the star base, which have a pretty crowded parking zone, you can customize your ship a bit.

Piece A connects to piece B...

The design options are a bit limited for starting ships, but you can get more stuff once you reach the rank of rear admiral — or so it seems, as most of the content you can buy with your Atari Tokens is for rear admirals. How long it takes to reach that rank is unknown to me: After playing for about 2 hours, all I could reach was the rank of “Lieutenant”, which is around level 3.

Also, as I mentioned before, you can get more crew for your ship, with a tactical officer, a science officer and a engineering officer. As your own character you can customize them.

Don't even try to make a hottie like Beverly Crusher. It's impossible.

Some settings are just weird to watch them in effect. For example, changing the torso length and seeing it happen in real time actually looks like someone is stretching them, almost breaking their spines. Ugh.

Stretch the torso, freak out and throw up.

Glitches Galore

In just one hour of play time, I managed to get increasingly annoyed by some small glitches.

For example, just because you’re an admiral, it doesn’t mean you should stand up on your chair.

"I'm an Admiral! I was fighting the borg even before you were born, kid! I can stand up wherever I want!"

And then there is the little to no differentiation between NPCs and players. Because you can customize the hell out of your appearance, including your uniform — and not counting the uniforms and races you can buy with those Atari Tokens — and they used that same thing for NPCs, you are never sure who is a player and who is a NPC. I mean, come on, wouldn’t a star base at least have a dressing conduct or something?

One of those 3 in front of me is a player? Can you spot it?

And then there is the quest order you need to keep doing for NPCs to talk to you. For example, because I didn’t talk with the admiral first (actually, I did, but I had to talk to him again to complete the previous quest), I couldn’t talk to the NPC I needed to, even with the quest objective appearing right in front of me.

Commander Samuel Winters doesn't give a shit about your objectives.

I understand that those are small issues, but it keeps piling up and that is just the starting quests.

Curious Aspects

One thing that really caught my eye was the user content. Yes, users can create quests and such, which is rated by the users.

Spirits! In spaaaace!

There is only one thing: Because the content is created and rated by users, some… conventions are completely ignored. Or maybe the game simply doesn’t understand that people from different countries can be playing the same content.

Gespenster! Im weeeeeeeltraum!

Opinion

Honestly, although I call myself a trekkie and such, for US$ 15 per month, I’d prefer play Rift. Or even go back to WoW. But the game feels half-finished, even after a whole year after release. If it was cheaper, like US$ 3.99 per month or free to play — which could happen, as they have the whole C-Store and Atari Tokens — I’d seriously consider it. But, again, it feels half finished, some sequences are real killers and the price is too high for it.

Rift, Early Review

Recently, I decided to try Trion Rift, a new MMO in the block. I haven’t had the time to explore the game at its full, but I saw enough to write some words about it.

My experience with Rift started with a free weekend — which Trion seems to be spreading around, just keep an eye around and you can get a free weekend of play too — but after playing it for 2 days and reaching the level cap (of 15 out of the 50 in the full version), I decided to get the game and its free 30 day included, after getting tired of World of Warcraft.

Comparing Rift with World of Warcraft is kinda obvious and somewhat “forced”: First, World of Warcraft is the largest MMORPG around, with 12 million subscribers[1] and it’s called the behemoth to be bested; Second, Trion used phrases like “You are not in Azeroth anymore” in some ads — Azeroth being the world of World of Warcraft.

So, let’s start comparing with the similar stuff: First, as any RPG, either single player or multi-player, you play character that, by completing quests and killing enemies, earn “experience”, which accumulate till you get enough experience to reach another level, giving access to more powerful attacks and abilities, which let you fight bigger enemies, do harder quests, to get more experience to reach another level. When you level up, your abilities are not set in stone, so you can customize your character in a way that fits more your game play. As in World of Warcraft (and EverQuest before it), there are three roles a player can take:

  • A “tank”, who should draw the attention of the enemies and take the blows while his/her friends take care of killing the enemies. For that, a tank have special abilities to mitigate or avoid damage taken, sacrificing damage done in the process
  • A “healer”, which should heal the group when they take damage and
  • A damage-dealer, which is responsible for killing the enemies before they can kill either the tank or the healer.

At first, Rift seems like the RPG with the least options of game style: There are only 4 classes you can chose to play: Warrior, Mage, Cleric and Rogue, compared with the 10 classes World of Warcraft offers. Even Diablo 2 (which is not a MMORPG, but includes RPG elements) without the later expansion came with 5 classes (the number goes up to 7 with the expansion).

