Thursday, May 31, 2012

Diablo III: C-C-C-Combo?!?

Last night I finally scrounged up enough cash to buy a good weapon. I'd found I couldn't beat Butcher on my own with my current setup and had tried lots of different things to try to help. I'd been built pretty defensively so I tried buying some new gear focused on int instead of on vit/armor. It made me squishier for sure, and made me do more damage, but it wasn't enough. So I saved up and bought a 1200DPS weapon for 450k. It let me beat him pretty easily and I decided to give act 2 a shot.

Now, I'd thrown away a lot of my health earlier trying to get better to beat Butcher and was only around 22k. The guys at the start were jumping down from above and 1-shotting me if I didn't have diamond skin up. Of course I murdered them almost as fast so I took to running in with my teleport clones up and hoped they'd get jumped on first! Eventually I got out into the open and was able to properly murder everything in sight as it tried to walk up to me. Elite packs I was able to kill by kiting them and only fighting when diamond skin and teleport were off cooldown. I found myself wanting a better way to kite them and thought maybe I should try switching blizzard back in. With a .9 speed weapon I have tons of arcane power and it should actually hit reasonably hard since blizzard keys off weapon damage and not weapon DPS.

I did some browsing around, keeping in mind most things are hitting me for almost my full health bar, and noticed a couple of interesting runes that might combo very well together...

Familiar - Ancient Guardian - While you are below 35% health the familiar will completely block one attack every 6 seconds.
Energy Armor - Force Armor - Incoming attacks that would deal more than 35% of your max health instead do 35% of your max health.

If these interact the way it sounds like they interact then it'll take at least 4 hits to kill me from full. Even if those hits are for 50k into my 22k health pool! The first knocks me to 65%, the second to 30%, the third will be blocked by the familiar, and the fourth will kill me. Unless I've managed to regen 6% of my health pool since the first attack!

How does this interact with diamond skin? It can get big enough to grant almost a 22k shield. If I take off all my health gear so that I have, say, 14k max health... Will the force armor reduce all incoming attacks down to 5k? Will diamond skin then suck up 4 full hits no matter how big they'd actually be? A healing potion would also be a full heal instead of a third of a bar if I get my max health down that low. Assuming I have time to react to the incoming hits and can drink the potion I could quite feasibly take 11 hits of any size before I die. And that's assuming no regen! With a really small health pool even a relatively small amount of life steal, life on hit, of life over time could be enough to add on extra swings. Last long enough and the familiar will block extra hits, too!

I'm excited! I really want to test something like this out...

Assuming the skills combo like I think they do defensive stats (except dodge) will be completely irrelevant. Glass cannon becomes sheer awesomeness. Without needing teleport to escape I can get away with stacking both familiar and magic weapon for huge bonus damage. I can get extra regen from magic weapon and from the galvanizing ward passive.

My gear isn't well set up for this since pretty much every item I have has bonus armor, resist all, or both. Vitality actually becomes a bad stat to have on gear! All it serves to accomplish is making healing potions and diamond skin worse. Finding total glass cannon gear shouldn't be too hard, though. All I'd care about is int, magic find, and gold find. Attack speed/movement speed/dex too, I guess, but not as much as the first group.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

League of Legends: Yorick Early Game

When I first started playing Yorick in League of Legends I read a fair number of different guides to get an idea for how other people play him. Some people recommended running armor penetration runes. Some wanted magic penetration runes. Some wanted straight attack damage runes. I ended up running with the attack damage ones because I didn't realize the armor penetration ones would help my ghouls do damage. The question I have now is which of those options is better early?

For starters I'm going to assume my opponent has 50 armor and 20 magic resist. Recalling that the damage reduction formula in this game is to multiply by 100/(100+X) where X is armor for physical damage or magic resist for magic damage. Also, I have 10% magic penetration from my masteries. Therefore, for y incoming damage:

MR(y) = y*100/118  = .85y
AC(y) = y*100/150 = .67y

My current way of playing involves leveling my W spell to rank 1, my E spell to rank 2, and pumping the rest into Q which actually is rarely used. I'm mostly concerned with the damage done by the W and the E while ignoring autoattacks and Q. The reason for this is my primary plan is to toss the two ranged spells at the enemy before they get close enough to really engage in melee combat.

W does 60 magic damage up front and then the resulting ghoul will melee 3 times for 35% of my total AD each swing. The up front damage also includes 100% of my AP but I won't have any of that. E does 85 damage up front and then the resulting ghoul will again melee 3 times for 35% of my total AD each swing. It also includes 100% of my bonus AD, which is any AD gained above and beyond the base amount from leveling. I will have 3 of that from my masteries. So, without any runes my damage at level 4 will likely be:

MR(60+85+3)+2*1.05*AC(65) = .85*148+2.1*.67*65 = 217

Filling in both quints and marks I have a few options. All AD, all MPen, all APen, or a combo. I'm interested in two combos in particular: AD quints with APen marks and full duo-pen. Those 5 options would add:

- 15.3AD
- 15.09MPen
- 24.94APen
- 6.75AD & 14.94APen
- 15APen, 9.13MPen

How does my damage change?

.85*163.3+2.1*.67*80.3 = 252
.97*148+2.1*.67*65 = 235
.85*148+2.1*.8*65 = 235
.85*154.75+2.1*.74*71.75 = 243
.92*148+2.1*.74*65 = 237

Ok, one of these is just better off the hop. At low levels the straight AD looks to be right.

There's one other thing I wanted to look at. That's what leveling up each skill accomplishes. It's pretty obvious to me that Yorick needs to put at least one point into each skill due to his passive. (He gets 5% damage reduction and 5% stronger melee attacks for each ghoul in play.) But where should the extra points go? First we need to know how much damage Q actually does...

It's an autoattack modifier which means it takes the place of your next melee swing. It also resets the swing timer when you use it so theoretically it could be worth a full melee attack if you're engaged on a target and time it right. In practical terms I don't know how often that actually happens so I'm going to ignore the autoattack portion and just look at the extra damage. It adds 30 damage, and an extra 20% of your total attack damage, and the ghoul does an extra 8 damage per swing. Comparing rank 1 stats with 80 AD:

Q - AC(54+1.25*80) = 103 damage for 40 mana with a 9 second cooldown
W - MR(60)+AC(1.05*80) = 107 damage for 40 mana with a 12 second cooldown
E - MR(73)+AC(1.05*80) = 118 damage for 55 mana with a 10 second cooldown

Comparing rank 2 stats with 80 AD:

Q - AC(108+1.25*80) = 139 damage for 40 mana with a 8 second cooldown
W - MR(95)+AC(1.05*80) = 137 damage for 45 mana with a 12 second cooldown
E - MR(103)+AC(1.05*80) = 144 damage for 60 mana with a 9 second cooldown

There are two ways to look at things. Damage per second assuming you're spamming the spell on cooldown or damage per mana. Yorick is rather mana constrained early if you're going all out on spamming so I think that number is probably more important but both are worth considering...

Rank 1
Q - 11.4DPS, 2.575DPM
W - 8.9DPS, 2.675DPM
E - 11.8DPS, 2.145DPM

Rank 2
Q - 17.4DPS, 3.475DPM
W - 11.4DPS, 3.044DPM
E - 16DPS, 2.4DPM

At rank 1 E is the best DPS, W is the best DPM, and Q is second best at both. At rank 2 Q is the best at everything. If your goal is to burn down your opponent then you want to level your Q. If your goal is to make efficient use of your mana then you want to level your Q. Are those the only things to consider?

Well, no. Each skill has a different impact on the game which scales with rank. Q gives you a run speed buff which gets bigger as you level the skill. W slows the enemies and the slow gets better as you level the skill. E gives you back 40% of the initial damage done as health so while it doesn't have an extra scaling component you do need to make sure you're stealing back enough life to stay in lane. It's only 10 extra healing per rank of E and it does drive the cost up by 5. As far as the different speed buffs go I like buffing my own speed more than debuffing my opponent's. The reason for this is I mostly only care when I'm getting ganked and then the faster I can get to my turret the better.

Personally I'd been leveling E to 2 and then maxxing Q. I think I'm ok with this going forward. I haven't found I need more healing than a rank 2 E. I do wonder if maybe I could get away with only a single point in E. I certainly have no desire to put more than one point in W.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest: Battlefields

Spread around the map in Mystic Quest are various battlefields. Each battlefield contains 10 encounters worth the standard amount of experience/gold for the fights and each award a different bonus for completing the battlefield. I did the first one and got bonus experience but then decided to just plow through the game and skip as many fights as I could. I figured if I was underleveled it might make the game a little more challenging (one of the common complaints is that the game is too easy) and would possibly make the playthrough go faster. While writing yesterday's post I wondered if maybe there was some other reason to do these battlefields and figured I'd take a look...

It turns out there are 20 battlefields and 5 of those have a unique reward for completing the battlefield. Two are pieces of equipment, two are spells, and one appears to be a mandatory item for progressing the plot. I'm not at the point where I'd be stuck without that item so I wonder if I would have received a warning that I needed to actually do that specific battlefield or if I would have ended up frustrated and stuck. The battlefields I need to check out are: south of Aquaria, north of Libra Temple, far north of Focus Tower, and south of Mine. I don't need the 5th item since it gets made obsolete by the item south of Aquaria.

