Friday, August 31, 2012

Mists of Pandaria Archaeology All Items

My most viewed post by a huge margin was my listing of the original archaeology rare items in World of Warcraft. The list of all items is #6. One of the first things I did when I started playing again was go out and start digging and I found out there were some new things added to the game over the course of Cataclysm. Of course there are also two entirely new factions to dig up in Mists of Pandaria! I went looking for a list of the new items from patches and a list of new items in MoP and, just like when Cata came out, couldn't find one. So I'm building one myself! Hopefully random people on the internet find these lists as useful as the first set. They've also really ramped up the vendor values of items so I'm going to include that information as well this time around.

It looks like the two new races (Mogu and Pandaren) don't really have junk items per se. It sounds like they're all quest items you turn in at a new faction for a chance at a good reward? There are certainly lots of achievements for restoring many copies of the 'junk' items. It also doesn't look like there are any new epics which is probably a good thing. I spent way too much time trying to get a Zin'rokh at Cata launch without succeeding. Also it looks like you can convert Mogu/Pandaren junk items into arch fragments from any earlier race so you can complete all the old stuff without having to fly around the old zones. Maybe I'll get that Zin'rokh after all...

Anklet with Golden BellsJunk50g45
Arrival of the Naaru Vanity124
Baroque Sword Scabbard Junk10g46
Carved Harp of Exotic Wood Junk10g45
Dignified Portrait Junk10g45
Fine Crystal Candelabra Junk50g44
Plated Elekk Goad Junk10g45
Scepter of the Nathrezim Junk10g46
Strange Silver Paperweight Junk10g46
The Last Relic of Argus Vanity130

Belt Buckle with Anvilmar Crest Junk1g34
Bodacious Door Knocker Junk5g35
Bone Gaming Dice Junk1g32
Boot Heel with Scrollwork Junk5g34
Ceramic Funeral Urn Junk1g35
Chalice of the Mountain Kings Vanity100
Clockwork Gnome Pet100
Dented Shield of Horuz Killcrow Junk10g35
Dwarven Baby Socks Junk1g30
Golden Chamber Pot Junk5g35
Ironstar's Petrified Shield Junk5g36
Mithril Chain of Angerforge Junk10g35
Moltenfist's Jeweled Goblet Junk1g34
Notched Sword of Tunadil the Redeemer Junk5g35
Pewter Drinking Cup Junk1g35
Pipe of Franclorn Forgewright Junk20g45
Scepter of Bronzebeard Junk20g45
Scepter of Charlga Razorflank Junk10g35
Scorched Staff of Shadow Priest Anund Junk10g35
Silver Kris of Korl Junk20g45
Silver Neck Torc Junk1g34
Skull Staff of Shadowforge Junk10g35
Spiked Gauntlets of Anvilrage Junk20g45
Staff of Sorcerer-Thane Thaurissian 85 Epic150
Stone Gryphon Junk1g35
The Innkeeper's Daughter Vanity150
Warmaul of Burningeye Junk20g45
Winged Helm of the Corehammer Junk5g35
Wooden Whistle Junk1g28
Word of Empress Zoe Junk375g45
Worn Hunting Knife Junk1g30

Ancient Amber *NEW*Vanity100
Ancient Shark Jaws Junk5g35
Beautiful Preserved Fern Junk1g25
Black Trilobite Junk1g31
Devilsaur Tooth Junk5g35
Extinct Turtle Shell *NEW*85 Epic150
Feathered Raptor Arm Junk10g33
Fossilized Hatchling Pet85
Fossilized Raptor Mount100
Imprint of a Kraken Tentacle Junk200g45
Insect in Amber Junk5g35
Proto-Drake Skeleton Junk20g45
Pterrordax Hatchling *NEW*Pet120
Shard of Petrified Wood Junk1g30
Strange Velvet Worm Junk1g35
Twisted Ammonite Shell Junk1g35
Vicious Ancient Fish Junk10g35

Anatomical Dummy *NEW*Vanity180
Cracked Mogu Runestone *NEW*Junk1g50
Edicts of the Thunder King *NEW*Junk1g60
Iron Amulet *NEW*Junk1g50
Manacles of the Rebellion *NEW*Junk1g50
Mogu Coin *NEW*Junk1g30
Quillen Statuette *NEW*BoA Gear180
Petrified Bone Whip *NEW*Junk1g50
Terracotta Arm *NEW*Junk1g50
Thunder King Insignia *NEW*Junk1g50
Warlord's Branding Iron *NEW*Junk1g50
Worn Monument Ledger *NEW*Junk1g50

Blessing of the Old God Vanity140
Ewer of Jurmungar Blood Junk10g45
Gruesome Heart Box Junk7g45
Infested Ruby Ring Junk20g45
Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron Vanity140
Scepter of Nezar'Azret Junk50g45
Six-Clawed Cornice Junk20g45
Spidery Sundial Junk10g45
Vizier's Scrawled Streamer Junk10g45

Night Elf
Bones of Transformation Vanity150
Carcanet of the Hundred Magi Junk20g45
Chest of Tiny Glass Animals Junk100g34
Cloak Clasp with Antlers Junk3g35
Coin from Eldre'Thalas Junk2g35
Cracked Crystal Vial Junk5g35
Delicate Music Box Junk5g35
Druid and Priest Statue Set Vanity100
Green Dragon Ring Junk2g35
Hairpin of Silver and Malachite Junk5g35
Highborne Pyxis Junk1g30
Highborne Soul Mirror Vanity100
Inlaid Ivory Comb Junk1g30
Kaldorei Amphora Junk5g35
Kaldorei Wind Chimes Vanity98
Necklace with Elune Pendant Junk1g30
Queen Azshara's Dressing Gown BoA Gear100
Scandalous Silk Nightgown Junk1g30
Scepter of Xavius Junk10g35
Shattered Glaive Junk2g35
Silver Scroll Case Junk200g45
String of Small Pink Pearls Junk10g35
Tyrande's Favorite Doll 85 Epic150
Umbra Crescent Junk20g45
Wisp Amulet Vanity150

Fiendish Whip Junk10g45
Fierce Wolf Figurine Junk10g45
Gray Candle Stud Junk5g45
Headdress of the First Shaman BoA Gear130
Maul of Stone Guard Mur'og Junk50g45
Rusted Steak Knife Junk1g45
Scepter of Nekros Skullcrusher Junk80g45
Skull Drinking Cup Junk5g45
Tile of Glazed Clay Junk5g45
Tiny Bronze Scorpion Junk25g45

Apothecary Tins *NEW*Junk1g50
Carved Bronze Mirror *NEW*Junk1g50
Empty Keg of Brewfather Xin Wo Yin *NEW*Junk1g50
Gold-Inlaid Porcelain Funerary Figurine *NEW*Junk1g50
Pandaren Game Board *NEW*Junk1g40
Pandaren Tea Set *NEW*Junk1g50
Pearl of Yu'lon *NEW*Junk1g60
Spear of Xuen *NEW*BoA Gear180
Standard of Niuzao *NEW*Junk1g50
Twin Stein Set of Brewfather Quan Tou Kuo *NEW*Junk1g50
Umbrella of Chi-Ji *NEW*BoA Gear180
Walking Cane of Brewfather Ren Yun *NEW*Junk1g50

Canopic Jar Alchemy Recipe45
Castle of Sand Junk10g45
Cat Statue with Emerald Eyes Junk100g45
Crawling Claw Pet150
Engraved Scimitar Hilt Junk10g45
Pendant of the Scarab Storm Vanity150
Ring of the Boy Emperor 85 Epic150
Scepter of Azj'Aqir Mount150
Scimitar of the Sirocco 85 Epic150
Sketch of a Desert Palace Junk10g45
Soapstone Scarab Necklace Junk10g45
Staff of Ammunae 85 Epic150
Tiny Oasis Mosaic Junk15g45

Atal'ai Scepter Junk5g35
Bracelet of Jade and Coins Junk25g35
Cinnabar Bijou Junk5g35
Drakkari Sacrificial Knife Junk10g35
Eerie Smolderthorn Idol Junk5g35
Feathered Gold Earring Junk5g34
Fetish of Hir'eek Junk1g30
Fine Bloodscalp Dinnerware Junk1g32
Gahz'rilla Figurine Junk5g35
Haunted Ward Drum *NEW*Vanity100
Jade Asp with Ruby Eyes Junk5g35
Lizard Foot Charm Junk1g32
Skull-Shaped Planter Junk5g35
Tooth with Gold Filling Junk50g35
Voodoo Figurine *NEW*Pet100
Zandalari Voodoo Doll Junk1g27
Zin'rokh, Destroyer of Worlds 85 Epic150

Fanged Cloak Pin Junk20g45
Flint Striker Junk5g45
Intricate Treasure Chest Key Junk50g45
Nifflevar Bearded Axe BoA Gear130
Scramseax Junk10g45
Thorned Necklace Junk10g45
Vrykyl Drinking Horn *NEW*Vanity100

Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's Good To Be The King

A little over 7 months ago Blizzard implemented a new feature making it very easy for an absent guild leader to get deposed. If the guild leader hadn't logged on in a month then anyone of the highest rank which had logged in within that month would get a button they could press to become the new guild leader. I thought this was a terrible feature at the time, Sky thought it was fine. My concern when it came to Ogg Gulnath Tago was that there wasn't a good reason for anyone to want to take it over since we were completely defunct. Missing the guild leader wasn't inconveniencing anyone since practically everyone had quit! What it would do is potentially allow someone to walk off with all the stuff in the guild bank or to sell off our reputation. (Vek'Nilash is a small and terrible server but at one point we were the top raiding guild and at another point we were one of the top 10-man strict guilds in the world.) Plus the name is awesome.