But of those 4 classes, 3 of them can be tanks and 2 of them can be healers (and another one, although with very limited capabilities), which is pretty close to World of Warcraft numbers: of all 10, 4 can be tanks and 4 can be healers and 4 can be only damage dealers. This is accomplished by a confusing (at first) mechanic called “Souls”: In the Rift universe, players actually “tap” in the souls of old heroes, giving them different abilities to complete their tasks (of saving the universe, obviously). For example, a Rogue can, instead of fighting in melee range, chose a Soul that uses bow or gun and get a pet and fight as in World of Warcraft is the hunter class; a cleric, although just wearing mail (the second hardest armor type, behind plate), can chose a Soul that increases defenses and become a tank; a mage can take a Soul that instead of dealing a lot of damage, actually heals the party.

Although the range of possibilities is huge, the game keeps things nice and tied: First, each class have a base mechanic and keeps it no matter the chosen souls; Second, gear is constant no matter the chosen souls. For class mechanics, except for clerics, you have some sort of “stacking points”, with abilities that increase this count and others that use those points, increasing the damage: Warriors have attack points (stacking up to 3 points), rogues have combo points (stacking up to 5 points) and mages have charge (stacking up to 100). No matter what soul you pick, the base class mechanic still remains, meaning you don’t have to relearn the class when you decide to try something different. Also, gear is constant for the classes: Even clerics that decide to tank, requiring more Endurance (hit points) and melee attack power (most of cleric gear have spell power) get that from abilities, so the cleric can tank, heal or deal damage without requiring a new set of gear — in World of Warcraft, “hybrids” (the name classes that can do all 3 roles get) need a complete different set of gear when changing roles: A paladin tank needs a complete different gear when switching from tank to healer, leading to continuously running the same content over and over again, just to get the right gear. Obviously, this is easy to accomplish in Rift, with only 4 classes and each class with a different gear type: Warriors always wear plate, Clerics always wear mail, Rogues always wear leather and Mages always wear cloth.

Rifts is another thing that Rift have that World of Warcraft doesn’t: They are random events, which can spawn at any time. Basically, they are special points in the map, with special enemies, which give special tokens that can be traded with better gear once defeated. They also spawn what it’s called “Invasions”, which are basically small groups of enemies that will march to some player “safe base” and try to destroy it. To help players help themselves, the game create “public groups” once two or more players are close to one of those two, and newcomers are presented with a “join public group” option right on the top of their screen. This creates a feeling of “we are fighting for this” which brings players together. Unfortunately, once the players kill all the enemies, the group is not disbanded, which means, if you’re not paying any attention, you may run up around with a group of people without even noticing it.

Those events break the monotony of running around doing quests like “kill 10 of those guys” over and over again — which is a problem with most Rift quests and that World of Warcraft solved in the latest expansion with something that Total Biscuit called “magic wand quest”: Instead of mindlessly killing 10 of those guys, you get a special item (like a magical wand) that turns them into something else. It adds a little flavour to the quest, even if, in the end, you’re still just killing 10 of those guys.

Also related with Rifts are world events, eventually one “demi-boss” will get bored and decide to ruin the puny players questing and rift closing. This will spawn a lot of rifts all over the place, with a dozen of more invasions, which require the players to group up and fight to defend it while taking rifts and invasions down. Once a certain number of those are taken down, the demi-boss will show up himself/herself and players must, again, group up and fight it, which will give the players more powerful tokens.

But not everything in the garden smells like roses. As I mentioned, quests are really repetitive and lack some imagination. The scenery makes up a bit for it, but doesn’t solve that the basic mechanic of most quests is “go there and kill 10 of those guys”. Also, PvP (player versus player) speed is really slow. Either you’re ambushed by someone with a DPS so high you can barely see them or, when you join the warfronts — areas created specially for PvP, with objetives and such — the rhythm is so slow you feel like you’d either survive it or just die. There is no frantic pushing buttons, calling your survival abilities to get out of it like in World of Warcraft, killing any adrenalin rush you could get. Simply, there is none.

Overall, the game is prettier than World of Warcraft, still have some issues like repetitive quests and out of rhythm PvP, but one must also remember that World of Warcraft is 6.5 years old and that Rift is out for about 3 months only and, thus, a lot can still change while Trion polishes the game.

[1] Some people buy two or more World of Warcraft accounts and play more than once character at the same time, so it doesn’t mean there are 12 million players.