I just lost my ally and am currently wandering around solo. I guess I'll find out if I can solo these battlefields or if I need to advance the plot enough to get a new ally!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest: First Thoughts

Starting up Final Fantasy Mystic Quest immediately brought back memories. The main character runs into a weird cloud riding dude who makes mention about being the knight of legend or some such. The main character's sprite responds by doing a cute little shoulder shrugging animation. A little later on after beating the first dungeon he does a Hulk Hogan style flex animation. I know this sort of thing has nothing to do with how good the plot or gameplay is, but I really like it.

Along those lines, I'd totally forgotten that the enemy pictures change as they take damage. A standard monster will have two pictures: a mean one and then a sad, damaged one. The picture changes at 50% health. Bosses have many different pictures showing the monster in varying states of decay. I just killed an ice golem and the different pictures show him melting more and more as he takes more damage. I guess Octomom worked a little like this in Final Fantasy IV but I can't really recall this happening in any other game. Monsters tend to look fully healthy until they keel over dead in games and I really like this 'feature' of Mystic Quest.

The lack of random encounters makes the game feel different than a standard jRPG but I enjoy it. I've taken to skipping as many fights as I can which has made my main character rather underleveled. The game works by having a sidekick join up and they're always a fixed level so the game is still pretty easy despite the main character being several levels shy of where I should be. As far as difficulty goes if you die in a fight you get the option to do the fight over so when I die it isn't crippling. (I die a fair bit, but mostly when my sidekick gets confused and shoots me in the face with her bow and arrow.)

The plot is fairly tame so far (the world is in chaos because the four crystals have been dimmed; I need to go kill bosses in dungeons to power them back up) but definitely feels like the core of a Final Fantasy story. I'd expect more twists and turns and random distractions but it doesn't seem as bad as reviews would lead me to believe. It's incredibly linear, though. There are 'battlefields' you can enter but they don't seem to do anything except level you up and I'm skipping fights as it is so I've avoided them. I should see if I'm missing anything important...

One control innovation I love is being able to change weapons at any time (combat or dungeon map) by hitting L or R to scroll through my options. Given that I need to use different weapons to solve dungeon puzzles this is huge. Compared to Final Fantasy Adventure or Zelda: Minish Cap where I was constantly digging into menus to change items this is such a great quality of life improvement.

Mostly I've been playing the game when Diablo 3 has been down but last night I powered up the SNES instead of leveling my barbarian. I'm enjoying the game for the game itself and not just as a stepping stone to Final Fantasy V which is saying a lot considering the terrible reviews it gets.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Through The Ages 3 Player League

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that there was a 2 player Through The Ages league starting up on the asynchronous website. I don't think there was much interest but maybe that's because it was 2 player and it was a 10 game commitment. This time around you're only signing up for 6 games total and they're played in two groups of 3 which should be a pretty manageable number. If you're interested signups end tomorrow at the following link.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Diablo III: Twinking Out

My wizard has picked up some new gear and spec and can now handle pretty much everything in act 1 inferno. Act 2 inferno is a completely different story. The difference in difficulty between the two is really extreme! If I want to stick with the wizard I guess my only really option right now is to keep grinding act 1 over and over for cash so I can buy upgrades on the AH. The other option is to try another class and see if they can do any better! With gear/gems transfering over between characters to trivially in the game this isn't as rough as it would be in World of Warcraft, say. Really all I need to do is level up to max level and I'm most of the way there. Probably need to switch some gear out if I have a different primary stat, of course, but I can recycle a lot of stuff.

One thing that really caught my eye while looking through the mechanics guide is the fact that monks and barbarians get 30% damage reduction for free. I believe this was added in the beta because they're melee and therefore had a harder time surviving the stuff in early act 1 and I can believe that to be true. But I think when you get to inferno everyone is having a hard time surviving everything! Especially in act 2 where enemies have a habit of jumping off the ceiling directly on top of me! Taking 30% less damage from stuff like mortar also sounds pretty sweet. So I want to try one of those two classes. I already have a 35 monk on hardcore and don't really want to start a second one lest I get confused and ended up dying in hardcore so I'm going with a barbarian. I already had a level 11 barbarian kicking around so off I went.

I found myself dying a fair bit to random large melee dudes and it took several swings to kill most anything. So I figured I should probably take a swing by the AH and see if I couldn't find some upgrades. I decided since my goal was to hit 60 as fast as I could that I concentrate on finding gear with +experience on it if I could. It turns out I was able to buy cheap rares with experience and strength for every slot and it made a stupid amount of difference. I'm one shotting everything in my path! I'm also set up with +115 experience per kill and 23% bonus experience on top of that which has made leveling really really fast. One thing I noticed while shopping for rares is most slots could get +10 experience but a couple could only get +8. That has me curious about how stat mods work and when they're going to jump in size so I could go back to the AH for upgrades...

Unfortunately a half hour of searching couldn't turn up any such list. I know lists of affixes with level ranges used to exist in Diablo II but I guess the game hasn't been out long enough for a list to get compiled or get high up on the Google search ranks. Oh well!

Friday, May 25, 2012

GCBGB: Toronto

This years Great Canadian Board Game Blitz Toronto event is being held this weekend at a downtown bar. Details can be found at the Facebook event. There have been a couple changes to the format this year to shake things up a little. They've shifted almost entirely to new games (either to the Blitz or in terms of recent publications) and they're handling overflow by doubling up on games instead of adding a wider variety of games. As I understand it the switch to newer games is to encourage people to learn new games and provide an advantage to people who are keeping up on new releases.

Unfortunately for me I haven't really been getting out to play the newest games. Of the 25 games being played this time around there's only one (Vegas Showdown) I've played a reasonable number of times. 16 of the games I've never played at all. The remaining 8 are games I may have played once or twice. I have no delusions about my ability to do well this time around. Normally I go to these sorts of things planning on winning but that's simply not plausible this time around. So the question then becomes if I want to wake up early and spend a day in a room crowded with strangers to learn games I may not even want to play. There are certainly some games on the list I want to learn (Ora and Labora at the top of that list) but generally I know people who have those games who would teach me them if I wanted. Without needing to wake up early and travel half an hour on the subway. Without having to skip playing Diablo. Without having to enduring endless ribbing from people when I don't win games I've never played before.

There's a minor issue with doubling up on games in that you can't try to attack the leader in the last round. (Normally if you pick the game they pick you can try to knock them out. Now you only have a 3 in 7 chance of sitting at their table assuming two 4 player games.) Historically this strategy doesn't seem to get used anyway so it's probably not a big deal.

I donno. I may not go, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't! If you like playing games with random cool people this is a great way to do so. Check it out!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Diablo III: Combat Mechanic Link

First thing to mention is Sceadeau found a pretty great blog post with a lot of details about the combat mechanics in Diablo III. It looks to be mostly based on beta information and is wrong in at least one place (vitality is worth 35 health at level 60, not 10) but it seems pretty reasonable overall.  It certainly helped explain some of the things I found out yesterday with how often beams tick and whatnot.

I ran some more tests last night. Blizzard and meteor both do substantially more damage with the slower weapon than the fast one. Even when I put on my damage ring the faster weapon wasn't making up ground in terms on blizzard damage. With beam weapons the faster weapon at least made better use of bonus damage. With blizzard it's just flat wrong to use a fast weapon. Less damage per arcane power. Less damage per second. Maybe you become able to walk sooner after casting? I don't know, and it doesn't really matter.

I need to test the signature spells at some point. I have a feeling if a faster weapon is ever going to show returns it's going to be with the signature spells. Especially if you spend runes/passives causing them to restore arcane power? My feeling while leveling up was they didn't do enough damage to be relevant but maybe that was just perception.

One important thing to come from learning about the .5s 'cycle' for beam weapons is realizing that I'm doing more damage than I thought I was. I would see a 10k number on a beam and think I was doing 13k DPS with a 1.3 speed weapon. In reality I was doing 20k. Last night I bought a good weapon (1.2 speed now along with 150 more base DPS) and had good shoulders and a fantastic set ring drop which raised my beam damage up closer to 20k per tick. Knowing that if the monsters aren't hitting me I can sustain close to 40k DPS on a single target at range for a reasonably long time makes me feel a little less useless. It's still a far cry from Sky's 100k number but it's at least playable. Probably in the 26-30k DPS range to a pack of dudes with the piercing beam. I can beat most elite packs in inferno Act 1 by myself now and am probably a useful inclusion in a group. I switched to using blizzard even though it does mediocre damage in order to kite things more efficiently with the huge area slow. Running a vortex dude in circles around a clump of trees is pretty hilarious.

In case anyone cares, raw damage numbers from the tests after the break...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Diablo III: Some Damage Tests

Here's my set-up for testing if damage amplifiers stack:

547 int
Regular divination wand: 38-71 damage, 1.4 attacks per second
+37 minimum damage from rings/amulet
casting fire hydra w/ immolation (10% damage done to targets hit by fire for 3 seconds)
casting slow time w/ time warp glyph (20% damage done to enemies in the slow)
ray of frost w/ useless glyph (215% weapon damage)
shooting at nightmare mode Siegebreaker

My weapon damage should be 75 no matter what. 215% of 75 is 161.25. Add on the bonus damage from my int (+547%) to reach 1043.2875 damage per tick of ray of frost. With just slow time I should expect to do 1251.945 per tick. With just fire hydra I expect to do 1147.61625 per tick. With both stacking multiplicatively I expect to do 1377.1395.