I don't know how many people did make use of it but I know at least a couple did. I have no clue what used to be in the guild bank but it's still chock full of junk and has a small fortune (almost as much as my account has) so I don't think anyone did anything untoward with it when they were guild leader. Of course the first thing I did when I logged on was push the button myself. Mwahaha! Bow before me, puny mortals!

Of course, now that I am guild leader I don't have a clue what to do. The guild bank is full of stuff that was of questionable usefulness back at Cata launch. I can't imagine much of has any value now. What am I supposed to do with more than a thousand cups of coffee? Stacks of soon to be obsolete enchant scrolls? I don't even know what I could possibly spend my own 270k on, what would I do with an extra 250k from the guild bank? I'm thinking I should give my AH mod a few days to get a rough idea of item valuations and then sell everything I can possibly get money for.

One thing I can do is turn the guild tabard pink! Next time Recolada gets back to Stormwind I'm going to make that happen.

Then there's all sorts of roster related things to do... I doubt we'll be raiding in MoP so do we still want or need 'raider' related ranks? Should people get booted? (I really don't think anyone should get junked until after Mists comes out in case people reactivate for it for sure.) Should we actively recruit new people? Should we be willing to recruit people who independently want to join?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

World of Warcraft: Making Moneys

One of the things I left behind when I stopped playing World of Warcraft was three alts filled with every glyph in the game. I used to use a series of add-ons to track how many of each I had and to sell them quickly and automatically for the right price based on the current items up for sale. If things got too cheap it just wouldn't list them. I made a small fortune this way back in the day (smaller than I thought, though... I seem to be missing some money or I'm misremembering what I had...) and figured I should get that engine rolling again.

A new expansion patch comes with is LUA changes which destroy existing mods at the best of times. When you haven't played in an year and a half and are on a new computer all bets are off. I tried to find the mods I used to use and they were all out of date. Then it turns out they'd pretty much all been combined/replaced by a single collection of mods: TradeSkillMaster! Apparently at one point Blizzard opened up the auction house UI to the general public (likely because of the mobile phone app) so you don't even need to waster time scanning the AH anymore. You can run an external program to download and parse the file and store it where TSM can pick it up. It seems to have broken in the patch but they claim to be fixing it. I think it sounds pretty sweet.

At any rate I finally got all my stuff configured and started posting glyphs on one of my alts. I hadn't even finished posting them all when one sold for 140G. I don't know if this is a good price or not but since all these things are just laying around I figure it has to be worth liquidating at this point, right?

They've added some new glyphs to the trainer (including a bunch of monk ones) so I figured I should get milling and make them so I have a full stock. And maybe in doing so I'd learn a bit about the actual cost of these things so I can tweak my values. I went to the ink vendor and it turns out the conversion is now solely with the new Mists ink. Which you can't get for a month. Which means I need to buy all the different types of herbs... I must say, it's tempting to level a new character with herbalism to deal with this sudden need.

Anyway, I'm going to spend a couple days getting this money engine back up and running properly and then look towards seeing what might be worth buying and/or selling in the next month to deal with Mists launching.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

World of Warcraft Patch Thoughts

The huge World of Warcraft patch getting ready for Mists of Pandaria came out today and I couldn't wait to log in when I got home. It turned out the servers were still down and the client wanted to take some time to optimize the install on my system. Ok, fair enough. By the time the optimization had finished the servers were up and I jumped on to take a look at all my new achievement points...

I didn't have any new ones at all. Huh. What's going on? I looked around through the achievements and saw some account-wide ones but they were all things I knew I'd done on Recolada. I went to look for one I knew I'd done on Rhododendron but not on Recolada: fish up Old Crafty. Not there. *frowns*

I decided to log on and look at Rhododendron's list to see if it was still there. When I popped open her achievement window I noticed she had about 300 more achievement points than I'd just had on Recolada. I'd also noticed when I'd logged onto Recolada I got spammed with all my pets getting converted into the combat pet system but when I logged onto Rhododendron I only got 3 new pets. Maybe you need to log in to each character to sync up the system?

Back to Recolada where I found the following:

Sweet! It's nice to be able to see who earned the achievement and if I could still get toasted for it on Recolada or not. There isn't currently a filter for 'earned but not on this character' but I can only hope one will be added at some point. I guess it's time to log into every character on my account in the hopes of getting some more achievement points!

The patch also included an intro movie for Mists of Pandaria which I thought was awesome. It isn't as grandiose as Illidan's video for The Burning Crusade but I liked it regardless. I particularly like when the third character adjusts a statue thing to be perfectly straight. Go OCD!

There's a very convenient and not at all blatant 'buy Mists of Pandaria' button on the character select screen. Goodbye, retailers!

Singing Sunflower is a valid pet battle pet! This makes me happy and I hope people are ready for mad flower beats. Apparently she's an elemental which makes her weak to water and strong against machines. I believe you get to build a team of 3 pets so I guess I'll need to find someone strong against water to protect her. This looks to be flyers. Like the Westfall Chicken! BuCAW!

Archaeology also seems to have been buffed. I got 45 fragments total from one dig site. I think on launch you would get 9? I'm going to have to look into this further...

I did not get my merciless nether drake to carry over to my DK. My warrior can use 'the Insane' title though, so that's something!

You do have an 11th character slot now.

All in all it looks pretty sweet. All the spells and stuff have changed a lot since yesterday and even more in the year and a half since I last played. I'm almost tempted to start a new character just to get a handle on how things play now...

Monday, August 27, 2012

MLG Controversy

The MLG Summer Championships were held over last weekend. I watched a lot of the games live but ended up playing in the Go4LoL cup thing during the start of the League of Legends finals. At one point I popped the stream back open to catch a glimpse of what was going on (we had a first round bye and then promptly got stomped by a cheating 2200 team) and was shocked to discover that there were something like 31 kills in the first 8 minutes of the game. This is really surprising because I feel one of the things that really distinguishes top tier play is knowing when to engage and when to run. I constantly see top players escaping with a sliver of health or preemptively running from a bad situation where my team would engage to death or not run in time and die. 31 kills is insane. Heck, we only died 34 times in 22 minutes in our cup game!

I mentioned this on Skype and Kevin went to check the game out. His immediate reaction was the game was an ARAM and not a normal game. For those who may not know, ARAM stands for All Random All Middle which is a style of game where everyone takes a random champion and runs to the middle lane. You can't go back to base to shop or heal unless you die. It's an interesting variant and I've played it a few times. But it's not the actual game. A couple arenas ago the StarCraft II guys played a 2v2 tournament which was interesting. But they tacked it on as an added bonus; they didn't replace actual games that people were paying for. I would be in favour of them running an ARAM side event at some point. I'd find that amusing. But replacing one of the games in a final? Pretty sketchy. MLG makes the finals a best 3 of 5 for a reason... The fans want to watch a lot of quality games between the best teams. Throwing one of those games away sucks.

It would be like if the Penguins and Capitals were playing hockey and decided to replace the first period with a series of Crosby and Ovechkin breakaways. Some people would find that interesting (just look at the All-Star game) but the people who paid to get in to the game expecting to watch hockey would be in for a real shock. As someone who does pay a fair bit to watch LoL online I'm pretty bitter that they screwed around with an ARAM in the finals.

