Saturday, March 29, 2014

WildStar Beta: Testing Customer Service

Beta testing is not a free ride into a video game. There is a social responsibility as the gaming pioneer to report back to your peers, and to the company producing the game, with news of your discoveries. It is not about glory and privilege, but service to the community and to future customers. Streaming has made it relatively easy to satisfy community curiosity about the performance and features of a product, but an important part of any product deployment is the infrastructure to handle customer feedback on a mass scale, which can not be so easily streamed. I am going to do my best to illustrate my experience with NCSoft, the creators of WildStar, and their customer service department.

Welcome to the exciting world of WildStar Customer Service

Yesterday, I received an email.
Awesome! I had been waiting for months to get my hands on this game. The rumor mill from the closed beta was that it was a "decent WoW clone" with some action elements, like SWTOR was at launch. NCSoft was trying to keep people from getting that idea in there head, because being called a WoW clone can kill an MMO before launch. Personally, I was excited to get a chance to find out the truth. Is WildStar really another "WoW clone", or is there hidden depth under that cartoony exterior?

Before going into a game, especially a beta, it is important to know the history of the developer. NCSoft has been around for a while. City of Heroes was made by Paragon Studios and NCSoft in 2005, around the same time as their other famous franchise, Guild Wars. City of Heroes had a relatively long run for an MMO. Shortly after the release of Guild Wars 2, City of Heroes was shut down. NCSoft closed the servers and basically told one of their oldest fan communities to deal with it. While I only played a week or two of that game, keep their story in mind while reading the rest of this article.

Following the instructions in the email, I went to login to my NCSoft account. It took me a little while to remember the password, but I was finally greeted with this message:

Huh... Well that is interesting, since the last game I remembered playing an NCSoft game was Guild Wars 2 and I had two step verification set up for it. There was the possibility that I had another account with NCSoft, but why would any of them be permanently blocked? Was I hacked? Where was an email about this? I found an email asking me to fill out a survey about NCSoft customer service dealing with this exact issue around 2010. I decide to contact customer service.

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

The North American Support page is composed of banners of their still active North American games with links to their individual support pages. However, my issue was an NCSoft Account issue, not a game related issue, so going to a specific database would not make sense, right? Wrong. But we will get to that. Poking around the page, looking for a phone number, I discovered something amazing:

NCSoft does not have a North American customer support line.


There is a customer support line for Thailand, Taiwan, and Japan, but America only gets a link back to the support page. Wow. I persisted and found the fraud line, but that also did not make sense for my type of problem. What about a customer support email? They do not mention one on their site, but I tried support@ncsoft.com at the request of a friend on Twitch.

At that point, I started streaming on my Twitch channel. In the chat, a very helpful person (I'm sorry, but I forgot your username, was it woke_up_sleepy?) tried to brainstorm with me. They gave me links to the WildStar twitter and NCSoft Support Twitter, which I tweeted to twy and get help. WildStar Twitter replied before NCSoft Support did (I am still waiting for an NCSoft Support reply):
Note to self, update twitter picture.

Anyway, that link was specifically the support page for WildStar. At this point, I have given up on logic and believe there is no way I can fix the problem. I start ranting about it to people on my stream that came from destiny.gg. > MFW, in mid rant, I stumbled upon the solution

Want to remove the permanent block on your NCSoft Account?

Step 1: Discover you have a problem. Accepting you have a problem is the first step to fixing it, since you are not going to receive an email from NCSoft about it.
Step 2: Are you a North American resident just trying to play Guild Wars 2 and don't care about WildStar? It doesn't matter. Since NCSoft does not have a centralized support page for North American account support, you will need to go to WildStar Support. In theory, this might work in one of the other support pages, but that would be logical, and we now know logic has no power here.
Step 3: Notice that the main page says that you need to login to send a ticket to ask them why you can't login. Lose part of your brain cells. Go to the bottom of the page and select Login Support.
Step 4: Search for "Account permanently blocked". Your results should look like this:
Step 5: Click "I'm having trouble logging in to my NC Account". I suppose that is one way of saying, my account has been permanently blocked. Shouldn't there be an article specifically about that? Logic.
Step 6: First it asks you to try resetting your password. Another dead end. Nope! The next sentence has a link to a page specifically for submitting tickets without being logged in! This must be the solution!

EDIT: If you have Guild Wars 2, their support page has access to ticket submission at the top. However, you will need a lot more information. They may even ask for the serial key you used to activate Guild Wars 2.

Or is it?

Depending on how you view automated replies, I am about four to five emails deep into the investigation of what NCSoft did to my account. First, one GM said that my account was blocked back in 2010, and had City of Heroes on it, but not Guild Wars 2. I asked if it could be under any of my other emails and gave them a list. This is the latest email:
In case you were wondering, both of those links redirect to the NA Support page that asks which game you want support for.

Good news is, I can join the beta. The bad news is that my account no longer has Guild Wars 2, possibly losing it during account transitions to the new system. I am going to keep trying to find out what exactly has happened and sort out this mess, but this is all of the information I have after one day. If it all gets sorted out, I will update, but there are some main points here that I feel are important to get out to people.

NCSoft is about to launch another brand new massively multiplayer game in North America and they do not have the customer service aspect worked out. You can submit tickets, if you find the proper link in their knowledge base, but there is no phone number for customer support. Although I did not go into depth about this, I did try to call the fraud line to see if I could get redirected to a hidden customer support number. It went straight to voicemail with directions for reporting fraudulent activity. If your account gets hacked you leave a message with your account info and spoken email address and they will call you back during the week, or you can send them an email. According to several forums that I found while searching for a solution to my issue, the fraud line used to have a different number that was also for account support, not just billing. Those forums also had their own stories of trying to sort out similar situations with NCSoft: Example 1 Example 2 Example 3

As far as beta testing goes, I have not even been able to try out WildStar, but I have already found some major glitches in the system. All it would take is a server outage on day one, or even more people finding out their accounts were messed up during the June transition, to completely ruin the game. Unless NCSoft sorts the problems with their North American customer support, they could be in for a very rocky launch.