Actual damage numbers:
730 alone
803 w/ immolation
876 w/ time warp
949 w/ immolation and time warp

The numbers are lower than I expected, probably because Siegebreaker has armor/resistances. I couldn't find any specific values datamined from anywhere yet so I can't verify that. At any rate, the numbers do show some very clear stats. 803 is 10% more than 730. 876 is 20% more than 730. 949 is 30% more than 730. Clearly the damage amplifiers stack additively.

Now for a preliminary look at attack speed:

526 int
disintegrate w/ useless glyph (155% weapon damage)
shooting at normal Ghom

Regular two handed-mace: 22-23 damage, .9 attacks per second
Regular dagger: 7-20 damage, 1.5 attacks per second
Regular mace w/ 10% attack speed gloves: .99 attacks per second
Regular dagger w/ 10% attack speed gloves: 1.65 attacks per second

The test here is going to be how much damage I can do in a full arcane power bar.

2447 (22 ticks, 111 per tick)
939 (8 ticks, 117 per tick)
2021 (18 ticks, 112 per tick)
1081 (8 ticks, 135 per tick)

With 100 base arcane power and 10 regeneration per second I need to consider how long it should take to run out. I spend 20 per 'cast' of disintegrate. I need to find the point where 100+10x=20xy where y is the number of attacks per second.

y=.9, 100+10x=18x, x=12.5
y=1.5, 100+10x=30x, x=5
y=.99, 100+10x=19.8x, x=10.2
y=1.65, 100+10x=33x, x=4.35


Ok, not really sure what's going on here anymore. Part of the problem is going to be that I'm pretty much just guessing when I'm completely out of arcane power. I didn't want to melee attack... Maybe I need to find a stationary target? Who could that be? The really interesting thing, to me, is that the tick period isn't directly related to the speed of my weapon. I was expecting the dagger to tick more frequently for less damage and to run me out of arcane power quicker. It certainly ran me out of arcane power in a real hurry but the damage numbers didn't seem to pop up more frequently and they weren't smaller. In fact if I had to guess what was going on I'd say disintegrate ticks 1.75 times per second and it just sort of keeps track of how much damage 'should' have been done in that period of time based on your listed DPS.

I went to act 3 nightmare and shot at some of the demonic ballistaes (after clearing the zone around them) to calculate total damage done from a full arcane power bar. I couldn't manage to get the damage ticks on the screen but I am confident I used the full bar until I ran out and never meleed the monster. Using the estimated number of seconds from above I will also show DPS numbers:

mace: 2233, 179DPS
dagger: 938, 188 DPS
mace+gloves: 2134, 209DPS

dagger+gloves: 827, 190DPS

Now there's going to be an issue with these weapons having actual damage ranges (especially the dagger) and having a very small sample size. I wish there was a combat log of some kind so I could just unload into enemies for a while and then have real numbers. One thing to keep in mind as well is I can cast my 'signature' spell while out of arcane power, that the dagger didn't get to use as much arcane power because it ran out faster and I didn't keep going when some regenerated, and that in real fights you have to run around which is free regen time.

One thing's for sure... Attack speed on my weapon doesn't do anything like what I would have thought for disintegrate.

How about damage? I have a +7-14 damage ring. Let's see how it impacts the mace and dagger against the ballistae.

mace - 23 ticks, 3934 damage, 315DPS

dagger - 9 ticks, 2057 damage, 411DPS

This time I managed to find a spot where I could count the ticks. I've also been noticing (something I actually notice a lot while playing the game) that the first and last ticks tend to do less damage than a normal tick. I think the game probably has a precise clock cycle where it checks to see how much damage was done in the last .5 seconds and displays that much as a scrolling combat text number. It's pretty clear here that adding extra damage is more impactful with a faster weapon. Even my character sheet agrees. It lists identical damage numbers with just the two weapons equipped and shows a bigger number for the faster weapon once I equip the ring.

The slower weapon is better in terms of arcane power usage. The faster weapon is better in terms of making use of flat bonus damage. At least with this once spell, anyway. I really need to mock up a couple builds and take into account the damage of my signature spells...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Diablo III: Numbers To Crunch

Yesterday I went to fight the boss of Inferno Act I with Tom and Sky. He blew us up pretty handily the first time we tried even though everyone but me survived until the room was flooded with fire. Sky pointed out we needed to do about 80% more damage in order to win and asked if we could respec to be better for the fight. I really had no clue. I haven't even read all of the runes for some of my abilities! I found a couple abilities I liked while leveling up (FIREHOSE!) and have run with those. I tried other abilities now and then and didn't really like them so I went back to what was kinda working. I did know from listening to Sky and looking at the numbers appearing on my screen that he's doing at least five times as much damage as I am. So I switched my spec to include abilities which amplified my group's damage. Making the boss take 20% more damage from Sky and Tom alone is better than everything I'd been doing up to that point! I also tagged in a 10% damage buff and we gave it another shot.

It took a couple tries but we ended up winning. Popping full cooldowns at the start of the fight did serious damage to the boss and even though I died twice we still managed to eke it out. Yay! Inferno Act 2 was hilarious. Regular dudes would melee for 160% of my maximum health. Annoying ranged attackers would hit for 80% of my health and would shoot 4 projectiles at a time! Things are clearly getting serious and I'm going to need to crunch some numbers so I know what gear to focus on acquiring and so I can work out if wizard is worth playing or if I should level an alt up.

Ideally I'd be able to turn to the internet for help with these numbers but with Diablo III that doesn't seem to be the case. It took me forever to find information about weapon damage impacting spells! Part of the problem is Google searches keep returning information about Diablo II, or about beta iterations that aren't valid, or lead to websites known for distributing viruses. I certainly have the ability to work a lot of this stuff out on my own and my plan is to figure out what needs to be researched, get the gear to run the tests, and test it out. Hopefully my desire for that information will outweigh my desire to just play the game!

At any rate, here's what I really want to know:

  • When an item adds +damage is the speed of my weapon taken into account?
  • Does having a different base speed on the weapon impact how often an attack ticks? I believe the laser beams tick more often but what about hydra attacks, the meteor dot, and blizzard?
  • Does adding attack speed change the numbers in any meaningful way?
  • I have the ability to amplify damage by 20%, 15%, and 10%. Do these stack? Multiplicatively? Additively? Do they stack with abilities from other classes? 
  • How useful is arcane power regeneration?
  • If I want to focus on defensive stats am I better off with armor, resistance, or health? Does int provide a relevant enough bonus to be worth considering?
  • When an item grants life per hit does it proc once per spell or once per monster hit?
  • Do dots (like hydra or meteor) proc life steal? Is the amount relevant if so?
  • What about health per second?
Part of the problem is the high variance in damage done per attack. The damage range on my current weapon/orb combo is 470-987. How can I possibly tell if 15% and 10% damage are stacking together when a given attack can do more than double the previous one? I'm thinking the solution lies in the +minimum damage stat. Coupled with some low level weapons I should be able to shrink my damage range to a fixed number. I also need to find two weapons with identical DPS stats but drastically different speeds and run some tests on them.

Any other thoughts on things I should test when I get my testing groove on?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Diablo III: Level Cap

By and large Diablo III is exactly what I'd have expected from the next game in the series. An interesting but not terribly surprising story. Copious numbers of monsters to kill. An insane amount of random loot to sift through. Escalating difficulties. An annoying sand level. Clicking, clicking, clicking.

There's one major deviation from my expectations and it makes me a little sad. That difference is a very achievable level cap. I can remember Diablo II having a ludicrously high level cap. There was a brutal experience curve such that there were very few monsters you could fight that were even worth experience once you got high enough. In fact, if the internet memory serves me correctly there was exactly one monster worth experience. Diablo himself. The first character to max level had a team of people helping out. They'd kill every monster in the zone, spawn Diablo, and knock him very low. Then Gerbarb would tag in and get the killing blow in an 8-player game. They kept this up in parallel making sure there was always a Diablo to go kill. He didn't waste any time killing random non-Diablo dorks. Apparently they were able to kill 3 Diablos every 10 minutes! (And also had extra characters running around the games looking for experience shrines!)

It took them almost 44 days to get to max level and it took a team of dozens of people to get it done. It took me a little over four days to max out in Diablo III. I played a fair bit but some of that time was on an alt. I didn't put any special effort in. I didn't have a team playing my character. I didn't have people setting up games to farm. In fact I finished off by replaying Act I!

Now there are still things to do. Gear to twink out. Inferno difficulty to beat. Other classes to play. Achievements to earn. I'm not saying I'm done with the game. But being able to hit the level cap so easily just doesn't feel like Diablo. (Perhaps the biggest difference is the lack of a death penalty. I could never have maxxed out in Diablo II because I don't play cautiously enough!)