Now long after the finals finished MLG released a statement stating they'd disqualified Curse and Diginitas (the two teams in the finals) for breaking a rule about forfeiting matches/colluding to alter the outcome of a game. Eventually more details came out and it actually wasn't because of the ARAM. They got some sort of warning for the ARAM but it wasn't worth a $32k penalty. It turns out they got disqualified for being very public about agreeing to a prize split. With nothing on the line the teams were free to screw around which resulted in the ARAM. The difference between first and second place was supposed to be $8k which should be enough incentive to actually try to win. Remove that incentive and MLG feels the games get screwy and the viewers fail to get their money's worth. Apparently MLG disqualified some Smash Bros players for a similiar thing a while ago? So it's not like this is something new. MLG is against match fixing and they view prize splits as being part of match fixing.

Personally I think if eSports wants to be taken seriously this is a good stance to take. You wouldn't see the Canucks and Bruins agreeing to just be friends and share the Stanley Cup. I seem to recall prize splits happening all the time in Magic and poker so I am surprised to find MLG taking this stance. It's always just been something that happens.

Friday, August 24, 2012

World of Warcraft Patch 5.0.4

A short time before a World of Warcraft expansion hits they release a major patch to the servers which includes most of the infrastructure changes for the expansion. I really like this idea because people playing the game seriously tend to have wound down by this point so it lets them 'test' the infrastructure changes in a large but non-critical environment. This likely contributes a lot to their actual expansion launches being so smooth. These patches also tend to be an exciting time for current players since they get to play around with the new changes and Blizzard also tends to throw a major world event in at some point. (Sometimes these events are terrible like when players turned into zombies are got to PvP each other in capitals but they're still exciting I guess.)

Yesterday I tried to get a scroll of resurrection from my old high school friend Bubba but it turns out when I took a free week back in March in order to play ironman mode I made myself ineligible. You need to be inactive since at least March 5th and I'd played that first week of March. Oh well. I wasn't planning on using the free server transfer anyway so mostly I just lose a free level 80 character and Bubba loses a mount. I wanted to get a free level 80 mage in case we needed one for challenge dungeons but it's not actually a big deal I don't think. But if anyone else does want a scroll let me know; I am planning on reactivating sometime this weekend.

The new patch will hit the servers on Tuesday. Interestingly Blizzard has put all of the current expansions on massive sale until the end of the day Monday. $20 instead of $80 and I would imagine it comes with a free month? Works with recruit a friend... 

So, what infrastructure changes are the making for this patch? I haven't played in a year so some of these changes are modifying things I never used but it seems like a pretty extensive and awesome list. In particular:

- They're killing talent trees. Now at 6 points in time you get to choose one option from a list of 3. Not having trees at all makes me a little sad but I understand that trees didn't actually give many options despite having lots of things to click on. I'm tentatively excited about this.
- All the classes are seeing major changes. Hunters have no dead zone, for example, and can shoot in melee range. Guns are actually becoming 'melee' weapons since they're removing the ranged slot entirely. Shaman totems will no longer be passive buffs and will have short term interesting effects. Feral druids are getting split in two and druids are going to have 4 specs instead of 3 like everyone else. Warriors are seeing major rage changes. Rogue poisons are being split into two groups and you get one of each so you no longer have to choose between doing more damage or slowing the enemy. Long warlock cooldowns will get reset on boss wipe which is awesome. I hope that will apply to other classes like the DK Army of the Dead.
- Glyphs are getting changes again. I wonder if this will create a money making opportunity...
- AoE looting! If there was one thing I really liked about Star Wars: The Old Republic it was AoE looting. Blizzard has stolen it and that's fantastic!
- Lots of stuff is going account wide. In particular, achievements and mounts! Unfortunately I think my gladiator mount isn't getting this treatment which makes me sad since I'm unlikely to really play my warrior.
- PvP stat changes which may or may not make gearing for PvP make more sense.
- Head enchants are going away. I think there will still be reputations to grind up but you won't need to get specific ones first for head enchants. 

It doesn't sound like pet battles are coming in until the actual expansion. Pandas, monks, the higher level cap, and the new zones are also delayed. That makes sense. But there is enough new stuff to toy around with that I think it makes sense to poke around now. Maybe after MLG ends for the night...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

MLG Summer Championship

This weekend brings the return of a couple recurring events in my life... Fan eXpo is this weekend in downtown Toronto and the MLG season championship is being held in Raleigh (but is being streamed online so I can watch it in the comfort of my home). Having them both happen at the same time is a little annoying because realistically I can only be involved with one of them. There are pros and cons each way but I can't lie... A deciding factor for which I'm going to do is the need to put on pants. It also doesn't help that Fan eXpo is so soon after WBC and I'm still a little people'd out. And I don't have a free pass this year while I do have access to MLG.

League of Legends is being featured once again which makes me happy. StarCraft II is as well, and Day[9] will be casting, which makes me happy. I hope MarineKing shows up this time! Still no first person shooter event which is a little surprising but I don't really care all that much. Only two fighting games instead of three. I wonder what King of Fighters did to warrant exclusion this time around. I may flip over to the fighters at some point over the weekend but my main focus is certainly going to be LoL and then SC2.

Apparently they're giving away some HD streams as a bit of a preshow starting at 1:30pm on Friday. It may be worth checking out? All weekend most of the streams will be free in standard definition as well. Don't miss out!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paying for Betas

I feel like I've ranted about this before in the past but it's time to rant again. I don't buy all that many new games and it really feels like most of the big name games I've bought recently haven't been finished products. They tend to receive major changes in terms of balance or game-play relatively shortly after release. Mostly it feels like game companies have decided to sell beta copies of their games with the intention of maybe iterating to a release version at some point after having the masses play their game for a while. Star Trek Online, Final Fantasy XIV, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Magic Online v2, Diablo III, and even Civ V had major revamp patches after I'd paid full price on release to play. Some of these games didn't even work at all on launch. I don't think FFXIV has yet recovered from its disastrous launch two years ago.

I honestly think StarCraft II was the only PC game I've bought in a long time that was an actual finished game on launch. But then it was actually in a fully functional beta for more than 5 months. It had a competitive eSports circuit with big prizes running during the beta itself. Blizzard wanted to make sure they had a game capable of standing up to the test of the eSports circuit so they put in the time and effort to release an actual finished game. They've continued to make changes to be sure but I don't think anyone could tell you with a straight face that the game at launch wasn't a finished product.

It really makes me question why I keep buying new games right away. I think I'd have enjoyed Diablo III more if I'd waited to start playing it until yesterday instead of diving in head first at launch. I thought Blizzard cared enough to pull it off but I guess without the risk of alienating the Korean gamer community they didn't feel the need to do rigorous testing. That the inferno setup has changed so much is a travesty. Never mind that the game is still missing huge key features like PvP and personal chat rooms.

I know Drew is planning on playing Guild Wars 2 when it launches this week. I'm expecting a recruiting message from Darque and/or Lythe soon as well. I no longer have any confidence that they'll be selling an actual game at launch and my desire to wade into untested waters filled with server crashes, bugs, and missing features is not very high at all. I'm going to have to put my foot down I think and resist the urge to play. Frankly with all the existing games that I know work (like the entire SNES library, old Final Fantasy games, and online board games) I don't really see any need for a new and likely buggy game.

Now, there have actually been 3 games I've bought in the last few years which felt like actual products. They weren't really games per se, but they were major content expansions to an existing game. The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and Cataclysm. They all had some bugs and all underwent many balance changes but they all felt like finished games. I may not have agreed with all their design decisions each time but it was clear they were decisions made for the good of the game and not to push the product out the door faster. I think that's because they all had the existing World of Warcraft framework to build off of. There was no chance of an important feature getting cut before launch because the important features were already in the core game. It's a lot easier to grow an existing framework than to build a new one and the WoW expansions are all growing from a solid game. Maybe that's why I'm so looking forward to Mists of Pandaria. I feel like I can count on some new content in a format I like with no fear of massive server instabilities or mind boggling missing features.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Diablo III Patch 1.0.4

Last night I wanted to see if anyone was on (I may have been looking for a scroll of resurrection) and I figured the best way to check would be to log into Diablo III. Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by patch notes for a patch being launched early this morning. I took a look through and some things really caught my eye...

Paragon levels - Essentially these are levels you can gain after you hit the level cap. It isn't clear just how brutal these will be to get but anything that encourages you to play the character you want to power up is good by me. Sounds a lot like merit points in FFXI (which I think started out as something in EverQuest?) There are 100 of them and each grant you small amounts of the core stats, gold find, and magic find. It sounds like if you manage to max out your paragon levels you'll be at the magic-find cap without any on gear which is an interesting idea.