Portal 2

I must admit that, at first, I wasn’t thinking about getting the new Portal version. But friends mentioned getting it and there was this co-op option that should be fun. So I got it.

The game follows the previous game about… centuries after Chell escapes the first time while killing GLaDOS. I was expecting some kind of explanation about it inside the game, but there isn’t (sorry, spoilers). The explanation is in the online comic book that you can see on the Portal 2 website (sorry, no spoilers this time).

The game mechanics start the same, but Valve added some new tricks, like (no, no spoilers, you should know this from the videos they posted around) light bridges, lasers, bouncing gel, high speed gel and a special gel that let you put portals on surfaces that couldn’t keep portals before — extending the game even further.

The first levels and mostly a recap of the classic mechanics, like portals, boxes and buttons and momentum. I thought it was quite boring, but just because I played the first version. I bet those levels are there to teach newcomers how things work. While I understand that, the levels are very small, but there is a very annoying loading screen. Due this, you’ll see a loading screen taking about 15 seconds to load a level, completing the level in about one minute and then having to wait yet another 15 seconds to load the next level.

Once you get past those training levels, the challenges start. Although not the real challenges yet, as those are obviously the last levels, they provide the exact amount of deception, frustration and satisfaction when you figure out how to complete the level. And some levels seem designed with deception in mind, with some obvious solution right in front of you, hidden by some bright, new thing just a few meters in front of the solution. Also, I must congratulate Valve for the level and teaser video design: At some point, in one of the levels, I thought “Oh, I remember seeing this on a video, I’ll do that” and then I was happily surprised when things didn’t went the way of the video — and that’s why you should watch them, they will teach some stuff about the new mechanics without spoiling you with solutions that you’ll bang your head on your desk for a while while figuring it all when trying something silly.

This time, instead of having only GLaDOS and the weird phrases written in hidden walls as companions, you have Wheatley, the robot/entity responsible for your care in the beginning of the game (not going to spoil how it begins, but you’ll find in the very first minutes of game play), some weird phrases written in hidden walls, the Aperture Science notification system and… GLaDOS. There is yet another personality that will add some explanations and a nice story arc mid-game in a very absurd location of Aperture Science HQ (oh, spoilers?)

Also, the single player campaign explains the origin of the robots you’ll play in co-op mode, although just in the end.

Speaking of end of the game, I completed it in 9 hours of played time — or so says the Steam launcher. This is a bit below 5 times the time it took to complete the first game.

Speaking of which, there is a co-op mode in Portal 2, as I mentioned right from start. I played just the first level with my cousin, but I think it gave a good idea how the game play is: The first level have two somewhat connected corridors, with each robot (player) taking a different corridor. Some obstacles in corridor 1 must be solved by the player in the corridor 2, allowing both players to keep going. Each player have their own set of portals, so you can “chain portal” on the way out. Valve also added some “flags”, allowing players to point to each other where they should go, open portals or drop boxes, without the need of typing or speaking.

The last point I’d like to add is replayability. The first portal, without the co-op and with a very short play time, didn’t offer much of it: You could finish the game 2 or 3 times in a free afternoon. Obviously, with a different game style (the co-op) and a longer story mode, replayability is a reality. Specially ’cause some levels are really fun to play, without the “how the heck I find the way out of this” feeling all the time. There are, also, more achievements this time — obviously easy to add due the longer gameplay: While the first Portal have 18 achievements, the new one have 50, some about the co-op game. All that, with the updated visuals — graphically, this game is prettier than the first version — give a lot of fun replaying the game again.

The game is really worth it, even if you haven’t played the first game.

Realism != Immersability

It’s been around 3 months that I’m away from World of Warcraft. Not because I’m trying to give up my addiction or because I’m pissed with something Blizzard changed; the problem is that I don’t have a proper place to sit down and play for hours like I used to. Also, internet is not that good here, and latency is a problem with WoW. Due these problems, I kept thinking about going back to Guild Wars, the first MMO I played.

Guild Wars have a different movement model, which makes it easier to play without a mouse (and, thus, without a proper place to sit.) Also, some places (the outdoors, outside “outposts”) have their own instance, so you don’t need to worry about someone coming and messing with your game and, better yet, since you can enter those areas alone, you don’t need to worry about latency that much, since you’re running most of the area all by yourself (thus, solving the latency problem.)