I wish the game had a stupidly high level cap. There's no need to have gear needing that high of a level. There's no need to have the final levels be big power increases. But there should be more levels differentiating people!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

StarCraft II Spring Arena 2

The second MLG spring arena for StarCraft II took place this weekend. My sleep schedule hasn't exactly been normal so I didn't get a chance to watch many game lives but I did watch quite a few on demand. I was happy to see both Huk and Idra ended up qualifying though they didn't end up doing terribly well. I was really sad to see that MarineKing didn't show up. I did a little searching but couldn't find out why he missed it.

Apparently Blizzard recently released a balance patch with 3 changes. Protoss observers build 10 seconds faster, Zerg overlords move 25% faster, and Zerg queens had their melee attack range extended. I don't think the observer change did a whole lot this weekend but the two Zerg buffs had a huge impact.

Overlord speed is something that doesn't feel important on the surface but it has a huge impact in terms of scouting. Zerg get initial information faster and are in significantly less danger of having their overlord sniped by a marine or a stalker. It's easier to get full information out of a suicide scout. The extra speed could possibly even come home with drops? I'm not sure if the buff impacts the speed after researching the improved speed buff but I did see some overlord drop games this weekend and I don't recall that ever really being a strategy people used except for a cute game or two with banelings.

The queen range buff is insane. It was pretty much solely responsible for shutting down early hellion harassment out of Terran players. They mostly all still tried it out and got completely shut down when they did. This is the sort of thing that probably needs adaptation and will shake out in the wash in the long run but for this tournament it felt like it really skewed the results in terms of the Zerg vs Terran matches.

The top 3 of the event were all Zerg which meant the final three matches were all Zerg mirror matches. I didn't find them to be terribly interesting. I'm sure it's really skill intensive to micro small armies of zerglings and banelings around but for me it was pretty boring to watch. I ended up napping during the finals! At any rate, Violet ended up winning! He was wearing a surgical mask which I thought was a little odd but it would seem he was sick and didn't want to infect other people. How thoughtful!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Diablo III: Jewelcrafting For Value?

I've been thinking about the jewelcrafter in Diablo III and if it's actually worth using his services. As background, gems can be removed from items for a nominal fee and there is no level restriction on gems so your low level alts can make free use of any high level gems you have lying around. These two things mean it is absolutely worth having the highest level gems you can possibly get your hands on. I'm also not talking about if it's worth leveling up the jeweler; there's an achievement for doing it so clearly it's worth doing. The question I have is how you should get your high level gems.

For example, pretend you have three square amethysts, two tomes of jewelcrafting, and 20000 bucks. You want a flawless square amethyst. How should you get it?

  • Go to the jeweler and hit a button. You lose all the previous stuff but get a flawless square amethyst.
  • Put all that stuff for sale on the auction house and buy the gem from the auction house.
  • Vendor all that junk and buy the gem from the auction house.
  • Leave all that garbage on the ground and buy the gem from the auction house.
To start, the vendor value of three square amethysts is 138 bucks. Two tomes of jewelcrafting are worth 86 bucks. Right off the bat I'm going to say it isn't worth picking them up if your plan is to vendor them. To answer the rest of the question we need to know the auction house values of the various goods. The game has only been out a few days so I doubt these values are stable but for now we have:

Square amethyst: 4000
Flawless square amethyst: 14500
Tome of jewelcrafting: 1000

Right off the hop we're better off leaving everything on the ground and buying the flawless square for 14500 instead of spending the 20000 combine fee. Even if there was no combine fee, however, we'd barely be breaking even using the crafter since the material cost is 14000! The AH does take a 15% cut so with no combine fee we would prefer to use the crafter but as it currently stands it's just plain stupid to use the jeweler for this recipe. 

I went ahead and built a spreadsheet with the values for all gems up to flawless square. (There are no perfect squares or better for any type on the AH.) Rubies across the board are worth more than the cash fee of the combines and nothing else is at any tier. Rubies are not worth combining once you take into account the value of the three previous gems. 

As I said earlier, these are initial values. The thing is, I can't see the values of these gems rising over time. More and more gems will get added to the game and none are ever removed (except possibly by crushing them together at the jeweler) so the values should drop. And since the values right now are lower than the combine fees it's pretty incomprehensible that it'll ever be worth using the jeweler at these tiers. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard ended up drastically lowering the combine costs to encourage people to use the jeweler at some point.

As things currently stand I am not going to bother looting gems on my alts. Maybe I'll pick up perfect rubies or better with the intention of using AH slots trying to sell them...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Diablo III: Glass Cannon

One of the passive abilities available to the Wizard class is called glass cannon. It does the sort of thing you'd think a passive with that name would do... You deal 15% more damage and lose 10% of your armor and resistances. 15% damage is a lot of extra damage so I took this ability as soon as it was available and kept it for quite a long time. My theory was that I was probably dead if the enemy got to me anyway so I should just do more damage while Tom's dogs tanked everything.

Eventually the dogs became so bad Tom stopped using them. Our strategy for dealing with powerful elite packs morphed from burn them out to a combination of kiting and graveyard zerging them down. Guaranteeing that I never got hit was no longer plausible. I could no longer afford to die in one hit! So I geared up some extra maximum health, I dropped glass cannon, and I started using diamond skin. It's been working out pretty well so far.

This morning we ran into Hell Belial and he's really hard. We kept dying in phase two and eventually decided to go to bed and try again tomorrow. Maybe with some extra gear from the AH. I feel like I'm both not doing enough damage and dying too fast. Should I be trying to swap out more int gems for vit gems? That'll just slow down how fast the adds die. But where else can I get tougher? I was thinking maybe I could switch back to glass cannon to mitigate that switch. Depending on just how bad losing 10% of my armor/resistances ends up being anyway...

The first interesting thing to note is armor reduces all damage done. Getting hit with a fireball? Armor will mitigate that damage. The second interesting thing is that there's a physical resistance stat. There are resist stats for all damage types. The third interesting thing is that both types of damage reduction apply to all incoming damage, multiplicatively. As far as I can tell, the percentage damage I'd take right now (as a level 56 against a level 56) is:


And with glass cannon:


With my current values this results in an overall increase in damage taken of 6.05%. Because the two are multiplied together the cost of glass cannon actually goes up as you get better gear. I have almost 20k health right now so I can maintain my current survivability by adding an extra 1210 health and picking up glass cannon. I'm getting 31 health per vitality so I'd need to find a mere 40 vitality to break even. That's pretty much one socket switch! Losing 40 int would cost me a little less than 5% of my damage and glass cannon would be 15% extra damage so it actually seems like a pretty reasonable option.

The only downside is it costs me a passive slot. Right now I'm running 15% cooldown reduction, 20% melee damage reduction, and a massive boost to my arcane power. I think the arcane power boost is mandatory with the way I play. The cooldown reduction is really important for Belial in particular since I feel like I need to cast frost nova and diamond skin as often as possible. And with all the damage the adds do being melee damage it actually seems that the 20% melee reduction is better than glass cannon. On other fights I could totally see it being a reasonable swap, but probably not this one.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Diablo III: Initial Thoughts

It's been a little over two days since Diablo III launched. I've played the game a 'little' bit since then, stopping pretty much only for sleep and server crashes. I've played almost exclusively in a two player game with Tom and his witch doctor. I'm playing a wizard and we're up to level 51 and are partway through Act I of Hell difficulty. Here are some of my initial thoughts with the game...

I've already bought an item off the auction house. Not because I've been screwed on loot or because things got too hard but because I didn't understand how caster damage worked at all and had been consistently vendoring my upgrades without knowing it. Once I realized my mistake I bought a cheap item to bootstrap myself back up to usefulness. I thought the only stat that mattered for a wizard was int since it was the only thing that seemed to do anything on my character sheet. It turns out when you cast a spell you actually 'attack' with your equipped weapon so the damage stats on your weapon (and gear) matter for casters. This is a big change from Diablo II. I'd found a good rare weapon at low level which had a lot of int on it and had just kept it for a long time. I'd felt like I wasn't doing as much damage as Tom but didn't really know why. My brother hinted in the right direction when he was comparing two of his spells. A little digging on the internet (and turning on enhanced tooltips so I could see what my spells did) showed the error of my ways. I was also using a shield instead of an orb with damage stats which was hurting my damage as well.

There's something wrong with the incoming damage indicators. I'm used to 'get out of the fire' as a Blizzard game mechanic and it's back in full force in Diablo III. Unfortunately the indicators on the ground don't seem to be big enough. Both Tom and I have exploded to an instant death attack when we were clearly outside the blast zone. They either need to make the indicators bigger or the damage zone smaller since it's really frustrating to be outside a death zone but still die.

Legendary items have fixed names but random stats it seems. I found a pretty amazing legendary ring (Unity) which ended up with some pretty good stats for me. Bonus damage and movement speed being the key ones.

Nightmare Diablo didn't drop a single rare item. I have a hypothesis that drops are impacted by how often you rez in combat. Certainly in Diablo II it would be unheard of for a first kill of an act boss on Nightmare difficulty to drop nothing useful.

They removed scrolls of town portal and identify. Sweet.

In game chat is barely functional. I can send private messages or talk to the people in my game but there doesn't seem to be any way to talk to a specific group of people at once.