Elective mode tutorial - As soon as you hit nightmare you'll get told about elective mode. It was idiotic that the average person would never find out about elective mode and it's nice to see them finally plug that hole.

Auction house fixes - You can now search for 6 stats instead of 3. They're fixing how you search for bonus damage. You can now cancel auctions without changing your system clock. How quaint.

Blacksmith can repair - Woo!

Weapon changes - They're making ilvl 61 and 62 weapons capable of being better. Not as good as 63s, but the gap should be closed enough to make it worth picking up a 62. They're making 2-handers and off-hands better.

Weapon racks - Will now always have weapons again but will drop lots of junk. This just seems more like Diablo.

Legendary item buffs - I remember finding multiple legendary weapons which were all absolute trash. They're reworking most/all legendaries to make them all potentially worth using which is nice. A legendary item should be cool, not garbage.

Monster power changes - They're nerfing monsters in multiplayer games to make it useful to group with people worse than you. They're buffing or nerfing normal and elite monsters all over the place to try to bring things in line. 

Champion pack nerfs - It seems like all the really brutal things are getting nerfed. No more invulnerable minions. No more enraging and healing after a long time. Want to kite/zerg them? Go nuts. Fire chains is nerfed. Jailer is nerfed. Shielding is nerfed. Nightmarish is nerfed. Pets take 10% damage from the AE stuff. Mortar is re-nerfed. Damage resistance based on mods is gone. 


Class buffs - Looks like all the terrible damage spells are getting buffed up. You know some numbers were wrong when damages are getting quadrupled...

It really sounds like they're iterating towards a game really worth buying and playing. It's a shame I bought it more than three months ago and have since quit the game, eh? Even with all these changes they still haven't implemented the ability to chat with all your friends at once which is such an abominable gap. Realistically I should be able to have guilds/chat rooms via across all games. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to have a chat room with people from SC2, WoW, and D3 all together. That I can't even do with people in D3 alone is really stupid.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Go4LoL Reporting Uselessness

We got 5 people together again this week to enter the Go4LoL cup event. We didn't get a bye this week and our first round opponents were more in the ~1900 range instead of ~2100 range like the previous week.  They still blew us up good, but it took them longer to do so and we actually pulled off a gank top and killed him which was sweet. 

At any rate, the match ended (we did the normal draft again since Lino said that's how it's supposed to work) and I went to check out the result... More cheating! One guy failed to properly associate his account because he's incapable of spelling his own account name. (Twelvetaisl instead of Twelvetails.) Another isn't on this team at all and is on a different team. I suspect both of these things would exclude them from winning any money if they actually managed to win the event. (They ended up losing in the next round to the guys who beat us last week so I guess it doesn't matter.) Anyway, Lino also linked to how to file a protest so I figured I'd send one in and see what happens.

Now I don't know if they've redesigned their site since they posted how to file a protest or if the guy writing the FAQ thing just didn't know what he was talking about. There was no way to file a protest for the match off of the match summary itself. Snuggles eventually found a link under your personal profile settings where you could launch a protest. So I filled one out...

After submitting it I got a message stating the other team had 48 hours to file a response to our charges. Then the admins would get back to me after that time or earlier. As best we could tell that ruled out exactly 48 hours for a response and otherwise they'd get around to it whenever. What were they going to do? No idea. Penalty points of some kind which impacted the chance of making the monthly championships was our best guess.

I got a response about 10 hours later. Boiled down the response basically said that the admin was too slow reading the protest so nothing was going to be done. What? WHAT?

Ok, so there's clearly no long term consequences for having an inappropriate team. But the subtext of the response was that if the admin was paying attention they would have done something on the spot. The only thing I could think that they could be doing is DQing them and advancing us. Wouldn't that be a blast? At least now I know how to fill out a protest so I can send one in next week when our opponents cheat...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Final Fantasy XI: Book Burns

Tom commented yesterday about how I claim to be playing Final Fantasy XI but don't actually seem to be playing it. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be I'm paying for FFXI. I have been logging in to garden, collect cooking guild points, sell things, raise my chocobo, and craft off and on. But I haven't actually gained a level in the month and a half since I started playing again. I'm probably going to cancel FFXI soon in anticipation of playing World of Warcraft again (4 other people said they were in for dungeon challenges which is good enough for me; I do expect more than that but 5 is the minimum) and I figured I should probably actually play FFXI a bit for reals before I do.

Initially I was wary about leveling because I didn't have my macros on my new computer and didn't want to build them all again. It turns out you can save your macros online so after patching my laptop I was able to transfer all the macros over. Then WBC was coming up and I didn't want to get into leveling just to take a 10 day break so I delayed again. Yesterday I finally decided to go kill some things. Tom told me the way to level now-a-days at my level (35) was to go to Crawler's Nest and join a book burn group. I did just that and walked away with 15 levels in less than 4 hours...

Historically that leveling speed is absurd. I'm pretty sure when I played it many years ago that you were looking at getting 1 level in 4 hours, not 15. The game has changed a lot since then and I'm actually not sure it's for the better. Here's the evolution as best I can tell...

- Killing even leveled mobs wasn't worth very much so you had to find monsters a few levels above you. You got a massive experience bonus for chaining such monsters back to back with increasingly smaller windows to keep the chain going. In combat mana regen isn't really a thing so this required groups to really work together to maximize their damage output and their healing efficiencies. The game had plenty of ways for smart players to increase their damage (skill chains, magic bursts, getting the right buffs in the party, having the right tank/healer/offhealer combo, etc...) so a group that was good at the game would level up significantly faster than a bad group. Soloing was not an option.
- They wanted to make soloing an option after year's of WoW and WoW clones. They vastly increased the experience gained for mobs at or near your level.
- They also added in quests with experience rewards. You got these from a book object at the entrance to a zone and it told you to kill X monsters. Complete it for rewards and then go back to the book to get a new one.
- Later they added these books to dungeons (where it's easier to find the right mix of monsters for the quest) and made it so the quests renewed upon completion so you didn't have to go back to the book.

Let's look at the experience you'd expect to gain from killing 6 monsters at each stage...

- ~1200 experience total but they had to be high level so it took a while to kill them and you had to be good to keep that average going. Probably you had to stop and rest a couple minutes for mana every 6 monsters as well.
- ~600 experience but they could all be your level which significantly increased the speed you could kill them since FFXI had pretty massive misses against higher level monsters.
- ~2000 experience from the same mobs but you have to walk back to the book.
- ~2000 experience and you don't have to walk back from low level mobs or ~2600 from the mobs the original group would kill.

Ok, so we're already more than doubling our experience gain. Depending on how hard it is to kill the monsters and the repop rate you may be better fighting the lower level ones. In fact, if you went out of your way to find monsters barely worth experience for you you'd end up reducing your incoming experience to 1600 or so but you'd absolutely butcher them.

FFXI has the option for an 18 man raid by combing three 6 man groups. Doing so trashes the experience you gain from killing monsters. It doesn't trash the bonus book experience. In fact, all 18 people could be getting around 1500 experience each from 6 monsters. Being overleveled doesn't even hurt anymore since the base experience has already been trashed by being in a raid... So you can get 18 higher level people to demolish monsters for significantly more experience per hour than in the old days.

This sounds great on the surface. Who doesn't want to level faster? The problem is all the interesting decisions and ways to play better from before are all gone. There was no communication in the group. I showed up with 17 other people and had no clue what they expected me to do. I'm playing a red mage/white mage which specializes in debuffing the monsters and healing people. We had 5 other healers and the monsters died too fast for debuffs to be relevant. Tom told me that as long as I wasn't AFK I was better than average. In fact, one of the other healers was completely AFK. He just stood there leeching a ton of experience and no one cared. There's no indication that other people were getting healed so I found that because I'm a little slower than the other people I was constantly just wasting mana overhealing people. Eventually I shifted into truly anemic beatdown as the best I could do. (Although since attacking enemies gives them TP to use on powerful attacks it's possible I would have actually been better off AFKing...) Eventually I hit level 41 and used my pre-bought scroll of refresh so I had something quasi-relevant to do. (It's a buff that restores mana in combat without needing to rest which meant the summoner in my party had infinite mana.) I also had infinite mana so I started casting debuffs on the monsters for skillups. It wasn't helping us win in any way but we really didn't need my help to win.

On the one hand leveling quickly was good because it lets me do some more things before I cancel my account again. I can go do a limit break quest. I hope to be able to get the awesome red mage specific hat. I'm high enough that I can potentially try the BCNM 40 or 50 fights.