UPDATE March 29th 12:56 PM

Using the Guild Wars 2 support ticket system mentioned in an edit above, they were able to find my Guild Wars 2 account. I still don't know what is going on with my SaikoGekido account. Sounds like most of the problem is solved, right? Not even close! My GW2 account does not count as an NCSoft account. I still need to get the SaikoGekido account back up and running.

UPDATE March 29th 3:06 PM

I heard back from Guild Wars 2 support:
One mystery solved, but we still do not have a clear answer on how to restore my NCSOFT account. Waiting for a reply from my latest message to WildStar support, but I am also going to try sending another message back to Guild Wars 2 support, since they have been more helpful.

UPDATE March 29th 8:19 PM

Still no word from WildStar support, but I have another email from Guild Wars 2 support:
Quick recap: Guild Wars 2 just helped me reset the password on my Guild Wars 2 account, but they can't help me get my SaikoGekido NCSOFT master account because there are no games associated with it. Because I can't log in to my NCSOFT master account I can not add any games to it and upgrade it to the new master account format. The simple, obvious, solution to this mess would be to add my Guild Wars 2 account to SaikoGekido and have it unblocked, but it sounds like it needs to be unblocked before anything can be added to it, but it can't be unblocked because it can't be accessed because it is in the old format of the account system. This is the eighth email, and not the first time that NCSOFT support has said that exact top paragraph. I sent a reply to see if I could at least get the name from my old master account. Again, no word from WildStar support and no word from the tweet at NCSOFT Support's twitter.

FINAL UPDATE March 30th 3:05 PM

WildStar Support replied to my email:

In the end, trying to get my SaikoGekido account unblocked and upgraded to the new system means creating a new account and then migrating the information from the old account to the new one. I still do not know if that is even possible, since previous emails said that I would need active games associated with an NCSOFT Account in order to make the account eligible for upgrade to a NC Account. Even though Guild Wars 2 is an NCSOFT game, it does not use the NC Account or NCSOFT Master Account system, so it can not be linked to the NCSOFT Master Account to give that account an active game to make it eligible for upgrade to the new system. Keep in mind, the changes from NCSOFT Master Account to NC Account just happened in June, without any major releases from NCSOFT. People unaware of these changes that had old NCSOFT Master Accounts with issues like mine are going to run into the same problems I did. Because NCSOFT's customer support system is maze of mirrors, I am going to make sense of all of this and create a followup post to help anyone that has the same problem. That should not be necessary.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Steam Weekend: Natural Selection 2 - First Impressions

There is a very strong possibility that we will discover extraterrestrial life within the span of the next century. As a people, we have had a long time to think about what's out there, and come up with a million variations. Very few of these ideas are able to tear through a marine base like an Onos.
An Onos (pictured left, in case you missed it) about to tear through a marine sans base.

Unknown Worlds Entertainment has created a unique shooter, based on a mod for Half-Life of the same name. Players pick either Marine or Alien and duke it out in a unique game mode like a cross between domination and StarCraft. One person from each side chooses to become a commander before the match begins, and is granted special necessary powers to assist their team. At the same time, the commander's death is the victory condition of the opposing team, which makes them the most scrutinized player on the team.

The other players on each team choose roles through in game options. Marines have access to an Armory to switch out various guns, as well as a prototype lab, later in the game, to acquire jet packs and mobile armors. Aliens have access to evolutionary traits and several specialized species. All of these weapons and genetic blueprints cost Res(short for resource). Res is acquired through various in game actions, but primarily through killing other players. Base objectives reward a large sum, but the Res per minute is higher from going on a spree. It sounds snowbally, but the expenditure of Res is kept in check by your commander's progress.

The commander has an RTS perspective on the match and spends the majority building structures to aid the other players. There are very few units directly controlled by the commander. This reinforces the teamwork aspect of the game, but it also has the down side of players not always knowing what a commander is doing. Anyone that has played a team oriented online game that matches people anonymously can figure out where this leads to: RAGE.

Players having a bad game will turn on their commander and attempt to vote kick them. Fortunately, it takes more than a few votes to kick someone out of the command chair. Otherwise it would be like France during the 1800's.
"Perhaps now you will understand what I meant when I called for a drop."
ACTUAL ADVICE TIME: I'll share with you what a player I met named Nightmare taught me. If you're the Alien Commander, spread cysts quickly to plant harvesters. Grab a second hive ASAP, then research Celerity and begin building more upgrade structures. Second upgrade should be Carapace, and then go crazy from there. Oh and someone kept shouting about Lerks needing their upgrades (which requires two hives).

What I learned playing against Nightmare as a Marine Commander is that you also want to expand quickly. Res acquisition can not be underestimated, especially when it comes to marine upgrades. The armor and weapon upgrades are perhaps the best expenditure of Res a marine commander can do, so try and time your Res expenditure to have enough for each upgrade when the previous tier finishes. I like going armor first, because marines are much squishier than they look. For build order, I like to rush Shotgun (Armory then Res for Shotgun research), as it gives a big advantage, early on. Then Observatory, Arms, weapons/armor research, flamethrower and Robot Factory. If you get the second base, get the Prototype Facility and research jet packs. Jet pack + shotgun/flamethrower make skulks trivial. Most likely, it will get to late game when everything has been researched except the last two expensive armor/weapon upgrades. Work on those and spend the rest in Tanks. They are really useful for assaulting and one of the few ways to have a direct impact on the battlefield.