The Real ID system is even less functional in D3 than it is in SC2. In SC2 you can see who your friend is friends with (which would let you then add mutual friends). This doesn't seem to exist in D3 which is really annoying. Snuggles was asking me how to add some people and I just don't know how. I don't know Sky's battletag or anything because he's been on my Real ID friends list for a couple years. It sucks that someone new to a current generation Blizzard game can't quickly add all their friends by finding one of them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

Back in the early 90s Square didn't have a very high opinion of the US video gamer. They released a feature-light and easier version of Final Fantasy IV in the US and were disappointed with the sales numbers compared to the sales in Japan. They decided this was because the US gamer couldn't handle the length and slow pace of a JRPG and decided to make a gateway RPG to help ease them into the genre. So they took two development teams and set them each on their way to make the next Final Fantasy game. The team that did the first four Final Fantasy's went to work on Final Fantasy V. The team that did Final Fantasy Legend III set to work making the beginner RPG: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. It was released in Japan as Final Fantasy USA and in Europe as Mystic Quest Legend. (Because Final Fantasy Adventure was release as Mystic Quest in Europe.)

The game gets pretty terrible reviews. It isn't uncommon to see people refer to it as the worst Final Fantasy game of all time. It's short and simple. It has aspects of an action-adventure game (no random encounters, you use your weapons to clear out obstacles and such like in Zelda).

When I was a kid I liked the game. I didn't own many games but my brother and I used to rent games constantly from video stores. Getting Final Fantasy IV for a weekend and having to share the SNES really meant not getting very far in the game. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, on the other hand, was short enough that we made real progress. It was also easy enough that dying wasn't really an option (which meant it could stay my turn for HOURS at a time)! Sure, the story wasn't great (I actually don't remember anything about it so it certainly wasn't memorable) but I still got to see the whole thing.

When compared to other SNES RPGs I suspect it actually fares pretty well. It's just when compared to Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI that it really pales. I think the biggest strike against Mystic Quest is that Square didn't give us Final Fantasy V because they were trying to hook us up with Mystic Quest. On the plus side I think the fact that Mystic Quest ended up bombing as badly as it did prompted Square to give us Final Fantasy VI which was absolutely incredible.

I suspect it won't take me very long to get through this game. Not because I really want to play the game again (though I do want to give it another spin) but because the next four games in the marathon are V, VI, VII, and Tactics. Holy cow. (The only obstacle in the way would be if Blizzard manages to get the Diablo III servers to stay up constantly!)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Final Fantasy Legend III: Defeat

I have reached the point in Final Fantasy Legend III where I believe I can no longer make progress. My ship which was once able to travel between time periods broke and stranded me on another world. This is normal. The game was designed taking this into account. You're supposed to be able to get things done and complete the game from this point. Unfortunately you run into a strange race of beings blocking the way. The only way to get up the stairs they're guarding is to cast the morph spell. A spell you can only obtain in the future. Which you don't need to get to the other world. Which I don't have. Which I can't get.

I was thinking this game was better than the previous ones in the series. They mostly got rid of consumable weapons. They switched to a MP system. They allowed you to swap between character types on the fly so you could experiment without getting permanently screwed. Robots still seem like the best and monsters feel a little underwhelming but it wasn't way out of whack. Every fight felt like it moved the party closer to being powerful. The story felt a little more coherent but still pretty surreal.

And then it took a page right out of the Manders' RPG. I didn't pick up an item I didn't know I needed and can no longer beat the game. Maybe I should restart from scratch. Maybe I should check to see if I still have a save state from before I left the future. Maybe I should try to hack the game and add the morph spell to my inventory. But I just don't care enough to do so. I want to move on to the next game in the marathon. I'm playing through all the games and can no longer make progress in this game thanks to terrible game design and I'm going to count that as good enough. And give this game the worst rank thus far.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Diablo III Communication

I did some poking around to see what I could find out about methods of communication for Diablo III. Does it have voice chat? Does it have a buddy list? Does it have guilds? Chat channels? I know a fair number of people who are going to be playing Diablo III and it would be nice to know how I can get in touch with them.

First up, there are no guilds. Blizzard seems to acknowledge that guilds would be nice but they just couldn't fit them in for launch. This makes me sad.

As I understand it there are no user created chat channels. There are a handful of public chat rooms (trade chat with a million people sounds fantastic...) but no way to create your own. So it won't be as easy as having people join ogtmewmewpewpew.

It does have two different types of buddy lists. The first uses the Real ID system brought in with StarCraft II and retrofitted into World of Warcraft. You add buddies using their email address and then get to see everything about them when they're playing. Real name, what they're playing, their character name... All that stuff. If you want to add me as a Real ID buddy you should find some way to get in touch with me and we'll swap email addresses in a non-public forum.

The second uses a new battletag thing. It sounds almost the same as the Real ID system except you use a chosen pseudonym instead of your email address. It doesn't display your real name. My battletag is Ziggyny#1233.

It does not have voice chat. After playing World of Warcraft and League of Legends for so long with voice chat I can't imagine grouping up without some form of voice chat. I checked and I don't believe the old OGT Ventrilo server is operating anymore. (A good thing since we haven't been using it for a year or so!) Recently I've been using Skype since it's free and what other people seem to be using for LoL. It doesn't have nearly the functionality that Vent had but it gets the job done. My Skype name is baconshake19. (I made the account while playing Starfleet Commander and Baconshake was my user name in the extreme universe there.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

League of Legends: Lane Freezing

League of Legends is a game that goes through several phases. At the start of the game the players are mostly concerned with earning gold and experience to get more powerful. At the end of the game the players tend to group up and try to overpower the other team and crush their base. Between those two extremes are plenty of shades of grey where the different teams will alternate between powering up and using their existing power to try to gain permanent advantages. (Often those advantages will be in the form of more power but it can also come from denying the other team power or permanently destroying parts of their defense.) One of the key things people talk about during the powering up phase of the game is 'freezing the lane'. People in game will yell at you if you don't do it. Guides will tell you to do it without explaining why or how. It's been a nebulous concept for me for most of my time playing the game. Only recently, while playing Yorick, have I stumbled across a good way to actually 'freeze the lane'. I just got out of a game, for example, where I was up 4 levels and 100 creep kills on the opposing Warwick thanks to lane freezing.

As some background, every 30 seconds 6 computer controlled minions will spawn on each of three lanes. These minions walk along a predetermined path and will attack anything that gets in their way. There is rudimentary AI for what they'll attack if they have the option. (Enemy champions who are attacking friendly champions, enemy minions, enemy buildings.) When these minions die they grant experience to enemy champions who are nearby. Also, if an enemy champion gets the killing blow on a minion they earn some gold which is used to buy items. Left to their own devices these creep waves will come close to mutual destruction each time they meet since they're the same size and power. Random chance in terms of who attacks who will result in one side having a straggler or two survive. These stragglers will walk forward a little bit, run into the next creep wave, and die while doing a little damage. They'll also delay the movement of those creeps. This causes the next meeting point to be a little closer to the enemy base, and for the enemy wave to have taken some damage. The same team is likely to win this fight and by an even larger margin. Eventually they'll make it to a turret which will wipe them out. This will likely cause the next creep waves to meet in the middle again.

Aside: look at that ward coverage bottom!
Now, consider what happens when you add a champion to the mix on one side but not the other. A champion will do significantly more damage per attack than an individual minion would so the side with the champion attacking the whole time will clearly win the fight. It turns out because the champion causes the first minion to die faster it's a really substantial gain and they'll win the fight by a mile. They will very quickly end up fighting near or at the enemy turret the entire time. The turret will take damage and eventually get destroyed (this is how you'll start trying to win the game in the mid-late game). This sounds good in a vacuum but you have to remember the other team has five champions somewhere as well. Fighting up near the enemy turret puts you in a vulnerable position, as seen in the screenshot. I'm the green circle in the upper left hand corner of the map and am fighting near my own turret. The green face a little below me is my friend in the river. If the enemy champion was fighting up near my turret he'd be very gankable. My friend would be able to come up on him from behind and the enemy would have nowhere to run. He'd have to go through my friend who would be slowing/stunning/damaging him the whole time. There's a very good chance he'd die. This would give my friend and I gold and experience. It would prevent the enemy from gaining gold or experience while he waited to respawn. This is clearly good for us and bad for them.

The enemy needs to back off, but if I want to earn gold I need to be attacking the enemy creeps. The situation should quickly reverse itself. I'll help my incoming creep wave win the fight and they'll press into enemy territory. If I don't help then the enemy creeps will quickly reach my turret and get annihilated. In a 'fair' game I'll push out and wander away while he pushes out and then wanders away. We'll get equal time earning gold and experience and power up at the same rate. Fair isn't what we want, though. I want to dominate my opponent! I want MORE money. I want MORE levels. Then I can crush his puny body beneath my guitar!