On the other hand leveling so quickly is terrible. My gear is not appropriate for a level 50 character. Who knows how many spells I haven't learned that I should have by now? And it wasn't challenging or fun. I can see the puller having an interesting time of it in one of these things since you need to keep the right mix of mobs flowing. But other than the occasional 7 pull there wasn't anything to heal and it really didn't seem like what I did mattered in any way.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

League of Legends: Revisiting Positional Stats

Four months ago I stumbled across a now defunct statistics site for League of Legends and took a look at how I'd been doing with each of the different roles. The site was pulling data from my summoner profile in game and therefore couldn't get any deeper information than the bare minimum at a champion level. It was lumping champions into some somewhat silly buckets and didn't have any better way to solve the problem.

I've recently started using EloBUFF thanks to the one month trial that came with the MLG summer arena. I'm not sure if they've worked with Riot to get stats pushed out or if they're just pulling stats constantly but they seem to be archiving a ton of stats. Instead of just knowing what my record with a champion is they have access to the items I built in every game and the summoner spells used. From there they can estimate with a good degree of accuracy what role I'm actually playing and categorize my records accordingly. Until I signed up it seemed to have sporadic information about me (likely only games including another player registered with the site) but for the last couple weeks it has full information.

RoleOld SplitOld win %New SplitNew win %
AP Carry20%50%9%60%
AD Carry13%39%41%50%

Removing jungler from the equation because both sites double count them as tanks I believe these are my stats for the games before mid April and the games in the last month. There are a couple big shifts... Due to the preferences of the people I most often queue with I've been forced into playing my previous worst role. I've been playing AD carry at more than three times my old frequency and it would seem extra practice actually does mean better results. On the flip side my top lane has gone way down. The goals of the matchmaking system are to put you around 50% win rate so I guess it only makes sense that gains in one area are going to come with losses elsewhere.

EloBUFF also has an interesting page where it lets you compare how well you do with other people. I'm under 43% recently in my games with Robb, for example, but up over 66% with Adam. I blame the post-WBC hangover since we hadn't played at all in 10 days!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Return to Azeroth?

Drew was in town last week and I hung around on Saturday with him at Sky's place. Some of the time was spent talking about the video games we're currently playing. Drew and I are playing different MOBA games and expect to be playing different MMOs by the end of the month. DotA2 and Guild Wars 2 for Drew, League of Legends and Final Fantasy XI for me. Sky is currently playing none of the above and there may have been some campaigning to get him into at least one of the four. But what about on September 25th when the new World of Warcraft expansion hits? Will we be playing WoW again? If so, to what extent?

For around four years we were all in the same raiding guilds. Raiding 3-4 nights a week, every week. Killing things, eating them, taking all of their shiny purple stuff. Would we want to come back at that level? Would it even be worth coming back at all if we didn't? Drew is out east and simply can't raid the hours we used to raid with west coast people. Sky might want to raid during the day when Drew and I are working. I'm a content locust and would likely want to devour raids... Would raid finder raids do it for me? That feature was added after I quit so I don't know, but my general hatred for idiots makes me doubt it.

I've started doing a little reading about the expansion and it does intrigue me. People complain about the Pokemon minigame they're adding in and saying it's targeting children. Now, while I may agree that Pokemon is a game targeted at kids it did come out 16 years ago. I think it's more targeting people like my sister who grew up with Pokemon. Personally I think it sounds awesome. I've never been able to really get into a Pokemon game but I really like the concept. Having it as a sidebar to a different game I like sounds fantastic.

Dungeon challenge mode seems like it was custom built for me. Normalize gear to a fixed level and then try to clear the zone as fast as possible? I'm envisioning spending hours plotting out the exact path to take. Which mobs can be skipped. What holes to jump down. Which specific classes are the best. And then since the gear is all normalized actually leveling up alts to build a specific group for the zone. This actually feels to me a bit like FFXI's level capped challenge fights which is one of the best FFXI features to me. I have this feeling that Honest Bung's Used Goods could own all the records when everything is said and done.

There's lots of other stuff and tweaks for the expansion or in the last year that I've missed. But one of the things that really caught my eye was finally revamping the achievement system to be account wide! I'd refused to change mains away from my death knight because I wanted to be able to be known as Recolada the Insane which is a title earned from a crazy achievement. Now if I really wanted to play my druid I could be Rhododendron the Insane.

We also noticed that there's a 'scroll of resurrection' offer which basically gives anyone returning to the game the last expansion if they need it, a free level 80 character, and the ability to transfer that character to another server. It sounds like it might have to be the server of the character that sent you the scroll, and you're still restricted to carrying only 50k gold with you. It also looks like any character that transfers servers isn't eligible for a realm first achievement for 60 days. We mused about if we wanted to transfer off of our hole of a server but I now don't think I'd want to. I like going for realm firsts. I like being stupidly rich. I don't want to give any of that up. Plus most of my friends are all on Vek'Nilash still. I could see doing a chain of scroll offers/transfers and might be convinced to do so but losing realm firsts and most of my money puts a real damper on that. Also the fact that you have to use the free transfer on the character you level up is rough. I'd want to transfer my level 85 character so I'd need to waste the free level 80. No thanks!

As an aside, there is a recruit a friend feature as well. It doesn't give you a free level 80 character but does let you earn triple experience while grouped with your friend which is pretty close to free... I'm looking at you, Robb...

Thinking about it more I'm pretty sure I'm going to be giving this a spin. Assuming there are at least four other awesome people who want to do dungeon challenges it seems like it'll be a lot of fun. Even without that I figure I owe it to Blizzard to check it out. I suspect I won't even really need to raid with the dungeon challenges around so getting up to 13 isn't even something I'd want to do.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2012 WBC Recap

This year's World Boardgaming Championship was awesome as always. So many games. So much eating out. My personal experience evolved year over year as one would expect but it remained a great time with great people and few overall problems. Here's a rundown of my week:

Games played:
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation - 17
A Few Acres of Snow - 6
Race For The Galaxy - 5
Le Havre - 4
Innovation - 3
Battle Line - 3
Through The Ages - 2
Ingenious - 2
Ora and Labora - 1
Puerto Rico - 1
Ra! - 1
Agricola - 1
Saint Petersburgh - 1
Vegas Showdown - 1
Lost Cities - 1
Titan the Arena - 1
Ra Dice - 1
Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit - 1
Can't Stop - 1
Liar's Dice - 1
Facts in Five - 1
Slapshot - 1
Roll to the South Pole - 1

57 games played with 23 different games covered. These numbers are inflated due to how short Lord of the Rings the Confrontation is coupled with playing two games per heat and playing 8 rounds. And playing an extra game with Sceadeau. The real difference this year compared to a normal year is how few of the games were new to me. Slapshot and Roll to the South Pole were the only new games. I don't think I even attended a demo (other than A Few Acres of Snow to do some scouting) to learn a new game. (EDIT: I went to the Automobile demo.) Open gaming once tournaments started consisted of that Roll to the South Pole game and one late night game of Agricola at the start of the week. This is a big deviation from normal. Part of this was always going to bed after Waffle House instead of trolling around for games. (Pounder and Robb were both ill in the middle of the week which may have played a part but I think I may just be getting old.) I also slept in a lot this year instead of getting up early to play new things. Or established things for that matter! And when I had an hour or two to kill I spent it in the hotel room blogging and watching the Olympics instead of trying to find an open game to play. That's probably me being super reclusive.

Actually getting lots of sleep during the week and eating reasonably may have helped when it came to winning. This year was the first time I'd brought home three plaques and had my first outright win since 2008. The two events I won this year were both asymmetrical two player wargames with cards. Kinda like Queen's Gambit back in 2008, actually... Maybe I should look for more games of that ilk? I also added on a 2nd (in my team game) and a 6th. From a laurels point of view this is probably close to 2008 but nowhere near Consul levels since someone managed to win 4 events this year! I should dedicate some year to trying to earn laurels to see what I can pull off if I try...

The venue keeps getting worse. Losing air conditioning in the biggest room was a borderline disaster. I won an event in that room and in retrospect I probably wouldn't have played in it even if I'd known I was going to win. It was that uncomfortable. I'm on vacation! I want any comfort level issues to come from tough game decisions, not from the fact I'm completely drenched in sweat. We got the same hotel room as last year and most of the issues from last year persisted. (The AC was overwhelmed by a leak in the door/window which meant the room was warm during the day and frigid at night. The shower drain was only quasi-functional. Apparently the sun was bright through the curtains in the morning though I certainly didn't notice. On the plus side the balcony lock worked.) That said it's way better to stay in the hotel than anywhere else and that room in particular has plenty of floor space for my air mattress so I can't actually justify complaining too much.