In case you can't tell, I liked being a Marine Commander more than an Alien Commander. I don't think there's anything wrong with the Alien Commander game play style, so much as it is a personal preference. Speaking of personal preference, playing an alien was a lot more fun than playing a marine. The sense of speed with the aliens is intense, which also meaning less wandering around not sure if there's going to be someone around the corner. Instead, it is running past that corner and the person and then turning around and chomping on them before either of you know exactly what is happening. Add ceiling climbing in and the possibilities are endless, although many of them involve face-hugging marines.

Natural Selection 2 is currently on sale for 50% off on Steam and is free to try until 1PM PDT Sunday.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Valve's Big Picture Requirements


Years of rumors about a Valve funded console have finally culminated in the release of Big Picture. Big Picture is a new interface for the Steam service that will allow the user to connect their PC to their TV. It only requires the installation of the normal Steam Client onto a fairly standard spec PC, and a connection to the TV through HDMI.

GRAPHICS CARD & CABLES
The CPU requirements are fairly minimal. Either a 3GHz single core processor, or a 2GHz dual core processor. Most machines newer than 5 years will probably have one of these. The price of cards with HDMI ports and the price of cables have gone down drastically. Pictured below is a $34.99 graphics card from Officemax that meets the recommended requirements for Big Picture. It doesn't say whether it comes with an HDMI cable, or just a DVI with VGA adapter, so there's a second link below that for surprisingly cheap HDMI cables. A two pack of 6ft cables for $14.98 through Sams Club.


EVGA e-GeForce 8400 GS PCI Express 2.0 512MB DDR3 512-P3-1300-LR (Google Affiliate Ad)

6FT Premium High-Speed HDMI Cable 2-Pack - TV Cables & Accessories (Google Affiliate Ad)

CONTROLLERS
Additionally, Big Picture adds increased functionality through a 360 gamepad or Logitech game pad. They've created a method typing with a combination of the analog stick and face buttons called the Daisywheel. It's rather fluid and easy to understand. Keeping that in mind, there's also a web browser included for taking use of the new controller style. The end goal is to allow people who have preference for a controller to not be forced to use a keyboard and vice versa. Everything in Big Picture can be done with a keyboard and mouse, as well.

If you need a controller, for most people I suggest a wireless 360 controller. They're fairly inexpensive, coming in at under $39 from Sams Club. If that's still too much, or you prefer a controller more like a Playstation's, there are a few Logitech pads that are cheaper, including the F310 listed third among the links. However, that pad is not wireless, so keep that in mind.

Microsoft Wireless Controller - Black -Xbox 360 - Xbox 360 Gear & (Google Affiliate Ad)
Microsoft Xbox 360 Special Edition White Wireless Controller - Xbox (Google Affiliate Ad)

If using a wired controller isn't an issue, and you care more about having the coolest controller in the room, but don't want to break the bank, go with the Razer Onza. At about the same price as the above wireless controllers, the Onza has a 15 foot cable, which should be more than long enough to reach your couch, plus extra customizable buttons, an ergonomic design, and it's from a very reliable brand.


Razer Onza Professional Gaming Controller - Xbox 360 - Xbox 360 (Google Affiliate Ad)

That is their lowest end controller that I could find, and they just get better form there.

ADDITIONAL PYLONS SHOPPING REQUIRED
You should be good to go, now. If you need more parts or want to shop around a bit, I'd suggest Newegg. They have pretty much everything, and it's fairly easy to use their search features to narrow down what you're looking for.

Good luck, and let me know how your Big Picture set up turns out.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Space Nuke Test Ad Revenue Stolen by tseriesbhakti - The Seedy Underbelly of YouTube

 Reposting this from my Reddit account so more people will see it:

Many of you may remember a post in [TIL from yesterday about an H-Bomb detonation in space]. In the blog article, there was an embedded YouTube video of the declassified US footage. That video was hosted on talkingsticktb's YouTube channel.

[At least a few people] that went to the video page were confused by something in the bottom right of the description: "contains content from tseriesbhakti". I'm sure most of you are familiar with what that means, but for anyone outside of letsplay, it means that tseriesbhakti claimed that the video contained his copyrighted material, and that YouTube allowed it.

[Tseriesbhakti] is an Indian music artist. This is a video of declassified US nuclear tests. Fishy, fishy, fishy.

To confirm what everyone was thinking, I messaged talkingsticktv to inquire about the copyright claim from tseries. As it turns out, talkingsticktv uploaded it without placing ads in the video. Tseriesbhakti saw this and claimed copyright on the public domain footage. Nothing illegal here, technically. However, there's nothing talkingsticktv can do to get the claim off the video.

Talkingsticktv uploads a lot of public domain footage, so this isn't the first time that a video was sniped. In the past, they tried to contest the sniped video copyright claim to get the ads off, and received a strike against their account. This is completely unacceptable. If I host content on my channel, I want to be able to control that content. I don't want a large YouTube network partner coming in and taking a proverbial crap on my front lawn, and when the police show up, they hand me a ticket.