There was another thing drawing me back to Guild Wars, though: The gorgeous scenery. I’m not kidding: There is one place in the first game (they had 3 expansions already, I own 2 of those plus the original game), which I could sit and just keep looking at the screen for hours. I may have taken a screenshot a long time ago and used as wallpaper, so gorgeous it looked.

This weekend, after fighting for ages trying to run on every way I could think of (VirtualBox, wine, free version of Crossover), I finally managed to make it run thanks to the paid version of Codeweaves Crossover (still on trial, but I may buy it.) And I spent a good part of my weekend playing the starting areas again, just to remember how to play (not to mention that I may have messed up my skills/talent points on my previous characters so better start clean.) And, after that long, one question that I asked myself while playing WoW never pop up:

Am I that character or a person playing that character?

I know it sounds weird, but I asked that myself several times: When I’m playing… Am I the character? Or Not?

Truth is, I never really found a good answer for that. Yes, I get immersed in the game and its story but I can’t quite make it if I’m that character running around killing things and getting gold for that.

Thing is, even if Guild Wars looks better and have a more natural look on everything (i.e., the characters have a more human look, the animals based on real ones really look like the real ones), it doesn’t give that impression of immersability that WoW have, even if the later have a much more cartoonish look.

In a thought, Guild Wars should provide a bigger immersability than WoW: It looks more natural, the events look more like real life, the locations are more real life but, in the very end, it doesn’t feel like the game “traps” you into itself. WoW, in all it’s cartoonish way with dwarfs, elfs and blue goats from outer space still is capable to dragging you out of this plane to somewhere else.

Experiment continues…

First you don’t read; then you don’t know how to do math

Note: This is a WoW related post. If you don’t like MMOs, games, think Blizzard jumped the shark with the “Wrath of the Lich King” expansion, rage quit the game after a paladin killed you in one cooldown or simply aren’t interested in WoW at all, you can skip this.

Today, reading WoW.Com (which is not run by Blizzard, I must say), I read this article about Prot Paladins outhealing Holy Paladins in PvP. As a protection paladin that does the healing job in PvP, I thought it would be worth the read. But the problem show up right in the first paragraph: The author’s solution is remove the Spell Power plate from the game. Wait, WHAT?

For those that don’t know WoW or don’t know how paladins work, here is a brief explanation:

Paladins can fill the three roles in a group, depending on the abilities (or talents) they chose: A healer paladin would take talents from the “Holy” tree; a tanking paladin would take talents from the “Protection” tree; and a damaging (DPS) paladin would take talents from the “Retribution” tree. Of course, there is always some mixing of talents from different trees (e.g., for PvP, a retribution paladin would pick some talents in the protection tree, to improve his survivability), but most points would go to the proper tree.

Also, there is the difference of gear. Since damage is what retribution paladins are going after, they would chose gear with more “Strength” and “Attack Power”; tanking would go with more “Stamina” and “Defense rating” and some “Strength” and “Agility” (I’ll not dwell on how those two attributes help survivability at this point); healing would go after “Intellect” and “Spell Power” (just to know, the more spell power a healing paladin have, the more powerful their healing abilities will be.)

At it’s core, the paladin is a caster. This means that most of it’s abilities are not normal attacks, but magic spells and since everything paladin related is magic, the “Spell Power” can help the class a lot. As the holy paladin is the only one that have gear with “spell power”, talents exist in the other trees to help them: The retribution tree have a talent called Sheath of Light, which increases the “spell power” based on “attack power” (which makes sense, since the retribution paladin would go after “attack power”), holy paladins have Holy Guidance, which increases the “spell power” based on total “intelect” (which helps them to have better heals) and the protection tree have Touched by the Light, which increases the “spell power” based on the total “stamina” (again, makes sense since “stamina” is the base survivability stat tanks go after.) Those talents help retribution paladins to make more damage, the holy paladins to have better healing and the protection to keep the enemy they should prevent running around and killing everyone else attacking just them.

Now that we put the basics down, comes the part that “don’t read”: The Blizzard forums point the problem of Protection Paladins using Holy Paladins PvP (Player versus Player) gear. The author’s solution is to remove the “spell power” plate from the game since holy paladins are the only class that have a use for it. First of all, removing won’t solve a thing, since PvP gear is “bought” with honor and, thus, doesn’t affect any other class. Every class is capable of getting honor no matter what (some may have some difficulties, but it’s not impossible.) But he seems to confuse the PvE part of the game with the PvP part. In a PvE (player versus environment), you go into what it’s called an instance (which is put as a cave, house, cathedral, building), kill some monster till you get to the big monster and, when he’s killed, you get your rewards in the form of new gear. Since holy paladins are the only ones interested in plate with “spell power” (the other plate wearers have no use for it, not even non-paladins) if there isn’t a holy paladin in the group, the gear is lost — it can still be sold, but it’s basically lost ’cause it comes to “it could be some gear that other class could use”. That’s the life of playing a game with random number generators: You can’t just say “I’ll go there and get that gear” ’cause you don’t have any control over the gear that will appear.