Bringing a thermos this year was a stroke of genius. I'd put some ice cubes in it from the ice machine every couple days and then just fill it up from the giant water cooler things they had set up around the hotel. This meant that I had access to ice cold water all day every day. I didn't have to get up in the middle of a game to track down more water if I got thirsty. The more likely situation in previous years would be just going thirsty and getting dehydrated which would result in playing worse. The thermos was sealed which meant I didn't have to worry about it get knocked over and ruining someone else's game which meant I felt more comfortable having it with me. It also meant I didn't buy overpriced and undernutritious soft drinks for a whole week. (Other than a Coke for the Le Havre finals which were stupid early in the morning.) Honestly, if there's one thing for other people to take away from my WBC this year it's this item. Bring a thermos! You'll love it. (Or you'll leave it behind and lose it if you're forgetful...)

The people were great. I don't think I had a single malcontent in any of my games all week. There was some good natured grumbling in St Pete's when I got a turn 1 Mistress but that was because the game is unbalanced. I had some very tightly played games like the second heat of Le Havre and the two games against Other Nick. I had some really fun and jovial games like Ra! and Titan the Arena. Replacing the coloured tokens with Star Wars figurines was a happy coincidence and amazingly brilliant at the same time. Hurray for bringing incompletely copies of a game!

My team earned 8 points which is unlikely to place in the top 10 this year. Sorry anyone who bet on us! Next year will be different!

I still haven't played crayon rails at WBC. Maybe next year will be the year. I should make it my team game...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Go4LoL Experience

Sunday we managed to get a team together to play in the Go4LoL Cup #74. Their website is pretty rough to navigate around and it wasn't entirely clear what we needed to do but eventually we got 5 people with gameaccounts set up and it let us sign up. We got a first round bye (winning!) and got matched up against a brutal team in the second round. They'd also had a first round bye so we got to play not too long after round 1 started. Their team had an average rating of 2091 which is just a little bit higher than our average of 794. (Ok, it's actually higher than that since ELOBuff counts anyone below 1250 as zero.) We were soundly trounced and pretty much had to rely on moral victories. Oh well, we were sorta expecting that to happen... I was happy just to actually get into the event for the first week. And then we played some more games on the standard ranked queues since we were all on anyway which was pretty sweet.

Now, the website isn't super clear and the game didn't run the way it seemed like it was supposed to. As I read the rules you were supposed to do picks and bans in a chat room beforehand and then just choose your champions in game quickly. The other team had the start button and just launched the custom game right off the hop and had us do the normal drafting process. This is worse than the stated rules because we don't own all the champions and therefore we ended up having to pick our mid and top champions before we wanted to just due to how we were lined up. Riot had just implemented the tournament code thing so maybe this is how it's supposed to work now and they just didn't update the site? That's what I was thinking, anyway...

Then I went to look at the result page for our match... It turns out the other team was cheating massively. Only 2 of the 5 people who played in the game were legitimately on their team. One of them was multi-accounting (their LoL account was linked to a different ESL account than the one on their team) and two of them just flat out hadn't registered at all. This meant before the match (while we were waiting for byes to be processed) they were able to look up the stats on all five members of our team but we couldn't find any information on three of them. Again, they were way better than us so that didn't matter here but it could have mattered in other circumstances. Regardless, it's pretty against the rules of the event. I'm not sure what the penalties would be if we'd noticed at the time and reported it but I'm going to email the organizers if I get around to finding their emails to ask them about it.

Mostly I think they were just really sloppy which makes me wonder again about the whole drafting in chat thing. Chances are we were supposed to do it there and the other team just slacked off...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Go4LoL Cup Details

Ok, I got a few responses to my post earlier this week about potentially playing in the Go4LoL event on Sunday. I believe we have 4 of the 5 needed people and Robb is searching for more. There were a fair number of questions raised by people last night and I realize now that my initial post was a little lacking in specifics. I blame falling asleep in the middle of writing it. So, here are some clarifications...

There is an event held every Sunday. As far as I know each event is completely separate from the previous ones. As such, we're not looking for a commitment every single week or anything of the sort. If we miss a week, we miss a week and it isn't crippling for future weeks. (There's apparently a monthly championship thing with invites based on weekly results? I imagine that's only for people who win.)

As another consequence rosters don't need to be fixed week over week either. It seems like you can have any number of people on your team and there's no problem as long as all 5 of the people actually playing in a given week are on the team. I don't know if you need to keep the same 5 people each game and I figure I'll worry about that if we ever get to the point where we're a threat to win multiple rounds.

Check in starts at 2:15pm. Before we can sign up we need 5 people to join the team and to register a LoL summoner name on their account. The password is bacon. I figure for now I'll just be sure to be up and online by 2pm to sign up and such assuming at least 4 other people are around. And if we have more than 5 we'll draw straws or something to see who doesn't play. I'm not eager to get into a WoW raid leader situation where I have to bench people and whatnot but if that's the price that needs to be paid to get started, so be it!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

2012 WBC Day 9 Summary

The last Sunday of WBC is getaway day. The game schedule is rather light with only a handful of heats and some finals in the morning and nothing scheduled to start after 12am. For those of us from Canada this is a good things since we have 12ish hours on the road after the hassle of packing up the room and checking out of the hotel. The drive back isn't any different from the drive down at first glance but there are a few factors that make it worse:

  • Pounder (driver of the car) is more likely to have had regular sleep prior to the ride down as opposed to the ride back (mostly thanks to super late night Waffle House/games). Personally I get more rest at WBC than I do in a regular work week since I'm able to just sleep in a couple days when I can't do that normally because I have to wake up in the stupid morning for work.
  • The ride down is filled with anticipation for the coming week. What games will we focus on? What will we win? What WBC friends will be around this year? Will I ever get onion free hashbrowns at the Waffle House? The ride back is filled with anticipation for fixing a week's worth of problems at work. Lamenting about misplays that cost games. Wondering how I managed to go another year without playing a crayon rails game.
  • Waiting at the end of the trip to Lancaster? Texas Road House and a big steak. Waiting in Toronto? All the no-food I left behind 9 days earlier. 
  • Waking up super early before WBC is feasible and results in getting into Lancaster while the sun is still up. Waking up super early after a week of hardcore gaming? Not going to happen. The sun is long gone by the time the ride finishes.
  • All of the above is worse for Pounder and Robb since they get the ride from Toronto to Waterloo after I've already gotten home.
Now, in 2008 I made the Puerto Rico finals so we didn't leave Lancaster until after 2pm. In 2009 Pounder made the Puerto Rico finals with a similarly disasterous late start to the trip. Since then we haven't played PR. I'm actually not sure I'd really play anything with a final Sunday morning anymore. I understand why these events exist because a lot of people who go to WBC are a couple hours drive away. But for us it's pretty terrible.

At any rate, we didn't get up to play games on Sunday. We barely got up in time for checkout at 11 as it was. We went to Miller's for a big buffet meal before the trip. Robb had stayed up all night playing werewolf so it fell to me to navigate our way home. We got here so I guess it worked out. I did cheat and use Robb's trick of only taking highways divisible by 15 like 281.

After about 5 hours or so we stopped for food at an Appleby's which featured multiple people having birthday celebrations. Happy happy birthday! *dance a little in your seat*

A brief stop at the duty free shop followed by a 2 hour wait at the border and eventually we were free and clear. Another successful WBC! This time with no car malfunctions or anything!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

2012 WBC Day 8 Summary

When I was building my schedule for the week I'd penciled myself in to play Diplomacy at 9am Saturday morning. Come Friday night I had no intention whatsoever of waking up early to play Diplomacy. There were some short games I could play if I woke up somewhat early but my primary goal was to get up by 3pm for Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation. I ended up getting up a little before 1 and decided I didn't really want to play more heats of Titan the Arena or Ra Dice so I just screwed around on the internet and watched Olympics.

3pm brought Lord of the Rings which unfortunately was held in the sweatshop that was the wargame room. Apparently the air conditioning was broken in a lightning/hail storm and they couldn't get it fixed for us. I honestly considered not playing at all and just going back to the room but the air conditioning in our room wasn't very good either. There also weren't any other games I wanted to play all day. Maybe I should have tried to run some open gaming? Probably I should have gone back to the room to change shirts at least since my Saturday shirt didn't breathe at all and got completely coated in sweat from playing in the room. Ew.