TL;DR:

  • talkingsticktv uploaded a public domain video to their channel
  • It made it to Reddit front page
  • tseriesbhakti claimed copyright on the public domain video that is hosted on talkingsticktv
  • tseriesbhakti is currently getting all of the ad revenue from that video
  • talkingsticktv can't do anything about it, because the last time they tried, YouTube/Google gave their account a mark

[Here is the conversation between talkingsticktv and myself]

Sunday, August 26, 2012

MLGrama - Curse and Dignitas Disqualified - Destiny Leaves MLG Day 1

The final culmination of the Major League Gaming (MLG) Raleigh League of Legends tournament ended with Dignitas and Curse in a surprising face off. Surprising to most, anyway. Although they had met and agreed on one of their matches being an ARAM match, a non traditional game mode where players pick random champions and face off in a single lane instead of three, that was merely the tip of the iceberg. MLG was actually okay with the ARAM match, which was an interesting and unexpected twist to the Finals. What they were not okay with was both teams publicly talking about splitting the prize pool, which SirScoots overheard and tweeted about. In response, both teams have been disqualified. They will not receive any of the tournament points that Riot Games, creator of League of Legends, keeps track of for their Season 2 tourney, nor will a first or second place be awarded for MLG Raleigh. [EDIT: Curse has released an apology video]

ROOTDestiny, a Zerg StarCraft 2 player and member of Team ROOT, left the Starcraft 2 MLG Raleigh tournament shortly into it over a personal emergency. Allegedly, one of his friends by the name of Bluetea sent nude pictures of herself to Destiny at some point in the past. He later showed them, in a private conversation, to a few friends over Skype. Someone in the conversation sent the chat logs via an anonymous e-mail address to Bluetea. Outraged, she attempted to contact Destiny, but could not get in touch with him before MLG. Taking advantage of a password that she had for Destiny's e-mail from when she helped schedule his training sessions, Bluetea logged into his public Twitter and posted pictures of his penis that she had in a folder on her computer. Finding out what she did, Destiny left the tournament to take care of personal matters that came up as a result of these events.

Sources:
[An Important Message Regarding MLG Summer Championship League of Legends]
[To spare Erin, here's what's going on]

SG's Hurricane Survival Guide

With Isaac about to touch down, this is the perfect time for a long time Floridian to share his considerable Hurricane survival knowledge.

Step 1 :: Make sure you're not standing in a place that can be easily struck by lightning before proceeding.

Step 2 :: Form your hand into a fist.

Step 3 :: Raise it up above your head while glaring at the nearest clouds, preferably through a window.

Step 4 :: Move your fist forward and backward, similar to a shaking motion.

Optional :: Curse your favorite despicable Gods/Demons/etc. Remember Step 1.

That's about it. You are now fully prepared for everything that hurricane can throw at you. And I mean that literally. Watch out for trees.

If you still feel like there's more you want to do to prepare, the government has provided an extremely useful One Stop Hurricane Resource Guide to alleviate your anxiety. Aw, look at how happy that family is in the picture on the cover! Do they not realize that their home will probably be destroyed? Oh, check out page 1. That dog isn't going to make it. Looks as light as a football.

Seriously though, good luck everybody!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Technical Support : Maintaining League of Legends

If you have been playing League of Legends for a while, you may have run into a few instances where the game fails to launch or loads slowly. The solutions to most of those problems can be found here, but today we're going to be discussing how to properly maintain your League of Legends installation to prevent these sorts of bugs from happening.

Proper Maintenance
League of Legends frequently updates, which can cause a lot of fragmentation and a fairly high chance for corrupted files. This is not bad programming or anything like that, it's just basically how Windows works. In fact, LoL uses some pre-existing Windows programs to help it run. The most important of which is Adobe AIR.

AIR is the platform for the LoL Launcher. Think of it as a sort of browser. Keeping it up to date with the latest version can help prevent many launcher related issues. There is a method to determine which version of Adobe AIR that is currently installed in your system ( found here ), but it's just as simple to go to the web site below and install the latest version.

Download Adobe AIR Installer

Other Software
Fragmentation. This has been the bane of Windows for a millennium (or almost 30 years). The way to combat this is through defragmentation utility programs. There is one that ships with Windows, but there are a lot better alternatives. Two of my favorites are:

Advanced System Care, or ASC for short, is made by IOBit, and is a suite of repair and maintenance programs for your entire computer. It can help fix more than just League of Legends, and is extremely easy to use. You can use the free version to scan your system once a week, or buy the pro version to allow it to run in the background and perform automated services for you as well as giving you access to a few more programs in its Toolbox to configure your internet for maximum speed.

Defraggler comes from Piriform, the developers of CCleaner. Defraggler is sleek and a bit faster than ASC. It also allows you to target a single folder for defrag by right clicking the folder and selecting the option in the drop down menu. On top of that, the free version won't hound you to upgrade it like ASC free sometimes will. The pro version comes with a year of tech support and automated updates, but if you're going to go that route, spring for the package deal with CCleaner Professional to get the most out of your purchase.

Game Booster is a subset of ASC. This is deceptively more advanced than the last two programs. It has five main functions:
  • Boosting - What the program is most known for. Using this before starting a game can be a huge help to many people. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Everytime you boost, it shuts down background services and defragments your ram. When you end your boost, it restarts the services. This has a tendency to restart programs that you don't want to reopen, like iTunes. Extended use also appears to have a negative impact on the system, so don't use this feature unless you know how to customize your services.
  • Defragging - When it first installs, it creates a catalogue of all of the games on your computer. This allows you to boost and launch a program with a click, but also to defrag specific installations, like Defraggler can.
  • Tweaking - The functionality of this feature is similar to what the main ASC program offers as part of the scan. It checks system settings to make sure they're optimized, and checks virtual memory settings. Run this once, and again whenever Game Booster updates.
  • Checking Drivers - Game Booster can check to make sure that all of your drivers are up to date, which is important, but this is another feature that needs to be handled with care. If you bought your computer from Dell, HP, etc. use their support site to download the latest drivers for your system instead. A lot of the time, those companies use proprietary drivers in their machines which may not be detected properly by Game Booster.
  • Diagnose - This is extremely useful if you run into any major errors. This won't fix the problem, but it will create a detailed log of your system that you can copy and paste to tech forums. This will provide almost all of the information that tech support will need, regarding your system configuration. For League of Legends, there are separate log files that will also need to be uploaded when using the forums. Details about where to find those are here.
You can find Game Booster in the Toolbox tab of ASC, or download it separate for free.