We're in a tricky situation. I need to achieve all of the following:

  • Get the fight to happen near my turret.
  • Keep the fight from getting all the way to my turret (or it will reset).
  • Get the killing blow on most if not all of the enemy minions.
  • Somehow cause the extra damage I deal to not cause my creeps to win. Despite them getting to the fight first because it's closer to my spawn.
Yes, I am rocking a top hat with the Slash themed skin!
In the above screenshot you can see me fighting against 7 enemy minions (red health bars). My new minion wave is about to arrive from the right. You can see my turret in the upper right hand corner. Note that it can almost, but not quite, attack the minions which are fighting me. I was standing out where I am and taking all the hits from the minions to prevent them from getting in range of the turret. Now that my creeps have arrived I'm going to walk away. The enemies will start fighting my new guys. In a short period of time 6 new enemy creeps are going to join the fight as well. 13 on 6 is a fight my creeps will lose in a real hurry. This is good for me, because it means the fight isn't going to get closer to their turret. It's also such an overwhelming advantage for the other team that my own attacks aren't going to be enough to swing the fight in my side's favour. 

If I wanted to I could pretty easily wipe them all out. I have some spells I can cast to do damage and I could autoattack the whole time. I see people do this (incorrectly) all the time. I'm not going to do so. I'm going to stand around and only get the killing blows when I can. My ultimate goal is to have my creeps all die off while killing off a comparable number of theirs. Then I intend to tank 5 or 6 minions without attacking them until my next creep wave shows up. Left to my own devices this situation should actually never end. As long as I keep enough of the enemy minions alive between waves and can heal up the damage they do to me while I'm delaying them I will be fine. Yorick has a healing spell (it does damage too, but I try to get killing blows with it instead of autoattacks if I need the healing) so he's particularly well suited to this task but anyone with some healing potions or life leech should be able to do it I would think.

How do you break this situation if you're the other team? Well, violate one of the four things I needed to have happen. I can't make the fight get near my turret on my own. I need help from you to make it happen for the most part. So, don't push the lane into me if you can help it! As it stands I have to spend time tanking your minions to keep them from getting into my turret. Coming forward and wiping out my minions puts you at risk of being ganked but it will drastically increase the amount of time I have to spend tanking minions. In fact, since I'm standing there you could attack me too! Get a friend to come up and gank me. You won't kill me (look how close my turret is!) but all you need to do is dislodge me and funnel your creeps into my turret.  Standing around and harassing me when I try to get the last hits in could work, but you'd still be vulnerable to a gank. Buy wards and liberally coat any path my friends could take so you can see them coming and run when it's dangerous and press me when it isn't. (I've actually told my jungler to stay away so you're probably not actually in danger...)

Yorick is again well suited for countering these counters. His ability to throw damage onto someone at range who's trying to push a lane is really strong. A true ranged attacker (Ahri maybe) would be able to clear the wave and push him into a turret but most solo-top champions in the current metagame have no chance. In this game I was up against Warwick. What was he going to do? He has no area of effect spells. He has no ranged attacks. If he wants to walk up and kill a minion he's going to eat 40% of his health in damage from me. And since it's all spells I won't even pull minion aggro!

He did end up breaking my frozen lane twice. Both times it involved getting his jungler and/or his mid laner to gank me. I didn't die either time and had lots of money to spend when I went back to base so I didn't mind so much. He'd get to kill a couple waves of creeps and then we'd get right back into the same situation. If he was really on the ball he'd try to do the same thing back to me but Yorick again has the tools to break out against Warwick. I can walk up and drop my spells on his minions and push him into the turret. (Or kill him if he tries to just tank everything.) The game ended in an enemy team concession at the 23 minute mark (the rest of my team was also winning their lanes) but I ended at level 15 with 6.7k gold. Warwick was level 11 with 4.6k gold. He got a player kill when he wandered off to join a fight in another lane while my lane was frozen but that's a lead that's pretty substantial. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Diablo III: Mandatory Auction House?

Tobold had a couple posts two weeks ago talking about the auction house in Diablo III and how he believes the existence of an auction house is going to fundamentally alter the way people play the game in a way which is certain to be less fun and heroic. I disagree but I've given up on posting comments to large groups of people online. (I feel it's just people talking at each other and nothing but frustration can come from it.) That said, the ideas have been stuck running through my mind so I'm going to get them out of my head and onto the internet where they can leave me alone. 

The basic idea is as follows...
  1. Buying gear on the AH (either to fill in holes in what you find or as a complete gearset) will make you more powerful than just using what you find.
  2. When presented with a source of power people will feel obligated to use it.
  3. As evidence, look at what happened with the 'optional' buff in Icecrown Citadel (a raid zone in World of Warcraft). 
  4. Diablo III is fundamentally a game of using the items you find.
  5. Getting items in any other way is less fun.
  6. Since everyone is obligated to buy gear on the AH to be as powerful as they can be they will no longer be doing what makes the Diablo genre. Everyone will have less fun. The AH is therefore a mistake.

My first issue is with #3. Personally I wanted to play without the ICC buff but played with it anyway. Why? Because raiding in WoW is not a solo activity. I couldn't make raids harder for just myself. In order to actually play without that buff I would have needed to find 12 other people who wanted to not use it, and who wouldn't just leave when the going was slower, and who would all play on one server while leaving their current guilds. Theoretically possible but not realistic. Nevermind the fact this buff came in near the tail end of an expansion without warning. Guilds had already formed without any consideration given to how to handle the buff. Any guild that turned it off risked losing people opposed to it. So while no one turned it off that doesn't mean no one wanted to turn it off. Just that no one wanted to risk fracturing their guild by turning it off.

I don't agree with #2 with reasons demonstrated in my Final Fantasy marathon. I had an easy route to power in  FFI, for example... Use 4 characters! Use something that wasn't a thief! In FFII I struggled with not using the easily accessible route to power (punching myself in the face) but was still able to find a way to play. In FFL my 4 monster party actually made complete use of the un-fun route to power so it may seem that I agree with #2 here. The difference, I think, is there was no other way to play. In both FFII and FFL after I'd set my party my choice wasn't between easy and hard. It was between possible and impossible. With most monster transitions costing you levels I don't think you could play without twinking. In FFII you couldn't really level things like agility and mp without being 'cheesy' and the final dungeon in particular wouldn't have been possible. 

For #4 I have to assume the game still works with the gear you find. Eventually it'll get really hard (on inferno difficulty, hopefully) and you may need to twink out a bit more. But using what you find is still likely to be possible and therefore many people will still choose to play that way. 

For #5 I disagree completely. Finding 5 pieces of an item set and not finding the 6th piece is actually really frustrating, for example. Being able to fill in that hole at the AH sounds awesome to me. Even beyond sets, I can remember playing D2 and commenting to Byung over lunch that I hadn't found a decent hat and was still using gloves of fire resistance. The next time I was playing my game was visited by my Fairy Godbung who came bearing a Tarnhelm and Frostburns. He even apologized that the random stats weren't maxxed!

I agree with #1. #6 would follow if the other ones were true but I don't believe them to be.

How will I play? Well, I doubt I'll use the AH a whole lot to start out. Only when the game actually gets hard or if I get really screwed by random drops in a specific slot will I go to check it out. In thinking about this I thought it could be fun to start a group of 4 characters who only played together and only used the loot they found as they tried to beat the game at all difficulty levels. 

If/when I start a hardcore character I expect to spend a lot of time at the AH. With a harsh consequence for failure it becomes more important to use all avenues of power available to you. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Diablo III Hardcore!

I was talking to a guy at work yesterday who was really eager about hardcore mode for Diablo III. He was going to plow through normal mode to unlock hardcore mode and then wasn't going to play any more normal mode at all. I looked into how hardcore mode works this time around compared to Diablo II and found a couple interesting differences...

- You can't set your corpse to lootable by party members. If you die then everything on your body is blown out. This feels more in tune with how I feel hardcore mode should work so I like it. I never liked that playing in a team was so much more powerful than alone.
- Your stash is shared between characters on the same account (making it easier to transfer items) and these are _not_ cleared out on death. So you can store good items you're not currently using and get them in your next life. I like this.
- PvP doesn't result in permanent death. It's not clear if that's all PvP or just the arena stuff. Either way, I like that it's feasible to take a high level hardcore character into a PvP arena.
- You can't sell hardcore loot for real money, sadly. I would think this would be a thriving market since gear actually leaves the game and there's a real reason to twink out.

I don't think I'm going to main a hardcore character but once I get comfortable with the game I suspect I'll dabble in it like I did in Diablo II. Probably even a little more since I really like a lot of the changes.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Through The Ages League

I've been playing a fair bit of Through The Ages online recently but only just bothered to really check out their message boards. (I posted once when I first started playing to get a bug fixed but didn't bother reading anything else.) It turns out they're constantly running a league for each of 2, 3, and 4 player games. When one season finished the next one starts up and it turns out the last season of the 2 player league just ended. They run their leagues sort of like European football runs their leagues with people getting promoted or relegated between the different tiers of leagues based on their previous results. All new players get lumped into a starter league which is where I'll be playing. Hopefully I can string together some wins and get a good promotion in a month and a half!