Anyway, Lord of the Rings. The format for the event was two games against the same person in a round. Win both games and win the round. Split the games and the winner is whoever had more units alive at the end of the round. (The game is an asymmetrical Stratego+rock/paper/scissors style game.) My first round I was matched up against a kid who had just learned the game. I beat him both games. As soon as my game was over I took off out of the room in search of air conditioning. I ran into Sceadeau who was standing under the AC just outside the door. He was also hiding from the heat while waiting for round 2 to start. Pounder went and got the GM to agree to send a runner out for us before starting the next round so we could avoid the heat/humidity/funk. Yay Pounder!

Round 2 I played against a guy who had camped out a table right in front of a gigantic fan. I believe he said something about liking the air on his boys. I for one didn't care what his boys were doing under the table, I had a ring to throw into Mount Doom. I don't remember details about the match except my opponent didn't have a firm grasp on the tiebreaker so when we both won as the good guys he thought it was a draw but I'd killed more of his guys in his win so I actually won the match.

Round 3 was against Sceadeau. Unfortunately for him the tournament uses a creative interpretation of a key rule which drastically changes the power level of the two magic cards. Under any sane reading of the rules and according to everyone I've ever talked to outside of WBC the dark side magic wins. (Both magics let you play a card out of the discard pile. Dark side has a counterspell for event cards so you should be able to magic up the counterspell to negate the light side magic. The WBC ruling is light side gets to choose which card to magic and if they pick a number your counterspell fizzles.) I complained about this in last year's summary when it came up a couple times. Sceadeau apparently should have read that recap since he didn't know about the way the GM was going to rule. We both played for the unbeatable magic card. Mine was actually unbeatable which let me get a trade in a fight I didn't deserve to win. We ended up splitting the games with each winning as dark side but I killed more dudes so I won the tiebreaker.

Round 4 was against someone I didn't recognize. I remember nothing about the match except we split the games with the same number of guys alive for a full draw. Oddly enough Pounder was also 3-0 in this round against Alex Henning and they also got a full draw. Nick Henning got a draw in round 1 and both him and his opponent at the time won out so we ended up with 6 people at 3-0-1. Alex dropped to play in another semifinal which meant they didn't have to flip a coin between some of the 3-1s who were tied on opponent's record. Which mean Sceadeau made it to the top 8 at 3-1. He got to face Pounder in the quarters while I got to play my round 2 opponent again.

In the quarters I started with a dark side win with 4 guys alive. I figured I could probably pull off a loss with only 3 guys alive so I wasn't even trying to win. I was going for the long loss with tons of trading. The real trick to pulling this off is to keep Sauruman from going on a rampage. If you always have cards getting played you can recycle your deck and then threaten a noble sacrifice of Frodo. It didn't get that far as I knocked him down to 3 dudes without losing Frodo. I think he scooped? I don't remember.

The semis matched me up against Nick Henning. He's the only winner the event has ever had and I remember people talking last year as though he was unbeatable. In a game that has mind-games in it like this one I can see people who think that way actually having no chance of winning. I wanted to play him last year because I thought I could take him down. I didn't get that far (losing on a coin flip in the quarters) but I still thought I could beat him. This year there were the same grumblings from kids in the crowd about how he was unbeatable. I would have preferred to face him in the finals but I can beat him anywhere! Other Nick actually had another semifinal starting around the same time and asked if we could go play in that room instead. We probably had time for our match regardless but he'd need to play two at the same time if he made the finals. He asked the other semifinal about it and they said ok. I made myself be a little miffed that he was assuming he'd beat me. Gotta get mental bulletin board material somewhere, right? At any rate the other room had air conditioning so I might well have paid good money to be allowed to play in that room instead of the wargame room.

I'd noticed Nick watching some of my games (I played a fun game with Sceadeau using the real rules after our match) and commented that he'd been scouting out my plays. Of course in that game both Sceadeau and I did some weird things and the first fight was actually warg V Frodo. I played the semi in a straightforward manner as both sides instead of trying something crazy. I don't remember specifics but it seemed like I guessed right at every turn and won all the 'coinflips' in the game. Eyeing the sacrifice, picking the cave troll as the first enemy Gandalf fought, and so on. I won with both sides so the tiebreaker never came into effect. Woo! I do recall winning the light side game thanks to the bad magic ruling and we both grumbled about it when it happened.

Meanwhile Pounder had beaten Sceaudeau in the quarters but lost in the semis to my 4th round opponent. It was time for a rematch of my draw! For any elimination round but the finals the tournament rule is a draw results in a coinflip to see who advances. In the final the rule is you play another full match and repeat until someone actually wins. Neither my opponent nor I wanted to play a marathon series of games in the sauna. The GM said if we came up with another way of working it out we could go with that. My opponent wanted to play just one game after a draw. He wanted that one game to happen on any split regardless of the stated tiebreaker with the 'winner' of the old tiebreaker getting to pick sides. The GM was opposed to changing the tiebreaker and I felt like I had a better grasp of the tiebreaker so I wanted to keep it. I suggested we play as stated but if we happened to come to a full draw we'd flip a coin to choose sides for one final game. This seemed like it would limit how long we'd be playing, and it would sate my opponent's desire for one game, and it would remove some of the sting from losing a coin flip. I think dark side is the best but I had won a couple games with light side in the day, after all. The GM and my opponent agreed with that plan.

The finals started off with me on the dark side. I ended up winning the game with 4 units alive. I think this game featured a 'Shire burn' victory where I'd lost control of Frodo but worked my positioning to force him away from the tunnel through Moria which bought me the tempo to get 3 guys into the Shire before he could get Frodo into Mordor. I think he could have sacrificed Frodo to trade with one of my guys at one point for better tiebreakers but didn't go for it because I don't think he realized I was in position for a Shire burn.

My light side plan again was to try to burn enough of his guys out that I'd win on tiebreakers. I got him down to 5 guys alive and had a tricky situation. We were down to 3 cards. I had 3-4-magic. He had 3-retreat sideways-magic. Balrog was hanging out in Moria and thanks to the bad magic ruling I knew I was guaranteed to take him out by attacking in and playing magic. (He couldn't retreat sideways since he was in the mountains.) This would guarantee at least an extra game but would cost me board position and make it harder to knock him down to 3. If I attack and play my 4 instead I'm guaranteed at least a trade unless he plays his magic card in which case he can attack out of the mountains, bringing his retreat card back into play, and maybe get a 5 character win. I decided to play safe and used magic. If he also plays his magic I win the game straight up. He played his 3. I grabbed noble sacrifice. Now I was down to Frodo+Merry against Witch King+Warg+Orcs+Saruman. He's guaranteed to win any fight we get into with his magic card.  I try to sneak Frodo forward but he gets boxed in. I know I have no hope. Rather than give in I move Merry forward into a position I'm 99% certain can only be attacked by the Orcs. My opponent doesn't kill Merry with the Orcs. Instead he moves forward to threaten Frodo. I attack out with Merry and hit the Orcs. If he wastes Magic here then Frodo will be able to kill whoever has him boxed in so he retreats sideways. My opponent can still win the game by attacking Frodo and playing his magic card. He thinks for a while and then moves someone else forward. Merry shrugs and attacks the space likely containing the Witch King. Witch King is there and dies. My opponent then kills Frodo. But because he let me kill the Witch King I win the tiebreaker and the match. Woo! (I wonder if the heat was getting to him, or if my failure to concede rattled him?)

Afterwards they have the winner of the adult tournament play the winner of the junior event. Thankfully we played this game in an air conditioned room. I wasn't sure how to approach this. Am I supposed to play badly to give the kid a chance? Am I supposed to slaughter him mercilessly? Throwing a game goes against every fiber of my being so I decided to play a straightforward but strategically sound game. I ended up guessing right each time we had to play cards (similar to my match against other Nick, actually) and blew the poor kid out. His father was pretty happy I stuck around to play the kid and chatted a bit with Bruno about Titan while we played. (It turns out the Titan finals also ran away from the sauna to the same room.)

It was 10pm by this time which was barely enough time to run to Facts in Five which was under yet another GM (the old GM is apparently under house arrest for financial fraud). The new guys ran things a little slowly at the start which meant the event threatened to run into Slapshot which is a hugely popular 11pm event. They ended up skipping the marking phase of the event and stayed up all night marking the entries themselves which seemed really nice of them. I did terribly once again and even managed to forget the Titan unit which starts with D! On the plus side I remembered Guildenstern was a G character from a Shakespeare tragedy.