Download Advanced System Care

Download Defraggler

Download Game Booster

Optional
At the top of the League of Legends Launcher is a button that looks like two gears. Click that and it should open a tiny window within your window with an option for Repair. Repair checks all of your League of Legend files against the most current files on the server. It will locate corrupt files that can cause a lot of the major issues. It's mainly used for taking care of issues without having to reinstall the entire program, but it doesn't hurt to run this once a month when you're heading to bed or work. Most often, it's not going to find any issues, but even that can help maintain your own piece of mind.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Syndra Preview Analysis

Syndra, the Dark Sovereign, is the next League of Legends champion to be released in the next patch, barring any additional testing that might be required before the due date. From the early build, it looks like Riot has her tech fully implemented, but is busy balancing the numbers to prevent another Zyra incident. For the current numbers (which will probably change by release) check here.

Her abilities are fairly interesting:

Q creates a sphere at a target location. The sphere appears at the location, dealing damage in an AoE, and remains in that position for a few seconds. Currently, it's possible to have 3 spheres out at a time from her Q.

W is a dual activation ability changing after the first time you press it. It allows Syndra to pick up a sphere or minion. The sphere or minion will be dragged slightly behind Syndra. Upon activating the ability a second time, she can throw the minion or sphere to a target location to deal damage and Slow in an AoE.

E deals damage in a cone and pushes enemies hit away a certain distance based upon how close they are to Syndra. It also launches any spheres, which will deal additional magic damage and stun enemies hit.

R generates three spheres and picks up any additional spheres in the area, then launches them at a target opponent for massive single target damage. Currently, the maximum damage of this ability is at Veigar levels of damage, but it does require a setting up 3 spheres and using R before the spheres disappear.

Her passive increases the power of all her other abilities when they reach their rank 5. Her Q has an increase in damage on champions, her W becomes an AoE Knock Up and Slow, her E conal area increases in size. Her R does not currently benefit from her passive.

Syndra has a play style similar to Orianna. Her ability to zone is her strong point in lane, and the amount of set up for her ultimate ensures that her most effective usage will be in poke comps. Poke comps revolve around laying siege to an opponent and whittling down their HP from out of range of the opponent's ability to retaliate. The amount of range she can achieve with her Q, and her Q and E combination, and the amount of set up required for her R to reach full potential, make her ideal for this strategy.

Check out the Yogscast interview with Paul Bellezza for more information about Syndra, Dominion, and, of course, Poppy.

Sources:
[Gamescom - Riot Games Interview - Syndra Preview]
[Syndra, the Dark Sovereign, Revealed at Gamescom]

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Diablo 3 Patch 1.0.4 Notes - Simplified

     Patch 1.0.4 is live on the Americas realm. Below is a simplified look at the notes, boiling them down to buffs and nerfs for classes. The other areas, such as the Auction House and Battle.net have a few major changes and several minor changes. Consider this the highlights of the patch notes. You can read the full patch notes here.

Auction House
     Major Changes -
          The first thing you'll notice upon opening the new Auction House (referred to as the AH), is that the number of searchable item property fields has been doubled. The initial limit on the fields was a design choice towards the end of development to force players to focus on a few stats instead of trying to find items with 6 perfect stats. In practice, it just made it really hard for players to find items with 6 perfect stats. This is probably the biggest change to the AH that most people will find useful.
          The second major change is the ability to cancel auctions if there are no current bids on the item. This is extremely useful for most players that are trying to clear out their inventory quickly, but are having a tough time with the 10 item auction limit. Now, if they have an item that's been up for a day without bids, they can take it down and re-auction it at a better price. This also shouldn't impact bargain bid snipers, who wait till the last minute to get the best deals. Bidding on the item will lock it out from being canceled, so those bid wars will proceed as planned.
     Minor Changes -
           Several item properties that existed on items but were not searchable, such as Attack Speed on Quivers, are now searchable properties. Reduced Level Requirement items will show up properly in item level searches. Before, you would need to search for level 60 items with a minimum Reduced Level Requirement of 10 or what have you. The compare tooltip is working in several more areas, but there's still no stat comparison underneath. Finally, the listing price of unsold items will appear on the completed page, which should help out all those people that don't create Excel spreadsheets to operate the AH.

Battle.net
     Major Changes -
          None.
     Minor Changes -
          Mousing over a Quick Join game will display all the players in the game in a new window, as well as the amount of open slots. Reporting for Spam will now automatically decline the message. Before, you would have to manually decline the spammer after reporting them.

Bosses
     Maghda : A new interaction. Her insect projectiles can be slowed. They're already slow...
     Ghom : Nerfed. Gas cloud spawn time increased. Less damage to minions. Invulnerable bug fix.
     Cydaea : Minor bug fix.
     Azmodan : A new interaction. The slow moving fireball of death can now be affected by slows.
     Izual : Several bug fixes, especially with his charge ability. It was sometimes not damaging players, or damaging them twice.
     Rakanoth : Bug fix. Fully immune to CC during enrage.
     Diablo : Leaves players in the Shadow Realm, even if they defeat Shadow Diablo, because why wouldn't he/she/it? Just kidding. Only minor cosmetic bug fixes, and an exploit nerf on monks using seven sided strike to avoid Shadow Clone creation.