The reason I mention this is I suspect a few of the people who read this might be interested in signing up as well. The interface on the site for playing the game is pretty smooth and the game itself is well suited for asynchronous play so it's really worth checking out if you like the game. All they ask for a commitment to the league is that you're willing to log in pretty much once per day to make a move. Sign-ups are open until May 16th. I'd think it's worth signing up even if you think you'll lose a lot to at least get out into a tier. I wish I'd known about these and had signed up when I first started playing!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Minish Cap Conclusions

This morning on the bus to work I finally beat the final boss of Minish Cap. He has three phases and I'd died to the third phase a couple of times before I finally got him. He worked pretty much the same way as every other boss in the game. He was invulnerable to damage but had one Achilles' Heel. Use the right special item in the right way to knock out his defenses for a short period of time at which point you could beat him up with your sword. The trouble I had with the final stage is how much damage he put out. I couldn't try all the items I had on all his different bits to find out his vulnerability before he'd kill me and force me to restart from the beginning of the zone. Once I put it together and found the way to actually damage him he went down like a ton of bricks.

In all the game was pretty fun. It had several new items I hadn't seen in a Zelda game which was a nice change of pace. It had lots of secrets to find. It was a decent length. Not too long, not too short. It did suffer by being a GBA game. It didn't use enough of the buttons and required entering the menu entirely too often to change items. The instructions on what to do next were not always clear and it wasn't possible to get a reasonable recap from your annoying buddy. I had to turn to the internet a few times when I got stuck. I believe this was mostly because I was playing the game in short chunks while tired but I feel like a handheld game should take that into account. Also, twice I had to bomb unmarked walls to progress and that really makes me mad.

It was definitely worth the price I paid (free!) but I do think it was a fair bit worse than Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

StarCraft II Spring Arena 2 Qualifiers

Apparently MLG is broadcasting the games from the invite only qualifiers for the second StarCraft II spring arena starting today. I found out because they emailed me a code to watch it in HD (part of the arena package thing I bought to watch the first one I guess). They're going to be shown over the next 6 days so I guess I have something to do in the week before Diablo III launches! I hope Huk and Idra can come back from their recent poor showings and qualify for the next arena!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Final Fantasy Legend III: Back To The Future!

I ended up needing to use the internet to find a town which sold better gear in Final Fantasy Legend III. I don't believe there were any in game clues as to the location of the town in my current time. (I have since heard reference in passing to the town in the future but no hints to its location yet.) It turned out to be underwater! (The dungeon containing Chaos is also underwater but at least there was an indication on the surface world that the dungeon existed!)

The town sold four new pieces of armour for my three non-monster characters. It sold a better weapon for my human. Most importantly it also sold the cure2 spell! I bought four copies of that and hoped it alone would be enough to turn the tide in the fight against Chaos. The extra armour didn't really help most of my characters but the cyborg scales his max health with gear so adding four new pieces moved him up out of danger from getting two-shotted.

With my new gear and spells I headed back to the dungeon, quickly made my way to Chaos, and ruined him. Two of my characters had no relevant way to deal damage to him and a third was my best healer but it didn't really matter as I essentially was able to go infinite on him with the improved healing. I would eventually have run out of mana but my human was going to win the fight in 20 attacks so I didn't need to go truly infinite, just long. It really helped that my monster had an ability that did 0 damage but actually lowered his agility. This let me guarantee my healers would act first each round which in turn meant I didn't have to worry about being gibbed. I did eventually lose a character when he got a crit with one of his single target attacks (and therefore hit for more than my max health) but it wasn't the character doing damage so it didn't really matter.

On the way out of the dungeon after beating him I finally got a second part to drop and was able to transform my cyborg into a full robot. It then turned out I had enough money to completely max his health and attack stats and bring his agility and defense to very high levels. (Certainly higher than any of my other characters.) I haven't gotten into a fight since doing that but if it's as good as it seems the game had better end soon since I'm now maxxed out in power on that character. I don't want to get into a situation like I did in The Final Fantasy Legend where I have nothing to gain by fighting the random encounters!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

AD Carry Thoughts

A couple weeks ago I posted about my terrible win percentage with the AD carry role. At the time I mentioned a recent game which might shed some light on the subject and I'm finally going to get around to talking about it. I've also been watching a lot of the games in the new spectator mode with an eye towards watching the AD carries. I still don't really know what's going on, but maybe there's a clue hanging around somewhere?

The game in question had a team of Renekton top, Cassiopeia mid, Malphite jungle, Nautilus support, and Kogmaw AD carry against Xin Zhao top, Mordekaiser mid, Lee Sin jungle, Soraka support, and Graves AD carry. I was Lee Sin. Renekton was stomping on Xin Zhao top so I spent a lot of time ganking top and no time at all helping out bottom. On the flip side Malphite spent more time bottom and not much time top. The end result was a relatively balanced game going into the mid game in terms of kills and gold.

We got into a team fight that started with my team standing in a bush that likely had a ward in it. The other team's initiators dove in on Graves. Kogmaw and Cass were left off on their own to attack us while the tanky dudes tried to knock us around. Xin and I quickly got out of the pile and jumped onto Cass. Xin exploded and I managed to finish Cass off. At this point the rest of my team was dead so I ran as fast as I could and barely escaped. End result of the fight? Trading 4 people for Cass. Not the best!

After that fight Soraka started ranting at us. Renekton had completely controlled and dominated Graves and he is our only real source of damage. We need to do a better job protecting him. I'd been operating under the mindset that my goal was to jump onto their real damage dealers myself but clearly that didn't work out so well. So I figured I'd humour my team, defend Graves, and see what happened. The next fight again started with the other team's beefy dudes jumping onto Graves standing in a bush which likely had a ward. I started the fight by shielding him, then kicking Renekton off of him, then slowing Renekton. I shielded Graves a second time and slowed Renekton again. Graves spent the whole time running from Renekton and shooting him. We ended up killing Renekton off while Mordekaiser walked up to Kogmaw and destroyed him. The other bruisers stayed on Graves and I ended up shielding him a third time. He ended the fight at less health than the total damage prevented from shields! (And I'm pretty sure Soraka was just pumping heals into him and exhaust into Renekton.) We ended up 4 for 0ing them. Another team fight engaged on our terms and the game was over.

What clues do I have? Well, letting the other team initiate onto your AD carry is very bad. Protecting your AD carry is good. I'd imagine if some of their tanky dudes with stuns had gone to protect Kogmaw instead of trying to get Graves he wouldn't have died to Mordekaiser and they still would have won the fight. We're constantly trying to kill the other team's AD carry but I'm starting to wonder if just controlling them while protecting our own might be a better plan? It depends on your champions, of course... Yorick isn't going to do a great job of protecting anyone but can do a reasonable job of forcing the other team's AD carry to run away.

So, what can I do better as AD carry? I still don't really know. I think traveling in the center of the group is often wrong. That lets the other team initiate onto me. On the flip side trailing behind can be wrong if they can swing around and gank me. I guess map control is probably really important for initial positioning? Having a way to disengage is strong which may be why my best carry is Tristana. If I'm always starting off in a bad spot then having a way out has to be good! Maybe try to convince people to protect me instead of charging in after other people? I don't even know if that's right for the team as a whole. It certainly seems ok for keeping the AD carry alive and shooting though!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Favourite Game Candidates: NES Games 1

I didn't have a NES when I was younger. My best friend and next door neighbour Ross had one so I did get to play a fair number of games. I later bought a NES from some guy at a scunt in University (my house was the Math team headquarters so lots of random stuff was carted over) and played a few games then. I'm thinking this list should probably be split into two. One covering games I liked as a child and one for games I liked as an adult. Here's the early stuff!

Hey Mikey... All you're good for is diffusing bombs!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - It makes me sad to admit that I have still never beaten this game. When I was a kid we used to play with each of us taking a different one of the turtles. So if we wanted to make use of Donatello's long reach I got to play. I believe my brother was Raphael, Ross was Leonardo, and Ryan was Michaelangelo. It was a lot of fun playing like that, and a lot of fun playing by myself too. I'm pretty sure I've made it to the final dungeon a few times... Now that I have an xBox controller for my computer I should try loading this up in an emulator again to see if I can finally beat a 'Nintendo hard' game.

Ew, radish!
Super Mario Bros 2 - Did you know this game wasn't supposed to be a Mario game at all? Nintendo decided the real Mario 2 wasn't going to cut it in the US since it was too hard and too similar to the first Mario. So they took a different game, reskinned it to look like Mario, and sold it to us anyway. This game was interesting in that it was a platformer with 4 different characters each of which had a different strength. We played this the same way we played TMNT. I got to be Princess! She was the best character in my eyes because she broke one of the fundamental rules of the game: gravity! She could hover in the air for a while after jumping which let her do things no other character could even think about doing. Toad could dig faster... So what?

Got wood?
Mega Man 2 - Really all of the NES Mega Man games could make it on this list, but this one was the first one we really played and remains my favourite of the series. It didn't have a lot of the later features which I felt got in the way of the games. Stupid dog! There are a lot of people who'll say the Mario series of games are the best platformers but I think the Mega Man games are the top of the pile. I really like the way each boss is weak to one of the weapons from another boss so there was an 'optimal' sequence of bosses to fight but the game was still playable in any order. It let you apply smarts to make the games easier which I always like. Then the platforming itself is great. Not too much going on and not too little going on. Just a right amount of stuff going on! Great music, too.

Fly, my pretty!
8 Eyes - This was an interesting little platformer that featured a really neat co-op mode. One of you controlled the human character and the other one controlled the bird! I don't think we ever really figured out how to play the game properly and it was practically impossible to play single player but I've always liked the concept.