And the part that “don’t know how to do math”: As I pointed, holy paladins are interested in gear with “intellect” and “spell power”. But with holy guidance, if maxed to all available points, increases spell power by 20% of the total intellect or 10 intellect increases your spell power in 2. Since your gear also have spell power already, that’s a good trade off.

Stamina, for protection paladins, just turn into health and no other stat. But you may remember that talent that helps Protection paladins to have spell power based on stamina. If you put 3 points in that talent (which is the maximum), you get 30%, which basically makes 10 points in stamina give you 3 more spell power points. Things are starting to look clear, don’t they?

So take a look at this: Let’s take a piece of the PvP gear for holy paladins: the chest. It have 115 stamina, 50 intellect and 98 spell power. For a holy paladin, that means the total spell power of that chest is 118 spell power. For a protection paladin, that means around 132 spell power. And no, you can’t have both talents due the amount of points required to enable those abilities.

Also, just to add insult to the injury, you may notice that there are two “slots”, available for gems. The most powerful intellect gem gives you +20 intellect and the most powerful stamina gem gives you +30 stamina (the gem color is not important, in this case.)

So, removing the spell power plate from the game would help? OF COURSE NOT! If paladins where changed to use mail to have spell power, it would still gave protection paladins more spell power than holy paladins and the overheal would still be there.

The proper solution isn’t so easy, though. Reducing the stamina from the PvP holy gear would damage holy paladins survivability; reducing the spell power from the talent in the protection tree would hurt their ability to keep an enemy attacking everyone in the raid; increasing the Spell Power returned in “Holy Guidance” would make holy paladins in PvE too power to be compared to any other healers.

But there is one insightful comment in the article: Make the amount of spell power increased by stamina based on the total “defense rating”. That stat is only used in PvE by protection paladins and it’s not so helpful in PvP. Since the holy paladins have no use for that, the PvP gear have none and, thus, can be used as base to not hurt protection paladins (since their have large amounts of defense rating anyway) and not overpower holy paladins.

Every game has its trick

For some unexplainable reason, I decided to dig my DS from the old boxes and make it work again. No too hard, just recharge the batteries and we are ready to rock.

One of the games I barely played before was “Final Fantasy III”. I must admit that, when I bought it, all I was thinking was Black Mage from 8-Bit Theatre.

For those who never played any Final Fantasy, the story is something like this: Darkness and Light stay in balance. When the balance is broken (usually when Darkness get stronger for some reason), the Warriors of Light (usually a band of orphans) must get together and put things in balance again. Or at least, that’s the basic idea behind Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy VIII (or VII, I can’t remember.)

There is an small “trick” to win easily on “VIII”: Collect the most strong magic spells, bind then with your normal attacks (you can, say, bind your sword attack with the fire spell, increasing the damage done) without leveling up. Why you can’t level up? ‘Cause the level of your enemies is based on your level. So, higher levels equals more difficult enemies.

The binding of attack and spell doesn’t exist on III. But there is one thing called “Jobs”. Basically, you can turn your character in any class: Monk, Red Mage, White Mage, Black Mage, Warrior or Freelancer. And it looks like the way to level up your job is simple staying in battle for long enough. The trick I found in the internet is to select “Guard” for at least 5 rounds; in the end of the battle, every character will get another “job” level, with just a little bit more of experience (so you level you job faster than your character level.) And, with higher jobs, you do more damage with your attacks (almost the same thing with spell binding.) So far, it’s working like a charm.

Back to Basics Redux

I think I nailed why I thought Diablo 3 looked like an updated Dungeon Siege: It’s the jungle. The first level on Dungeon Siege is in a jungle and they look a little bit like each other. Other than that, I don’t think there are many similarities.