Classes
     Barbarian -
          Buffs : Damage buffs to
  • Bash
  • Ancient Spear
  • Cleave
  • Hammer of the Ancients
  • Rend, Seismic Slam
  • Weapon Throw
  • Whirlwind
Leap can now be used while CC'd, but won't break the CC. For instance you can Leap while Jailed, but you're still Jailed where you land.
          Nerfs : Proc coefficient nerfs to
  • Hammer of the Ancients
  • Overpower (No longer procs on hit effects)
     Demon Hunter -
          Buffs : Damage buffs to
  • Bola Shot
  • Chakram
  • Cluster Arrow
  • Entangling Shot
  • Evasive Fire
  • Impale
  • Rain of Vengeance
  • Rapid Fire
  • Sentry
  • Smoke Screen (Choking Gas Rune)
  • Strafe
  • Vault (Trail of Cinders Rune)
Cost lowered on Multishot. Brooding healing no longer paused by taking damage.
          Nerfs : Proc coefficient nerfs to
  • Caltrops (no longer triggers on hit effects)
  • Chakram
  • Grenades
     Monk -
          Buffs : Damage buffs to
  • Exploding Palm
  • Lashing Tail Kick
  • Seven-Sided Strike
  • Tempest Rush
  • Wave of Light
Spirit generation increased on Crippling Wave, Way of the Hundred Fists, The Guardian's Path Two-Handed Weapon specialization and Exalted Soul now generates 1 Spirit per second. Cyclone Strike can now trigger on hit effects. Duration of Sweeping Wind Master of Wind Rune doubled to 20 seconds.
          Nerfs : Fixed the exploding palm exploit that allowed Monks to gain multiple rare drops by exploding all mobs in a Champion or Rare pack simultaneously. Mystic Ally can no longer trigger on hit effects.

     Witch Doctor -
          Buffs : Damage buffs to
  • Acid Cloud
  • Corpse Spiders (they now benefit from +Critical Damage)
  • Firebats
  • Firebombs
  • Gargantuan
  • Grasp of the Dead
  • Spirit Barrage
  • Spirit Walk (Umbral Shock and Severance Runes)
  • Soul Harvest (Vengeful Spirit Rune)
  • Wall of Zombies
  • Zombie Charger (Leprous Zombie and Wave of Zombies Runes)
Circle of Life spawn chance increased to 30%. Grave Injustice health and mana gain doubled. Base Mana regeneration increased by 225% to 45 (ha, bet you got all excited about that big number). Spellcasting animations have been tightened. Spirit Vessel form can now walk through monsters and the heal has been increased(incoming exploits?) Tribal Rites affects Zombie Dogs, Gargantuan, and Mass Confusion. Pets should now be much more durable.
          Nerfs : Pet coeffecients drastically reduced (Gargantuan can no longer proc effects). Spirit Vessel duration reduced to 2 seconds.
          ??? : Rush of Essence now returns 49 Mana at Level 60, instead of 30% of the Spirit Spell's cost. Vision Quest redesigned to grant 30% Mana regen instead of 300%, but with a much more forgiving cost. I don't have a level 60 witch doctor to try these out on, so if anyone knows the answer to whether that's a buff or nerf, let me know.
     Wizard -
          Buffs : Damage buffs to
  • Arcane Torrent
  • Archon (Arcane Destruction Rune)
  • Diamond Skin (Diamond Shards and Mirror Skin)
  • Electrocute, Explosive Blast (Time Bomb Runes)
  • Hydra (Arcane, Lightning, Frost, and Mammoth Runes)
  • Ice Armor (Jagged Ice Rune), Meteor, Shock Pulse (Fire Bolts)
  • Teleport (Calamity Rune)

They finally fixed the tooltip on Cold Blooded (which has always affected all damage, but the tooltip said only Cold damage was increased). Ice Armor has an increased chance to freeze targets.
         Nerfs : Proc Coefficient on Energy Twister cut in half. Melee Wizards take note.

Crafting
     Major Changes -
          You can craft new Legendaries compliant with the 1.04 changes!
     Minor Changes - 
          Blacksmith figured out how to repair items.

Items
     Major Changes -
          Pretty much every item you find from here on out is going to be much better than what you would have found in previous patches. Legendary weapons and armor now have unique properties, and can roll for much higher stats than before. Remember that all of these changes are not retro active. Items from pre-1.04 are referred to as "Legacy" on the AH. Make sure you aren't scammed while buying.
     Minor Changes -
          Stack size of Gems is now 100 instead of 30. Repair costs reduced by 25%. Two-Hander stats received a massive buff. Quiver drop rate finally reduced! The hex code trick to let players identify the stats of of an item before identifying the item has been fixed. There's a market for unidentified items that was recently threatened by the mass discovery of this exploit.

Monsters
     Major Changes -
          Drop rate from normal monsters increased by 400% of the previous value. Less bonus bonus health when players co-op. Inferno monster damage and health nerfed across the board. No more enrage timer. No more Invulnerable Minions. Shielding Monsters nerfed. Fire Chains nerfed. Arcane Enchanted nerfed. Nightmarish Monsters can no longer chain fear players. Mortar should no longer land in the dead zone. Oppressor charge will no longer deal damage to players twice (bug).
     Minor Changes –
          Quite a lot of monsters were bugged. Their bug list is extensive. Some monsters were dealing double damage (like the Oppressor charge), while some monsters were spawning in weird areas or without loot.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Diablo 3 Patch 1.04 Paragon System - The Breakdown

If you haven't read the patch 1.04 preview for the Paragon system, check it out here. Most of the relevant information in that article can be found directly below "Introducing the Paragon System". Those bullet points are the bare bones of the system, such as how Paragon levels are gained and what effect they have on the character. Basically, they add Gold Find, Magic Find, and a little bit of the base stats to your character, as well as giving you a slightly cooler looking portrait every 10 Paragon levels.

Jay Wilson went on to talk about the length of time involved in acquiring the levels, and the solution to the magic find item property issue which has been bugging the community for a while. It should take roughly the same amount of time that it takes for a level 1 Diablo 2 character to reach level 99. This means that reaching Paragon level 100 will take several months for most people.This ties in nicely with the solution to the Magic Find problem.

There is going to be a cap of 300% Magic Find and Gold Find in 1.04, which does not include Nephalem Valor. At Paragon level 100, the player will naturally reach the cap and only gain a further bonus from Nephalem Valor stacks (reaching a maximum of 450% Magic Find and Gold Find) instead of from items.