Chip is apparently a third the size of a Smurf.
Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers - Yet another platformer! This one was based on the cartoon show Chip n Dale's Rescue Rangers. I don't actually remember much about this game, just that I used to like playing it.

Microwaved for 11 minutes and 20 seconds?

Maniac Mansion - A non-platformer! Once again, I don't remember a lot about the game other than that it was unlike anything we'd ever played before. Also, I'd always thought the game was based on the tv show but it turns out the tv show was based on the game! That's really surprising to me.

Super Dodge Ball - I actually found an emulated version of this game on a website a couple weeks ago and played it for a bit. It isn't anywhere near as fun as my memory lead me to believe. I remember having a ton of fun playing this game as a kid, with passing the ball around and then using super moves! Playing it again did make me want to play some real dodgeball though...

Friday, May 04, 2012

Abusing Spectator Mode?

The ability to have a friend (or coach) spectate your games in League of Legends feels like it should be powerful. It feels like you should be able to get some sort of material advantage out of that extra information. If spectating was live it would be easy to get such an advantage... You could call out ward locations in order to allow gankers to avoid the wards, or to allow pink wards to be placed to kill them off. You could see incoming ganks coming and get to safety in time. You could know when the enemies were in a bush and keep the players from dying in a 'facechecking the bush' situation.

Riot delayed spectating mode by 3 minutes which, thankfully, neuters those options. Wards only last 3 minutes so there will never be a point in time where the spectator can see a ward and the ward will still exist in game. 3 minutes is a long time for specific player movement to remain relevant... If a gank is coming it'll have happened and be done long before the spectator even sees it start to develop.

It still feels like something has to be there. We had 7 people online last night so I played one game with people watching and then watched another game while in a Skype call with the players. I was trying to think of some way to help out and wasn't really finding anything. Some things do take more than 3 minutes to develop (blue/red buff respawn in 5 minutes, dragon in 6 minutes, and Baron in 7 minutes. Theoretically the spectator could time out those deaths precisely and let the team know precisely when they'll respawn. This certainly could help, but for the most part it's information the players should have anyway. Having ward coverage on the monsters that matter so you can time out their respawns is important and something that can be done in game. (It's not something I do myself, yet, but I _could_ if I was better.)

One thing you can see easily in spectator mode but not in game is gold earned numbers. But does that really matter? Can we turn knowing the gold differential into an in game advantage? I guess if you're down a lot you could play less aggressively? But again, that's something you should be able to tell in game...

Maybe we can't get an in game advantage, but can we learn? I could imagine getting a stronger player to spectate a game and then point out things that could be done differently. Even 3 minutes delayed it could be enough to try some new things out? I'd like someone who knows how to play against Riven to watch a game, for example, since I seem to just lose whenever I'm up against Riven.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

WBC: Monday Conflicts

The World Boardgaming Championships have not put out a consolidated schedule yet but they did put up the event previews which seem to have all the round times on them. (I may end up building my own consolidated sheet soon.) Andrew had been looking at some of the event previews and pointed out a potential issue for me: A Few Acres of Snow is running around the same time as San Juan. Knowing when events have been scheduled in the past led me to look at Through The Ages as well and there are issues there as well. To summarize:

A Few Acres of Snow: Mulligan round Sunday @ 9pm. First round Monday @ noon. Second round Monday @ 2pm, with a new round every 2 hours until it's over.
San Juan: First round Monday @ 10am. New rounds every hour until it's over.
Through The Ages: Three heats: Sunday @ 11am, Sunday @ 5pm, Monday @ 10am. Semifinal is Monday @ 5pm.

I haven't played in the TTA event yet at WBC but was planning on doing so this year. (The Sunday rounds are part of the precon which I hadn't paid for in the past. I have this year.) I also wasn't very good at the game at all. I've played over 50 games on the web since then and have learned a lot. I still don't think I'm good enough to count on winning it by any stretch but I think I could have fun and at least do a little damage. (And I want to threaten taking Jason out with a team kill!)

San Juan is one of my favourite WBC games. The event is short, I enjoy playing the game, and I'm pretty good at it. I've come 2nd and 4th in the past and feel like I could pull out a win. There is a fair amount of randomness so I don't know that I'd want to pick it for a team game, for example, but I still want to play it.

A Few Acres of Snow is making its debut at WBC this year. It's probably my second most played game in the last year (455 games of Roll Through The Ages, 213 games on A Few Acres of Snow on Yucata). My record in those games is 202-11 and I feel like I've learned a fair bit from those losses. I'll need to study their bidding mechanism in detail over the next three months but I feel strongly that this is my event to lose. As soon as I saw that it was voted in this year I'd planned on making it my team game.

The issue that's come up is that AFAoS conflicts heavily with the other two listed games. If I play in the mulligan round for AFAoS and win I'd get to skip the first round on Sunday but the second round is at the same time as the start of the San Juan elimination rounds. It really depends how fast San Juan goes but I doubt I'd even get to play the quarterfinals before having to drop to play AFAoS. I'd likely still sign up and play San Juan to inflate their numbers but I'd have no chance of winning. If this was the only conflict I'd have no problem making a decision...

Unfortunately A Few Acres of Snow has three conflicts with Through The Ages. The mulligan round likely overlaps the second heat of TTA. (It should be possible to play a three player game in under 4 hours but if I get paired up against slower opponents I'd have no chance.) Similarly, the second round of AFAoS conflicts with the third heat of TTA. (Again, a 4 hour gap.) I could play in just the first heat of TTA and hope a single win was enough to advance but I know it wasn't good enough last year so I doubt it would be this year either. Even if it somehow was, there's the third conflict to consider. The semifinals of TTA start halfway through round 4 of AFAoS. I imagine I'll play fast enough to finish my game in an hour but there's no way that'll be the last round of the event.

San Juan and Through The Ages conflict a little bit as well. The third round of TTA is right out as it takes places during the entire San Juan event. Theoretically the finals of San Juan are at the same time as the TTA semifinal as well but I could see SJ playing fast enough to get done in time. And conflicts with finals of events are ok... I'm fine with missing TTA if it means I've won a prize in SJ!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

League of Legends: Spectator Mode

Yesterday brought a major patch for the League of Legends client. Along with the standard minor balance tweaks they added a new piece of functionality to the live client: spectator mode. Riot originally launched the game with no way at all for non-players to spectate a game which haunted them some when LoL took off as an eSport. They've gone through a series of cludgy fixes for their tournaments and have just now released a functional version to the masses.

Their first solution involved expanding the number of players on each team to 6. The 6th person on a team would have to draft a champion as normal and then be trusted to not participate in the game. They had to just stand around in the base and watch in order to have the game broadcast over the internet. I remember watching an early tournament where the casters were worried about impacting the game by dying to a high level Karthus. (His ultimate hits all enemy champions and could kill a level 1 player in one hit!) They ended up buying survival items with the slowly accumulating gold and managed to not die. Then they added in a special summoner spell which removed your hero and gave complete vision of the map. This worked reasonably well but that summoner spell was still only available on their tournament realm.

More recently they added in a spectator mode to the tournament realm where spectators could see lots of interesting stats as the game progressed. The spectators were delayed by 3 minutes (to prevent players from watching the stream in another window I guess) and could see cool information like the exact amount of gold each champion had on hand, and ever earned. You could see total gold by team. An easy count of the number of turrets. Clicking on an individual champion would let you see what rank they had in each of their skills and you could even look at their detailed stats page to get some insight into what runes/masteries they may have taken. Pretty cool stuff. This spectator mode was added to the live client for custom games as well.

The spectator mode added yesterday has all that stuff included in it but also comes with two new and super cool features. In other games (like, say, Starcraft 2) you have to be added to the game when it was created to observe the game and you're stuck watching it as the game progresses. The new League of Legends mode allows you to rewind as you're watching! Get a notification that someone died while you were looking elsewhere? Rewind and change where your camera is located! You're already delayed 3 minutes from the real time of the game so it isn't really functionally different if you delay yourself an extra 30 seconds from real time, is it? Need to go to the bathroom? Pause the game! Want to fast forward? You can do that too!

They added in AI for the camera as well which tries to center on the action. I found it jumped around a little too much and went to manually controlling the camera but I could see it being really useful for someone who didn't know what specifically they were looking for. I can only imagine that AI getting better as time goes on as well.

Perhaps most importantly they also set it up so you can drop in on a running game and start spectating in the middle. If a caster got disconnected right at the start of the game they can jump back in without worry. The really cool part of this feature is you don't have to be invited to spectate a game. If one of your friends is playing a game you can hop in and watch them play! (3 minutes delayed, of course.) It doesn't even have to be one of your friends playing... They set up a system where high ranked games just show up in a window of the client. Want to jump in and watch some pros play? You can do it! They don't get notified that you're watching them and chat messages between spectators and players are blocked. As far as they're concerned you don't exist. But you still get to watch them play and check out their builds!

I particularly like how it should make getting a team together for a ranked game easier. Sometimes I'll get on and half a team is already playing a game. Should I wait for them to finish (and get bored/fall asleep/wander away) or play a game of my own? Now I can jump in and watch their game! If I can get into their Skype call I can even heckle them for mistakes made 3 minutes in the past!