Also, one thing said in the presentation isn’t actually new: changing your attack with the mouse wheel. From what I got in the presentation, you can change your attack just using the mouse wheel or the tab key. On Diablo 2, you could do the same thing: you could assign a key to an attack (up to 10, IIRC, all defaultly binded to the function keys); using the mouse wheel would change the attack on one of the mouse buttons to the next one (I can’t really remember what would happen when you assign keys on different sides.) Anyway, I don’t think Blizzard would say something is new when it isn’t actually, so I’m guessing the systems doesn’t behave like in Diablo 2.

Still waiting for the release date. ;)

Back to Basics

On my teen years, when internet was something you could only use at uni (at 2400bps), I would spent my gaming time playing one of Blizzard’s first games: Diablo.

I would play it over and over again, till I could finish and play on the next difficulty level. I would try to make characters use the wrong weapons (giving a sword to an archer or a bow to the warrior), just to see how the game would be (one word: “hard”.) And then it came Diablo II, which make me carry my computer (you know, those big, bulky ones in creme colour) to friend’s houses, just to play together and kill Diablo. And, later, with the “Lord of Destruction” expansion, play even more.

But time passes and, even as fun as it is, Diablo II graphics look… old. I get a claustrophobic feeling running Diablo at its 800×600 resolution on a monitor capable of 1440×900 (or even more.)

Which brings us to three days ago.

I don’t know why, but I decided to check Blizzard’s website. That’s when I saw the ice pattern melting and a facing appearing. My first guess went directly to World of Warcraft, as the new expansion “Wrath of the Lich King” is about to be released. But the rumours in the internet were saying “Diablo 3” and, last time, when nobody expected it would be a StarCraft II, the same sites were saying that: The game Blizzard will announce is “StarCraft II”. And they were right.

I really wished Blizzard would announce Diablo 3. But deep down my senses told me it was the new expansion being officially available to everyone (willing to pay.)

And today, while trying to install Trac on my new website (which I’d probably announce what it is for in a few days) and getting constant issues, I decided to check Blizzard website, where I found they would be livestreaming the event. Because I needed some time to focus on something else, i decided to try to install the player and see what was going on. Unbelievably, I managed to connect at the very start of the presentation. They shown a little bit of last year presentation and then I heard the words:

“And now, I’m honoured to present you Blizzard new game.”

Stage went dark. Then red lights. And a guy with a guitar. And the song, I recognized it straight away: it was Diablo 1 theme song. And, if there was still some doubts, they played a video of some scenes, where you could clearly see Tyrael. And man, I knew it was true, after all: Diablo 3 is coming.

When the shock was over, they decided to show you the game. I know it’s a development version and things may change and I’ll eat my own words in the future, but I can say two things:

1) They kept it faithful to the original.
2) They kept it faithful to the original.

Why I’m pointing it twice? ‘Cause… I don’t know, maybe I was expecting something bigger. Graphics are gorgeous, but you wouldn’t expect anything less than that form Blizzard. But the whole game looks like an updated version of Dungeon Siege (which was basically another version of Diablo.) Physics were available in games for a long time already, so it’s not new, although I can’t remember any hack-‘n’-slash game with that feature.

But, no matter what, I’ll play it. Even if I’ll have to buy a new computer.

PS: Be sure to check the website. The full presentation is available.

Lore vs (statistical) Data

As most of you already know, I’m playing World of Warcraft for a while. “For a while” means “time enough to create about 6 characters.”

Anyway, this morning, playing with my Blood Elf, I got myself asking “what the hell is this ‘dead scar’ in the middle of the map?” And the answer was easy to find on WowWiki. And, to my surprise, they have a pretty good explanation for that.

Which also made me think about the whole WoW lore. I mean, it is not the first time I got impressed by the richness of the lore. When I was playing with a Draenei and doing all the chained quests one right after the another, I got a pretty good idea of the events from the arrival of the Draenei to Azeroth, to the beginnings of the alliance between humans, elfs and dwarfs and the draenei. And the way the quests were designed makes this easy to get, as long as you follow them in order.

Before WoW, I used to play GuildWars. The way GuildWars works is quite the same way WoW works, except that the quests are designed to be done in just one place, then you have to complete a special quest, a “mission” in GuildWars-lingo, then you move to the next area, do more quests, open the mission and so on. It forces you to follow the lore, to learn what did happen in there.

In a way, like Gerald once told me, things get a complete different perspective when you realize that everything your character is is just a few numbers in a database. That’s the way I feel about most people who play WoW: they are just fighting the numbers in the database, not following a story where you play a character on it. They are munchkins, not RPGers.

PS: Isn’t it cool that the two androids in the Star Trek universe make a nice subject?