This will help phase out the highly priced Magic Find items on the AH very gradually. A sudden shift could have resulted in economic turmoil. Over the next year, expect Magic Find gear to be phased out of the top tier items as players gain more Paragon.

David Brevik Throws Diablo 3 Creators Under a Bus: Gaming Community Dissapointed That It's Only a Figure of Speech

What Jay Wilson could have said, "David Brevik certainly has a few points. However, he doesn't know how hard we are working on the item overhaul, the class skill redesigns, and other surprises being released in patch 1.04, this very week. There are a lot of gears turning behind the scenes to tackle the issues brought up in that interview. That aside, we shouldn't overreact to this. I feel David was trying his best not to point the finger or accuse us of anything we didn't do. I wish him the best of luck with his upcoming Marvel Heroes MMO."

What Jay Wilson actually said, "Fuck that loser".

Sources:
[Diablo 3 Team Spars with Series Creator Online]

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Katawa Shoujo Will Change You

Have you ever had a great idea and wished there was someone you could share it with? Apparently, the history of Katawa Shoujo can be traced back to a discussion on 4chan some odd years ago. I don't personally know the full story, but it was a single community effort between anonymous individuals over the internet, collaborating to create pieces of art, fiction, and technology. Their independent efforts, unfettered by the usual corporate bureaucracy involved in video game development, have yielded one of the most immersive and complex stories ever created.

Without ruining too much of the plot, shortly after the story begins, your character is forced to attend a new school for the disabled by certain life events. Part of the storyline involves your own character dealing with what it means to be disabled, and what normal actually is. Linked into this are the various students you're introduced to. On your first few days, you're given the opportunity to identify with each character and choose whose storyline you would like to follow. There are multiple endings to the story dependent on the choices that you make throughout.  I suggest that every time an option arises, you stop and think about it from the perspective of the main character, and all those affected. By the ending of Act 1, you will have narrowed down the branching paths to a few focused around a character (or two).

:: SPOILERS AHEAD ::
To be fairly honest, I began this game like I usually would with any other bishojo graphic novel, through a shallow metric based on the characters' looks. Most bishojo that I have come across, tend to stick to a few cliche female personalities that are about as interesting as sopping wet cardboard. After reaching the end of Act 1 however, I detected that there was something more to Katawa Shoujo. There was a feeling of deja vu, or more accurately when you recognize someone at a glimpse, but have to double take to scrutinize them more closely. I started over with a new purpose. I searched for the personalities of the characters on a quest to uncover this strange aura around the writing.


My Notes on the Characters:
  • Shizune is the deaf and mute class representative of 3-4. Possessed of a strong personality, she believes in aggression and domination, and takes much pride in these aspects. I rate her as most likely to become an evil dictator. I certainly consider her storyline, but since she is introduced first, I wait to examine the others.
  • Misha is the translator for Shizune. She has a problem keeping the volume of her voice below a shout, which is complimented by her extreme friendless and naivety. I'm not really sure what to make of her off the bat, since she's attached to Shizune, who tends to take control of the conversations. I note that she may have hidden potential, but put her in the back of the list.
  • Hanako was caught in a fire and burned much of her body. My first thoughts when I saw her was that she may be the girl from the opening scene who felt misplaced guilt over Hisao's hospitalization and burned herself in order to attend the same school as him. Her timid personality and phobia of people lends a little bit to this theory, but Lilly mentioned that Hanako's injuries occurred at a younger age. Still, I feel like there's more to her story than just post traumatic stress disorder.
  • Lilly is the blind representative of 3-2, a class for blind or mostly blind students, and mortal enemy of Shizune. They don't fully explain this enmity in Act 1, so it definitely piques my interest. She's the tallest person in the game that isn't a teacher and apparently raised as a proper British lady. She's also one of the few people Hanako trusts, which would mean that there's a great potential for her story to reveal parts of Shizune's and Hanako's respective pasts. There seems to be a lot of potential here.
  • Emi is a track and field runner, sans legs, with an exuberant and childish personality similar to Misha's, but more exaggerated. Despite her disability, she loves to run everywhere, on the track in the morning, rain or shine, and through the halls during the day, much to the ire of taskmaster Shizune. She worries the most about Hisao's health, and encourages him to join her for practice in the mornings. Her dialogue and emotes are the most light hearted of any character in the game. Definitely a storyline that can cheer someone up and very worth considering.
  • I was immediately repulsed by Rin. It wasn't because she didn't have arms, it's because I'm not a feet person. Again with the shallowness, I know, but feet seriously creep me out for whatever reason. Since she was introduced eating lunch with a fork between her toes, you might not think that she'd be the story I'd be interested in, which is what I felt on my first innocent play through Act 1. However, the second time...

I couldn't place it at first. Rin is an artist that paints with her feet. She's always looking around, looking for things that no one can see, or looking through people at what she imagines of them. I thought she reminded me of an old high school crush I had that was never truly resolved in my life, and that's why I originally chose her path. Perhaps her story would present another way of looking at my own past and understanding it.

Her story revolves around the concepts of self and identity. Her abstract style of art reflects a tragic search for who she really is, and a conservatory effort to preserve the past selves that she can hardly remember. Consider every scene with her for a long period and you'll discover multiple layers that build up to the fourth wall. Questions bleed over from the game into real life. Are thoughts like clouds, ephemeral and high above the world? What is art? What does it mean to change oneself? Does the previous self have to be destroyed to affect change? What is important in life?

A strange thing occurred. The main character and I drifted apart in understanding. He became frustrated with her aloof nature, while I began to examine it more closely and came to a truer understanding of why I chose this path. When he began scolding her for the choices he had encouraged her to make, I wanted to defend her against him. Still within the mindset of thinking of her as the analogue of a high school crush, it took me the majority of the game to realize why I wanted to defend her. The way Rin acts, and thinks...