I'd seen Pounder and Robb check in on Fi5 right before 11pm but couldn't find them in the immediate vicinity. I figured I'd check Slapshot for them. I walked into the room to take a look around and got signed in to the event. Eh, I guess it's time to learn Slapshot! Robb and Pounder wandered in shortly thereafter. I don't think they wanted to play but my table had 2 empty seats and we goaded them into playing. Slapshot is essentially glorified war with a hockey theme pasted onto it. You have a deck with 3 forwards, 2 defensemen, and a goalie. On your turn you can draft a new player by discarding a card and getting the top card of the appropriate deck. You can trade with another competitor by stealing a card from their hand and returning a player of the appropriate type. (Gretzky for Domi? Sounds fair!) Or you can challenge another competitor to a game. Play war against them with the winner scoring a point on the chart. As soon as anyone wins such 9 games you cut to a top 4 for the playoffs. I built a decent deck pretty early on and won a few games. Then it became clear that Robb had the superstar forward (scores on anyone) so I tried a trade with him. I got his superstar! I then went on to win 8 games while people continued to trade with me for the superstar and failing. I went for my 9th win to start the playoffs and Robb's enforcer injured the superstar! Boo! I had to play Pounder in the playoffs without my superstar. His deck was a little better than mine but I had a better goalie. We played a best of 7 war sequence and he got fortunate pairings against my goalie and won 4 of the game. He went on to win the finals of our table as well. He promptly dropped so we could go to Waffle House.

Waffle House was an all-star breakfast with the sausage I didn't get a few days earlier. Then Pounder went to bed to get ready for the long drive home. Robb and I are jerks so we went to play games. We'd told Daniel we'd play when we got back from Waffle House, after all. Daniel was playing werewolf so Robb and I went to the demo station and tried out Roll to the South Pole. It seemed like an ok 'press your luck' style game but wasn't all that fun. It might be a good game for kids who are bored with Can't Stop I guess?

I went to bed. Robb went to find werewolf games because he's a jerk.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

National ESL: Go4LoL Cup

Before we headed out for WBC Robb found an online e-sports league that appears to be open to random schlubs like us. They appear to run a weekly single elimination bracket. I took a look at the lowest seeded match and it pitted a 2200 team against an 1100 team. (Somehow the worst seeded team was the 2200 one.) So while we'd certainly have no chance of winning the thing there are teams we could be competitive against!

One thing I discovered while reading their webpage is Riot apparently just added in a 'tournament code' feature to the custom game creation screen. The Go4LoL site generates numbers for each match which the players then enter into a box in the client. It shunts all the players for that match into the right game, reports the results for you, and verifies that only players on the right teams actually play the game. It sounds like a pretty sweet feature and I wonder if it works for other websites or if it's just a Go4LoL feature added to the client.

At any rate it looks like the first game each week starts at 3pm EST on Sunday. So the question is... Can we get 5 people willing to set an hour or two aside and join the Mathletes team?

Monday, August 06, 2012

2012 WBC Day 7 Summary

Friday morning brought the finals for my team game: Le Havre. Apparently all three of the other finalists had failed to win a heat and had all advanced as alternates. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It's one thing to fill a semifinal field up with alternates to make for properly sized games... But the semifinal field has 12 people which includes those 3 alternates. We could have played 3 3-player games with a 3 player final instead. And I'm not just saying this because I prefer 3 player games in Le Havre. Vegas Showdown didn't advance any alternates because it hit 20 winners who showed up even though it meant different sized semifinals from finals and I think that makes sense. I didn't win a heat therefore I shouldn't feel like I deserve a semifinal slot. If it's a game like Tigris which can play as a 3er but really needs to be a 4er then I think it makes more sense. Oh well.

At any rate I ended up in first chair with a fish/wheat tile coming up. This means I don't have an awesome first choice (3 wood or maybe 2 clay) and ended up taking 2 wood. I also bought the 4 cost building firm. As the tiles came out it became clear that I had good iron tempo and good cow tempo. (I would get first choice of 2 iron every 4th time through the game unless someone took a single iron.) No one ever broke the iron tempo so myself and the guy across from me (Ken, the GM) got 2 iron every single time it came out. This denied both the other two players any iron for an awfully long time. Chris went for a marketplace plan which let him get some iron but the other guy pretty much ignored iron and got a poor score as a result. Oddly it seemed like only Ken and I wanted to go to the black market to scoop up the 2 iron from it as well.

One of the special buildings was the harbour watch which changed the game significantly. I took a buck offer and bought it as soon as it came out since I figured it would get used a lot by the other players. It didn't, which surprised me, though I did use it a lot myself. I got my game plan to function pretty well with a lot of shipping on 3 iron and a steel ship. Mostly bread and cows but some extra coke and steel as well. Unfortunately for me Ken was implementing almost the same plan. He got most of the other iron ships and a couple of the steel ones. He had both wharves and the colliery which meant he earned a lot of money from entry fees. (He pulled off the build wharf-buy black market-build colliery play.) It felt like I got my share of everything for my plan but someone else got way more than their share because the other players weren't going for it. He was one step ahead of me most of the way. He made coke first, and steel first, and got the higher valued boats. He also got a luxury liner. The end result had Ken way out in front with me a distant second and the other two a fair bit behind me. I continue my streak of finishing behind Daniel and one other guy in the finals. This time Daniel didn't make the finals so I got second. Maybe next year no one else will show up and I can win!

We finished in under 3 hours so I had time to go play another heat of Race for funsies. I already had 2 wins so I was going to advance anyway but I like the game. This round was played using the first expansion and goals. I forget exactly what I did but I ended up getting both of the big goals and a lot of other points for a large victory.

I didn't have anything I really wanted to do until 5pm and the Race semis. I went back to the room to screw around and ended up going to Red Robin for lunch with Robb and Pounder once they realized they had a bye through the first round of Innovation thanks to the mulligan round.

5pm was the Race semis which were actually quarters. They had 30 winners show up and decided to advance them all. They went with the somewhat odd plan of playing 8 games (6 4-player games and 2 3-player games) with the top 2 of each game advancing. They seeded the #1 and #2 seeds into the 3 player games (a pretty huge advantage since 2 of 3 would advance). With 3 heat wins I was the #1 seed and got into a 3 player game. We played with the first 2 expansions and my game got off to a pretty silly start. My home world was the one where I draw a card for each rebel planet during produce. The first three actions were develop, settle, produce. I developed space marines, settled a rebel planet, and drew 2 cards in produce. One of the other players kept calling produce for me (I don't know if he was trying to make me win with him second or if it was legitimately his best play but it sure hooked me up) and I ended up with 2 galactic federation cards in my hand. There's only supposed to be one in the game. We decided that since I had them both I should just throw one away and get a new card. So I ended up with a bunch of rebel worlds worth tons of points and tons of 6-cost developments worth tons of points for a really huge score. The third player ended up accidentally cheating by playing a military planet he couldn't conquer and no one noticed for a few turns. We didn't know how to deal with it but it was pretty obvious from the boards that he was going to be last anyway so we just played on. The game ended soon thereafter for a huge win for me.

The semifinals were all 4 player games with only 1 player advancing. I was in a game with the same dude from my Le Havre semi who did everything he could to throw that game to one of my opponents. He did the same thing in Race as well. One guy was set up for a huge produce/shipx2 cycle. Dude kept calling produce for him so the guy got to keep shipx2ing for huge points. I don't think it was intentional by any stretch of the imagination. I just think he plays games obliviously and it ended up really screwing me hard in this game. The winner was up by 20 something with me in second. Second wasn't worth anything in this game though! I think I ended up getting 6th but unfortunately Race is a 3 plaque event so no sand for me.

7pm had Battle Line starting in the Race room. My race game ended at 6:58. I figured I'd give it a spin. I got blown out of my first two games and ended up in an irrelevant third game against someone with 2 breakthrough wins. I did manage to beat him so I finished at a 1-2 record.

I considered playing Ingenious at 10pm but was actually watching the League of Legends arena (the internet worked enough to stream a low quality feed) and the Olympics in the room with Robb and Pounder and didn't feel like leaving.

11pm was Liar's Dice which we did go to. I played at a table with Robb and he prevented me from becoming the LIAR'S DICE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD for another year. I lost my first 2 or 3 dice on exactas on the other side of the table and then walked right into Robb having nothing of my bid to lose the rest of them.

Waffle House for a 3-egg + plain hashbrowns meal. Then bed.