She's like me.

I know it seems from this long expository that I might be the talkative type, but, in person, my conversations come in torrents or one liners. My thoughts are constantly in flux, often separate from the real world. The subjects of what it means to change and to have an identity are things that I have been wrestling with for years. When I pour myself into a work, it's like a dam is opened and I can finally be me, so long as I continue to draw or write. My memory is like a foggy ocean, full of ghost ships and distracting light houses. Rin is the only character I've known that has come so close to describing who I am.

More than anything, I wanted her life to work out, and so I took every choice as if they were the most life threatening events in the universe, paused in front of me while I decided on my actions. At that point, I was no longer deciding for Hisao, or for Rin, but instead for myself. The choices were about the themes and the concepts brought up by the narrative and filtered through these characters. Carried by the author's words, I began an introspective journey that deepened as I continued through the game. When I arrived at Rin's good ending in my first try, it was like I had found the path to my own good ending. Now, I just have to figure out what that means.

Rin may not be the character you choose. Every person is mostly different, after all.

If you haven't played Katawa Shoujo, you can grab a free copy from their website. Keep in mind that it is aimed at adults, but you can turn off adult scenes in the options menu.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Diablo 3 Review

 Some people play for the story, and some people play for the game. The ones that can keep those two aspects in balance are victorious as great games. Maybe they won't necessarily become best sellers, but they'll definitely be remembered. This is the basic philosophy behind how I review most games. The only difference is in multiplayer games, where the focus is on gameplay and community.


Diablo 3 is a multiplayer game with single player support. Usually, that's the other way around, but the always on connectivity places a heavy emphasis on playing with friends. If you have to be connected, why not use it? That could make it difficult to make a proper decision, but I have come up with a solution. We'll discuss it as both.

As a single player game, it offers a rich storyline. The game is oozing with lore. There are ancillary NPCs fully voice acted with their own dialogues about their friends and family which can be interacted with throughout the progression of events. That will go overlooked by many players, because there isn't any need to talk to Villager A who will tell you about life before the fall of Tristram, but for those that wish to delve deeper, there's a lot of substance there. On top of that are the books and monster lore hidden in dungeons and towns. One of the most interesting aspects of this were the diaries left by characters, such as Leah and Cain in Act 1. They will periodically update their entries as the Act goes on. :: MINOR SPOILER When Leah is following you in Act 1, enter her room for some unique audio clips ::

Gameplay-wise, I have some bones to pick with it. The old click control scheme requires heavy usage of the shift keys to get the most out of it. I had just finished Diablo 2, again, before Diablo 3 came out so that I could get familiar with the controls and storyline, so I'm not sure how clear the shift key usage is to new players, but I didn't notice a useful tooltip for explaining it. I also witnessed my friends playing without the shift key, and dieing a lot. They're making a slow progression through Act 1 Inferno, hampered by this and a few other things. A new idea for the game is making boss monsters actually large. In comparison to D2, the boss monsters take up over 1000% more screen real estate. It looks awesome, but in practice it can cause movement issues with the character, since clicking is both moving and attacking. My friend died to the Butcher in Inferno more than once by getting stuck in a corner and being unable to click past him before dieing.

As for the skills and abilities, they have a lot of multiplayer potential. The majority are single person buffs or DPS focused, but there are a few, such as the Monk mantras, that are team focused. I'm very interested in the PVP builds that will start coming out in a few months. Already, some broken single player builds have been discovered. Quite cleverly, a Wizard used one ability that reduced all incoming damage to a maximum of 35% of his HP, and another passive that caused him to heal over time. Sacrificing all of his vitality, enemies were hitting him for less than he was healing. Allegedly he managed to solo Diablo on Inferno. What I found the most interesting about this were the statistics for his build. Less than 0.5% of players were using that ridiculously good build. That either means that not a lot of people thought about it, or that there are other builds people are coming out with that are even stronger. The diversity promises to make playing with any new players a learning experience. "Oh, I've never seen that move before. What's it do?"

Fortunately, the community is large and open. After spending a lot of time lurking r/diablo3 (I avoid GD forums at all costs), I found that most posts are funny light hearted memes, or build discussions and gameplay tips. There are a lot of videos of people showcasing their talents in game, as well as plenty of Error 37 criticism. Playing online, you can expect to find a diverse assortment of people, but don't expect too much discussion during gameplay, because it's pretty hard to type and use the mouse at the same time. Look for places like r/diablo3 and diablofans.com for real discussions.

It's a tough call, but I'd have to say that Diablo 3 is a pretty good game. The gameplay is familiar to veterans, though not perfect, and the skills and abilities have a lot of potential for discovery and unique builds. The community is awesome, but you're not going to be talking much while playing, and the lore is astoundingly vast. The biggest bone I have to pick with Diablo 3, I can't really talk about. I don't want to spoil the main plot for anyone, but the characterization and ending leave much to be desired.

Overall :: 4/5

Friday, May 25, 2012

New Video and Feedback Requested


I'm writing a longer form, more serious first impressions of the Firefall Beta, but that won't be out until tomorrow. Tonight, we stream! Okay, maybe you aren't, but I'm going to be on Twitch.tv streaming Tribes Ascend for the Double XP Weekend event. Add SaikoGekido in game, or watch it live.

There will be a vlog post later tonight about this topic, but I'm curious what the community thinks about my channel. There are a couple of videos up on the chopping block, which I'll reveal in the vlog. Suffice it to say, some of my older content doesn't really look "professional". Especially the COD style League of Legends (LOL) videos.

I'll update this post with the vlog below when it's finished, or it will come up in your feed if you're subscribed to the channel.


Cya
~ SaikoGekido